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- A former British intelligence chief has warned that the government’s Counter Terrorism and Security Bill could restrict freedom of speech in universities.
- Baroness Manningham-Buller said extremist opinions need to be “exposed, challenged and countered,” rather than banned.
- Her comments follow a report by the Joint Committee on Human Rights earlier this month, which warned new counter-terrorism laws would “restrict” freedom of speech on university campuses.
- Senior academics have called for a campaign against the bill, arguing it could turn university staff into “thought police.”
- New legislation includes plans to make the government’s ‘Prevent’ strategy a statutory obligation for universities, meaning educational institutions would have a legal duty to ban speakers who are considered “extremist.”
- Manningham-Buller’s spoke about the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill during a debate at the House of Lords on Wednesday.
- The former MI5 chief – who led the organization at the time of the 7/7 London bombings in 2005 – said Britons should not compromise their values in our fight against terrorism.
- “It is a profound irony in seeking to protect our values against this pernicious ideology we are trying to bar views too vaguely described as non-violent extremism, which falls short of incitement to violence or to racial or ethnic hatred or the other legislative constraints on universities,” she said.
- Her comments echo those made by Joint Committee on Human Rights earlier this month, which argued terms such as “extremist” are too ambiguous.
- “Broad terms such as ‘extremist’ or ‘radical’ are not capable of being defined with sufficient precision to enable universities to know with sufficient certainty whether they risk being found to be in breach of the new duty.”
- The committee also expressed concern “about the implications for both freedom of expression and academic freedom as a result of the applicability of the proposed new duty to universities.”
- Under the bill, failure to comply with the Prevent strategy would result in direct intervention by the secretary of state and could end up in academic staff facing “criminal sanctions.”
- Home Secretary Theresa May introduced the new anti-terror bill in November last year.
- Speaking at the time, she said the country was engaged in a struggle which may go on for many years. “We must have the powers we need to defend ourselves,” she said.
- In 2011, May accused universities of being complacent towards the threat posed by extremism.
- “I think for too long there’s been complacency around universities. I don’t think they have been sufficiently willing to recognize what can be happening on their campuses and the radicalization that can take place,” she told the Daily Telegraph.
- Speaking in favor of the bill during Wednesday’s debate, Lord Bates said a third of people convicted of al-Qaeda-related terrorism offences between 1999 and 2009 had attended a higher education institution.
- Bates, a junior minister in the Home Office, said: “Freedom of speech is not an absolute. The duty is to secure freedom of speech within the law.”
- Labour peer Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws said the bill would create a “chilling effect” on academic freedom.
- A leading lawyer and principal of Mansfield College, Oxford University, she said such an impact is “really something we should step back from.”
- Writing in the Times Higher Education Supplement earlier this month, the former vice-chancellor of the University of Salford described the new bill as “draconian.”
- Professor Martin Hall said the legislation could “be used against opponents of fracking, or animal rights activists, or anti-nuclear movements, or any radical opposition to the status quo.”
- “There is a danger of us being turned into a thought police,” he said.
- Millions of pictures, videos, and other files downloaded online globally are being watched by Canada’s electronic spy agency CSE, says the latest mass surveillance report based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
- Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), an equivalent to the US National Security Agency (NSA), focuses on electronic surveillance. It can access data from over 100 global free upload sites, monitoring downloaded content in countries across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America, suggests a covert operation revealed by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept journalist Glen Greenwald.
- According to documents released in 2012 and obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, which were recently revealed to CBC, the project – dubbed Levitation – tracks data from 102 file-sharing websites, with popular sources such as Sendspace, Rapidshare, and the now-defunct Megaupload among them.
- “No organization has the ability/permission to trawl/search Sendspace for data,” the file-hosting service told CBC News. Sendspace’s policy states it won’t disclose user identities unless legally required. Levitation documents say its access to databases used to track the online traffic of millions of people around the world comes from unnamed “special sources.”
- CSE analysts have access and sort through 10 to 15 million upload or download events daily, searching for “the interesting ones,” among music, video, photo, and other files, the document says.
Apparently our government watches what you download http://t.co/RIoVc7lYZg #kw pic.twitter.com/G25hhTQBDZ
— Colin Butler (@CBCColinButler) January 28, 2015
- When scouring the file-sharing sites, spies from the Levitation program allegedly closely watch suspicious content – such as hostage videos or explosive making instructions – and then trace users’ IP addresses to follow cookies and identify suspects who could be connected to extremism or terrorism. After “filtering out Glee episodes,” as the presentation puts it, about 350 “interesting download events” – less than 0.0001 percent of the total collected traffic – are identified by the agency each month.
- “You could be finding a terrorist, although probably much more likely you’re finding a scientist, or a journalist, or a lawyer working on a case relating to some of those issues, or a student,” Glenn Greenwald told CBC News.
- The discovery of a German hostage video and an uploaded document that contained the hostage strategy of an Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist organization are cited in the 2012 presentation. No other instances are mentioned, leaving it unclear if any other terrorist attacks have been prevented through intercepting and analyzing the data. The leaked document has no answers on whether Levitation is still in use or for how long it has been active.
- “It’s really the first time that a story has been reported that involves [CSE] as the lead agency in a program of pure mass surveillance,” Greenwald said, commenting on Canada’s role in international spying programs, according to the Snowden documents. Canada is part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network, along with the US, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.
- “When it gets serious, you have to lie,” were the infamous words of one J-C Juncker and today – following the 40-50% collapse in Greek Bank equity capital this week,ECB’s Bank Supervision boss Nouy has come out to calm everything down:
- *NOUY SAYS GREEK BANKS ARE ‘PRETTY STRONG’, HAVE STRENGTHENED THEIR BALANCE SHEETS
*ECB’S NOUY SAYS GREEK BANKS WILL SURVIVE CURRENT CRISIS
Which, translated for the elites means, “sell-sell-sell.” And then – just to add even more pressure, S&P puts Greece on Watch Negative.
- *S&P SAYS GREECE ‘B/B’ RATINGS MAY BE CUT ON POLICY UNCERTAINTY
- Greek bank stocks down 40-50% this week
01.28.15 – Greece Begins The Great Pivot Toward Russia
- Ten days ago, before the smashing success of Greece’s anti-austerity party, Syriza, we noted that Russia gave Greece a modest proposal: turn your back on Europe, whom you despise so much anyway, and we will assist your farmers by lifting the food import ban.
- And, sure enough, Greece’s new premier Tsipras did hint with his initial actions that Greece may indeed pivot quite aggressively away from Europe and toward Russia in general and the Eurasian Economic Union in particular (as a tangent recall “Russia’s “Startling” Proposal To Europe: Dump The US, Join The Eurasian Economic Union”).
- Some recent examples of this dramatic shift in perspective were the following:
— Nick Malkoutzis (@NickMalkoutzis) January 26, 2015
— Damian Mac Con Uladh (@damomac) January 26, 2015
- Today we got further evidence that Tsipras will substantially realign his country’s national interest away from the west and toward… the east.
- First, as Reuters reported, today the new premier halted the “blue light special” liquidation of Greece to those highest bidders who have the closest access to various printing presses and stopped the privatization of Greece’s biggest port on Tuesday, “signaling he aims to stick to election pledges despite warning shots from the euro zone and financial markets.”
One of the first decisions announced by the new government was stopping the planned sale of a 67 percent stake in the Piraeus Port Authority, agreed under its international bailout deal for which China’s Cosco Group and four other suitors had been shortlisted.
“The Cosco deal will be reviewed to the benefit of the Greek people,” Thodoris Dritsas, the deputy minister in charge of the shipping portfolio, told Reuters.
- Europe, for one, will be most displeased that Greece has decided to put its people first in the chain of priority over offshore bidders of Greek assets. Most displeased, especially since the liquidation sale of Greece is part of the Greek bailout agreement: an agreement which as the Troika has repeatedly stated, is not up for renegotiation.
Syriza had announced before the election it would halt the sale of state assets, a plank of the 240 billion-euro bailout agreement. Stakes in the port of Thessaloniki, the country’s second biggest, along with railway operator Trainose and rolling stock operator ROSCO are also slated to be sold.
- And it wasn’t just this open act of defiance that marked the new government’s anti-European agenda:
In a separate step, the deputy minister in charge of administrative reform, George Katrougkalos said the government would reverse some layoffs of public sector workers, rolling back another key bailout measure. “It will be one of the first pieces of legislation that I will bring in as a minister,” he told Mega TV.
- The Germans were not happy: A German central banker warned of dire problems should the new government call the country’s aid program into question, jeopardizing funding for the banks. “That would have fatal consequences for Greece’s financial system. Greek banks would then lose their access to central bank money,” Bundesbank board member Joachim Nagel told Handelsblatt newspaper.
- Well, maybe…. Unless of course Greece finds a new, alternative source of funding, one that has nothing to do with the establishmentarian IMF, whose “bailouts” are merely a smokescreen to implement pro-western policies and to allow the rapid liquidation of any “bailed out” society.
- An alternative such as the BRIC Bank for example. Recall that the “BRICS Announce $100 Billion Reserve To Bypass Fed, Developed World Central Banks.”
- And yes, the BRIC are going through their own share of pain right now as a result of plunging crude prices, but remember: crude is only low as long as the US shale sector is still vibrant. Once this marginal producer of crude with a $80 cost-breakeven is out of the picture, watch as Saudi Arabia tightens the spigots and Crude surges to $100, $150 or more. The question is whether Saudi FX reserves can outlast the Fed’s ZIRP, which is the only reason – think idiots junk bond investors desperate for any ounce of yield – why the bulk of unprofitable and cash flow-bleeding US shale can still operate with WTI at $45.
- Which naturally means that now Russia (and China) are set to become critical allies for Greece, which would immediately explain the logical pivot toward Moscow.
- But wait, there’s more.
- As Bloomberg further reports, “Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias is due in Brussels on Thursday to discuss possible additional sanctions on Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. Before the cabinet even meets for the first time tomorrow, the Greek government said that it disagreed with an EU statement in which President Donald Tusk raised the prospect of “further restrictive measures” on Russia.“
- The punchline:
In recent months, Kotzias wrote on Twitter thatsanctions against Russia weren’t in Greece’s interests. He said in a blog that a new foreign policy for Greece should be focused on stopping the ongoing transformation of the EU “into an idiosyncratic empire, under the rule of Germany.”
- And when it comes to the natural adversary of any German imperial ambitions in recent history, Europe has been able to produce only one answer…
- Passengers flying to and from Europe will now be forced to submit a long list of personnel details, which can be stored for up to five years. The counter-terrorism plan would record data such as meal preferences and how many flights someone has missed.
- The directive has been introduced by the European Commission and requires air travelers to fill in 42 separate pieces of information. Some of the fields would not cause too many eyebrows to be raised, such as nationality or frequent flyer information. Others, such as meal preference or the number of one-way tickets bought are slightly more puzzling, the Guardian reports.
- The information would be stored for five years and would be given to security personnel upon demand. The European Commission says the move is necessary in order to help combat terrorism and has been championed by interior ministers across the EU. The ministers came to a consensus while they were gathered in Paris, for the ‘Je suis Charlie’ March that introducing the measure was imperative to tackle terrorism concerns.
- The ministers issued a joint statement saying there was a “crucial and urgent need to move toward a European passenger name record system,” and immediate progress will be on the agenda when EU interior ministers meet in Riga on Thursday, according to the Guardian special report.
— Terrorism Updates (@terrorism_info) January 28, 2015
- The proposal would create a pan-European ‘super database,’ with the information on tens of millions of air travelers shared amongst the 28 EU countries.
- Not surprisingly, human rights groups have criticized the move for what they perceive is a blanket harvesting of personal information, and as being a severe incursion on one’s privacy.
- Jan Philipp Albrecht, vice chairman of the European parliament’s civil liberties committee, was scathing saying: “The commission plans are an affront to the critics of the European Parliament and the European Court of Justice who have said that data retention without any link to a certain risk or suspicion isn’t proportionate.”
- “It is an open breach of fundamental rights to blanketly retain all passenger data,” he added. “Instead of a full take of PNR [passenger name record] data, we need a focus on suspects and risk flights. The Paris attacks have shown that mass retention was not effective in fighting jihadis.”
European Commission wants 42 items of personal info from passengers flying through Europe for security. Would you be comfortable with this?
— LBC (@LBC) January 28, 2015
- “The proposed surveillance of all travelers is a symbolic measure on the cost of EU citizens’ civil liberties and effective security,” Albrecht, who is an MEP with the German Green Party, said, which was reported by the Guardian.
- However, Timothy Kirkhope, a Conservative member of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee, believes it is possible to find a consensus to push through the revised proposal.
- “I want an agreement that safeguards lives and liberties by offering stronger data protection rules whilst also making it much harder for a radicalized fighter to slip back into Europe undetected,” he said earlier this month.
- “EU heads of government and home affairs ministers would not ask for this agreement unless there was a clear and present need for it,” he added, as reported by the Guardian.
Please support my PNR proposals ; on the table for nearly three years! We must give EU citizens more protection pic.twitter.com/dJEKhXzOnn
— Timothy Kirkhope MEP (@TimKirkhopeMEP) January 27, 2015
- The decision by the European Commission would signal a U-turn from a decision made by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee in April 2013, which rejected the European Commission’s proposal for the recoding of Passenger Name Record (PNR) data. The Civil Liberties committee said that airlines should collect PNR data, during check-in. In 2011, the European Commission wanted air carriers to provide EU countries with the data of passengers, who were entering or leaving the EU.
- Some adjustments have been made to the 2011 directive, such as introducing stricter conditions for accessing passenger records and its possible transfer to a third party country, while also giving travelers better information about how to access their data and request modifications.
- We are really starting to see the price of oil weigh very heavily on the economy and on the stock market. On Tuesday, the Dow was down 291 points, and the primary reason for the decline was disappointing corporate sales numbers. For example, heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar is blaming the “dramatic decline in the price of oil” for much lower than anticipated sales during the fourth quarter of 2015. Even though Caterpillar is not an “energy company”, the price of oil is critical to their success. And the same could be said about thousands of other companies. That is why I have repeatedly stated that anyone who believes that collapsing oil prices are good for the U.S. economy is crazy. The key to how much damage this oil collapse is going to do to our economy is not how low prices ultimately go. Rather, the key is how long they stay at these low levels. If the price of oil went back to $80 a barrel next week, the damage would be fairly minimal. But if the price of oil stays at this current level for the remainder of 2015, the damage will be absolutely catastrophic. Just think of the price of oil like a hot iron. If you touch it for just a fraction of a second, it won’t do too much damage. But if you press it against your skin for an hour, you will be severely damaged for the rest of your life at the very least.
- So the damage that we are witnessing right now is just the very beginning unless the price of oil goes back up substantially.
- When the price of oil first started crashing, most analysts focused on the impact that it would have on energy companies. And without a doubt, quite a few of them are likely to be wiped out if things don’t change soon.
- But of even greater importance is the ripple effects that the price of oil will have throughout our entire economy. The oil price crash is not that many months old at this point, and yet big companies are already blaming it for causing significant problems. The following is how Caterpillar explained their disappointing sales numbers on Tuesday…
“The recent dramatic decline in the price of oil is the most significant reason for the year-over-year decline in our sales and revenues outlook. Current oil prices are a significant headwind for Energy & Transportation and negative for our construction business in the oil producing regions of the world. In addition, with lower prices for copper, coal and iron ore,we’ve reduced our expectations for sales of mining equipment. We’ve also lowered our expectations for construction equipment sales in China. While our market position in China has improved, 2015 expectations for the construction industry in China are lower”
- We also learned on Tuesday that orders for durable goods were extremely disappointing. Many analysts believe that this is another area where the oil price crash is having an impact…
Orders for business equipment unexpectedly fell in December for a fourth month, signaling a global growth slowdown is weighing on American companies. Bookings for non-military capital goods excluding aircraft dropped 0.6 percent for a second month, data from the Commerce Department showed. Demand for all durable goods − items meant to last at least three years − declined 3.4 percent, the worst performance since August.
- Let’s keep an eye on the durable goods numbers in coming months. Usually, when the economy is heading into a recession durable goods numbers start declining.
- Meanwhile, a bunch of other big companies reported disappointing sales numbers on Tuesday as well. The following summary comes from the Crux…
Microsoft lost 9.9 percent as software-license sales to businesses were below forecasts. Caterpillar plunged 7.3 percent after forecasting 2015 results that trailed estimates as plunging oil prices signal lower demand from energy companies. DuPont Co. dropped 2.8 percent as a stronger dollar cuts into the chemical maker’s profit. Procter & Gamble Co. and United Technologies Corp. declined at least 2 percent after saying the surging greenback will lower full-year earnings.
- What the economy could really use right now is a huge rebound in the price of oil.
- Unfortunately, as I wrote about the other day, that is not likely to happen any time soon.
- In fact, a top executive for Goldman Sachs recently told CNBC that he believes that the price of oil could ultimately go as low as 30 dollars a barrel.
- And hedge fund managers are backing up their belief that oil is heading even lower with big money…
Hedge funds boosted bearish wagers on oil to a four-year high as US supplies grew the most since 2001.
Money managers increased short positions in West Texas Intermediate crude to the highest level since September 2010 in the week ended January 20, US Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show. Net-long positions slipped for the first time in three weeks.
US crude supplies rose by 10.1 million barrels to 397.9 million in the week ended January 16 and the country will pump the most oil since 1972 this year, the Energy Information Administration says. Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, the new ruler of the world’s biggest oil exporter, said he will maintain the production policy of his predecessor despite a 58 percent drop in prices since June.
- Sadly, the truth is that anyone that thought that the stock market would go up forever and that the U.S. economy would be able to avoid a major downturn indefinitely was just being delusional.
- Our economy goes through cycles, and every financial bubble eventually bursts.
- For example, did you know that the S&P 500 has never had seven up years in a row? The following comes from a CNBC article that was posted on Tuesday…
Doubleline Capital founder Jeff Gundlach, more known for his bond prowess than as an equity market expert, pointed out that the S&P 500 has never had seven consecutive up years.
Of course, records are made to be broken, and each year is supposed to stand on its own.
But in a market that faces an uncertain future regarding monetary policy, the specter of a global economic slowdown, and an oil price plunge that is dampening capital investment, Gundlach’s little factoid sparked a lot of chatter at ETF.com’s InsideETFs conference in Hollywood, Florida.
- Hmm – that reminds me of the seven year cycles that I discussed in my article yesterday.
- If the price of oil stays this low for the rest of 2015, there is no way that we are going to avoid a recession.
- If the price of oil stays this low for the rest of 2015, there is no way that we are going to avoid a stock market crash.
- So let’s hope that the price of oil starts going back up.
- If it doesn’t, the damage that is inflicted on our economy is going to get progressively worse.
- President Barack Obama has acknowledged that federal laws for unmanned aerial vehicles – or drones – lag behind the technology readily available to consumers. His remarks came hours after a small UAV was found to have crashed on White House grounds.
- Obama, speaking from India, told CNN that drones have magnificent potential, especially for commercial reasons, but overarching regulatory guidelines are lacking on this point.
- “We don’t yet have the legal structures and the architecture both globally and within individual countries to manage them the way that we need to,” Obama said, adding that his administration “is seeing if we can start providing some sort of framework that ensures that we get the good and minimize the bad.”
- Federal agencies — especially the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) — are currently compiling rules and protocol to safely integrate unmanned aircraft systems into American skies with the goal of proposing a structure this year.
- Pursuant to the 2012 Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act, the FAA is obliged to finally incorporate drones — with supposed privacy protections — into US air traffic by September 30, 2015, though it is highly unlikely that the deadline will be met. Even once proposed, the definitive version of commercial drone regulation will likely take years.
- The Secret Service announced Monday that one of its agents saw and heard a two-foot-wide“quadcopter” fly at a low altitude over the White House premises at about 3 a.m. local time. An unidentified man informed the Secret Service around 9:30 a.m. that he had lost control of the drone before it crashed onto the grounds, the agency said in a statement. The UAV operator has been “been fully cooperative” and “initial indications are that this incident occurred as a result of recreational use of the device,” the Secret Service said.
— Mashable (@mashable) January 26, 2015
— darth™ (@darth) January 27, 2015
- Obama said drones like the one that caused a two-hour lockdown at the White House on Monday — all while the president and first lady were overseas — could be bought at a Radio Shack. There are“incredibly useful functions,” he said, “that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife.”
- “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it,” he added.
- Current regulations
- Existing FAA regulations allow Americans to fly small drones for recreational use at least 8 km (5 miles) away from any airport and at an altitude no more than 120 meters (400 feet).
- Drone use is prohibited at night, and a drone operator must always keep the UAV in sight.
- The FAA might soon propose a “risk-based” blanket exemption from regulations for small drones weighing less than 2.25kg (5lbs). Neighboring Canada has already approved such an exemption for small UAVs.
- Unauthorized use of private UAVs near airports and at high altitudes among manned aircraft currently remains the principal headache for civil aviation. From June to November 2014, there were at least 25 episodes when drones came close or nearly collided with manned aircraft, the Washington Post reported in late November.
- The FAA has said about 7,500 commercial drones will be in the US skies within five years once regulations go into effect.
- The agency has allowed some commercial drones to fly in American skies. In June, the FAA granted the first commercial drone license to oil giant BP. In September,six Hollywood production companies were granted licenses to use drones while filming television shows and movies. Amazon is among many companies and organizations seeking a permit to begin delivery flights.
- Meanwhile, the FAA has largely told other users, such as photographers and videographers, to cease their drone flights or face fines. Raphael Pirker was fined $10,000 by the FAA for flying his Ritewing Zephyr drone he was using to shoot a video on the University of Virginia campus in 2011. He appealed the fine, but the National Transportation Safety Board later agreed with the FAA in November 2014, stating that current federal regulations defining aircraft as “any device … used for flight in the air”applies to “any aircraft, manned or unmanned, large or small.”
— The Modern Pilot (@TheModernPilot) January 27, 2015
- According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 20 US states have laws that guide unmanned aerial systems (UAS) usage. Various laws address what a UAS, UAV, or drone is; how government agencies or law enforcement can use them; how the public can use them; how they can be used for hunting; and for use at official FAA test sites around the US.
- A ‘kill list’ legacy
- While domestic drone use, both recreationally and commercially, is developing slowly as rules are crafted and debated in Washington, the Obama administration has used technological advances in unmanned lethal drones to revolutionize warfare overseas, portending ominous implications for the 21st century.
- The US has employed UAVs to treat the world as a battlefield, as the likes of missile-firing, surveillance-capable Predator and Reaper drones, for instance, have been used to attack areas — with much danger to civilians, according to numerous reports — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, all without an international legal framework and with only America’s take-our-word-for-it assurances that lethal drones are guided by some sort of ethical or moral compass.
- “There was no oversight. I just know that the inside of the entire program was diseased and people need to know what happens to those that were on the inside,” former US drone sensor operator Brandon Bryanttold RT’s Anissa Naouai. “People need to know the lack of oversight, the lack of accountability that happen.”
- Obama’s legacy may ultimately rest with the dawn of this new epoch of warfare, as his administration has infamously kept a ‘kill list’ of alleged terror suspects that are targeted by the CIA’s secretive drone regime with no external oversight or accountability.
Today’s CIA drone strike in Yemen (Marib) was the 95th under Obama, killing 576 people. An estimated 12% were civilians.
— Micah Zenko (@MicahZenko) January 26, 2015
- For example, the US has operated clandestine, CIA-run unmanned drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. The US justifies this violation of Pakistani sovereignty with the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a law the US Congress signed days after the 9/11 strikes that granted the US president the right to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those behind the attacks on America. In May 2013, nearly 12 years after the law’s signing, Obama – in promising reforms to the drone program that are difficult to verify based on the government’s secrecy – clarified who falls into that category as “Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and its associated forces.”
- Pakistan has denounced US drone activity, claiming it is illegal and counterproductive. Yet many believe the two nations collude in their mutual desire to eradicate Islamist militants from the semi-autonomous tribal areas on the Afghan border.
- US officials avoid acknowledging CIA drone strikes, instead preferring to assure that any strikes are used against top Islamist militants when capture is not available. The New York Times reported in May 2012 that those targeted for strikes — Obama’s ‘kill list’ — are cleared through the White House during weekly meetings dubbed ‘Terror Tuesdays.’
- The Islamic State released audio message on Tuesday threatening to kill a second Japanese hostage and a Jordanian pilot within 24 hours.
- A masked person holding a knife speaks as he stands in between two kneeling men in this still image taken from an online video released by the militant Islamic State group on January 20, 2015
Islamic State Reportedly Executes One Japanese Hostage as Deadline Passes
A video released entitled ‘the second public message of Kenji Goto to his family and the government of Japan’ features a still of the freelance journalist with an audio of a man speaking, who claims to be Mr Goto.
He says the group will kill him and Jordanian Air Force pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh, if a prisoner swap for a female militant being detained in Jordan does not happen within the next 24 hours.
- “Her for me, a straight exchange. Any more delays by the Jordanian government will mean they are responsible for the death of the pilot which will then be followed by mine. I only have 24 hours left to live, and the pilot has even less,” Goto says, reports DPA.
- The German press agency DPA could not confirm the authenticity of the recording, which was distributed by Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) supporters on social media.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday that Jordanian authorities were considering releasing al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto and the pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh.
- On Sunday, Islamic State took responsibility in an internet radio broadcast for the beheading of Haruna Yukawa, one of the two Japanese captives.
- An Austrian court has approved a class action of some 25,000 people around the world against Facebook. The social network is accused of breaching its users’ privacy. A preliminary hearing into the complaint has been set for April.
- “The hearing on April 9 will consider the admissibility of the lawsuit,” Beatrix Engelmann of the Vienna regional court for criminal matters, told AFP.
- The lawsuit was first filed last August by Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer and founder of the group Europe versus Facebook. Schrems had already challenged the Irish Office of the Data Protection Commissioner (ODPC) in 2013 by demanding an inquiry into the activities of US companies, including Facebook, to assess their involvement in the NSA spy scandal. The action resulted in a privacy audit by the data protection commissioner.
- The group has described the new lawsuit, joined by 25,000 users from Europe, Asia, Latin America and Australia, as “the largest privacy class action in Europe.”
- However, US and Canadian users won’t be able to participate, as the lawsuit is filed against Facebook Ireland, which runs all of the company’s operations outside North America. The group stopped accepting sign-ups after the first 25,000, but more than 50,000 additional Facebook users registered on the group’s website to express their will to join the action should it expand.
- Schrems claims that Facebook’s practices are in violation of European data protection law, that it supports the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program, involving the unauthorized passing on of user data to external applications and the tracking of Internet users on external websites. The existence of PRISM program was leaked to the public by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. PRISM is a mass electronic surveillance data mining program launched in 2007 by the National Security Agency (NSA). The plaintiffs are demanding €500 in compensation for each supporter of the class action if their allegations are supported in court.
#Facebook faces 25k users in court. #Privacy class action starts April http://t.co/mGGJo3ePKw https://t.co/4XTUXcNvx2 pic.twitter.com/93SmlxwdiF
— europe-v-facebook (@europevfacebook) 26 января 2015
- However, the compensation is not their ultimate goal, which is rather to force Facebook to change its policies to ensure users’ personal data is protected. They also demand a “suspension of data usage” by the social network.
- The group’s webpage says that Facebook has denied the claims.
- “Facebook so far remains silent on the alleged violation of European privacy laws and instead focuses on formalistic counter-claims,” the group’s press release said. “Facebook simply “refutes” all claims across the board, without explaining why. Facebook simply claims that it cannot be sued by its users.”
- The group’s lawyer, Wolfram Proksch, said Facebook’s objections lacked any substance and called Facebook’s arguments “bizarre,” TechCrunch reports.
- The middle class has shrunk consistently over the past half-century. Until 2000, the reason was primarily because more Americans moved up the income ladder. But since then, the reason has shifted: There is a greater share of households on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.
- – From yesterday’s New York Times article: Middle Class Shrinks Further as More Fall Out Instead of Climbing Up
- At a packed session in Davos, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said.
- – From the Guardian’s article: As Inequality Soars, the Nervous Super Rich are Already Planning Their Escapes
So the other day, President Barack Obama once again demonstrated his contempt for the American public by using his State of the Union address to pejoratively blurt out meaningless phrases such as “but tonight, we turn the page” and: “The verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way.”
- Sorry, but why are “we turning the page” tonight? Weren’t you elected over six years ago? Why didn’t you turn the page in 2009?
- Meanwhile, I’m astounded by the phrase “middle-class economics works.” Perhaps it does, but how would anyone know? The only thing I’ve seen from his administration is a laser focused determination to consolidate all American wealth and power into the hands of a tiny group of oligarchs and their lapdogs.
- Indeed, the following articles published in the last two days by the New York Times and the Guardian show the true results of Obama’s oligarch-coddling legacy. The Obama years have been nothing short of an oligarch crime scene.
- First, from the New York Times:
- The middle class that President Obama identified in his State of the Union speech last week as the foundation of the American economy has been shrinking for almost half a century.
- In the late 1960s, more than half of the households in the United States were squarely in the middle, earning, in today’s dollars, $35,000 to $100,000 a year. Few people noticed or cared as the size of that group began to fall, because the shift was primarily caused by more Americans climbing the economic ladder into upper-income brackets.
- But since 2000, the middle-class share of households has continued to narrow, the main reason being that more people have fallen to the bottom. At the same time, fewer of those in this group fit the traditional image of a married couple with children at home, a gap increasingly filled by the elderly.
Remember, middle-class economics works. If the goal is its total destruction.
- These charts from the New York Times do not tell the tale of a thriving economy:
- Even as the American middle class has shrunk, it has gone through a transformation. The 53 million households that remain in the middle class — about 43 percent of all households — look considerably different from their middle-class predecessors of a previous generation, according to a New York Times analysis of census data.
- In recent years, the fastest-growing component of the new middle class has been households headed by people 65 and older. Today’s seniors have better retirement benefits than previous generations. Also, older Americans are increasingly working past traditional retirement age. More than eight million, or 19 percent, were in the labor force in 2013, nearly twice as many as in 2000.
- According to a New York Times poll in December, 60 percent of people who call themselves middle class think that if they work hard they will get rich. But the evidence suggests that goal is increasingly out of reach. When middle class people look up, they see the rich getting richer while they spin their wheels.
One of the main reasons we have seen such a low level of resistance to this historic oligarch theft, is due to the successful brainwashing of the American public. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, 60% of what is left of the middle-class still think they are going to get rich. They have no idea that they are really just a bunch of deluded plebs unable to see how systematically and catestrophically they are being played.
- Meanwhile, the Guardian describes how many global oligarchs are already planning their escape. These people know full well they are being enriched criminally. Their response is to take as much money as possible and flee before the pitchforks emerge (see: The Pitchforks are Coming…– A Dire Warning from a Member of the 0.01%).
- With growing inequality and the civil unrest from Ferguson and the Occupy protests fresh in people’s mind, the world’s super rich are already preparing for the consequences. At a packed session in Davos, former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said.
- But as former New Zealand prime minister and now UN development head Helen Clark explained, rather than being a game changer, recent examples suggest the Ferguson movement may soon be forgotten. “We saw Occupy flare up and then fade like many others like it,” Clark said. “The problem movements like these have is stickability. The challenge is for them to build structures that are ongoing; to sustain these new voices.”
- Clarke said: “Solutions are there. What’s been lacking is political will. Politicians do not respond to those who don’t have a voice In the end this is all about redistributing income and power.”
- She added: “Seventy five percent of people in developing countries live in places that are less equal than they were in 1990.”
Welcome to the recovery suckers.
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