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(no subject) [Dec. 19th, 2007|08:59 am]
piedmontplg
Studying the Inhumanities
By Scott McLemee


The United States does not torture. We have been told as much by the president, and more than once, in terms that are clear, forceful, unqualified. Even (so one must surmise) categorical. If the United States permits an interrogation technique, then it cannot be torture. Q.E.D.!

And so it is very disagreeable to have to quote statements such as the following: “Waterboarding is a torture technique that has its history rooted in the Spanish Inquisition. In 1947, the U.S. prosecuted a Japanese military officer for carrying out a form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian during World War II. Waterboarding inflicts on its victims the terror of imminent death. And as with all torture techniques, it is, therefore, an inherently flawed method for gaining reliable information.”

The nattering nabob of negativism in this case happens to be writing in Armed Forces Journal, which might be described as something like a trade journal for the U.S. military. One notes that the comment, published recently, is framed not in moral terms, but strictly with reference to torture’s failure to meet the industry’s needs: “In short, it doesn’t work. That blunt truth means all U.S. leaders, present and future, should be clear on the issue.”

Well, it’s a little late for that now, of course. Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh, both of the American Civil Liberties Union, have recently edited a volume called Administration of Torture: A Documentary History from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond (Columbia University Press) that collects government memoranda from 2002 through 2005. They were selected from more than 100,000 pages of material released under the Freedom of Information, though only after litigation.

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(no subject) [Dec. 11th, 2007|09:18 am]
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'Digital locks' future questioned
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

One of the world's largest hard disk manufacturers has blocked its customers from sharing online their media files that are stored on networked drives.
Western Digital says the decision to block sharing of music and audio files is an anti-piracy effort.

The ban operates regardless of whether the files are copy-protected, or a user's own home-produced content.

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(no subject) [Dec. 3rd, 2007|09:58 am]
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The Golden Compass Accused of anti-Catholic Bias

Several Toronto-area Catholic school boards in Ontario have removed Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass fantasy novel from library shelves for review following a complaint in the municipality of Halton in late November. The novel and its two companions in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy are receiving heightened scrutiny for their allegedly anti-Catholic content prior to the December 7 U.S. release of The Golden Compass movie starring Nicole Kidman and Donald Craig.

The Catholic school board in Halton set up a 12-member committee to review the books, and Catholic officials in Durham and Peterborough are following suit. The Dufferin-Peel Catholic board has asked its staff to read the first book in the trilogy to see whether it is suitable for children, CBC News reported November 23. The Algonquin and Lakeshore school board is also conducting an informal review, according to the November 28 Kingston (Ont.) Whig-Standard.

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(no subject) [Dec. 3rd, 2007|08:44 am]
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Children's book outrages parents
Lower Macungie residents in uproar over tale about two men.


By Kevin Amerman
Of The Morning Call
November 30, 2007

Storytime ceased abruptly when the picture book Eileen Issa was reading her 2 1/2-year-old son surprisingly ended with two men marrying and smooching.

The tale about a disgruntled queen who demanded that her son marry a princess looked like the average children's book to the mother of two when she scooped it up along with about nine others at the Lower Macungie Library. She had no idea the book has been the subject of a federal lawsuit and controversy in other parts of the country.

''I saw them at the altar and I said, 'This can't be what I'm thinking,''' Eileen Issa said, recalling illustrations of the prince holding hands with and kissing his new husband. ''I was sick.''

Since that day, Issa and her husband, Jeff, have demanded that the library take it out of circulation.

The book will remain on the shelf despite the Issas' complaints and about 40 signatures they've gathered from residents who agree. The library's board of directors on Thursday denied the couple's request for the second time and the township supervisors, who appoint the library directors, have chosen not to overrule the decision.

''I just want kids to enjoy their innocence and their time of growing up,'' Jeff Issa said, explaining his persistence. ''Let them be kids … and not worry about homosexuality, race, religion. Just let them live freely as kids.''

''King & King'' is in the children's corner of the library. The only mention of its homosexual content is a small reference on the copyright page. The library's computer system also notes the classification.

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(no subject) [Nov. 28th, 2007|06:22 am]
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MADISON, Wisconsin - U.S. prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena seeking the identities of thousands of people who bought used books through online retailer Amazon.com Inc., newly unsealed court records show.

The withdrawal came after a judge ruled the customers have a right to keep their reading habits from the government.

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(no subject) [Nov. 24th, 2007|12:31 pm]
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WASHINGTON - Firefighters in major cities are being trained to take on a new role as lookouts for terrorism, raising concerns of eroding their standing as American icons and infringing on people’s privacy.

Unlike police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel don’t need warrants to access hundreds of thousands of homes and buildings each year, putting them in a position to spot behavior that could indicate terrorist activity or planning.

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(no subject) [Nov. 12th, 2007|06:34 am]
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Intelligence official: U.S. must redefine privacy
Residents need to adjust to loss of anonymity, government leader says


WASHINGTON - As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.

Kerr’s comments come as Congress is taking a second look at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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(no subject) [Nov. 7th, 2007|08:21 am]
piedmontplg
Published on Monday, November 5, 2007 by The Huffington Post

A 'Paper Coup,' and Blackwater Eyes Midtown Manhattan


by Naomi Wolf

I have argued that in the closing stages of a `fascist shift', events cascade. I am hearing about them, even across the globe. Here in Australia I hear from the nation's best-know feminist activist, and former adviser to Paul Keating, Anne Summers, who was also at the time this took place Chair of the Board of Greenpeace International. Summers was detained by armed agents for FIVE HOURS each way in LAX on her way to and from the annual meeting of the board of Greenpeace International in Mexico, and her green card was taken away from her. `I want to call a lawyer', she told TSA agents. `Ma'am, you do not have a right to call an attorney,' they replied. `You have not entered the United States.'

Apparently a section of LAX just beyond the security line is asserted to be `not in the United States' - though it is squarely inside the airport - so the laws of the US do not apply. (This assertion, by the way, should alarm any US citizen who is aware of how the White House argued that Guantanamo is not `in the United States' - is a legal no-man's land - so the laws of the US do not apply.) Toward the end of her second five-hour detention she asked, `Why am I being detained?' `Lady, this is not detention,' the TSA agent told her. `Detention is when I take you to the cells out back and lock you up.'

Last week in Boston, while attending Bioneers by the Bay, I heard that one of the speakers for our event, an environmentalist named Gunter Pauli, was going to miss the time of his scheduled speech; he had been physically taken OFF THE PLANE by TSA agents and had to take a much later flight. More chillingly, the camerawoman doing my interview said that another well-known environmental writer found that his girlfriend was effectively `disappeared' for three days as she sought to enter the US from Canada. Lisa Fithian, an anti-globalization activist, was denied entry across the Canadian border in 2001 and was offered the choice of turning back or being arrested.

A friend emails me a story from USA Today about a 24-year-old college graduate who testified before Congress about her family of immigrants and the difficulties they face; shortly afterward, the entire family was arrested by immigration agents. Another online piece reports that Blackwater is setting up operations along the US/Mexico border and an insightful post on Daily Kos describes how the TSA list will revert from the airlines to the management of the Department of Homeland Security shortly and that by February we may well face the need to apply to the State for permission to travel. If this proposed regulation goes through, we will move from 1931 to about 1934-when the borders started to close- with the stroke of a pen. Jews in America have hardwired into their DNA a sense of the distinction between those who got out before the borders closed and those who waited a moment too long.

Why should Congress impeach and prosecute this instant, not waiting till February? Why should this impeachment and prosecution be solidly bipartisan? After February it is the leaders on both sides of the aisle - and the people writing these essays - who are at most risk of being turned back at the border. People who can't leave in a police state are effectively silenced. And history shows that Republicans are at the exact same risk as Democrats of being violently silenced once liberties are lost.

I am reading about
IBM's close, profitable involvement with Nazi Germany - much akin to Prescott Bush's well-documented close and profitable involvement with Nazi Germany through German industrialist, Fritz Thyssen. Right up to the top of the solidly Nazi hierarchy of the IBM affiliate, corporate executives were terrified of taking a wrong step in the eyes of the Party: `There are concentration camps', they would whisper to their US backers. The teenage son of one solid Nazi ally was taken hostage when he resisted Party orders. So alignment with the regime in a police state offers no ultimate protection.

Let us think like business consultants analyzing the decisions of a business that claims it is going to close its door in just a year. What kinds of decisions is it making? Here is a quiz, if you still doubt that we need to shift our thinking and recognize what appears to be 'a paper coup.':

- Is building a US Embassy in Baghdad the size of eighty football fields and at a cost of well more than half a BILLION dollars evidence of short- or long-term thinking?

- These walls would crumble if the next legitimate president independently ends the war. How about defending and expanding the basis for FISA violations at this late stage - after all, these folks will be gone in a year?

- How about the decision to fight so hard for a US attorney who will defend the view that the President is above the law?

- Why would that matter so much in an administration folding its tents?

- Why the rush to establish Guantanamo as a permanent part of the landscape and even seek money at one point to double its size - if the next President, a truly independent Republican or Democrat, might just close it down?

- Why the push to expand a war that makes no military or popular sense, rush through military tribunals that the next President might just disband, and, by the way, drum up a fresh new World War III?

- Do the neo-cons advising Giuliani look like a fresh page for an independent, transparent election or an ideological continuity of government in themselves?

- Do these look like the short-term tactics of a fading administration - or the institutional strategic bases for some kind of new long-term beginning?

- Why work so hard to make sure that the man who defended the infamous "enemy combatant" concept will be the new Attorney General?

Increasingly, reputable figures are starting to talk about `a coup.' Jim Hightower notes in an important essay, "Is a Presidential Coup Under Way?," that a coup is defined in the dictionary as a sudden forced change in the form of government. (He also spells out the basis for a rigorously modeled impeachment and criminal prosecution.) Daniel Ellsberg's much-emailed speech on recent events notes that, in his view, a `coup' has already taken place. Ron Rosenbaum speculates in an essay on Slate about the reasons the Bush administration is withholding even from members of Congress its plans for Continuity of Government in an emergency - noting that those worrying about a coup are no longer so marginal.

Frank Rich notes the parallels between ourselves and the Good Germans. And Congress belatedly realizes as if waking from a drugged sleep that it might not be okay for the Attorney General to say the President need not obey the law. Congress may realize why Mukasey CAN'T say that `waterboarding is torture' - the minute he does so he has laid the grounds for Bush, Cheney and any number of CIA and Blackwater interrogators to be tried and convicted for war crimes. They are so keenly aware that what they have been doing is criminal that laws such as the Military Commissions Act of 2006 have been drafted specifically to protect them and the torturers and murderers they have directed from criminal prosecution. That is why insisting that Mukasey say that waterboarding is torture is, in spite of the alarming apparent defection of Feinstein and Schumer, an important tactic and even the perfect opening for the impeachment bid that Kucinich is bringing on November 6th to be followed by Congressional investigations into possible criminality.

This is the "Blackwater Tactical Weekly." (Yes, Blackwater has its own weekly
e-newsletter.) Look at "Islamist protest in N.Y. - 'Mushroom cloud on way'"
- it is reasonable to speculate that Blackwater is focusing on becoming more active domestically in managing domestic protests and rallies. (Regarding this particular rally, note the repetition of the White House `Mushroom Cloud' sound-bite and other signs bearing current White House talking points, that are attributed to alleged Muslim protesters in New York City. The US has a long history of using agents provocateurs - people dressed as those they are targeting, who pose as conveying a more violent or threatening message than that of the real group itself or who commit acts of violence to stigmatize the group. The Cointelpro program of the 1970's discredited many rallies in this way. An alleged or infiltrated violent, threatening Muslim rally would be the perfect defensible trigger for a Blackwater response.)

See also that Blackwater may be exploring the management of private flights in US airports because of a threat or `threat' to private aircraft. ("Extremists may target private US planes: TSA.") This entry point to the air travel system would seem defensible - after all Blackwater personnel do in fact guard airports around the world, for example in Bosnia. The danger is that a bleeding of Blackwater into US airport security in general would affect a coup in essence - quite quickly and serenely - even as a coup in fact need not be declared. It is a short step from managing private plane and private airport security to aiding the TSA - which is a branch of Homeland Security - and Homeland Security and Blackwater have already worked in alliance with one another in New Orleans. A TSA agent blogged about having signed up for Blackwater - at ten thousand a month, which is a lot more than TSA agents make now and a real incentive - but I have no evidence of reverse movement.

The White House recently announced that the Watch List and No-Fly List together have 775,000 citizens and that they are adding 20,000 A MONTH. This trend on both sides, if not confronted, points to an easy slide to a paramilitarized domestic flight experience in the US and a routine aggressive searching of hundreds of thousands of citizens, the growth being exponential enough so that being aggressively searched could easily soon become a common experience at airports. Nothing at present prevents Blackwater agents from being deployed to help or replace the TSA domestically. Or from being deployed at the next New York City rally such as the one that is being featured on their website. And airports being the lifeline of freedom, if you are scared to fly or can be bullied, interrogated, tasered or worse when flying, you are no longer free. History shows that there is no easy retroactive movement toward a free society once travel is truly restricted.

The Mukasey hesitation on torture is our cue to call a halt to these crimes. (By the way, strapping victims to boards to prepare them for torture was common at Buchenwald.)

Congress must ask:

- What is torture?

- Has it happened?

- Who ordered it?

- How high up the chain of command does this go?

- And what does our system of laws say about such crimes and those who commit them?

If it takes hearings and possible prosecutions to restore the rule of law and maintain a free society, then it is past time for the hearings to begin.

Naomi Wolf's essays have appeared in various publications including: The New Republic, Wall Street Journal, Glamour, Ms., Esquire, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.
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(no subject) [Oct. 10th, 2007|08:11 am]
piedmontplg
From the BBC:

Boy in court on terror charges

A British teenager who is accused of possessing material for terrorist purposes has appeared in court.
The 17-year-old, who was arrested in the Dewsbury area of West Yorkshire on Monday, was given bail after a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

It is alleged he had a copy of the "Anarchists' Cookbook", containing instructions on how to make home-made explosives.

For the rest of the article, click here.
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(no subject) [Sep. 27th, 2007|06:16 am]
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Judge rules part of Patriot Act unconstitutional
Provisions allow search warrants issued without probable cause, she says


PORTLAND, Ore. - Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, "now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment."

Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield sought the ruling in a lawsuit against the federal government after he was mistakenly linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004.

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