Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fox Nation

Senior Bush figures could be prosecuted for torture, says Obama

President says use of waterboarding showed US had 'lost moral bearings' as Dick Cheney says CIA memos showed torture delivered 'good' intelligence

He said the use of torture reflected America "losing our moral bearings".

He said his attorney general, Eric Holder, was conducting an investigation and the decision rested with him. Obama last week ruled out prosecution of CIA agents who carried out the interrogation of suspected al-Qaida members at Guant namo and secret prisons around the world.

But for the first time today he opened up the possibility that those in the administration who gave the go-ahead for the use of waterboarding could be prosecuted.

The revelation will enrage senior Bush administration figures such as the former vice-president Dick Cheney.

The Obama administration views the use of waterboarding as torture, while Cheney claims it is not.

Obama, taking questions from the press during a visit by King Abdullah of Jordan, reiterated he did not believe in prosecution of those CIA agents who carried out the interrogations within the guidelines set down for them. But "with respect to shoe who formulated'' the policies, "that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws". He added: "I don't want to prejudge that."

Ewen MacAskill on Obama's reluctance to prosecute torturers Link to this audio

He also opened the way for a Congressional inquiry into the issue.


Google Book Search settlement gives Google a virtual monopoly over literature

Writing on O'Reilly Radar, preeminent legal scholar Pamela Samuelson cuts through the distractions associated with the Google Book Search/Authors Guild settlement and goes right to the heart of the matter: Google, in acceding to the Authors Guild's requests, have attained a legal near-monopoly on searching and distributing the majority of books ever published.

The Authors Guild -- which represents a measly 8000 writers -- brought a class action against Google on behalf of all literary copyright holders, even the authors of the millions of "orphan works" whose rightsholders can't be located. Once that class was certified, whatever deal Google struck with the class became binding on every work of literature ever produced. The odds are that this feat won't ever be repeated, which means that Google is the only company in the world that will have a clean, legal way of offering all these books in search results.

The Authors Guild and the American Association of Publishers (who took part in the settlement) totally missed the real risk of Google Book Search: they were worried about some notional income from advertising that they might miss out on. But the real risk is that Google could end up as the sole source of ultimate power in book discovery, distribution and sales. As the only legal place where all books can be searched, Google gets enormous market power: the structure of their search algorithm can make bestsellers or banish books to obscurity. The leverage they attain over publishing and authors through this settlement is incalculable.

I like Google. I worry about the privacy implications of some of their technology, and I wish they had more spine when it came to censoring search results in China, but I think they make incredibly awesome search tools and every person I know who works at Google is a class-A mensch and a certified smart person (a rare combination).

But no one, not Google, not Santa Claus, should have this kind of leverage over the entire world of literature. It's abominable. No one benefits when markets consolidate into a single monopoly gatekeeper -- not even the gatekeeper, who is apt to lose its edge without competition to keep it sharp.

The publishers I spoke to about this were incredibly smug about it. Because the settlement gives them the power to keep new releases out of Google, they feel like they can use this to keep the company honest.

This is wrong.

New releases are the majority of the publishers' business, but they're not the majority of the market for books -- and they're only successful because of all the context created by the entire history of literature. If the publishers offer a sweetheart deal on searching new results to Yahoo, but can't give Yahoo access to the orphan works and other catalog items to which Google alone has easy legal access, Yahoo's search tool will never compete with Google's. To understand why, imagine if Yahoo tried to compete with Google by offering a search engine that only indexed the last 30 days' worth of web-pages: it's true that most of the stuff I read on the web was written in the past 30 days, but the 40-50% of stuff I that wasn't is often enormously important to me. In that world, I would have to flick constantly between searching Yahoo and Google to make sure I wasn't missing stuff -- and very quickly, I'd just default to Google.

By design or by accident, Google got the most reactionary elements in publishing to anoint Google the Eternal God-Emperor of Literature. Thanks a lot, Authors Guild -- with friends like you, who needs piracy?


The Aura of Arugulance

by Maureen Dowd

The first thing I wanted to do in the Bay Area was go out to Skywalker Ranch and ask George Lucas about a disturbing conversation we'd had at an Obama inaugural party in Washington.

Lucas, the creator of "Star Wars," had told me that I had gotten Dick Cheney completely wrong, that Cheney was no Darth Vader. I felt awful. Had I been too hard on Vice?

Lucas explained politely as I listened contritely. Anakin Skywalker is a promising young man who is turned to the dark side by an older politician and becomes Darth Vader. "George Bush is Darth Vader," he said. "Cheney is the emperor."

I was relieved. In "Star Wars" terms, Dick Cheney was more evil than Darth Vader. I hadn't been hard enough on Vice!

Lucas was on his way to Europe and didn't have time to elaborate in person. But he sent me this message confirming our conversation: "You know, Darth Vader is really a kid from the desert planet near Crawford, and the true evil of the universe is the emperor who pulls all the strings."


The truth about Columbine

Ten years ago, two teenagers walked into a Colorado school and massacred 13 people. The killings sparked wall-to-wall media coverage around the world - much of which has since turned out to be nonsense. Andrew Gumbel, who reported on the aftermath, explains what really happened that day - and why

An aerial view shows a triage area near columbine high school in littletonExactly 10 years ago on Monday, the world woke up to learn that two more unhinged American teenage misfits had snapped after years of bullying at the hands of the "jocks", the sporting overlords of their universe, and gone on a murderous rampage with semi-automatic weapons through their suburban high school.

Or that's the version we were told, anyway.

The teenagers were called Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, and their school was Columbine High, an idyllic sounding place nestled between the Denver metropolitan area and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. What is indisputable is that Columbine quickly became a byword for the nightmarish phenomenon - now seemingly a worldwide contagion - of school shootings. It was the bloodiest, creepiest, most vivid school attack anyone at the time could remember and remains, to this day, the episode the American popular imagination just can't seem to shake.

Harris and Klebold did not just gun down their victims in cold blood. They laughed and hollered while they were doing it, as though they were having the time of their lives.

In contrast to previous American school shootings, which had unfolded in hard-to-reach locales such as West Paducah, Kentucky, or Jonesboro, Arkansas, this one happened half an hour's drive from a major media hub. Denver television crews got there while the horrors were unfolding, and the cameras did not stop rolling for a week. That, in retrospect, may not have been an entirely good thing.

From the start, the images seemed to suck viewers right into the heart of the mayhem. One of the dead was left stranded in a parking lot, which terrified fellow students would eventually have to pass as they ran out at the end of their ordeal. The cameras captured it all. Another victim, already badly wounded in the head, arm and legs but seized by a compulsion to get out of the school at any cost, somehow pirouetted his broken body across a window ledge and let himself tumble into the arms of two waiting officers. That, too, was broadcast live on international television.

What we were seeing, though, was not quite what we thought. By the time the TV crews arrived, Harris and Klebold had in fact ended their rampage and turned their weapons on themselves. The sporadic shooting heard over the next three hours over the incessant wah-wah of the fire alarm came, in fact, from Swat teams pumping bullets into locked classroom doors in a painfully slow and clumsy effort to track down the killers. Only later did the authorities realise Harris and Klebold were already lying dead in the library, along with 10 of their 13 murder victims.

The illusion of an ordeal lasting for hours - some television stations even described it as a hostage stand-off - was just the first of many misconceptions. Harris and Klebold, we were told, were members of a campus group of losers and Marilyn Manson-worshipping goths called the Trenchcoat Mafia, who had few friends and attracted only derision from the cool kids. They not only hated jocks, they were racists who picked 20 April for the attack because it was Hitler's birthday. Supposedly, they also had a grudge against evangelical Christians. A story soon spread that one of the murder victims in the library, Cassie Bernall, had been asked at gunpoint if she believed in God. When she answered yes, Harris laughed and pulled the trigger. The story inspired dozens of sermons, spawned a best-selling book co-authored by Bernall's mother, and elevated Bernall to martyr status far beyond Columbine.

Those of us who covered the shootings repeated at least some of these stories. We had no reason not to. They were confirmed, if not amplified, by the Jefferson County officials who gave news briefings several times a day. How were we to know that John Stone, the county sheriff, was winging it, telling us, for example, that the boys had fully automatic weapons and at least one accomplice, when these were no more than his own wrongheaded assumptions?

The stories were repeated, too, by traumatised students who drifted towards the television cameras stationed in a park across the street from the school. We could not guess that these students did not know Harris and Klebold - this was a school with 2,000 students - and were, to a large extent, repeating things they were themselves picking up from the television coverage. I had long conversations with local teenagers, both in the park and in a local shopping mall, about the oppressiveness of jock culture and the enormous pressures of feeling out of place in a rigidly conformist, predominantly white middle class community. It sounded like a plausible explanation at the time.

Much of what we reported, though, was simply wrong, as attested by tens of thousands of official documents and other evidence that has at last seen the light of day after years of suppression by the local authorities. As the Colorado-based journalist Dave Cullen tells in his gripping and authoritative new book Columbine, Harris and Klebold had plenty of friends, did pretty well in school, were not members of the Trenchcoat Mafia, did not listen to Manson, were not bullied, harboured no specific grudges against any one group, and did not "snap" because of some last-straw traumatic event. All those stories were the product of hysteria, ignorance and flailing guesswork in the first few hours and days.

The truth was more sinister.


Swedes Demonstrate Against Pirate Bay Verdict

Written by Ernesto

More than thousand people have gathered in the streets of the Swedish capital Stockholm today, to protest against yesterday's Pirate Bay verdict. The demonstration was organized by the Swedish Pirate Party that is campaigning for the European Parliament elections in June.

Yesterday, The Pirate Bay Four were sentenced to a year in prison, and on top of that each of them was ordered to pay the entertainment industry $905,000 in damages. The defendants have all announced that they will appeal, which means that the case is likely to drag on for years.

Many Swedes were outraged by the harsh sentence that was given and today the Swedish Pirate Party organized a demonstration to support the defendants. The demonstration took place in Stockholm, and there were similar protests in other Swedish cities.

"Politicians have declared war on our entire generation," Pirate Party Leader Rick Falkvinge told the crowd, adding. "Our politicians are digital illiterates. We need politicians who can't be hen-pecked by a foreign power."

Pirates Demonstrate in Stockholm

epic win lol

"The Pirate Bay is a completely legitimate service that transmits information between people. After this ruling, no one can feel secure when linking to a YouTube clip on its website," Daniel Nystrm from the Pirate Party said in his speech while the crowd yelled "Free TPB, free TPB!"

The verdict has brought many new members for the Pirate Party, and they hope to get a seat at the European Parliament later this year. Over the past day over 6000 members applied, raising the member count from less than 15,000 up to more than 20,000 making them one of the largest political parties in Sweden.

Tomorrow the Pirate Party has planned another demonstration in the city center of Goteborg, hoping to equal the success of today.


Obama is same as Bush, says al-Qaida chief

Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, says president's recent outreach to Arab world is attempt to fool Muslims

Ayman al-zawahiriAyman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's second-in-command, has urged Muslims not to be fooled by Barack Obama's policies which he insisted were no different from those of George Bush.

"America came to us with a new face, with which it is trying to fool us," Osama bin Laden's deputy said in a video message posted on a Jihadi website. "He is calling for change, but he aims to change us so that we abandon our religion and rights.

"It is America that is still killing Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan. It is America that steals their fortunes, occupies their land, and supports the thieving, corrupt, and traitor rulers in their countries. And consequently, the problem is not over. Rather, it is likely to deteriorate and escalate."

Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor, issues statements far more frequently than Bin Laden, and terrorism analysts say he often seems to be reflecting al-Qaida's preoccupations. Last November he described the new US president as a "house negro".

His latest remarks come as Obama wins plaudits for attempting to reach out to Muslim and Arab opinion, using diplomacy and economic assistance in his bid to counter the Taliban in Afghanistan as well as increasing US troop strengths.

In Turkey last month he insisted that the US was not "at war" with Islam. He has also announced a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and signalled that he will work urgently to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"What Obama is seeking to do by increasing US forces in Afghanistan and continuing to bomb Pakistan will only add more fuel to the fire and expose your soldiers to more killings and injuries," Zawahiri said. He also warned the Obama administration against any co-operation with Iran in Afghanistan and Iraq.


Obama Protecting Bush from Spain?

By David Swanson

The official story is that Spain has decided not to prosecute Bush's torture lawyers. Yet the known facts suggest something else entirely.

1-We know that the prosecutor who initiated this effort wants to prosecute Bush. He wrote about it months ago. We know that he and his colleagues see targeting the lawyers first as a step in Bush's direction and more likely to move forward than a case that starts at the top.

2-We know from Scott Horton's reporting that Spain and the Obama administration have been communicating about this case.

3-We know that the White House's press secretary was asked this week about those communications and avoided answering the question at all, rather than simply going with the story already reported that the U.S. was just observing and "gathering information."

4-We know that Obama wants to "move forward," does not want to prosecute Bush, and is going to extraordinary lengths to maintain and expand the power of the presidency (including the power to detain without charge, rendition, illegal foreign occupations and strikes, the power to make treaties without Congress, rewriting laws with signing statements, making laws with executive orders, keeping most of Bush's signing statements and executive orders in place, unprecedented claims of state secrets and classification and sovereign immunity and executive privilege, the power to fire whistleblowers, keeping memos and Emails secret, etc.)

5-We know that the top law enforcement official in Spain has made an argument for dismissing the case against the lawyers that an 8 year old would spot as an illegal absurdity, that was not a necessary argument for dismissing the case, but that would be a necessary argument for preventing a case against Bush. While he could have argued, like Doug Feith, that those engaging in the torture or ordering it were more culpable than the lawyers (as they are indeed), he instead argued that ONLY those present for the torture are culpable, thus exonerating Hitler, Pinochet, and every other official who has ordered a crime from a distance.

6-We know that if the top law enforcement official in Spain lacked the mental acumen of an 8 year old, Fox News would have pointed that out to us during the past couple of days of xenophobic screeching.

7-We know that the rightwing was preparing big attacks on Obama for allowing Spain to proceed, and that the official "left" was not going to have his back. Senator Russ Feingold said yesterday that Spain was behaving inappropriately.

These facts are at least extremely suggestive of a less than independent decision by the Spanish to deny justice and stick to "looking forward," a decision that certainly does not follow public opinion in Spain and was not predicted by reporters in Spain but was predicted by Doug Feith on Fox News:

"I hope and expect that the Obama administration will communicate to the Spanish government that they that they do not view this as simply an attack against some former officials; they view it as an attack on the U.S. government because as I said, the principle that's involved here would attack current officials as much as former officials."

We do not actually know that these six men were never present for torture.

In the Pinochet case Garzon proceeded despite the opposition of the AG, but in this case there is a move to take Garzon off the case.

ThinkProgress believes that Obama has hinted at a torture investigation underway in the United States. If so, the hint wasn't in what they quote or they're squinting harder than I am.

Some hope remains that Judge Garzon will attempt to push forward.


Pentagon blows up pigs in bombproof armor

Pentagon blows up pigs in bombproof armor

The US military blows up live pigs and rats dressed in bombproof body armor to measure the protection the suit would provide for the troops.

Most of the armor-clad animals died when put in semi-military vehicles which were blown up by the military researchers, the USA Today reported on Monday. The move is in clear violation of Animal rights and Animal Law.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), however, defended the practice saying "if use of animal subjects in testing results in our ability to save lives or prevent injury to our troops, we're confident this is the right thing to do."

The study, which saw the animals being subjected to 200 explosions, reportedly revealed that the shield would not increase the risk of brain injury.

The test was run for an 11-month period and a second round is slated for later this year.

Martin Stephens, vice president for animal research issues at the Humane Society of the United States, however, questioned the relevance of the test saying "people are not pigs."

"Is this the best they can do after several years of losing soldiers to roadside bombs?" he added.

Col. Geoffrey Ling the experiment's supervisor, however, argued that pigs were good subjects as their brains are more similar to human brains than those of rats. Pig hearts and lungs are also similar to humans'.

Animal rights activists slammed the Pentagon over the mistreatment of pigs, while the Pentagon claimed the animals were "treated humanely at all times."

The European open internet is under imminent threat


Don't let the EU parliament lock up the Internet! There will be no way back!

Act now!
Internet access is not conditional

Everyone who owns a website has an interest in defending the free use of Internet... so has everyone who uses Google or Skype... everyone who expresses their opinions freely, does research of any kind, whether for personal health problems or academic study ... everyone who shops online...who dates online...socialises online... listens to music...watches video...

Millions of Europeans now depend on the Internet, directly or indirectly, for their livelihood. Taking it away, chopping it up, 'restricting it', 'limiting it' and placing conditions on our use of it, will have a direct impact on people's earnings. And in the current financial climate, that can't be good.

The internet as we know it is at risk because of proposed new EU rules going through end of April. Under the proposed new rules, broadband providers will be legally able to limit the number of websites you can look
at, and to tell you whether or not you are allowed to use particular services. It will be dressed up as 'new consumer options' which people can choose from. People will be offered TV-like packages - with a limited
number of options for you to access.

It means that the Internet will be packaged up and your ability to access and to put up content could be severely restricted. It will create boxes of Internet accessibility, which don't fit with the way we use it today. This is because internet is now permitting exchanges between persons which cannot be controlled or "facilitated" by any middlemen (the state or a corporation) and this possibility improves the citizen's life but force the industry to lose power and control. that's why they are pushing governments to act those changes.

The excuse is to control the flow of music, films and entertainment content against the alleged piracy by downloading for free, using P2P file-sharing. However, the real victims of this plan will be all Internet users and the democratic and independent access to information, culture goods.

Think about how you use the Internet! What would it mean to you if free access to the Internet was taken away?

These days, the Internet is about life and freedom. It's about shopping, booking theatre tickets ... holidays, learning, job-seeking, banking, and trade. It's also about the fun things - dating, chatting, invitations, music, entertainment, joking and even a Second Life. It is a tool to express ourselves, to collaborate, innovate, share, stimulate new business ideas, reach new markets - thrive without middlemen..

Just think - what's your web address? Unless people have that address in their "package" of regular websites - they won't be able to find you. That means they can't buy, or book, or register, or even view you online. Your business won't be able to find niche suppliers of goods - and compare prices. If you get any money at all from advertising on your site, it will diminish. Yes, Amazon and a select few will be OK, they will be the included in the package. But your advertising on Google or any other website, will be increasingly worthless. Skype could be blocked. (As it is in Germany in the use from iPhone, already). Small businesses could literally disappear, especially specialist, niche or artisan businesses.

If we don't do something now - we could lose free and open use of the internet.


Tons of released drugs taint US water


U.S. manufacturers, including major drugmakers, have legally released at least 271 million pounds of pharmaceuticals into waterways that often provide drinking water contamination the federal government has consistently overlooked, according to an Associated Press investigation.

Hundreds of active pharmaceutical ingredients are used in a variety of manufacturing, including drugmaking: For example, lithium is used to make ceramics and treat bipolar disorder; nitroglycerin is a heart drug and also used in explosives; copper shows up in everything from pipes to contraceptives.

Federal and industry officials say they don't know the extent to which pharmaceuticals are released by U.S. manufacturers because no one tracks them as drugs. But a close analysis of 20 years of federal records found that, in fact, the government unintentionally keeps data on a few, allowing a glimpse of the pharmaceuticals coming from factories.

As part of its ongoing PharmaWater investigation about trace concentrations of pharmaceuticals in drinking water, AP identified 22 compounds that show up on two lists: the EPA monitors them as industrial chemicals that are released into rivers, lakes and other bodies of water under federal pollution laws, while the Food and Drug Administration classifies them as active pharmaceutical ingredients.

The data don't show precisely how much of the 271 million pounds comes from drugmakers versus other manufacturers; also, the figure is a massive undercount because of the limited federal government tracking.

To date, drugmakers have dismissed the suggestion that their manufacturing contributes significantly to what's being found in water. Federal drug and water regulators agree.

But some researchers say the lack of required testing amounts to a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy about whether drugmakers are contributing to water pollution.

"It doesn't pass the straight-face test to say pharmaceutical manufacturers are not emitting any of the compounds they're creating," said Kyla Bennett, who spent 10 years as an EPA enforcement officer before becoming an ecologist and environmental attorney.

Pilot studies in the U.S. and abroad are now confirming those doubts.

Last year, the AP reported that trace amounts of a wide range of pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones have been found in American drinking water supplies. Including recent findings in Dallas, Cleveland and Maryland's Prince George's and Montgomery counties, pharmaceuticals have been detected in the drinking water of at least 51 million Americans.


Newspaper Reader's Association

Superweed explosion threatens Monsanto heartlands

"Superweeds" are plaguing high-tech Monsanto crops in southern US states, driving farmers to use more herbicides, return to conventional crops or even abandon their farms.

The gospel of high-tech genetically modified (GM) crops is not sounding quite so sweet in the land of the converted. A new pest, the evil pigweed, is hitting headlines and chomping its way across Sun Belt states, threatening to transform cotton and soybean plots into weed battlefields.

In late 2004, "superweeds" that resisted Monsanto's iconic "Roundup" herbicide, popped up in GM crops in the county of Macon, Georgia. Monsanto, the US multinational biotech corporation, is the world's leading producer of Roundup, as well as genetically engineered seeds. Company figures show that nine out of 10 US farmers produce Roundup Ready seeds for their soybean crops.

Superweeds have since alarmingly appeared in other parts of Georgia, as well as South Carolina, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri, according to media reports. Roundup contains the active ingredient glyphosate, which is the most used herbicide in the USA.

GM protesters demonstrate near the French town of Toulouse in March 2008.
How has this happened? Farmers over-relied on Monsanto's revolutionary and controversial combination of a single "round up" herbicide and a high-tech seed with a built-in resistance to glyphosate, scientists say.

Today, 100,000 acres in Georgia are severely infested with pigweed and 29 counties have now confirmed resistance to glyphosate, according to weed specialist Stanley Culpepper from the University of Georgia.

"Farmers are taking this threat very seriously. It took us two years to make them understand how serious it was. But once they understood, they started taking a very aggressive approach to the weed," Culpepper told FRANCE 24.

"Just to illustrate how aggressive we are, last year we hand-weeded 45% of our severely infested fields," said Culpepper, adding that the fight involved "spending a lot of money."

In 2007, 10,000 acres of land were abandoned in Macon country, the epicentre of the superweed explosion, North Carolina State University's Alan York told local media.

The perfect weed

Had Monsanto wanted to design a deadlier weed, they probably could not have done better. Resistant pigweed is the most feared superweed, alongside horseweed, ragweed and waterhemp.

Leafy Clean: NASA-sanctioned houseplants purify indoor air

Air purifying house plants
You don't need exotic technology or expensive gadgets to remove pollutants from the air you breathe indoors. According to NASA studies, a selection of hardy, easy-care houseplants can help.

NASA has been researching methods of cleansing the air so that future space stations can be kept fit for human habitation for extended periods of time. Researchers have discovered that many common houseplants "scrub" significant amounts of harmful gases such as formaldehyde and benzene out of the air through photosynthesis, absorbing pollutants and rendering them harmless in the soil.

These findings are especially relevant for inhabitants of newly constructed buildings, which are sealed tightly to conserve energy but consequently trap pollutants indoors. NASA researchers recommend that you have a minimum of two plants per 100 square feet of floor space in your home or office. Best of all, you don't need to be a green thumb to incorporate these popular, low-maintenance houseplants into your environment.

Chinese evergreen. Chinese evergreens are tolerant plants that do well in a variety of settings and flourish for years with minimum care. They do best in shadowless light, such as a north-facing window. Keep the soil barely moist.

Dracaena. Dracaenas grow slowly and retain their foliage for long periods of time. Plant them in regular potting mix and keep the soil moist, but don't let the pot sit in water. They grow best in bright, indirect sunlight, warm temperatures, and low humidity.


Somebody blabbed


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