Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Obama Hails Police-State Methods In Chicago

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President Barack Obama on Monday praised the performance of Chicago city officials and the Chicago Police Department after a week of violence, repression and frame-ups directed against antiwar demonstrators in the city.

Speaking at the conclusion of the NATO summit, Obama paid tribute to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his political crony and former White House chief of staff, and added, referring to the thousands of police mobilized against protesters, “Chicago’s finest did a great job under significant pressure and a lot of scrutiny.”

What was this “great job?”

• Downtown Chicago was effectively shut down for four days, Friday through Monday, not by the protesters, never more than 5,000 people, but by a huge mobilization of police and paramilitary forces who frequently outnumbered the demonstrators. The entire area around McCormick Place, site of the summit, was under lockdown.

• Police arrested well over 100 demonstrators in the course of the week, including more than 60 Sunday, a day of tense confrontations in which police continually vented their hostility towards the demonstrators, who were opposing the US-NATO war in Afghanistan and other imperialist military interventions.

• The violent dispersal of the protesters late Sunday afternoon was entirely one-sided, as described by the Chicago Sun-Times—a staunchly pro-police tabloid—which headlined its account, “Riot Gear Cops Rain Down Blows on Protesters.” The beatings were so widespread and indiscriminate that one of the newspaper’s own reporters was among those bloodied. At least 25 demonstrators were injured, with a dozen requiring hospital treatment.

• Most ominously, five protesters were arrested in police raids targeting individuals supposedly preparing “terrorist” attacks on the NATO summit. The same two informants fingered all five men, after the undercover cops had circulated widely among the protesters looking for anyone they could instigate or entrap.

The charges of “conspiring to commit domestic terrorism during the NATO summit,” brought before the Cook County Circuit Court, are a deliberate attempt to intimidate opponents of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan and other imperialist military interventions either under way or being planned by the Obama administration.

The whole machinery of provocation and frame-up, erected over the past decade in the name of the “war on terror,” is now being used against the democratic rights of working people and youth who oppose the policies of the American government. As the World Socialist Web Site has consistently warned, the methods tested out against immigrants and Muslims are now being unleashed against the American people as a whole.

The Chicago frame-ups of antiwar protesters follow in the footsteps of previous provocations: last month’s arrest of five Cleveland-area Occupy protesters on similarly trumped-up charges; the systematic police violence against Occupy encampments last fall and winter; the FBI raids on the homes of antiwar activists in Minneapolis and Chicago in the fall of 2010.

They are part of a broader assault on democratic rights being carried out by the Obama administration, which has gone even further than the Bush White House in erecting the scaffolding of a police state. Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which gives the president the right to order the military detention, without trial, of anyone he designates as a terrorist threat, including US citizens. Obama has sharply increased targeted assassinations of alleged terrorists, including the murder of US citizens, and openly defended the president’s supposed unilateral “right” to do so.

Both big business parties are systematically shredding the Bill of Rights and stripping the American people of their constitutionally guaranteed rights.

These heavy-handed measures expose the fraudulent character of the claims by Democratic and Republican politicians that American imperialism is on the side of “democracy” and “freedom” when it wages wars against countries that possess vast reserves of oil and natural gas, or occupy strategic locations adjacent to such resources.

America is the most heavily policed of the industrialized countries. The combined forces of repression—local and state police, the military, the FBI, the CIA and other intelligence agencies, the vast apparatus of the Department of Homeland Security, the endless armies of private security personnel—number in the many millions.

In the final analysis, this vast apparatus of repression testifies to the crisis of American capitalism, not its strength. The more acute the social tensions, the more charged the political atmosphere, the deeper the resentment of working people towards the privileged elite, the more the ruling class is compelled to surround itself with what Marx and Engels described as the essence of the state—“bodies of armed men.”

The working class must take a warning from the events in Chicago on the role of the police, including their informants and provocateurs, and the role of the Obama administration.

The decisive issue is the political clarification of the working class and the development of a mass, independent political mobilization of working people and youth. Only such a mass movement, fighting to take political power and establish a workers government, can forestall the drive towards repression and dictatorship by the corporate elite and its political defenders, both Democratic and Republican.

JPMorgan Chase Losses Eclipse $30 Billion

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Champion American complainer Jamie Dimon complained on Monday about Wall Street regulation, while also insisting he not be described as a complainer. All the while, his bank's losses, partly resulting from lax regulation, continued to grow.

An initial $2 billion trading loss has likely resulted in a total loss of more than $30 billion, when you include a 19 percent drop in the bank's stock price. By itself, the trading loss alone might balloon to more than $6 billion, according to one estimate.

To strengthen the Cognitive Dissonance Vortex he had created, the JPMorgan Chase CEO's comments came as the ink was still drying on news reports that reminded everybody of why the Wall Street regulation he complains about constantly is necessary in the first place. Namely, the Wall Street Journal reported that a top risk-management officer at JPMorgan apparently had a spotty track record of risk-management. And CNNMoney said estimates of the bank's initial $2 billion loss due to poor risk-management have tripled to at least $6 billion.

But first, to the Dimon Complain-Bot 9000: Speaking at the Deutsche Bank Securities Global Financial Services Investor Conference in New York, Dimon rolled out several of his standard complaints about post-crisis efforts to regulate the financial sector, according to the Wall Street Journal's Deal Journal blog, which live-blogged his comments.

On the Volcker Rule, which -- if it is ever actually put in place in any real way -- would prohibit banks with federally insured customer deposits from being able to blow billions of dollars on stupid market gambles, Dimon warned that regulators should be very careful not to "throw the baby out with the bathwater." Typically in this analogy, which he has used more than once before, Dimon implies that JPMorgan is the squeaky-clean baby and other banks are the nasty bathwater. But now that JPMorgan Chase has done exactly the sort of thing the Volcker Rule was designed to stop, the analogy is less effective -- the baby a bit scummier, if you will.

Dimon also issued his usual dire warnings about how regulation would harm American banks and drive business overseas to places where regulations aren't so horribly constraining. But, amazingly, Dimon also said of regulation: "Please don't anyone write I am complaining about it."

This is the man who has honed complaining about regulation to a fine art. He is the Mozart of Complaining. If you haven't seen it, you should really take a few minutes and watch Hunter Stuart's Huffington Post video mashup of all of the times Jamie Dimon has complained about regulation.

Ironically, the regulations he hates most might have saved his bank at least $2 billion, and possibly $5 billion or even $7 billion. Bad bets on unregulated credit derivatives cost the bank an initial $2 billion, and now Morgan Stanley estimates the losses will rise to $5 billion by the end of the year, the Financial Times's FT Alphaville blog writes. That is $2 billion more than Dimon has publicly estimated, but increasingly nobody believes Dimon on this.

In fact, CNNMoney suggests the losses may have already hit $6 billion or $7 billion, citing traders in the derivatives market, where JPMorgan and its enormous bets are still trapped, being eaten alive by hedge funds.

Dimon, in his comments on Monday, said the bank wasn't going to keep updating everybody on its losses. An easier amount of money to track is the amount of market value that has been vaporized since this episode began. JPMorgan stock has tumbled nearly 19 percent since May 10, erasing nearly $30 billion in shareholder value.

Adding insult to injury, Dimon said that the bank was going to cancel its plans to buy back its stock -- despite the shares now being available at a steep discount -- in order to make sure the bank's capital will be ready to meet new global regulatory requirements.

These developments may not undermine Dimon's arguments that the bank has a "fortress balance sheet," but they won't make shareholders happy. And clearly the bank's reputation for risk management is getting worse by the day.

Today's blow: The guy in charge of managing risk at the unit responsible for the loss is in the spotlight for some past episodes of questionable risk management, the WSJ writes, citing people familiar with the matter:

Irvin Goldman, who was installed as chief risk officer for the Chief Investment Office this past February before being relieved of his duties this month, suffered between $10 million and $15 million in losses on one bet in 2008 in his prior role as a trader for the bank, these people said.

J.P. Morgan halted Mr. Goldman's trading in late 2008 and put him on leave when it learned that regulators were separately probing trading practices at Cantor Fitzgerald, where Mr. Goldman had served as an executive until late 2007, the people said.

Goldman, who declined to comment to the WSJ, has not been accused of any wrongdoing.

But, hey, look on the bright side: The Telegraph reports that Ina Drew, the woman in charge of the unit responsible for the loss, will go away with $32 million in cash and going-away prizes.

Fukushima Reactor 4 poses massive global risk

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More than a year after a devastating earthquake and tsunami triggered a massive nuclear disaster, experts are warning that Japan isn't out of the woods yet and the worst nuclear storm the world has ever seen could be just one earthquake away from reality.

The troubled Reactor 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is at the centre of this potential catastrophe.

Reactor 4 -- and to a lesser extent Reactor 3 -- still hold large quantities of cooling waters surrounding spent nuclear fuel, all bound by a fragile concrete pool located 30 metres above the ground, and exposed to the elements.

A magnitude 7 or 7.5 earthquake would likely fracture that pool, and disaster would ensue, says Arnie Gundersen, a nuclear engineer with Fairewinds Energy Education who has visited the site.

The 1,535 spent fuel rods would become exposed to the air and would likely catch fire, with the most-recently added fuel rods igniting first.

The incredible heat generated from that blaze, Gundersen said, could then ignite the older fuel in the cooling pool, causing a massive oxygen-eating radiological fire that could not be extinguished with water.

"So the fear is the newest fuel could begin to burn and then we'd have a conflagration of the whole pool because it would become hotter and hotter. The health consequences of that are beyond where science has ever gone before," Gundersen told CTVNews.ca in an interview from his home in Vermont.

Worst-case scenario

There are a couple of possible outcomes, Gundersen said.

Highly radioactive cesium and strontium isotopes would likely go airborne and "volatilize" -- turning into a vapour that could move with the wind, potentially travelling thousands of kilometres from the source.

The size of those particles would determine whether they remained in Japan, or made their way to the rest of Asia and other continents.

"And here's where there's no science because no one's ever dared to attempt the experiment," Gundersen said. "If it flies far enough it goes around the world, if the particles stay a little bigger, they settle in Japan. Either is awful."

Essentially, he said, Japan is sitting on a ticking time bomb.

The damaged Reactor 4 cooling pool was reinforced by workers who went in and "jury-rigged" it after the tsunami, but the structure still contains a massive amount of fuel, Gundersen said.

Reactor 3 has less fuel inside its cooling pool, but it has not been strengthened since the disaster and poses a greater risk of failing.

"Reactor 3 has a little less consequences but a little more risk, and Reactor 4 has more consequences but…a little less risk," he said.

Finding a fix

The solution, Gundersen said, is for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to immediately begin the process of transferring the fuel rods from the cooling pools to dry cask storage -- a massive and costly endeavour, but one he said is absolutely essential.

To even begin the removal process at Reactor 4, TEPCO would first have to construct a crane capable of lifting the 100-tonne fuel rod canister, since the original crane was destroyed in the disaster last year.

In order to do that, they would have to build a massive structure around the existing pool to support the new crane, which would then be used to lift the fuel rod canister from the water, down to the ground and into a steel and concrete dry-cask.

All this of course, has to be done in a highly contaminated area where workers must wear protective suits and limit their radiation exposure each day, adding time and expense to the process.

Still, with the consequences so high, Gundersen said there's no time to lose.

"This is a 'now' problem, this is not a 'let's-wait-until-we-get-the-cash-flow-from-the-Japanese-government' problem. The consequences of a 7 or 7.5 earthquake don't happen every day, but we know it happened last year so you have to anticipate that it will happen," Gundersen said.

‘Fate of the world' depends on Reactor 4

He's not alone in pressing the Japanese government to adopt a sense of urgency about the Reactor 4 dilemma.

Robert Alvarez, a former top adviser at the U.S. Department of Energy, also expressed concern in a letter to Akio Matsumura, a Japanese diplomat who has turned his focus to the nuclear calamity.

Matsumura had asked Alvarez about the risk associated with Reactor 4.

"The No. 4 pool is about 100 feet above ground, is structurally damaged and is exposed to the open elements," Alvarez said in his response. "If an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cesium-137 released by the Chernobyl accident."

Mitsuhei Murata, Japan's former ambassador to Switzerland and Senegal, has also made it his mission to convince the UN and the world that urgent action is needed.

"It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of Japan and the whole world depends on No. 4 reactor," Murata said in a recent letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in which he urged him to back efforts to address the problem.

Last week, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said most major threats have been eliminated and "cold shutdown" status had been achieved in December.

But Noda declined to comment directly on the risk posed by Reactor 4, only telling The Wall Street Journal's Asia edition that it was important to "remain vigilant."

"We have passed a situation where people have to run far away or evacuate," he said. "Ahead of us are time-consuming tasks like decontamination and decommissioning (of the plants). We will proceed with the utmost care."

Gundersen said the remaining challenges at the Fukushima Da-Ichi site are not technological. Everyone knows what needs to be done and how to do it, he said. The challenge lies, rather, in convincing Japan that action must be taken now.

That will require international pressure, as well as international investment, on a grand scale, he said.

"We're all in a situation of having to pray there's not an earthquake. And there's the other half of that, which is pray to God but row toward shore. And Tokyo's not really rowing toward shore right now," Gundersen said.

Amendment to Legalize Propaganda Inserted to Defense Authorization Bill

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Propaganda is dangerous. It is used to manufacture consent. Noam Chomsky has done a great dissection of propaganda in his book Manufacturing Consent. I urge you all to watch this documentary of Manufacturing Consent:

Basically what propaganda does is that it clouds our minds with misinformation or the distortion of the truth, until we accept such information as the truth itself, thus losing our ability at giving government an informed consent to run our lives.

An amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on American audiences is being inserted into the latest defense authorization bill, BuzzFeed has learned.
The amendment would “strike the current ban on domestic dissemination” of propaganda material produced by the State Department and the Pentagon, according to the summary of the law at the House Rules Committee's official website.
The tweak to the bill would essentially neutralize two previous acts—the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 and Foreign Relations Authorization Act in 1987—that had been passed to protect U.S. audiences from our own government’s misinformation campaigns.
http://www.opednews.com/...
So what exactly would the new law do?
The new law would give sweeping powers to the State Department and Pentagon to push television, radio, newspaper, and social media onto the U.S. public. “It removes the protection for Americans,” says a Pentagon official who is concerned about the law. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”
According to this official, “senior public affairs” officers within the Department of Defense want to “get rid” of Smith-Mundt and other restrictions because it prevents information activities designed to prop up unpopular policies—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We must remember that it was inaccurate information and propaganda by the Bush administration that got us into the Iraq war in the first place. The result! "1,455,590" dead Iraqis and 4,801 dead U.S. soldiers.

See the links below to see the figures for yourself:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/...

http://icasualties.org/...

Propaganda is detrimental to our society it gives us an illusion of freedom when in fact we are misled.

Also read this great article by Mediaite on the subject here

Please someone tell me that is is all a big fat joke, and I will delete this diary!

How FBI Entrapment Is Inventing 'Terrorists' - and Letting Bad Guys Off the Hook

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This past October, at an Occupy encampment in Cleveland, Ohio, "suspicious males with walkie-talkies around their necks" and "scarves or towels around their heads" were heard grumbling at the protesters' unwillingness to act violently. At meetings a few months later, one of them, a 26-year-old with a black Mohawk known as "Cyco," explained to his anarchist colleagues how "you can make plastic explosives with bleach," and the group of five men fantasized about what they might blow up. Cyco suggested a small bridge. One of the others thought they’d have a better chance of not hurting people if they blew up a cargo ship. A third, however, argued for a big bridge – "Gotta slow the traffic that's going to make them money" – and won. He then led them to a connection who sold them C-4 explosives for $450. Then, the night before the May Day Occupy protests, they allegedly put the plan into motion – and just as the would-be terrorists fiddled with the detonator they hoped would blow to smithereens a scenic bridge in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park traversed by 13,610 vehicles every day, the FBI swooped in to arrest them.

Right in the nick of time, just like in the movies. The authorities couldn’t have more effectively made the Occupy movement look like a danger to the republic if they had scripted it. Maybe that's because, more or less, they did.

The guy who convinced the plotters to blow up a big bridge, led them to the arms merchant, and drove the team to the bomb site was an FBI informant. The merchant was an FBI agent. The bomb, of course, was a dud. And the arrest was part of a pattern of entrapment by federal law enforcement since September 11, 2001, not of terrorist suspects, but of young men federal agents have had to talk into embracing violence in the first place. One of the Cleveland arrestees, Connor Stevens, complained to his sister of feeling "very pressured" by the guy who turned out to be an informant and was recorded in 2011 rejecting property destruction: "We're in it for the long haul and those kind of tactics just don't cut it," he said. "And it's actually harder to be non-violent than it is to do stuff like that." Though when Cleveland's NEWS Channel 5 broadcast that footage, they headlined it "Accused Bomb Plot Suspect Caught on Camera Talking Violence."

In all these law enforcement schemes the alleged terrorists masterminds end up seeming, when the full story comes out, unable to terrorize their way out of a paper bag without law enforcement tutelage. ("They teach you how to make all this stuff out of simple household items," one of the kids says on a recording quoted in the FBI affidavit about a book he has just discovered, The Anarchist Cookbook. Someone asks him how much it says explosives cost. "I'm not sure," he responds, "I just downloaded it last night.") It’s a perfect example of how post-9/11 fear made law enforcement tactics seem acceptable that were previously beyond the pale. Previously, however, the targets have been Muslims; now they’re white kids from Ohio. And maybe you could argue that this is acceptable, if the feds were actually acting out of a good-faith assessment of what threats are imminent and which are not. But that's not what they're doing at all. Instead, they are arrogating to themselves a downright Orwellian power – the power to deploy the might of the State to shape a fundamental narrative about which ideas Americans must be most scared of, and which ones they should not fear much at all, independent of the relative objective dangerousness of the people who hold those ideas.

To see how, travel with me to rural Florida, and another arrest that occurred at almost exactly the same time. On April 28, members of American Front, a white-supremacist group labeled "a known terrorist organization" in the affidavit justifying the arrest, took a break from training with machine guns for a race war in order to fashion weapons out of fake "Occupy" signs which they planned to use to assault May Day protesters in Melbourne, Florida. No script, no choreography for maximal impact on sensation-hungry news broadcasts, no melodramatic press conference with a U.S. attorney and FBI Special Agent in Charge; this arrest only went down after an informant working with state law enforcement fled in fear for his or her life after being threatened by the group's leader Marcus Faella with a 9mm pistol. And though the media reported the involvement of a "joint terrorism task force of FBI and local law enforcement" the arresting affidavit does not even mention federal law enforcement; the charges filed were state, not federal. A circuit court judge scrawled a bail amount of $51,250; that was accidentally knocked down to $500. The Cleveland anarchists were held without bond.

The contrasts are extraordinarily instructive. When federal law enforcement agencies take an affirmative role in staging the crimes, the U.S. Justice Department then prosecutes, leaving more clear-and-present dangers relatively unbothered, the State is singling out ideological enemies. Violent white supremacists are not one of these enemies, apparently – because, as David Neiwert, probably the nation’s top journalist on the subject, told me, the federal government has much less often sought to entrap them, even though they are actually the biggest home-grown terrorism threat. That is unconstitutional, because law enforcement’s criterion for attention has been revealed as the ideas the alleged plotters hold – not their observed violent potential.

Who else are we supposed to be afraid of? Certainly animal-rights and environmental radicals. In 2006, when FBI Director Robert Mueller announced the indictments of Animal Liberal Front activists who burned down a horse-rendering plant in 1997, harming no humans, he called such property destruction one of the agency's "highest domestic terrorism priorities." We're supposed to be afraid of Muslims, of course – though not even necessarily Muslim militants. In a sting stunningly anatomized on a Pulitzer-worthy This American Life episode from 2005 the target, British citizen Hemant Lakhami, known as "Habib," was an Indian-born Willy Loman, so dumb he referred to night-vision goggles, which he’d never heard of, as "sunglasses" and so broken down and desperate for attention he told the federal informant he had full-sized submarines to sell. He was egged by the informant into selling him Stinger missiles (Lakhami had approached him hoping to sell him mangoes). Upon Lakhami's terrorism conviction then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie stepped up to the press conference microphones to announce, "Today is a triumph for the Justice Department in the war against terror. I don't know that anyone can say that the state of New Jersey, and this country, is not a safer place without Hemant Lakhani trotting around the globe attempting to broker arms deals."

But don't worry your pretty little heads over the epidemic of far-right insurrectionism that followed the election of Barack Obama: all told, according to a forthcoming data analysis by Neiwert, there have been 55 cases of right-wing extremists being arrested for plotting or committing alleged terrorists acts compared to 26 by Islamic militants during the same period. The right-wing plots include the bombing of a 2011 Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane and the assassination of abortion doctor George Tiller in 2009. Neither of their perpetrators, it goes without saying, had been arrested before they attempted their vile acts; neither required law enforcement entrapment to conceive and carry them out. It's just too bad for their victims they did not fit the story federal law enforcement seeks to tell.

I use the word "story" advisedly. Entrapment is the most literary of abuses of power: Investigators and prosecutors become as unto little Stephen Kings, feeding into, and feeding, the fear centers of our lizard brains in order to manipulate their audience. Unsurprisingly, the tactic crops up whenever the powers that be are themselves most frightened for their power, such as during the 1960s, when instigation of criminal acts by agents provacateurs infiltrating the anti-war movement became extremely prevalent. When one of the accused Chicago 7 left the courtroom just as a witness for the prosecution left the stand, the other six became horrified when it became clear that the guy who had just got up (actually to go to the bathroom) was a plant about to testify against them.

The antiwar movement soon learned whom to be afraid of: people who don’t quite fit in, who always seemed ready to volunteer for anything (if you’re on the FBI payroll, you don’t need a job), people pressing violence when everyone else in the room preferred peace. In the 1972 "Camden 28" trial of Catholic left conspirators who tried to steal and destroy registration records from a local draft board, the star witness got his breaking-and-entering training from the FBI and swore in court that the accused never would have raided the building absent his leadership. Although the people the FBI preferred to recruit were the sort who had trouble keeping jobs anyway. They were frequently mentally unstable: the agent provocateur whose recordings got twenty-three members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War indicted for supposedly conspiring to attack the 1972 Republican National Convention with "lead weights, 'fried' marbles, ball bearings, cherry bombs ... wrist rockets, slingshots, and cross bows" had received a psychological discharge from the Army. And they were usually criminals. In the Harrisburg 7 trial of in 1972 (in which the feds fantastically claimed that a pacifist priest, some nuns, and their confreres intended to blow up the steam tunnels beneath Washington, D.C.) the prosecution's star witness had offered himself to the FBI as an undercover New Lefty from the jail cell where he was serving time for so many crimes the U.S. Attorney had classified him as a "menace to society."

The entrapment game still works the same. In the case documented on This American Life, informant "Habib" was such a notorious liar, thief, and con man that the feds deactivated him – until after September 11, when suddenly "different FBI bureaus were fighting" for his services. The key informant in the Animal Liberation Front arrests was a truck thief and heroin addict. The dude in the Cleveland anarchist case, identified by thesmokinggun.com as a Donald Trump fan named Shaqil Azir, had convictions for cocaine possession, robbery, and passing bad checks – and was also under a current check-fraud indictment the FBI covered up in its affidavit. They also neglected to mention his frequent appearances in bankruptcy court.

Such choices are a feature, not a bug: Criminals with cases pending are able to act more convincingly as, well, criminals, and will do anything the government asks to reduce their sentences; sociopaths are better able to manipulate the emotions of macho young men. The play's the thing. Although sometimes the play becomes too convincing: In the Watergate hearings in 1973, some of the witnesses testified that hearing about VVAW's violent plans to disrupt the Republican convention were what convinced them it was OK to break laws on behalf of their president.

Not everything is the same since the 1970s, of course. The media has changed: Newsday editorialized in 1972 of the Camden case, "We have come to expect such tactics from totalitarian nations that have no respect for individual rights permitting dissent. They have no place in American and those who advocate them have no place in this government." You don’t see that sort of language much any more. Indeed, Newsday appears not to have covered the arrest and trial of Hemant Lakhami at all. "Such tactics" are just not a very big deal any more.

You know what else has changed? You and I – to our shame. Entraptment is illegal – but the question of whether law enforcement set up a legal sting or illegal entrapment is for a jury to decide. Entrapment was why juries acquitted the defendants in the Camden, VVAW, and Harrisburg cases. "How stupid did those people in Washington think we were?" a Harrisburg juror told a reporter. The feds don’t have to worry about folks like that any more. Not a single "terrorism" indictment has been thrown out for entrapment since 9/11 – not the Liberty City goofballs supposedly planning to blow up the Sears Tower who had no weapons and refused them with offered; not the Newburgh, New York outfit whose numbers included a schizophrenic who saved his own urine in bottles. (Even the judge who sentenced them said "the government made them terrorists.")

The civil liberties of the Florida white supremacist Marcus Faella, at least, have been honored. He was out on bail the day he was arrested. There’s no police informant to monitor his activities any more, but not to fear. His experiments in attempting to produce the deadly toxin ricin, according to the Florida affidavit, have not so far been successful. And Connor Stevens, heard on the menacing video shown on Cleveland news saying that his favorite part of Occupy protests " is meeting people walking down the street, average people, talking to them, hearing about how they're affected by the economy, by the justice system, things like that"? He is safely behind bars. So, for the rest of his life, is Hemant Lakhami, the hapless Stinger missile salesman. The man who put him there, Chris Christie, is now the celebrated governor of New Jersey, and was all but begged by his fellow to run for president. Republicans think he tells a good story.

Bloomberg: Paying Workers Enough to Live Is 'Communism'

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To a few hundred New York workers laboring for $8 or $9 an hour, a living wage bill recently passed by the city council means a raise, a few dollars more a week to help feed their families.

To billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, it's a wedge to open the door to communism. That's right -- the mayor told a local radio program that requiring businesses that get taxpayer subsidies to pay their workers a little bit more is just like a centrally planned economy. “The last time we really had a big managed economy was the USSR, and that didn’t work out so well,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg is just fine with handing over millions of New Yorkers' dollars in taxpayer subsidies to companies that threaten to flee the city -- no complaints about “free market” capitalism when it's wealthy real estate developers getting the dough. Requiring those businesses that are happily slurping at the public trough to pay their workers a dollar or two more an hour, though, is just opening the door to Stalin.

In addition, Bloomberg has been willing to support a statewide minimum wage increase -- so it's not really that he opposes workers making a little bit more as much as he's opposed to admitting that businesses that get public money have an obligation to the public. He's opposed to admitting that there's nothing “free market” about any of it.

No wonder a rally in support of the living wage bill was interrupted by a heckler calling him “Pharoah Bloomberg”—the reference to “Pharoah” making workers labor for low wages on taxpayer-funded projects seems apt, as the world's 20th richest man has vowed to sue to prevent the living wage ordinance from going into effect.

“Mayor Bloomberg is in fact taking the position that the immense buying power of the city as well as its prominent role in economic development should be used to milk private sector workers,” Mark Price, a labor economist who testified in 2009 before the New York City Council over a prevailing wage bill, told AlterNet. “The idea that the government can be used to do this to workers is a throwback to the Gilded Age when robber barons ruthlessly accumulated wealth and power at the expense of workers.”

But as the economy remains stalled and companies that pay poverty wages continue to get huge subsidies from cities and states (like New York's FreshDirect, which we recently reported is pocketing $129 million in handouts and is exempt from the new living wage rule), activists around the country are pushing for living wages in cities, on college campuses, and in tandem with pushes to raise the minimum wage.

What's a Living Wage, Anyway?

Michael Valdez used to work at Yankee Stadium, and as part of New York Communities for Change's campaign for the living wage, he told his story many times over. He told AlterNet, “They would schedule more cashiers than they needed, so in order to work that day, you would have to come on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you pass by Yankee Stadium, you see a line, you have to stand in that line. You're on this line for two or three hours, you definitely don't get paid for that. Me and at least 20 other employees have been turned back and sent home. They'll say 'come a little earlier tomorrow.'”

All this was for the princely sum of around $9 an hour, more than the state and federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour -- which made the job attractive to people like Valdez, who's working his way through college -- but certainly not enough to live on in New York. Valdez, who also worked at the Bronx Gateway Center Mall, another tax-subsidized development, noted that his pay wasn't enough to cover his books and other college expenses. “I couldn't fathom how a family would live on that paycheck,” he said.

And it couldn't, according to Penn State University's Living Wage Calculator, which calculates that one adult supporting only herself, working full-time, would need an hourly wage of $11.86 to survive in the Bronx. One adult with one child would need to make $19.19 an hour.

New York's new living wage rule, if it goes into effect, wouldn't even get there. “Under the terms of the legislation, any private development project directly accepting $1 million or more in taxpayer subsidies must pay employees a living wage of $10/hour with supplemental health benefits or $11.50/hour without benefits,” Living Wage NYC reported. It'd be a raise for workers like Valdez, but still not enough to really live on, let alone support a family.

So what do living wage laws do? “These laws are very different in intent from minimum wage laws which seek to establish a wage floor for the most vulnerable workers throughout the entire economy,” Mark Price explained. Instead of a minimum for all, living wage laws “are grounded in the idea that the public sector should set a good example--and discourage low-wage, low-skill, low-productivity competition--not just when it employs workers directly but also when it contracts with firms in the private sector.”

In other words, the city shouldn't be subsidizing companies with taxpayer dollars to create jobs—and then turning a blind eye when those jobs keep city workers in poverty.

Bloomberg and his wealthy friends' fierce opposition to the bill, which would, after Quinn's downward revisions, only cover a few hundred workers, is probably more ideological than practical. “The mayor and the real estate community can live more readily with the minimum wage because it's not tying strings to the development process,” explained Paul Sonn, legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project. They're objecting to the idea, not that workers should make enough to live on, but that companies that get massive handouts from the city or state have any responsibility to the people whose taxes they're pocketing.

Yet around the country, activists are winning wage increases for workers based on just that idea. In Long Beach, California, backers of a living wage for hotel workers (including UNITE HERE and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy) have gathered enough signatures to get their proposal on November's ballot. If it passes, it would require hotels with more than 100 rooms to pay their workers $13 an hour.

“Long Beach voters understand that when workers make a living wage, the whole community benefits,” Sonya Clark, a Long Beach resident who gathered signatures, said at a press conference. “They have money left over to visit a local restaurant or take their kids to the movies, to really participate in the local economy instead of relying on social services.”

Price pointed out that both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have both in recent years enacted prevailing wage laws for service workers employed by city contractors—many of whom had previously paid well below the local wage scale.

And just this winter, students at the University of Virginia went on hunger strike in support of a living wage for workers on their campus, taking another step in what's been a 14-year campaign for justice for low-wage service workers.

Reviving a Movement?

As Stephanie Luce reported, a lot has happened over the past couple of decades since the living wage framework was born. More than 125 cities and counties enacted living wage ordinances, three cities have raised their minimum wage, and we've seen state and federal minimum wages go up. Eight states indexed their minimum wage to inflation, and activists are working for the same in 10 more.

“We really did create both the kind of public currency, the phrase 'living wage' that is so, so popular and in all respects has expressed the frustration with low wages,” Jen Kern, the minimum wage campaign coordinator at NELP and a longtime living wage organizer, told AlterNet. “We created these policy ideas and tactics, going to a city council, the paid sick days or are now using these. We created the idea of using public money as leverage for labor standards.”

The movement tapered off a bit toward the end of the 2000s, mostly because so many victories had been won, Kern noted. But now activists are reviving the tactics and applying them differently, often more narrowly, to specific industries or locations, to economic development spending in cities like New York and Los Angeles, where politicians talk big about bringing jobs to town but remain quiet about the quality of those jobs.

As Luce noted, many of the living wage campaigns (including the current one in Long Beach) are tied to union organizing campaigns, and unions have used them to create broader community coalitions, bringing in people like the hunger-striking students in Virginia or the faith community that was such a strong part of New York's campaign.

The Great Recession has pushed wages downward dramatically. NELP found last summer that 73 percent of the jobs that had been created since the so-called economic recovery began have been low-wage jobs, paying less than $13.52 an hour. The rebirth of a nationwide movement for a living wage couldn't come at a better time—and it looks like Occupy might be getting in on the act. A new Web site is calling for June 20 to be a “global day of festival to demand a universal living wage.”

“Policy makers in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and now a majority of the New York City Council have come to understand that the pleas for jobs that rise up from their neighborhoods are not pleas for a 60-hour workweek in two or three part-time jobs that leave children unattended and barely pay the rent, but pleas for one good job with a decent wage and benefits,” Price said.

States Are Diverting Foreclosure Settlement Funds To Plug Budget Holes

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It was with great fanfare that the Obama administration, alongside nearly every state’s attorney general, announced in February that a $25 billion accord had been reached with the nation’s five biggest banks, settling charges that the banks engaged in widespread foreclosure fraud. Those billions were intended to provide relief to struggling homeowners, using the banks’ own money to help the victims of Wall Street malfeasance.

“These banks will put billions of dollars towards relief for families across the nation,” President Obama said. “They’ll provide refinancing for borrowers that are stuck in high interest rate mortgages. They’ll reduce loans for families who owe more on their homes than they’re worth. “

However, more than a dozen states across the country are doing their best to undermine the settlement by diverting the funds to other areas of their budgets. Arizona recently became the latest state to do so, taking $50 million meant to aid homeowners and instead plowing it into the state’s general fund (after scrapping an earlier plan to use the money to pay for prison construction).

Under the terms of the settlement, each participating state receives a lump sum to craft its own housing aid programs. (The banks are also responsible for directly helping homeowners with a large share of the settlement money.) The funds directed to the states were intended to support counseling, foreclosure mediation, mortgage modification programs, and legal services for those facing the prospect of losing their homes.

But states are taking advantage of loose wording in the settlement to use the funds for, essentially, whatever they want, since a pot of free money is simply too tempting for state legislators who have faced years of budget woes. “There’s a lot of pressure on the budget,” said Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin (R) to justify his state’s move.

While it’s true that state budgets have been hammered, so have American homeowners. The financial crisis of 2008 and the ensuing Great Recession threw millions into foreclosure. More than 11 million others found themselves underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are currently worth, according to data from the real estate firm Core Logic.

And the pain felt by families across the country won’t end there. William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, estimated that 3.6 million Americans will lose their homes to foreclosure in the next two years.

The Obama administration has rolled out a host of programs to help families stay in their homes, but the results of those efforts have been underwhelming, to say the least. The Home Affordable Modification Program, for instance, was meant to help between three and four million homeowners, but has yet to aid even one million. The impotence of the administration’s efforts makes the settlement that much more important.

It’s perhaps no surprise that Wisconsin’s ultra-conservative Republican governor, Scott Walker, was the first to redirect settlement money, dumping $26 million of his state’s $30 million allocation into Wisconsin’s general fund in order to balance his budget. Missouri lawmakers were next, placing all $40 million of their share into Missouri’s higher education budget.

Even Jerry Brown, California’s Democratic governor, used some accounting sleight-of-hand in order to plug a hole in the Golden State’s general fund with the settlement money. "We have time to work on the budget, but we're looking for money where we can find it,” Brown said.

As Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing group, has documented, party politics plays little role in these decisions, as the states diverting foreclosure settlement funds run the gamut from deep red to deep blue: Kansas, South Dakota and Vermont are all on the list of those using the money for purposes other than housing aid.

The wording of the settlement does seem to give the states significant wiggle room to redirect funds:

To the extent practicable, such funds shall be used for purposes intended to avoid preventable foreclosures, to ameliorate the effects of the foreclosure crisis, to enhance law enforcement efforts to prevent and prosecute financial fraud, or unfair or deceptive acts or practices and to compensate the States for costs resulting from the alleged unlawful conduct of the Defendants. Such permissible purposes for allocation of the funds include, but are not limited to, supplementing the amounts paid to state homeowners under the Borrower Payment Fund, funding for housing counselors, state and local foreclosure assistance hotlines, state and local foreclosure mediation programs, legal assistance, housing remediation and anti-blight projects, funding for training and staffing of financial fraud or consumer protection enforcement efforts, and civil penalties.

According to Mark Ladov and Meghna Philip of New York University’s Brennan Center on Justice, repurposing funds is a direct violation of the settlement. “Arizona is violating the legal terms of the agreement, which unequivocally directs that the state ‘shall’ use the funds for foreclosure-related purposes only,” they wrote in an op-ed for the Arizona Republic.

Some of the states are using the poached settlement funds for what would otherwise be laudable programs. Indiana, for instance, is planning to use some of its repurposed funds to provide energy assistance to low-income residents. But noble as those intentions are, the settlement was not meant to help states fill in a bevy of gaps in their budgets; it was meant to provide a specific kind of aid, addressing a specific, pressing problem.

Some progressives have pushed back on efforts to redirect settlement money. “This decision takes away the one chance Arizonans had to get some help navigating the banking bureaucracy that greased the skids on millions of foreclosures. It’s a clear statement of principles, that’s for sure,” said Rep. Raul Grijavla, D-Ariz. “While the state is undeniably facing a difficult budget gap, these funds should be used to help Californians stay in their homes,” said California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D).

The fact of the matter is that housing remains an anchor on the economic recovery, and the funds provided by the settlement, while not fixing the problem entirely, will certainly help. In Arizona, the money could provide aid to 85,000 homeowners, according to estimates by the Arizona Housing Alliance. But the states seem intent on taking the funds, and the hope that comes with it, right out of homeowners’ hands, leaving them to continue struggling against the biggest banks alone.

A Dangerous Dispute In South China Sea

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For more than a month, Philippine and Chinese vessels have been confronting each other near the Scarborough Shoal—a small group of disputed rocks in the South China Sea. What began as minor incident involving a warning by a Philippine ship to a Chinese fishing boat has escalated into a diplomatic row that risks military conflict.

The Philippines recently held joint military exercises with thousands of US troops, provocatively involving an amphibious operation and an assault on an oil rig. Pro-government groups have staged inflammatory anti-Chinese protests in the Philippines and outside Chinese consulates in other countries. China reacted by blocking Philippine banana imports and issuing travel warnings to Chinese tourists. The Chinese navy has held its own exercises, including landing drills, in the South China Sea, amid warmongering in the state media.

The dangerous standoff over the Scarborough Shoal is above all the responsibility of the Obama administration. Its confrontational stance towards China has encouraged South East Asian countries to press their territorial claims in the South China Sea. It is unthinkable that the Philippines, which is militarily and economically far weaker than China, would have acted so recklessly without the political and military backing of Washington.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear Washington’s support for the former American colony when she was in Manila last November. Amid rising tensions with China, she reaffirmed the 1951 US-Philippines mutual defence treaty, declaring that “the United States will always be in the corner of the Philippines.” Clinton also pointedly referred to the South China Sea as the “the West Philippines Sea”—the new name invented by chauvinists in Manila.

The sea lanes through South East Asia are central to the Obama administration’s so-called strategic “pivot” to Asia that is aimed at containing China militarily and undermining its influence throughout the region.

At a summit of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2010, Clinton proclaimed that the US had “a national interest” in preserving “freedom of navigation” in the South China Sea. Thousands of ships routinely pass through these waterways unhindered. What Clinton was signalling was Washington’s determination to maintain naval dominance in the South China Sea, including through the deployment of US warships close to the Chinese coastline.

Clinton also intervened diplomatically, offering to help broker international talks to resolve longstanding maritime disputes involving China and South East Asian countries. Her remark was a signal to ASEAN countries to press their disputes with China, which insists that claims be resolved bilaterally. Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi reacted by branding the remarks as “virtually an attack on China."

Vietnam has also been establishing closer ties with Washington in order to consolidate its control over some of the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Even India has made a tentative intervention, forming joint ventures with Vietnam to explore oil in the South China Sea before backing off. All these moves have angered the Chinese regime.

Beijing regards the South China Sea as one of its “core interests”, that is, part of its territory that it would defend by force if necessary. China is heavily dependent on these sea routes for trade, especially for energy and raw materials from Africa and the Middle East, as well as manufacturing exports to Europe and other regions. The South China Sea by some estimates is believed to contain 23-30 billion tonnes of oil—or 12 percent of the global reserves.

By strengthening its control over South East Asian shipping lanes, especially key “choke points” such as the Malacca Strait, the US maintains the threat of a crippling naval blockade in the event of conflict with China. As part of its “strategic focus” on Asia, the Obama administration has signed an agreement with Canberra in November to station Marines and access bases in northern Australia near these waters. The US is not only building up the Philippine military capacity, but stationing its latest littoral warships in Singapore and boosting military ties with Vietnam.

The Chinese regime has responded to the “dilemma of Malacca” by seeking alternative land trade routes, including through Pakistan and Burma, with which Beijing has longstanding ties. The Obama administration, however, is seeking to undermine this strategy. In the case of Burma, the US has dramatically improved relations with the military junta, resulting in Clinton’s visit in December—the first by a US secretary of state in half a century. As a result, Beijing’s plans for energy pipelines and rail lines connecting southern China to Burmese ports on the Indian Ocean are being called into question.

More broadly, the Obama administration is strengthening its military alliances in Asia with Japan and South Korea as well as Australia, and its strategic partnership with India. As a result, South Korea has adopted a more belligerent stance towards China’s ally North Korea, Japan has more aggressively asserted its claims against China over the disputed Senkaku Islands, and India has pressed its border dispute with China. Fearing encirclement, Beijing has responded by forging closer strategic ties with Russia, resulting in large-scale joint war games, including a major naval exercise in North East Asia last month.

The driving force behind the Obama administration’s reckless confrontation with China is the historic decline of US imperialism. Over the past two decades, Washington has repeatedly resorted to wars of aggression, especially in the Middle East, exploiting its military dominance in an attempt to shore up its economic and strategic position. The “pivot” to Asia has dramatically raised the stakes. By seeking to stamp its hegemony over Asia, the US risks triggering a catastrophic war between nuclear-armed powers.

Despite its economic dependence on China as the world’s premier cheap labour platform, US imperialism cannot tolerate any potential challenge to its dominant position within the existing global strategic and economic framework. By deliberately raising tensions throughout Asia, the Obama administration has inflamed the numerous regional flashpoints that extend from the Korean Peninsula to the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and to rivalries in South Asia. An insignificant clash over Scarborough Shoal can rapidly become an international trial of strength as China defends its “core interests” and the US militarily backs its Philippine ally.

The very real dangers of war cannot be overcome by protests and appeals to governments. Its root causes lie in the worsening global crisis of the capitalist system and the resulting intensifying clash of strategic and economic interests. The only means of ending the rise of militarism and war is a unified revolutionary movement of workers in China, the US, Asia and around the world to abolish the profit system and its reactionary division of the world into rival nation-states.

A New Politics That Rejects Austerity and Wars of Whim

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There’s something sick about a politics that tells children to give up their lunch money so that billionaire speculators can avoid paying taxes. And that sickness will only be cured by a new politics.

That new politics begins this week in Chicago.

When National Nurses United and the union’s allies rally on May 18 in Chicago on behalf of a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street speculation, the lie of austerity will be exposed.

The proponents of austerity—from Madison to Washington to Berlin to Athens—would have us believe that nations, states and communities must sacrifice public education, public services and healthcare in order to balance budgets. Yet the same politicians who preach that there is no money for vaccinations and school lunches can always find the money for corporate tax breaks, payouts to defense contractors and wars of whim.

Politicians in both parties tell austerity lies.

But the people are pushing back.

There’s an uprising brewing, not just in Europe but in American states such as Wisconsin and Ohio. There’s a dawning recognition that it is neither morally nor fiscally prudent to sacrifice human needs in order to pay for wars—or to redistribute more of the wealth upward. We do not need “shared sacrifice” and the lie of austerity. We need new priorities.

That’s the message behind the May 18 “Heal the World” rally in Chicago, where I’ll join National Nurses United executive director Rose Ann DeMoro, musician Tom Morello and others in advocating for a Robin Hood Tax on Wall Street speculation.

NNU is rallying in Chicago because that’s where the G-8 Summit was supposed to be held, before the leaders of the planet’s wealthiest nations decided to avoid the “street heat” that was being generated in support of a financial transactions tax. Now, they’ll gather at Camp David—where security will be tighter. But the Robin Hood Tax, which takes a small chunk of change on each transaction by rich speculators and gives to programs that serve the great mass of people, will stll be mentioned at Camp David. Newly elected French President Fran├žois Hollande is likely to bring it the increasingly popular proposal, as may German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In Chicago, the battle cry against austerity will be raised his weekend, along with criticisms of the broken priorities that have turned the North Atlantic Treaty Organization into a vehicle for maintaining the occupation of Afghanistan.

Many of the activists who will rally with the NNU will also rally Sunday in protest of NATO policies. The causes are related, as they both address the question of budget priorities. Indeed, one of the key backers of the protests, Progressive Democrats of America, has mounted a “Health Care Not Warfare” campaign that brings the messages together.

There is a new politics afoot in America, a politics that challenges the lie of austerity and the lie that says unlimited military spending is necessary. As Americans and their allies from around the world rally, march and vote to put human needs ahead of corporate greed and the military-industrial complex about which President Eisenhower warned, it is no surprise that activist unions such as NNU and their allies in groups such as PDA will be in the thick of it.

These are groups that understand that the next politics requires an inside-outside strategy that challenges the lie of austerity and the lies that lead to wars of whim. Those challenges must play out inside existing political parties, and outside them; in the corridors of power and in the streets. That next politics will be on display in Chicago on May 18. But it won’t stop there.

The uprising has begun, and it’s spreading.

The Pacific Ocean Is Dying

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Just prior to the Supermoon of March 18th, 2011, the world witnessed a natural and manmade disaster of epic proportions. What transpired off the coast of Honshu Island, Japan on March 11 has forever altered the planet and irremediably affected the global environment. Whereas the earthquake and tsunami proved to be truly apocalyptic events for the people of Japan, the ongoing nuclear disaster at Fukushima is proving to be cataclysmic for the entire world.

Most of the world community is still unaware of the extremely profound and far-reaching effects that the Fukushima nuclear disaster has had. If the nations of the world really understood the implications of the actual ‘fallout’ – past, current and future – the current nuclear energy paradigm would be systematically shut down. For those of us who are in the know, it is incumbent upon each of us to disseminate the relevant information/data necessary to forever close down the nuclear power industry around the globe.

There is now general agreement that the state of the art of nuclear power generation is such that it was deeply flawed and fundamentally dangerous from the very beginning. This fact was completely understood to be the case by the industry insiders and original financiers of every nuclear power plant ever built. Nuclear engineers had a very good understanding of just how vulnerable the design, engineering and architecture was at the startup of this industry. Nevertheless, they proceeded with this ill-fated enterprise at the behest of who?

Therefore, this begs the question, “Why would such an inherently unsafe technology and unstable design be implemented worldwide in the first place?”

More importantly, “Who ought to be responsible for mitigating this ongoing planetary nuclear disaster?” And, is there any practical way this predicament can be fixed? Is there technology available which can address this situation in any meaningful way?

With the increasing energy needs of the global economy pushing energy-poor nations like Japan into nuclear power, the economic incentive has always overridden good judgment. Especially in Japan do we see a nation that was literally set up to be a poster child for the nuclear power industry. This, in a place that is known to be the most seismically active region in the world!

“Does anyone in their right mind believe that nuclear power plants can ever be designed, engineered or constructed to withstand 9.0 earthquakes followed by 15 meter high tsunamis? Sorry if we offend, but such a display of so deadly a combination of ignorance and arrogance must represent the very height of hubris. Particularly in view of the inevitable consequences which have manifested at Fukushima, how is it that so few saw this pre-ordained and disastrous outcome, except by willful blindness?”
Japan: A Nation Consigned To Nuclear Armageddon

Numerous headlines over the past few weeks have been relentless in trumpeting Japan’s begrudging response to this global wakeup call. For the first time since nuclear power has been used in the land of Nippon, all 55 nuclear power plants now sit idle. This is of course very good news for the people of Japan. The question now remains how to go about remediating all of these vulnerable and unsafe nuclear reactors. Particularly because of those nuclear plants that are located anywhere along the Japanese coastline is this remediation imperative an existential necessity.

Japan nuclear power-free as last reactor shuts

Japan switches off last nuclear power plant; will it cope?

International Forces Are Responsible For Fukushima;
An Immediate Global Response Needs To Be Formulated

Since the very first news about the Fukushima nuclear disaster came to light, many industry researchers and various investigations have unveiled the multi-decade plot to foist nuclear power onto the islands of Japan. The many forces arrayed against the Japanese people were so formidable that this ill-fated enterprise could only come to such an unfortunate outcome. Just as humankind learned from the folly of dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Fukushima has served as an example of how not to implement nuclear power generation.

“Quite purposefully, no one ever stopped to consider the obvious and far-reaching ramifications of constructing 55 nuclear reactors on the most seismically active piece of property on planet Earth! And, that doesn’t count another 12 reactors in various stages of planning or development.”
An Open Letter to the People of Japan

If Japan is to remain habitable for future generations, there are certain (nuclear) matters confronting every corner of this island nation which must be addressed post haste. We know the people of Japan are up to it. The real question is whether the powers who have controlled their destiny are willing to back off for once since WWII.

Can the USA, the UK, Israel and France completely let go of their control of the Japanese economy, energy infrastructure and political process? Not only does the very existence of Japan rely on this relinquishment of control, the futures of the USA, UK and France do as well.

“Tokyo has the largest greater metro population in the world at about 34.3 million. Tokyo has the largest GDP of all major cities in the world – larger than both New York City and London. Tokyo is the economic/financial capital of the world’s 3rd largest national economy, as well as the primary economic engine of East Asia.”
As Fukushima Goes, So Goes Japan

Most are not aware, even at the very highest levels of the Global Control Matrix, but as Fukushima goes, so goes Japan. Taken to its logical conclusion we can say with absolute certainty that as Japan goes, so goes the entire planet. In reality, Japan is not only a super-charged trigger point in the Pacific Ring of Fire, it is also a lynchpin for the world economy as the previous article well explains. Therefore, we would highly advise the Anglo-American power structure to take proper responsibility for this unprecedented global catastrophe and show up in great force on the Honshu coastline to remediate and de-activate wherever still possible.

Global “Manhattan Project” Required

It is quite quizzical that those who run the Global Control Matrix have not yet seized the day. What is clearly at stake is the Pacific Ocean, its shorelines, numerous national economies, as well as myriad ecosystems and aquatic environments.
If they persist in this display of passivity and willful neglect, the planet may never recover. Surely, we can offer the observation that as the Pacific becomes exposed to massive volumes of radioactive water being dumped from the Fukushima site, eventually this radiation will find its way to the four corners of that ocean and beyond.

There has been a steady barrage of headlines lately aimed at those who can respond to this global catastrophe with some degree of cogency. A uniquely cohesive international response is urgently required if there is to be any hope of a successful remediation. Only a fully represented international think tank and implementation team has any chance of formulating a strategy that might be successful at fixing Fukushima.

We’re thinking of a Manhattan Project type of gravity. After all, if such a serious project was established in the interest of creating an atomic bomb, surely a similar endeavor can be initiated in the interest of saving the same country, that was ravaged by nuclear war, from Fukushima-generated radiation.

Japan has clearly shown that this disaster is way beyond their ability to manage and capacity to address in any meaningful way. Their entire culture seems to ensure that the real problems will be constantly swept under the rug. The problem this time around is that there may be no rug soon to sweep it under.

As Fukushima Goes, So Goes Japan

The preceding article clearly sets forth the thesis that if Tokyo requires evacuation in the future, the Japanese economy will immediately collapse. This eventuality would merely be the first domino to fall toward the collapse of the entire global economy. The prospect at this point is so real that those decision-makers at the top of the Global Control Matrix can’t afford not to inaugurate a worldwide effort to remediate Fukushima.

The Pacific Ocean Is Dying

How about the rest of the Pacific Ocean? What does the future hold in store for the largest body of water on Earth. One that circulates more water than any other ocean and possesses more coastline than all the others put together. The following headlines portend the future health of the Pacific, so all are encouraged to take serious notice.

Fukushima Daiichi Worker: Nothing can be done except to leak radioactive water! — Honestly feel that we are dumping massive amounts into ocean — Will spread all over world, reaching Hawaii and US soon

Nuclear Professor: 5,000 Hiroshima bombs worth of cesium-137 in spent fuel pool No. 4 — “Low estimate”

Doomsday scenarios spread about No. 4 reactor at Fukushima plant

Former Ambassador: No. 4 reactor a top national security issue for entire world — Could start “the ultimate catastrophe”

Japan Nuclear Expert: Humanity as a whole has literally never experienced something like Fukushima — “We will be fighting this radiation on the order of tens or hundreds of years”

The upshot of each of these articles is that the Pacific Ocean is extremely vulnerable to the radioactive waste being dumped into her waters at Fukushima. Should another catastrophic earthquake occur, it could create a new and more complicated nuclear disaster scenario that is truly irreparable. Even without any seismic activity affecting the nuclear sites, the current state of affairs has taken for granted that the Pacific Ocean will become a nuclear dumping ground for decades to come. It has not been lost on us that such an inevitability appears to be the only practical expedient available.

We are truly saddened by the great loss of marine life and harm to myriad aquatic and shoreline ecosystems. As the nuclear radiation is exported around the Asian Ring of Fire, genetic mutation will begin to affect every form of life — from phytoplankton to whales, from seabirds to mangroves, from dolphins to krill. Everything that lives near the Pacific will be at risk to some degree. Anyone who lives, works or plays in or around the Pacific will be compelled to evaluate their relationship to this great ocean.

What have we done to Mother Earth by siting nuclear power plants in the most seismically active region of the world?!

What in God’s Creation can possibly be done to fix it?

Never in the history of humankind has the planet been confronted with such a grave set of circumstances. Fukushima represents all that can go wrong when scientific applications and technological advancement within a crude industrial context have gone awry. Unfortunately, given the many trajectories that numerous fields of technological innovation are currently on, Fukushima and the BP Gulf oil spill of 2012 may only be the beginning of a period of accelerating technospheric breakdown which will sweep across the planet.

School Forces Students To Reveal Facebook Activity, Unlock Smartphones

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A middle school outside Chicago has one mom on a privacy rampage after her daughter claimed administrators forced her to log into her Facebook page so they could inspect her online social activities.

This mom’s rampage has now taken her all the way to the front page of MSNBC.com, where she claims that school officials have told her they commonly inspect social media and even have students unlock their smartphones, all in the name of protecting the educational environment.

In a student handbook (PDF) distributed by Geneva Middle School South in Geneva, Ill., page 10 describes “temporary records” that the school may gather, with the top item being a student’s “social history.” Parents are allowed to see and copy any information kept on file about students, the handbook notes.

But that’s not enough say-so for Pam Broviak, who said a forced search of her daughter’s Facebook left her “embarrassed and very upset.”

School officials admitted to MSNBC that while they never ask for passwords, officials do require students to reveal privately kept social media information themselves or deal with the consequences of a phone call to their parents.

“There are different levels of concern,” Kent Mutchler, the school superindendent in Geneva, told MSNBC. “If there is a drug trafficking suspicion, we’ll get the police involved. If it’s something like cyberbullying, we’ll say, ‘This has been reported to us,’ and ask to see the page.”

He added that administration only delves into students’ social media accounts “a half-dozen to a dozen times per year.”

Even that, however, is against Facebook’s terms of use.

“This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends,” Facebook privacy chief Erin Egan said in March. “If you are a Facebook user, you should never have to share your password, let anyone access your account, or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends.”

Facebook also offers tools for educators who receive reports from their students about abuse on the network. The company claims it has seen a “distressing increase” in individuals being forced to reveal their private social media activity in recent years, although mostly by employers, but also some schools.

The American Civil Liberties Union is currently pursuing a landmark case against the Maryland Department of Corrections for that very reason, after a job applicant was ordered to hand over his Facebook password. The rights group called it “a frightening and illegal invasion of privacy.”

Forces Behind The Privatization Of Education

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The basic formula behind the drive for for-profit education varies little from state to state: Close public schools, open privately managed schools, cut the budget. It is usually coupled with the negation of union contracts and lower wages and benefits for school workers. While charter schools are paid out of public tax funds, they are exempt from many state and local regulations, especially those protecting work conditions and employee rights.

According to a January report from the National Education Policy Center and Western Michigan University, 35 percent of all U.S. charter schools are operated by private education management organizations (EMOs), accounting for about 42 percent of all school enrollment. By 2010, there were around 5,000 charter schools in the U.S., with around 1.5 million students.

The name EMOs was coined by Wall Street after its name for Health Maintenance Organizations. HMOs were the health insurance industry’s business model for increasing profits by denying services. The first EMO was legalized in Minnesota in 1991, but financial deregulation in the 1990s provided Wall Street with the incentive to get into the education business. Recently, the Obama administration has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars of federal “education” money to facilitate the privatization drive.

Charter schools drain money away from local public school districts. Unlike public schools, EMOs can dismiss students who have “disciplinary problems” or even refuse to admit them.

Charter schools are not obliged to provide instruction in English as a second language. National studies have shown that EMOs are more likely to increase school segregation and isolate students by race and class than public schools.

A 2010 Western Michigan University-sponsored study found charter schools spent proportionately more on administrative costs than traditional public schools and less on instruction. It found that student support services averaged $858 per year for public schools compared to $517 for charters.

Surge in for-profit EMOs

While nonprofit EMO corporations have grown from 46 in 1999 to 197 in 2011, with total enrollment growing from 20,133 to 384,067, for-profit EMO corporations increased from 33 in 1999 to 99 in 2011, with total student enrollment growing from 70,743 to 394,096.

Enrollment in EMO-operated online charters has grown from 11,500 in 2003-04 to around 115,000 in 2010-11. These virtual schools account for 10 percent of all for-profit EMOs. A considerable portion of public funding for online schools ends up paying for advertising. (nepc.colorado.edu, Jan. 12)

Charter schools are heavily concentrated in urban areas in lower-income, working-class and poor communities. U.S.-based online schools have expanded to Britain, Chile and Mexico.

Historically, the largest for-profit EMO was EdisonLearning (formerly Edison Schools), whose revenues grew from $12 million in 1995 to $217 million in 2000. Edison was the first for-profit EMO to move into the Philadelphia school district, despite massive opposition from students, parents and teachers.

Behind privatization: ALEC

In 2012, the major EMOs nationally include The Apollo Group, K12 and the National Heritage Academies, which all share a common connection — membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council.

With the drive to privatize public schools picking up steam over the last decade, education management cor­por­ations are raking in lucrative profits. Several of these companies are members of ALEC, whose Next Generation Charter Schools Act has been used as a model for charter school legislation in 42 states and the District of Columbia.

ALEC is the right-wing power behind Florida’s racist “Stand Your Ground” law, which George Zimmerman will use in his defense for killing unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26. It’s also behind other reactionary legislation targeting undocumented workers and women and supporting the prison-industrial complex.

On the website alecexposed.org, the Center for Media and Democracy gives a summary of the provisions of the Next Generation Charter Schools Act. CMD describes this “model” legislation as an “attempt to have state taxpayers subsidize charter schools … to compete with public schools, while exempting charter schools from complying with any of the legal requirements that govern public schools.”

Under the model legislation, charter schools don’t have to adhere to qualification standards when hiring teachers or principals, nor do they have to stick to prevailing wage and hourly requirements, giving them a competitive edge over public schools.

The act gives state governors “unilateral power to appoint separate, un-democratic charter school boards, whose members would not be compensated by the state,” with “no rules against conflict of interest by whomever actually employs” them. The act also removes limits on the number of charter schools in a given state.

Top three for-profit EMOs

Among the for-profit education corporations with membership in ALEC is the leading online EMO, The Apollo Group, a Phoenix-based company known for its chain of for-profit career colleges and other for-profit educational institutions. The corporation’s FY2010 earnings were $4.93 billion.

Apollo’s Connections Academy and Connections Education had total revenues of $2.1 billion in 2010. Connections Academy is also a member of ALEC. As of 2011, Mickey Revenaugh, the company’s co-founder and a vice president, was co-chair of ALEC’s Education Task Forces.

Apollo initially ran the online Insight School in Washington state. Most of Insight’s teachers were non-union and part-time. Staff ratio was one teacher for every 53 online students. State records found many Insight students were struggling. In school year 2009-10, only 50 percent were passing their classes, 45 percent had dropped out, and only 7.2 percent were expected to graduate on time. (KING 5 News, Oct. 31)

In school year 2010-11, a new for-profit charter corporation, K12, took over the Insight schools. Also an ALEC member, K12 was established as a publicly traded entity in 2007, with $90 million from Michael R. Milken, the junk-bond dealer and securities-fraud felon.

K12 now has 81,000 students in 27 states. While K12's schools are designated “nonprofit,” states hire them as a for-profit management company. This arrangement allowed K12 to corner the Pennsylvania online charter market where it received 80 percent of the funding of traditional schools — $8,000 per student — while providing no buildings, books or teachers. Its students are home-schooled.

According to a 2011 study by Western Michigan University, three-quarters of K12’s students failed to achieve Annual Yearly Progress goals. In June 2011, Pennsylvania filed a complaint against K12 for its students’ failures in reading and math proficiency. (Bloomberg Businessweek, June 2) K12 generated $500 million in revenue in 2011.

One of the largest for-profit EMOs is National Heritage Academies, another ALEC supporter, which has led the way in profiting off public education. Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., the company operates 71 schools across the country, including 43 in Michigan. National Heritage Academies was established by J. C. Huizenga, son of the billionaire founder of Waste Management, Inc. and Blockbuster video.

National Heritage Academies is basically a Christian school system. It was successfully sued in 2000 by the American Civil Liberties Union for teaching creationism with public funds.

Promotion of charter schools has also proven to be lucrative for politicians. Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Corbett received $334,000 in campaign contributions in 2010 from the founder and CEO of Chester Community Charter, the state’s largest EMO, which now enrolls more than half of the impoverished Chester Upland school district’s K-8 students.

Contrary to the hype of “Waiting for Superman,” there is little proof that private charter schools are capable of providing any better education than seriously underfunded public schools. In fact, studies have shown that the opposite is true. In the film, it is even admitted that only 1 in 5 charter schools has achieved the “amazing results” promised.

Stanford economist Margaret Raymond conducted a national study of charter schools in 2009 which evaluated student progress on math tests in half of the 5,000 charter schools in the U.S. The study found that 17 percent were superior to a matched traditional public school, while 37 percent were worse than a public school. The remaining 46 percent had academic gains no different than those in similar public schools. (Washington Post, Oct. 11)