Tuesday, January 1, 2013

How US Banks And Federal Law Enforcement Worked Together Bringing Down Occupy Wall Street


It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: New documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall — so mystifying at the time — was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police.
The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves — was coordinated with the big banks themselves.
The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major U.S. media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request.
The document — reproduced here in an easily-searchable format — shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: In some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council.
And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally-planned, locally-executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.
The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Years, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: Six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations' knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI — and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire — by whom? Where? — now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).
As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI — though it acknowledges the Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization — nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a "terrorist threat":
"FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) … reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat … The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country."
"This production [of documents], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI's surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement … These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America."
The documents show stunning range: In Denver, Colorado, that branch of the FBI and a "Bank Fraud Working Group" met in November 2011 — during the Occupy protests — to surveil the group. The Federal Reserve of Richmond, Virginia had its own private security surveilling Occupy Tampa and Tampa Veterans for Peace and passing privately-collected information on activists back to the Richmond FBI, which, in turn, categorized OWS activities under its "domestic terrorism" unit.
The Anchorage, Alaska "terrorism task force" was watching Occupy Anchorage. The Jackson, Michigan "joint terrorism task force" was issuing a "counterterrorism preparedness alert" about the ill-organized grandmas and college sophomores in Occupy there. Also in Jackson, Michigan, the FBI and the "Bank Security Group" — multiple private banks — met to discuss the reaction to "National Bad Bank Sit-in Day" (the response was violent, as you may recall). The Virginia FBI sent that state's Occupy members' details to the Virginia terrorism fusion center. The Memphis FBI tracked OWS under its "joint terrorism task force" aegis, too. And so on, for over 100 pages.
Jason Leopold, at Truthout.org, who has sought similar documents for more than a year, reported that the FBI falsely asserted in response to his own FOIA requests that no documents related to its infiltration of Occupy Wall Street existed at all. But the release may be strategic: If you are an Occupy activist and see how your information is being sent to terrorism task forces and fusion centers, not to mention the "longterm plans" of some redacted group to shoot you, this document is quite the deterrent.
There is a new twist: The merger of the private sector, DHS and the FBI means that any of us can become WikiLeaks, a point that Julian Assange was trying to make in explaining the argument behind his recent book. The fusion of the tracking of money and the suppression of dissent means that a huge area of vulnerability in civil society — people's income streams and financial records — is now firmly in the hands of the banks, which are, in turn, now in the business of tracking your dissent.
Remember that only 10 percent of the money donated to WikiLeaks can be processed — because of financial sector and DHS-sponsored targeting of PayPal data. With this merger, that crushing of one's personal or business financial freedom can happen to any of us. How messy; criminalizing and prosecuting dissent. How simple, by contrast, just to label an entity a "terrorist organization" and choke off, disrupt, or indict its sources of financing.
Why the huge push for counterterrorism "fusion centers," the DHS militarizing of police departments, and so on? It was never really about "the terrorists." It was not even about civil unrest. It was always about this moment, when vast crimes might be uncovered by citizens — it was always, that is to say, meant to be about you.

White House, Congress Extend Police-State FISA Law

Go To Original

A lopsided US Senate vote Friday morning, conducted with virtually no media attention, renewed a law first adopted in 2008 that retroactively authorized illegal spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on the e-mail and other Internet-based communications of tens of millions of people, both in the United States and around the world.

The FISA Amendments Act of 2012 passed by a 73-23 margin, with large majorities of Democrats (31-20) and Republicans (42-3) supporting it. Four amendments that would have imposed restrictions on NSA spying or required the agency to account for its operations were defeated in roll call votes Thursday and Friday.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the bill in September, and the Obama administration and Senate Democratic leaders insisted on passing the identical legislation through the Senate, without any amendments, to ensure the bill would go to the White House for presidential signature before the end of the year.

Unlike the massively publicized deadlock over tax increases and budget cuts slated to take effect New Year’s Day (the “fiscal cliff”), the two parties had no difficulty working together to pass legislation to maintain the police-state powers of the American intelligence apparatus.

The rejection of all amendments was not merely a procedural matter. It demonstrated the bipartisan consensus that there should be no check whatsoever on the operations of the vast apparatus of spying and provocation that has been built up on the pretext of the “war on terror.”

One of the amendments would have required the NSA to obtain a warrant to monitor the Internet communications of an American citizen. Another would have shortened the reauthorization period from five years to three. A third would have made public the procedural opinions of the secret FISA court, established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which outline the scope of the communications monitored by the NSA.

The fourth amendment would have required the NSA to reveal the extent to which it is monitoring the communications of American citizens. The amendment’s author, Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, compared the NSA to the British colonial rulers whose invasion of private homes led to the adoption of the Fourth Amendment prohibition on warrantless government searches. “It wasn’t okay for constables and customs officials to do it in colonial days, and it’s not okay for the National Security Agency to do it today,” he said.

He was answered by the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein of California, who condemned all opposition to the reauthorization bill as aiding and abetting terrorism. She warned of “another 9/11” and said those who would vote for any restrictions on NSA spying “believe that no one is going to attack us.”

The 2008 version of the FISA Amendments Act was rushed through Congress to retroactively legalize the spying conducted by the NSA, using the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as a pretext. While requiring the NSA to “target” foreigners, this was not a limitation in practice, since the law has been interpreted by both the NSA and the FISA court to authorize eavesdropping on any communication that may in any way be linked to a foreign target.

Thus, for example, an e-mail exchange between two political activists about a protest in support of WikiLeaks could be intercepted and stored, since WikiLeaks is a foreign-based group targeted by the US government, even though the two individuals are both Americans and have no direct connection to the organization.

As this example further demonstrates, the foreign target is not necessarily a terrorist or part of the Al Qaeda network, but can be any individual or group designated by the US government because of their political views or activities in opposition to US foreign policy.

In 2007, a liberal Senate Democrat from Illinois condemned the Bush administration’s policy of massive Internet and telecommunications surveillance and opposed any effort to authorize it through legislation. By June of 2008, however, Barack Obama had won the Democratic presidential nomination and was the presumptive heir to the role of commander-in-chief. He voted for the 2008 version of the FISA Amendments Act when it came before the Senate, and his administration has used these powers to the utmost.

The Washington Post estimated in a 2010 report that the NSA stores 1.7 billion communications—e-mail, telephone calls and other messages—every single day. An NSA whistleblower has charged that the agency’s database has accumulated more than 20 trillion interchanges between Americans.

The truth is that the greatest threat to the lives and liberties of the American people is the government of the United States and its military-intelligence apparatus, the largest machinery of state repression on the planet.

While the NSA uses technology to vacuum up the communications of virtually every American, other agencies of the federal government engage in more traditional surveillance and infiltration. As the New York Times reported this week, FBI counter-terrorism operatives had penetrated Occupy Wall Street groups even before they began to stage protests in the fall of 2011.

The military itself is increasingly involved in domestic operations directed against the American population, through new structures like the Northern Command, the first-ever headquarters for military action on the North American mainland, and the use of surveillance drones, thousands of which are being deployed within the borders of the United States.

The driving force of this repressive activity is not fear of terrorism, but fear of the intractable social contradictions within the United States and the emergence of mass popular opposition to the austerity measures being introduced to devastate social services and the living standards of working people. In the final analysis, the buildup of police-state powers testifies to a truth long upheld by socialists: the growth of social inequality within capitalism, the ever-widening gulf between the financial aristocracy at the top and the rest of the population, undermines any basis for democracy.

The defense of democratic rights requires the political mobilization of the working class to put an end to the profit system, expropriate the financial parasites and giant corporations, and put the wealth of society under public ownership and democratic control, thus extending democracy to the basic foundation of social life, the economic system.

16 Things About 2013 That Are Really Going To Stink

The beginning of the year has traditionally been a time of optimism when we all look forward to the exciting things that are going to happen over the next 12 months.  Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of things about 2013 that we already know are going to stink.  Taxes are going to go up, good paying jobs will continue to leave the country, small businesses will continue to be destroyed, the number of Americans living in poverty will continue to soar, our infrastructure will continue to decay, global food supplies will likely continue to dwindle and the U.S. national debt will continue to explode.  Our politicians continue to pursue the same policies that got us into this mess, and yet they continue to expect things to magically turn around.  But that is not the way that things work in the real world.  Bad decisions lead to bad outcomes.  Instead of realizing that what we are doing is not working, our "leaders" continue to give us more of the same.  As a result, there are going to be a lot of things about 2013 that will not be great.  Sticking our heads in the sand and pretending that everything will be "okay" somehow is not going to help anyone.  We've got to make people understand exactly what is happening and why it is happening if we ever hope to see real changes. The following are 16 things about 2013 that are really going to stink...

#1 Taxes Are Going To Go Up

Even if a fiscal cliff deal is reached, some taxes will still go up next year.  And if no deal is reached, there will be a whole bunch of different tax increases in 2013.
According to CBS News, these tax increases would be very painful for the middle class...
If lawmakers fail to work out any sort of deal, there will be severe long-term consequences for the economy: According to the Tax Policy Center, going off the "cliff" would affect 88 percent of U.S. taxpayers, with their taxes rising by an average of $3,500 a year; taxes would jump $2,400 on average for families with incomes of $50,000 to $75,000. Because consumers would get less of their paychecks to spend, businesses and jobs would suffer.
#2 The Middle Class Is About To Be Scorched By The Alternative Minimum Tax

Of more immediate concern for the middle class is the Alternative Minimum Tax.  Many Americans have never heard of the AMT, but it is truly one of the worst things about our tax code.
If Congress does not act, and right now it does not look promising, millions of middle class households will see a massive increase in their tax bills for 2012.
According to one analysis, households that are forced to pay the AMT will end up paying an extra $3,700 in taxes...
Unless Congress acts by the end of the year, more than 26 million households will for the first time face the AMT, which threatens to tack $3,700, on average, onto taxpayers’ bills for the current tax year. Because those people have never paid the AMT, they have no idea they are in its crosshairs — put there by a broader stalemate over tax policy that has kept Congress from limiting the AMT’s reach.
Do you have an extra $3,700 sitting around to send to Uncle Sam?
If not, you had better contact your representatives in Congress and scream like crazy about passing a fix for the AMT.  They have always gotten it done before, but this year there is so much animosity between the Republicans and the Democrats that nothing may end up getting done.

#3 The Economy Will Continue To Get Worse

Despite all of the talk in the mainstream media and from our politicians that our economy is getting better, the truth is that the U.S. economy continued to decline in 2012.  If you doubt this, just read the 75 statistics in this article.

And there are a whole host of signs that the economy is starting to slow down even more as we enter 2013.  For example, consumer confidence in the United States has experienced its largest two-month drop in over a year, and retail sales during the holiday season turned out to be quite disappointing.

#4 Good Paying Jobs Will Continue To Be Shipped Out Of The United States

Thanks to decades of "free trade agreements", workers in the United States must directly compete for jobs with hundreds of millions of workers on the other side of the globe that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages.

We continue to see millions of jobs being shipped out of the country and our politicians stand by and do nothing.

Most Americans have no idea how this emerging one world economic system works.  The beautiful product that you buy at the big retail store may have been made by someone working in some of the most horrific conditions imaginable.

A 42-year-old woman named Julie Keith recently found this letter inside a box of Halloween decorations that had been made in China...
"If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization. Thousands people here who are under the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever.
People who work here have to work 15 hours a day without Saturday, Sunday break and any holidays. Otherwise, they will suffer torturement, beat and rude remark. Nearly no payment (10 yuan/1 month).
People who work here, suffer punishment 1-3 years averagely, but without Court Sentence (unlaw punishment). Many of them are Falun Gong practitioners, who are totally innocent people only because they have different believe to CCPG. They often suffer more punishment than others."
But both political parties continue to tell us how wonderful it is that we are trading with communist China.  They see no problem with the fact that good paying jobs that used to be performed in America are now being performed by slave laborers on the other side of the planet.  And most Americans continue to support this system by filling their shopping carts with lots of stuff that has "made in China" stamped on it.

#5 Small Businesses Will Continue To Be Destroyed

At the same time, small businesses all over America are being strangled to death by taxes and regulations.  Just consider the following numbers from a previous article...
We are told that the economy is supposed to be "recovering", but the number of "startup jobs" at new businesses has fallen for five years in a row.  According to an analysis of U.S. Department of Labor data performed by economist Tim Kane, there were almost 12 startup jobs per 1000 Americans back in the year 2006.  By 2011, that figure had fallen to less than 8 startup jobs per 1000 Americans.
How is our economy ever going to thrive if we keep killing off our small businesses?

#6 Hunger And Poverty Will Continue To Explode To Unprecedented Levels

As the U.S. economy bleeds jobs and loses small businesses, the number of Americans living in poverty continues to explode.

Here are some numbers to show to people who still don't understand how desperate the situation is...
-Families that have a head of household under the age of 30 have a poverty rate of 37 percent.
-According to U.S. Census data, 57 percent of all American children live in a home that is either considered to be "poor" or "low income".

-For the first time ever, more than a million public school students in the United States are homeless.  That number has risen by 57 percent since the 2006-2007 school year.

#7 The Number Of Americans On Food Stamps Will Continue To Increase

If the economy is recovering, then why does the number of Americans on food stamps continue to soar?

As I wrote about yesterday, about 17 million Americans were on food stamps back in the year 2000.
Today, more than 47 million Americans are on food stamps.

Does anyone want to explain to me how that is a sign that things are getting better?

Back in the 1970s, about one out of every 50 Americans was on food stamps.  Today, about one out of every 6.5 Americans is on food stamps.

How much worse do things have to get before people realize that what we are doing is not working?

#8 Millions Of Americans Are About To Lose Their Unemployment Benefits

During this economic crisis, an unprecedented number of American families have been relying on unemployment benefits in order to stay afloat.

Well, if no agreement is reached in Washington D.C., millions of Americans will shortly lose those benefits...
Three million Americans may become unwitting casualties of the political war in Washington over the fiscal cliff.

Since 2008, the federal government has funded extensions of the unemployment insurance offered by states, more than tripling the amount of aid available to the unemployed in some areas. But the program is expensive, with the Congressional Budget Office estimating it would cost $30 billion to extend it through 2013. President Barack Obama wants to extend the benefits for another year, but Congress has already pared back the program, and Republicans insist it represents the kind of largesse Washington can no longer afford.
#9 Our Infrastructure Will Continue To Rot And Decay

The United States once had the most beautiful infrastructure in the entire world.  Our highways, bridges, airports, railroads, sewer systems and electrical grids were the envy of the entire planet.
Well, now we don't even have enough money to repair what we already have, so our infrastructure will continue to rot and decay in 2013...
Highways and bridges will need $2.5 trillion in upgrades if they are to survive for another 50 years -- a must-do to keep commerce thriving. And that figure doesn't even take into account the airports, railroads, subways, sewage-treatment plants, waterworks, levees, electric grids, pipelines, and all of those other expensive systems that people ignore until they break down.
#10 Many Of Our Major Cities Will Continue To Be Transformed Into Festering Hellholes

A lot of our major cities are also rapidly degenerating.  Detroit is one of my favorite examples, but the same kinds of things could be said about dozens of other major cities all over the country.  The following is a brief excerpt from one of my recent articles...
If you can believe it, more than 50 percent of all children in Detroit are living in poverty, and close to 50 percent of all adults living in the city are functionally illiterate.  The high school graduation rate in Detroit is down to about 25 percent, and the city has become a breeding ground for gangs and violence.  The number of murders in Detroit is already higher than last year, and recently groups of young men toting AK-47s have been running around robbing gas stations.  How much worse can things possibly get for Detroit?
#11 State And Local Governments Will Find Ways To Squeeze Even More Money Out Of Us

In case you haven't noticed, state and local governments all over the country are bleeding cash and are desperate for money.  In 2013 you can expect them to continue to find more ways to squeeze even more money out of all of us.  Here is one example...
Over the course of 2013, the District government will add 134 traffic cameras to its network, more than doubling the size of a system that generated $85 million in revenues for the city in its last fiscal year.
Police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump told The Washington Examiner that the city will intensify its camera-based efforts to cite motorists for speeding and stoplight violations while also adding cameras to detect other moving violations.
#12 Drug Cartels Will Continue To Easily Cross Our Borders And Terrorize Our Citizens

The federal government continues to refuse to protect our borders, and that means that drug runners and gang members will continue to pour into the United States.

Down in the Southwest, many ranchers are being absolutely terrorized by these criminals.  The following is from a recent NBC News article...
Just before nightfall, 73-year-old rancher Jim Chilton hikes quickly up and down the hills on his rugged cattle-grazing land south of Tucson, escorting two U.S. Border Patrol agents.
He wants to show them the disturbing discovery he made earlier in the day: a drug-smugglers' camp on his private property.  Stacked together under a stand of trees are blankets, jackets, food, water, binoculars and bales of marijuana from Mexico wrapped in burlap. The smugglers, themselves, are nowhere in sight and are believed to have fled the area, which is about 10 miles north of the Mexican border.
Chilton has had his house burglarized a couple of times and his family regularly encounters groups of armed drug smugglers coming across from Mexico...
Their cattle fences are frequently cut and paths heading north from Mexico cross their property.  Beckham says a smuggler even fired shots at him while he walked his land with a U.S. Border Patrol agent.  Several illegal border crossers have also approached his house at night--one even reaching his hand into their bathroom window.
"Several years ago, one of my children was taking a shower and had a gentleman reach into the shower while he was in there, and he came out screaming, absolutely refusing to take a shower for the next couple months."
But even if you don't live along the border, all of this still affects you.  According to government figures, Mexican drug cartels are actively operating in more than 1,200 U.S. cities right now.  They are probably hard at work in the community where you live.

So what is the Obama administration doing to fix the problem?

Not much.

In fact, the Obama administration is actually encouraging people to come to the U.S. and become dependent on the system.  If you can believe it, there is actually a website run by the Department of Homeland Security that teaches immigrants how to apply for welfare benefits once they get into the United States.

#13 Social Decay Will Continue To Accelerate

All over America we are seeing signs of social breakdown.  Here is yet another example...
A woman sleeping on a street bench outside a drug store was doused with an accelerant and set on fire early Thursday morning in Van Nuys.
Witnesses told police that a man poured liquid -- possibly a beverage containing alcohol -- on the sleeping woman at about 1 a.m. outside a Walgreens store near Van Nuys Boulevard and Sherman Way. He lit a match and ran from the location, witnesses told police.
Who would just run up and set a woman on fire?

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident.  For many more examples like this, please see this article: "20 Shocking Examples Of How Sadistic And Cruel People Have Become".

We need to admit that we have a major problem on our hands.  Violent crime in the United States increased by 18 percent in 2011, and another huge increase is expected when the numbers for 2012 come out.

America is changing, and not for the better.

#14 Global Food Supplies Will Continue To Dwindle

Did you know that for six of the last eleven years the world has consumed more food than it has produced?

As a result, global food reserves have reached their lowest level in almost 40 years.
So what is going to happen if the world continues to eat more food than it makes?
Let us hope that there is not another major drought in 2013.  If there is, we could be looking at a very serious food crunch.

#15 Wall Street Will Continue To Resemble A Giant Casino

Our financial system seems to have not learned any lessons from the financial crash of 2008.
Instead of admitting their mistakes, they just continue to engage in even more reckless behavior.
Today, there are four major U.S. banks that each have more than 40 trillion dollars of exposure to derivatives.

At some point that house of cards is going to collapse and we will be facing a derivatives crisis of unprecedented magnitude.

Will it be in 2013?

#16 The U.S. National Debt Will Cross The 17 Trillion Dollar Mark

In 2013, our national debt will blow past the 17 trillion dollar mark and start heading toward 18 trillion dollars.

How stupid can we possibly be?

During the first four years of the Obama administration, the U.S. national debt has grown by about as much as it did from the time that George Washington took office to the time that George W. Bush took office.

It really takes something to match more than 200 years of debt accumulation in less than four years.
But our politicians don't seem to care about all of this debt.  They will continue to steal more than 100 million dollars from our children and our grandchildren every single hour of every single day.  That is beyond criminal, and yet the American people don't seem to care.

What in the world has happened to this country?

Of course not everything about 2013 will be bad.  Personally, I am looking forward to an exciting year.  I have a new book that will be coming out, and my family is blessed and healthy.  I would like to wish all of you a very blessed 2013.  Things may be falling apart all around us, but that doesn't mean that we can't have a great year even in the midst of all the chaos.

US Mayors' Survey: Food Insecurity, Homelessness Rising Across The Country


This month, the United States Conference of Mayors’ Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness released its yearly survey, which documented a sharp rise in the two social ills throughout the country.

The report was based on data collected between September 1, 2011 and August 31, 2012, with cooperation from emergency food services in 25 major cities across the US, including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

Emergency food assistance requests increased by an average of 22 percent, and the number of such requests rose in all but four of the cities. Some 51 percent of the demand for assistance came from members of families.

Perhaps most tellingly, the report also documented that over a third (37 percent) of those in need of emergency food assistance were employed. Overall, one in seven Americans are classified as being food insecure. As of 2011, nearly 47 million people received food stamps, an increase of 1.3 million over 2010.

Despite the increased demand, the various agencies reported an average increase of just 0.2 percent in the number of pounds of food distributed during the 12-month period in question. Moreover, the survey reported: “In 95 percent of the survey cities, emergency kitchens and food pantries had to reduce the quantity of food persons can receive at each food pantry visit or the amount of food offered per meal at emergency kitchens. In 89 percent of the cities these facilities had to turn people away because of lack of resources. In 81 percent of the cities they had to reduce the number of times a person or family can visit a food pantry each month.”

The various city officials, not surprisingly, cited joblessness and the lack of affordable housing as the central driving forces of the rise in hunger in the US, along with general poverty and low wages. The increase in need combined with diminishing resources available was cited as the largest difficulty facing community groups attempting to stem the tide of hunger in the cities surveyed.

As was the case in earlier findings, the primary sources for feeding those in need are grocery stores who donate food. The stores’ donations now represent over half of the total food obtained by emergency services. Government contributions have fallen sharply.

Roughly three-fourths of the cities expected to see an increase in the demand for assistance, with over half expecting to see a moderate increase in total need. Of those surveyed, none expected to see any decrease in demand in 2013.

In concluding the section on hunger in its executive summary, the task force commented: “Among their [city officials’] concerns are cuts in federal commodities and funding, declining food donations, and the negative impact of the nation’s continuing economic problems on their ability to meet food assistance needs.”

Homelessness

Sixty-percent of the surveyed US cities reported a growth in homelessness, with the average increase calculated at seven percent. As with hunger, the majority of cities saw an increase in homelessness in families, with over 70 percent of cities reporting a growth in this category. Shelters reported cases of severe mental illness in nearly one-third of all homeless adults.

In regard to families, 60 percent of the cities expected that homelessness would continue to rise in the coming year, with a nearly identical percentage anticipating a similar increase among single individuals.

Primarily faulted for this expected increase was the diminishing quantity of affordable housing in each region. The vast majority of city officials suggested that the rise in homelessness could be curbed by investment in cheaper housing and housing assistance, as well as better paying employment activities. The recommendations are entirely pro forma, as there is no possibility of such measures being taken by the Obama administration and Congress or any state government, all of whom are presently considering how to slash existing social programs.

Indeed, the building up or restoration of the basic social safety net cuts across the general trend in American society. In Washington D.C., one of the cities under review in the survey, a recent D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute study found that nearly half of the city’s core public housing budget had been slashed, from over $120 million in 2004, to a little over $60 million in 2010.

An article in the Washington Post in November indicated that the Capitol Area Food Bank, which feeds over 700 food pantries and non-profits in the District of Columbia, has seen a 38 percent drop in food rations the government has donated this year. Of particular worry in the District are children on winter break who during the school year rely upon free lunches. The report notes that 47,000 children, roughly a quarter of the District’s student population, qualify for such assistance. (See, “ Widening social inequality in US capital”)

A number of large cities, including New York and Detroit, were not included in the 2012 Conference of Mayors’ study. According to a report released in August by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, in Detroit—the most impoverished big city in the country—nearly three-quarters of all children live in official poverty. (See, “ Nearly three-quarters of Detroit children living in poverty”)

Likewise, a spot survey of 100 food-aid centers in New York City revealed that demand for assistance had risen by five percent this year, while Hurricane Sandy had caused more than a third of all of the city’s food pantries to report a loss in the quantity of goods available.

Did The Us Invasion Of Afghanistan Cause A Heroin Epidemic In Europe And America?

Since the US Invasion of Afghanistan, the Heroin Output has Increased over 5000%

 
More than decade since the US invaded Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda and punish the Taliban, the US and NATO occupation drags on, even as the war begins to wind down. And Afghanistan's status as the world's number one opium poppy producer remains unchallenged.
Afghan opium production started with the US-backed overthrow of the secular Afghan Government in 1978 and grew steadily with the consequent civil war, the Russian invasion and the US-backed religious-based resistance.
Afghan opium production increased further after the departure of the Russians. However in 2000, several years after they captured Kabul, the Taliban banned opium production, slashing Afghan opium production from about 76% of word production in 2000 to 6% in 2001.

In the aftermath of the 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan, the British government was entrusted by the leading industrial nations to carry out a drug eradication program, which would, theoretically, allow Afghan farmers to get out of poppy cultivation and switch to alternative crops. The British were working in close liaison with the US DEA's "Operation Containment" out of Kabul.
The British crop eradication program was an apparent smokescreen, considering that since October 2001, opium poppy cultivation has flourished. The presence of occupation forces in Afghanistan did not result in the eradication of poppy cultivation as lawmakers had promised, it did exactly the opposite.
The Taliban prohibition had caused "the beginning of a heroin shortage in Europe by the end of 2001", the UNODC acknowledged, however immediately following the October 2001 invasion, opium markets were restored and opium prices spiraled. By 2002, the opium price was almost 10 times higher than in 2000.
Heroin is a multimillion dollar business protected by powerful, international interests, which requires a stable, steady and secure product flow. One of the secret objectives of the war was to restore the CIA sponsored drug trade to its historical norms and establish control over the smuggling routes.
Within a year of the US Alliance invasion the Afghan opium production skyrocketed from 6% of world production in 2001, to 74% in 2002, 93% in 2006, 95% in 2007 and 94% in 2008.
According to Glenn Greenway, the Drug Truth Network reported September 15, 2008, "Afghan heroin output has increased a staggering 5,000% since the US invasion 7 years ago." I would guess this percentage is even larger today.
UN Secretary General Ban ki-moon said recently at an international conference in Vienna, that Afghanistan will never be stable unless it tackles its drug problem.
In 2007, Afghanistan supplied 93% of the world's opium, according to the U.S. State Department. Illicit poppy production, meanwhile, brings $4 billion into Afghanistan, or more than half the country’s total economy of $7.5 billion, according to the United Nations Office of Drug Control (UNODC).  It also represents about half of the economy of Pakistan, and of the ISI in particular.
Destroying the labs has always been an obvious option, but for years America refused to do so for political reasons. In 2001 the Taliban and bin Laden were estimated by the CIA to be earning up to 10 per cent of Afghanistan’s drug revenues, then estimated at between 6.5 and 10 billion U.S. dollars a year. This income of perhaps $1 billion was less than that earned by Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI, parts of which had become the key to the drug trade in Central Asia. The UN Drug Control Program (UNDCP) estimated in 1999 that the ISI made around $2.5 billion annually from the sale of illegal drugs.
At the start of the US offensive in 2001, according to Ahmed Rashid, “The Pentagon had a list of twenty-five or more drug labs and warehouses in Afghanistan but refused to bomb them because some belonged to the CIA's new NA [Northern Alliance] allies.”  Rashid was “told by UNODC officials that the Americans knew far more about the drug labs than they claimed to know, and the failure to bomb them was a major setback to the counter-narcotics effort."
James Risen reports that the ongoing refusal to pursue the targeted drug labs came from neocons at the top of America’s national security bureaucracy, including even Donald Rumsfeld. These men were preserving a pattern of drug-trafficking protection racket in Washington that dates back all the way to World War 2.
Thanks primarily to the CIA-backed anti-Soviet campaign of the 1980s, Afghanistan today is a drug-corrupted and heroin-ravaged society from the heads of state all the way down to the junkies on the streets.
Governing Afghans are likely to become involved in the drug traffic, sooner or later, just as the FARC in Colombia and the Communist Party in Myanmar have evolved in time from revolutionary movements into drug-trafficking organizations.
The situation in Pakistan is not much different. The US mainstream media have never mentioned the February 23 report in the London Sunday Times and that Asif Ali Zardari, now the Pakistani Prime Minister, was once caught in a DEA drug sting.
Important as heroin may have become to the Afghan and Pakistani political economies, the local proceeds are only a small share of the global heroin traffic. According to the UN, the ultimate value in world markets in 2007 of Afghanistan’s $4 billion opium crop was about $110 billion: this estimate is probably too high, but even if the ultimate value was as low as $40 billion, this would mean that 90 percent of the profit was earned by forces outside of Afghanistan.
It has been estimated that 80 percent or more of the profits from the traffic are reaped in the countries of consumption. The UNODC Executive Director, Antonio Maria Costa, has reported that “money made in illicit drug trade has been used to keep banks afloat in the global financial crisis.”
Since the time of invasion of Afghanistan, the Opium production is given a boost by United States and its powered Afghan government. Hamid Karzai and his clan are heavily involved in this business. This being understood, they have taken measures to cultivate Opium, provided support for trafficking with Tajikistan in a legal way and this has resulted as an increase in use of Opium around the globe and has especially hit Russia and Europe.

In the years since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan Russia has been flooded with heroin. The drug has crept along a trail stretching from Afghanistan through Tajikistan and other Central Asian nations and over the Russian border, turning the country into the world's top consumer of heroin, the Russian government says.

The drug has spread like fire through a country uniquely unqualified to cope with its dangers: Narcotics were largely absent during Soviet times, and most people are still unaware of the risk of heroin addiction, even as an estimated 83 Russians a day die by overdosing on the drug, official statistics show. Russia estimates that one in every 50 people of working age is addicted to heroin. South Wales has seen a jump of 180% in heroin addiction rates since the invasion of Afghanistan. In 2008, the EU estimated that a young European died every hour from a drug overdose.
   Watch, Heroin Afghan Drug Wars 2 of 4, here. Heroin Afghan Drug Wars 3 of 4, here. Heroin Afghan Drug Wars 4 of 4, here.
Also, folks, it's not just opium coming out of Afghanistan. According to the UNODC World Drug Report 2011, Afghanistan is also "among the significant cannabis resin producing countries," producing somewhere between 1,500 and 3,500 metric tons of hash in 2010, with no reason to think it has changed dramatically in 2011. That brings in somewhere between $85 million and $265 million at the farm gate.
A decade after the US invasion, Afghanistan remains the world's largest opium producer by far and possibly the world's largest cannabis producer. Given the crucial role these drug crops play in the Afghan economy, there is little reason to think anything is going to change anytime soon

Revealed: How The FBI Coordinated The Crackdown On Occupy

New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent
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Occupy Oakland clashes
Police used teargas to drive back protesters following an attempt by the Occupy supporters to shut down the city of Oakland. Photograph: Noah Berger/AP
It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves –was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations' knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

As Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, put it, the documents show that from the start, the FBI – though it acknowledges Occupy movement as being, in fact, a peaceful organization – nonetheless designated OWS repeatedly as a "terrorist threat":

"FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) … reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat … The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country."
Verheyden-Hilliard points out the close partnering of banks, the New York Stock Exchange and at least one local Federal Reserve with the FBI and DHS, and calls it "police-statism":

"This production [of documents], which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI's surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement … These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America."
The documents show stunning range: in Denver, Colorado, that branch of the FBI and a "Bank Fraud Working Group" met in November 2011 – during the Occupy protests – to surveil the group. The Federal Reserve of Richmond, Virginia had its own private security surveilling Occupy Tampa and Tampa Veterans for Peace and passing privately-collected information on activists back to the Richmond FBI, which, in turn, categorized OWS activities under its "domestic terrorism" unit. The Anchorage, Alaska "terrorism task force" was watching Occupy Anchorage. The Jackson, Michigan "joint terrorism task force" was issuing a "counterterrorism preparedness alert" about the ill-organized grandmas and college sophomores in Occupy there. Also in Jackson, Michigan, the FBI and the "Bank Security Group" – multiple private banks – met to discuss the reaction to "National Bad Bank Sit-in Day" (the response was violent, as you may recall). The Virginia FBI sent that state's Occupy members' details to the Virginia terrorism fusion center. The Memphis FBI tracked OWS under its "joint terrorism task force" aegis, too. And so on, for over 100 pages.

Jason Leopold, at Truthout.org, who has sought similar documents for more than a year, reported that the FBI falsely asserted in response to his own FOIA requests that no documents related to its infiltration of Occupy Wall Street existed at all. But the release may be strategic: if you are an Occupy activist and see how your information is being sent to terrorism task forces and fusion centers, not to mention the "longterm plans" of some redacted group to shoot you, this document is quite the deterrent.

There is a new twist: the merger of the private sector, DHS and the FBI means that any of us can become WikiLeaks, a point that Julian Assange was trying to make in explaining the argument behind his recent book. The fusion of the tracking of money and the suppression of dissent means that a huge area of vulnerability in civil society – people's income streams and financial records – is now firmly in the hands of the banks, which are, in turn, now in the business of tracking your dissent.

Remember that only 10% of the money donated to WikiLeaks can be processed – because of financial sector and DHS-sponsored targeting of PayPal data. With this merger, that crushing of one's personal or business financial freedom can happen to any of us. How messy, criminalizing and prosecuting dissent. How simple, by contrast, just to label an entity a "terrorist organization" and choke off, disrupt or indict its sources of financing.

Why the huge push for counterterrorism "fusion centers", the DHS militarizing of police departments, and so on? It was never really about "the terrorists". It was not even about civil unrest. It was always about this moment, when vast crimes might be uncovered by citizens – it was always, that is to say, meant to be about you.