Monday, July 15, 2013

Secret FISA Court redefines law to justify illegal spying operations

Go To Original
The first details surrounding the secret body of law created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) as part of the US government’s massive surveillance operations were made public yesterday in the Wall Street Journal. The information, which was leaked by “current and former administration and congressional officials,” gives a partial indication of the depth of FISC’s unprecedented secret powers.
The leaked material shows how FISC has employed an Orwellian re-working of the meaning of a “relevancy” standard to justify the creation of a separate body of law aimed at justifying government actions that violate the Bill of Rights.
Following the passage in 2006 of a series of amendments to the USA PATRIOT Act, the standard for approving FISA surveillance orders under the “business records” provision of §215 was updated so as to require “a statement of facts showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the tangible things sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.”
Though “relevancy” has historically required a showing that there is a “reasonable possibility” that a FISA surveillance order will lead to information related to a pending investigation, FISC has been given the power to establish its own clandestine standard that overrides the former, public standard.
FISC’s interpretation of “relevant” has nothing in common with the actual meaning of the word. According to The Wall Street Journal: “In classified orders starting in the mid-2000s, the court accepted that ‘relevant’ could be broadened to permit an entire database of records on millions of people…”
According to the Journal, the specific program that this change was designed to justify is one that allows the government to collect the phone records (“metadata”) on hundreds of millions of Americans, which enables it to construct detailed social and political networks for almost everyone in the United States. This is only one part of a much larger spying operation carried out by the government, including the storage of the content of all phone calls, emails, text messages and Internet communications and activity.
The creation of an upside-down meaning of “relevance” highlights the deeply authoritarian nature of FISC, which has developed into a star chamber that operates entirely outside of the bounds of traditional bourgeois legality. Under the guise of the “special needs” doctrine, FISC claims that the overriding public danger associated with the “war on terror” gives it the power to abrogate basic democratic rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
Though the recent leaks point toward the content of the series of clandestine decisions made public over the weekend in an article published by the New York Times, the decisions themselves remain under lock and key. (See: Secret laws, secret government).
The courts, with the support of the Obama administration, have struck down lawsuits challenging the constitutionality and secretiveness of FISC decisions.
In a 2013 case, Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, et al. v. Amnesty International USA et al., the Supreme Court struck down a Fourth Amendment challenge to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which created FISC. The court ruled that the civil rights groups that challenged the law did not have standing because they could not prove they were actually being spied on. The decision was reached less than four months before the Snowden revelations were first made public.
Additionally, a request made by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in August 2012 to force the release of FISC opinions under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was denied by the Obama administration’s Department of Justice.
Last month, the Department of Justice responded to the EFF’s FOIA request by saying that “[a]ny such release would be incomplete and quite possibly misleading to the public about the role of this [FISC] Court and the issues discussed in the opinion.”
In March 2013, FISC Presiding Judge Reggie B. Wilson responded to congressional requests for written summaries of FISC opinions by explaining that there are “serious obstacles that must be considered” regarding making summaries of the opinions public.
Wilson added that he feared releasing the summaries would be “much more likely to result in misunderstanding or confusion regarding the court’s decision or reasoning,” ostensibly because “[s]ummarizing a judicial opinion of any length or complexity entails losing more nuanced or technical points of a court’s analysis.”
This reasoning is a hollow excuse for keeping the programs secret. What the courts, the Obama administration and Congress all fear is that the publication of the decisions would generate mass opposition to their authoritarian content.
This is made all the more clear when considering the questionable nature of the recent release of information to the Wall Street Journal, as well as the earlier article in the New York Times. It is entirely possible that the information was revealed intentionally by the Obama administration in an attempt to preempt the anticipated leak of the full court decisions by Snowden.
The fact that multiple administration and congressional figures both past and present were apparently part of the “leaks,” and that the details provided were vague and minimal, indicates a level of state planning.
Regardless of the immediate source, the leaks make clear that the material contained in the decisions is deeply anti-democratic, involving rulings made by an unaccountable court, entirely behind the backs of the population.

11 Big Myths About the Economy That Are Destroying America

 Forget the dumbed-down garbage most economists spew. Their myths are causing tragic results for everyday Americans.

Go To Original

People living in caves as UK homelessness reaches five-year high

Go To Original
Homeless men and women are living in a network of disused sandstone caves near the town centre of Stockport, Greater Manchester. There have been up to four people a night sleeping rough in the cave system perched on a 20-foot precipice overhanging a river, only a short distance from public view.
A report in the Manchester Evening News noted that Stockport in the north of England has seen a 42 percent increase in homelessness in just one year. Jonathan Billings, a project manager with the local homeless charity Wellsprings, said, “The number of people turning up each day for support has soared from around 60 to 70 to around 140 in the last three years.”
His organization has witnessed a particular surge in demand among more middle class, affluent people. After having worked for years, they lost everything in the downturn, he said. Billings emphasised the risk these people face when sleeping without shelter:
“Unfortunately when people are sleeping rough they will come to very dangerous places. I know of people who have fallen into the river.”
Official statistics published by the government show a five-year high in homelessness across the UK. This includes 54,540 households declared homeless, with some 4,500 households now living in bed and breakfast accommodation (B&B).
This figure includes a year on year increase for a growing number of families who have been left stuck in B&B accommodation beyond the six-week legal limit. Many of these families are being forced to live in a single room with no cooking facilities, having to share a bathroom with many other families in the same building.
The number of people being housed outside the area where they initially are from has risen by 14 percent, with 9,000 of the households as of March 31, 2013 having to live in another local authority. This leaves many a long distance away from work, family and support networks.
Campbell Robb, chief executive of the homeless charity Shelter, said that many families were at the “breaking point”.
“Behind these numbers are thousands of families up and down the country who have lost the battle to stay in their homes,” he explained.
In the last two years the numbers of people defined as sleeping rough across the UK has risen by 31 percent.
Families face increasing pressure trying to make ends meet. Shelter reported that 4 out of 10 families with children have had to cut down on what they spend on food in the last year. A YouGov poll of 4,000 people carried out for Shelter showed that 27 percent of those polled had to cut back on gas and electricity bills to be able to pay for rent or mortgage costs. A total of 57 percent of adults, and 64 percent of families with children were struggling to pay their rent or mortgage last year.
Shelter have gone on to report that one in three people would not be able to pay their rent or mortgage for a month if they lost their job, with 35 percent of those polled—equivalent to 8.6 million people—saying they could not pay the rent or mortgage from their savings for a month. Some 18 percent of people polled—4.4 million people—would not be able to pay the rent or mortgage at all if they didn’t secure a new job immediately.
The financial precipice facing an increasing number of people each month is clear, with 3.9 million British families just one pay cheque away from the threat of losing their homes.
The enormous pressure this is placing on local authorities in trying to meet housing demand from ever greater numbers of people has brought things to breaking point. There has been a sharp rise in the numbers of people who have lost their homes who were tenants with Assured Short-hold tenancies (AST).
These tenancies are predominantly in the private rented sector, whereby the tenant has far less housing rights. It is estimated that over a fifth (21 percent) of people showing up at local authorities requesting assistance for rehousing were tenants who had lost their AST homes. This is compared to 14 percent of statutory homelessness cases two years ago who had lost an AST. The increase is being attributed to the recession, unemployment, stagnant wages and an increase in private rents.
Rising private rents are pushing up the numbers of working people having to claim top up housing benefit to be able to cover the payment. But housing benefit payments are also being cut. Renting a property is now considered more expensive than paying a mortgage across all regions of England, with the average renter paying an extra £75 more a month than people with a mortgage. Rents rose in 83 percent of areas across the country last year, with the average rent rising by £300.
A shortage of affordable homes, however, has left ever more people with no choice but to rent, leading to greater pressure of demand on the rental market and driving up costs.
The introduction of the bedroom tax—a penalty on unoccupied rooms for those on benefits in local authority and housing association accommodation—and the resulting debts incurred is threatening a further rise in homelessness. Housing benefit has been cut by 14 percent for people deemed to have one extra bedroom and by 25 percent for those with two extra bedrooms.
A survey by Scotland’s council umbrella body Cosla conducted 100 days after the introduction of the tax found social housing ren arrears increased to £2 million during April alone—covering just 8.4 percent of the UK population. Three-quarters of the councils reported rises in rent arrears, with four out of five councils collecting 50 percent or less in rent due from tenants affected by the cut and three in five collecting 40 percent or less. Requests for discretionary housing payments for those struggling to pay rent stood at over 22,000 by the end of May—over four times the number received in the same two-month period last year.
Further cuts to the welfare budget are to be implemented following the government’s spending review. Campbell Robb from Shelter commented, “Millions are living on the edge of a crisis, only secure in their homes for a matter of weeks. At the same time, support for people who have lost their homes is being stripped away. It’s easy to see why every fifteen minutes, another family in England finds themselves homeless.”

Horror as patient wakes up in NY hospital with doctors trying to harvest her organs for transplant profits

Go To Original

A woman named Colleen Burns recently opened her eyes to find herself on an operating table in a hospital in Syracuse, NY. Looking around, she noticed that she was the subject of the operation. It turns out doctors were about to harvest her organs and send them to other waiting surgeons who would transplant them into other patients.

This isn't fiction. It was covered by ABC News and several other news sources. It really happened.

And how did it happen? Doctors falsely pronounced her dead by fraudulently claiming she had suffered "cardiopulmonary arrest" and "irreversible brain damage." This gave them the medical justification to start slicing away even while the woman's heart was still beating.

This is a big "holy crap I didn't know that" fact about organ donations: Doctors don't wait until you're really dead. At least not by any normal definition of "dead."

See, you and I think "dead" means your heart isn't beating, your brain isn't functioning, and you're lifeless. But hospitals -- which happen to generate huge profits from the trade of transplant organs -- have a strong financial incentive to declare you "medically dead" long before you're actually lifeless.

They can, in fact, declare you "dead" even when your heart is still beating and you still have brain activity. And they often do. This is how a lot of the organ harvesting in America actually gets done: patients that are on the verge of death (but not yet actually dead) are simply "declared" dead, then their organs are quickly removed, killing them for good.

It's a crime that takes place every day in America, where U.S. hospitals have been caught over and over again engaging in black market organ trafficking.

A multi-billion-dollar industry

Organ trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Wealthy people around the world are always in need of new kidneys, new livers, new hearts and other body parts.

And guess who makes the money on all these organ transplants? The doctors, hospitals and drug companies, of course. Organ transplants are a hugely profitable industry -- largely because they get the organs for free. Patients who are killed by these doctors are never paid for their organs. The fact that they "donate" them actually means they are donating their immensely valuable organs to a for-profit system that's going to earn potentially millions of dollars off the organs of a single donor.

So while the donor patient gets murdered for his or her organs, the doctors engaged in organ removal and organ transplants get wealthy. Transplant recipients and health insurance companies pay huge dollars for organ transplant surgeries, and the profits are ongoing because transplant recipients must also pay for a long course of organ transplant anti-rejection drugs, all priced at monopoly prices (of course).

Truth be told, the organ transplant industry is all about money -- at any cost. It's about killing patients who might otherwise survive in order to take their organs and make millions of dollars transplanting them into other patients... patients who typically only have a few months to live even after the transplant.

Transplanted organs are often damaged or infested with disease

Here's another dirty little trick the organ transplant industry will never tell you: The organs that are transplanted into other patients are often fatally damaged and full of infectious diseases.

As yet more proof of this, take the case of Colleen Burns, mentioned above. She tried to commit suicide by taking a toxic combination of prescription medications. According to the doctors, this toxic cocktail of chemicals was fatal, and it killed her (they pronounced her dead).

Yet, simultaneously, they still insisted her organs were healthy enough to transplant into another patient! That's why they almost began harvesting them.

In other words, even organs that doctors know are heavily damaged with toxic chemical cocktails will still be transplanted into other patients! (This is 100% true.)

But it's even worse than that...

Transplant organs often riddled with disease: hepatitis, stealth viruses, mad cow disease and more

There are effectively zero quality standards in the organ transplant industry. If the organ still functions at any level, it's "good enough" to be slapped into a transplant patient even though that organ might actually kill them.

One of the reasons organ transplant patients often die so quickly after receiving transplants is because the organs they often receive are ticking time bombs of disease.

Introducing a diseased heart or kidney into someone's body, for example, can suddenly infest that person with hundreds or even thousands of viruses and blood-borne illnesses that quickly overcome their weakened immune systems. This is made even worse by the anti-rejection drugs which, by definition, cause extreme suppression of immune function.

So at the exact time that new diseases are being introduced into the transplant recipient's body, their immune system is being undermined by anti-rejection drugs. Not surprisingly, this is a recipe for disaster, and that's one reason why so many patients die so quickly after receiving "donor" organs.

Iraq war veteran killed by cancer-ridden transplant lungs

As an example of what I just described above, in 2009, an Iraq war veteran named Matthew Millington was given a lung transplant using lungs that were riddled with a fast-growing cancer.

Not surprisingly, he died less than 10 months later. Did all the organ transplant doctors and surgeons give him a refund for their botched procedure? Of course not! Organ transplants do not come with warranties, and you're often given a diseased, damaged or heavily infested organ that's going to kill you. (But you still gotta pay up!)

There are roughly 100,000 people waiting for organ transplants in the USA right now. But there are only a fraction of that number of organs available in any given year, so doctors are under intense pressure to 1) harvest organs from people who aren't yet dead, and 2) use ANY organs they can find, even organs that are riddled with disease.

Again, these are the dirty little secrets of the organ transplant industry that you'll never be told by any doctor. Expect to hear nothing but denials if you ask organ transplant doctors about any of this. 

More healthy organ donors "need to suddenly die"

The other challenge the transplant industry faces is that healthy people who take care of their organs through nutrition and exercise simply don't tend to die very often. The kind of people most likely to die (and therefore most like to donate organs) are alcoholics, drug addicts and people who are obese and diseased. Therefore, those are the kind of organs that end up being available for transplant: nasty "fatty" livers and cancerous lungs, for example.

Ideally, the organ transplant industry would like to see a lot of young, healthy people getting decapitated in military training exercises or automobile accidents. That would supply a fresh supply of healthy organs that might actually be worth transplanting. In China, of course, this is why Falun Gong members are routinely arrested and imprisoned: they eat super-healthy diets and so have high-grade organs that can be profitably harvested from political prisoners there.

The practice of arresting people, imprisoning them and sometimes even murdering them for their organs is a lot more widespread than you think. How do you suppose Steve Jobs got a new liver so quickly, even while thousands of other people were waiting for one? He bought it. Gee, do you really think Steve Jobs stood in line like everyone else and then magically a liver appeared for him much faster than for anyone else?

Presumed consent

There is a push under way around the world to harvest organs from everyone who doesn't explicitly say no. These laws are called "presumed consent" laws, and they exist only to provide a fresh supply of human organs to generate billions of dollars in profits for the sick, criminal-minded organ transplant industry.

As a 2011 article in the British Medical Journal explains, these "presumed consent" laws mean doctors can start harvesting the organs of your wife, your children or other loved ones without even asking family members for permission!

As the BMJ article explains:

Presumed consent is alternatively known as an 'opt-out' system and means that unless the deceased has expressed a wish in life not to be an organ donor then consent will be assumed. This can be divided into what is known as a 'hard opt-out' where the family are not consulted.

There's even a website about this -- -- which uses a lot of flowery language and feel-good imagery to hide the fact that it's pushing for doctors topronounce more patients "dead" and take their organs so that the organ transplant industry can make a few billion more dollars each year.

What we're talking about here is coercive organ harvesting in order to feed the organ trafficking and transplant industries.

Think about that the next time some clueless paper-pusher asks you at the DMV, "Do you want to be an organ donor?"

Just answer: "No thanks. I prefer that doctors actually try to keep me alive."

Don't give doctors any incentive to kill you. They already kill enough patients even when they aren't trying.

Trust me on this: say NO to organ donation. If you really want to help people, teach them to protect the organs God already gave them through superfoods, nutrition, exercise and healthy living.

Read more: