Thursday, January 27, 2011
After Tiananmen, the Communist Party in China unveiled the Student Information System, whose nominal goals were to improve the quality of college and university teaching and increase student involvement in education. “In practice, however, the SIS's principal objective is to monitor and control teachers and students,” says a new CIA report highlighted by Steve Aftergood on his Secrecy blog at FAS.
Now SIS is expanding, says the report, which Aftergood obtained and which was drawn from open source materials and is unclassified. Initially the SIS was implemented only at universities that had played roles in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. In the last ten years it has expanded to provincial campuses, lower tier universities, technical schools and middle and high schools, the report claims.
The report lists a variety of organizations that all are part of the system (see below), and details some of its Orwellian elements. “Students have had their scholarships revoked and their academic records penalized because of information provided by student informants that is sometimes highly subjective, such as facial expressions,” says the report. The reports authors liken such denunciations to Orwell's “facecrimes” in his novel 1984.
After the jump, a list of what the report says are different versions of the system:
From the CIA report on SIS, via Steve Aftergood:
Many Names, Same Informant System (U)
Officials at China's colleges and universities have tailored the SIS to fit their own unique needs, and
over time the student informant system has been implemented under a variety of names, including:
• student teaching information system （学生教学信息员制度）
• system for teaching information staff （教学信息员制度）
• student information system （学生信息员制度）
• teaching quality control assistant system （教学质量信息员制度）
• student information coordinator system （学生信息员制度）
• system of teaching informants （教学信息员制度）
• student teaching messenger system (学生教学信息员制度）
• student teaching monitor system （学生教学督导信息员制度）(U//FOUO)
In Chinese, these various names of the Student Informant System are usually abbreviated as
xuesheng xinxi yuan zhidu (学生信息员制度). Student informants are called xuesheng xinxi yuan
People Begin Living Without Electricity And Water In California - Squatters In Their Own Homes (Video)
Video: Candles, lanterns and 10-gallon water jugs
The author claims that 25% of the people in his area are squatting in their own property - presumably meaning they have stopped paying their mortgages but have yet to be evicted.
Click each photo for full effect...
George Osborne’s austerity Budget will push the UK back into recession unless the Government eases up on spending cuts, billionaire investor George Soros has warned.
The hedge fund manager, most famous in the UK for “breaking the Bank of England” by betting against the then-Tory government remaining in Europe’s Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992, said Britain’s austerity measures risked killing off economic growth.
“I don’t think they can be implemented without pushing the economy into a recession,” he said at the World Economic Forum in Davos. “My expectation is that it will prove to be unsustainable.”
Mr Soros’s warning comes just one day after shock data from the Office for National Statistics showed the economy contracted by 0.5pc in the final three months of last year, raising fears of a double dip recession.
Concerns about UK growth were also voiced by Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University also know as Dr Doom. In an earlier session, he said: “Tail risks of outright double dip and outright deflation are lower than last year even if the data in the UK and peripheral eurozone economies seem to suggest that there are risks.”
Mr Soros’s comments are the first really serious challenge George Osborne has had to his economic policy. The International Monetary Fund and credit ratings agencies have thrown their weight behind the austerity budget as the UK attempts to grapple with its vast public debts.
However, there have been rising concerns that the Government does not have a growth strategy. The delayed White Paper on growth, which was due last year, has fuelled those fears.
John Evans, general secretary at the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), told delegates at Davos: “What I don’t see happening and what you need is a medium term strategy to get people into jobs. I see the UK’s austerity as a vicious circle, not a virtuous circle.”
Mr Soros indicated he had some sympathy with Mr Osborne’s plans. “They may have been right in embarking on it,” he said. “The initial reaction has been very positive.” Bond markets have reacted favourable since the June Budget, despite the UK holding the worst deficit in the OECD.
He added that he did not know enough about the UK economy to prescribe a solution, but in discussing the US’s similar debt concerns said more fiscal stimulus was needed. However, he clarified that stimulus measures which target consumption, as Ed Balls has called for, are not effective.
“You need fiscal stimulus, not necessarily for consumption but to improve competitiveness,” he said, indicating that investment in infrastructure is better than tax giveaways. “Too large a part of the stimulus went into consumption, which perpetuated the problem.”
Mr Soros separately announced a $50m investment in the London School of Economics from his think-tank, the Institute for New Economic Thinking, to set up a new programme that will incorporate his theories on reflexivity into economic policy.
Bank of America Ordered to Stop ALL foreclosures in Nevada a non-judicial state - Attorney seeking Possible Class Action Status
The judge ruled they can only foreclose with a judges order, which is only for judicial state foreclosures. The non-judicial states do not need court orders for foreclosing, the companies can simply foreclose after advertising the foreclosure for 4 weeks.
The non-judicial foreclosure states will have law firms and companies which represent the banks and become the trustees for foreclosing. In Nevada that firm seems to be ReconTrust, which handles the foreclosures for banks.
By a lawsuit going against ReconTrust who is handling foreclosures in Nevada for banks, hopefully all foreclosures will have to be stopped, not just Bank of America's foreclosures.
It is amazing how people think the foreclosure crisis is behind us and it is all straightened out, because MSM does not mention it anymore. Yet there is more going on then ever before and more and more rulings FOR THE PEOPLE by judges. Some judges still rule for the banks, but I would think in appeals, the correct ruling by law will have to be applied and thus it should be for the homeowner. I linked a New Jersey ruling below, which was for the bank, yet it went against all laws and rights.
John Christian Barlow, a lawyer who represents North, said the lawsuit claims ReconTrust doesn’t have the authority to foreclose on homes in Nevada. Bank of America and other banks use ReconTrust to seize homes in Nevada, he said. Barlow said he will seek class-action, or group, status for the lawsuit.
In Tennessee and Arkansas I know it is a law firm named Wilson and Associates who become the trustee and substitute trustee to foreclose on people for the banks.
Every state is different and what is a shame is a judge in New Jersey is allowing foreclosures when the note is not available, which says who is owed the debt. I certainly hope the people appeal this ruling by that judge. As that goes against all laws and rules of foreclosures.
Rebecca McFarland, as trustee of the Mary Mullen Revocable Trust, sued New York Life Insurance and Annuity Corp. and its salesmen, John Palmateer, John Palmateer II and Jeffrey Knight, in Broward County Court.
"Systematic and continuous steps were taken by defendants to foster a relationship of trust and confidence with Mullen so that multiple annuity sales and replacements could be consummated and substantial commissions could be earned," McFarland says. "Hundreds of thousands of dollars in premiums were obtained by New York Life from Mullen, who was vulnerable at her advanced age and at all times relevant lacked the capacity to consent to these complicated insurance transactions."
The complaint adds: "Defendants completed the applications and paperwork, filing in the necessary information and then presented the forms to Mullen and simply directed her to sign. In truth, defendants knew or should have known that Mullen could not comprehend the complex products being sold to her, or the forms which were being signed in connection with the transactions and transfers of funds."
McFarland says that the annuities themselves are evidence of the wrongdoing: "Based on her circumstances and condition, these annuities did not meet Mullen's needs, had features that were detrimental to her, caused her financial harm, and were not in her best interests. Mullen was wrongfully influenced and/or her funds were transferred for the purchases of financial products detrimental to her, when all along the primary motivation of defendants for consummating the transactions was commissions and premiums."
In 1994, McFarland, says Palmateer approached Mullen, an 85-year-old widow with dementia and Alzheimer's, representing himself as an expert in insurance and financial matters. She claims he gained her trust by visiting her occasionally, sometimes at the hospital, while concealing her deteriorating health from her family, all of whom lived out-of-state.
The guardian claims that Palmateer collaborated with Mullen's neighbor, nonparty Guido "Jack" Chirillo, to defraud Mullen of her assets.
"At Palmateer's suggestion and direction, Chirillo married Mullen, who was then 87 years old, ostensibly to assist with the care of Mullen," but her family was never notified, and the two never lived together, according to the complaint.
"Palmateer and Knight participated in a series of steps to secure control of Mullen and her money," the complaint states. "To that end, Palmateer became her health care surrogate; Knight (rather than any of Mullen's blood relatives) was designated as the alternate health care surrogate; and Palmateer obtained a power of attorney over Mullen. In addition, Palmateer and Knight unduly influenced and advised Mullen to make changes to remove her nephew as successor trustee, to add New York Life Bank & Trust and Jack Chirillo as successor trustees, and to provide that Jack Chirillo would inherit Mullen's condominium upon her death. To accomplish these changes, Palmateer suggested to Mullen that her nephew was trying to take over her money and put her in a home - none of which was true."
McFarland says the fraudulent activity went undetected for years, and that after she brought these actions to New York Life's attention and requested a full investigation, "a proper investigation did not occur and New York Life failed to take corrective actions."
McFarland seeks damages for exploitation of a vulnerable adult and elderly person, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and undue influence.
She is represented by John Hargrove of Boca Raton.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Buyers purchased the fewest number of new homes last year on records going back 47 years.
Sales for all of 2010 totaled 321,000, a drop of 14.4 percent from the 375,000 homes sold in 2009, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It was the fifth consecutive year that sales have declined after hitting record highs for the five previous years when the housing market was booming.
The year ended on a stronger note. Buyers purchased new homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 329,000 units in December, a 17.5 percent increase from the November pace.
Still, economists say it could be years before sales rise to a healthy rate of 600,000 units a year.
"The percentage rise in sales looks impressive but 10 percent of next-to-nothing is still next-to-nothing," said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, referencing the December increase. "New home sales are bouncing around the bottom and we see no clear upward trend in the data yet."
Builders of new homes are struggling to compete in markets saturated foreclosures. High unemployment and uncertainty over home prices have kept many potential buyers from making purchases.
Home prices fell in November in 19 of 20 major cities measured by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index, and nine of those cities fell to their lowest point since the housing bust.
Economists expect prices will keep falling through the first six months of this year.
Poor sales of new homes mean fewer jobs in the construction industry, which normally powers economic recoveries.
On average, each new home built creates the equivalent of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Associated of Home Builders.
The median price of a new home rose to $241,500 in December, up from a November median of $215,500. For all of 2010, the median sales price was $221,900, up 2.4 percent from the 2009.
For December, sales rose in all parts of the country except the Northeast, which saw a 5 percent decline. Sales surged 71.9 percent in the West and were up 3.2 percent in the Midwest and 1.8 percent in the South.
New York, Illinois and Louisiana are expected to lose more residents than they gain this year.
"We're seeing one of the lowest mobility rates in a century," says Nathaniel Karp, chief economist for banking firm BBVA Compass. Karp says the recession has forced many people to stay put because they are unable to sell their homes, cannot find jobs or are unwilling to relocate for work if it means sacrificing a partner's stable position.
The slowdown makes the question of who's moving and why even more significant than in years past. Using 2010 projections by Moody's Economy.com, Forbes ranked the states in which people are leaving faster than they are arriving. Economists report several overlapping trends that may be forcing people out of certain states as much as they are pulling them toward others.
At No.1 on our list, New York is expected to wave goodbye to 49,000 more people than it gains this year. The state has seen a steady loss of residents over the past five years, losing an average of 100,000 people per year. Karp explains that, because New York is a large state, it may report greater movement than others, but notes that population size is not the only reason residents are fleeing.
"In order to move, you need to be able to sell your home," says Karp. "The housing market [in New York] has not gone through the meltdown that other states have gone through."
While New York homeowners may have a slightly easier time selling their homes and moving to greener pastures, a competing trend is the number of unemployed renters who can no longer afford the high cost of living in and around New York City. Karp says the expensive lifestyle and high taxes may force the long-term unemployed to move on to more affordable regions.
The Prairie State came in at No. 2. Illinois is expected to lose 27,000 people this year, consistent with its average annual loss over the last five years. The losses are likely linked to the state's economy and tax structure. Job losses in manufacturing and industrial machinery are likely pushing people out of the state, Karp says, adding that state taxes have also been "an issue" for many residents.
Midwestern states, in fact, are well-represented in the top-10 list. Nebraska (No. 4), Kansas (No. 5) and North Dakota (No. 9) are among the many central states projected to lose residents in 2010.
The movement may be related to broader structural changes. "For most of the decade people have been moving to the South and Southwest," says Kenneth Johnson, a demographer and professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire. He believes the trend is closely related to life cycle: Retirees are attracted to states with temperate climates, affordable costs of living, good health care and pretty scenery. For these reasons, Florida and Arizona are expected to receive an influx of hundreds of thousands of people this year.
At the same time, young people in search of jobs may move to the regions to work in services and high tech, says Karp. Texas and North Carolina are home to some of the largest public companies in the country, like Exxon Mobil and Bank of America, and are also among the top-five most attractive states this year.
At least two states in the top 10 are victims of unfortunate circumstances. Louisiana (No. 7) and Mississippi (No. 10) are both expected to lose residents this year. In 2006, the year after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, almost 300,000 people left Louisiana and nearly 20,000 moved out of Mississippi. The projected losses this year, though much milder, could be related to the impact of the BP oil spill.
Though specific conditions are pushing people out of some states, economists say more people moving around would be a positive sign for the economy. "Mobility makes it easier to respond to economic cycles," says Karp. "People are still living in places where there are no jobs. That's one of [the] reasons why the unemployment rate remains really high."
Top 5 States People Are Fleeing
No. 1: New York
Projected Loss: 49,000 people
Population: 19.7 million
Percentage Change: -0.25%
The Big Apple may lose more people than it gains in 2010 because of the depressed job market, high cost of living and an ongoing trend of retirees and job-seekers heading to the South and Southwest.
No. 2: Illinois
Projected Loss: 27,000 people
Population: 13 million
Percentage Change: -0.21%
Economist Nathaniel Karp says Illinois' tax structure and loss of manufacturing jobs may be pushing people out of the state this year.
No. 3: Ohio
Projected Loss: 8,900 people
Population: 11.6 million
Percentage Change: -0.08%
Over the last five years Ohio has lost an average of about 30,000 people per year. This year its losses are projected to slow, but remain significant enough to put the state at No. 3.
No. 4: Nebraska
Projected Loss: 5,900 people
Population: 1.8 million
Percentage Change: -0.33%
Nebraska has seen steady losses since 2001. The projected number of people leaving the state this year is particularly high when considering its small population.
No. 5: Kansas
Projected Loss: 4,200 people
Population: 2.9 million
Percentage Change: -0.14%
The Census Bureau reports modest gains for Kansas since 2007. The losses expected this year are similar to those seen in the earlier part of the decade, when the state lost an average of 4,500 per year.
Yannick Chenet, a French winegrower, died after contracting leukemia, becoming the first farmer to have his illness officially linked to the pesticides he used for years on his crops. He is among 40 or so farmers in France whose illnesses have now been officially linked to their profession and the pesticides they have sprayed on the land. More than a quarter of the roughly 220,000 tons of pesticides used in Europe per year is sprayed onto French soil.
Research by the European Union claims pesticides used on fruits, vegetables and cereals harms fetuses and young children. Since pesticides attack the brains of insects, experts insist they’re also “very likely” to damage human brains.
Dramatic deficits in brain function are seen in rural children with long-term exposure to pesticides compared with children not similarly exposed. Contamination has been documented in many studies from populations around the world, with women’s breast milk containing concentrations of lindane, heptachlor, benzene hexachloride, aldrin and endrin all above limits established by the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization.
Children face higher risks from pesticides than adults and need greater protection against these chemicals, particularly in developing countries, according to a joint report published by FAO, the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Children who were exposed to organophosphate pesticides while still in their mother’s womb were more likely to develop attention disorders years later, according to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health.
Findings published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) examine the influence of prenatal organophosphate exposure on the later development of attention problems. The researchers found that prenatal levels of organophosphate metabolites were significantly linked to attention problems at age five, with the effects apparently stronger among boys. The organophosphate family of chemicals damages the nervous system (which includes the brain), so scientists are particularly concerned about children’s exposure because their bodies are still developing. Chlorpyrifos is one of the many insecticides in this chemical family.
Different researchers at Harvard University have also associated greater exposure to organophosphate pesticides in school-aged children with higher rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms.
Reduce and Eliminate Exposure with Organic FoodPresident Obama’s Cancer Panel recommends consumers choose food grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones to decrease exposure to environmental chemicals that can increase the risk of cancer.
The journal Pediatrics published a study that concludes that children exposed to organophosphate pesticides at levels common among America’s children are more likely to develop attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a disorder becoming more and more common in today’s children. Researchers at Emory University  have found that switching children to an organic diet provides a “dramatic and immediate protective effect” against exposures to two organophosphate pesticides that are commonly used in U.S. agricultural production—malathion and chlorpyrifos. The results were published in the September 2005 issue of the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
“Immediately after substituting organic food items for the children’s normal diets, the concentration of the organophosphorus pesticides found in their bodies decreased substantially to non-detectable levels until the conventional diets were re-introduced,” says Dr. Lu, an assistant professor in the department of environmental and occupational health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University.
Twenty-three elementary-school-age children participated in a 15-day study that was divided into three parts. First the children ate their usual diet of conventionally-grown food for three days. Then they were switched to organically-grown substitutes for five days. For the final seven days, they were switched back to conventional food. The organic substitutes were mainly fruits, vegetables, juices and grain products (such as wheat) because these foods are often contaminated with organophosphates. Urine samples were collected twice a day for each child. Researchers tested the urine for signs of pesticides.
In the case of two organophosphate insecticides—malathion and chlorpyrifos—the results were startling. Signs of these two chemicals were found in the urine in the first part of the study. Almost immediately after the children switched to an organic diet, these chemicals could not be detected. The chemicals showed up again when the children switched back to their normal diet.
- Their tendency to explore their environment with their mouths
- Their closeness to the ground
- Their increased time playing outdoors.
- The diet is clearly an important potential route of pesticides exposure in children and adults.
- The small amounts of pesticides present on our food are called pesticide residues. Both adults and children consume these residues regularly to some degree.
- Children’s diets are relatively higher in fruits and vegetables than adults. Thus, they may be at increased risk of exposure from their diet.
- According to the National Research Council, differences in diet between children and adults are responsible for most of the differences in the possible health effects of pesticides.
- Children and infants tend to eat fewer types of foods and eat more processed foods than adults (infant formula, baby food, etc.). There is very little current evidence about the amount of pesticide residues in processed foods. However, the limited available evidence shows that processed foods in general may actually have fewer residues than unprocessed foods.
- In fact, most toxic pesticide exposure in humans occurs from misuse or accidents in the setting of the home or garden.
- Infants may be exposed to pesticides in household dust by skin contact, breathing, and eating of the dust.
- One study has found that pesticide residues may remain on toys, pillows, and other surfaces for up to two weeks after the house has been sprayed for bugs.
- Since children consume more water than any other substance, the water supply is clearly an important possible route of exposure to environmental chemicals.
- Several scientific studies have examined the relative amounts of various pesticides in the drinking water supply in different parts of the country. Except in a few areas where dramatic pesticide contamination has occurred, most studies have concluded that the levels of pesticide in the drinking water supply in the U.S. is extremely low.
- This category would include school, playground, daycare, and commercial settings.
- These settings are probably not as important as the home in terms of pesticide exposure to children. However, exposure is possible in these settings especially if there has been recent pesticide application.
- Agricultural settings may be a risk factor for pesticide exposure in children, especially when one or both parents are agricultural workers.
- Children may be exposed while playing in fields sprayed with agricultural pesticides.
- Also, pesticide residues may be tracked into the home by parents who are agricultural workers.
- One study looked at specific activities that might increase the chances of exposure to children of agricultural workers. These include, a delay in changing clothing after spraying pesticides, mixing pesticide-contaminated clothing with the family wash, applying pesticides within 50 yards of the well.
- It is important to remember that some of the pesticides used in agriculture may still remain on the fruits and vegetables in the supermarket.