Tuesday, June 8, 2010

James Cameron: US shouldn’t be relying on BP’s underwater intel

James Cameron offered to help BP find a solution to their leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico but the company turned him down. Now the Academy Award-winning director is taking his suggestions directly to the media.

"You had a brainstorming session that I understand lasted more than ten hours. Did you come up with concrete ideas in terms of things that can be done right now that can make this situation not worse, but better?" NBC's Matt Lauer asked Cameron Monday.

"We looked at it in sort of three stages. What can we do right now to either slow down or stop the flow of oil and to capture what's escaping? Those were the first two. The third section was what can this group do in terms of having ongoing value in studying the environmental impact to the underwater community and in possibly forming the basis of the framework for a national rapid response team, which we don't seem to have," Cameron explained. "We think, you know, we need to have a permanent group that can come in on day one of a crisis and assist."

"Does the government want to rely on BP or another oil company for all of its intel coming out of the site or do they want their own independent capability to go in and see what's happening? We have that ability, submersibles, ROVs, all kinds of vehicles that could get down there. Why doesn't the federal government have that independent capability aside from the oil company?" wondered Cameron.

Cameron offered one idea for plugging the well. "Our group's recommendation is to go back to the 'top kill' type of process where you get heavy oil drilling mud down the well, build up some hydrostatic pressure. And the way we think you do this is you throttle the well at the surface, you create enough back pressure, which they didn't have before," said Cameron.

The Avatar director told Lauer that he was taken out of context when he reportedly called the people in charge of the spill "morons." The New York Post suggested Cameron was calling the Obama administration morons.

He didn't say who in particular -- BP executives or Obama-administration officials -- he was calling "morons" in a speech Wednesday at the All Things Digital conference in Palos Verdes, Calif.

"I was talking about the BP people, who were out at the scene, trying to control the leak. What I was doing -- it's a classic out-of-context kind of quote," said Cameron.

This video is from NBC's Today Show, broadcast June 7, 2010.

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Doctors 'helped test waterboarding technique on terror suspects in U.S. custody'

Doctors helped to test and refine waterboarding and other interrogation methods on terror suspects in U.S. custody, a prominent physicians group has claimed.

Physicians for Human Rights said medical personnel were used to test the effectiveness of the torture method and 'collect detailed medical information that was used to design, develop and deploy subsequent waterboarding procedures.'

The group has urged the White House to investigate after making the allegations in a report based on the Bush-era interrogation programme.

Activists demonstrate the controversial waterboarding technique. A physicians group claims doctors were used to monitor the effectiveness of the technique

Activists demonstrate the controversial waterboarding technique. A physicians group claims doctors were used to monitor the effectiveness of the technique

Its report was based on a re-examination and new interpretation of records that had been previously released.

U.S. government officials denounced the claims, saying the government did not conduct human research on detainees.

The officials said that such charges and documents have already been made public and were examined by multiple government investigations.

The author of the report, Nathaniel Raymond, said the declassified documents had never been examined with an eye on laws including the Nuremberg Code, established to ban Nazi Germany's medical experimentation.

'We're not writing the indictment here,' Mr Raymond said.

'We're saying there needs to be a search warrant. If the White House does not act on this, it's turning its back on something that could be perceived as a war crime.'

According to the report: 'Medical personnel were required to monitor all waterboarding practices and collect detailed medical information that was used to design, develop and deploy subsequent waterboarding procedures.'

The report said doctors recommended adding salt to the water used for waterboarding so the patient wouldn't experience hyponatremia, a condition of 'low sodium levels in the blood caused by free water intoxication'.

The report interpreted that doctor-recommended practice of using saline solution as 'Waterboarding 2.0'.

It also said information was gathered on the pain inflicted when various techniques were used in combination.

Mr Raymond said the purpose was to see if the pain caused violated Bush administration definitions of torture, rather than as a safeguard of the detainees' health.

Medical personnel also monitored sleep deprivation, with sleepless stints from 48 hours to 180 hours - again to make sure it did not cause prolonged physical and mental suffering, as per those Bush administration definitions, rather than to watch out for harm to the detainee.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano flatly rejected the claims: 'The CIA did not, as part of its past detention programme, conduct human subject research on any detainee or group of detainees.'

The report also raised questions about the Obama administration's new high-value detainee investigation group, known as the HIG. Part of its role is to research new methods of interrogation.

The physicians group demanded clarification, asking whether this meant learning by doing.

Wendy Morigi, spokeswoman for the national intelligence director, said this part of the HIG would look at 'scientific research that would allow for a refinement of current best practices' and 'in no way was suggesting research on the detainees themselves'.

New oil plume evidence uncovered

Click to play

St. Petersburg, Florida (CNN) -- As if the pictures of birds, fish and animals killed by floating oil in the Gulf of Mexico are not disturbing enough, scientists now say they have found evidence of another danger lurking underwater.

The University of South Florida recently discovered a second oil plume in the northeastern Gulf. The first plume was found by Mississippi universities in early May.

USF has concluded microscopic oil droplets are forming deep water oil plumes. After a weeklong analysis of water samples, USF scientists found more oil in deeper water.

"These hydrocarbons are from depth and not associated with sinking degraded oil but associated with the source of the Deep Horizon well head," said USF Chemical Oceanographer David Hollander.

Through isotopic or microscopic fingerprinting, Hollander and his USF crew were able to show the oil in the plume came from BP's blown-out oil well. The surface oil's so-called fingerprint matched the tiny underwater droplet's fingerprint.

"We've taken molecular isotopic approaches which is like a fingerprint on a smoking gun," Hollander said.

Full coverage of oil spill

BP has not commented on the latest development but in the past denied underwater oil plumes exist.

"The oil is on the surface," said BP's Chief Executive Officer Tony Hayward. "There aren't any plumes."

Yet BP's Managing Director Bob Dudley said recently, "We're all absolutely taking these ideas seriously and looking at them."

Scientists on board the university's research vessel Weatherbird II were not able to find the dissolved hydrocarbon or oil by sight. Instead the crew received sensor signatures from the equipment deployed into the water since the plumes appear to be clear.

Are you there? Send us your photos

USF is unsure on the exact size of the plumes.

"There are indications this is fairly wide spread," said the USF oceanographer. "There is probably more than one leg of this plume."

Scientist are concerned what effect the oil, not to mention the dissolvents used to break up the oil, will have on marine life.

Laboratory tests show bacteria have begun eating some elements of the dissolved hydrocarbons. But the effect on fish "is what needs to be understood," said Hollander. "We are in uncharted territory."

Impact your world: How to help

Water samples collected by USF were sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration labs. NOAA has yet to comment on their conclusions.

NOAA and USF will hold a joint press conference Tuesday morning at the university's St. Petersburg campus to release their final findings.

Ice at the North Pole in 1958 and 1959 – not so thick

What would NSIDC and our media make of a photo like this if released by the NAVY today? Would we see headlines like “NORTH POLE NOW OPEN WATER”? Or maybe “Global warming melts North Pole”? Perhaps we would. sensationalism is all the rage these days. If it melts it makes headlines.

Skate (SSN-578), surfaced at the North Pole, 17 March 1959.

Skate (SSN-578), surfaced at the North Pole, 17 March 1959. Image from NAVSOURCE

Some additional captures from the newsreel below show that the ice was pretty thin then, thin enough to assign deckhands to chip it off after surfacing.The newsreel is interesting, here is the transcript.

1958 Newsreel: USS Skate, Nuclear Sub, Is First to Surface at North Pole

ED HERLIHY, reporting:

USS Skate heads north on another epic cruise into the strange underseas realm first opened up by our nuclear submarines. Last year, the Skate and her sister-sub Nautilus both cruised under the Arctic ice to the Pole. Then, conditions were most favorable. The Skate’s job is to see if it can be done when the Arctic winter is at its worst, with high winds pushing the floes into motion and the ice as thick as twenty-five feet.

Ten times she is able to surface. Once, at the North Pole, where crewmen performed a mission of sentiment, scattering the ashes of polar explorer Sir Hubert Wilkins. In 1931, he was the first to attempt a submarine cruise to the Pole. Now, the Skate’s twelve-day three thousand mile voyage under the ice, shown in Defense Department films, demonstrates that missile-carrying nuclear subs could lurk under the Polar Ice Cap, safe from attack, to emerge at will, and fire off H-bomb missiles to any target on Earth.

A powerful, retaliatory weapon for America’s defense.

USS Skate during an Arctic surfacing in 1959. (US Navy Photo)

USS Skate during an Arctic surfacing in 1959. (US Navy Photo)

From John Daly:

For example, one crew member aboard the USS Skate which surfaced at the North Pole in 1959 and numerous other locations during Arctic cruises in 1958 and 1959 said:

“the Skate found open water both in the summer and following winter. We surfaced near the North Pole in the winter through thin ice less than 2 feet thick. The ice moves from Alaska to Iceland and the wind and tides causes open water as the ice breaks up. The Ice at the polar ice cap is an average of 6-8 feet thick, but with the wind and tides the ice will crack and open into large polynyas (areas of open water), these areas will refreeze over with thin ice. We had sonar equipment that would find these open or thin areas to come up through, thus limiting any damage to the submarine. The ice would also close in and cover these areas crushing together making large ice ridges both above and below the water. We came up through a very large opening in 1958 that was 1/2 mile long and 200 yards wide. The wind came up and closed the opening within 2 hours. On both trips we were able to find open water. We were not able to surface through ice thicker than 3 feet.”

- Hester, James E., Personal email communication, December 2000

Here are some screencaps from the newsreel:


Note the feet of the deckhand for thickness perspective


Ice going over the side after chipping

It was that way again in 1962:

Seadragon (SSN-584), foreground, and her sister Skate (SSN-578) during a rendezvous at the North Pole in August 1962

Seadragon (SSN-584), foreground, and her sister Skate (SSN-578) during a rendezvous at the North Pole in August 1962

And of course then there’s this famous photo:


But contrast that to 1999, just 12 years later, lots of ice:

USS Hawkbill at the North Pole, Spring 1999. (US Navy Photo)

USS Hawkbill at the North Pole, Spring 1999. (US Navy Photo)

But in 1993, it’s back to thin ice again:

USS Pargo at the North Pole in 1993. (US Navy Photo)

USS Pargo at the North Pole in 1993. (US Navy Photo)

The point illustrated here: the North Pole is not static, ice varies significantly. The Arctic is not static either. Variance is the norm.

There’s quite an interesting read at John Daly’s website, including a description of “the Gore Box”. Everybody should have one of those.

h/t to WUWT commenters Stephen Skinner, Crosspatch, and Glenn.

See the Skate image archive at NAVSOURCE

The New McCarthyism

By Michael Rivero

Back in the year 1947, the House Select Committee began an investigation into the Motion Picture Industry. Ostensibly the goal was to ferret out communists working in the film industry. But in actuality the US Government was concerned that Hollywood was no longer as blindly supportive of government policy as it had been only a few years earlier at the height of WW2. In particular, J. Edgar Hoover had long held the opinion that the entertainment industry should be the propaganda arm for the government in peace time as well as war.

However, as WW2 had ended, the defense establishment had lobbied for the creation of a "Cold" war against the Soviet Union, a war not actually to be fought, but constantly to be prepared for at huge cost to the taxpayers. This cost was the visible manifestation of the "Military Industrial Complex" President Eisenhower referred to in his farewell address, and many in Hollywood openly wondered just why so much more money had to be thrown into the war machine during a time of peace, and more to the point, just why we were supposed to be so afraid of the communists.

Hoover's desire to remake Hollywood into a gigantic propaganda machine had started at the end of WW1 when Hoover tried to persuade Charlie Chaplin to cease making films that portrayed authority figures as oafish buffoons. Chaplin refused, laughed at Hoover. Years later, as head of the FBI, Hoover was instrumental in having Charlie Chaplin's citizenship revoked in retaliation.

Hoover's mania with Hollywood was a seldom reported but constant factor in show business. The 1959 film, "The FBI Story" starring Air Force General Jimmy Stewart was reportedly directed by Mervyn LeRoy, but in actuality J. Edgar Hoover was personally supervising the film (and briefly appears in it, shown only from the back) to make certain the "correct" image of the FBI was shown.

In later years, FBI informants became permanent fixtures at movie studios, and spied for the FBI. When Disney Studios made "That Darned Cat", a pre-production copy of the screenplay "somehow" made its way to the FBI, which promptly sent Disney a memo expressing concern at how the FBI was to be portrayed.

[That Darned Cat]Click for full sized page. [That Darned Cat]Click for full sized page.

Likewise, when Paramount Pictures produced,"Skidoo", starring Jackie Gleason, it featured a single scene in which Gleason's character is seen fleeing a building marked,"FBI" carrying a file cabinet on his back. That one single scene prompted the following four page memo.

[Skidoo page 1]Click for full sized page. [Skidoo page 2]Click for full sized page.
[Skidoo page 3]Click for full sized page. [Skidoo page 4]Click for full sized page.

Along with "nudging" the film studios to portray certain things certain ways, the FBI did not hesitate to wreck the careers of those people it felt posed a dangerous threat to the government's public image. During the height of the FBI's COINTELPRO program, the FBI destroyed the career of actress Jean Seberg

Jean Seberg was considered a threat to the US Government because of her public support for civil rights at a time when the Civil Rights movement was starting to point out the racial bias in the draft system that placed a disproportionate percentage of black kids on the front lines of Vietnam. Seberg was also a supporter of the Black Panthers in their pre-militant days when their agenda was breakfasts for the ghetto kids, local control of school curriculum, and ending the draft.

Jean Seberg, a well known actress in the 60s, became pregnant and the FBI sent out letters to the gossip columnists identifying the baby's father as a Black Panther, in order to cheapen Seberg's image. Keep in mind that the 60s was an era in which sexual relations between blacks and whites was still considered taboo by most Americans.

The scans below are of the official FBI letter from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. asking permission for the scam.

[Seberg Letter Page 1]letter requesting permission for the smearing of Jean Seberg.

[Seberg Letter Page 2]page two of request for permission to smear of Jean Seberg

The text of the letter:

   "Bureau permission is requested to publicize the pregnancy of Jean
Seberg, well-known movie actress by (name deleted) Black Panther (BPP)
(deleted) by advising Hollywood "Gossip-Columnists" in the Los Angeles
area of the situation. It is felt that the possible publication of
Seberg's plight could cause her embarrassment and serve to cheapen her
image with the general public.

" 'It is proposed that the following letter from a fictitious person
be sent to local columnists:

"I was just thinking about you and remembered I still owe you a favor.
So ---- I was in Paris last week and ran into Jean Seberg, who was
heavy with baby. I thought she and Romaine [sic] had gotten together
again, but she confided the child belonged to (deleted) of the Black
Panthers, one (deleted). The dear girl is getting around!

" 'Anyway, I thought you might get a scoop on the others. Be good and
I'll see you soon.

" 'Sol.,

"Usual precautions would be taken by the Los Angeles Division to
preclude identification of the Bureau as the source of the letter if
approval is granted."

Permission to use the fake letter was granted, but with the suggestion that the smear be delayed until Jean Seberg's pregnancy was in a very obvious condition.

[Seberg Letter Page 1] letter granting permission for the smearing of Jean Seberg.

The story was then run by Los Angeles Times propagandist Joyce Haber.

[Seberg Letter Page 2]Click for full size picture of the Haber Article that launched the smear.

The story was picked up by Newsweek and the international press. The shock of the story was so severe that Jean Seberg suffered a miscarriage. The funeral for the child was held with an open casket, so that the lie stood revealed in its most tragic form. Jean Seberg, her baby dead and her career shattered by this outright lie, attempted suicide several times, finally succeeding in a French Hotel.

[Seberg Letter Page 1] memo that accompanied copy of the Haber story sent to FBI files.

(The name which was redacted from the memo during the FOIA process is thought by many to have been Raymond Hewit, a Black Panther leader. His "outright lie" was far more direct. The FBI typed up a letter on official FBI stationary identifying Hewit as an informant and planted it where other Black Panthers would find it in the hopes that Hewit would then be killed.)

Following Seberg's death, the Los Angeles Times, the key instrument of her torment, issued a statement by the FBI.

   "The days when the FBI used derogatory information to combat advocates
of unpopular causes have long since passed. We are out of that
business forever."

The Senate committee that looked into COINTELPRO disagreed, however.

   "Cointelpro activities may continue today under the rubric of

Finally, no single celebrity filled the government with more fear than did ex-Beatle John Lennon. Lennon's popularity, and hence his ability to influence popular opinion, coupled with his strong anti-war stance, made him a real threat in the event the United States decided it had to go to war. For this reason, Lennon was one of the most watched celebrities, and according to Lennon's youngest son, the victim of a government assassination plot.

[Lennon 1]Click for full sized page. [Lennon 2]Click for full sized page.
[Lennon 3]Click for full sized page. [Lennon 4]Click for full sized page.
[Lennon 5]Click for full sized page. [Lennon 6]Click for full sized page.
[Lennon 7]Click for full sized page. [Lennon 8]Click for full sized page.
[Lennon 9]Click for full sized page. [Lennon 10]Click for full sized page.

Having documented the FBI's willingness to destroy anyone they feel represents a threat to the government, let us return to the days of the House Select Committee on UnAmerican Activities.

While Senator Joseph McCarthy grabbed headlines with his shouts of "Communist", Hoover set about his self-appointed task of purging Hollywood of any he viewed as "disloyal" to the United States, which meant anyone unwilling to make the movies they were told to make, when and how they were told to make them. Senator McCarthy's screed of "Communist" provided Hoover with a bludgeon he could and did use with impunity on Hollywood's creative talents. Careers were ruined. Some 400 people, mostly innocent of any actual wrongdoing, were destroyed. Some, like Jean Seberg would later do, committed suicide. Ten men (the famous Hollywood Ten), Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, Ring Lardner jr., John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz, Samuel Ornitz, Adrian Scott, Dalton Trumbo, and eminent director Edward Dmytryk were jailed for contempt of Congress.

Others punished for refusing to cooperate included Larry Adler, Stella Adler, Leonard Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Joseph Bromberg, Charlie Chaplin, Aaron Copland, Hanns Eisler, Carl Foreman, John Garfield, Howard Da Silva, Dashiell Hammett, E. Y. Harburg, Lillian Hellman, Burl Ives, Arthur Miller, Dorothy Parker, Philip Loeb, Joseph Losey, Anne Revere, Pete Seeger, Gale Sondergaard, Louis Untermeyer, Josh White, Clifford Odets, Michael Wilson, Paul Jarrico, Jeff Corey, John Randolph, Canada Lee, Orson Welles, Paul Green, Sidney Kingsley, Paul Robeson, Richard Wright and Abraham Polonsky. Lee Grant was registered on the black list because she refused to give evidence against her husband Arnold Manoff.

Stars such as Larry Parks were destroyed because they refused to "name names" of other actors who were party members. Actor Philip Loeb threw himself out of a skyscraper window. Edward G. Robinson, never a communist, was put on a "grey list," and spent the rest of his life making B movies (except for his final role opposite Charlton Heston in "Soylent Green"). Sam Jaffe, formerly a well-known actor and Oscar winner in 1950 was registered on the black list because he refused to cooperate with the committee. He spent the next 6 years working as a math teacher and living at his sister's until he was able to return to films in 1957.

Of course, what was really involved was money. War is good for business. Business had been great during WW2 and the newly created "Cold War" was just a way to keep business good. The Military Industrial Complex NEEDED Hollywood to demonize the Soviets. Otherwise, too many people were going to ask why we were being told to be so afraid of them, and few in the government had a really convincing answer for that question. So, in order to perpetuate the Cold War, those in Hollywood who might sympathize with the designated villains had to be removed; their ruined lives a small price to pay for unending access to the taxpayers' wallets.

But that was then and this is now.

Once again vast sums of money are being spent on a war, this time a hot one and getting hotter. Once again parties with a vested interest are out to smear and destroy anyone who dares ask if the wars are worth the sacrifice of our young people (not to mention the money), indeed if there really is any point at all to the wars aside from justifying the flow of money to defense contractors.

But the Soviet Union has gone out of business. The word "communist" doesn't carry the same psychological impact it used to, so the war hawk smear squad has come up with a new one, "Anti-Semite." Like "Communist", "Anti-Semite" is used to ruin the lives of people who have not actually done anything wrong other than to challenge the war profiteers. It is a new word for an old trick, and I am amazed that they are still playing the same old game, but I guess the FBI can always find some dumb-assed idiot to fall for it and do their dirty work of wrecking a career for them.

Of course, it really isn't that new a word. Oddly enough, Charles Lindbergh the famous aviator commented in a speech in Des Moines in 1941...

Our theaters soon became filled with plays portraying the glory of war. Newsreels lost all semblance of objectivity. Newspapers and magazines began to lose advertising if they carried anti-war articles. A smear campaign was instituted against individuals who opposed intervention. The terms "fifth columnist," "traitor," "Nazi," "anti-Semitic" were thrown ceaselessly at any one who dared to suggest that it was not to the best interests of the United States to enter the war. Men lost their jobs if they were frankly anti-war. Many others dared no longer speak.

Today we are seeing once again the heavy hand of the war profiteers trying to reshape the film industry into a tool to propagandize the public into a high war-fever such that they will gladly trade their own blood for gold to line the pockets of the defense establishment. And those individuals who have the courage to speak out are attacked, and once again they are smeared to silence them. In the 1940s it was "Communist", today it is "Anti-Semite", but aside from the particular label used, the methods, goals, and morality are little changed from the days of Joseph McCarthy.

If there is a difference today it is that the American people are better educated. No longer dependent on the state schools, or controlled media, the public understands the tactics used to silence those who speak out. As a result, those who speak out are more and more not only accorded the sympathetic ear that their message deserves, but the effects of the smearing are far less ruinous than in times past.

Thus, when we see people like Charlie Sheen, Willie Nelson, Sean Penn, and Marion Cotillard speak out and survive, it sends a message that it is now permissible to speak out. This is not to say that there are not risks. Rosie O'Donnell lost her spot on "The View", but the majority of Americans understand exactly why, and understand that Rosie sacrificed a great deal trying to get the truth out. Rosie is and will be remembered as a hero for truth long after her co-hosts on "The View" are properly forgotten.

In contrast, of course, we look back at those who aided the "Commie" witch-hunts of the 1940s with deserved contempt. No doubt many aided Hoover purely to rid themselves of competition, and then tried to lull themselves to sleep with the idea that in some way they had actually done something good for the nation by wrecking their neighbors' careers. I have no doubt strong liquor played a role in this grossest of self-deception. But if the informants and smear artists of the 1940s are remembered in a poor light, that should serve as a reminder to the informants and smear artists of today. It does not matter what you do with the rest of your life, aiding the new version of McCarthyism is how history will remember you. While people like Charlie Sheen, Willie Nelson, Sean Penn, and Marion Cotillard (and to step out of entertainment, former President Jimmy Carter) will be remembered and honored for their courage, history will lump the smear artists together with Stalin's "Useful idiots", little more than no-talent opportunists for whom ratting out someone was the fastest path to advancement.

They say that history repeats itself, and indeed that is the major thing wrong with history. We are seeing history repeat itself again. We have been down this path before, in the 1940s. Whether the word is "Communist" or "Anti-Semite", Hollywood is making the same mistake all over again. And Holywood will have to live with that image in the coming decades.

U.S. Banks' Foreclosure Holdings Increased 12.5% in Q1: Report

Foreclosed property held by U.S. banks increased 12.5 percent to $41.5 billion during the first quarter of this year, according to a recent analysis by SNL Financial, a financial market research firm out of Charlottesville, Virginia.

The company says banks’ aggregate foreclosed inventory is up from $36.9 billion at year-end 2009, and $11.7 billion in the first quarter of 2008.

SNL data shows that other real estate owned, or OREO (which essentially means the same as REO and is defined as real property owned by a banking institution, most frequently the result of a borrower’s default and foreclosure), represented 0.3 percent of banks’ assets in the

first quarter of 2010, up from 0.1 percent in the comparable period of 2008.

According to SNL analyst Andrew Schukman, during the first three months of this year, one-to-four unit family properties in the process of foreclosure but not yet to OREO, or REO, status increased 9.1 percent to $78.6 billion. With these repossessions coming down the pipeline, Schukman says OREO as a percentage of banks’ assets will likely continue to grow as additional properties complete foreclosure.

While properties continue to grow on banks’ balance sheets, the type of real estate being reclaimed has changed. According to SNL data, construction and land development properties represented nearly 40 percent of total OREO in the United States as of March 31, up from 24.3 percent in the first quarter of 2008.

Meanwhile, one-to-four family OREO fell to 28.4 percent of total OREO as of March 31, compared to 44.5 percent in the first quarter of 2008.

Other types of OREO include commercial real estate, which made up 18 percent of OREO in the first quarter; foreclosed Ginnie Mae property, which comprised 6.4 percent; multifamily, making up 6.1 percent; and farmland and foreign office, each comprising less than 1.0 percent.

Antidepressants during pregnancy cause alarming 68 percent increased risk of miscarriage

Back in 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that exposure to the antidepressant paroxetine (sold as Paxil, Paxil CR, and Pexeva) in the first trimester of pregnancy might increase the risk for birth defects, especially heart problems. Did this halt the widespread prescribing of paroxetine and other antidepressants for pregnant women? Unfortunately, the answer is no.

In fact, background information in a just published study in CMAJ (the Canadian Medical Association Journal) notes the drugs are frequently used in pregnancy. Almost 4 percent of pregnant women take them at some point during the first trimester — and the result can be tragic. The new research concludes expectant moms taking antidepressants have an astounding 68 percent increase in the overall risk of miscarriage.

Most previous studies on the use of these medications in pregnancy have been small and haven’t looked as miscarriages as a main outcome. But this large study by researchers from the University of Montreal and the Sainte-Justine University Hospital Center (CHU Ste-Justine) evaluated the association between antidepressant use in pregnancy in detail — analyzing classes, types and doses of the drugs and the risk of miscarriage.

In all, the scientists investigated data on 5124 women in Quebec from a large population-based cohort of pregnant women who had miscarried by 20 weeks of gestation. Then they compared their findings to a large sample of women from the same registry who carried their babies full term. Of the women who lost their babies, 284 had taken antidepressants during pregnancy.

All the popular SSRI drugs were linked to miscarriage risk
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), especially paroxetine, were associated with the increased risk of miscarriage. Venlafaxine (sold under the brand names Effexor, Alventa, Argofan, and Trevilor), which is the sixth most commonly prescribed antidepressant in the U.S., belongs to another slightly different class of SSRIs called arylalkanolamine serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and, like paroxetine, it was also especially likely to cause miscarriages. In addition, higher daily doses of antidepressants and a combination of different drugs raised the risk substantially.

“These results, which suggest an overall class effect of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, are highly robust given the large number of users studied,” Dr. Anick Berard of the University of Montreal and the Director of the Research Unit on Medications and Pregnancy at CHU Ste-Justine wrote in the article.

Overall, an astounding number of Americans, some 27 million, now take SSRIs. However, as NaturalNews has previously reported, new dangers from these drugs continue to be uncovered. For example, last December Albert Einstein College of Medicine researchers announced their findings that taking SSRIs significantly raises the risk of strokes and death in women after menopause (http://www.naturalnews.com/027841_S…).

Drugs for Europe: Protected by Powerful Western Interests, Afghanistan Heroin Transits Through Kosovo

Two years ago a joke was being circulated on the Runet that a heroin producer has recognized its distributor’s independence. It was about Afghanistan, which was to the first to recognize the independence of the Serbian province of Kosovo which had illegally separated from Yugoslavia.

Kosovo has since become a transit point for drugs, channelled from Asia to Europe.

A Serbian military analyst and an authoritative expert on the situation in Kosovo, Milovan Drecun says that, according to the Europol and Interpol, the largest amount of heroin is delivered to Europe from Afghanistan via Kosovo. According to some estimates, some 65% of all the world’s heroin is channeled through the former Serbian province; while 90% of all drugs that reach Europe are shipped via Kosovo.

According to the Canadian detective Stewart Kellock, the Albanian drug mafia operates with the connivance of the United States. Mr. Kellock said in an interview that US diplomats prevent the detention in Kosovo of notorious drug traffickers.

The Canadian detective also confirmed that Kosovo’s current Prime Minister Hashim Thaci leads the biggest Albanian mafia clan.

According to KFOR secret reports, the clan owns three illegal labs to process heroin. People involved in drug smuggling into Kosovo hold state offices of great importance in the province, says the Serbian military analysts Milovan Drecun in a radio interview with the Voice of Russia, and elaborates.

The media talks about the ties that exist between the American military in Kosovo and the local drug dealers, but is it really so?

Officially, the Americans are working hard to stamp out heroin production in Afghanistan, but in reality they, namely the CIA, are using the proceeds from the drug trade, including the illegal drug traffic to Kosovo from Afghanistan which is facilitated mainly via the Bondsteel Base, to replenish their secret coffers, at least that’s what American newspapers have recently been writing about. Milovan Drecun reports.

Other reports mention a U.S. connection with a member of the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army and a close friend of Kosovo Premier Hashim Taci who are believed to have been smuggling up to 150 kilos of heroin and cocaine at a time. These criminals were chummy with a café owner close to the Bondsteel Base and were doing business with the American officers there, Milovan Drecun adds.

All this means that, with the help of Western patrons, Kosovo has been turned into a breeding ground for all kinds of drug dealers and other criminals. Or, as Alexis Troud from the Paris-based International Academy of Geopolitics famously said, “A criminal zone run by the Albanian mafia”…

US: North Korea ‘Too Defiant’ for Sanctions to Work

With the Obama Administration pushing for additional UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea, to punish them for their defiance, officials are expressing concern that the government is actually “too defiant” for the sanctions to even work.

As long as the regime doesn’t care about what the outside world thinks of it, as long as it doesn’t care about the well-being of its people, there is not a lot you can do about it,” warned Gates, “unless you are willing at some point to use military force.”

This is actually a long-standing knock on the concept of sanctions in general, as the US has been quick to sanction nations in the past but rarely have they accepted any reconciliation with such nations.

In Iraq, for instance, over a decade of harsh sanctions killed a large portion of the Iraqi population, culminating in the 2003 US invasion of the nation. Even now, over seven years into the US occupation, many of the anti-Iraq sanctions are still in place, ostensibly to pressure them into abandoning a nuclear program that they don’t have.

According to Gates the sanctions are important primarily because “to do nothing would set the wrong precedent.” Yet having acknowledged that the sanctions will harm North Korea’s civilians while doing nothing to change its government’s policy, can it really be justified purely as a face-saving measure for the Obama Administration?

Democrats Skip Town Halls to Avoid Voter Rage

BEL AIR, Md. — The reception that Representative Frank Kratovil Jr., a Democrat, received here one night last week as he faced a small group of constituents was far more pleasant than his encounters during a Congressional recess last summer.

Then, he was hanged in effigy by protesters. This time, a round of applause was followed by a glass of chilled wine, a plate of crackers and crudités as he mingled with an invitation-only audience at the Point Breeze Credit Union, a vastly different scene than last year’s wide-open televised free-for-alls.

The sentiment that fueled the rage during those Congressional forums is still alive in the electorate. But the opportunities for voters to openly express their displeasure, or angrily vent as video cameras roll, have been harder to come by in this election year.

If the time-honored tradition of the political meeting is not quite dead, it seems to be teetering closer to extinction. Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts.

It was no scheduling accident.

With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions. The recommendations were clear: hold events in controlled settings — a bank or credit union, for example — or tour local businesses or participate in community service projects.

And to reach thousands of constituents at a time, without the worry of being snared in an angry confrontation with voters, more lawmakers are also taking part in a fast-growing trend: the telephone town meeting, where chances are remote that a testy exchange will wind up on YouTube.

For incumbents of both parties facing challenging re-election bids, few things receive more scrutiny than how, when and where they interact with voters. Many members of Congress err on the side of being visible, but not too visible, and make only a few public appearances while they are back in their districts.

In New Hampshire, where open political meetings are deeply ingrained in the state’s traditions, Representative Carol Shea-Porter’s campaign Web site had this message for visitors: “No upcoming events scheduled. Please visit us again soon!”

Ms. Shea-Porter, a Democrat, attended a state convention of letter carriers on Saturday, but she did not hold a town-hall-style meeting during the Congressional recess. In 2006, when she was an underdog candidate for the House, she often showed up at the meetings of her Republican rival, Representative Jeb Bradley, to question him about Iraq.

In Iowa, where voters also are accustomed to coming face to face with elected officials, Representative Leonard L. Boswell, a Democrat, provided few opportunities for voters to see him last week. His itinerary included a groundbreaking for a new law enforcement center and a renaming ceremony for a Des Moines post office.

In Maryland, where Mr. Kratovil endured considerable heckling last year over the health care legislation, which he ultimately opposed, he did not hold any large gatherings with voters. After returning from a visit to Afghanistan, he held two events with veterans before arriving at an evening discussion here at the credit union in Bel Air, north of Baltimore.

“It’s dramatically different this break than it was in August of last year,” Mr. Kratovil said in an interview after he finished speaking about financial regulatory legislation. “At town halls, there was a group of people who were there to disrupt, purely politically driven, not there because they wanted to get answers or discuss the issues.”

Mr. Kratovil said seeing voters in their workplace, or in casual settings like soccer fields, actually provided a broader sampling of public opinion than simply holding formal town-hall-style meetings, which often attract only political activists.

An examination of public schedules for dozens of members of Congress last week showed that more House Republicans held open meetings, including several in a series of forums called America Speaking Out, which is intended to help write the party’s agenda if it wins control of Congress in November.

The anger that erupted at meetings last summer — focused, particularly, on the health care legislation — helped draw attention to Tea Party activists. A year later, some of the images are resurfacing once again and will almost certainly be used against lawmakers in television advertisements over the next five months.

Representative Rick Boucher, a Democrat who has represented a wide part of southwestern Virginia for 28 years, has often encountered fierce criticism during his sessions with voters. But he said it was worth listening to the critiques, which often sound nearly identical as he travels across the 23 counties of his district.

“Obviously the town meetings are magnets for people who have a political agenda, but it’s worth putting up with the talking-point-induced political dialogue to get good ideas,” said Mr. Boucher, who was one of the few Democrats last week who did hold a wide-open meeting, which took place Saturday at the high school in Floyd, Va.

“I guess I’m old-fashioned,” said Mr. Boucher, adding that he preferred visiting with voters in person, rather than communicating with them through “tele-town-hall” meetings, a sort of conference call that can include thousands of homes that has been on the rise since the technology was first used in 2006. “I have no plans of changing my approach to this.”

Representative Tom Perriello, a first-term Virginia Democrat, held 21 open meetings last August during the heat of the health care debate. He said that each of the sessions lasted an average of five hours, often ending well after midnight.

“We thought that the best strategy was to let people talk,” Mr. Perriello said. “It was important to stay until people had everything off of their minds.”

Not last week. The meetings were traded for other stops in Mr. Perriello’s central Virginia district, including an elementary school that received broadband Internet through the economic stimulus plan. He also dropped by several businesses, hoping to take the pulse on what he said were the chief issues for his constituents: jobs and the economy.

Without so many lengthy meetings on his agenda, he said he had more time for impromptu encounters with voters. Constituents who were following along received updated information on Twitter, including this bulletin just before lunchtime one day: “Now stopping for a hot dog at Moore’s Country Store!”

Analyst: Buy Barbed Wire and Guns

Anthony Fry, senior managing director at Evercore Partners, said on CNBC this morning, “The current problems will be with us for 5 years or more and uncertainty is very high."

“Look at the current situation. You have Greece, now you have Hungary and huge issues surrounding Spain and Portugal,” he said.

“You can have lower rates and deflation, higher rates and higher inflation or the nightmare scenario of higher rates and deflating asset prices,” he said.

“If the nightmare scenario plays out as I suspect it may then the debt situation gets worse. There is currently no exit strategy and the reaction to the crisis of policy makers remains a big worry.”

“I don’t want to scare anyone but I am considering investing in barbed wire and guns, things are not looking good and rates are heading higher,” he said.

Higher rates and deflating assets prices come about because of stagflation, a problem faced in the U.S, during the late 1970's. Any replay of such a scenario would likely be more extreme, given the current sovereign debt problems.

Evercore has handled over $1 trillion of merger, acquisition, recapitalization and restructuring transactions and is headed by Roger Altman, a former Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.

Zero-day exploit for Adobe Reader, Flash now in the wild

Adobe has announced that an exploitable flaw in Adobe Reader 9.x, Acrobat 9.x, and Flash 9.x and 10.x has been discovered and is being actively exploited. Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux versions are all affected. The flaw allows arbitrary code execution by attackers, and hence it is deemed "critical."

Adobe presently has no fix available. Adobe Reader 8.x is unaffected, as is the Flash 10.1 beta; downgrading Reader and upgrading Flash therefore provides protection against the flaw.

On Windows, removing the file "authplay.dll" (included as part of Adobe Reader and Acrobat) prevents exploitation through PDF files, though this will cause the software to crash whenever it encounters a PDF with embedded Flash content.

Experiments in Torture: Physicians group alleges US conducted illegal research on detainees


(Illustration: Rob Beschizza)

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today released evidence it says indicates that the Bush administration conducted "illegal and unethical human experimentation and research" on detainees' response to torture while in CIA custody after 9/11. The group says such illegal activity would violate the Nuremburg Code, and could open the door to prosecutions. Their report is based on publicly available documents, and explores the participation of medical professionals in the CIA's "enhanced interrogation program." Download the full report at phrtorturepapers.org.

Boing Boing spoke with the lead medical author of the report, Dr. Scott Allen, who is co-director of the Center For Prisoner Health and Human Rights at Brown University, and Medical Advisor to PHR.

Boing Boing: The first thing that came to mind as I read this report is that we're really talking about treating a vulnerable population—prisoners, war detainees—like lab rats.

PHR: Correct. I am a former prison doctor and have conducted some research in prisons. I speak from direct experience in understanding what is allowable, and why there is a rigorous regime of human subject protections, especially for vulnerable subject populations.

Boing Boing: What is the significance of the report you and your colleagues are releasing today?

PHR: This is the first report to describe evidence that the CIA interrogation program not only involved torture, but it also involved human experimentation. That experimentation is related to the role of the "medical monitors," the doctors and psychologists who are directed by policy to monitor torture techniques.

As a framing exercise: if you are an M.D. who is tasked with keeping torture safe, you have a practical problem. Set aside the ethical problem for a moment. How do you know how to do it? We were pretty thorough in thinking through it: we scoured the literature and found what experience was on the scientific record about the effects of these techniques. There's one body of evidence out there from torture survivors, which is in our prior report, "Leave No Marks." Everything in that report points to the understanding that this cannot be made safe. It is all very dangerous, and it's designed to harm, so it's ridiculous to think you can make it safe.

The other body of evidence was the experience of investigators who worked with soldiers. In that program they did limited application of these techniques on volunteer subjects. The mock interrogations never went beyond 2 or 3 days, the waterboarding when it happened was limited to 1 or 2 short exposures, and in a technique that was dramatically different than what was applied to detainees in the black sites.

No one really understands the long or short term effects of these techniques.

So, in order to do the job the medical monitors were given to do, it left them two choices, both of which were awful:

One, they could just wing it. You're talking about techniques that carry high risks of PTSD, but also high risks of physical injury and death (we know that there is public evidence that at least 4, maybe as many as 8 detainee deaths are related to these techniques)—you don't want to wing it. So I think it's certainly possible that while they weren't eagerly looking forward to setting up research they might have been backed into this by saying, let's take notes. That citation we note of Appendix F in the CIA 2004 Inspector General's report, the one that describes the directives to doctors, says, 'Take these notes in a very meticulous way about how detainees respond to waterboarding so we can better inform our procedures in future.' That's describing the framework of a research protocol.

Now, whether they considered it research or not is irrelevant. There are some crimes for which you must prove intent. Human subject protections have no such qualifier. Particularly when there's risk for injury to the subject, you've crossed that line.

We believe it's like alchemy: The US government may have wanted scientists to wave a wand and turn an ordinary object into gold. And the scientist who was asked may have believed that this was possible. But it's not. We say that the idea of trying to make [torture] safe is a fool's errand.

Boing Boing: The Bush Administration called the "enhanced interrogation" techniques "safe, legal and effective." What do we know about their effectiveness? Is it possible to study the effectiveness of torture and compare data to "common sense"? Has anyone done this?

PHR: I don't have expertise in this area. But efficacy of these techniques is irrelevant to the legal and moral issues at hand. If they were unethical for medical professionals to participate, and if they were unethical as legal techniques, whether they worked or not is irrelevant. We didn't try to speculate in this report on that particular question of effectiveness. But even if that was the reason, to say, 'We just want to know if what we're doing works better than rapport-building,' it still crosses the line if they did what it appears they did. It would cross the line into research, and human subject protections should kick in. They should have gone before a human subject review board, and protections should have been put in place. And mind you, we say that knowing that it never would have been approved. It never would have passed muster.

Most importantly, no detainee ever would have given consent. They would have had to receive an informed consent document, 'here's what we're doing, here are the risks to you, you can revoke your consent at any time, sign here.' Come on, detainees are not going to consent to that. There was no way for the medical professionals to do this right.

Boing Boing: Is pain something that we understand well enough that it is possible to create objective thresholds and call one side of the line 'torture' and the other side 'not torture'?

PHR: My feeling, and I think it's a consensus feeling, is that this is one of those areas where lawyers want to pretend that scientists have the answers when they don't. If you review pain literature, you will find that ultimately pain is subjective. You can expose any number of people to the same painful stimuli and their responses will widely vary. There's no way of proving that. The experience of people who work in the pain field says that pretty much, people are very direct and straightforward about reporting pain. So, that variability is well-documented, which makes the task of how you calibrate pain to be a fool's errand. How you calibrate it is to ask them, and their answer is the final answer. You can't research beyond that. The thing that is done is to avoid things that are painful, particularly when they're not being done in the best interests of the person, and beyond that you ask, "does it hurt, are you experiencing pain?"

Boing Boing: Does pain correlate with physical or mental damage in most people?

PHR: Again there is variability. Related to the concept of pain is the risk of the body's response. Even though we tend to separate psychology and psychiatry from neurology and the rest of medicine, they are related in a physical process. There's response of hormone levels to stress and pain that are real physical responses. And there's variability in those as well. And then, on top of that, even for those responses there is variability in who's going to go on to develop PTSD, alcoholism, anxiety, suicidality, uncontrollable anger, all the consequences of trauma we're aware of. In other words, the medical profession is not there yet. We know what risks are and who is at risk. But what the lawyers wanted the doctors to do is be really exact about when the line is crossed. They should have been told, 'Sorry, it can't be done. The risk is very high for pain and injury that would cross the legal threshold, and therefore these techniques cannot be used.' That would have been the correct answer based on the science.

Boing Boing: Sleep deprivation is another widely used technique according to this report, and all of the other publicly available documents on torture. How does sleep deprivation affect the brain in terms of our ability to remember and think logically? Why would interrogators believe that sleep deprivation yields accurate confessions or information, when it has a tendency to make people hallucinate?

PHR: There is extensive study on the effect of stress, which is the common final pathway for all these techniques—there are studies on the effects of acute and uncontrollable stress on the brain, which are not helpful on retrieving accurate information. They seem to have effects on the memory center, in a way that makes people confused.

Based on our limited understanding of the science, this doesn't look like a particularly promising way to get reliable information.

We stuck entirely with publicly available government documents describing this program. They are heavily redacted. Many pages are mostly blacked out, and multiple pages in a row are entirely blacked out. If we found evidence of a crime in reviewing the sanitized record, someone who has access to the full record needs to investigate this.

Boing Boing: How would you respond to questions about whether you can call these actions 'experimentation' if they don't follow the scientific method? Some who support the use of 'enhanced interrogation' techniques might argue that you can't call this medical experimentation if it doesn't follow standard procedure.

PHR: Going back to the "grand-daddy" experiments that prompted all of this, everyone thinks about Nuremberg and the Nazis, but remember that the Japanese also did experiments. That doesn't get mentioned as much because there weren't an equivalent to the Nuremberg doctor trials for Japanese doctors. Just as bad if not worse experiments were committed by the Japanese, involving possibly more people. In those cases, the science was even more sloppy and the record-keeping was terrible. For political or deal-making reasons to close the war they didn't prosecute those, but no one would have disputed that they were prosecutable, and it didn't have anything to do with bad science.

Bad science is not a defense.

We believe it's like alchemy: The client—the US government—may have wanted these scientists to wave a wand and turn an ordinary object into gold. And the scientist who was asked may have believed that this was possible. But it's not. We say that the idea of trying to make torture (or at the very least, a technique designed to create acute, severe, uncontrollable stress) 'safe' is a fool's errand. It's junk science. Bad science does not give you a pass.

Boing Boing: Can you talk a little about the background of human experimentation ethics?

PHR: In the course of history there have been a number of unethical experiments on human populations including prisoners. There were experiments in the past—product testing experiments for cosmetics—there was a book written about that called "Acres of Skin," a phrase used by the chief investigator who arranged those prison experiments. Those were experiments that took advantage of the fact that the subjects, prisoners, were vulnerable easy to coerce into participation and convenient.

That was the type of thing that protections that have been put in place try to prevent. There is a very small and narrow window of legitimate and ethical research. That tends to be when we do things like, for example—if someone is already involved in getting experimental HIV treatment in a clinic, and they get picked up on some charge and they spend a brief time in jail, a few weeks, is it permissible for the investigator to come to the jail and for the subject to continue taking the investigational drug... something like that, it's chiefly in subject's interest, and they would have given voluntary consent.

Boing Boing: Where do you and your colleagues go from here, what are you hoping to accomplish?

PHR: We have provided credible evidence of a crime.

When that threshhold is crossed, it then becomes the responsibility of the responsible authorities to thoroughly investigate the allegations.

In this case, we believe there are a number of people we believe should respond, ranging from the office of human subjects protections to the white house and the Department of Justice. We are making an allegation that we have credible evidence of a crime and therefore that should be investigated by the proper authorties in that area. Obviously Congress; we are going to make recommendations that they look into these.

We reviewed only publicly available documents on this subject. Note that we didn't drift into all sorts of other evidence that may be floating around out there, but can't be verified. We stuck entirely with publicly available government documents describing this program. They are heavily redacted. Many pages are mostly blacked out, and multiple pages in a row are entirely blacked out. If we found evidence of a crime in reviewing the sanitized record, someone who has access to the full record needs to investigate this. And they need to investigate it with qualified people who can look into it with expertise on what constitutes human subjects research, and what constitutes research in general.

This Associated Press story includes an administration response saying that this has been looked into multiple times. It has not.

Abuses have been looked into multiple times. The role of health professionals has been looked into in a broad way. But there has never been any investigation into the question of human experimentation.

The administration is being slippery. Their response, as noted in the Associated Press story on our report, is either not true or there is no public record of such an inquiry that we're aware of. If there was, it's incumbent upon them to share at least a sanitized version that specifically looked at human experimentation.

People have suggested it before. But I don't think anyone has raised a credible allegation with verifiable evidence before.

Boing Boing: Looking even beyond whether an investigation will take place, and whether those who may have committed crimes will be brought to justice, what are the implications of this activity, of America conducting medical experiments on the effects of torture on so-called terror suspects we are detaining?

PHR: There are a lot of implications. As someone who's worked in a similar environment, I get very concerned when people who go into service for the U.S. government—in this case the CIA, and on other topics of torture and abuse we could include those in the uniformed services—are asked to do things like this.

I start with the assumption that these are very ethical people who have good moral compasses and who are not themselves looking to do the wrong thing.

One of the terrible things about this story is that we have directed good people in the service of our country to violate their values and the values of their country. That's a terrible thing to ask anyone to do. For them, we need to review what they were asked to do, and see how it happened, so we can make sure it never happens again.

Ultimately this will not help keep America safer, either. You have to factor in all the costs. It's not clear at all that it worked the way they wanted it to work. And at the same time, the fact that we've been revealed now to be hypocprites about our own values cannot help us in the global struggle for the moral high ground.

Boing Boing: What are the odds that this will result in an investigation?

I don't know.

All I can say is that we have done all we can do as citizens, as a small nonprofit.

We have said that we are reporting evidence of a crime. What the authorities do with that, they will own.

# # #

Every Google search to be logged and saved for two years under new Euro MP plan

Every Google web search could be stored for up to two years under a controversial new EU plan that has the backing of more than 300 Euro-MEPs.

'Written Declaration 29' is intended to be used as an early warning system to stop paedophiles by logging what they look for using search engines.

But civil liberty groups have hit out at the proposal which they say is a 'completely unjustifiable' intrusion into citizens' privacy.

And they claim that there is no evidence that it would even be effective in trapping paedophiles who would never use search engines like Google to look for child pornography.

The declaration would mean that every web users internet searches would be logged and stored for up to two years

Privacy fears: The declaration would mean that every web users internet searches would be logged and stored for up to two years

The declaration, sponsored by an Italian and a Slovakian MEP, claims that it is 'essential to ensure that the internet continues to afford a high level of virtual democracy, which does not present any threat to women and children.'

The motion asks for Directive 2006/24/EC to be extended to all web search engines, which would include Google, as part of a European early warning system for paedophiles.

The directive came into effect in the March following the 2005 London terror attacks and lets EU member states monitor and store personal emails and other internet activity for up to two years for counter-terrorism puposes.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International which campaigns for tougher privacy laws, said: 'Most paedophiles operate through chatrooms and private communication rather than search engines like Google so they would not be affected,' he added.

'The number of ‘false positives’ generated by the proposal would be very high, There would be 100 entirely reasonable searches thrown up for every genuinely suspicious one.


Written Declarations in the European Parliament work in a similar way to Early Day Motions in the UK’s Parliament.

A group of up to five MEPs can submit a written declaration by presenting a text to be signed by their colleagues.

One is only adopted if more than half of MEPs sign up to it.

So far 324 MEPs have signed this declaration and only a further 45 names are required before it is formally adopted.

If the declaration is adopted it is forwarded to the President who will announce it in the EU Parliament

'It would pick up investigations being made by the authorities and the police themselves as well as academics. It would create a lot of white noise which would effectively cripple the police having to look into everything.

'Once the proposal is in place, then governments and authorities will be able to use the information for any purpose they choose.

'It would also be unlawful from a privacy perspective. We have well established laws in Europe that protect private communications. The idea that governments can destroy that protection is unthinkable.'

Some MEPs have already complained that they were not told about any possible privacy issues and the implications of the declaration when they signed.

They point out that the declaration only refers to the directive by its number, 2006/24/EC.

Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikström has complained that she was misled into signing and is urging her fellow MEPs to withdraw their names.

In an open letter to them, she wrote: 'The Written Declaration is supposed to be about an early-warning system for the protection of children.

‘Long-term storage of citizens’ data has clearly nothing to do with “early warning” for any purpose.

Anther Swedish MEP, Christian Engström, has also called on members of the public to contact their local MEP and explain that they had been misled before the declaration reaches the 369 name mark.

Sarah Gaskell, a spokeswoman for Open Europe, an independent think tank calling for EU reform, said the directive raised 'serious privacy concerns'

She said: 'MEPs should have a serious re-think before supporting this declaration which would open up even more of citizens' personal data to monitoring and abuse.

'People already have serious concerns about the EU's role in the erosion of their civil liberties and this declaration would only serve to reinforce those views.

'The Data Retention Directive has been very controversial with some member states refusing to even implement it. Extending it to internet searches as well is very troubling, even it the purpose it is intended for is a good one.'

And Dylan Sharpe, Campaign Director of civil liberties pressure group Big Brother Watch, said: 'Monitoring every internet search is a completely unjustifiable and disproportionate intrusion on our privacy.

'The MEPs responsible for proposing this law under the guise of preventing paedophilia should be ashamed of themselves.

'With Data Retention Directive already in place, this latest move suggests that the EU Parliament is intent on controlling what we look at on the internet.'

One of the MEPs behind the motion, Anna Zaborska, sparked controversy in her native Slovakia after she was once quoted as saying that ‘Aids is God's punishment for homosexuality’.

She has also been attacked for her outspoken views on abortion after she said that she did not believe that women should have them even in rape cases.

The EU motion follows moves by the Home Office last year to use telecoms firms such as Orange and BT to build a database of everyone's phone calls and emails.

Dubbed the 'snoopers charter', the £2bn Internet Modernisation Programme was kicked into the long grass by Labour after anger from civil liberty campaigners.

The coalition document released by the new Government last month was particularly vague about the programme and pledged only to 'end the storage of internet and email records without good reason'.

And it comes after Google admitted earlier this year that its Streetview cars had been inadvertently logging information about people’s online activity.

The internet giant was rapped by the Information Commissioner’s Office which said Google had committed ‘a breach of people's personal data’.

U.S. facing debt 'super cycle': $13trillion black hole to overtake country's GDP 'within two years'

America's $13trillion debt is set to overtake the country's GDP within the next two years as economists warn of a 'debt super cycle.'

Forecasters predict the U.S. debt will grow to surpass gross domestic product in 2012, based on data from the International Monetary Fund.

According to Bloomberg, the world's largest economy will expand at a slower pace than the 3.2 per cent average of the past five decades.

It comes as Barack Obama borrows record amounts to fund spending programs to help the economy recover from its longest recession since the 1930s.

'Over the long term, interest rates on government debt will likely have to rise to attract investors,' said Hiroki Shimazu, a market economist in Tokyo at Nikko Cordial Securities Inc.

'That will be a big burden on the government and the people.'

The forecast prompted warnings the country will be plunged into a debt 'super cycle' - which occurs when a debt exceeds the value of a nation's annual economic output.

Economist Bill Gross, who runs the world's largest mutual fund in California, said last month that U.S. economic growth wouldn't be enough to support the debt 'if real interest rates were ever to go up instead of down.'

The grim forecast follows Friday's disappointing U.S. job figures, which sent the Dow Jones down by 3 per cent.

The figures showed only 41,000 of the 431,000 non-farm jobs created in May were in the private sector.

Today's warning comes as economists predict the break up of the euro within five years.

The dire state of the public finances of Greece and other eurozone members such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland have driven the single currency to a four-year low against the dollar and cast doubts over its future.

The currency started the week by dropping to another new low against the dollar - falling below $1.19 for the first time since March 2006.

In London, the FTSE 100 Index was down more than 1.6 per cent in early trade because of fears Europe's debt problems could spread.

Social Crisis in America. Coming Soon: Corporate Town Halls Against Social Security

In the old days the U.S. government used different tactics to trick the population into accepting policies that only the elite wanted. For example, it took legions of hired speakers (propagandists) to travel the country and to explain to people the “necessity” of fighting WWI and WWII. Movie stars were put on the government payroll, too, dazzling and awe-striking working people into buying war bonds and constantly cheerleading the war effort.

Not much has changed. Although the corporate-controlled media is a highly effective tool to influence the public to accept wars-for-profit (Iraq and Afghanistan), some policies are so unpopular they require the old tactics be revived.

Take for instance Social Security. The corporate-elite have written tirelessly on this subject recently. They agree that it should be reduced, and that you should wait until you reach an older age before receiving it. Working people disagree.

Thus, a series of national “town halls” has been organized to convince people of the “necessity” of this policy (usabudgetdiscussion.org). The stated purpose is to have a national “discussion” to figure out ways to best deal with the nation’s budget deficit.

But instead of the government organizing these town halls, the corporate establishment will – a fact that reveals much about the deterioration of democracy in the U.S.

The group organizing the national town halls is the “non-partisan and non-profit” America Speaks. But scratching the surface of this purportedly harmless group reveals a corporate snake pit. America Speak’s Board of Directors and National Advisory Board showcase an impressive list of corporate CEO’s, CFO’s, consultants, politicians, and elite law firms. Not a single voice from working people is to be found.

Even more revealing are the groups funding the town halls: all private, elite foundations, such as the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Kellogg cereal), and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (John D. was one of the wealthiest men in America when he died).

The Kellogg Foundation is most notorious for spearheading the attack on public education. Along with the Bill Gates foundation and others, the Kellogg Foundation gives vast sums of money to encourage the formations of for-profit charter schools.

The MacArthur Foundation is especially interested in Social Security. On its website the foundation explains its interest in the politics of aging, while giving support to the “bi-partisan” solution being proposed by Democrats and Republicans, outlined in the book, Choosing the Nation’s Fiscal Future, written by a variety of “experts” belonging to different corporate think tanks and other elite groups (www.ourfiscalfuture.org ).

Here is a partial description of Choosing the Nation’s Fiscal Future:

“This comprehensive book considers a range of policy changes that could help put the budget on a sustainable path: reforms to reduce the rate of growth in spending for Medicare and Medicaid; options to reduce the growth rate of Social Security benefits or raise payroll taxes; and changes in many other government spending programs and tax policies.”

Page 112 of the book says:

“Commonly discussed changes to reduce the future growth of [Social Security] benefits include: raising the full-benefit retirement age and the earliest retirement age; reducing the additional benefit percentage for spouses; reducing the postretirement cost-of-living adjustment; increasing the number of years used to compute average earnings; and changing the way initial benefit levels (i.e., at retirement) are calculated so that they grow more slowly than wages for higher earners.”

The book also discusses ways to reduce the cost of Medicare at the expense of Medicare recipients.

These are the ideas that will dominate not only the national town hall meetings, but President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which is a “bi-partisan” group to give Congress recommendations to reduce the budget deficit.

In reality, Obama’s hand picked group is full of anti-Social Security right-wingers combined with corporate Democrats and — most shamefully — the recently retired President of Service Employees International Union, Andy Stern. The conclusions of Obama’s commission are forgone, which is why they will not be released until after the fall elections.

Social Security and Medicare are the two bedrock programs of the U.S.social safety net. They are incredibly popular, having been won after immense social struggle in the 1930’s and 1940’s. It will take another struggle now to maintain and expand them – a fight that cannot be waged within the political party that first enacted the programs.

The Democrats are working hand-in-hand with the Republicans to enact these measures, as they did with the corporate bailouts, Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and years of lowering the taxes of America’s rich — all policies that have created the U.S. budget deficit.

Making phone calls or writing letters to Democratic congressmen will not save Social Security and Medicare, since corporate groups have already written these politicians large checks.

The fight to save these valuable social programs — along with public education, transportation, and social services in general — must be brought to the streets, where working people can unite and demand that the corporations and the rich pay for the crisis they created — through progressive taxation — so that the social safety net can be saved and expanded for the vast majority of people. All labor unions and working-class community groups have a duty to organize their members towards this effort.

Half of Federal Judges Have Conflicts of Interests In Oil Spill Lawsuits

A long standing judicial rule is that judges should not preside over cases in which bias and prejudice may exist. Bias and prejudice exists where a judge may have a financial interest in the case. Where such a conflict of interest occurs, a judge can “recuse” him or herself from the case, which means “remove” him or herself from the case, allowing another judge, who lacks a conflict of interest, to reach a disposition on the merits of the lawsuit. Attorneys for either the plaintiff or the respondent may also request a recusual, where bias or prejudice can be shown.

Research has shown that over half of the federal judges in the districts affected by British Petroleum’s oil spill have financial interests in the oil industry. Consequently, conflicts of interests are present which will make it difficult to find judges who can impartially rule on lawsuits against the oil field companies responsible.

The AP reports: “Thirty-seven of the 64 active or senior judges in key Gulf Coast districts in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida have links to oil, gas and related energy industries, including some who own stocks or bonds in BP PLC, Halliburton or Transocean — and others who regularly list receiving royalties from wells, say 2008 disclosure forms, the most recent available that judges must file.”

Because BP, Halliburton and Transocean are listed as respondents in over 150 lawsuits already filed —certainly there are many more to come— it will be increasingly more difficult to find judges who are able to impartially rule over the case.

Just imagine, though. You are a federal judge among the minority of federal judges in the affected districts who do not directly have a financial interest in the case. However, all of your colleagues, your mentors, and your superiors stand to lose a significant amount of money in their retirement investments depending upon how you interpret the pertinent legislation and the constitution. Also, despite the growing number of individuals directly affected by the oil spill, will more Americans indirectly suffer than the number of individuals directed affected if the court finds in favor of the plaintiffs and judgments that would bankrupt or cripple these oil field giants, where the economy might experience fall-out? Does not actually having your own investments linked with the oil field really mean you are still impartial?

Already, the affected parties are squabbling over who should preside over these cases, the same way that attorneys carefully engage themselves in jury selection. In jury selection, the goal of the attorneys is pick the jurors who are most likely to rule in favor of their clients. Each lawyer is allowed to remove a certain number of the opposing party’s selected jurors. Jury selection has become a science for trial lawyers.

Likewise, so is the selection of judges. Except, the clients represented by the lawyers, and the lawyers themselves, aren’t supposed to be able to pick the judges who are to reach dispositions on the lawsuits. They cannot pick their own judges, but they can attempt to recuse the judges that might rule unfavorably.

Not withstanding the inability to “pick” judges, BP is hoping that U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes of Houston will hear the cases. One does not have to be a genius to know that BP wouldn’t place their hopes in Judge Hughes arbitrarily.

Read the Original Article here.