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UNREAL: Obama Ignored Border Crisis Because it Was a “Local” Issue

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The crisis at our Mexican border just gets worse each day. And what’s disgusting is that this didn’t just happen out of the blue one day – President Obama’s administration has known about the problem for years and deliberately ignored it. I guess he’s just as delusional as Harry Reid. Our illegal immigration problem was

BOMBSHELL: Obama Limited the AMMO of Border Patrol Agents [WATCH]

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As thousands of illegals, many of whom belong to MS-13 gangs and drug cartels, continue to pour into the country, the safety of American citizens is in danger. Some who live in border states have already been experiencing upticks in crime, such as Texas ranchers who have had their homes broken into by criminals illegals. Not

White House and Senate close to agreement on curbing NSA spying

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Reuters / HO

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters this week that lawmakers in his chamber are almost ready to unveil a compromise bill that compliments the USA Freedom Act passed by the House of Representatives in May.

We are very close to finalizing an agreement that incorporates the input of the administration, the privacy community and the technology industry,” Sen. Leahy told The Washington Post ahead of an article published by the paper late Wednesday this week. “These stakeholders are coming together behind my legislation, which will give our intelligence officials clear-cut guidelines, and will let the American people know that their privacy is going to be protected.”

Following last year’s disclosure of previously secret National Security Agency documents — specifically evidence of surveillance programs waged by the NSA against the American people — lawmakers in Washington have floated alleged reform efforts but have largely fallen short of advancing them out of Congress. Then when the House approved the USA Freedom Act two months ago by a vote of 303-121, critics said that the language contained came short of guaranteeing true reform with regards to the spy programs.

But according to those working closely on the Senate version, one of the biggest concerns raised by the House bill is eliminated in the latest draft. Now if its authors can succeed in unveiling the bill ahead of the imminent recess, real NSA reform may soon become a reality.

Of particular issue with the House version of the bill has been language that opponents said would still allow the intelligence community to conduct blanketing surveillance over Americans if approved. Ahead of May’s vote, the Electronic Frontier Foundation — one of the most adamant critics of the government’s surveillance operations — said they “cannot support a bill that doesn’t achieve the goal of ending mass spying.”

In particular, we are concerned with the new definition of ‘specific selection term,’ which describes and limits who or what the NSA is allowed to surveil,” the EFF said ahead of the House vote two months ago.

The new definition is incredibly more expansive than previous definitions,” the EFF insisted, allowing the intelligence community the opportunity to conduct, in theory, “open-ended” searches against any which targets, intentional or not.

In the Washington Post this week, journalist Ellen Nakashima writes that: “The key compromise in the Senate was to clarify the definition of a ‘specific selection term,’ to make explicit that it could not, for instance, mean a ‘term based on a broad geographic region, including a city, state, zip code or area code,’ according to a draft copy of the bill obtained by The Post.” Additionally, she reported, the Senate version specifically says that the purpose of the selection term is “to narrowly limit the scope” of targets sought by the government, and contains provisions that would create a panel that would voice “individual privacy and civil liberties” before the otherwise obscured Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and require declassification reviews of any surveillance court opinions.

Speaking of the Senate version, Leahy said in a statement on Tuesday this week that he’s “far more encouraged that we can finally come up with some legislation that will do two things,” adding that the legislation would create “clear cut guidelines of what [intelligence agencies] can and cannot do” and “let the American people know that their privacy is going to be protected.”

We strongly support that language,” Center for Democracy & Technology senior counsel Harley Geiger, who proposed changes concerning the “selection term” issue before Congress, told the Post. “This is one of the key ways that the bill aims to prevent bulk collection.”

“While there are a number of additional steps that must take place before this critical bill becomes law, we are encouraged by the recent progress in the Senate, and we are dedicated to achieving this Presidential priority of meaningful reform that both increases transparency and enhances privacy protections while maintaining national security,” added the National Security Council in a statement delivered by an agency spokesperson to The Hill this week.

Even if multiple stakeholders say they’re happy, however, Leahy and company will have to act fast before their colleagues conclude this congressional session and head home for recess. The National Journal reported this week that if the Senate bill advances ahead of recess, aides agree that it will only have time to get straight to the floor — which Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) reportedly won’t favor.

“The bottom line is, it’s really still kind of all up in the air as what’s going to happen,” said one Democratic aide close to negotiations told the Journal.

NYPD cops use illegal chokehold on suspected subway farebeater (VIDEO)

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Screenshot from youtube.com video

Videos posted online show two New York Police Department officers wrangling with Ronald Johns, 22, on July 14 while using the banned technique. The officers are also seen punching Johns in the face. Pepper spray was also used in the “struggle” to subdue him, officers said according to court papers.

Johns was pursued by officers for allegedly sneaking through an emergency exit and refusing to show ID at an East Harlem subway station, according to court records first reported by DNAInfo. He was charged with turnstile-jumping, resisting arrest, and trespassing.

Police say Johns “flailed his arms and twisted his body to prevent Officer [Colin] McGuire from putting handcuffs on him,” according to a criminal complaint.

Bystanders watching the arrest can be heard chiding officers for aggression – “Stop punching him!” one man shouts – while others pleaded with Johns to allow officers to apply handcuffs to his wrists.

“He was standing here. That’s f*cked up,” one woman can be heard saying. “F*cked up. That’s f*cked up.”

NYPD Internal Affairs are reportedly investigating the incident. The two officers in the case say they were injured in the process of the arrest and were on medical leave as of Wednesday, CBS New York reported.

Johns was eventually released without bail and is due to face charges in court in September.

The incident was reminiscent of the chokehold NYPD officers applied to Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died on July 17 in the process of his aggressive arrest for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally. The city medical examiner has yet to determine whether the chokehold applied to Garner – who suffered from acute asthma – was the cause of his death.

Garner’s funeral was held on Wednesday at a Brooklyn church, where police misconduct and racial motivations involved in episodes of police brutality were at the forefront, Reuters reported.

“We are going to march until we no longer have to come to funerals for this reason,” Bishop Victor Brown of Staten Island’s Mount Sinai United Christian Church said to an approving congregation at Bethel Baptist Church.

“We are going to continue to march until there is drastic reform of the policy of the New York City police department so that when police officers show up in our community we will no longer have to fear for our lives and run from their presence.”

NYPD police commissioner Bill Bratton has said he did not think race was a factor in Garner’s violent arrest. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio – who called Garner’s death a tragedy – hired Bratton in the course of supposed efforts to mend relations with black and Latino communities disproportionately targeted by the city’s stop-and-frisk policy, which was deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge last year.

“We’re going to do more than just a review of Staten Island,” Bratton said Tuesday. “The department needs to do a lot — a lot — in the area of training.”

Yet Bratton’s young term as commissioner has done little to curb criticism of the NYPD’s methods, and the death of Garner, 43, seems to have further inflamed long-standing tensions.

“Let’s not play games with this,” activist and television personality Rev. Al Sharpton said during Garner’s service. “You don’t need no training to stop choking a man saying, ‘I can’t breathe!’ You don’t need no cultural orientation to stop choking a man saying, ‘I can’t breathe!’ You need to be prosecuted.”

Though chokeholds have been banned by the NYPD since 1993, the Civilian Complaint Review Board announced over the weekend that there have been 1,022 complaints about the technique’s use between 2009 and 2013.

Israeli PM: Obama Just Gave the Terrorists a “Huge Victory” [VIDEO]

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President Obama hasn’t exactly been shy about his disapproval of Israel’s military operations designed to take out the Hamas terrorist organization. As soon as tensions began to rise with the murder of three Jewish teenagers, Obama was all over Israel, demanding that they use “restraint” against terrorists who were murdering their children and launching rockets

Bill O’Reilly Finally Says It… Obamacare is “Socialism” [WATCH]

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Obamacare is an absolute mess, and that’s one thing that people on both sides of the aisle are slowly coming to agree on. Federal courts issued conflicting rulings this week on the health insurance subsidies portion of the Affordable Care Act, with one decision saying that the government can’t provide these subsidies due to the

Michelle Fields to Juan Williams: How About YOU House the Illegals? [WATCH]

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Liberals pride themselves on being “bleeding hearts,” individuals full of compassion who want to use their power and influence to take care of all the “little people.” While this might sound warm and fuzzy, the means by which liberals and progressives want to carry out their compassion is by forcing other people to pay for

WATCH: Trey Gowdy Was “Thrilled” to Rip the IRS Chief to Pieces [VIDEO]

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Rep. Trey Gowdy has become a champion for conservative Americans all across the country, and for good reason. He is one of few individuals in the cesspool of Washington that truly desires to serve his constituents, uphold the Constitution, and hold corrupt government officials accountable for their actions. Gowdy is once again in the spotlight

WATCH: Ben Carson Perfectly Why We Have the 2nd Amendment

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Liberals often misunderstand those who stand strongly in support of the right of all Americans to keep and bear arms as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Often, that is because defenders of gun rights argue in the context of self-defense against violent criminals–a legitimate use of legal firearms, of course, but not the primary

WATCH: Tens of Thousands Attend Funeral of Soldier Who Died Fighting for Israel

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As pressure builds in the international community for Israel to cease ground operations against the radical Islamic Hamas terrorists in Gaza, some Americans, recognizing the danger the Jewish nation faces, are volunteering to put their lives on the line and joining the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF calls these brave men and women “lone soldiers.”

Cameron claims export licenses allowing UK arms sales to Russia don’t breach embargo

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Prime Minister,  David Cameron, denies the UK has breached the government's arms embargo on UK arms sales to Russia. (Reuters / Luke MacGregor)

The embargo was enacted “with immediate effect” on March 18 by then-Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Heated criticism of British arms deals with Russia emerged after a group of MPs revealed over 200 licenses allowing the sale of British military equipment to the Russian Federation. These revelations surfaced in a report published on Wednesday, conducted by four separate House of Commons committees.

The Committee on Arms Export Controls’ hard-hitting review contradicted a public statement by David Cameron on July 21. The Prime Minister had indicated the government had enforced an absolute arms embargo against Russia.

Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Cameron called for an outright EU-wide ban on arms sales to Russia, claiming such an embargo was already in place in Britain.

“Future military sales from any country in Europe should not be going ahead,” the Prime Minister told Westminster MPs. “We have already stopped them from Britain,” he claimed.

But the Commons committees’ report contradicted Cameron’s claims. The review carefully scrutinized controls on Britain’s arms exports to Russia, revealing 251 export licenses for the sale of controlled goods to the Russia Federation worth approximately £132m.

The report confirmed a mere 31 licenses covering UK arms sales to Russia had been suspended or revoked, while the Russian Federation had only been banned as a permitted export destination in three cases since the embargo, announced by Hague, was enacted.

According to the committees’ findings Britain is selling equipment for controlling and launching missiles, components for military aircraft and rockets, sniper rifles, small arms ammunition, body armor, military communications technology, night sights for weapons and certain missiles.

Despite vehement criticism following the report, the government insists the terms of its embargo on arms exports to Russia has not been compromised or contravened.

“I believe that we have been consistent with the terms of the arms embargo that we set out, which was principally aimed at Russian armed forces and the use of goods and involvement in Ukraine. But we’ll look very carefully at all outstanding licenses to make sure that’s the case and of course if it is not the case then we will want to act very, very swiftly,” Cameron said.

The Chair of the Committee on Arms Export Controls Sir John Stanley, said the few terminated licenses reflected the “circumscribed” terms of the embargo, which only referenced equipment that could be used against Ukraine. Russia’s wider defense requirements remained unaffected, he cautioned.

Sir John has written to Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, inquiring whether the Government had compromised or broadened their policy of exporting arms to Russia.

“We need to know what the Government policy is. The situation in eastern Ukraine has got worse and of course we have this appalling tragedy of the Malaysian airliner”, he said.

Stanley concluded that a more cautious policy with respect to UK-Russian arms deals is required.

Previously, Britain’s new Defense Secretary Michael Fallon, said Britain does not export arms to Russia “that could be used for internal repression.”

Fallon claimed Britain has “one of the strictest arms sales policies in the world. We don’t sell arms to countries that might use them internally, or might use them to cause regional instability.”

But MPs have called for stricter controls on weapons sales to “authoritarian regimes” – emphasizing that over 3,000 export licenses for arms deals worth £12bn have been approved for 28 states criticized by the UK’s Foreign Office for their unacceptable human rights records.

Such states include Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sri Lanka.

‘West projects Russia’s Soviet past onto the situation in Ukraine’

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A part of the fuselage of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is pictured in a field near the village of Grabove, in the Donetsk region, on July 23, 2014 (AFP Photo / Bulent Cilic)

Russia’s past, when it was pilloried as a totalitarian state, is still projected onto the present day, because people do not have an accurate understanding of what is going on, Kent said.

RT: When flight MH17 crashed, leaders in the US and the EU immediately pinned the blame on Russia. Is the media being encouraged by them?

Neil Kent: I would rather say that the media has its own agenda, to have a good story and have a priori convictions. For example, I noticed in the last few days that one of the Pussy Riot women was writing about this whole tragedy. To have Pussy Riot write a cool analysis of such an event seems to me like having Assange write about the Swedish legal system. That sort of polemic is not what is needed to understand what has happened in such a tragedy.

RT: A couple of days ago, the US State Department said the American military would provide conclusive evidence. How decisive is the intelligence made public so far?

NK: To say it in one word, inconclusive. I did jury duty in England a while ago and it was a case of someone stealing a rubber duck. It took a fortnight to get to the bottom of that. If it took two weeks to get to the bottom of someone stealing a rubber duck from a garden center how much longer would it take to get to the bottom of such a difficult situation? I think, having conclusions on the basis of films, videos, recordings, and deciding virtually immediately who the culprit is, is not the way to go about it. At Cambridge where I am based cool analysis is considered extremely important.

RT: Most of the accusations target Russia and Vladimir Putin. Why do news outlets think Moscow has such close ties to the militias in east Ukraine?

NK: I think there are certainly those in the media who want sanctions, and there are those in government who want sanctions. One of the things that intrigued me is that amongst the old traditional English establishment, centered around St James’s in London, pillar of industry and land owners, people have come up to me rather sheepishly saying why is everyone attacking and demonizing Russia? And I do not have a simple answer to that. I do not see why it is happening because I do not see that as a useful way of analyzing the situation or achieving happy results and compromises for everybody concerned.

RT: In your opinion, could all this media hype help those in the EU pushing for the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia?

NK: Unfortunately in England there is what one of our Cambridge group calls “historic attention span deficit syndrome”, and by that they mean that people don’t have an accurate historical background to the whole situation. And since, for quite a long time Russia (in the Soviet period and even tsarist phase) has been pilloried as being an absolute dictatorial, vicious, totalitarian system. I think it is projected onto the present day, because people do not have an accurate and objective understanding of what is going on. There is not often a cool analysis of the situation in Russia on the ground or indeed in Ukraine, in Crimea.

RT: Why do you think Kiev’s military operation in eastern Ukraine is being praised by Western leaders and the media?

NK: One has to look back at the Orange revolution in Ukraine, the so-called Arab Springs all over the Arab world, none of which turned out to be a spring, they’d turned out to bring a new winter with the elimination of Christians from large swathes of the Middle East, and death and destruction. Part of that is caused by ignorance with the situation and an incredible naivety. People would like to imagine that in foreign cultures, particularly in England and America, people have the same values and react the same way they do at home. And they somehow project there the new American Revolution, the tide that happened in 1774 in the US as a result of a coup. This wonderful new idyllic state will rise up from the ground and lambs and the lions will live in harmony ever after. And I think it is sad, because I will never forget how at the beginning of this situation I heard the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church saying to people: “Please, everyone, all my flock, in Ukraine, in Russia, wherever you are, do not take up arms against one another, sit down and speak to one another and negotiate.” Somehow a lot of people in England, in the US, but I do not think it is everywhere in the EU like that, somehow had the naive idea that these coups would take over everywhere, only good people, moral people would be involved, there would not be near-Nazis, there would not be horrid totalitarian people. And unfortunately that has turned out.

‘Welcome to Aerospace’: NASA lacks funds for deep-space rocket

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Image from nasa.gov

Just three-and-a-half years away from the initial launch date, NASA’s “flat funding profile” put its Space Launch System (SLS) “at high risk of missing the planned December 2017 launch date for the EM-1 initial test flight,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) warned in a report on Wednesday.

According to the GAO, SLS represents not only a “significant portion” of NASA’s planned budget for major projects during that period, but “also a significant portion of government wide launch-related research and development funding.”

The GAO estimates that the current shortfall stands at $400 million, with NASA’s launch system officials telling the auditors there is a 90 percent chance of not hitting the launch date on time.

Despite the funding shortfall, the auditors say that the highly technical challenges associated with those SLS “appear manageable” and that NASA is “making solid progress” on the rocket program design.

NASA is working on the problems the GAO highlighted, but argues delaying launch or siphoning money from other programs would harm taxpayers, NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier wrote in the agency’s response.

“Welcome to aerospace,” Pace said, adding that large space projects often over run initial budgets by up to 50 percent. He said that “is why you shouldn’t believe initial cost estimates.”

SLS is NASA’s, the agency’s first exploration-class heavy lift launch vehicle in over 40 years, will expand NASA’s exploration capability to include crewed flights beyond Earth’s orbit. It is designed to launch the agency’s Orion capsule, which could carry astronauts to the moon, asteroids and other deep-space locales.

The first version of SLS will stand at 321 feet, have a diameter of 27.6 feet, and carry a payload of up to 70 metric tons. A nevolved version of SLS will be capable of blasting 130 metric tons into space, making it the most powerful rocket ever build, officials say.

Ukraine’s Government Collapses

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7.24.14 –   Ukraine’s Government Collapses As if Ukraine was not struggling through enough turmoil currently, Bloomberg reports that the fragile coalition government has collapsed after two parties quit. The UDAR and Svoboda parties said they’d leave the government and seek … Continue reading

MH17 tragedy: 12 unanswered questions

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A local resident walks past debris at the site where Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near Petropavlivka village in the Donetsk region July 23, 2014 (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

On what grounds did the Ukrainian authorities blame the crash on Donetsk militias immediately after the tragedy?

Why didn’t Ukraine close the air space over the conflict zone for civilian flights, especially given that the area is not entirely covered by radar navigation systems?

Why did Ukrainian air traffic controllers allow the airplane to deviate from the standard flight path towards the conflict zone?

Questions over why Malaysian plane flew over Ukrainian warzone

Why did Ukrainian security services start working with the recordings of communications between air traffic controllers and MH17 crew, and with data storage systems from Ukrainian radars before international experts arrived?

Will the investigation have access to tracking data on movements of Ukrainian warplanes on the day of the incident?
What was the mission of the combat aircraft that moved close to the MH17 minutes before the crash?

What was the mission of the combat aircraft that was circling over the crash area for 4 minutes immediately after the crash?

Given that militias have no aircraft, for what purpose did Ukraine deploy several battalions of Buk-M1 anti-aircraft systems close to the area of hostilities days prior to the air crash? Why were they withdrawn the day after the incident?

Can Ukraine share all the details of these deployments?

10 more questions Russian military pose to Ukraine, US over MH17 crash

Can Ukraine confirm that internet pictures allegedly showing a Buk system, with one missing missile, being transported in the town of Krasnodon close to the Russian border were actually made at Krasnoarmeysk, a town under control of Ukrainian forces since 11 May?

Is Ukraine prepared to provide the investigation with an inventory of their air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles?

Is the United States prepared to share pictures taken from their intelligence satellite that was over Ukraine for 15 minutes, including at the moment of the crash?

Why did it take so long for Ukraine to establish an investigation commission?

Custody deaths: Britain’s Police brutality most pertinent for black communities

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Family members of Mark Duggan release doves during a vigil for him outside Tottenham Police Station in Tottenham, north London January 11, 2014 (Reuters / Neil Hall)

His death sparked riots in Tottenham which spread nationwide.

It is important to remind ourselves at this point that at the time the establishment and mainstream media did their best to ignore the role the police ultimately played in the events leading up to the riots, not only in with the death of Duggan, but also with the willful incompetence they showed in failing to communicate with the Duggan family following Mark’s killing. The lack of respect afforded the Duggan family is systemic of a wider culture of institutionalized racism which was acknowledged following the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in 1993.

It is also important to remember that as the riots began to spread, the media and their friends in government sidelined any of the political and socio-economic factors which contributed to the disturbances, and instead explained away the phenomena with a neat little phrase which was quickly parroted throughout the media. The riots were simply a result of ‘pure criminality’ David Cameron said. As if people wake up in the morning and decide to burn their communities to the ground, with no chain of events beforehand, and this is before even considering the very real political history of certain areas in London, like for example Broadwater Farm.

Mark Duggan is one name among many thousands of others who over the last few decades have lost their lives while in the custody of the police, often in extremely controversial and suspicious circumstances.

This case of Mark Duggan however, marked a dangerous precedent, as despite the controversy and doubt over the stark inconsistencies in the Met’s version of events, a judge ruled that Duggan’s killing was “lawful.” The Duggan family is challenging this verdict.

Deaths in custody are a particularly pertinent and sensitive issue for Britain’s black communities. Despite making up only a small minority percentage of the population, if you are black and born in Britain you are more likely to die at the hands of the police.

Disproportionate levels of force are used by the police when dealing with Britain’s black communities, and it is no secret that this pattern of excessive force is also prevalent within the mental health system, part of an overall culture where many from black communities find themselves disproportionately brutalized with excessive force and detained under the mental health act even when displaying the same behavior as white people.

In fact as film maker and academic Nathan Edward Richards described it “Asked why, mental health professionals indicate that although black patients exhibit similar psychological stresses and symptoms as white patients, health professionals perceive these symptoms as more threatening, to themselves and to the community, this is not based on their actual interactions with individual patients, but on notions of violent and threatening blackness, perpetuated in mainstream media, and the historical narrative that has informed the field.”

It is also true that black communities are over represented in the prison system; a system which like the US is becoming increasingly privatized. When we consider that overall crime is falling, prisons for profit are dangerous. They need to be full in order for shareholders to make money. Often as a result, we see the police criminalizing the most vulnerable. The high stop and search rates among black people is a disgrace, but you can bet your bottom dollar that you will never see the police stopping men in suits in Westminster despite the evident corruption. No doubt were they to stop and search the political class they would probably find plenty of class A drugs, more than they would find elsewhere.

Many in the right-wing media suggest that black and brown people have a genetic disposition to criminal behavior, the Daily Mail for example often using phrases like ‘knife crime’ and words like ‘urban’ as code words for what they perceive to be black culture in order to stigmatize certain communities, some of whom often live in some of the worst possible social conditions.

The same right-wing individuals and newspapers, just as they spew their lies about immigrants, Muslims, so-called benefit scroungers, ignore race, and ignore the role of the police in contributing to these problems.

Despite the political establishment’s attempts to remove the racial politics from the issue of deaths in custody, to try to frame the case of Mark Duggan in isolation, and to ignore the socio-economic factors which led to the riots, and also the increasingly disturbing behavior by many in the police at public demonstrations, it has become apparent that in the same way systemic and endemic corruption is at the heart of the political establishment’s failings, the same can be said of the police. As well as the noted corruption brought to light concerning how Britain’s undercover police often operate, according to fairly recent reports the upper ranks of the police are just as tainted.

The social conditions which undoubtedly acted as fuel for the riots in 2011 remain. Government cuts are continuing to bite. Relations between Britain’s police and the communities they are supposed to serve remain fragile and estranged.
There is absolutely no reason to think that at some point we will not see a repeat of 2011. The anniversary of Duggan’s killing approaches, and we now understand the wider backdrop.

There will be many people hitting the streets too, protesting the government’s actions and also inaction, as more and more of the reality we face as a collective community breaks the surface.

More than ever before we need to call for a reformed police force and IPCC. It will not happen by magic, and we simply cannot wait for another black man, or anyone for that matter to die in police custody before we demand it, and we certainly cannot wait for the next lot of riots to spark. Reforming the police must be our goal, and it starts with a real conversation about their failings and what causes them.

Richard Sudan for RT

Richard Sudan is a writer, political campaigner, and poet. He tweets @richardsudan

Journalist captured in E. Ukraine released, RT stringer remains hostage

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Graham Phillips (Photo from grahamwphillips.com)

The RT stringer was among 4 people taken hostage in besieged Ukraine’s Donetsk – report

ANNA news agency cameraman, Vadim Aksyonov, has been released while RT contributor Graham Phillips, a UK national, is being held captive, ANNA news told RT.

According to the ANNA news press service, Aksyonov who was released about 3 hours ago is in “terrible state” as he hasn’t slept for a day and was tortured.

The journalist told RT how he and his colleague – RT contributor Graham Phillips were taken hostages.

“We were captured in [Donetsk] airport. Graham [Phillips] ran to the parking, I ran after him. Then we were taken by people with guns,” Aksyonov told RT.

Vadim Aksyonov said he is sure that the Ukrainian army was behind their kidnapping as they were wearing its insignia.

When they were taken to the cells at some checkpoint, they were tortured and beaten, he added.

“At first we were kept together, then separately. I heard him [Phillips] screaming from pain and he heard me screaming, too,” he told RT.

According to Aksyonov, their captors then took them somewhere. He heard that Phillips was dropped in the city of Krasnoarmeisk, in the Donetsk Region of eastern Ukraine.

Aksyonov thinks that Graham Philips might be taken to either Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, or Zaporizhie, a city in southern Ukraine which borders on the Donetsk Region, or to the city of Uzhhorod in western Ukraine.

The agency still hasn’t reveal the fate of two other hostages – an employee of the press service of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, and possibly an acquaintance of Phillips, who accompanied the journalist to the airport.

Phillips has been reporting about the developments in Ukraine for several months now. According to research from Brandwatch social networks monitor, he has become the most popular author in Twitter reporting on the situation in Ukraine.

It is not the first time, the RT contributor has been taken hostage. He was detained once at a checkpoint in Mariupol and held captive by Kiev military for over 36 hours in May.

Journalists from a range of media outlets have come under fire, some of them even detained, during the conflict in eastern Ukraine. There have also been reports that Ukrainian troops have fired at people with cameras, as well as people wearing press vests.

Russian journalists have been captured by Kiev’s forces throughout the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

In June, journalists from Russia’s Zvezda TV channel spent two days in captivity, after being detained by the Ukrainian National Guard.

In May, two LifeNews journalists were taken hostage for two days by the National Guard, prompting an online #SaveOurGuys campaign.

Several journalists have also been killed while covering the unrest in eastern Ukraine.

In June, a Russian cameraman from Channel One TV, Anatoly Klyan, was shot by Kiev forces in Donetsk. Also in June, Rossiya TV journalist Igor Kornelyuk and his colleague, sound engineer Anton Voloshin, were killed in shelling near Lugansk.

In May, Italian journalist Andrea Rocchelli and his Russian interpreter Andrey Mironov were killed when they were caught in a mortar attack close to the village of Andreevka, a couple of kilometers from Slavyansk.

MAJOR ANOTHER PLANE DISAPPEARS!!!!` THE DOW POISED TO DROP 3000

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ANOTHER PLANE GONE!!!! WHAT IS GOING ON!

Please forgive me in the video below I had just woken up about 5 minutes ago and came to find out that another plane had disappeared. Not only had the plane disappeared but there are reports of it being downed. We will have to wait until further details come out. Details are taking awhile to come out, the plane went down sometime late on Wednesday and wasn’t reported for hours! Flying is getting out of hand, that’s two in one week.
http://youtu.be/eRttJiQiQMA

Islamic State militants turn conquered Syria/Iraq territories into jihadist tourist paradise

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An image made available by the jihadist Twitter account Al-Baraka news on June 11, 2014 allegedly shows militants of the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waving the Islamic Jihad flag and holding up their weapons as a vehicle drives on a newly cut road through the Syrian-Iraqi border between the Iraqi Nineveh province and the Syrian town of Al-Hasakah (AFP Photo / HO)

Islamic State orders genital mutilation of Iraqi women – UN

The sphere of influence the Iraq and Al Sham militants control, as of June, stretches through large swathes of northern and eastern Syria, as well as parts of northern and western Iraq.

Now a quite lucrative tourist trade operates without borders or ID cards, with its jihadist bus flying the black flag and ferrying fighters across the conquered lands.

AFP spoke to a number of rebels and activists by phone, who explained how the business venture works.

Many of the vacationing jihadists are from abroad. According to an activist, a Chechen was among the first. The 26-year-old Abu Abdel Rahman al-Shishani recently got married to a Syrian, whom he took on a honeymoon to Anbar.

“These jihadists are very romantic,” Hadi Salameh, the activist, told the news agency, adding that she sat in the back of the vehicle, as is customary. The lovebirds listened to jihadist songs as their bus took off from Tal Abyad, on the border with Turkey, and headed towards Iraq’s Anbar.

“You can get off wherever you want, and you don’t need a passport to cross the border,” Salameh, who is a Raqa resident and uses a pseudonym, continued.

ISIS surge: Over 270 killed in Syria, former US base stormed in Iraq’s Tikrit

“Of course it’s not free,” he said of the tours. Prices vary depending on distance traveled.

Speaking to AFP by phone, one Syrian rebel said that the foreigners among the jihadists “communicate in English and wear the Afghan-style clothing preferred by the jihadists.”

“There is a translator on the bus, who explains to them where they are going. The men on the bus are not armed, but vehicles carrying armed escorts accompany the bus,” Abu Quteiba al-Okaidi said.

Another activist, Abu Ibrahim al-Raqawi, told the agency that “tour buses run twice a week, on Wednesday and Sunday. It works like any bus company would, except that it treats areas under Islamic State control in Iraq and Syria as one state.”

“Many people living in this area (northern Syria through western Iraq) have tribal ties stretching across the border. So they use these buses to visit their families,” he told AFP over the internet, adding that others use it “to do business, while some just want to take a break from the shelling in Syria.”

Convert, pay or die: Iraqi Christians flee Mosul after Islamic State ultimatum

The Islamic State has gained significant ground in both Syria and Iraq after its initial assault on the city of Mosul in mid-June. The group has since declared the creation of an Islamic state, or caliphate, straddling the Iraq-Syria border. Its presence continues to hang over the Iraqi capital Baghdad, although it seems to have halted after capturing key Sunni areas.

The group is famous for torture, public punishments and executions of anyone so much as daring to deviate from the strict form of Islam it propagates.

Al-Qaeda offshoot in Iraq offensive LIVE UPDATES

Russian Boomerang Hits UK, Oligarchs Shift Assets From London

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7.24.14 –   Russian Boomerang Hits UK, Oligarchs Shift Assets From London With America’s attention, diverted for the past week to events in the middle east and Ukraine, once again returning to domestic issues, Obama is coming under renewed pressure to … Continue reading

Russian Boomerang Hits UK, Oligarchs Shift Assets From London – 7.24.14

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With America’s attention, diverted for the past week to events in the middle east and Ukraine, once again returning to domestic issues, Obama is coming under renewed pressure to address the immigration issues that has gripped the southern states as … Continue reading

NATO Poland base may be prepared for blitz against Russia

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Multinational Corps Northeast, a base in Szczecin (Image from facebook.com/mncne)

General Philip Breedlove’s idea would be presented to members of the alliance at the upcoming NATO summit in Wales in September, according to The Times.

The general told a briefing in Naples this week that NATO needed “pre-positioned supplies, pre-positioned capabilities and a basing area ready to rapidly accept follow-on forces.”

Several locations for the future stockpile are planned, with the Multinational Corps Northeast, a base in Szczecin near the Polish-German border being the leading contender.

“It would be a 24/7 fully functioning headquarters that forces could quickly fall in on to respond rapidly when needed,” the British newspaper cites a source familiar with the expected proposition as saying.

Breedlove has been advocating a build-up of NATO assets in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis in the secession of Ukraine’s Crimea to Russia. The alliance has already strengthened its presence in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea and deployed additional military aircraft in Eastern Europe. It said the moves were needed to boost the confidence of eastern NATO members in the alliance’s ability to protect them from Russian aggression.

The stockpiling of supplies is just a step short of a permanent massive deployment of foreign NATO troops in Poland. The alliance says it is needed for a rapid response to a Russian incursion, although Russian generals would probably view this as a possible preparation for a blitzkrieg attack on Russia.

Moscow considers the build-up of NATO troops in Europe as part of a hostile policy aimed at placing the alliance’s military resources closer to its borders. Russia’s current military doctrine allows the use of all weapons in its possession, including tactical nuclear weapons, in response to a conventional force attack on Russia.

Pro-Gaza protesters attack Israeli team during soccer match in Austria

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Maccabi Haifa team from Israel attacked by pro-Gaza protesters during a football match in Austria (screenshot from Youtube video)

Maccabi Haifa (Israel) and LOSC Lille team (France), were playing a football match in the city of Bischofshofen, in the Austrian state of Salzburg.

However, with the Lille team in the lead 2-0, about 20 protesters waving Palestinian flags took to the pitch. They first attempted to attack Yossi Benayoun, Maccabi Haifa’s captain and then the other players.

The demonstrators apparently only managed to spit on one of the members of the squad. No one was actually hurt in the incident, police said.

However, a picture released in social media shows that at least one player was kicked and some players retaliated.

The “friendly” match was stopped in the 86th minute.

The Israeli players had to wait about an hour after the match in their dressing room as some of the protesters remained outside the stadium. The team left the stadium under police protection.

Police made no arrests.

Israeli club Maccabi Haifa’s players attacked by pro-Palestinian pitch invaders during friendly v. Lille. pic.twitter.com/bpdwQehECW

— Nour Agha (@NourAgha) July 24, 2014

In the meantime, Maccabi Haifa Football Club condemned the attack on its team, saying that the protesters were mostly “Turkish migrants.”

“We experienced an uncomfortable atmosphere of violence on the pitch and in the stands. The attack was premeditated and dangerous in light of the incitement in Turkish media,” said Maccabi Haifa club’s statement, as cited by the Jerusalem Post.

The club officials added that the football club believes in “co-existence, tolerance and is against violence.”

“We denounce the violence that was used against us. This didn’t happen because of sport or football, it happened because we are a team which represents Israel,” added the statement.

Austria’s Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz also condemned the attack on the Israeli team.

“I demand a full investigation of these incidents. The perpetrators must be brought to justice, because in Austria there should be absolutely zero tolerance for religious or anti-Semitic violence,” he said in a statement.

Israeli Gaza offensive inspires global rallies, Paris protest turns violent

Pro-Palestinian rallies have been held throughout the world since the Israeli authorities launched Operation Protective Edge against Gaza. It has so far claimed the lives of over 700 Palestinians, many of them children and civilians.

Facebook proves Fed wrong with quarterly profits up 138%

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The sun sets on the entrance sign at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California (Reuters / Beck Diefenbach)

The value of the world’s biggest social network reached roughly $190 billion, putting it on par with IBM currently ranked 35 th in the Forbes Global 2000 list of biggest public companies.

It might be more expensive from a market cap perspective, but I don’t think anyone was expecting this level of profitability,” Reuters quotes JMP Securities analyst Ronald Josey.

Revenue for the second quarter of 2014 totaled $2.91 billion, an increase of 61 percent, compared with $1.81 billion in the second quarter of 2013. The result was driven by the rapidly growing mobile advertising business which contributed the lion’s share of the revenue, $2.68 billion.

Facebook has currently 1.5 billion customers, with strong growth across all of its geographic regions, Reuters cites Sheryl Sandberg, the company’s Chief Operating Officer.

We’re seeing our existing advertisers spend more and we’re seeing new people come on to the platform,” Sandberg said.

The social media network has 1.32 billion monthly active users (MAUs), with roughly 63 percent accessing the service every day.

Last Tuesday Chair of the Federal Reserve Janet Yellen made an uncarefull remark about asset prices in such industries as social media and biotechnology. She hinted at a possible bubble in the areas, which sent shares of Facebook and Twitter more than 1 percent lower during the day.

The Global X Social Media Index fell roughly 1 percent and made the iShares NASDAQ Biotech Index fall by 2.2 percent.

“…the valuation metrics in some sectors do appear substantially stretched – particularly those for smaller firms in the social media and biotechnology industries, despite a notable downturn in equity prices for such firms early in the year,” Yellen said on July 15 in her report on the US monetary policy.

The statement caused a lot of criticism, with Steve Liesman the CNBC senior economics reporter saying in his Twitter back then that such direct references to specific stock sectors were rare, suggesting that nothing like this has happened since 2000.

Child sex abuse surge sees police overstretched

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AFP Photo / Carl Court

Over the last five years there were 583 allegations of child rape and 1,803 allegations of sexual assault – a spike of 34 percent. In the last year alone allegations of these serious offenses rose by well over 10 percent.

This comes in the wake of multiple high profile exposures and convictions of celebrity sex offenders, including Jimmy Savile, and revelations of a possible Westminster pedophile ring cover-up, which have emboldened many more victims to come forward.

To meet these challenges, 966 extra officers have been drafted in, dedicated to investigating sexual offences, including those against adults, exploitation and child abuse. Despite this 22 percent leap in staffing and a financial injection, the Met has not yet filled all of its additional posts.

“While the number of allegations of child rape and sexual assault make horrendous reading, it is encouraging that more people now feel confident enough to report these horrific crimes to the police,” said Deputy Chair of the Police and Crime Committee, Caroline Pidgeon AM.

“When they do so the Met must have sufficient resources in place to ensure robust enquiries regardless of whether the case involved a celebrity many years ago or a neighbor or relative just yesterday.”

While the report acknowledges improvements in the way the Met approaches child protection, it urges a further increase in the number of specialist officers.

“Those improvements must not be put at risk by significantly increasing the workloads of officers who have to deal with difficult investigations into harrowing cases,” added Pidgeon.

Among the report’s key recommendations to the Met and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), are calls for greater multi-agency training and the appointment of suitably trained senior officers. It also called for a review of the Child Sexual Exploitation Protocol on reporting and identifying CSE in London.

The report also called for a mapping exercise to understand the nature of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) within different communities in London, to identify which children are at risk, and to establish the extent to which FGM is practiced in the capital in order to target resources.

​US and allies ‘in no position to lecture anyone on the sanctity of human life’

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Debris lies at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 21, 2014. (Reuters / Maxim Zmeyev)

Almost 300 people have been killed in the most awful circumstances and though it is self-evident that a full and thorough investigation must follow to find out what happened its conclusions will be scant comfort to the families and loved ones of those who perished. That said, the mind boggles that a civilian passenger aircraft should be flying anywhere near a war zone, especially one in which fighter jets, military aircraft, and military transport aircraft are playing such a key role in hostilities.

The alacrity with which Washington and its allies have sought to exploit this tragedy to attack Russia has been as unedifying as it has been despicable. If it turns out that the aircraft was downed by a missile, and as yet no one knows for certain how this disaster occurred, it is highly likely to have been an accident and there is something to be said for understanding the conditions in which such a tragic event has taken place.

What we do know for certain at this point is that the conflict which has been raging in eastern Ukraine over the past few months, and which has intensified since the election of Petro Poroshenko as President of western Ukraine in May, was sparked by the toppling of the last legitimate democratically elected Ukrainian government of Viktor Yanukovich by an armed mob in Kiev in February, in which avowed neo-Nazis played a key role. Some of those neo-Nazis currently occupy ministerial offices in the regime led by Mr. Poroshenko and are prevalent in the violence that has been visited on the people in the east of the country, who have risen up in resistance to Kiev and its sponsors in the West.

The need for a political solution to this conflict is glaringly clear, and has been for some time. The Russian government has been calling for a de-escalation of hostilities since the ill-fated Geneva peace conference back in April, and if anything has shown remarkable restraint in holding back from mounting a military intervention in response to the Poroshenko regime’s brutal military assault on Ukrainian citizens across its western border with tanks, artillery, fighter jets, and attack helicopters.

Sadly, though, when it comes to the US and its allies, restraint in case of war and conflict is anathema. Indeed, the very word has been stricken from the dictionary where they are concerned. Consequently, Russia’s restraint has been taken for weakness, evidenced in a ramping up of the conflict by Poroshenko over the past few weeks.

The recent signing of the Association Agreement between the EU and the regime in Kiev has brought the EU into disrepute. Just think about this for a moment: the EU has just entered a state into its ranks bathed in the blood of its own citizens.

There is another very important aspect to the continuing fallout from the Malaysian airliner disaster that helps us understand the level of anti-Russian vitriol and propaganda it has sparked. Vladimir Putin has just enjoyed a successful trip to South America. There he played a key role in the establishment of a new development bank to rival the dominance of the US and European-led World Bank. With a capital base of $100bn this new institution will provide developing economies with alternative funding without the punishing conditions and exploitative strings attached to funding obtained from the World Bank and its affiliate the International Finance Corporation.

This is a massive step forward for the developing world, turning a new page in the continuing struggle to forge a multipolar alternative to the status quo of Washington’s and the West’s unipolarity, which has retarded the development of the Global South since the Second World War.

There is also the no small matter, as far as the West is concerned, of the Russian President’s visit to Cuba and the forging of closer relations with its former Cold War ally. Again, this will have undoubtedly resulted in the gnashing of teeth in Washington, further evidence of the challenge that is being mounted to its hegemony in what it considers its own backyard.

Furthermore, the stridency when it comes to the tragic deaths of the 298 people on the Malaysian airliner has been significantly absent when it comes to the comparable number of civilians slaughtered in Gaza as a result of Israel’s ongoing brutal military assault. The hypocrisy here is striking, if not surprising. For many years Washington and its European allies have provided political cover for Israel’s war crimes vis-à-vis the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors. They are in no position to lecture anyone on the sanctity of human life.

The pressure being brought to bear against Russia, exploiting this tragedy as a pretext, should not blind us to the role of the West in fomenting and prolonging military conflicts around the world for their own geopolitical interests. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Palestine; their crimes would shame all the devils in hell.

Only when Washington and its allies understand that their days of uncontested hegemony and unipolarity are over will there be a chance for a new global framework in which respect for national sovereignty and international law is returned to prominence and upheld as the non-negotiable arbiter of international affairs and foreign policy. The alternative is more conflict and more of the chaos we are witnessing today.

Leftist activists convicted of masterminding anti-government riots

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Opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov, left, charged with organizing mass riots at the Moscow City Court hearing on the merits of Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev's criminal case July 24, 2014 (RIA Novosti / Ramil Sitdikov)

The Judge will pronounce the sentence later on Thursday.

Previously, prosecutors had asked to sentence the head of the unregistered political movement Leftist Front, Sergey Udaltsov and his close aide Leonid Razvozzhayev to 8 years in prison; the maximum punishment for the crime of organizing mass unrest that results in violence or destruction of property is 10 years behind bars.

The sentence is the culmination of the resonant Bolotnaya Square case that has already resulted in several convictions and sentences, as well as one court order of compulsory psychiatric treatment. Also, several people convicted win this case have already been released under a recent amnesty.

The unlawful actions took place at Bolotnaya Square in Moscow on May 6, 2012, shortly before Vladimir Putin’s presidential inauguration. On that day several Russian opposition parties held a sanctioned rally against alleged violations during the 2011 parliamentary polls.

At first the march went peacefully, but then some of the protesters started to violate the conditions of the event and clash with policemen who wanted to restore order. As a result the rally was dispersed and many people were detained. Police established the identities of most active rioters, found and charged them.

Investigators have established that the situation was prepared and provoked by several leftist activists, headed by Udaltsov, and Razvozzhayev who also planned to repeat the riots in other parts of the Russian Federation. Law enforcers also claimed that the operation was ordered and financed by Georgian politician Givi Targamadze, described by the mass media as a leading expert in the so-called ‘color revolutions’ – street protests against allegedly undemocratic steps of the authorities that lead to quick change of the political regime.

As the investigation progressed, Russia’s top law enforcement agency, the Investigative Committee released a hidden camera video record of Udaltsov and Razvozzhayev meeting with Targamadze in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, discussing the details of their operation in Russia. The committee also started a criminal case against the Georgian politician, but so far cannot bring him to justice because he lives abroad and has been cautious enough not to enter Russia.

Udaltsov at first denied ever meeting Targamadze, then changed his plea and said that he only met him to discuss some common projects in the liquor business. He also said that the meeting with Targamadze had been organized by Leftist Front activist Konstantin Lebedev, and Razvozzhayev had only driven them from Moscow to Minsk.

However, investigators were using Lebedev’s testimony as another key piece of evidence. He entered a plea deal and received a sentence of two-and-a-half years, which was consumed almost completely by the pre-trial custody period. In early May, Lebedev was released.

Even before the court verdict was pronounced, the defense attorney said that he planned to appeal the sentence as “illegal and unfounded.”

​Islamic State orders genital mutilation of Iraqi women – UN

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Reuters / Kareem Raheem

The shocking news, adding to an already long list of crimes reportedly committed by the militants since the takeover of northern Iraq last month, was broken by UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock.

“This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” she told reporters in Geneva by videolink from Arbil on Thursday.

“This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists,” she added.

The Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, has taken over large portions of Iraq with the goal of establishing a fundamentalist Sunni Islamic state in the territories of Iraq and Syria. Since then they have launched a campaign to cleanse ethnic and religious minorities in the territory they control, sending thousands of refugees fleeing for their lives.

Warning of ‘imminent’ terror attack in Norway – 7.24.14

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Norwegians were warned Thursday of the concrete possibility of a terror attack occurring in that country at the hands of people with connections to an extremist group in Syria. A press conference was called in Oslo, Norway on Thursday where … Continue reading

US growth shakiest since Great Recession – IMF

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) headquarters building is seen in Washington, DC (AFP Photo)

In June, the Washington DC-based institution forecast US growth at 2 percent.

The revised forecast is below last year’s 1.9 percent growth rate, and would be the slowest annual rate for the United States since the recession officially ended in June 2009.

The Great Recession as it is called was the worst growth period since the 1930s. It began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009.

Weakness in the first quarter, when the economy suffered a 2.9 percent contraction, is still dragging on the world’s largest economy,

“The drag on growth from the first quarter contraction will not be offset,” the report said. The disappointing growth in the first quarter was attributed an extremely harsh winter.

However, the IMF remains optimistic that activity will pick up between 3 and 3.5 percent in the second half of the year. In 2015, it projects the economy will expand 3 percent, which would be the fastest expansion in the last decade.

Labor markets, wages, and the housing market are predicted to keep making positive, healthy strides.

“With better growth prospects, the U.S. should see steady progress in job creation but headline unemployment is expected to decline only slowly,” the IMF said in its annual US economic analysis.

The report was released ahead of the Federal Open Market Committee’s July 29-30 meeting, which is likely to again trim its monthly bond buying by another $10 billion.

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said growth should accelerate as long as the tapering process goes smoothly and there is a precise medium-term budget in place.

Another obstacle for America will be unemployment, which the IMF doesn’t see falling below 5.5 percent until 2018, a full two years after the Federal Reserve’s forecast. Prices and inflation are closely tied to unemployment- what goods and services people are willing or not willing to pay for- so it is unlikely the Fed will raise interest rates until the country has reached full employment.

Quarter of world population ‘either near or living in poverty’ – UN

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A girl gathers rice spilled from a humanitarian food convoy that arrived from the Malian capital Bamako in the northeastern city of Gao (Reuters / Adama Diarra)

“Almost 1.5 billion people are multi-dimensionally poor, with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And close to 800 million people are vulnerable to falling back into poverty when setbacks occur,” says the 2014 Human DevelopmentReport dubbed “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience.”

The report also shows that between 1990 and 2010 income inequality in developing countries jumped 11 percent. Now the world’s 85 billionaires have the same wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest people. The main concentration of poverty is in South Asia.

“South Asia has … more than 800 million poor and over 270 million near-poor – that is, more than 71 percent of its population.”

According to the report, high inequality between groups is not only unjust but can also affect well-being and threaten political stability.

“When specific groups are discriminated against, resources and power are not distributed based on merit, and talented people are held back.”

The study also found that about 1.2 billion people survive on the equivalent of $1.25 or less a day, while 12 percent of the world’s population (842 million) suffer from chronic hunger.

“The poor, women, minorities (ethnic, linguistic, religious, migrant, or sexual), indigenous peoples, people in rural or remote areas or living with disabilities, and countries landlocked, or with limited natural resources tend to face higher barriers.”

The UN data highlights that one in five children in developing countries lives in absolute poverty.

“In developing countries 7 in 100 will not survive beyond 5, 50 will not have their birth registered, 68 will not receive early childhood education, 17 will never enroll in primary school, 30 will be stunted and 25 will live in poverty.”

The rise of poverty worldwide may stem from various factors. A natural disaster, economic slump, corruption and unresponsive state institutions “can leave those in need of assistance without recourse,” says the document.

Conflicts and unstable situations in the countries also have “adverse impacts” on human development.

“More than 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by conflict—about a fifth of the world’s population,” says the report. “…about 45 million people were forcibly displaced due to conflict or persecution by the end of 2012—the highest in 18 years—more than 15 million of them refugees.”

According to the study, homicide and a rising number of violent crimes prevent progress in some Caribbean countries and Latin America. The lack of laws in West and Central Africa also threaten human development.

Yet the report shows that the overall global trend is positive and human development levels continue to rise, but at a slower pace than before. It gives an example: in 2013 HDI value at the global level was 0.702, while the 2012 HDI was only 0.700.

“The steepest declines in HDI values this year occurred in the Central African Republic, Libya and Syria, where ongoing conflict contributed to a drop in incomes,” says the study.

The report highlights the need for promoting people’s choices and protecting developments in human achievements.

“Vulnerability has multiple causes and consequences. Reducing vulnerability is a key ingredient in any agenda for improving human development. But if we are to succeed in reducing vulnerability, we need to approach it from a broad systemic perspective,” says Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz in the report.

Air Algerie AH5017 crashes with 110 passengers and 6 crew, reportedly in Niger

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An Air Algerie Airbus (Image from wikipedia.org)

Initial reports of the crash were confirmed by Algerian aviation authorities. “I can confirm that it has crashed,” an anonymous official told Reuters. While details of the whereabouts of the plane remain unclear, early reports from the CCTV network and Algerian TV suggested that it went down in Niger.

A spokeswoman for Spanish private airline company, Swiftair, confirmed that it had lost contact with one of its planes operated by Air Algerie on Thursday. The plane was an Air Algerie MD-83, flight AH5017.

“Air navigation services have lost contact with an Air Algerie plane Thursday flying from Ouagadougou to Algiers, 50 minutes after take-off,”the airline said.

Swiftair said that there had been “no contact” with the missing aircraft since.

French Transport Minister, Frederic Cuvillier, told reporters that it was “likely many” French passengers were on board the flight.

“There are 110 passengers and 6 crew traveling on the plane, of which four are pilots and two cabin crew,” the Swiftair statement confirmed.

The six crew members are Spanish.

Air Algerie/Swiftair flight #AH5017 EC-LTV is now confirmed crashed in Niger. Still no info about passengers and crew pic.twitter.com/rq0YwHsXxQ

— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) July 24, 2014

Burkina Faso’s transport minister confirmed that the Air Algerie flight had asked to change course at 1:38 am GMT because of a storm.

Weather at time of #AH5017 loss. Storm on flightpath: Clouds all rising above 40,000ft @eumetsat @thatjohn@RAeSTimR pic.twitter.com/efNHSbo47C

— Simon Proud (@simon_rp84) July 24, 2014


Meanwhile, an Algerian aviation source, who wished to remain anonymous, told AFP that “the plane was not far from the Algerian frontier when the crew was asked to make a detour because of poor visibility and to prevent the risk of collision with another aircraft on the Algiers-Bamako route.”

The number of French citizens on board the plane remains unconfirmed. A representative for the airline stated that, according to passenger lists, some 50 French nationals were traveling on the route, while French and Spanish media are suggesting the number may be even higher.

“We are totally mobilized, both in Paris, and at crisis centers in Algiers and Ouagadougou, where our embassies are in constant contact with local authorities and the airline,” the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on their website.

Two French fighter jets have been dispatched to help locate the flight, a French army spokesperson told Reuters.

“Two Mirage 2000 jets based in Africa were dispatched to try and locate the Air Algerie plane that disappeared on Thursday.” Gilles Jaron said. “They will search an area from its last known destination along its probable route,” he added.

Among the other passengers were citizens of Algeria and Burkino Faso. Information on whether there may have been any Russians on board remains unavailable. “We continue to clarify the nationality of the passengers through contact with local authorities,” a spokesman at the Russian Embassy in Algiers told Itar-Tass.

The missing AH5017 was found to be an old Real Madrid plane, ‘La Saeta’, which was used by the club used between 2007 and 2009.

The Cyprus issue: 40 years’ resolution and the matter of natural gas

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Turkish Cypriot war veterans march with Turkish and Turkish Cypriot flags, past Turkish President Abdullah Gul (back L) and Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu, during a military parade celebrating 40 years since Turkey invaded Cyprus, in Nicosia July 20, 2014 (Reuters / Andreas Manolis)

The so-called Attila-1 offensive was a military intervention aimed at bringing a halt to a bloody operation of “ethnic cleansing” (though the term still had to be invented at the time) which was targeting the Turkish population of the island. The Turkish Armed Forces subsequently occupied a fair share of the island’s territory (37 percent), an area that was turned into the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) in 1983 – a mini-state that has only been recognized by the Republic of Turkey.

Even now that the southern or Greek-populated part of the island (the so-called Republic of Cyprus) has joined the EU (on 1 May 2004) and even become part of the eurozone (on 1 January 2008), a solution for the problems of partition and inter-communal distrust has remained elusive and apparently much-sought after.

Still, on the occasion of this year’s anniversary, the soon-to-be-replaced President of Turkey Abdullah Gul publicly said the following: “We hope that there will be another opportunity for talks and we will reach an affirmative point as a result of negotiations so it won’t be open ended talks. We hope that the two sides would reach an agreement within the parameters of the United Nations”. Sooner rather than later, he even seemed to be thinking.

The beginning of the conflict

To this day worldwide public opinion persists in viewing the Turkish actions of 1974 as unwarranted acts of aggression tantamount to a war crime – for instance the pan-European news organization Euronews states that “Turkey claimed [that the Attila-1 offensive’s aim] was to protect Turkish Cypriots”, whereas “Greek Cypriots called it an occupation”, or nothing but a violent land grab, in other words.

The seeds of the still ongoing conflict were apparently sown when “Britain occupied Cyprus by virtue of the Anglo–Turkish Convention signed on 4 June1878”, formally annexing the island in 1914. Britain used both communities as ploys to “divide & rule” the island. The Al Jazeera correspondent and New Athenian, John Psaropoulos relates that after “the Second World War, Greek-Cypriot Lieutenant Colonel Yiorgos Grivas set up EOKA, a guerrilla organization, which attacked British troops and installations as part of its goal to merge Cyprus with Greece. Its battle cry was “Enosis”, or “Union”.”

Subsequently, inter-communal violence became the norm on the island, a fact which did not change after the island gained its independence in 1960, “on the basis of a power-sharing agreement negotiated by Greece and Turkey, [but] not by the Cypriots themselves”.

At the time of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Turkish press was inundated with reports of unspeakable atrocities committed by Greek Cypriots – families being buried alive and houses burned, next to accounts of summary executions and other atrocities that made Turkish blood boil and led then-PM Bulent Ecevit to order the Turkish army to intervene. This bold move earned the leftist politician the sobriquet “Conqueror of Cyprus”, as Ecevit’s audacious policy decision arguably saved the lives of untold numbers of Turkish Cypriots.

For instance, on 2 September 1974, the well-respected Turkish daily Milliyet reported an atrocity involving 88 dead, including women, children and the elderly, that had occurred in the Turkish villages of Murataga and Sandallar, 25 kilometers from Famagusta on 14 August previously.

In their turn, many Greek Cypriots and their sympathizers now claim that the Turkish military killed and maimed numerous Greek Cypriots, accusing Turkish soldiers of having committed war crimes and other unwarranted acts of unprovoked violence. In addition to having chased some 200,000 Greek Cypriots from their homes in the north of the island.

Oil-rich resort

As a result, the island has effectively been split in two since 1974 with the northern part necessarily turning to Turkey for aid and support in view of its isolation inside the international community. As such, the KKTC has become a bit of a favored holiday spot for many rich and famous as well as numerous less well-off Turks.

Many plans and strategies have been tried over the years in attempts to bring peace to the island, most notably the Annan plan of 2004 that was rejected by a popular referendum. Still, ten years later President Gul appears optimistic that a resolution is to be found shortly and both parties “reach an agreement within the parameters of the United Nations.”
The main difference today is that a gas field – the so-called Aphrodite gas field – has been discovered off the southern coast of Cyprus, located about 34 kilometers (21 mi) west of Israel’s notorious Leviathan gas field.

Turkey wants to be the transit route for Israeli gas, providing easy access to international markets, and arguably aims at fulfilling a similar role with regard to the gas pumped by the Greek Cypriots. Additionally, a re-unified Cyprus would also allow the north to reap some benefits from this new-found undersea wealth, while also constituting a direct accession to the EU and the eurozone. And a re-united Cyprus would also augur well for reviving Turkey’s now all but defunct EU ambitions. As a result, the time has now really come to bury the hatchet and let bygones be bygones. In fact, over the past months, the US Assistant Undersecretary of Defense for Europe and NATO issues James Townsend, and Amanda Sloat, the Assistant US Undersecretary of State for European Affairs, and even US Vice President Joe Biden visited the Republic of Cyprus. The presence of these high-powered Americans on the island signals that it is not just Turkey (or Cyprus) that favors a swift resolution to the decades-old conflict.

As a result, the fires of Greek and Turkish nationalism burning on Cyprus now seem to be on the verge of being quelled by 3.6 to 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas assumed to be present in the Aphrodite gas field and such a development would not just be beneficial to Cyprus, but arguably also to the Republic of Turkey that at present is still maintaining 40,000 armed troops in the KKTC at an estimated cost of $480 million annually.

DRIP displays British ‘intelligence’ in dealing with the world

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Satellite dishes are seen at GCHQ's outpost at Bude, close to where trans-Atlantic fibre-optic cables come ashore in Cornwall, southwest England (Reuters / Kieran Doherty)

A yarn attributed to Sean McBride recounts an interview from the 1950s when, while serving as Irish Foreign Minister, a journalist asked him: “What about the role of British Intelligence in Dublin?”

“If the British had some intelligence, that’d be great,” replied the man who once led Amnesty International.

The British might often lack intelligence when dealing with the wider world, but their government intelligence services are amongst the most intrusive.

Amnesty – which McBride described as ‘one of my children’ – has been busy in recent weeks fighting new legislation in the UK that in the words of one Labour party MP is “democratic banditry resonant of a rogue state.” The member in question, Tom Watson, added that “parliament has been insulted.”

The issue is the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers (or DRIP, as everyone seems to be calling it) bill. The legislation enables GCHQ, the UK government’s electronic communications-monitoring agency, to continue snooping on the email and mobile phone activity of British residents and others further afield.

British lawmakers managed to rush DRIP through in a mere seven days. In a parliament where Charles Stuart Parnell’s Irish Home Rule Party used to make all-night speeches to obstruct proceedings, once reaching a record 22 hours, this is almost unheard of.

The Conservative Party-led British administration argues that DRIP was necessary because of a ruling by the European courts in April, which decreed that the intelligence services’ powers to retain ‘private’ communications for two years was out of order. The Euro judges decided that such powers breached basic human rights and insisted that telecoms companies destroy the information – David Cameron’s cabinet didn’t like this.

Now, their spooks have even more powers than before – they can even force foreign companies to ensure their systems are capable of snooping, and have increased the powers so that email providers like Gmail can be compelled to hand over data. Great news for British intelligence but bad news for ordinary ‘subjects’ (the British haven’t evolved to citizenship yet in legal terminology).

The Open Rights Group (ORG) is fighting DRIP on the basis that the law breaches the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and the UK’s own Human Rights Act. Jim Killock, its director, complains that “the government has ignored a court judgment, ridden roughshod over our parliamentary processes and denied the public the debate they deserve.”

“Blanket data retention is unlawful and we will fight against this legislation. Our message to Theresa May is: see you in court,” he continues.

The aforementioned Ms May is the Home Secretary, a quaint term that survives an age when the English had more than ‘Home’ to govern. Nowadays, short of sitting in a dark room, closing their eyes and whistling Rule Britannia while their minds turn to long-gone halcyon days, ‘home’ is about all they need concern themselves about – and that might get even smaller if the Scottish decide to rule their own ‘home’ in September.

Ms May claims that DRIP is needed to register in law “powers and capabilities that exist today” which were hampered by the European court ruling back in spring. In other words, to hell with the human rights thing, British ways are best and our ‘intelligence’ says so.

Why the rush? Why a mere seven days (and just before the summer recess)? “If we delay we face the appalling prospect (that) police operations will go dark, that trails will go cold, that terrorist plots will go undetected – if that happens, innocent lives may be lost,” Ms May elucidates. This sounds scary, but fear is an established British tactic to quell the populace when passing through laws which hinder their freedoms.

However, a group of 15 leading experts in technology law wrote an open letter to the London authorities last week explaining that this emotive claim was hokum. “The legislation goes far beyond simply authorizing data retention in the UK. In fact, DRIP attempts to extend the territorial reach of British interceptions powers… it introduces powers that are not only completely novel in the United Kingdom, they are some of the first of their kind globally.”

The group, which includes academics from the usual suspects, Oxford and Cambridge, as well as LSE and Edinburgh, continues that DRIP is a “serious expansion of the British surveillance state.”

Amnesty is also on the case and last week brought a legal challenge against a mass surveillance operation called Tempora, following revelations by Edward Snowden about UK and US intelligence practices. Of course, London has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of the operation. Amnesty’s media lead Maxim Tucker says that “(it’s) dangerous for GCHQ not to measure whether surveillance is proportionate and necessary against a specific goal they want to achieve.” The tribunal became farcical when Snowden’s examples of data collection programs were barred from discussion. If it wasn’t such a serious matter, it might be funny, but it is, so it’s not.

GCHQ, based in Cheltenham, an English town more famous for its annual horse racing festival, is the ‘signals’ branch of the UK intelligence services. It operates in partnership with the NSA and equivalent agencies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand – together these groups are often termed the ‘five eyes.’

Edward Snowden claims that GCHQ is ‘even worse than the NSA’ and is permitted to go further in surveillance than similar agencies in other Western countries. He told The Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, in a recent Moscow interview that “they enjoy authorities that they really shouldn’t be entitled to. Tempora is really proof… that GCHQ has much less-strict legal restrictions than other Western government intelligence.

“And what that means is UK citizens (sic) and UK intelligence platforms are used as a testing ground for all of the other five eyes partners,” Snowden added. Tempora is a formerly secret operation which Snowden claims even goes so far as to monitor Facebook entries, from cat videos right up to birthday greetings – it’s rather ludicrous to even fathom that terrorists would be organizing their campaigns on Facebook. But British intelligence thinks otherwise.

However, it’s not just kitty videos that GCHQ are after. A leaked GCHQ document called ‘JTRIG Tools and Techniques’ alleges that they have developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, likely of the kind witnessed after the MH17 disaster in Ukraine. It also insists that the Cheltenham spooks can manipulate the results of online polls (who’s hot? Kimye or Brangenlina? They decide!) and artificially inflate page view counts on websites to make fake pages look more legitimate or popular. Furthermore, they can connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call, which is something myself and my teenage friends used to do in the 90’s from pay-phones when we were bored.

Additionally, the leaked document reports that GCHQ use “fake victim blog posts,” “false flag operations” and “honey traps” as part of their arsenal, as well as monitoring Youtube and Facebook users and visitors to selected websites. It goes on to suggest that Cheltenham can monitor Skype users in real time – which raises questions about Microsoft’s co-operation – and can spoof email addresses and send emails under that identity. So, the next time the Nigerian Lottery inform you of a big win, be careful, it could be GCHQ looking for your bank account details, which might be even worse.

Another alleged technique is that GCHQ employees may be using multiple anonymous Twitter accounts to discredit and harass journalists and activists that take a line contrary to the UK government’s position.

British intelligence has a track record of getting things majorly wrong. Back in 2003, they compiled what was known as the ‘Dodgy Dossier’, which was used to justify UK involvement in the US-led invasion of Iraq. The report claimed that Iraq could deploy biological weapons within 45 minutes of an order to do so. It later emerged that Iraq didn’t even have such weapons at all.

In the 1970s and 80s, the spooks masqueraded as bar staff in Irish pubs across Britain in an attempt to gather information on IRA activities. The IRA were aware of this tactic and preferred to meet in the more rarified surrounds of bookshops and libraries according to former member Sean O’Callaghan – rendering the MI5 tactic a complete waste of time.

If other nations were so completely monitoring their citizens electronic activities, British liberals would be terming them ‘rogue states’ or ‘totalitarian societies.’ However, it’s at home that these practices are being used, and despite some spirited campaigning by organizations such as Amnesty and ORG, the UK political class have closed ranks and continued to facilitate widespread snooping.

89 yo Nazi war crime suspect dies in US custody before extradition to Germany

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Reuters / Kacper Pempel

Johann Breyer died on Tuesday night at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, where he had been transferred on Saturday after spending a month behind bars.

“I can confirm he passed away last night,” his lawyer Dennis Boyle told AFP on Wednesday.

Breyer’s death was disclosed just as US Magistrate Timothy Rice had approved the extradition request, which would have still needed approval by a US government review.

Rice found probable cause that Breyer was in fact the same individual being sought by German prosecutors in the Bavarian town of Weiden over his alleged service as an SS concentration camp guard first at Buchenwald, and later at Auschwitz.

“No statute of limitations offers a safe haven for murder,” AP cites Rice as writing in his 31-page ruling.

Breyer was born in Czechoslovakia and admitted to joining the Waffen SS at the age of 17. He told The Associated Press in a 2012 interview that while he had served as a guard at Auschwitz, he was assigned to a part of the camp that was not involved in the murder of Jews.

“I didn’t kill anybody, I didn’t rape anybody – and I don’t even have a traffic ticket here,” he said. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Johann Breyer 89 yo Nazi concentration camp guard – Auschwitz pic.twitter.com/zlvd6y3nrQ

— Patricia O. Shea (@patty_shea) June 19, 2014

He immigrated to the US in 1952, where he lived for over half a century before being arrested by federal officials in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania last month on a 2013 German arrest warrant. Officials said the arrest was delayed for a year due to the complexity of the extradition request.

He was facing charges of aiding in the killing of 216,000 Jewish men, women and children at a Nazi death camp. That figure was estimated from the number of Jewish detainees transported to Auschwitz on 158 trains from May to October 1944.

Breyer was first accused of a Nazi connection by the US Justice Department back in 1992. The government attempted to revoke his citizenship, though he was ultimately allowed to stay after it was revealed that his mother was born in the US. His arrest warrant was based on revised German laws, which allow former Nazi guards to be charged with accessory to murder, as the soul function of the concentration camps was to exterminate human life.

The same legal interpretation was used to secure the 2011 conviction of John Demjanjuk, a retired Ukrainian-American auto worker convicted of accessory to the murder of 27,900 Jews while acting as a guard at the Nazi extermination camp near Sobibór in occupied Poland. Demjanjuk, ironically, had himself survived the Nazi concentration camps’ system as a Red army prisoner of war.

In Breyer’s case, his lawyers argued he was merely a victim of circumstances.

“All of the evidence presented on behalf of the German government by the US government demonstrates that Johann Breyer was born in the wrong place at the wrong time,” lawyers for Breyer said on Friday in documents filed in the US District Court in Philadelphia.

“He was forced into a service he did not want to enter as a teenager, and for his trouble, ended up in a Soviet Prisoner-of-War Camp… Mr Breyer is not a war criminal,” the papers read.

Rice was incredulous to Breyer’s claim of being unaware of the camp’s inner workings.

“A death camp guard such as Breyer could not have served at Auschwitz during the peak of the Nazi reign of terror in 1944 without knowing that hundreds of thousands of human beings were being brutally slaughtered in gas chambers and then burned on site,” Rice wrote.

His lawyers had further attempted to secure his release on bail pending the extradition hearing because of his poor health, given his history of heart disease, stroke and dementia.

A judge, however, said health facilities in the federal prison system were more than capable of caring for Breyer.

“It is particularly unfortunate that Mr Breyer could not be brought to justice in view of the significant efforts that were invested in trying to hold him accountable for his service at the Auschwitz death camp,” Efraim Zuroff, the head Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, told AP after Breyer’s passing.

​‘Saddest photo yet’: Astronaut photographs Gaza offensive from space

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Image from twitter.com @Astro_Alex

Alexander Gerst, a German flight engineer, geophysicist and volcanologist, spread the news with a short tweet on Wednesday, as the ISS was on a flyby over Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. The image went viral.

My saddest photo yet. From #ISS we can actually see explosions and rockets flying over #Gaza & #Israelpic.twitter.com/jNGWxHilSy

— Alexander Gerst (@Astro_Alex) July 23, 2014

One can clearly see the spots in which the yellowish glow of exploding targets is more prominent than elsewhere.

“From the International Space Station we can actually see explosions and rockets flying over Gaza and Israel,” He wrote on his Facebook fan page late last night, with a German translation underneath.

The ESA astronaut is currently on the 57th day of his mission, together with Russian commander Maksim Surayev and American engineer Reid Wiseman.

Israel is currently in the midst of an all-out assault on Hamas positions in the Gaza Strip – an operation that has recently gone into a new phase, as escalating hostilities and ground warfare bring the death toll to 700.

There are casualties on both sides, but the overwhelming majority is Palestinian, 80 percent of them civilians, according to a recent UN report.

‘Boycott Israel’: Thousands march in Paris in pro-Palestinian rally

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Protesters wave Palestinian flags during a demonstration on July 23, 2014 in front of the Invalides in Paris, to denounce Israel's military campaign in Gaza and to show their support to the Palestinian people (AFP Photo / Kenzo Tribouillard)

The rally on Wednesday gathered at least 14,500 people, according to police data, while the organizers of the event claim that about 25,000 people attended the demonstration in France’s capital, reported AFP.

The demonstrators carried Palestinian flags, shouting slogans such as “Israel killer. Hollande resignation” and “Long live Palestine, long live the resistance!” The words “Boycott Israel” were seen on some of the banners.

The rally, which started at Place Denfert-Rochereau in the south of Paris, was organized by various associations including the Left Party (PG), democratic socialist political party and the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), a national trade union center.

Some of the protesters said they also wanted to express their disapproval of their government’s foreign policy, which had failed to take measures against Israel’s violence in Gaza.

“I voted for Hollande and I would never expect this stance from a socialist government. By not standing up to Israel he is legitimizing the massacre of Palestinians,” Mina McCamery, a Paris resident, told The Local.

“France has to be tough against Israel and impose economic and political sanctions. That’s the only way they will listen,” she added.

Israeli Gaza offensive inspires global rallies, Paris protest turns violent

In the meantime, the protesters said the rally was not directed against the Jewish population.

“We are not against Jewish people. We are against Zionism and what is going on in Palestine,” Mina McCamery said.

Among the protesters there were orthodox Jews from an anti-Zionist organization. They were loudly cheered after leading chants of “Free Gaza.”

“The state of Israel does not speak for Jewish people,” one of their speakers told The Local.

Earlier, French authorities decided to ban the Pro-Palestinian rallies when Jewish-Muslim tensions in the country reached their peak. Among them was an event on July 13 that started out peacefully, but ended in stone-throwing and sporadic violence, with some Jews taking refuge inside two synagogues. There were several injuries.

Parce que beaucoup trop de civils morts, stop aux bombardements à Gaza #GAZAMANIF#paris#FreeGaza 23/07/14 pic.twitter.com/We8F2742FL

— Ltd.Noige (@Noige94) July 24, 2014

But Wednesday’s protest was authorized by the government after some of the organizers of the rally gave “security guarantees,” according to Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Before the march, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve warned that police would arrest anyone heard shouting “Death to the Jews!” or seen burning an Israeli flag during the protests.

“I have given specific orders to security forces so they can quickly intervene if any anti-Semitic acts are committed,” Cazeneuve told France Inter radio.

Manifestación increible a favor de la paz en Paris. Paren de atacar #Gaza! pic.twitter.com/cX4Jn1Rn7z

— S. Etu (@setuetu) July 23, 2014

More than 1,000 undercover police officers deployed at the demonstration provided security and safety for the rally.

Paris activists clash with police following ban on pro-Palestinian rallies (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Although there were concerns that the demonstration would turn violent – as the previous two marches – it passed off peacefully. According to a 26-year-old man named Islam “the only time pro-Palestinian demos end in violence is when the government has banned them,” reported The Local.

The National Collective for Just and Durable Peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the major organizer of Wednesday’s protest, welcomed the decision to let the rally go ahead.

“It’s a victory for democracy and freedom of expression,” Taoufiq Tahani, president of the France-Palestine Solidarity Association, told The Local.

Everyone behind Gaza, Paris (yesterday) #SpeakUpforGazapic.twitter.com/VIFGvzIq01

— Arslan (@Majid75Arslan) July 24, 2014

In addition to the Paris rally, protests were held in other French cities, including Lyon, Toulouse, Lille and Reims.

The organizers of the Pro-Palestinian rally are planning another one on Saturday. However, the authorities haven’t yet approved the gathering.

Operation Edge, in the 16th day of the Israeli offensive on Gaza, has so far claimed the lives of over 700 Palestinians, many of them children and civilians.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said house demolitions and the killing of children raise the “strong possibility” that Israel is violating international law.

Duma to consider law changes targeting online identity theft

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AFP Photo / Thomas Coex

The bill would make the state watchdog Roskomnadzor, which is currently enforcing government restrictions on distributing information on the internet, to block the resources that “violate personal rights of citizens not connected with their property or target the citizens’ intangible assets.”This includes the illegal use of someone’s identity to create an account on social networks.

Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Science and Technologies Aleksey Chepa, told Izvestia daily that the proposal came about because he had received a lot of complaint letters about embezzlement and cheating committed on the internet.

According to Chepa, in most common schemes fraudsters register an account in someone’s name and then start asking this person’s friends for money, make hate posts on political and religious topics and even blackmail the real person.

The lawmaker said the bill was not about “tightening the screws” or limiting any freedoms, but offered legal protection to ordinary people and celebrities alike.

Once the bill is passed citizens who think that their names are being used for fraudulent purposes will be able to file a complaint to Roskomnadzor and the state agency would ask the owner of the social network to take down the account that violates the law. If there is no response by the social network, access to it can be blocked until the illegal information is deleted.

However, representatives of Roskomnadzor said that they considered the additional regulations excessive as all potential conflicts could be resolved by the existing Law on Personal Data and by user agreements with major social networks that forbid people using names that are not their own.

European rights court condemns Poland for hosting secret CIA prisons

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The watch tower of an airport is pictured in Szymany, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland.  The European Union, human watchdogs, domestic and foreign media identified the airport as a potential site which the CIA used to transfer al Qaeda suspects to a nearby prison (Reuters / Kacper Pempel)

The Strasbourg-based court ruled that Poland had contravened articles of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) that cover torture, the right to liberty, and the right to an effective remedy for victims of crime.

The case was filed by two men, Saudi-born Abu Zubaydah, and Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who charge they were taken to a secret CIA black site in a Polish forest and subjected to treatment which amounted to torture. The men said at a hearing in December they had been brought to Poland in December 2002 with the knowledge of the Polish authorities. Both are now detainees at the US-run Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.

The US government accused Zubaydah of running a terror training camp Afghanistan which was attended by some of the September 11 hijackers. Al-Nashiri, originally from Yemen, was accused of directing an attack on the US. warship Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000 that killed 17 sailors.

Regarding al-Nashir, the court said Poland had “enabled the CIA to transfer him from Poland to other CIA-run detention facilities, despite a real risk of his being subjected to further torture, ill‑treatment, incommunicado detention, the imposition of the death penalty and flagrantly unfair trial.”

Poland was further found to have violated Articles 3 and 13 of the ECHR by failing to conduct an effective and thorough investigation regarding allegations of “serious violations” of al-Nashir’s rights being carried out on Polish territory. The court also said the Polish government had failed to produce information and documentary evidence requested in the Zubaydah case.

Poland was ordered to pay al-Nashiri 100,000 euros in damages and 130,000 euros to Zubaydah.

Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative who acted for one of the men who brought the case, told Reuters the court’s ruling established beyond reasonable doubt that Poland-hosted a secret jail run by the US government.

“It’s an historic ruling,” she said. “It’s time for them to own up to the truth.”

Poland’s Foreign Ministry said it could not immediately comment because its legal experts still needed to examine the 400-page ruling. Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski said the court ruling had come too soon, arguing it had not given Polish prosecutors time to finish their own investigation into the alleged CIA gail. That investigation has been running since March 2008.

But presidential spokeswoman Joanna Trzaska-Wieczorek said the ECtHR ruling was a black mark on Poland’s reputation.

“The ruling of the tribunal in Strasbourg on CIA jails is embarrassing for Poland and is a burden both in terms of our country’s finances as well as its image,” said Trzaska-Wieczorek.

“The government has done everything possible to protect Poland in these proceedings.” she said. Trzaska-Wieczorek stressed, however, that those who ran the country at the time the program was active should have to answer for their decisions, and not the current administration.

Polish officials have previously denied the existence of a CIA prison on its territory. The United States has acknowledged that it kept Al-Qaeda suspects in facilities outside of US jurisdiction, but has been unwilling to identify the exact locations of those facilities.

Knowledge of the CIA black site was first revealed by Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the former head of Poland’s intelligence secret service, in April 2012. Siemiatkowski said he had been tasked with establishing a secret prison for the CIA in a remote part of the country. Allegedly, foreign prisoners in the detention center were tortured in connection with America’s global war on terror.

According to a report released in February 2013 by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), at least 54 countries including Syria, Iran, Sweden, Iceland, and UK had offered the CIA “covert support” to detain, transport, interrogate and torture suspects in the years following the 9/11 attacks.

Thursday’s ruling could serve as a precedent for other European states alleged to have hosted CIA prisons, as similar cases have been filed with the ECtHR against Romania and Lithuania. The ruling has no bearing on the United States, which is outside of the court’s jurisdiction.

​Russian gecko satellite unresponsive in transit orbit

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ARCHIVE PHOTO: On September 14, 2007, Photon-M took off at 3 p.m. Moscow Time from launch grounds N.1, Baikonur

The satellite is currently in low-earth orbit and broadcasting a telemetry signal, but it’s not responding to orders from mission control. This has already prevented the firing of the spacecraft’s engine as planned, which would bring it to a higher and permanent orbit.

The engineers on the ground say they are not time-constrained in bringing the unruly satellite under control.

“Results of the analysis show that the service systems of the spacecraft are functioning in full concordance with the control system logic. The design and the instrumentation allow for a prolonged autonomous functioning of the spacecraft,” a spokesperson for Progress, the builder of the satellite, told Itar-Tass.

Foton-M was scheduled to be lifted to a higher orbit on Wednesday, according to mission control. Communication problems emerged shortly post launch, after it had circled earth several times.

Hope remains that the mission can still be salvaged. The previous stage of the flight, which involved rebooting the satellite’s systems and beginning some of its scientific experiments have been carried out as planned.

“The biological experiment program started right after the spacecraft was launched. The equipment involved in the biologic experiments is in full working order,” assured Oleg Voloshin, spokesman for the Institute of Biomedical Problems, which developed the experiments.

The satellite is the fifth of its kind launched by Russia, although the latest version had a number of modifications compared to the previous one. It carries equipment for 22 diverse experiments.

Among them are containers with living organisms, including five geckos, fruit flies and fungi, which are supposed to be jettisoned after two months in orbit and land in Russia. There is no update on the status of the living cargo, since the containers are not designed to broadcast any telemetry while in space.

At least 20 killed in school bus collision in India

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Scene of India school bus crash (screenshot from AP video)

At least 16 children aged between 7 and 14 years were injured and taken to hospital, police officer Ravi Nallamala told AP.

There were 32 school students on the bus, 12 of them died on the spot and seven at hospital, said police officials.

“Doctors say blood is flowing from their bodies,” a police official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

There were conflicting death toll reports in local media, with the number ranging from 12 to 20.

The accident happened in Masaipet village in the Medak district of southern Telangana state in southern India. The bus was heading to the Kakatiya Techno School in Toopran Mandal, nearly 8 km from the Masaipet village.

The vehicle was crossing railway tracks near the village when the Nanded passenger train rammed into the bus and dragged it for over two hundred meters.

The bus crossed the railway track without stopping to check if the way was clear, said Indian Railways spokesman Anil Kumar Saxena.

The Indian railway network carries about 23 million passengers every day and operates nearly 9,000 trains.

Railroad accident rates in India are amongst the highest in the world, due to poorly maintained roads and engines. A National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report revealed that every year, more than 135,000 road deaths occur in the country.

If Russia is behind MH17 crash, where’s the evidence? – Defense Ministry

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A photo taken on July 23, 2014 shows the crash site of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, in a field near the village of Grabove, in the Donetsk region. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

Malaysia MH17 crash: 10 questions Russia wants Ukraine to answer

The US claims its intelligence data and satellite imagery confirm that the missile which downed MH17 was fired from rebel-controlled territory. So far it’s only a claim that has to be supplemented by proof, Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in an emotional address released on Thursday.

“Where is this data? Why hasn’t it been made public? Is it because it is still being cooked, if I may say so?” Antonov asked in the statement. “By the way, one of the four US experts reportedly said that Russia may have been involved in creating conditions for the launch of this missile. It was nice, of course, of the other three that they did not say anything, but what about the fourth? Does he have any grounds to make such accusations? Or is it something predetermined?”

Antonov wondered how the bulk of accusations that Russia has been facing could possibly be based on unverified material taken from social media.

“US intelligence officials refer to some photos posted on social networks which allegedly show a missile launcher crossing the border between Russia and Ukraine. What exactly are they talking about? Are they talking about a picture of a Ukrainian Buk being transported somewhere by Ukrainians on a prime mover with a white cab, made in the town of Krasnoarmeysk, which has long been controlled by the Ukrainian military? Or maybe they are talking about a photograph of Buk No. 312? If so, there is another picture of the same launcher rolling as part of a Ukrainian armor column. Gentlemen, are you implying that this is the launcher that fired the missile? If so, demand an explanation from Kiev.”

Antonov reminded that following the plane crash, the Russian Defense Ministry released monitoring data related to the accident. Based on this information, the ministry developed a number of questions for Ukraine and other countries which are blaming Russia for the tragedy. The questions have remained unanswered.

The Russian Defense Ministry would like to know, for example, why the US rules out the possibility that the plane was shot down by the Ukrainian military.

“This begs the question: are US experts ready to assume responsibility for their claims? Do they know where all the SAM launchers are deployed in Ukraine? What do they have to say about the monitoring data presented by Russia? Do they ignore it simply because there is nothing for them to say?”

Speaking about accusations of Russian military build-up on the border with Ukraine, Antonov recalled “nine instances of Russian territory coming under fire in the course of June and July” from Ukraine. One of those instances turned fatal for a Russian citizen, Andrei Shulyatyev.

“What if US territory was shelled from a neighboring country and, God forbid, a US citizen was killed?” Antonov asked.

“What would the United States do? I think the answer is obvious. Yet Russia is behaving in a reserved and responsible manner. It is therefore self-evident who is trying to provoke whom at the border. Why don’t you take note of the constant rocket shelling of Donetsk and Lugansk instead, which claims civilian lives?”

10 more questions Russian military pose to Ukraine, US over MH17 crash

Father-son bid to pilot aircraft around the world ends in tragedy

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Babar Suleman (left) and his son, Haris Suleman. (Image from facebook.com)

The pair from Indiana were looking to break the speed record for circumnavigating the globe with the youngest pilot at the helm of a private, single engine airplane.

Additionally, Babar Suleman and his son, Haris, were using their trip – which featured stops in Europe Africa, and Asia – to raise money for a nonprofit organization that develops schools in Pakistan. As of Wednesday, they had raised more than $500,000.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the tragedy occurred around 10:15 p.m. American Samoan time on Tuesday. The flight had only taken off about half an hour prior, and the crash sparked a six hour search by the US Coast Guard that recovered the body of 17-year-old Haris but not that of his father. That search is ongoing.

“We don’t really know what happened with the plane,” Haris’ sister Hiba Suleman said at a press conference on Wednesday, the day the family was notified of the crash.

“He had asked me for dad’s credit card info, which apparently my dad wouldn’t give him. He wanted to book a hotel in Hawaii himself. He apparently didn’t like dad’s selection,” she recalled with a chuckle, as quoted by ABC News.

At this point, there are two main questions surrounding the crash. First and foremost is the cause of the accident, which remains unknown. The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the accident, and it’s unclear if bad weather played a role. The family said that when it last spoke with Babar, he was keeping an eye on the weather and wouldn’t leave if conditions weren’t clear.

The second question is why the pair chose to take off at night. The family dismissed the idea that the two were racing home to ensure they beat the world record, but no other explanations exist just yet.

Although Haris and his father still had stops in Hawaii, California, and Texas, the two were scheduled to arrive back in Indiana on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the family is still hoping authorities will find Babar safe and alive.

“It is a tragedy of immense proportions,” family friend Azher Khan told the Indianapolis Star. “We are all still hopeful that we will have Babar come back.”

Hiba Suleman told ABC that Haris planned to become an engineer like his father. Babar had been an experienced flyer dating back to 2007, while Haris earned his flying license in June after starting courses last year.

“Dad talked for years of going on this trip,” she said. “We believed in it. We knew there was a risk.”

Kiev sabotaging probe into downed Malaysian plane – self-defense leader

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A part of the fuselage of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is pictured in a field near the village of Grabove, in the Donetsk region, on July 23, 2014. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

Kiev’s authorities have been obstructing the international investigation into the crash of the Malaysia Airlines plane since day one, Deputy Prime Minister of People’s Republic of Donetsk Andrey Purgin told Russia-24 TV channel on Wednesday.

Purgin said it became clear that Kiev is sabotaging the probe two days after the incident, when international experts were not let into the area, as Kiev claimed it could not guarantee their safety.

Kiev simply refused to accompany the international experts, Purgin stated. The Malaysian group of experts made it down to the crash alone, with no security from Kiev.

It took four days for international experts to gain access to the site. The reason is that even after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced a 40-kilometer ceasefire zone around the crash site, Malaysian experts came under heavy shelling from the Ukrainian army while making their way within the ceasefire zone.

The Boeing 777-200ER, which was on a scheduled flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 298 passengers and crew on board, was shot down over Ukraine on July 17. There were no survivors.

Kiev authorities have accused the militia of being behind the catastrophe. However, the militia stressed that it doesn’t possess the means to shoot down an aircraft at such an altitude.

Following the crash, the dead bodies were left under 30C heat, as self-defense forces were pressured by the OSCE not to move the bodies until the international experts arrived, the Donetsk People’s Republic’s Prime Minister Aleksandr Boroday told BBC.

“We waited a day, two, three – but no experts,” Boroday said. “They were all sitting in Kiev.” To keep the dead bodies laying there became “absurd” and “inhumane,” he added.

The Ukrainian militia handed over to Malaysian experts the black boxes from the plane on Tuesday. Investigators say they have found no evidence that the black box recorder was tampered with.

Read more: Ukrainian militia hand over MH17 flight recorders to Malaysia

The Dutch Safety Board said it has taken charge of the international investigation. It will coordinate a team of 24 investigators from Ukraine, Malaysia, Russia, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). It added that four Dutch investigators are currently operating in Ukraine.

The bodies of the first victims from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrived back in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

A day earlier, the UN Security Council condemned the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and called for an international probe into the incident in a unanimously adopted resolution.

Read more: ‘Kiev will have to answer many questions’ as UN urges intl MH17 crash probe – Moscow

NYPD may face another chokehold scandal after disturbing video surfaces

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AFP Photo / Getty Images / Mario Tama

In a video obtained by DNAinfo.com, an unidentified NYPD officer can be seen putting a man in a chokehold and punching him in the face multiple times during an attempted arrest. Another officer is present at the scene, which is believed to be a subway stop in East Harlem, but he does not appear to be physically involved in the confrontation,

The officer tells the man to place his arms behind his back. But when that doesn’t stop him from struggling, the policeman begins punching him in the head repeatedly. At this point, one bystander can be heard screaming, “Why do you have to hit him?”

The video was first sent to a community activist in the area, Rev. Kelmy Rodriquez. The reverend posted the video on Facebook, asking for witnesses of the incident to come forward. A police spokesman confirmed on Wednesday that the situation is under investigation.

“I was appalled when I saw this video, especially after the Eric Garner situation,” Rodriquez told DNAinfo. “Something like this adds more gas to the fire.”

As RT reported previously, Garner – a 43-year-old Staten Island resident and father of six – died from a heart attack after police placed him in a chokehold and took him to the ground. Although Garner stated multiple times that he couldn’t breathe – he also suffered from asthma – one officer pressed his head to the ground. Eventually, Garner lost consciousness and was declared dead at a local hospital.

Police said the confrontation occurred because they saw Garner selling untaxed cigarettes, something he had been arrested for on numerous occasions. At least on this occasion, however, witnesses said all Garner had done before police walked up to him was break up a fight.

An investigation of this is also underway, with NYPD Police Chief William Bratton saying that significant improvements will have to be made to the department’s training methods.

“We’re going to do more than just a review of Staten Island,” he said, according to the New York Observer.

“Not only will we have cultural sensitivity, but that our officers will understand the importance of consistent policing – no matter whether the area is black, Asian Latino, white, it’s the consistency in the enforcement of the law.”

These two recent incidents have placed the NYPD under yet another microscope when it comes to allegations of excessive force. Although the department has banned the chokehold since 1993, its officers have been accused of using chokeholds more than 1,000 times in the last five years or so.

For Rev. Rodriquez, the chokehold simply needs to be prohibited.

“The chokehold has to go. I cannot see why that was justified,” he told DNAinfo. “We’ve seen the result of the chokehold — death or lawsuits.”

“This us-against-them vibe between police and the community must stop. I think the officer needs retraining and perhaps counseling. The officer should be removed from public contact and go through training to make sure he’s ready to return to work in the community.”

CDC lab director resigns following anthrax scandal

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The Centers for Disease Control sign is seen at its main facility in Atlanta (Reuters / Tami Chappell)

Michael Farrell’s resignation was submitted on Tuesday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He had led the facility’s Bioterror Rapid Response and Advanced Technology Laboratory (BRRAT) since 2009. He was reassigned to a new position following safety breaches that were announced in June, but has now officially left the agency entirely.

“I can confirm that he was the team lead for the BRRAT lab since 2009 and that he’s resigned from that position,” CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner told Reuters. It is unclear whether Farrell’s resignation was requested or not.

Farrell’s departure comes after the CDC shut down the BRRAT facility in mid-July. Back in June, about 84 scientists were potentially exposed to anthrax after employees failed to properly sterilize the deadly bacteria. Although no one became sick and no reports of exposure have been filed, the eye-opening incident sparked an investigation that revealed multiple failures in safety protocol.

“These events revealed totally unacceptable behavior,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden at the time. “They should never have happened. I’m upset, I’m angry, I’ve lost sleep over this, and I’m working on it until the issue is resolved.”

As RT reported previously, a federal investigation into the lab found that dangerous microbes and “unidentified materials” were transported between labs in plastic Ziploc bags – containers which fail to meet the CDC’s “durability” requirement.

Additionally, some anthrax samples were stored in refrigerators located in an unrestricted hallway, while the key to one fridge reportedly “sat in its lock.” As the investigation unfolded, some anthrax samples were found to be missing and had to be tracked down. In yet another example, anthrax was placed in an unlocked lab that was not authorized to store the bacteria.

“An internal investigation found serious safety lapses, including use of an unapproved sterilization technique and use of a potent type of anthrax in an experiment that did not require a live form of the germ,” the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

In response, Frieden said he would prioritize a culture change at the agency. He also said that those who consciously violated safety procedures or did not notify the proper authorities when protocol wasn’t followed could face disciplinary action.

Still, the department’s response hasn’t pleased everyone. Former CDC official Sean Kaufman said that first and foremost, the agency needs to revamp its training practices.

“For [Farrell] to resign as a result of this is an indicator that they’re focusing on who instead of what,” he told Reuters. “It was a culture that led to this issue. It was not an individual.”

Another botched execution? Arizona inmate took 2 hours to die

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The process began at 1:52 p.m. local time. After five minutes, officials reported Wood was sedated. At 2:02 p.m. the he began breathing. A minute later, his mouth moved.

Wood’s lawyers filed an emergency court appeal Wednesday after the lethal injection did not immediately take effect, leaving him “gasping and snoring for more than an hour.”

“We respectfully request that this court stop the execution and require that the Department of Corrections use the lifesaving provisions required in its protocol,” the lawyers said in the US District Court filing. “He is still alive. This execution has violated Mr Wood’s eighth amendment right to be executed in the absence of cruel and unusual punishment.”

The court declined to step in, and the contingency plan was not enacted.

Wood’s protracted death called to mind the botched executions of Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire in January and of Oklahoma inmate Clayton D. Lockett in April.

McGuire’s death has been described as one of the longest executions in the history of Ohio, at 25 minutes. During that time, the Columbus Dispatch reported that McGuire was “struggling and gasping loudly for air, making snorting and choking sounds that lasted for at least 10 minutes, with his chest heaving and his fist clenched. Deep, rattling sounds emanated from his mouth.”

In Lockett’s case, prison officials eventually canceled the execution after 14 minutes because he was still moving and looked up to say, “Something’s wrong.” He died of a heart attack nearly 45 minutes after his execution went wrong. During the procedure, officials administered more drugs than necessary and burst a vein.

Earlier on Wednesday, the US Supreme Court upheld Arizona’s secrecy surrounding its lethal injection drugs, lifting the stay of execution for Wood issued by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals. In its decision, the high court did not address his lawyer’s argument that the double murderer had a First Amendment right to know the source of the drugs that would be used to execute him.

Wood, 55, was sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend and her father in 1989.

Criminal Lawyer: Hillary Committed Crimes at Benghazi [WATCH]

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Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is under fire from criminal lawyer, Victoria Toensing, who says that her neglect of security arrangements for State Department employees working in Benghazi is a violation of the law. A law was passed by Congress at the tail end of the 1990s that requires the Secretary of State to

White House tracking website visitors with online ‘fingerprinting’

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A screenshot from whitehouse.gov

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) studied the White House site for the new type of online tracking system after a new report byProPublica found that the website contained the secretive spyware.

As RT previously reported, at least five percent of the internet’s top 100,000 websites are using canvas fingerprinting, a new kind tracking technology that is nearly impossible to block using conventional privacy tools.

Although there is more than one type of canvas fingerprinting, the most widely used software – and the type used by the White House – is developed by AddThis, and is reportedly employed on popular websites like online dating site PlentyOfFish, CBS, PerezHilton.com and even YouPorn. (A list of known sites using the software can be found here.)

Here’s how it works: When you visit a website that features such tracking technology, the site asks your browser to “draw a hidden image.” Since every computer renders the image in a different way, that drawing is used to label your device with a unique number that allows trackers to keep an eye on your browsing activity across the internet.

An AddThis spokesperson said that the company did not inform the websites in question when it put its tracking technology in place. After ProPublica’s original article was published, a YouPorn spokesperson said the website was unaware the app was tracking its users and has since removed the AddThis functionality.

AddThis chief executive Rich Harris stressed that the company does not use canvas fingerprinting for anything other than ad targeting and personalization, and that users can stop their data from being used for advertising or marketing by installing a specific opt-out cookie on their computers. However, this would not stop AddThis from collecting data; it would simply stop them from using it to custom-tailor ads for you.

WhiteHouse.gov’s cookie policy promises, “We do not knowingly use third-party tools that place a multi-session cookie prior to the user interacting with the tool.” However, EFF found that the site lists AddThis as being present on some of its pages (but does not identify which ones). “We have yet to find one without AddThis, whether open or hidden,” EFF wrote on its Deeplinks blog.

Since canvas fingerprinting can’t be blocked by normal cookie management techniques or erased when users delete other cookies, the White House use of AddThis “is inconsistent with the White House’s promise that ‘Visitors can control aspects of website measurement and customization technologies used on WhiteHouse.gov’,” EFF wrote.

Tracking users in this way is nothing new. In October 2000, a congressional review found that, despite a prohibition against the practice, 13 government agencies were secretly using technology that tracks the internet habits of people visiting their websites, and in at least one case providing the information to a private company, the Associated Press reported. In August 2009, President Barack Obama announced plans to reverse a nine-year-old federal policy banning the use of web technologies to track and compile personal information of online visitors to federal internet sites, according to Judicial Watch.

AddThis said it does not use any data it gathers from government websites. So far, it claims to have only used data for “internal research and development.”

But relying on the promise from AddThis “is not the best privacy assurance,” said Princeton computer science professor Arvind Narayanan, who helped lead the research team responsible for uncovering the system.

To prevent canvas fingerprinting from being effective, EFF recommends using its Privacy Badger add-on, saying it “blocks spying ads and invisible trackers.” Other options include downloading theTor browser, which helps users avoid numerous types of online tracking, or blocking JavaScript from loading in your browser, which ProPublica notes could make many websites not work properly.

There’s also a browser in the works calledChameleon, which is specifically designed to block fingerprinting – but at this stage is only recommended for “tech-savvy users.”