"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

BIG BROTHER: "National Privacy Board" ignored by both parties

The tide in coming in.  A tide bringing Big Brother government and both American Socialist political parties support it.  How much longer does the torch of Liberty have until it is snuffed out?

SHOCK  -  Proof that both political parties are working together to undermine the Bill of Rights

When was the last time that you saw politicians refuse to appoint their hack friends to cushy and high paying boards and commissions?

How about NEVER.

But by magic both the Bush and Obama Administrations have not appointed enough members to activate the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.   Why?  Because the Board has subpoena powers and the ability to put our Lords and Master in the Beltway under oath with lies punishable by imprisonment.

The last thing any administration wants is to be held accountable.

 An independent oversight board recommended by the 9/11 Commission to ensure that national security policies do not infringe on Americans’ civil liberties has remained dormant for years, raising concerns among watchdogs that a crucial Constitution safeguard does not exist.

Well past the halfway point of his term, President Obama has appointed only two of the five members for the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which also languished under President Bush.

“There are no excuses for not getting this board up and running,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel at the Constitution Project, one of more than a dozen groups that recently petitioned the administration to get the board operational, says the Washington Times.

Analysts say a host of national security issues — such as airport screening, cybersecurity policies and an upcoming Supreme Court case on whether law enforcement can attach a satellite tracking device without a warrant — would have benefited from independent oversight.

“The launch of an independent oversight board is long overdue,” Ms. Franklin said.

The White House has no explanation for why the board vacancies have proved so hard to fill, and declined an opportunity to comment for this article.

Both Socialist political parties are in bed with each other.
Both political parties have REFUSED to get the National Privacy Board up and running to protect the Bill of Rights.  Ignoring the rights of the people is bi-partisan

According to the board’s 2007 report to Congress, one of its tasks was to review the FBI’s use of national security letters, which allow authorities to get financial, credit and other information on U.S. citizens without a court order.

“If the board is no longer meeting, one would assume it is no longer performing this oversight role, which is concerning given the recent extension of the Patriot Act,” Jennifer Lynch, staff attorney for the Electronic Freedom Foundation, said in an email.

Civil liberties groups have pushed for years to get the board fully operational after Congress strengthened it in 2007 and gave it subpoena powers.

But since then, neither Mr. Bush nor Mr. Obama nominated enough members. Mr. Obama nominated two members last year, but three vacancies remain.

“Among our major disappointments has been the administration has not impaneled the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board,” former Rep. Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, testified to a Senate committee in March.

“I can’t figure it out,” Mr. Hamilton added. “I just cannot figure it out. I don’t know what President Bush and President Obama think. They just have not put an effective board in place and I can’t understand why.”

The White House declined to comment on the letter from civil liberties groups about the slow pace of naming panel members in response to an inquiry by The Washington Times last week.

For more on this story

Rupert from TV's "Survivor" to run for governor

"Survivor's" Rupert Boneham, is considering a run for governor of Indiana
as a Libertarian.

Rupert!  Rupert!  Rupert!  Rupert!  Rupert!  Rupert!

Former "Survivor" contestant Rupert Boneham has filed papers indicating he may run for governor of Indiana as a Libertarian reports UPI.

The Indianapolis Star reported Tuesday Boneham filed papers to form an exploratory committee with the Indiana Election Division and is expected to make a final decision in the next few weeks.

"I have spent my entire adult life serving my community and I see an opportunity to make a difference for Indiana," he wrote on his campaign Web site, rupertforgovernor.com  "While surveying the current choices for our next governor, I do not see anyone that has an understanding of what daily life is like for many Hoosiers nor anyone who appears to understand the harm that misguided government policies are doing to our communities."

"While I may be best known for my time spent on the television show Survivor, I feel my greatest achievement has been working with troubled youth through my non-profit charity, Rupert’s Kids. With Rupert’s Kids we have successfully taken youth with troubled pasts and given them a sense of purpose and self worth while opening a world of opportunity to them. By helping them become confident and productive members of society they learn the value of eduction and a strong work ethic."

"I have operated my charity for over 20 years without government handouts. Over time, it has become more difficult to help people because of government red tape and roadblocks. This has prompted my decision to explore bringing back the principles of hard work and self-reliance to Hoosier government."

Three other candidates already have declared their intentions of seeking the state's top executive job: Republicans Rep. Mike Pence and businessman Jim Wallace of Fishers, and Democrat John Gregg, a former state House speaker.

For more on this story

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

American Imperialism vs. Ron Paul

The new Santorum strategy:  If no one cares about your views on Comrade Obama then
attack fellow Republican Ron Paul to get your name in the press.  But the debate on foreign
policy goes far beyond Santorum.

The eternal tug of war between Imperialism and isolationism

By Gary;

Let's face it.  Mrs. Santorum might care what her husband says, but no one else in America gives a damn.

But to advance his failing Presidential campaign Rick Santorum pounced on fellow GOP candidate Ron Paul’s assertion that U.S. intervention in the Middle East helped motivate the 9/11 attacks.  He said in an e-mail to The Des Moines Register on Sunday.

“To imply that we were the catalyst of the attack on 9/11 disparages the memory of those who lost their lives on that tragic day and is an insult to who we are as a people,” said Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator.

“Congressman Paul’s understanding of the enemy and why they have attacked us is shockingly misguided.”

“Congressman Paul needs to realize that they hate us not for what we do, but for who we are. The terrorist attacks on 9/11 were not the first they executed against this country and, by our enemy’s own words, won’t be the last,” he said. “The Congressman seems to see the enemy through the spectrum of nations, and not what it is – a radical movement founded within Islam that wants to destroy Western Civilization.”

This marks at least the second time Santorum has sparred with Paul over Middle Eastern policy this month. In a heated exchange at the Ames GOP debate, Santorum said Iran seeks to destabilize the region.

At a Saturday stop in Winterset, Paul said that Islam is not a threat to the U.S., but that America’s military presence in the Middle East promotes terrorist hostilities. He referred to University of Chicago professor Ropert Pape, whose research suggests most suicide bombings in the past three decades can be traced to military intervention.

Specifically, Paul mentioned the 1991 U.S. intervention in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, as key provocation to al-Qaeda’s Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Osama Bin Ladin, who was born in Saudi Arabia, had said as much himself.

But talking about war and fighting in war are two different matters, said Drew Ivers, Paul’s Iowa chairman.  Ivers, who served in the Vietnam War and was wounded in action, said that Santorum’s lack of hands-on military experience leaves him with less of a vantage point than Paul, a former Air Force surgeon.

“To debate about warfare that has existed undeclared for years rather lightly as a philosophical debate I think exposes Sen. Santorum and those who have not experienced warfare themselves,” Ivers said.

With Presidents William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt we saw the rise of Imperial Republicanism.
Soon it was adopted by the Democratic Party and a bi-partisan America became the policeman of the world. 

In the Beginning there was Imperial Republicanism . . . . and the Gods of Politics said it was Good.

Rick Santorum's attack on Paul is not the story.  Santorum is a meaningless political figure.

But the views held by Santorum are the story.

In the last 115 years the Republican Party has morphed into an Imperial party.  The policeman of the world.  The Democrats claim not to be imperial, But they know a good thing when they see it.  The Democrats always eagerly jump at any opportunity to use American military power around the world. 

The fact of the matter is imperialism feels good.  One might say it is good to be the king.  Most the nations of the world bow down to your will.  The policies of nations hang on your every word. . . . and done right it is good for business.  It can make you rich as Hell.

With all due respect to Ron Paul, his views on foreign policy were rejected in the late 19th Century.  Americans have enjoyed the taste of power, money and empire.  The last thing Americans want is to go back to be simple Jeffersonian dirt poor farmers, merchants and craftsmen.

That is not to say that Ron Paul is wrong.  It is just that neither political party nor the people themselves give a damn about the Constitution anymore.  Declaring wars is so "old fashioned".  That Constitution just gets in the way of running an imperial foreign policy and the modern Marxist re-distributive Big Brother state.

Even endless trillion dollar wars and national bankruptcy cannot change the minds of Republicans.  In poll after poll Paul hangs in at about 10% support.  Some 90% of Republicans refuse to give up their dreams of Empire.  There is always some dictator to put down, some ally to support, some rebels that need killing or some nation that needs to be bought off with our tax money.    

The dates, faces and names change over the years.  But bi-partisan America and its voters never waver from their imperial wet-dreams.

So where does this direction take us?  All things come to an end.  Is this endless warfare, printing press money and cradle-to-grave welfare state the end of the U.S.?

No one can say for sure.  But one thing the polls do show is the American people view Ron Paul as a crotchety old party-pooper telling everyone to close down a fun party, go home and get ready for work tomorrow.   Those kinds of candidates don't win elections anymore.

The 1904 campaign for President marks the Death of the Constitutional Federal Republic created by the Founding Fathers.  The poster above says it all.  Theodore Roosevelt steps on the Constitution while waving the sword of militarism.  Anti-imperialist Conservative small government Bourbon Democrat nominee Alton Parker steps on the sword of militarism and holds high the Constitution.

For more on this story

China to buy up Australian farmland

The Communist Party of China is buying farmland, mineral rights and businesses around the world.

The Road to Serfdom Series

CHINA'S FOOD COLONIES:  Australia, Brazil, Zimbabwe and many other nations are selling their farmland to the Communist Chinese government

The world is moving toward a modern form of Neo-Serfdom where everyone works for the all-powerful State or businesses controlled by the State.  See one of the articles in our series The Federalist - Benito Mussolini was right.      

CHINA’S most powerful agricultural company, with more than 900,000 employees and connections to State owned banking enterprises, is looking to acquire about 80,000 hectares of Western Australian farmland, with several farmers understood to be on the verge of signing.

But the move is intensifying pressure on the Federal government to quantify foreign ownership in Australian agriculture and develop more appropriate regulations that match a long-term, sustainable national food plan.

In pursuing a concerted global strategy driven by future food security concerns, senior representatives from China’s Beidahuang Group (BDH Group) visited WA last month to develop discussions on potential land purchases and other related acquisitions.

If the deal went ahead, the company would own land and produce grain and other foods in Australia for export to China, through co-investment in local grain handling infrastructure.

Sui Fengfu, Chairman of the Chinese
state-owned BHD Group

In March this year, the BDH Group’s chairman, Sui Fegfu, was reported as saying the company planned to acquire 200,000 hectares of farmland this year, in Australia and Russia, the Philippines, Brazil, Argentina, Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

It’s understood the State-owned company’s investment in overseas projects between 2005 and 2010 totalled more than 250 million Yuan (AUD$37.6 million).

According to the company’s web site, it has 50 billion Yuan (AUS$7.5 billion) in total assets while the total land area of its 113 State owned farms covers 5.43 million hectares; including 2.124 million hectares of cultivated land, with about 66,000 hectares certified for organic production.   (Farm Weekly)

Beidahuang Group, owned by the Communist government of China, is purchasing farm
land all over the world with the goal to export the production back to China.

Massive Chinese farm investment in Argentina, Russia, Brazil and more

China’s largest agricultural company plans to acquire 200,000 hectares of land in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Australia, the Philippines, Zimbabwe and Russia in 2011, reported Chinadaily.com.cn. Heilongjiang Beidahuang Nongken Group chairman Sui Fengfu, told the website the group was investing in each country for different reasons.

“In Venezuela and Zimbabwe, the group mainly provides machinery and laborers, and takes about 20 percent of the harvest in return,” he was quoted as saying.

“In Australia, it is mainly through the acquisition of local farmland. In Brazil and Argentina, the business model involves renting land.”

Argentina’s government is acting to create ‘intelligent’ laws surrounding foreign agricultural land investment, while a member of the team preparing the law told Diario de Madryn the country was currently seen as the ‘main point’ of farmland investment by the Chinese.

“They are aware that in Argentina we are trying to curb the indiscriminate sale of land to foreigners, and they want to hurry and close the deals as soon as possible,” he was quoted as saying.

The newspaper reported the group’s aim was clear and simple: acquire productive land rapidly to help feed the northern Chinese state of Heilongjiang’s 38 million inhabitants.

The story reported Argentina was of particular interest to Heilongjiang due to its relatively low-priced land in comparison to other countries, with plans to process grains and oils.

China’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee of the National People’s Congress deputy director Wang Yunkun, told the China Daily his country should continue to seek farmland overseas due to its technological advantages and land scarcity.

“Countries in South America, for example, have arable land and need our technology and investment, and they welcome our companies. It’s a win-win solution,” he was quoted as saying.

The obstacles

Last year Brazil implemented laws preventing companies that were more than 50% foreign-owned from holding more than 5,000 hectares of farmland, the China Daily reported.

Last week website Gatewaytosouthamerica-newsblog.com reported Brazil was preparing rules to block foreign governments, state-owned companies and speculators from buying land, but would allow ‘genuine’ private investors.

Brazil’s Agricultural Minister Wagner Rossi told the website the nation wanted to block ’sovereign investors’, and while he declined to mention which countries were concerned, to most analysts he was clearly referring to China.

“We need to distinguish properly on the one hand between speculators and sovereign funds, which are a threat to our sovereignty, and on the other side, foreign investors who come with good projects,” he was quoted as saying.

Venezuela partnership

Earlier this month Venezuela signed an agreement to form a joint venture food company with Heilongjiang, as the country’s president Hugo Chavez praised the Chinese for providing food for their 1.3 billion people and exporting it too, according to Venezuelanalysis.com.

“With the support of China, with the work of all Venezuelans, with scientific work, we’re going to convert Venezuela into an agricultural power on this continent,” he was quoted as saying.

For more on this story

Iran offers help Americans affected by hurricane Irene

Iran ready to help America

It is only fair.  Give Iran credit where credit is due.

Azerbaijan, Baku

Iran is ready to help the people of the Central and North America affected by the hurricane, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.

Mehmanparas expressed his condolences to the families of those killed by hurricane Irene.

"The Red Crescent Society of Iran is ready to assist the countries affected by the hurricane," he said.

The death toll reached 14 people due to the hurricane.

Iran to send 8th aid convoy to Somalia

Iran to send 8th aid convoy to Somalia
Iran is to dispatch its eighth humanitarian aid convoy to famine-hit Somalia as part of attempts to help the people of the Horn of Africa nation, Press TV reported.

Head of Iran's Red Crescent Society (IRCS) Public Relations Pouya Hajian told Press TV on Monday that Iran's eighth humanitarian aid shipment for drought-stricken Somalia is being loaded into two cargo planes at Payam Airport, located 40 kilometers (24 miles) west of the Iranian capital Tehran.

He added that the 80-ton consignment comprising medical supplies will be dispatched to the Somali capital Mogadishu's Aden-Adde International Airport on Monday night.

Drought and famine have affected more than 11.8 million people across Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Somalia has been the hardest-hit country in what is being described as the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in 60 years.

According to the United Nations, a quarter of Somalia's 9.9 million people are now either internally displaced or living outside the country as refugees.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei on August 15 called on Iranians to rush to the aid of the Muslim people of Somalia.

"These days, the Horn of Africa and particularly the catastrophe-ridden country of Somalia are witnessing one of the most painful human crises in which the lives of millions of Somali women and children are in danger due to drought, famine and the silence of international organizations," read a statement by the Leader.

The United Nations says that more than thirteen children out of every 10,000 aged less than five die in the Somalia's famine zone every day.

"This means that 10 per cent of children under five are dying every 11 weeks. These figures are truly heart-wrenching," UN representative to Somalia Augustine Mahiga told the UN Security Council on August 10.

Trend News

Monday, August 29, 2011

Big Brother goes Corporate

We are through the looking glass folks.  Using facial recognition technology Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is WATCHING US to make sure we only buy the "correct" corporate approved products.

"Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups...So I ask, in my writing, What is real?

Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms.

I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing."

Philip K. Dick  
(Author of Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkley, Screamers, Impostor and The Adjustment Bureau.) 


"What if the government starts compiling a database of everyone who shows up to protests?"

FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY:    Corporations are now in a race with (or allied with?) Big Government to become Big Brother.

Picture this: You stop in front of a digital advertising display at a mall and suddenly an ad pops up touting makeup, followed by one for shoes and then one for butter pecan ice cream.

It seems to know you're a woman in your late 20s and, in fact, it does. When you looked at the display, it scanned your facial features and tailored its messages to you.

Once the stuff of science fiction by Philip K. Dick and high-tech crime fighting, facial recognition technology has become one of the newest tools in marketing, even though privacy concerns abound, says the Los Angeles Times.

Big Brother says "only buy
Kraft products."

The Venetian resort, hotel and casino in Las Vegas has started using it on digital displays to tailor suggestions for restaurants, clubs and entertainment to passersby.

Kraft Foods Inc. and Adidas say they are planning to experiment with it as early as this year to push their products.

A group of U.S. bar owners in Chicago last month started using facial recognition, in conjunction with mounted cameras, to keep tabs on the male/female ratio and age mixes of their crowds. Patrons planning a night out can use mobile apps to get a real-time check of a venue's vibe.

"This helps people avoid those hit-or-miss nights," said Cole Harper, 27, co-founder of the SceneTap company that makes the app.

The commercial applications of facial recognition are in contrast to those being used by law enforcement to identify specific individuals. Companies, at least at this point, mostly just want to pinpoint a demographic based on age and gender to tailor their ads.

But even this facial recognition-lite alarms privacy advocates, given that it could greatly popularize and expand use of the technology.

Intel Corp., which makes such software, said it's widely adaptable.

"You can put this technology into kiosks, vending machines, digital signs," said Christopher O'Malley, director of retail marketing for Intel's embedded and communications group. "It's going to become a much more common thing in the next few years."

So far, the technology is in most use commercially in Japan, where a variety of businesses use it to customize ads.

"It's not just clothing stores or restaurant chains," said Joseph Jasper, spokesman for NEC Corp., which makes display screens used for facial recognition-driven ads. Banks, for example, use it to target customers based on their ages, separating out older customers from young people who are more likely to be opening their first account.

The technology works by digitally measuring the distance between the eyes, the width of the nose, the length of a jawline and other data points. Law enforcement agencies that use facial recognition — as was done during the recent London riots — compare the measurements against photos in databases.

Adidas is working with Intel to install and test digital walls with facial recognition in a handful of stores either in the U.S. or Britain. If a woman in her 50s walks by and stops, 60% of the shoes displayed will be for females in her age bracket, while the other 40% will be a random sprinkling of other goods.

"If a retailer can offer the right products quickly, people are more likely to buy something," said Chris Aubrey, vice president of global retail marketing for Adidas.

Kraft said it's in talks with a supermarket chain, which it would not identify, to test face-scanning kiosks.

"If it recognizes that there is a female between 25 to 29 standing there, it may surmise that you are more likely to have minor children at home and give suggestions on how to spice up Kraft Macaroni & Cheese for the kids," said Donald King, the company's vice president of retail experience.

Facebook is watching you

Privacy advocates worry the technology is one more way for companies to quietly gather data about people without their permission or even knowledge. In June, Facebook Inc. rolled out a facial recognition feature worldwide that could pinpoint individuals. It was used to automatically identify friends when you uploaded photos of them onto the social network.

When members realized this was happening, many loudly objected, calling it creepy and invasive. The feature still exists, but the company apologized and made it more clear how users can opt out.

The nonprofit Electronic Privacy Information Center said such uses of facial recognition have the potential to violate civil liberties and give governments too much power.

"What if the government starts compiling a database of everyone who shows up to protests?" asked Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the group. "There are so many 1st Amendment and human rights concerns. It's a slippery slope.

"When you think about facial recognition, you have to ask the questions, 'Why is it being done?' 'Who is it being done to?' 'How is that information used?' and 'What is it linked to?'"

For more on this story

Royal wedding fever - Imperial German style

Off on honeymoon: Crowds line the streets to catch a glimpse of the prince and princess after their ceremony

The Hohenzollern dynasty makes a come back for the weekend

On the lighter side, I am always a sucker for a royal wedding.

Hundreds - not thousands - lined the streets and until they tied the knot the happy couple weren't exactly household names.

But, while it wasn't on a par with William and Kate's big day, this is the closest Germany comes to a royal wedding.

When Prince Georg Friedrich Ferdinand of Prussia married Princess Sophie of Isenburg it was like their country had stepped back in time reports the UK Mail.

Prince Georg is the great-great-grandson of Kaiser Wilhelm II, who ruled his country until the monarchy was abolished in 1918.

And while their family's role may now be long-defunct, this 'royal' wedding has rekindled interest in them among Germans.

Great, great Grandad Kaiser Wilhelm II

The couple -  who both work as consultants in Berlin - were married in a church in Potsdam, outside the capital, the former seat of the prince's family.

After Saturday's ceremony, they traveled by horse-drawn carriage to Sanssouci Palace for a dinner and ball.

Several hundred onlookers lined the streets outside of the church to see them, despite the couple's attempts to keep it low-key.

The 33-year-old bride wore a dress designed by Wolfgang Joop, and a diamond tiara belonging to her family.  The 35-year-old groom was dressed in a top hat and tails.

Yesterday's event was broadcast live on local public TV, sparking protest from members of the former communist Left party, and was splashed across the pages of newspapers and glossy magazines.

Prince Georg and Princess Sophie also held a civil ceremony on Friday.

From 1871, the Kings of Prussia also served as German Emperors, with Wilhelm II being the last. He abdicated in 1918, following World War I, and the German monarchy was dismantled.

Descendants of German royal families still carry their titles, although they have no meaning and are legally considered part of their names.

Until now Germans little interest in their own aristocrats, but many ardently follow the royal houses of their European neighbors - including Britain's.

Just married: The couple in a horse-drawn carriage in front of Potsdam's Sanssouci Palace

Earlier this summer the couple made an appearance at the royal wedding of
Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene in Monaco.

The prince was born on June 10, 1976 in Bremen just one year after his parents' wedding, which was also a big media event. The princess, born on March 7, 1978 in Frankfurt, comes from a royal dynasty that traces its roots back to the year 963.

Imperial Germany under the Hohenzollern dynasty.

For more on this story

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Massive cost overruns on the Bullet-Train

The Bullet-Train Money Pit.
Socialists and Statists do not understand that modern technology allows travelers to walk into a tube with wings, sit in a chair and in only a few minutes magically arrive at cities all over the People's Republic of California.

Your tax dollars at work:  Massive cost overruns could drive the cost of California's Bullet-Train to $247 Billion

Boys and their train sets.  Even grown up Socialist boys and their train sets.  The difference is the grown up boys want to play with trains and use hundreds of billions of your tax money to do it.

It never enters into these small minds that trains are 19th Century technology and that modern people travel rapidly in airplanes.  Never mind that the state is bankrupt and deeply in debt.  The orgy of spending must go on.

A recent study of cost overruns in public-works megaprojects suggests the final price tag on the California bullet train -- now estimated at $45 billion -- could soar to as much as $247 billion if things get out of hand.

When built, California's 800-mile bullet train project may include more than 140 miles of elevated structures -- viaducts, some 60 feet in the air.

On those sky tracks, trains are supposed to hurtle along at speeds up to 220 mph.

Critics say it's urgent that this design feature be reconsidered before the state begins construction on the first segment of the line in the Central Valley. The recent rail disaster in China demonstrates the dangers of running bullet trains on viaducts at top speed, they say, reports the Bakersfield Californian.

The corruption and stupidity of the Bullet-Train (like all government spending) is truly
Bi-Partisan in nature.  Democrat labor unions and supporters often get the work and
Republican businessmen also stick their snouts deep in the public trough.

Meanwhile, the elevated structures add billions in construction costs to a project that increasingly seems to be seriously underfunded, even as it prepares to break ground.

"Viaducts were the (California High-Speed Rail Authority's) preferred answer to almost any alignment problem, despite known seismic and safety vulnerabilities," Richard Tolmach, president of the California Rail Foundation, wrote in a review of bullet train design issues in this month's California Rail News newsletter.

In an interview, he said putting the bullet train's tracks on solid ground could shave nearly $4 billion from the cost of building the 165-mile Central Valley line, now estimated at as much as $13.5 billion.

Those savings could be critical to a project with big money troubles.

Many experts believe Congress will never chip in the additional $15 billion the state is counting on to build the system, which would link San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Rachel Wall, a spokeswoman for the state High-Speed Rail Authority, acknowledged it's more costly to build viaducts but said they are a necessary design feature if California's project is to provide direct service to Central Valley cities.

As Tolmach wrote, European bullet train projects have avoided elevated tracks whenever possible -- less than 2 percent of France's TGV network is on viaducts, and that includes river crossings.
There several reasons to avoid sky tracks, he said.

The cost difference is eye-opening. Building a mile of viaduct costs five times what it costs to lay a mile of track on the ground, he estimated. Then there's noise and blight. Viaducts have a "propensity to broadcast train noise," he wrote. Meanwhile, urban planning experts long have noted a "Chinese Wall" effect: Rail viaducts disrupt and divide established city neighborhoods.

Finally, when it comes to bullet trains, there's the safety issue. The faster you run trains on viaducts, the greater the risk that a train wreck will be catastrophic.

"Each mile of speed increase diminishes the ability to keep trains from launching off the viaduct in an accident," Tolmach wrote.

Last month's China crash unfolded after a bullet train stalled on a viaduct near Wenzhou. Authorities later said it lost electrical power because of a lightning strike. A second bullet train plowed into the first at high speed, derailing six rail cars and sending four of them plummeting 100 feet off the elevated structure. The death toll was 39. About 200 passengers suffered nonfatal injuries.

A railway viaduct in Scotland.  The California Bullet-Train
will have more than 140 miles of viaducts at five times the
cost of ground laid tracks.
By Tolmach's count, the rail authority plans to build 42 miles of viaduct along the eastern edge of the valley between Merced and Bakersfield. Many of the structures would carry the bullet trains across watercourses that lace the area.

Almost all of those viaducts could be eliminated at enormous cost savings, Tolmach said, but it would require a rethinking of the project.

If the rail line were relocated to the western edge of the valley, on the right of way of the I-5 freeway, "you'd be building it on the ground the entire way," he said. "And it's a state right of way with plenty of room for some tracks."

But such a route would require east-west feeder rail lines to connect the bullet train to the valley cities. Wall, the rail authority's spokeswoman, said that concept was rejected early on.

"An initial focus of the high-speed rail system is, are you going to serve the growing population of the Central Valley or not?" she said. Directly connecting Central Valley cities became a "fundamental goal" of the project, and that ruled out the I-5 route, she said.

For more on this story

Internet Jihad: Websites tempt Mauritanian boys

Nouakchott, Mauritania

Mauritania's growing internet connectivity brings a new danger: easy access to extremist websites. From parents to muftis, Mauritanians are fighting back against the online threat.

Text and photos by Jemal Oumar for Magharebia in Nouakchott 

Parents are concerned that young Mauritanians can fall prey to jihadist recruitment at the country's many internet cafes. Parents are concerned that young Mauritanians can fall prey to jihadist recruitment at the country's many internet cafes.

With internet cafes springing up all over the Nouakchott, extremist Salafist ideology is just a click away.
Since the As-Sahab Foundation, al-Jahafel, al-Andalus Media and other websites linked to al-Qaeda organisations are now readily accessible throughout the capital city, parents have begun monitoring their children's activities and online friendships.

"I noticed a change in my son," Alnina Mint Al-Nahi, tells Magharebia about 16-year-old Al-Saalek. "Especially in his daily addiction to watching religious channels, to the point of becoming furious when we wanted to watch news or entertainment programmes. He even accused us as being misguided," the 52-year-old says.

"Facing my son's hard-line behaviour, I decided to remove the television from the house once and for all, and that led him to replace it with an addiction to internet cafes," she continues. "This is causing me to fear his falling into the hands of extremist groups."

In the Arafat neighbourhood of Nouakchott, many young people endure idleness and poverty. And this makes them particularly susceptible to online recruiters.

"I have a 15-year-old son, and it is in my best interest to integrate into the world of new technology and modern media," says Mohamed Salem. "But at the same time, I am careful to guide and educate him in what serves his mind, and also caution him about some websites that extremist groups are behind."

Ibrahim Ould Mohamed Vall runs an internet cafe in the Arafat district. He sees boys like Al-Saalek and Salem every day. "Adolescents aged 16 and 17 represent most of the patrons of this cafe, which opened less than a year ago," he tells Magharebia. "And since I'm just trying to make a profit, it's not my responsibility to prevent children from coming here."

"That's up to their parents."

Nouakchott's cyber-cafes give teenagers a chance to surf the web, but restrictions and supervision vary widely. Nouakchott's cyber-cafes give teenagers a chance to surf the web, but restrictions and supervision vary widely.

"I only prevent them from browsing pornography sites," the Arafat cafe owner adds.

Abdullah Malek, owner of the oldest cafe in the centre of the capital, is more vigilant about what his young patrons are doing online. "We do not allow young teenagers to surf the web unless we confirmed their identities and their objectives," he explains.

"If they are looking for information related to their schoolwork, we provide them with assistance, and if their objective is not clear so far as we're concerned, we stop them from accessing the internet," Malek tells Magharebia.

Still, he has seen his fair share of problems. "Many hard-line youth frequented the cafe in past years. Some are currently in prison on charges of belonging to terrorist groups," he says.

"From our side, as cafe operators, it is not easy to monitor sites that cafe patrons are browsing them from our side. All we can do is have suspicions about a person who frequents the cafe at special times and is characterised by extreme guardedness," Malek adds.

Extremist web forums and blogs have what it takes to reel in their intended audience, according to journalist Zineddine. "The success of the Salafis in designing attractive websites with various internet-related technologies, such as audio and images, enabled them to attract many young people," he tells Magharebia.
"The internet is the medium we are least able to monitor and control, and it is a gateway for spreading extremist ideology without the knowledge of the state and the parents of adolescents," he says.

The internet has indeed proven useful to extremist groups, terrorism analyst Mohamed Mahmoud Ould Abu Elmaali points out. "The electronic media, such as al-Qaeda forums and websites, only helped, because al-Qaeda had people involved in direct enlistment and they used them as part of the propaganda."

"Websites feed the intellectual side with tapes, CDs and links to lectures by Bin Laden, Abdullah Azzam and Droukdel, and they were in fact used in mobilisation and supporting enlistment operations," he notes.

Sahara Media journalist Mohamed Naji Ould Ahmadou confirms the success of online recruiting by terror groups: "It is well known that most of the Salafi militants currently in Mauritanian prisons learned about the ideology of al-Qaeda and embraced its beliefs through its websites and forums."

First there is exposure to the extremists' web forum, he says. "Then comes the direct communication with them." The story of convicted Mauritanian terrorist Marouf Ould Haiba confirms parents' greatest fears.

Currently imprisoned for participating in armed confrontations with Mauritanian security officers, he was once just like their sons.

He started out by communicating with al-Qaeda via the web. In 2006, he took off for al-Qaeda training camps. During the pronouncement of his death sentence by the criminal court judge in Nouakchott in October, 2010, Ould Haiba said: "I acquired a computer and downloaded a lot of jihadist books and movies on it... and studied them well."

Dr Side Ould Ellalam, a specialist in crimes of children and adolescents, says that while such behaviour is usually attributed to "informational media, such as magazines, booklets, the web and some religious-oriented channels", the main factor that makes young people susceptible to radical ideologies is "the great void" in which they live.

"Added to that, teenagers always seek self-expression and adventure, and think about creating themselves. It is thus easy for them to latch onto certain media."

Ould Ellalam continues, "There is another type pushing some categories of Mauritanian youth toward delinquency and adoption of radical Islamic ideology, and that is a sense of being deprived of some social benefits."

"If their outlook is pessimistic toward society, if they consider it a source of their hardship and marginalisation, they therefore want to get rid of the society that caused them injustice, through alliance with any orientation or particular ideology that can help them achieve that goal - especially if it is based on religious thought," he says.

Most Salafi militants learned about al-Qaeda online, says Sahara Media journalist Mohamed Naji Ould Ahmadou. Most Salafi militants learned about al-Qaeda online, says Sahara Media journalist Mohamed Naji Ould Ahmadou.

Sociology researcher Dr Sidi Mohamed Ould Ajid agrees that society has a role in turning a teenager into a jihadi: "Poor conditions cause young people to experience a contradiction between what they see in reality and what is being said, and this creates confusion."

Some of them, he adds, turn to jihadist thought.

"Sure, the media and communications media in general, and electronic media in particular, have a huge impact on the recipient, whatever his age, and with its use of audio, images and effects of various sorts and levels to convey its message, it will be more influential," he tells Magharebia.

"These websites utilise methods of presentation and dissemination by experts in the field of psychology and others, so that the effect is captivating, controlling and convincing" he says.

These groups specifically target youth and adolescents, Ould Ajid notes. And for many impressionable teenagers, the "conditions of Muslim communities make them amenable to receiving religious discourse".

At the end of the day, he says, young people are just "looking for a port to lay down anchor".

What can parents do to subvert the online assault? Religious scholar and cleric Mohamed Abdullah Ould Elmustaf says: "Parents must attend to guardianship in protecting their children, whether in terms of their bodies, their property or their minds, and raise them with good morals and fill their thoughts with religion of moderation, to guarantee security against today's ideas."

Parents also need to "monitor all websites and channels that broadcast extremist ideology or which are a mouthpiece for those who do not have a good understanding of the true religion", the mufti adds.

"With children, if the mind is not occupied with what is right, it is occupied with what is wrong. Therefore, these thieves of ideas – of minds – are more dangerous than any others," he says.

For more on this story

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Stealing tax money at the speed of light

The Federal Treasury is just a giant ATM
The organized fraud and theft (legal and illegal) of tax money is happening at the speed of light and the click of a computer mouse.  Everyone from Wall Street to organized crime to farmers and illegal aliens are doing electronic "wealth transfers" and draining tax dollars.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

"Thieves get to steal megabucks at the speed of light, and we get to chase after them in a horse and buggy. No rational businessman would ever invent a system like this."

Harvard Professor Malcolm K. Sparrow published an article in the Los Angeles Times on the massive fraud in Medicare and Medicade with lighting fast electronic payments from the Federal Treasury. 

Around the country, a never-ending stream of Medicare and Medicaid rip-off stories suggest many people now use these programs as personal tills. In July 2010, authorities exposed and shut down a more organized scheme, charging 94 conspirators from five cities who had stolen $251 million from Medicare.

  • A Los Angeles jury convicted a local pastor and his wife of fraudulently claiming $14.2 million from Medicare. The culprits recruited parishioners to help run fake durable medical equipment companies, and spent the proceeds on expensive cars and other luxuries. Assistant U.S. Atty. Gen. Lanny A. Breuer described their efforts as "persistent and brazen" and said "they treated the Medicare program like a personal till."
  • October 2010, 52 members of an Armenian American organized-crime ring were arrested and charged with $163 million in fraudulent billing.

Scores of reports over the last decade catalog completely implausible Medicare and Medicaid claims paid, apparently without a hiccup, for patients who were dead, imprisoned or previously deported from the country and forbidden to return. A significant number of claims involved prescribing physicians who were long-since dead.

What makes these healthcare programs so vulnerable to fake billings and at such a scale? It's not so much the healthcare policy itself, nor the program design; the vulnerability stems from the payment mechanism the government has chosen to use. Most Medicare and Medicaid funds are paid out electronically and automatically, in response to electronic claims received from a vast spectrum of providers. Most claims are adjudicated by computers using rule-based systems, with no human intervention at all.

Organized crime and others involved in Medicare fraud are stealing countless millions of tax dollars
with little to nothing standing in the way to stop them.

Fraud perpetrators have only to learn the rules; then they can submit thousands of claims electronically and with relative impunity. If they get things wrong, they'll receive helpful computer-generated messages explaining their mistake. Those committing fraud find it easy to get paid for fabricated claims because the government's systems check for billing correctness but not for truthfulness. The simple rule for getting rich quick through healthcare fraud is "bill your lies correctly."

In 1995, as electronic claims processing was becoming more widespread, one seasoned Medicaid fraud investigator warned: "Thieves get to steal megabucks at the speed of light, and we get to chase after them in a horse and buggy. No rational businessman would ever invent a system like this." Nevertheless, the government continues to find the use of such systems attractive, mostly because the processing efficiencies are obvious and tangible.

This problem is not restricted to healthcare. Federal and state agencies increasingly disburse funds through such "electronic signal in, electronic payment out" (ESI-EPO for short) systems. The economic stimulus package, for example, included 56 tax provisions projected to cost $288 billion. Ten of these have already been designated high risk because of the likelihood of fraud made easier with electronic processing.

Submit a qualifying tax return electronically, and if it has been completed correctly, out will come an electronic payment with no human intervention and little or no validation of the supporting evidence.
Payments for the stimulus fund's first-time home-buyer credit were found to have included $9 million to 1,300 prisoners, 241 of whom were serving life sentences when they purportedly bought homes. More than 10,000 taxpayers received credits for homes also claimed by other taxpayers, and one home was claimed by 67 claimants. The home-buyer program paid out more than $23 billion in total, and claims sampled after the fact showed dead people and young children showing up as "home buyers," in patterns eerily reminiscent of healthcare fraud.

Another stimulus component, residential energy credits, disbursed $5.8 billion in 2009 for residential energy-saving improvements. Once again, "homeowners" included prisoners and infants, and — based on a review of a random sample of claims — 30% of the recipients appeared not even to own their own homes.

The recipe for disaster is now clear. Whatever the nature of the payments — welfare supports, reimbursements, health claims, tax credits, incentive payments or subsidies — pay them electronically. Set up the system with honest claimants in mind. Allow claims, and any supporting documentation, to be submitted electronically. Set the administrative budget low enough that the bulk of the claims have to be paid on trust, without verification. Use computerized rule-based systems to ensure consistency and predictability in the way claims are paid.

Professor Malcolm K. Sparrow of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government is the author of "License to Steal: How Fraud Bleeds America's Health Care System."

Los Angeles County Sheriff Police Chief Lee Baca and FBI Special Agent Bill Lewis preside over a news conference to announce dozens of arrests and search warrants served in L.A as part of a nationwide crackdown on healthcare fraud, identity theft and organized crime.(Los Angeles Times)

For more on this story

You can't handle the truth - The Pussy-ization of America

Kaffee:  I want the truth!

Col. Jessep:  You can't handle the truth!

Col. Jessep:  Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives.

And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

The Pussy-ization of America  -  The film "A Few Good Men" comes to life

I don't know about you, but I want Colonel Jessep up on that wall protecting my freedom.  Not some pansy-ass fucking lawyer like Tom Cruise.

The movie "A Few Good Men" is an example of the Pussy-ization of America.  A weak limp-wristed America where lawyers beat everyone into a politically correct submission to the State.  Don't discipline anyone in society or they might call their lawyer.

Now we have Marines brought up on charges for trying to enforce discipline in their unit and save lives.

Two enlisted Marines face potential punishment for allegedly hazing a fellow Marine from California while their battalion was in Afghanistan, according to a report in the Marine Corps Times.

Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, 21, of Santa Clara committed suicide within hours of the rough treatment, the newspaper said.

Before putting a machine gun to his head, Lew left a note on his arm: "May hate me now, but in the long run this was the right choice. I'm sorry. My mom deserves the truth."

The two other Marine lance corporals allegedly became angry when they found Lew asleep while assigned to stand guard at his post in Afghanistan on the night of April 2.

A sergeant told the lance corporals that "peers should correct peers," according to an investigative report obtained by the newspaper.

The two lance corporals then ordered Lew to do pushups, crunches and other exercises, according to the report. One of the Marines stomped on Lew's leg and another kicked dirt on him. Both allegedly berated him for sloppy performance.

The three were part of the Hawaii-based 2nd battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, assigned at the time to the Nawa district of Helmand province, long a Taliban stronghold.

One of the lance corporals faces an Article 32 -- akin to a civilian preliminary hearing -- on charges of cruelty and maltreatment. The other, the Marine Corps Times said, will face non-judicial punishment meted out by a superior officer.

In both cases, the process will take place at the Marine base in Hawaii.

For more on this story

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mexican Commandos attack drug cartels from INSIDE the United States

The Obama Administration has brought Mexican commandos into the United States
and allowed them to launch attacks back into Mexico from American soil.

  • Obama invites Mexican commandos into the United States
  • Obama sends CIA into Mexico

The Obama administration has expanded its role in Mexico’s fight against organized crime by allowing the Mexican commandos to stage cross-border drug raids from inside the United States, according to senior administration and military officials, reports the New York Times.

Mexican commandos have discreetly traveled to the United States, assembled at designated areas and dispatched helicopter missions back across the border aimed at suspected drug traffickers. The Drug Enforcement Administration provides logistical support on the American side of the border, officials said, arranging staging areas and sharing intelligence that helps guide Mexico’s decisions about targets and tactics.

Officials said these so-called boomerang operations were intended to evade the surveillance — and corrupting influences — of the criminal organizations that closely monitor the movements of security forces inside Mexico. And they said the efforts were meant to provide settings with tight security for American and Mexican law enforcement officers to collaborate in their pursuit of criminals who operate on both sides of the border.

Mexican commandos operating on American soil.
Many aspects of the campaign remain secret, because of legal and political sensitivities. But in recent months, details have begun to emerge, revealing efforts that would have been unthinkable five years ago. Mexico’s president, Felipe Calderón, who was elected in 2006, has broken with his country’s historic suspicion of the United States and has enlisted Washington’s help in defeating the cartels, a central priority for his government.

American Predator and Global Hawk drones now fly deep over Mexico to capture video of drug production facilities and smuggling routes. Manned American aircraft fly over Mexican targets to eavesdrop on cellphone communications. And the D.E.A. has set up an intelligence outpost — staffed by Central Intelligence Agency operatives and retired American military personnel — on a Mexican military base.

“There has always been a willingness and desire on the part of the United States to play more of a role in Mexico’s efforts,” said Eric L. Olson, an expert on Mexico at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “But there have been some groundbreaking developments on the Mexican side where we’re seeing officials who are willing to take some risks, even political risks, by working closely with the United States to carry out very sensitive missions.”

Still, the cooperation remains a source of political tensions, especially in Mexico where the political classes have been leery of the United States dating from the Mexican-American War of 1846. Recent disclosures about the expanding United States’ role in the country’s main national security efforts have set off a storm of angry assertions that Mr. Calderón has put his own political interests ahead of Mexican sovereignty. Mr. Calderón’s political party faces an election next year that is viewed in part as a referendum on his decision to roll out this campaign against drug traffickers.

Mexico is using the U.S. as a staging area to attack
back into Mexico.
Officials said Mexico and the United States began discussing the possibility of cross-border missions two years ago, when Mexico’s crime wave hit the important industrial corridor between Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo. To avoid being detected, the Mexican police traveled to the United States in plain clothes on commercial flights, two military officials said. Later the officers were transported back to Mexico on Mexican aircraft, which dropped the agents at or near their targets.

“The cartels don’t expect Mexican police coming from the U.S.,” said one senior military official. None of the officials interviewed about the boomerang operations would speak publicly about them, and refused to provide details about where they were conducted or what criminal organizations had been singled out.

In recent months, Mexico agreed to post a team of D.E.A. agents, C.I.A. operatives and retired American military officials on a Mexican military base to help conduct intelligence operations, bolstering the work of a similar “fusion cell” already in Mexico City.

For for on this story