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Facial recognition tech turns people into ‘waking ID cards,’ warn privacy activists

Police force use of facial recognition technology in public spaces risks turning people into “walking...

Will Theresa May impose ID cards on everyone ‘by the backdoor’ after EU migrants...

Three million EU citizens residing in the UK may be forced to carry an ID...

Mexican Gov’t To Hand Out ID Cards To Foreign Nationals – In North Carolina

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National ID Cards To Make A Come Back?

After spending £5 billion on a controversial national ID card scheme that was eventually scrapped, it appears that ID cards could be making a come back.

Israel Uses Control of Birth Registry and ID Cards to Control Gaza Population

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Transcript

Yousef Al-Helou: Palestinians have been living in a state of limbo since the 1967 war, and even before 1948, the year when Israel was created on the land of historic Palestine, after forcing its indigenous population to leave to neighboring counties and elsewhere throughout the world, which made them become refugees and stateless dreaming of their right of return.

Since 1967, when Israel occupied the Gaza strip and the West Bank, it has been in control of the Palestinian population registry and all important cards required to enter Gaza and the West Bank.This system was designed to control and monitor the movement of all Palestinians and to curb the Palestinian population by denying their Diaspora the right to come home even if for a short visit.The Real News talked to Samah Sabawi, a Palestinian writer from Australia who managed to enter Gaza to visit her family for the first time in 17 years and after 7 hours of waiting at the Rafah crossing.It is virtually impossible for many cases for the majority of Palestinians like Samah who are actually from Gaza  and who were forced to leave after 1967 to actually come back for a visit because they do not carry the Palestinian ID or what is known among Palestinians  as "Haweyyah".Samah Sabawi, Palestinian Writer: There is great power in controlling the birth registry and the population registry .When you are a nation defines yourself  by a specific ethnic character  which is the Jewish character, you want to know how many non Jews are being born within your area of control, you want be able to control this population. So it is a great measurement of controlling not only the exit and entry and movement of the population but also to implement a kind of segregation, so you have people from the west bank who can not come to Gaza because they are confined by their ID's, and you got people from Gaza who dream of coming to the West bank for the same reason, but above the fragmentation and the implementation of this fragmentation by the Israeli authority,  you got also the power to curb the Palestinian populationAl-Helou: The Rafah crossing is Gaza's only gate that bypasses Israel and controlled by Egypt but only Palestinians with Israeli approved ID cards can use this crossing. Those who do not have ID's or what is known as Palestinian National Number Card  issued by Israeli interior ministry and wish to visit Gaza have to coordinate their visit with Egyptian authorities. In case their attempts failed, the alternative is to use underground tunnels between Gaza and Egypt.Islam Shahwan, Spokesperson of Gaza interior ministry: We have over 200,000 Palestinians registered in our database and who are living outside Gaza and do not have Palestinian ID's issued by Israeli authorities, they have applied for family unification, registration and residency this issue was stopped by Israeli authorities  some years ago. These people have either Egyptian or Lebanese or other travel documents and want to visit or live in Gaza, we have overcome this problem by coordinating this matter with Egyptian authorities by granting them identification cards issued from the Palestinian ministry of interior in Gaza.Al-Helou: With Israel controlling the Palestinian registry, the whole picture and the whole analysis becomes very clear, it is controlling every aspect of the lives of Palestinians from the moments they are born.This is one of the general civil affairs offices, Gaza residents come to such offices to issue new birth certificates for their new babies, or to issue passports or even to renew the old passports.Some have gone far, calling Israel's control of the Palestinian registry and residency as an apartheid system that was designed in order to keep an eye on the population growth of the Palestinian people and sever the Palestinian population either in the Gaza strip or the West Bank from the DiasporaAsad Abu Sharekh, Al-Azhar University: This is not violation against our sovereignty , this is violation of international humanitarian law , Israel is in total control of this registry, simply it wants to be in control of everything in Palestine, so that Israel is practicing an ethnic cleansing policy. Whenever Israel knows there is growth in population, it uses new strategy in order to de-Palestiniaze, de-arabize, and depopulate Palestine and to use this ethnic cleansing and it has has been doing that ever since 1967.Al-Helou: Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said in its report, that the way Israel’s military has exercised its control over the Palestinian population registry – the list of Palestinians whom it considers to be lawful residents of the West Bank and Gaza territories – has separated families, caused people to lose jobs and educational opportunities, barred people from entering the Palestinian territories, and trapped others inside them.While, Israeli policies on Palestinian residency have arbitrarily denied thousands of Palestinians the ability to live in, and travel to and from, the West Bank and Gaza, the system of ID cards is used as a weapon to further cement the implementation of the fragmentation of the Palestinian population as it confines the Palestinians to their geographic Israeli-controlled Bantustans. For Thre Real News, Yousef Al-Helou, Gaza.


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“Smart Cards” in a Surveillance Society: The Implanted Radio-Frequency Identification Chip

The Implanted Radio-Frequency Identification Chip: "Smart Cards" in a Surveillance Society

If incorporating personal details into an RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip implanted into a passport or driver’s license may sound like a “smart” alternative to endless lines at the airport and intrusive questioning by securocrats, think again.

Since the late 1990s, corporate grifters have touted the “benefits” of the devilish transmitters as a “convenient” and “cheap” way to tag individual commodities, one that would “revolutionize” inventory management and theft prevention. Indeed, everything from paper towels to shoes, pets to underwear have been “tagged” with the chips. “Savings” would be “passed on” to the consumer. Call it the Wal-Martization of everyday life.

RFID tags are small computer chips connected to miniature antennae that can be fixed to or implanted within physical objects, including human beings. The RFID chip itself contains an Electronic Product Code that can be “read” when a RFID reader emits a radio signal. The chips are divided into two categories, passive or active. A “passive” tag doesn’t contain a battery and its “read” range is variable, from less than an inch to twenty or thirty feet. An “active” tag on the other hand, is self-powered and has a much longer range. The data from an “active” tag can be sent directly to a computer system involved in inventory control–or surveillance.

But as Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) state in a joint position paper, “RFID has the potential to jeopardize consumer privacy, reduce or eliminate purchasing anonymity, and threaten civil liberties.” As these organizations noted:

While there are beneficial uses of RFID, some attributes of the technology could be deployed in ways that threaten privacy and civil liberties:

* Hidden placement of tags. RFID tags can be embedded into/onto objects and documents without the knowledge of the individual who obtains those items. As radio waves travel easily and silently through fabric, plastic, and other materials, it is possible to read RFID tags sewn into clothing or affixed to objects contained in purses, shopping bags, suitcases, and more.

* Unique identifiers for all objects worldwide. The Electronic Product Code potentially enables every object on earth to have its own unique ID. The use of unique ID numbers could lead to the creation of a global item registration system in which every physical object is identified and linked to its purchaser or owner at the point of sale or transfer.

* Massive data aggregation. RFID deployment requires the creation of massive databases containing unique tag data. These records could be linked with personal identifying data, especially as computer memory and processing capacities expand.

* Hidden readers. Tags can be read from a distance, not restricted to line of sight, by readers that can be incorporated invisibly into nearly any environment where human beings or items congregate. RFID readers have already been experimentally embedded into floor tiles, woven into carpeting and floor mats, hidden in doorways, and seamlessly incorporated into retail shelving and counters, making it virtually impossible for a consumer to know when or if he or she was being “scanned.”

* Individual tracking and profiling. If personal identity were linked with unique RFID tag numbers, individuals could be profiled and tracked without their knowledge or consent. For example, a tag embedded in a shoe could serve as a de facto identifier for the person wearing it. Even if item-level information remains generic, identifying items people wear or carry could associate them with, for example, particular events like political rallies. (“Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products,” Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, November 14, 2003)

RFID under the skin

As the corporatist police state unfurls its murderous tentacles here in the United States, it should come as no surprise that securocrats breathlessly tout the “benefits” of RFID in the area of “homeland security.” When linked to massive commercial databases as well as those compiled by the 16 separate agencies of the “intelligence community,” such as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) that feeds the federal government’s surveillance Leviathan with the names of suspected “terrorists,” it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that the architecture for a vast totalitarian enterprise is off the drawing board and onto the streets.

As last week’s mass repression of peaceful protest at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul amply demonstrated, the Bush regime’s “preemptive war” strategy has been rolled out in the heimat. As the World Socialist Web Site reports,

On Wednesday eight members of the anarchist protest group the Republican National Convention Welcoming Committee (RNCWC) were charged under provisions of the Minnesota state version of the Patriot Act with “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism.”

The eight charged are all young, and could face up to seven-and-a-half years in prison under a provision that allows the enhancement of charges related to terrorism by 50 percent. …

Among other things, the youth, who were arrested last weekend even prior to the start of the convention, are charged with plotting to kidnap delegates to the RNC, assault police officers and attack airports. Almost all of the charges listed are based upon the testimony of police infiltrators, one an officer, the other a paid informant. (Tom Eley, “RNC in Twin Cities: Eight protesters charged with terrorism under Patriot Act,” World Socialist Web Site, 6 September 2008)

As the ACLU pointed out, “These charges are an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the same as acts of terrorism. This both trivializes real violence and attempts to place the stated political views of the defendants on trial,” said Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “The charges represent an abuse of the criminal justice system and seek to intimidate any person organizing large scale public demonstrations potentially involving civil disobedience,” he said.

An affidavit filed by the cops in order to allow the preemptive police raid and subsequent arrests declared that the RNCWC is a “criminal enterprise” strongly implying that the group of anarchist youth were members of a “terrorist organization.”

Which, as we have learned over these last seven and a half years of darkness, is precisely the point: keep ‘em scared and passive. And when they’re neither scared nor passive, resort to police state tactics of mass repression. While the cops beat and arrested demonstrators and journalists outside the Xcel Energy Center, neanderthal-like Republican mobs chanted “USA! USA!” while the execrable theocratic fascist, Sarah Palin, basked in the limelight. But I digress…

Likened to barcodes that scan items at the grocery store check-out line, what industry flacks such as the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM) fail to mention in their propaganda about RFID is that the information stored on a passport or driver’s license is readily stolen by anyone with a reader device–marketers, security agents, criminals or stalkers–without the card holder even being remotely aware that they are being tracked and their allegedly “secure” information plundered. According to a blurb on the AIM website,

Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM) technologies are a diverse family of technologies that share the common purpose of identifying, tracking, recording, storing and communicating essential business, personal, or product data. In most cases, AIM technologies serve as the front end of enterprise software systems, providing fast and accurate collection and entry of data. (“Technologies,” Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility, no date)

Among the “diverse family of technologies” touted by AIM, many are rife with “dual-use” potential, that is, the same technology that can keep track of a pallet of soft drinks can also keep track of human beings.

Indeed, the Association touts biometric identification as “an automated method of recognizing a person based on a physiological or behavioral characteristic.” This is especially important since “the need” for biometrics “can be found in federal, state and local governments, in the military, and in commercial applications.” When used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with RFID-chipped “smart cards” biometrics, according to the industry “are set to pervade nearly all aspects of the economy and our daily lives.”

Some “revolution.”

The industry received a powerful incentive from the state when the Government Services Administration (GSA), a Bushist satrapy, issued a 2004 memo that urged the heads of all federal agencies “to consider action that can be taken to advance the [RFID] industry.”

An example of capitalist “ingenuity” or another insidious invasion of our right to privacy? In 2006, IBM obtained a patent that will be used for tracking and profiling consumers as they move around a store, even if access to commercial databases are strictly limited.

And when it comes tracking and profiling human beings, say for mass extermination at the behest of crazed Nazi ideologues, IBM stands alone. In his groundbreaking 2001 exploration of the enabling technologies for the mass murder of Jews, communists, Roma and gays and lesbians, investigative journalist Edwin Black described in IBM and the Holocaust how, beginning in 1933, IBM and their subsidiaries created technological “solutions” that streamlined the identification of “undesirables” for quick and efficient asset confiscation, deportation, slave labor and eventual annihilation.

In an eerie echo of polices being enacted today against Muslims and left-wing “extremists” by the corrupt Bush regime in their quixotic quest to “keep America safe” in furtherance of capitalist and imperialist goals of global domination, Black writes:

In the upside-down world of the Holocaust, dignified professionals were Hitler’s advance troops. Police officials disregarded their duty in favor of protecting villains and persecuting victims. Lawyers perverted concepts of justice to create anti-Jewish laws. Doctors defiled the art of medicine to perpetrate ghastly experiments and even choose who was healthy enough to be worked to death–and who could be cost-effectively sent to the gas chamber. Scientists and engineers debased their higher calling to devise the instruments and rationales of destruction. And statisticians used their little known but powerful discipline to identify the victims, project and rationalize the benefits of their destruction, organize their persecution, and even audit the efficiency of genocide. Enter IBM and its overseas subsidiaries. (IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation, New York: Crown Publishers, 2001, pp. 7-8)

As security and privacy analyst Katherine Albrecht writes describing IBM’s patented “Identification and Tracking of Persons Using RFID-Tagged Items in Store Environments,”

…chillingly details RFID’s potential for surveillance in a world where networked RFID readers called “person tracking units” would be incorporated virtually everywhere people go–in “shopping malls, airports, train stations, bus stations, elevators, trains, airplanes, restrooms, sports arenas, libraries, theaters, [and] museums”–to closely monitor people’s movements. (“How RFID Tags Could Be Used to Track Unsuspecting People,” Scientific American, August 21, 2008)

According to the patent cited by Albrecht, as an individual moves around a store, or a city center, an “RFID tag scanner located [in the desired tracking location]… scans the RFID tags on [a] person…. As that person moves around the store, different RFID tag scanners located throughout the store can pick up radio signals from the RFID tags carried on that person and the movement of that person is tracked based on these detections…. The person tracking unit may keep records of different locations where the person has visited, as well as the visitation times.”

Even if no personal data are stored in the RFID tag, this doesn’t present a problem IBM explains, because “the personal information will be obtained when the person uses his or her credit card, bank card, shopper card or the like.” As Albrecht avers, the link between the unique RFID number and a person’s identity “needs to be made only once for the card to serve as a proxy for the person thereafter.” With the wholesale introduction of RFID chipped passports and driver’s licenses, the capitalist panoptic state is quickly–and quietly–falling into place.

If America’s main trading partner and sometime geopolitical rival in the looting of world resources, China, is any indication of the direction near future surveillance technologies are being driven by the “miracle of the market,” the curtain on privacy and individual rights is rapidly drawing to a close. Albrecht writes,

China’s national ID cards, for instance, are encoded with what most people would consider a shocking amount of personal information, including health and reproductive history, employment status, religion, ethnicity and even the name and phone number of each cardholder’s landlord. More ominous still, the cards are part of a larger project to blanket Chinese cities with state-of-the-art surveillance technologies. Michael Lin, a vice president for China Public Security Technology, a private company providing the RFID cards for the program, unflinchingly described them to the New York Times as “a way for the government to control the population in the future.” And even if other governments do not take advantage of the surveillance potential inherent in the new ID cards, ample evidence suggests that data-hungry corporations will.

I would disagree with Albrecht on one salient point: governments, particularly the crazed, corporate-controlled grifters holding down the fort in Washington, most certainly will take advantage of RFID’s surveillance potential.

In 2005 for example, the Senate Republican High Tech Task force praised RFID applications as “exciting new technologies” with “tremendous promise for our economy.” In this spirit, they vowed to “protect” RFID from regulation and legislation. Needless to say, the track record of timid Democrats is hardly any better when it comes to defending privacy rights or something as “quaint” as the Constitution.

Under conditions of a looming economic meltdown, rising unemployment, staggering debt, the collapse of financial markets and continuing wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. imperialism, in order to shore up its crumbling empire, will continue to import totalitarian methods of rule employed in its “global war on terror” onto the home front.

The introduction of RFID-chipped passports and driver’s licenses for the mass surveillance and political repression of the American people arises within this context.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

HMV Collapse: Gift Cards And Vouchers Invalid

HMV has confirmed it will not be accepting gift cards or vouchers from customers as the retailer prepared to collapse into administration.

The company confirmed its intentions after a board meeting, as exclusively revealed by Sky's City Editor Mark Kleinman .

The chief executive of HMV - which employs 4,350 people - said it was "business as usual" at the chain's 238 stores, which will remain open while administrators Deloitte attempt to find a buyer.

Trevor Moore told Sky News he was "absolutely confident" about the future of the business, but added: "It does require a number of significant changes in the business, and those changes we’re very clear about."

He said: "We would hope to find a prospective buyer that could work with us to enable me to deliver those changes and ensure that HMV - which is one of the consumer's 10 most favourite stores in the UK remains on the high streets that we operate in."

A company statement said it had ultimately failed to meet the conditions of its bank loans, and trading in HMV's ordinary shares had ceased.

It said the business "faced material uncertainties" and would probably "not comply with its banking covenants" at the end of January.

Confirming the appointment of administrators "with immediate effect", the statement added: "The board regrets to announce that it has been unable to reach a position where it feels able to continue to trade outside of insolvency protection."

Mr Moore urged staff at the chain to support each other despite being faced with an uncertain future.

"My message is that it's critically important - even more now than ever before - that we remain focussed on the job at hand," he said.

"That we engage with our customers, we look after each other, support each other, and engage ... to ensure the business continues to trade successfully."

He added: "As far as I'm concerned, right now it's business as usual - HMV's doors are wide open, we have stock to sell, we have teams to staff our stores and we have a business to run."

Celebrities have been among those sharing their memories of the iconic chain.

BBC 6Music DJ Lauren Laverne tweeted: "Long time since i was in #HMV, but I remember it well… RIP."

Also on Twitter, rapper Professor Green posted: "hmv bankrupt. we may as well just give up on any medium that involves hard copy and get on with it. #sadtimes."

And fellow artist Sway added: "Just a thought. If all of the artists and labels in the UK all made a small donation do you think it would be enough to save #HMV?"

Retail expert Mary Portas posted: "HMV was a brilliant business that was a great part of our Highstreets. So sad to see this one go."

The retailer, which has struggled for several years in the face of online competition, had announced last week an additional sale at its stores in a last ditch effort to raise cash but its £176.1m debt pile was too great for the move to have much impact.

Last year, the company sold off its most profitable arm, its live music business, as it attempted to slash what it owed.

In January 2011, suppliers including Universal Music came to HMV's rescue with a deal that helped the retailer shed some of its debt, but they are understood to have dismissed requests for more financial help earlier this month.

Analysts suggest the business model was already doomed - squeezed by internet retailers and supermarkets whose scale enables them to offer CDs and DVDs at cheaper prices.

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Israel: Divide-and-conquer in Nazareth?

Al-Jazeera – 17 January 2014

Mounting efforts by Israel to divide its large Palestinian minority along sectarian lines have heightened fears that the Biblical city of Nazareth may be about to return to the scenes of violent clashes witnessed 15 years ago.

Tensions in the city, the hometown of Jesus and a destination for hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, have risen sharply in recent months after the Israeli government unveiled plans to encourage Christian school leavers to serve in the military.

Although Nazareth and its surrounding villages are home to the bulk of Israel’s 130,000 Palestinian Christians, the city itself has a Muslim majority.

The local leadership has accused the government of Benjamin Netanyahu of pursuing a “colonial policy of divide and rule” towards the country’s 1.5 million Palestinian citizens, who comprise one-fifth of the population. “Netanyahu is playing a very dangerous game, seeking to inflame tensions so that he can pit Christians against Muslims and weaken us as a community,” said Hanna Swaid, a Christian representative in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset.

Swaid said the Israeli government was playing on fears sparked by the deteriorating situation for Christians in neighbouring states, especially in Syria and Egypt. About one-tenth of the Palestinians in Israel are Christian.

Christians in the military?

Of chief concern to Swaid and other community leaders is a plan announced last year by Netanyahu to end the exemption for Christians on serving in the military.

Christians and Muslims have long refused to enlist, arguing that they do not want to assist in what they regard as the oppression of fellow Palestinians in the occupied territories. In a special video message released on Christmas Eve, Netanyahu referred to the local Christian population as “loyal citizens” and urged the youth to enlist. Most controversially, he added that a political movement recently founded in Nazareth to lobby for Christian conscription would ensure “protection to supporters of enlistment and to the conscripts themselves”.

Swaid said: “The implication from Netanyahu is that he supports the establishment of Christian militias. He is trying to sell this to Christians with the idea that Israel will arm and train you to defend yourself against your Muslim neighbours.”

In a related move this month, it emerged that Yariv Levin, chair of Netanyahu’s governing coalition, had proposed a new classification of “Christian” on identity cards. That would effectively create a special Christian nationality, leaving only Muslims to be identified as “Arabs”. Levin has said he sees the move as a prelude to creating a special education system for Christians separate from the current Arab one.

Meanwhile, a small group of Christians in Nazareth allied with the government, and led by an Orthodox priest, has declared its intention to build a 30-metre-high statue of Jesus on a hill overlooking the city, in an effort to create an Israeli version of Rio de Janiero’s imposing figure of Christ the Redeemer.

Threatening to further strain relations is a recent agreement by the government to establish a branch of a US university in Nazareth, using funds raised by Christian Zionists. Their leader, John Hagee, who is known to be close to Netanyahu, has been a longtime financial supporter of settlements in the occupied territories.

Finally, Nazareth is still reeling from a mayoral contest in October in which the two front runners were separated by a handful of votes. Although Ramez Jeraisy, a Christian and the mayor for the past two decades, and his Muslim challenger Ali Salam represent non-sectarian parties, the highly contested result has exacerbated tensions.

Jeraisy is receiving police protection after gunshots were fired at his house last week. A short time later a Nazareth youth was arrested for incitement after posting a cartoon of Jeraisy being shot dead.

The sensitive relations between the two religious communities in Nazareth are in part a legacy of the 1948 war that established Israel. As the advancing Israeli army expelled Palestinians from villages in the Galilee, some refugees fled to Nazareth seeking sanctuary. The influx of Muslims permanently altered the demographic balance of the city.

Sectarian conflict

Today, Nazareth, the largest Palestinian city in Israel with 85,000 inhabitants, has a two-thirds Muslim majority. Although Israel has tightly limited the city’s room for expansion, Nazareth serves a surrounding population of a quarter million and is viewed as the unofficial capital of the Palestinian minority.

Sectarian conflict in Nazareth first came to public attention in the late 1990s, when Netanyahu was also prime minister. He was widely blamed at the time for inflaming tensions in the city. On that occasion, the government intervened in a dispute over an empty lot next to the Basilica of the Annunciation, the enormous church marking the spot where many Christians believe an angel told Mary she was carrying the son of God.

As the city prepared for a visit by Pope John Paul II to celebrate the millennium, a group of Muslims claimed the site was land belonging to an Islamic trust before 1948 and should be used to build a large mosque. In an unprecedented decision, two ministerial committees set up by Netanyahu agreed to the mosque project. Tempers flared, and by Easter 1999 street fights between Christians and Muslims made headlines around the world.

In the end, the government stopped the mosque from being built and instead developed it as a public square. Nonetheless, the site is still a source of simmering tension, with several hundred Muslims using it for midday prayers every Friday.

Many Nazareth residents have grown increasingly fearful that the city may be heading back to the dark days of the late 1990s. “Netanyahu has form on this issue,” said Mohammed Zeidan, the head of the Human Rights Association in Nazareth. “His fear is that we as a community, especially the youth, are becoming more organised and united, as well as more effective at exposing the discriminatory policies of the state.”

Zeidan highlighted the recent success of mass protests that forced Netanyahu to shelve a government scheme, the Prawer Plan, to expel tens of thousands of Bedouin from their homes in the Negev. “He sees the community as a problem and the best way to deal with us is to set us at each other’s throats.”

The issue of Christian enlistment first surfaced a year ago, when the defence ministry quietly staged a conference on the issue in the neighbouring Jewish city of Upper Nazareth. Christian Scout movements were invited – and to the consternation of many Christians, three local priests also attended.

Currently among the Palestinian minority, only young men from the small Druze community are conscripted, after its leaders signed an agreement with the state in the 1950s. A few hundred more Palestinian citizens, both Muslims and Christians, volunteer for military service. However, the overwhelming majority are Bedouin, needed by the army as trackers.

Officials have recently talked up claims that the enlistment drive has led to a spurt of Christian recruits. However, a defence ministry official told the Associated Press last month that Christian volunteers had risen only marginally, from 40 a year to between 50 and 55.

‘Israel takes care of us’

Leading Christian support in the city for the government’s initiative is Bishara Shlayan, a 58-year-old former merchant seaman and the brother of the defence ministry’s officer in charge of Christian recruitment. He has set up a Christian-Jewish political movement, called the Covenant of Flags, with a logo featuring an intertwined Cross and Star of David. Jeraisy, Nazareth’s longtime Christian mayor, has called Shlayan a “collaborator”.

But, according to Swaid and Zeidan, Netanyahu has been emboldened by his success in securing the support of a prominent Greek Orthodox priest in Nazareth. Gabriel Nadaf, aged 40 and a former spokesman for the Jerusalem Patriarch, recently stated: “Israel takes care of us, and if not Israel, who will defend us? We love this country, and we see the army as a first step in becoming more integrated with the state.”

However, Azmi Hakim, leader of the Greek Orthodox community council in Nazareth, said there was almost no support for Nadaf or Shlayan. “They are a tiny minority but they are able to make a big noise because the government is giving them a lot of support and trying to create the impression that they represent a trend.” He added that the danger was that this could be the trigger for deteriorating relations between the two religious communities.

Levin, who has proposed a new “Christian” nationality on ID cards, said he was responding to pressure from Christians. “This is the only place in the Middle East where they have security and freedom of worship,” he said. “Many Christians don’t want to be known as Arabs.”

Following their agreement to conscription, the Druze were assigned a separate nationality, as well as an education system designed to inculcate “Zionist values”.

Shlayan welcomed Levin’s proposal, saying: “We are not brothers with the Muslims; brothers take care of each other.”

‘Used by the government’

Swaid said, “These people are being used by the government. A few Christians like Shlayan have bought into the false promise that if they serve they will get special favours. But we only need to look to the situation of the Druze. Their youth have been conscripted for decades and yet their communities are in much worse state even than that of the Christians.”

Claims by Nadaf that he has been the target of a hate campaign in Nazareth, including an attack on his teenage son, have been widely reported in the Israeli media. Nadaf’s leading critics, including Nazareth Christians, have been called in for interrogation by the police and warned that they are under investigation for “incitement to violence”.

Hakim said he had been called for interrogation on three occasions since he and the Orthodox council originally denounced Nadaf last year. He was also phoned by the domestic intelligence service, the Shin Bet, two hours before the council met to issue a statement against Nadaf. “They warned me, ‘This is bigger than you or the council.’ They told me not to get involved.”

Swaid said Israel’s real attitude towards the local Christian population was revealed following a request he submitted to the Knesset Speaker last month to place a Christmas tree in the parliament building. His request was rejected, with the speaker arguing that the Christian symbol would cause “offence”.

“I saw this as a test of whether Israel was prepared to give a sign of goodwill towards its Christians and to behave like a tolerant, multicultural state – in the way it expects other states to act towards Jewish minorities. The truth was clear. Whatever it says, Israel has no special sentiments towards Christians.”

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Israeli Apartheid Ruthlessness


Israeli Apartheid Ruthlessness

by Stephen Lendman

Israel exceeds the worst of apartheid South Africa. Ninety-year-old Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) founder, Uri Avnery, has many commendable attributes. Recognizing apartheid reality isn't one of them. More on that below.

He supports peace between Israel and all Arab countries. He calls Gush Shalom "resolute," "militant," "radical," and "consistent." He wants Israeli occupation ended. 

He endorses Palestinian self-determination inside pre-1967 Green Line borders. It represents 22% of historic Palestine. He's for minor territorial exchanges based on mutual consent.

He wants Jerusalem established as the East and West capitals of two states. He opposes the inviolable right of all diaspora Palestinians to return. He wants annual quotas. 

Establishing them violates international law. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13 states:

"(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."

UN Resolution 181 called for an Independent Arab state by October 1, 1948. It said:

"(A)ll governments and peoples (were) to refrain from taking any action" to delay it.

The Security Council was asked to take all "necessary measures" to implement it.

Resolution 242 called for an end to Israel's Six Day War and withdrawal of its armed forces from occupied territories.

Resolution 298 called territory acquired by military conquest inadmissible.

According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, apartheid reflects unconscionable acts "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over (another) or groups, and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."

Israel's Law of Return applies only to Jews. It violates international law.

Palestine belongs to Palestinians. They're willing to settle for 22% of their historic land. They're entitled to it all. Perhaps Avnery never read international law. It's inviolable.

He doesn't understand apartheid. On October 26, he headlined "Taking Apartheid Apart."

"Is Israel an apartheid state," he asked? It's that and much more. It's an international crime. It's far worse than what South African Blacks endured. 

According to Avnery, "apartheid is often used purely for propaganda purposes." It's "rhetorical(ly) use(d) to denigrate one's opponents."

South Africa was based on "racial superiority," he said. True enough. "Racism was its official creed." Zionism isn't racist, he claims. It "mix(es) nationalism and religion."

Zionists claim anti-Semites are racist, he said. "On the whole, (Arabs) inside Israel (are) much like many national minorities in Europe or elsewhere."

"They enjoy equality under the law, vote for parliament, are represented by very lively parties of their own, but in practice suffer discrimination in many areas. To call this apartheid would be grossly misleading."

At age 90, perhaps Avnery is senile. His account of Arab life in Israel is polar opposite reality. Annual Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) reports assess conditions accurately.

Police state harshness targets Israeli Arabs. Their fundamental human and civil rights are denied. Tens of thousands of Bedouin citizens perhaps fare worst.

They're systematically dispossessed. Their homes are demolished. They’re ethnically cleansed from their own land. 

Those remaining are denied schools, healthcare, running water, electricity, paved road, postal service, and other vital services.

Fundamental rights of other Israeli Arabs don't matter. Inflicting harshness is longstanding Israeli policy.

In Occupied Palestine, Israeli apartheid way exceeds South African cruel and inhumane punishment. Independent observers of both systems say so.

It includes murder, extermination, enslavement, torture, arbitrary arrests, illegal imprisonments, denial of the right to life and liberty, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and other abusive acts imposed by Jews on Arabs.

Former UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine, John Dugard, said:

"Israel is clearly in military occupation of the OPT (Occupied Palestinian Territories). At the same time, elements of the occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law."

Current UN Special Human Rights Rapporteur for Occupied Palestine, Richard Falk, said "Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid in relation to the Palestine people should be taken with the utmost seriousness by all those who affirm human solidarity and care about making visible the long ordeal of a suffering and vulnerable people."

Karine MacAllister wrote about the crime of apartheid, saying:

It "involves or necessitates the denial of the other; of their presence, rights and existence on the land and reconstruction of the past, namely that the land was empty before the advent of Zionist settlement, hence the movement's slogan describing 'a land without people for a people without land.' "

Zionism's essence is "a sophisticated legal, social, economic and political regime of racial discrimination that has led to colonialism and apartheid as well as the dispossession and displacement of the Palestinian people."

Israeli apartheid separates indigenous Palestinians from their land and heritage. Doing so is lawless. According to Fourth Geneva's Article 49:

"Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportation of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of the motive." 

Nor shall "(t)he Occupying Power...deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

The Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (the Apartheid Convention) defines it as:

"similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa (for) the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them."

Apartheid is racism's worst form. Israeli apartheid is worst of all. It mirrors what Nazi Germany did to Jews.

Avnery denies reality. South African apartheid pass laws segregated blacks from whites.

Their movements were restricted. Carrying pass books at all times was required. They had to show them on demand or face arrest.

South Africa's law evolved from the 18th and 19th centuries. Entry into cities was restricted. Blacks were forcibly relocated.

Most were denied public amenities and many forms of employment. Pass books became apartheid's most hated symbol.

Israel's military occupation is far worse than South African repression. It's a sophisticated form social, economic, political and racial discrimination.

It combines suffocating strangulation and slow-motion genocide. It incorporates and worst elements of colonialism and apartheid.

It includes repressive dispossession, displacement and state terrorism. It separates Palestinians from their land, heritage and culture.

It denies them fundamental human and civil rights. It treats them like subhumans. It wants their resistance crushed. Ideally it wants them eliminated altogether.

It does so through violence, intimidation, land theft, home demolitions, targeted assassinations, murder, mass arrests, torture, destruction of agricultural land and isolation.

Israel's ID/permit system mirrors South African pass books. It requires all permanent residents and citizens over 16 to have color-coded ID cards. They're called te'udat zehut.

They're for West Bank and Gazan Palestinians, East Jerusalem ones, Israeli Arab citizens, and Jews solely to distinguish them from persecuted Arabs.

Palestinians are denied fundamental rights. They're constricted on where they may live, work, move, or be allowed through West Bank checkpoints. Less restrictive permits are extremely hard to get. 

Jews may come and go freely. Palestinians are treated worse than undesirable aliens.

ID cards and permits are part of Israel's Kafkaesque matrix of control. Jews only communities, commercial and other areas exclude Arabs. Bypass roads are for them alone. Checkpoints, roadblocks, barriers, and other impediments control movements. 

So do border crossings. Curfews are regularly imposed. Israel's Separation Wall is stealing 12% of post-1967 Palestine.

It has nothing to do with security. It further ghettoizes Palestinian communities. It isolates them. 

Gazans are besieged. Travel to and from the West Bank is nearly impossible. Rarely granted special permission is required to do so.

For most Palestinians, leaving or entering Israel freely is virtually impossible. So are ordinary activities most people take for granted.

About 2,500 military laws govern things. They cover virtually every aspect of daily life.

Permits are required to build, make home renovations, grow crops, open a factory or business, import equipment, export merchandise or crops, or conduct many other day-to-day activities. Freedom is a four-letter word. It's nonexistent.

Bureaucratic harshness imposes enormous burdens. Palestinians are virtual prisoners on their own land. Comparing Israeli apartheid to South Africa's is simple. 

It's far worse than what Blacks endured. It's over 46 years old and counting. It shows no signs of ending. 

Its worse than ever now. Institutionalized racism defines it. So does state terror ruthlessness.

Life under South African apartheid reflected cruel and unusual punishment. Israel upped the stakes to an unprecedented level. 

It's unrelenting. It's unforgiving. It reflects longstanding ruthlessness writ large. Police states operate that way. Israel is one of the world's worst. 

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

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As Foreign Aid Flows Amid Shutdown, Obama USDA to Stop Food Stamps

Despite the wildly over-hyped partial “shutdown” of the federal government, U.S. taxpayer dollars continue flowing to foreign lands and innumerable other unconstitutional schemes that are arbitrarily deemed “essential.” The Obama administration’s Department of Agriculture (USDA), however, sent a letter to states apparently ordering them to cut off food stamps for Americans by November 1, pending further notice. A welfare program for women, children, and infants known as WIC is also on the chopping block, and some analysts are forecasting potential disaster.

As part of the effort to extort funds for ObamaCare from the people’s representatives in Congress, the administration has already been caught deliberately trying to make the “shutdown” feel as "painful" as possibleclosing parks, evicting homeowners, shuttering businesses, harassing veterans, trying to shut down parts of the ocean, and more, often at additional expense to taxpayers. Suddenly cutting off funds to the food stamp “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program” (SNAP) that some 50 million people have come to depend on, though, would take the obscene antics to a new level — especially doing it with no warning.

According to media reports appearing around the country, a letter from USDA “Food and Nutrition Service” (FNS) boss Audrey Rowe to SNAP state agency directors suggests food stamps will be cut off by next month unless Congress agrees to a funding bill that meets all of Obama’s demands. The USDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The New American. (Update: a spokesman said he would send a comment by morning at the latest, as requested. TNA will update the article once the statement is received.) However, state officials confirmed the developments, and the USDA letter to states is now widely available online. 

“FNS understands that States are concerned about future operations stemming from the continuing lapse in Federal funding,” explained the document. “According to the information we have received, several States provide next month's issuance files as early as the 15th of the month. With that in mind, understanding the operational issues and constraints that States face, and in the interest of preserving maximum flexibility, we are directing States to hold their November issuance files and delay transmission to State electronic benefit transfer (EBT) vendors until further notice.”

On the USDA website, which has not been updated in two weeks due to the “shutdown,” an FNS document also explains some of the agency’s plans for dealing with the partial shutdown. “States may make the decision to continue operations (of FNCS) for some period, but they will be doing so at their own risk with the understanding that Federal funds may not be forthcoming,” the document explained.

For food stamps, though, the money runs out in about two weeks unless the “deal” to cave in to Obama’s demands goes through. “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will continue operations and eligible households will still receive monthly benefits for October,” noted the document, dated October 1. After that, what happens was not explained, but analysts say the letter might offer the answer.

Separately, the WIC, which provides assistance to poor women and children, is also among the programs apparently set be cut off unless House Republicans agree to all of Obama’s demands. “Should a lapse extend through late October, federal WIC funding may not be sufficient to cover benefits,” explains the USDA’s “shutdown” plan. According to news reports citing officials, the program is expected to be one of the first to fold unless and until the full federal government — rather than the supposedly “essential” 83 percent currently in operation — is back up and running.      

State officials quoted in media accounts confirmed that the two unconstitutional federal welfare schemes providing food to the poor were in trouble. “The biggest programs affected by the shutdown will be food stamps, the Women, Infants and Children feeding program (WIC), the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance program and the school lunch program,” said State Budget Director John Nixon in Michigan, where some 200,000 women and children obtain WIC benefits.

In Utah, Juliette Tennert, chief economist for the Governor’s Office of Management and Budget, also confirmed that the food stamp program “is scheduled to run out at the end of the month” if the shutdown continues. Officials in other states have come to similar conclusions, though it does not appear that food stamp recipients have been notified yet.  

In many areas, private charities and citizens are getting ready to step up to the plate, vowing to do what they can to help needy families if and when their food stamps run out. “It is important that Michiganders understand that the Food Banks will stretch their dollars and do whatever is needed to meet the demand that may arise from any loss of our public partners,” explained Kareemah El-Amin, executive director of The Food Bank Council of Michigan.

In other states, though, local food bank operators are warning that they may not be able to deal with the sudden explosion of demand. Idaho Foodbank President Karen Vauk, for example, said her network “cannot” replace the food stamp program. In Utah, Associate Director Bill Tibbits with the Crossroads Urban Center said: “We can’t, there’s no way we could deal with it.”

Of course, with just two weeks’ notice, it will certainly be hard to make up for the shortfall. That has more than a few analysts and commentators concerned about what could happen. A regular contributor to the financial analysis site ZeroHedge who goes by the name Tyler Durden noted that with “a massive portion” of the American people “now fully reliant on the welfare state for virtually every daily need, it is easy to see cutting off daily bread to tens of millions has a less than happy ending.” Citing recent, small-scale food stamp glitches that resulted in instant chaos, he said it “may be the most catalytic event in the history of the U.S. welfare state.”

Liberty-minded political activist Kristan Harris, writing for South Milwaukee Now, echoed increasingly widespread concerns about the potential for turmoil. “Could the SNAP EBT (Food Stamp) disaster that occurred across 17 states last weekend have been a planned drill rather than system failure?” he asked, referring to recent outages that led to some looting and disorder. The piece also criticized the fact that people have not been informed. 

“Let’s not forget other sensible cuts that could happen for example programs like the Department of  Homeland Security, The NSA, The TSA, fusion centers, unconstitutional spying programs, cameras on the street corners and armored vehicles for our local colleges are not happening,” Harris added. “I bet all those bills are still being paid. Why can’t we cut there?”

Indeed, under the almost ludicrous justification that showering taxpayer funds on foreign governments is a “national security” issue, the Obama administration’s foreign aid schemes are still going at full speed. Shortly before the shutdown began, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters that “the vast majority of normal functions and operations will continue.”

In addition to “foreign aid,” the food stamp program is just one of an ever-growing number of unconstitutional federal schemes that should eventually be phased out. The U.S. Constitution provides no authority whatsoever for the federal government to operate wealth-redistribution or welfare schemes — no matter how well-intentioned they may sound. Of course, if state governments wish to operate such programs, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so, constitutionally speaking at least.

However, studies and history consistently show the devastating consequences of creating dependence on government. Private charities are generally far more efficient, compassionate, and frugal in supporting those in need anyway. Americans can and will help their neighbors — especially if food stamps are cut off next month — regardless of what Big Government proponents claim.  

Still, threatening to cut off food stamps after deliberately creating a massive class of dependent citizens and attacking the economy from all angles — even as most of the out-of-control federal government continues squandering money on everything from foreign aid to harassing taxpayers — should be recognized for what it is: A cheap ploy to terrorize Americans into submission.

Such programs should eventually be phased out and replaced with private charity, preferably, or state-level initiatives if citizens in those believe government intervention must continue. However, to cut them off completely and without warning in an apparent bid to extort money for ObamaCare merits congressional investigations at the very least. Americans, meanwhile, should prepare themselves to feed and protect their families and fellow citizens in case the need arises suddenly.

Alex Newman is a correspondent for The New American, covering economics, politics, and more. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Video: EBT System Crash: 16 States Out of Service: “How Am I Going to...

(Pictured: Grocery stores and retailers are posting signs for shoppers about the Electronic Benefits Outage) The Electronic Benefits Transfer system...

Video: EBT System Crash: 16 States Out of Service: “How Am I Going to...

Mac Slavo
October 12th, 2013
SHTFplan.com

Read by 25,843 people

ebt-outoforder

(Pictured: Grocery stores and retailers are posting signs for shoppers about the Electronic Benefits Outage)

The Electronic Benefits Transfer system responsible for providing 50,000,000 Americans the means to put food on the table has crashed.

The outage is reportedly affecting at least sixteen states.

Via The Organic Prepper:

Abandoned carts full of food were a frequent sight in grocery stores Saturday morning, as the EBT food assistance debit system stopped working without warning.

According to a Xerox spokesperson, a routine system check by the vendor resulted in system failure, leaving assistance recipients across the country with no way to buy food.

Xerox spokeswoman Karen Arena confirmed via email Saturday afternoon that some Electronic Benefits Transfer systems are experiencing temporary connectivity issues. She said technical staff is addressing the issue and expects the system to be restored soon. U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe underscored that the outage is not related to the government shutdown. Xerox runs EBT card systems for 17 states and all were affected by the outage. (source)

Users of EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards in California, Ohio, Michigan and several other states are unable to make purchases due to connectivity issues.

But it gets worse…

Xerox is notifying retailers to revert to the manual system, meaning SNAP customers can spend up to $50 until the system is back online. SNAP recipients should call the 800 number on the back of their card, and Xerox will guide them through the purchase process. (source)

However, that system is not working either – it’s “closed for maintenance.”

Shoppers left carts of groceries behind at a packed Market Basket grocery store in Biddeford, Maine, because they couldn’t get their benefits, said fellow shopper Barbara Colman, of Saco, Maine. The manager put up a sign saying the EBT system was not in use. Colman, who receives the benefits, called an 800 telephone line for the program and it said the system was down due to maintenance, she said.

“That’s a problem. There’s a lot of families who are not going to be able to feed children because the system is being maintenanced,” Colman said. “No one should put maintenance in during the daytime.” (source)

Despite the fact that government workers report orders from the Obama administration to “make life as difficult for people as we can”, the nation is assured that the EBT failure is in fact due to server issues and NOT due to the government shutdown.

Hattip NinaO

If you ever wanted to know what the United States might look like and how people will react should the EBT system fail, then pay close attention

I go to the register and they ask me “how you going to pay.”

I said with food stamps.

“Oh, we’re shut down, you can’t pay with food stamps.”

I got kids to feed. You know?

And because the government’s down I can’t feed my family?

What’s going on with America? Now they trying to starve us to death?

…This is crazy

…I got six kids I have to feed.

I’m just trying to figure out how to get something to eat.

More from Zero Hedge via The Daily Sheeple:

This is six hours after the EBT system crashed.

It is reportedly a glitch that should be resolved soon, but what would happen if it doesn’t get resolved?

What if the system is down for 72 hours? How about 72 days?

Via Daisy Luther:

This is your 72 hour warning. If you don’t already have a two week supply of food and water, now might be a good day to go stock up, just in case this is the beginning of a bigger crisis. The first three days after a major event are your window of opportunity to get prepared, based on the just-in-time food supply in grocery stores and the amount of food most people store in their homes.

If the EBT failure continues, look for the situation to get progressively worse.

We’ve warned about this being a real possibility because the EBT system is directly connected to the internet and any number of events could cause the system to completely crash including a cyber attack, a natural disaster or the national power grids going out of service.

Look how people are reacting on the day of. They are wholly unprepared for such an event.

If it were to go on for three days or more, we could have pandemonium in the streets as hungry, angry and panicked individuals rush grocery stores for resources… And once those are cleaned out, they’ll come for your home food storage.

Please Spread The Word And Share This Post

Author: Mac Slavo
Views: Read by 25,843 people
Date: October 12th, 2013
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to www.shtfplan.com. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

Video: EBT System Crash: 16 States Out of Service: “How Am I Going to...

Mac Slavo
October 12th, 2013
SHTFplan.com

Read by 25,843 people

ebt-outoforder

(Pictured: Grocery stores and retailers are posting signs for shoppers about the Electronic Benefits Outage)

The Electronic Benefits Transfer system responsible for providing 50,000,000 Americans the means to put food on the table has crashed.

The outage is reportedly affecting at least sixteen states.

Via The Organic Prepper:

Abandoned carts full of food were a frequent sight in grocery stores Saturday morning, as the EBT food assistance debit system stopped working without warning.

According to a Xerox spokesperson, a routine system check by the vendor resulted in system failure, leaving assistance recipients across the country with no way to buy food.

Xerox spokeswoman Karen Arena confirmed via email Saturday afternoon that some Electronic Benefits Transfer systems are experiencing temporary connectivity issues. She said technical staff is addressing the issue and expects the system to be restored soon. U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe underscored that the outage is not related to the government shutdown. Xerox runs EBT card systems for 17 states and all were affected by the outage. (source)

Users of EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards in California, Ohio, Michigan and several other states are unable to make purchases due to connectivity issues.

But it gets worse…

Xerox is notifying retailers to revert to the manual system, meaning SNAP customers can spend up to $50 until the system is back online. SNAP recipients should call the 800 number on the back of their card, and Xerox will guide them through the purchase process. (source)

However, that system is not working either – it’s “closed for maintenance.”

Shoppers left carts of groceries behind at a packed Market Basket grocery store in Biddeford, Maine, because they couldn’t get their benefits, said fellow shopper Barbara Colman, of Saco, Maine. The manager put up a sign saying the EBT system was not in use. Colman, who receives the benefits, called an 800 telephone line for the program and it said the system was down due to maintenance, she said.

“That’s a problem. There’s a lot of families who are not going to be able to feed children because the system is being maintenanced,” Colman said. “No one should put maintenance in during the daytime.” (source)

Despite the fact that government workers report orders from the Obama administration to “make life as difficult for people as we can”, the nation is assured that the EBT failure is in fact due to server issues and NOT due to the government shutdown.

Hattip NinaO

If you ever wanted to know what the United States might look like and how people will react should the EBT system fail, then pay close attention

I go to the register and they ask me “how you going to pay.”

I said with food stamps.

“Oh, we’re shut down, you can’t pay with food stamps.”

I got kids to feed. You know?

And because the government’s down I can’t feed my family?

What’s going on with America? Now they trying to starve us to death?

…This is crazy

…I got six kids I have to feed.

I’m just trying to figure out how to get something to eat.

More from Zero Hedge via The Daily Sheeple:

This is six hours after the EBT system crashed.

It is reportedly a glitch that should be resolved soon, but what would happen if it doesn’t get resolved?

What if the system is down for 72 hours? How about 72 days?

Via Daisy Luther:

This is your 72 hour warning. If you don’t already have a two week supply of food and water, now might be a good day to go stock up, just in case this is the beginning of a bigger crisis. The first three days after a major event are your window of opportunity to get prepared, based on the just-in-time food supply in grocery stores and the amount of food most people store in their homes.

If the EBT failure continues, look for the situation to get progressively worse.

We’ve warned about this being a real possibility because the EBT system is directly connected to the internet and any number of events could cause the system to completely crash including a cyber attack, a natural disaster or the national power grids going out of service.

Look how people are reacting on the day of. They are wholly unprepared for such an event.

If it were to go on for three days or more, we could have pandemonium in the streets as hungry, angry and panicked individuals rush grocery stores for resources… And once those are cleaned out, they’ll come for your home food storage.

Please Spread The Word And Share This Post

Author: Mac Slavo
Views: Read by 25,843 people
Date: October 12th, 2013
Website: www.SHTFplan.com

Copyright Information: Copyright SHTFplan and Mac Slavo. This content may be freely reproduced in full or in part in digital form with full attribution to the author and a link to www.shtfplan.com. Please contact us for permission to reproduce this content in other media formats.

Video: EBT System Crash: 16 States Out of Service: “How Am I Going to...

Look how people are reacting on the day of. They are wholly unprepared for such an event. What if the system is down for 72 hours? How about 72 days?

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The tiny island nation has seen near-daily protests and skirmishes between demonstrators and security forces since the regional Arab Spring protests in 2011, and the US-allied monarchy has responded with draconian measures that ban public demonstrations in the capital, Manama. The ongoing protest movement, which has been secular and largely peaceful, brought more than half the country’s 535,000 citizens onto the streets at its peak, but attracted minimal levels of attention from international media outlets. The scant coverage of the subsequent crackdown by Bahraini authorities, which included the military occupation of a public hospital and the arrest of doctors who treated injured protesters, has led many to suggest that Western and Gulf media outlets have been complicit in the monarchy’s efforts to suppress news of protests coming out of the country.

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NRA Inundates Newtown Residents With Anti-Gun Control Robocalls (Audio)

NRA Inundates Newtown Residents With Anti-Gun Control Robocalls (Listen)

Posted on Mar 24, 2013
AP/Tina Fineberg

Some residents of Newtown, Conn., are understandably upset at the National Rifle Association for bombarding them with pro-gun robocalls and postcards that ask the community to oppose the gun-control measures that the state legislature is considering in the wake of the deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“Folks in Newtown have been receiving ‘Robo Calls’ from the NRA this week,” read a message the gun-control advocacy group Newtown Action Alliance posted to Facebook on Thursday. “Aside from being insensitive and uninvited, these calls may be in violation of telemarketing laws as they do not give the option to opt-out of future calls during the call.”

One resident, Tom Maurath, told The Huffington Post that he got a postcard from the NRA that read, “Despite public outcry, anti-gun legislators in the Connecticut General Assembly are aggressively forging ahead with numerous proposals that are designed to disarm and punish law-abiding gun owners and sportsmen.” Maurath said that he also was on the receiving end of a robocall from the group, and that the message was similar to the one on the postcard.

“The idea that this message could have been delivered to a sibling of one of the families who lost children at [Sandy Hook Elementary School] is just appalling,” he said.

The NRA claims it was calling only residents who were members or supported the pro-gun lobby, but Maurath, a registered independent, says he has no connection to the organization or its affiliates.

The Huffington Post:

“I received one of these,” Newtown resident Christopher Wenis wrote on Facebook Thursday afternoon. “I was insulted and offended.” Wenis told The Huffington Post in an interview Friday night that in the 36 hours since he first posted his response, he received two more robocalls from the NRA, one later on Thursday night and one on Friday evening.

“I’ve got a 5-year-old son who went to preschool on the Sandy Hook Elementary School campus,” Wenis explained. “And this was a really hard week for me on a lot of levels. These calls were the very last thing I needed.”

...In the months since the tragic school shooting in December, Newtown has become a focal point for the nation’s renewed debate over gun control, as well as an international symbol of America’s epidemic of gun violence. The Connecticut Legislature is considering a bevy of gun-control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. On Tuesday, a bill requiring universal background checks for gun purchases in Connecticut cleared a key committee. The state already has a ban in place on military-style assault weapons.

Read more

Listen to one of the NRA’s robocalls:

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Cypriot bank workers rally outside parliament as cash hoarding begins

Published time: March 22, 2013 16:20

Protesters shout slogans during an anti-bailout rally by employees of Cyprus Popular Bank outside the parliament in Nicosia March 22, 2013.(Reuters / Andreas Manolis)

Download video (88.57 MB)

As politicians try and hammer out a solution to the Cypriot banking crisis, bank workers protest outside parliament and ordinary citizens feel the pinch as cash becomes scarcer and people hold their breath for a deal to be reached.

Politicians in Cyprus appear to be moving closer towards a rejigged version of the deal agreed last weekend but rejected by MPs, known as plan A. This would entail losses for large depositors, whose savings would be used to levy the Cypriot contribution to its own bailout fund, but smaller savers with less than 100,000 euros would be saved.

As politicians inched closer towards an agreement, about 1000 bank workers gathered outside parliament on Friday waiting for news on Laiki, the island’s second largest bank.

Many fear the loss of their jobs, and many of them have not been to work since the banks closed their doors to customers nearly a week ago.

Three lines of riot police were on hand to stop protesters reaching parliament, although at one point they sat in the road at an intersection near parliament, blocking access for vehicles.

Many Cypriots blame Germany for the crisis. Many people on the streets of Cyprus believe it was mainly German officials who pushed for a Cypriot levy on deposits to be part of any European Central Bank bailout.

Tesa Arcilla, RT’s correspondent in Nicosia, the Cypriot capital, explained that there is a widespread feeling of negativity, especially at the EU, the Troika and Germany.

“It’s not fair, this situation is not just for economic reasons, the main reason is the Europeans want to send the Russians out of Cyprus,” a Cypriot man told RT.

People are worried that the European Central Bank will only supply liquidity to the country until Monday and after that only if an EU, IMF program has been agreed.

The result is a dash for cash on the ground, as Cypriots try and get as much money out as they can from ATMs; many of which have imposed limits on how much can be withdrawn.

A Russian shopkeeper explained that business is down 70% in the last week, while another local shop owner complained of sleepless nights brought on by anxiety.

Another direct effect of the crisis being felt on the ground is that most filling stations no longer accept credit cards and will only take cash as people try to hold on to as much money as possible.

Many people are not confident that the banks will reopen on Monday and people are concentrating on getting through the next few days after already being in limbo for a week, Tesa Arcilla explained.

Netflix CEO’s Education Reform Views Sneak Into House of Cards

I blame John Amato for getting me hooked on the new Netflix Series, House of Cards. Kevin Spacey is fantastic, the pace is great, but unfortunately, the policy issues they tackle in this first season are predictably corporate.

Nothing screams corporate like the storyline about education reform. After Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) forces his colleague to abandon education reform because he's "too left", Underwood finds himself negotiating a package with union representatives that feels a lot like Reed Hastings' dream "reform package."

Adam Bessie introduces Ms. Reform, Hastings' dream girl of education reform:

Ms. Reform is the Marilyn Monroe of domestic policy. The corporate media – and the President himself – can’t get enough of her.

It’s no surprise she’s become famous. Ms. Reform is sexy and seductive, especially to the powerful: she looks like a philanthropist – kind and nurturing, committed to helping the poor, forgotten black and brown children in the inner-cities. Who in their right mind could be against her plans to help our children – especially our most vulnerable and least privileged – have a fair shot in life? But inside – a side she never shows the camera, and when she does, it’s Photoshopped – Ms.Reform is a cutthroat businesswoman: she’s read Ronald Reagan’s economic advisor Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom from cover to cover, she has complete faith in “free enterprise,” she’s never heard of John Dewey nor deigned to teach a day in her life, and boy, does she friggin’ hate unions. In short, Ms. Reform appeals not just to the bleeding heart social justice Obamaites, but also, to venture capitalists that think Obama is fomenting a socialist take-over of America. The only surprise is that she didn’t become famous sooner.

Now, Ms. Reform is starring once again, this time, along (another) Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey in the NetFlix original seriesHouse of Cards, which explores the sordid underbelly of Washington politics. The protagonist Congressman Frank Underwood – who has no allegiance but to his own power – takes on the education reform bill for the new President, one which looks strikingly similar to No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top: the bill increases charter schools, and ties test scores to teacher evaluation, echoing the corporate style, free enterprise reforms both bills have implemented. And of course, as is always the case, Ms. Reform is cast as heroine – and the unions, at best obstructionist and only interested in the needs of the teachers, and not the children (To be fair, though, it’s clear that the real villain in the show is not the unions, but Underwood himself – and as Underwood is supporting the bill, it might cast a negative light on the policies to some viewers).

[...]

To be clear, Ms.Reform’s on-screen portrayal mirrors Hasting’s values and his hefty investments. Hastings – who objectifies and commodifies education by characterizing it as business “space,” devoid of humanity – is invested both in for-profit, non-profit, and lobbying efforts that push for the very reforms reflected in House of Cards.

Alyssa Rosenberg at ThinkProgress noticed it too:

Elsewhere in the education fight, the only discussion of policy are facile mentions of charter schools, collective bargaining, and performance standards. A union official appears in one scene to declare that “Charters jeapordize our ability to organize, which is reason enough” to object to Frank’s draft of the bill. Otherwise, the movement is represented only by picketers who melt when Frank and his wife serve them barbeque, and by a paid lobbyist who is manipulated into decking Frank in his office, giving him the advantage he needs to force a settlement to a teacher’s strike and a legislative deadlock. When Frank manipulates Congressman Russo (Corey Stoll) into running for Governor of Pennsylvania, his opposition is largely personified by the head of a shipbuilder’s union decimated by the BRAC process that shutters a local shipyard.

It's true that Hastings didn't write the script, but I can't help thinking he shaped a narrative that lends itself to such a script. The casual treatment and perception of unions as thugs, of teachers as incompetent, of solutions as simply privatizing the effort altogether while using data analysis as the benchmark for nearly everything is characteristic of today's reform discussion.

News broke late tonight that Chicago Public Schools may be closing 50 public schools. FIFTY. There is absolutely no way the school system can absorb that kind of shock. I don't think the number 50 is a coincidence. Back in the days when the Gates Foundation thought charters were the answer to everything, the foundation put millions into the district to create charter schools, including 50 new high schools under their "small high school" initiatve.

In 2012, the Gates Foundation announced they would not put any more funds into CPS, leaving the district with a choice as to which schools to de-fund and which to keep. That wouldn't have anything to do with Chicago teachers going on strike last year, would it?

Shall we take bets on which schools stay open and which ones close? I'm betting on the charters staying open and the public schools closing. You?

It worries me that we're seeing the reformers worm into popular culture without fully exploring all of the issues around education reform. I realize Reed Hastings, Bill Gates, Betsy DeVos and Michelle Rhee think they have all the answers, but they really don't.

A show like House of Cards is uniquely positioned to honestly explore all facets of an issue like this in a fast-paced and entertaining way. It's disappointing to see the writers reach for the corporate solution without even looking at the other side of things.

The Iraq War Wouldn’t Have Happened Under President Al Gore, That’s for Sure

Former Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore during his speech on energy at Constitution Hall in Washington, Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / The New York Times) Former Vice President and Nobel laureate Al Gore during his speech on energy at Constitution Hall in Washington, Thursday, July 17, 2008. (Photo: Brendan Smialowski / The New York Times) Denied the presidency by the United States Supreme Court (in a 5-4) vote, Al Gore became a Jeremiah for awhile during the worst of the Bush years. Generally, the mainstream media ignored him or derided him, even as he spoke truth to power about the War in Iraq and the threats to democracy.

Since then he's become an apostle about the crisis of climate change, an entrepreneur, and a visionary.

In his latest book, "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change," Gore offers a futurist manifesto. As with most chroniclers of the human condition and the debate over the challenges ahead for our species, Gore has his advocates and detractors.

Gore considers himself an optimist, as he notes at the end of his introduction:

"Indeed, I am an optimist—-though my optimism is predicated on the hope that we will find ways to see and think clearly about the obvious trends that are even now gaining momentum, that we will reason together and attend to the dangerous distortions in our present ways of describing and measuring the powerful changes that are now under way, that we will actively choose to preserve human values and protect them, not least against the mechanistic and destructive consequences of our baser instincts that are now magnified by technologies more powerful than any that those in previous generations, even Jules Verne, could have imagined."

When you read that Gore hopes that "we will reason together," you can tell that he has been away from Washington DC for a long, long time.

But his book is not about the circus of politics; it is about the survival of the planet and the co-existence of people that transcends national boundaries.

Support Truthout's mission. "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change" is yours with a minimum donation to Truthout of $40 (which includes shipping and handling) or a monthly donation of $15. Click here.

The following excerpt is the introduction to "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change":

Like many fulfilling journeys, this book began not with answers but with a question. Eight years ago, when I was on the road, someone asked me: “What are the drivers of global change?” I listed several of the usual suspects and left it at that. Yet the next morning, on the long plane flight home, the question kept pulling me back, demanding that I answer it more precisely and accurately—-not by relying on preconceived dogma but by letting the emerging evidence about an emerging world take me where it would. The question, it turned out, had a future of its own. I started an outline on my computer and spent several hours listing headings and subheadings, then changing their rank order and relative magnitude, moving them from one category to another and filling in more and more details after each rereading.

As I spent the ensuing years raising awareness about climate change and pursuing a business career, I continued to revisit, revise, and sharpen the outline until finally, two years ago, I concluded that it would not leave me alone until I dug in and tried to thoroughly answer the question that had turned into something of an obsession.

What emerged was this book, a book about the six most important drivers of global change, how they are converging and interacting with one another, where they are taking us, and how we as human beings—-and as a global civilization—-can best affect the way these changes unfold. In order to reclaim control of our destiny and shape the future, we must think freshly and clearly about the crucial choices that confront us as a result of:

• The emergence of a deeply interconnected global economy that increasingly operates as a fully integrated holistic entity with a completely new and different relationship to capital flows, labor, consumer markets, and national governments than in the past;

• The emergence of a planet--wide electronic communications grid connecting the thoughts and feelings of billions of people and linking them to rapidly expanding volumes of data, to a fast growing web of sensors being embedded ubiquitously throughout the world, and to increasingly intelligent devices, robots, and thinking machines, the smartest of which already exceed the capabilities of humans in performing a growing list of discrete mental tasks and may soon surpass us in manifestations of intelligence we have always assumed would remain the unique province of our species; 

• The emergence of a completely new balance of political, economic, and military power in the world that is radically different from the equilibrium that characterized the second half of the twentieth century, during which the United States of America provided global leadership and stability—-shifting influence and initiative from West to East, from wealthy countries to rapidly emerging centers of power throughout the world, from nation--states to private actors, and from political systems to markets;

• The emergence of rapid unsustainable growth—-in population; cities; resource consumption; depletion of topsoil, freshwater supplies, and living species; pollution flows; and economic output that is measured and guided by an absurd and distorted set of universally accepted metrics that blinds us to the destructive consequences of the self--deceiving choices we are routinely making;

• The emergence of a revolutionary new set of powerful biological, biochemical, genetic, and materials science technologies that are enabling us to reconstitute the molecular design of all solid matter, reweave the fabric of life itself, alter the physical form, traits, characteristics, and properties of plants, animals, and people, seize active control over evolution, cross the ancient lines dividing species, and invent entirely new ones never imagined in nature; and 

• The emergence of a radically new relationship between the aggregate power of human civilization and the Earth’s ecological systems, including especially the most vulnerable—-the atmosphere and climate balance upon which the continued flourishing of humankind depends—-and the beginning of a massive global transformation of our energy, industrial, agricultural, and construction technologies in order to reestablish a healthy and balanced relationship between human civilization and the future.

This book is data--driven and is based on deep research and reporting—-not speculation, alarmism, naïve optimism, or blue--sky conjecture. It represents the culmination of a multiyear effort to investigate, decipher, and present the best available evidence and what the world’s leading experts tell us about the future we are now in the process of creating.

There is a clear consensus that the future now emerging will be extremely different from anything we have ever known in the past. It is a difference not of degree but of kind. There is no prior period of change that remotely resembles what humanity is about to experience. We have gone through revolutionary periods of change before, but none as powerful or as pregnant with the fraternal twins—-peril and opportunity—-as the ones that are beginning to unfold. Nor have we ever experienced so many revolutionary changes unfolding simultaneously and converging with one another.

This is not a book primarily about the climate crisis, though the climate crisis is one of the six emergent changes that are quickly reshaping our world, and its interaction with the other five drivers of change has revealed to me new ways to understand it. Nor is it primarily about the degradation of democracy in the United States and the dysfunctionality of governance in the world community—-though I continue to believe that these leadership crises must be resolved in order for humankind to reclaim control of our destiny. Indeed all six of these emergent revolutionary changes are threatening to overtake us at a moment in history when there is a dangerous vacuum of global leadership.

Neither is this a manifesto intended to lay the groundwork for some future political campaign. I have run for political office often enough in the past. The joke I often use to deflect questions about whether I have finally surrendered any intention to do so again is actually as close to the truth as any words I can summon in describing my attitude toward politics: I am a recovering politician and the chances of a relapse have been diminishing for long enough to increase my confidence that I will not succumb to that temptation again. In the Conclusion, however, you will find a recommended agenda for action that is based on the analysis in this book.

A New Law of Nature

As a young freshman member of the U.S. House of Representatives elected in 1976, I joined a new bipartisan group of congressmen and senators known as the Congressional Clearinghouse on the Future, founded by the late Charlie Rose of North Carolina. In my second term, Rose asked me to succeed him as chair of the group. We organized workshops on the implications of new technologies and scientific discoveries and met with leaders in business and science. Among our other initiatives, we persuaded all 200 subcommittees in the Congress to publish a list of the most important issues they expected to emerge over the following twenty years and published it as “The Future Agenda.” Most of all, we studied emerging trends and met regularly with the leading thinkers about the future: Daniel Bell, Margaret Mead, Buckminster Fuller, Carl Sagan, Alvin Toffler, John Naisbitt, Arno Penzias, and hundreds of others.

The visiting scholar who made perhaps the biggest impression on me was a short and balding scientist born in Russia a few months before the 1917 Revolution but educated in Belgium: Ilya Prigogine, who had just won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of a major corollary to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Entropy, according to the Second Law, causes all isolated physical systems to break down over time and is responsible for irreversibility in nature. For a simple example of entropy, consider a smoke ring: it begins as a coherent donut with clearly defined boundaries. But as the molecules separate from one another and dissipate energy into the air, the ring falls apart and disappears. All so--called closed systems are subject to the same basic process of dissolution; in some, entropy operates quickly, while in others the process takes more time.

Prigogine’s discovery was that an open system—-that is, a system that imports flows of energy from outside the system into it, through it, and out again—-not only breaks down, but as the flow of energy continues, the system then reorganizes itself at a higher level of complexity. In a sense, the phenomenon described by Prigogine is the opposite of entropy. Self--organization, as a law of nature and as a process of change, is truly astonishing. What it means is that complex new forms can emerge spontaneously through self--organization.

Consider the increased flows of information throughout the world following the introduction of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Elements of the old information pattern began to break down. Many newspapers went bankrupt, readership sharply declined in most others, bookstores consolidated and closed. Many business models became obsolete. But the new emergent pattern led to the self--organization of thousands of new business models, and volumes of online communication dwarfing those that characterized the world of the printing press.

The Earth itself, when viewed as a whole, is also an open system. It imports energy from the sun that flows into and through the elaborate patterns of energy transfer that make up the Earth system, including the oceans, the atmosphere, the various geochemical processes—-and life itself. The energy then flows from the Earth back into the universe surrounding it as heat energy in the form of infrared radiation.

The essence of the emergent crisis of global warming is that we are importing enormous amounts of energy from the crust of the Earth and exporting entropy (that is, progressive disorder) into the previously stable, though dynamic, ecological systems upon which the continued flourishing of civilization depends. These new flows of energy, originally imported to the Earth from the sun ages ago, have been stabilized underground for millions of years as inert deposits of carbon.

By mobilizing them and injecting the waste products from their combustion into the atmosphere, we are breaking down the stable climate pattern that has persisted since not long after the end of the last Ice Age ten millennia ago. This was not long before the first cities and the beginning of the Agricultural Revolution, which began to spread in the valleys of the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus, and Yellow rivers 8,000 years ago after Stone Age women and men patiently picked and selectively bred the plant varieties on which our modern diet still depends. In the process, we are forcing the emergence of a new climate pattern very different from the one to which our entire civilization is tightly configured and within which we have thrived.

While Prigogine’s discovery of this new law of nature may seem arcane, its implications for the way we should think about the future are profound. The modern meaning of the word “emergence,” and the entire field of knowledge known as complexity theory, are both derived from Prigogine’s work. The motivation for his exploration of emergence was his passion for understanding how the future becomes irreversibly different from the past. He wrote that, “given my interest in the concept of time, it was only natural that my attention was focused on . . . the study of irreversible phenomena, which made so manifest the ‘arrow of time.’ ”

The History of the Future

The way we think about the future has a past. Throughout the history of human civilization, every culture has had its own idea of the future. In the words of an Australian futurist, Ivana Milojevi´c, “Although the conception of time and the future exist universally, they are understood in different ways in different societies.” Some have assumed that time is circular and that past, present, and future are all part of the same recurring cycle. Others have believed that the only future that matters is in the afterlife. 

The crushing disappointments that are so often part of the human condition have sometimes led to crises of confidence in the future, replacing hope with despair. But most have learned from their life experiences and the stories told by their elders that what we do in the present, when informed by knowledge of the past, can shape the future in objectively better ways. 

Anthropologists tell us of evidence dating back almost 50,000 years of humans trying to divine the future with the help of oracles or mediums. Some attempted to see into the future by reading clues to the unfolding patterns of life in the entrails of animals sacrificed to the gods, by studying the movements of fish, by interpreting marks on the Earth, or in any of a hundred other ways. Some still read the patterns of palms or Tarot cards for the same purpose. The implicit assumption in such searches is that all reality is of one fabric encompassing past, present, and future, according to a design whose meaning can be divined from particular portions of the whole and applied to other parts of the fabric in order to interpret the unfolding future. 

Doctors and scientists now divine clues about the future of individuals from the pattern of DNA that is found in every cell. Mathematicians discern the nature of fractal equations—-and the geometric forms derived from them—-by observing the “self--sameness” of the patterns they manifest at every level of resolution. Holographic images are contained in their entirety in each molecule of the gaseous cylinders onto which the emergent larger image is projected.

According to historians, astrologers of ancient Babylon used a double clock—-one for measuring the timescale of human affairs, and another for tracking the celestial movements they believed had an influence on earthly events. In divining our own future, we too must now pay due attention to a double clock. There is the one that measures our hours and days, and the other that measures the centuries and millennia over which our disruptions of the Earth’s natural systems will continue to occur. 

Even as teams of scientists race against the clock to compete with other teams in making new genetic discoveries that may cure diseases and lay the foundation for multibillion--dollar products, we must consult another clock that measures the timescales over which evolution operates—-because the emergent capabilities bursting forth from the revolutionary advances in the life sciences are about to make us the principal agent of evolution.

Because of the new power that seven billion of us collectively wield with our new technologies, voracious consumption, and outsized economic dynamism, some of the ecological changes that we are setting in motion are going to unfold, the scientists tell us, in geologic time, measured by a planetary clock that tracks timespans that strain the limits of human imagination. Roughly a quarter of the 90 million tons of global warming pollution we put into the atmosphere each day will still linger there—-still trapping heat—-more than 10,000 years from now.

Consequently, in reconciling the difference between what “is” and what “ought to be,” we are faced with an existential conundrum. Though we have great difficulty conceiving of geologic time, we have nevertheless become a geologic force; though we cannot imagine evolutionary timescales, we are nevertheless becoming the chief force behind evolution.

The idea that human history is characterized by progress from one era to the next is not, as some have long thought, an invention of the Enlightenment. The explosion of philosophy in ancient Greece marked the beginning of recorded contemplations about the future of humankind. In the fourth century bce, Plato wrote about progress as “a continuous process, which improves the human condition from its original state of nature to higher and higher levels of culture, economic organization and political structure towards an ideal state. Progress flows from the growing complexity of society and the need to enlarge knowledge, through the development of sciences and arts.”

In the fourth century ce, St. Augustine, who frequently quoted Plato, wrote, “The education of the human race, represented by the people of God, has advanced, like that of an individual, through certain epochs, or, as it were, ages, so that it might gradually rise from earthly to heavenly things, and from the visible to the invisible.”

Nor is progress exclusively a Western invention. Many interpret the Tao of ancient China as a guide for those who wish to progress as they make their way forward in the world—-though its conception of progress is very different from what emerged in the West. The eleventh--century Islamic philosopher Muhammad al--Ghazali wrote that Islam teaches that “Sincere accomplished work towards progress and development is, therefore, an act of religious worship and is rewarded as such. The end result will be a serious, scrupulous and perfect work, true scientific progress and hence actual achievement of balanced and comprehensive development.” 

At the beginning of the Renaissance, the rediscovery of the Aristotelian branch of ancient Greek philosophy—-which had been preserved in Alexandria in Arabic and reintroduced to Europe in Al--Andalus—-contributed to a fascination with the physical as well as the philosophical legacies of both Athens and Rome. The legacies of that recovered past nourished dreams that would find fruition in the Enlightenment, when a strong consensus emerged that secular progress is the dominant pattern in human history.

The discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, Newton, and the others who launched the Scientific Revolution helped to ignite a belief that, whatever God’s role or plan, the growth of knowledge made progress in human societies inevitable. Francis Bacon, who more than any other emphasized the word “progress” in describing humanity’s journey into the future, was also among the first to write about human progress with a special emphasis on subduing, dominating, and controlling nature—as if we were as separate from nature as Descartes believed the mind was separate from the body.

Centuries later, this philosophical mistake is still in need of correction. By tacitly assuming our own separateness from the ecological system of the planet, we are frequently surprised by phenomena that emerge from our inextricable connections to it. And as the power of our civilization grows exponentially, these surprises are becoming increasingly unpleasant.

The cultural legacy that still influences the scientific method is reductionist - that is, by dividing and endlessly subdividing the objects of our research and analysis, we separate interconnected phenomena and processes to develop specialized expertise. But the focusing of attention on ever narrower slices of the whole often comes at the expense of attention to the whole, which can cause us to miss the significance of emergent phenomena that spring unpredictably from the interconnections and interactions among multiple processes and networks. That is one reason why linear projections of the future are so often wrong.

A New Vision of the Past and the Future

The invention of powerful new tools and the development of potent new insights - and the discovery of rich new continents - led to exciting new ways of seeing the world and expansive optimism about the future. In the seventeenth century, the father of microbiology, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, fashioned new lenses for the microscope (which itself had been invented in Holland less than a century earlier), and by looking through them discovered cells and bacteria. Simultaneously, his close friend in Delft, Johannes Vermeer, revolutionized portraiture with the use (most art historians agree) of the camera obscura, made possible by the new understanding of optics.

As the Scientific Revolution accelerated and the Industrial Revolution began, the idea of progress shaped prevailing conceptions of the future. In the years before his death, Thomas Jefferson wrote about the progress he had witnessed in his life and noted, “And where this progress will stop no one can say. Barbarism has, in the meantime, been receding before the steady step of amelioration, and will in time, I trust, disappear from the earth.”

Four years after Jefferson’s death, the publication by Charles Lyell of his masterwork, Principles of Geology, in 1830, profoundly disrupted the long prevailing view of humanity’s relationship to time. In the Judeo--Christian world especially, most had assumed that the Earth was only a few thousand years old, and that humans were created not long after the planet itself, but Lyell amply proved that the Earth was not thousands, but at the very least millions of years old (4.5 billion, we now know). In reshaping the past, he also reshaped the idea of the future. And he provided the temporal context for the discovery by Charles Darwin of the principles of evolution. Indeed, as a young man Darwin took Lyell’s books with him during his voyage on the Beagle. 

The previously unimaginable longevity of the past revealed by Lyell inspired symmetrical dreams of distant futures in which the progress of man might reach limitless heights. In the generation that followed Lyell, Jules Verne conjured a future with rockets landing on the moon, a submarine traversing the oceans’ depths, and men traveling to the center of the Earth.

The exuberant optimism of the nineteenth century was dampened for many by the excesses of the Second Industrial Revolution, but was revivified during the first decade of the twentieth century with the birth of a political movement based on the belief that progress required governmental policy interventions and social changes in order to ameliorate the problems accompanying industrialization and consolidate its obvious benefits. As the scientific and technological revolution brought some of the visions conjured by Verne and his successors into reality, optimism about the future gained further momentum.

But the balance of the twentieth century brought two world wars and the murder of millions by totalitarian dictators of the left and right to serve their own twisted conceptions of progress—-and our view of the future began to change. The malignant nightmare of the Thousand Year Reich, the Holocaust, and the cruelties of Stalin and Mao came to be emblematic of the potential for emergent evil emanating from the use of any means, however horrific, in an effort to impose grand designs for the future of humanity that conformed to the visions of twisted men with too much power.

In the aftermath of World War II, the lingering dismay at the way totalitarian governments had used the wondrous new communications technologies of radio and film to persuade millions to suppress their better instincts and conform their lives to an evil design—-coupled with the deep emotional and spiritual impact of the atomic sword of Damocles that the emergence of the nuclear arms race left hanging over civilization—-reawakened concerns that new inventions might be double--edged. The uneasiness in the popular mind that powerful technologies—-whatever their benefits—-might also magnify the innate human vulnerability to hubris deepened for many the loss of their confidence that progress was a reliable guiding star.

The prophecies of Jules Verne were replaced by those of Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, and H. G. Wells, and popular movies about destructive monsters from the ancient past—awakened by nuclear testing or dangerous creatures modified by genetic engineering gone awry—and malevolent robots from the distant future or distant planets, all seemingly bent on ravaging humanity’s future.

And now many wonder: who are we? Aristotle wrote that the end of a thing defines its essential nature. If we are forced to contemplate the possibility that we might become the architects of our own demise as a civilization, then there are necessarily implications for how we answer the question: what is our essential nature as a species? As a scientist once reframed the question: is the combination of an opposable thumb and a neocortex viable as a sustainable form of life on Earth?

Our natural and healthy preference for optimism about the future is difficult to reconcile with the gnawing concerns expressed by many that all is not well, and that left to its own devices the future may be unfolding in ways that threaten some of the human values we most cherish. The future, in other words, now casts a shadow upon the present. It may be comforting, but of little practical use, to say, “I am an optimist!” Optimism is a form of prayer. Prayer does, in my personal view, have genuine spiritual power. But I also believe, in the words of the old African saying, “When you pray, move your feet.” Prayer without action, like optimism without engagement, is passive aggression toward the future.

Even those who understand the different dangers we are facing and are committed to taking action often feel stymied by a sense of powerlessness. On the issue of climate, for example, they change their own behaviors and habits, reduce their impact on the environment, speak out and vote, but still feel they are having precious little impact, because the powerful momentum of the global machine we have built to give us progress seems almost independent of human control. Where are the levers to pull, the buttons to push? Is there a steering mechanism? Do our hands have enough strength to operate the controls?

More than a decade before writing Faust, Goethe wrote his well--known poem “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” about a young trainee who, left to his own devices, dared to use one of his master’s magic spells in order to bring to life the broom he was supposed to be using to clean the workshop. But once animated, the broom could not be stopped. Growing desperate to halt the broom’s increasing frenzy of activity, the apprentice split the broom with an axe—-which caused it to self--replicate, with each half growing into another new animated broom. Only when the master returned was the process brought back under control. 

Democratic Capitalism and Its Discontents  

The idea of making truly meaningful collective decisions in democracy that are aimed at steering the global machinery we have set in motion is naïve, even silly, according to those who have long since placed their faith in the future not in human hands, but in the invisible hand of the marketplace. As more of the power to make decisions about the future flows from political systems to markets, and as ever more powerful technologies magnify the strength of the invisible hand, the muscles of self-governance have atrophied.

That is actually a welcome outcome for some who have found ways to accumulate great fortunes from the unrestrained operations of this global machinery. Indeed, many of them have used their wealth to reinforce the idea that self-governance is futile at best and, when it works at all, leads to dangerous meddling that interferes with both markets and technological determinism. The ideological condominium formed in the alliance between capitalism and representative democracy that has been so fruitful in expanding the potential for freedom, peace, and prosperity has been split asunder by the encroachment of concentrated wealth from the market sphere into the democracy sphere.

Though markets have no peer in collecting, processing, and utilizing massive flows of information to allocate resources and balance supply with demand, the information in markets is of a particularly granular variety. It is devoid of opinion, character, personality, feeling, love, or faith. It’s just numbers. Democracy, on the other hand, when it operates in a healthy pattern, produces from the interactions of people with different perspectives, predispositions, and life experiences emergent wisdom and creativity that is on a completely different plane. It carries dreams and hopes for the future. By tolerating the routine use of wealth to distort, degrade, and corrupt the process of democracy, we are depriving ourselves of the opportunity to use the “last best hope” to find a sustainable path for humanity through the most disruptive and chaotic changes civilization has ever confronted.

In the United States, many have cheered the withering of self-governance and have celebrated the notion that we should no longer even try to control our own destiny through democratic decision making. Some have recommended, only half in jest, that government should be diminished to the point where it can be “drowned in the bathtub.” They have enlisted politicians in the effort to paralyze the ability of government to serve any interests other than those of the global machine, recruited a fifth column in the Fourth Estate, and hired legions of lobbyists to block any collective decisions about the future that serve the public interest. They even seem to sincerely believe, as many have often written, that there is no such thing as “the public interest.” 

The new self-organized pattern of the Congress serves the special interests that are providing most of the campaign money with which candidates - incumbents and challengers alike - purchase television commercials. It no longer responds to any but the most emotional concerns of the American people. Its members are still “representatives,” but the vast majority of them now represent the people and corporations who donate money, not the people who actually vote in their congressional districts. 

The world’s need for intelligent, clear, values-based leadership from the United States is greater now than ever before - and the absence of any suitable alternative is clearer now than ever before. Unfortunately, the decline of U.S. democracy has degraded its capacity for clear collective thinking, led to a series of remarkably poor policy decisions on crucially significant issues, and left the global community rudderless as it faces the necessity of responding intelligently and quickly to the implications of the six emergent changes described in this book. The restoration of U.S. democracy, or the emergence of leadership elsewhere in the world, is essential to understanding and responding to these changes in order to shape the future. 

One of the six drivers of change described in this book - the emergence of a digital network connecting the thoughts and feelings of most people in every country of the world - offers the greatest source of hope that the healthy functioning of democratic deliberation and collective decision making can be restored in time to reclaim humanity’s capacity to reason together and chart a safe course into the future.

Capitalism - if reformed and made sustainable - can serve the world better than any other economic system in making the difficult but necessary changes to the relationship between the human enterprise and the ecological and biological systems of the Earth. Together, sustainable capitalism and healthy democratic decision making can empower us to save the future. So we have to think clearly about how both of these essential tools can be repaired and reformed.

The structure of these decision-making systems and the ways in which we measure progress - or the lack thereof - toward the goals we decide are important have a profound influence on the future we actually create. By making economic choices in favor of “growth,” it matters a lot which definition of growth we use. If the impact of pollution is systematically removed from the measurement of what we call “progress,” then we start to ignore it and should not be surprised when much of our progress is accompanied by lots of pollution. 

If the systems we use for recognizing and measuring profit are based on a narrow definition - for example, quarterly projections of earnings per share, or quarterly unemployment statistics that don’t include people who have given up looking for work, those who have been forced to take large pay cuts in order to continue working, or those who are flipping hamburgers instead of using higher--value skills hard won with education or prior experience - then what we are seeing is an imperfect and partial representation of a much larger reality. When we become accustomed to making important choices about the future on the basis of distorted and misleading information, the results of those decisions are more likely to fall short of our expectations.

Psychologists and neuroscientists have studied a phenomenon called selective attention—-a tendency on the part of people who are so determined to focus intensely on particular images that they become oblivious to other images that are present in the field of vision.

We select the things to which we pay attention not only by curiosity, preference, and habit, but also through our selection of the observational tools, technologies, and systems we rely on in making choices. And these tools implicitly mark some things as significant and obscure others to the point that we completely ignore them. In other words, the tools we use can have their own selective attention distortions.

For example, the system of economic value measurement known as gross domestic product, or GDP, includes some values and arbitrarily excludes others. So when we use GDP as a lens through which to observe economic activity, we pay attention to that which is measured and tend to become oblivious to those things that are not measured at all. British mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead called the obsession with measurements “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.”

Here is a metaphor to illustrate the point: the electromagnetic spectrum is often portrayed as a long thin horizontal rectangle divided into differently colored segments that represent the different wavelengths of electromagnetic energy - usually ranging from very low frequency wavelengths like those used for radio on the left, extending through microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, X-rays, and the like, to extreme high frequency gamma radiation at the right end of the rectangle.

Somewhere near the middle of this rectangle is a very thin section representing visible light - which is, of course, the only part of the entire spectrum that can be seen with the human eye. But since the human eye is normally the only “instrument” with which most of us attempt to “see” the world around us, we are naturally oblivious to all of the information contained in the 99.9 percent of the spectrum that is invisible to us.

By supplementing our natural vision with instruments capable of “seeing” the rest of the spectrum, however, we are able to enhance our understanding of the world around us by collecting and interpreting much more information. During the eight years I worked in the White House, I started every day, six days a week, with a lengthy briefing from the intelligence community on all the issues affecting national security and vital U.S. interests, and it routinely contained information collected from almost all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. It was, as a result, a much more complete and accurate picture of a very complex reality.

One of the current realities in the business world that has been most surprising to me is the near consensus that markets are “short on long and long on short” - that is, there is an unhealthy focus on very short--term goals, to the exclusion of long-term goals. If the incentives routinely provided for business leaders - and political leaders - are focused on extremely short-term horizons, then no one should be surprised if the decisions they make in pursuit of the rewards to be gained are also focused on the short term - at the expense of any consideration of the future. Compensation and incentive structures reinforce these biases and penalize most CEOs and businesses that dare to focus on more sustainable longer-term strategies. “Short-termism” has long since become a frequently used buzzword in business circles. In both business and politics, short-term decision making is dominant.

“Quarterly capitalism” is a phrase some use to describe the prevailing practice of managing businesses from one three-month period to the next, and focusing budgets and strategies on the constant effort to ensure that each quarter’s earnings per share report never fails to meet projections or the market’s expectations. When investors and CEOs focus on a definition of “growth” that excludes the health and well--being of the communities where businesses are located, the health of the employees who do most of the work, and the impact of the businesses’ operations on the environment, they are tacitly choosing to ignore material facts with the potential to make real growth unsustainable.

Similarly, the dominance of money in modern politics - particularly in the United States - has now led to what might be described as “quarterly democracy.” Every ninety days, incumbent officeholders running for reelection and challengers in political contests are required to publicly report their fundraising totals for the previous ninety days. At the end of each of these quarters, there is a flurry of fundraising events, email solicitations, and fundraising telephone calls to maximize the amount that can be reported - much as a puffer fish increases its perceived size in the presence of another puffer fish encroaching on its territory.

Our evolutionary heritage has made us vulnerable to numerous stimuli that trigger short-term thinking. Though we also have the capacity for long-term thinking, of course, it requires effort, and neuroscientists tell us that distractions, stress, and fear easily disrupt the processes by which we focus on the longer term. When elected officials are under constant systemic stress to focus intently on short-term horizons, the future gets short shrift.

This is particularly dangerous during a period of rapid change. Some of the trends now under way are so well documented by observations in the past that projections of those same trends into the future can be made with a very high degree of confidence. The rate of advancement in computer chips, to pick a well-known example, is understood more than well enough to justify predictions that computer chips will continue to advance rapidly in the future.

The speedy drop in the cost of sequencing DNA has occurred for reasons that are understood more than well enough to justify predictions that this trend too will continue to shape our future. The accumulation of greenhouse gases in the past and the rise in global temperatures they have caused is also understood more than well enough to justify predictions of what will happen to global temperatures if we continue to increase emissions at the same rate in the future - and what the consequences of much higher global temperatures would be.

Other changes, however, burst upon the world seemingly fully formed: a brand-new pattern that represents a sudden shift from an older pattern that persisted for as far back in the past as humans can recall. In our own lives, we are accustomed to gradual, linear change. But sometimes the potential for change builds up without being visibly manifested until the inchoate pressure for change reaches a critical mass powerful enough to break through whatever systemic barriers have held the change back. Then suddenly one pattern gives way to another that is entirely new. This “emergence” of systemic change is often difficult to predict, but does occur frequently both in nature and in complex systems designed by human beings.

Many who were once fascinated and excited about the possibilities of the future are now focused solely on the implications of the future’s potential for the business, political, and security strategies of the present. As the Scientific Revolution accelerated in the last decades of the twentieth century, corporate planners and military strategists began to devote considerably more attention to the study of alternative futures, motivated by a concern that the potency of new scientific and technological discoveries could threaten the strategic interests - or even survival - of business models and the balance of power among nations.

What is our present conception of the future? How does our image of the future affect the choices we are making in the present? Do we still believe that we have the power to shape our collective future on Earth and choose from among the alternative futures one that preserves our deepest values and makes life better than it is in the present? Or do we have our own crisis of confidence in humanity’s future?

If the spectrum of past, present, and future were displayed as a long thin rectangle similar to that used to portray the electromagnetic spectrum, the birth of Planet Earth 4.5 billion years ago would be at the far left end. Moving to the right, we would see the emergence of life 3.8 billion years ago, the appearance of multicellular life 2.8 billion years ago, the appearance of the first plant life on land 475 million years ago, the first vertebrates more than 400 million years ago, and the first primates 65 million years ago. Then, moving all the way to the right end of the rectangle, the death of the sun would appear 7.5 billion years from now.

The narrow slice of time to the left of the midpoint in this spectrum - the one that represents the history of the human species - is an even narrower slice of the spectrum of time than is visible light of the electromagnetic spectrum. The thoughts we devote to these vast stretches of time in the past and future are often fleeting at best.

There are ample reasons for optimism about the future. For the present, war seems to be declining. Global poverty is declining.

Some fearsome diseases have been conquered and others are being held at bay. Lifespans are lengthening. Standards of living and average incomes - at least on a global basis - are improving. Knowledge and literacy are spreading. The tools and technologies we are developing - including Internet-based communication - are growing in power and efficacy. Our general understanding of our world, indeed, our universe (or multiverse!) has been growing exponentially. There have been periods in the past when limits to our growth and success as a species appeared to threaten our future, only to be transcended by new advances - the Green Revolution of the second half of the twentieth century, for example. 

So the positive and negative sets of trends are occurring simultaneously. The fact that some are welcome and others are not has an effect on our perception of them. The unwelcome trends are sometimes ignored, at least in part because they are unpleasant to think about. Any uncertainty about them that can be conjured to justify inaction is often seized upon with enthusiasm, while new hard evidence establishing their reality is often resisted with even stronger denial of the reality the evidence supports.

Just as naïve optimism can amount to self-deception, so too can a predisposition to pessimism blind us to bases for legitimate hope that we can find a path that leads around and through the dangers that lie ahead. Indeed, I am an optimist - though my optimism is predicated on the hope that we will find ways to see and think clearly about the obvious trends that are even now gaining momentum, that we will reason together and attend to the dangerous distortions in our present ways of describing and measuring the powerful changes that are now under way, that we will actively choose to preserve human values and protect them, not least against the mechanistic and destructive consequences of our baser instincts that are now magnified by technologies more powerful than any that those in previous generations, even Jules Verne, could have imagined. I have tried my best to describe what I believe the evidence shows is more likely than not to present us with important choices that we must consciously make together. I do so not out of fear, but because I believe in the future.

Support Truthout's mission. "The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change" is yours with a minimum donation to Truthout of $40 (which includes shipping and handling) or a monthly donation of $15. Click here

Excerpted from The Future by Al Gore. Copyright © 2013 by Al Gore. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

The 21st-Century Version of Slavery Is Widespread In America

The abuses of the H-2B visa program are mind-boggling.

Photo Credit: LouisianaSeafoodNews.com

March 18, 2013  |  

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A 21st-century version of slavery—captive labor—is rampant at the bottom of the U.S. economy, and Washington politicians and business lobbies want to keep it that way, or even expand it as part of the immigration reform talks now in Congress.

Under a system of “legalized slavery,” foreign workers are routinely thrown in massive debt, cheated out of wages, housed in squalid shacks, held captive by brokers and businesses that seize passports, Social Security cards and return tickets, denied healthcare, rented to other employers (including the military), and sexually harassed and threatened with firing and deportation if they complain, according to two detailed reports by the  Southern Poverty Law Center and the  National Guestworker Alliance. The reports are based on sworn testimony gathered for lawsuits.

The H-2B visa program that brought 83,000 foreign guestworkers to the U.S. in 2011 for non-farm work has become a stalking ground for some of the worst abuses in American capitalism, according to recent reports by anti-poverty law groups. These reports describe in excruciating detail how predatory capitalists in many manual labor-based industries (supplying national brands like Walmart) lure and prey upon foreigners whose jobs average less than $10 an hour with little regard for human rights, labor law or legal consequence.

“We called it modern-day slavery,” said Daniel Contreras, who borrowed $3,000 to come from Peru and whose story is told in the Guestworker Alliance report. He was one of 300 foreigners brought to New Orleans by a hotel chain after Hurricane Katrina. “Instead of hiring workers from the displaced and jobless African-American community, he sent recruiters to hire us. At around $6 an hour, we were cheaper. As temporary workers, we were more exploitable. We were hostage to debt in our home countries. We were terrified of deporation. And we were bound to [owner Patrick] Quinn and could not work for anyone else. We were Patrick Quinn’s captive workforce.”  

“I was so devastated by our situation. I wanted to go home but couldn’t because I had no money,” said Julia, who paid $1,500 to come to the U.S. in 2009 from Jamacia to work as a housekeeper in Florida. “After nearly one month of working 40 hours or more a week cleaning hotel rooms, Julia and her coworkers had not received a single paycheck,” SPLC reported. Julia said, “I came to the United States to work and so I could help my family and save to go back to school. I had never been treated so badly before, and I felt like there was nothing I could do about it.”

Under the H-2B visa program, the foreigners are trapped. They’re not allowed to work for anyone else. “Unlike U.S. citizens, guestworkers do not enjoy the most fundamental protection of a competitive job market—the ability to change jobs if they are mistreated,” SPLC said. “They are bound to the employers who 'import' them. If guestworkers complain about abuses, they face deportation, blacklisting or other retaliation.”

“When the supervisor would see that a person was ready to leave the job because the pay was so bad, he would take our papers from us,” Otto Rafael Boton-Gonzalez, a forestry worker from Guatemala told the SPLC. “He would rip up our visa and say, ‘You don’t want to work? Get out of here then. You don’t want to work? Right now I will call immigration to take your papers and deport you.’”

These experiences are the tip of an economic iceberg that exists in many states and industries. The abused H-2B guestworkers in the report include housekeepers and desk clerks in hotels along the Gulf of Mexico, welders and pipefitters in Gulf shipyards, strawberry and sugar cane harvesters, environmental cleanup workers, garden and forest workers and even carnival employees.

Video Of The Day: Regulators Squirm When Asked About “Too Big to Jail”

Via Michael Krieger of Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

This video has been going around for a few days, but wow.  Very powerful and could be effective in knocking some sense into more sheeple if it gets spread widely enough.  It’s an absolute joke that these people being questioned by Senator Elizabeth Warren are supposed hold the banks to task.  I mean this Tom Curry character.  I could probably go up to him, take his glasses off his face and walk away and he wouldn’t even notice.  Furthermore, those little placards in front of them that state “honorable.”  These people have zero honor.  The joke’s on us.

She also makes the key point how ordinary citizens are constantly harassed by the “authorities” for what are in many cases petty and victimless crimes, while the bankers who have unleashed more destruction than anyone else, get slaps on the wrist.  Every single American should watch this short clip.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (5 votes)

Israel raids home of Palestinian prisoner

Palestinians hold placards depicting prisoner Samer al-Issawi, who has been on hunger strike, during a protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah (file photo)

Israeli forces have carried out a night raid on the home of a Palestinian prisoner who is currently on long-term hunger strike in Israeli jail, arresting his brother, a report says.

Forces raided the family home of Samer al-Issawi, a 33-year-old Palestinian prisoner, in Issawiya on the outskirt of east Jerusalem. They took away al-Issawi’s brother, AFP said in a report on Monday.

Issawi was arrested in July 2012 only months after being released as part of a prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas. He has been on hunger strike since August 2012 to protest against his administrative detention.


"At 2:30am (0030 GMT), Israeli forces barged into our house without any warrant or order and locked us all in one room while five men attacked Shadi and took him away," his sister Shireen said.

"Lawyers were not allowed access to him and he had a secret hearing without a lawyer which handed him a four-day detention," she added.

She also said that a Jerusalem court is expected to hold a hearing on Tuesday on Samer Issawi’s case.

"Tomorrow at 2:30pm at Jerusalem Magistrates Court, there will be a hearing for Samer," she said, adding he was due in court on March 14.

Administrative detention is a sort of imprisonment without trial or charge that allows Israel to incarcerate Palestinians for up to six months. The detention order can be renewed for indefinite periods of time.

On February 16, EU foreign policy chief Catherin Ashton said in a statement that the European Union was following “with concern reports about the deteriorating health condition” of Ayman Sharawneh, Samer al-Issawi, Jaafar Ezzedine, and Tareq Qaa’dan.

Ashton called on the Tel Aviv regime to bring “formal charges” against detainees and “allow for the immediate restoration of their family visiting rights and calls for the full respect of international human rights obligations” towards them.

SAB/JR

Why Ed Koch Never Became President

Why Ed Koch Never Became President

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Posted on Feb 5, 2013
AP/Frank Franklin II, File

By Richard Reeves

I was standing in line for a movie years ago on Lexington Avenue in New York, when an unmistakable voice came from near the front of the line. "Hey, Dick! Hey, Dick! It’s Ed Koch!" Who else? He kept on speaking at the top of his voice—he did not have a bottom—over a couple of dozen people, asking me or telling me about some problem at City Hall or maybe complaining about the newspaper, The New York Times, of which I was then City Hall bureau chief.

I was hoping a trap door would open under him, or me, but the girl with me was impressed—"The mayor knows you?" And the rest of the folks in line got a tutorial in the politics of New York, city and state.

He was an original, as you must already know. I briefly flirted with the idea that this man could become president of the United States. The first Jewish president and the loudest. He blew his chance, if he really ever had one, in 1982 when he decided to run for governor. He had a lot going for him; a lot of people loved the guy and his style. He also had the right number of enemies—other politicians whom he sometimes reduced to sputtering.

He had come to power as a real New York liberal, a four-term congressman living alone in a $475-a-month rent-controlled one-bedroom in Greenwich Village. He was winning that 1982 Democratic primary election rather handily over a Queens lawyer named Mario Cuomo—even as someone was passing out cards in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island that read: "Vote for Cuomo not the Homo."

It’s a tough town, New York. Upstate, obviously more conservative, was just as tough. Koch lost it in a Playboy interview when he was asked about all that territory from the Bronx north to the Canadian border. The interviewer asked him whether he had problems up there in the suburbs and snow country.

Koch told the interviewer, Robert Scheer, that living in the suburbs was "wasting your life." When asked whether sitting in a subway to get around the city was also a waste of time, he replied:

"As opposed to wasting time in a car? Or out in the country, wasting time in a pickup truck when you have to drive 20 miles to buy a gingham dress or a Sears Roebuck suit? This rural America thing—I’m telling you, it’s a joke."

That did it. The "gingham" line. Koch clobbered Cuomo in the city, ran even in the near suburbs, but lost by 30 percentage points upstate. That killed my fantasy scenario: Any New York governor is at least a plausible candidate for vice president, and then ....

Koch was no lefty. He had a deep, populist conservative streak. He was a Ronald Reagan fan, and he endorsed George W. Bush in 2000—that just might have appealed to Middle America. He was a law-and-order guy who had no use for "elitist" Democrats.

In an interview in Syracuse years after his gubernatorial run, Koch said he shouldn’t have used the "gingham" line. He thought people would take it as a joke. He then added he would never live in a place like Syracuse—or in Albany, the state capital. "New York City," he said. "In New York City, you don’t know from one day to another who you’re going to meet, what’s going to happen, and I love that."

And most New Yorkers liked him. He had a bad third term and sounded like a cranky Republican in later years—but was a pretty good mayor in a time of fiscal crisis. We will never see his like again.

© 2013 UNIVERSAL UCLICK

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Indian President signs anti-rape law

Indian activists hold placards demanding the death penalty for rapists.(file photo)

President Pranab Mukherjee signed the anti-rape ordinance to amend criminal laws after the brutal gang-rape of a female student in New Delhi sparked national outrage.

Following nationwide protests at the death of a 23-year-old woman who was gang raped in a bus on December 16, 2012, India's cabinet approved harsher punishments for rapists, including the death penalty.

A government-appointed panel recommended changes to current laws to improve safety for women. The changes were approved on Sunday by the President.

"The Indian president has given his assent to the ordinance on crime against women. It comes into effect immediately but it will also be tabled before the parliament," said a senior officer.

Changes to the law include doubling the minimum sentence for gang rape, rape of a minor, rape by a police official or an authority, and ultimately the death penalty if the victim is killed or left in a vegetative state. Voyeurism and stalking have also been outlined as an offence.

"We have taken swift action and hope these steps will make women feel safer in the country," Law Minister Ashwani Kumar told reporters on Friday.

Under the current law, rapists face a maximum sentence of seven to ten years and the death penalty is only imposed on the “rarest of rare cases.”

Women rights activists rejected the ordinance, saying it does not properly cover sexual crimes against women and complained about passing a law without holding an official debate or discussion.

The victim and a male friend were attacked after boarding a bus on December 16, 2012. The accused men, who were the only passengers on the bus, beat the man with a metal bar and then raped the woman. Afterwards, the victims were thrown out of the moving bus. The woman later died of brain damage and massive internal injuries at a hospital in Singapore on December 29, 2012.

Five men and one minor are being tried in a fast-track court in New Delhi in connection with the gruesome rape and death of the student. So far all the suspects have pleaded not-guilty despite strong evidence from the prosecution.

SD/PKH

Friday Humor: Miniature Predator Drone Goes On Sale To Bipolar Public Reception

Just because there is a superficially-pacifist, yet supraficially genocidal, dictatorially-inclined egomaniac in every one of us, the moment the Maisto Fresh Metal Tailwinds 1:97 Scale Die Cast United States Military Aircraft - US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator went on loss at Amazon (we would say sale, but that would imply some probability of profit, which as even the hotdog guy, knows is never going to happen at AMZN), everyone scrambled to buy one.

However, only those first in line got one: everyone else was greeted by a "Currently unavailable. We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock" sign. So what does one do: what one should have done in the first place before going for the one impulse purchase that can murder innocent children half way around the world courtesy of the latest iPad app "iKiller": read the customer reviews of course.

Below is a broad sample of the rather bipolar main street America response when faced with the opportunity of having the same great power, if not so great - or any - responsibility, as is given, by some 25% of the population (factoring for the 55% or so who don't vote) to the president of the USA, even if on a 1:97 scale.

First the big thumbs up:

By Raini Pachak

This is the best toy ever. Finally, I can pretend that I'm a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize!
It's like I'm sitting right there in the White House with my very own kill list!

By Rambone

My son is very interested in joining the Imperial forces when he grows up. He says he's not sure if he wants to help police the homeland or if he wants to invade foreign countries. So I thought a new Predator drone toy would be a nice gift for him. These drones are used both domestically and internationally, to spy on people and assassinate them at the Emperor's discretion. He just loves flying his drone around our house, dropping Hellfire missiles on Scruffy, our dog. He kept saying that Scruffy was a terror suspect and needed to be taken out. I asked him if Scruffy should get a trial first, and he quoted Lindsay Graham, Imperial Senator: "Shut up Scruffy, you don't get a trial!" I was so proud. I think I'll buy him some video games that promote martial law for Christmas.

By Maurice Cobbs

You've had a busy play day - You've wiretapped Mom's cell phone and e-mail without a warrant, you've indefinitely detained your little brother Timmy in the linen closet without trial, and you've confiscated all the Super-Soakers from the neighborhood children (after all, why does any kid - besides you, of course - even NEED a Super-Soaker for self-defense? A regular water pistol should be enough). What do you do for an encore?

That's where the US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator from Maisto comes in. Let's say that Dad has been labeled a terrorist in secret through your disposition matrix. Rather than just arrest him and go through the hassle of trying and convicting him in a court of law, and having to fool with all those terrorist-loving Constitutional protections, you can just use one of these flying death robots to assassinate him! Remember, due process and oversight are for sissies. Plus, you get the added bonus of taking out potential terrorists before they've even done anything - estimates have determined that you can kill up to 49 potential future terrorists of any age for every confirmed terrorist you kill, and with the innovative 'double-tap' option, you can even kill a few terrorist first responders, preventing them from committing terrorist acts like helping the wounded and rescuing survivors trapped in the rubble. Don't let Dad get away with anti-American activities! Show him who's boss, whether he's at a wedding, a funeral, or just having his morning coffee. Sow fear and carnage in your wake! Win a Nobel Peace Prize and be declared Time Magazine's Person of the Year - Twice!

This goes well with the Maisto Extraordinary Rendition playset, by the way - which gives you all the tools you need to kidnap the family pet and take him for interrogation at a neighbor's house, where the rules of the Geneva Convention may not apply. Loads of fun!

By Jonathan D

Brown people around the world beware! Always ready to drop a few Hellfire's worth of freedom on unsuspecting civilian gatherings in various middle eastern nations, this Predator model is the perfect addition to any toy collection. Instead of just talking with your children about how our country conducts diplomacy by assassinating people we don't like along with whatever innocent bystanders may be in the blast radius, this Predator model allows for creative play acting and recreation of the murder scene itself. I was sorely disappointed to find out that it's now out of stock and I can't buy dozens more to add to the realism.

By Mr. Ronald M. Ayers

Like most children, my sons and daughters fantasize a lot about killing, usually their teachers and/or other kids at school. For a modest amount of money this toy allows them to take their fantasies to a new level. Instead of using a toy gun or knife or even a video game, this baby takes their blood lust over the top. Now, with a fleet of killer drones, mass genocide of third world peoples is possible for my little ones. As others have noted, a lack of bloodied bodies to go along with the drone is a problem. Perhaps the maker will see fit to remedy that problem in the future.

BTW, I first found about about the toy drones through my children's therapist. The kids have been torturing kittens and puppies and the wife and I sent them to a headshrinker to try to get them to transfer their murderous impulses to third world humans. Their therapist recommended this little gem of a toy. The kids are so excited by it, my son is even talking about joining the military when he turns 18 just so he can pilot a drone. Thank you Amazon for making this excellent product available so kids can experience the glory of killing.

By holmestim

I enthusiastically await the prospects of teaching my grandchildren how to promote Democracy from the comfort of my Desktop! Nothing like making church parking lots out of wedding parties and family events!

By Vanessa Carlisle

I bought this for my son and he spent countless, blissful hours simulating massacres of weddings, funerals, and other family gatherings of brown skinned foreigners! He even realized that if he circled the drone back around on the first responders, his effective kill rate soared! Neat-o!

Educationally, this toy can't be beat - inculcating a predilection for indiscriminate, imperialist violence against non-combatants from oppressed and marginalized communities is precisely in accordance with truly "American values!"

By Trilobyte

This is an awesome toy to instill a sense of exploration in your child. Geography of foreign lands will come naturally as you and your child act out imaginary strikes on Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Libya, and many more! Combined with the optional targets, the wedding,the funeral and the dusty road with an American citizen and his son, you can act out these scenarios very realistically! Teaching the moral superiority and callous disregard for other people and nations has never been easier.

By Julia Nelson

The Maisto replica RQ-1 Predator satisfies the requirement for realism, accuracy and detail in manufacture alongside excellent of playability. The blister pack reminds us of the danger of choking, this attention to detail (especially when the Predator is used in dusty countries in the troubled Middle east) suggests that the Maisto marketing department have really done their homework. I bought ten of these for my boy because, as he so rightly says, "So many countries, so little time". He hasn't played with his Matchbox V2 Buzz Bomb once since he became a "Drone Operator". It's given him a real grasp of imperialism, murder of innocents, the art of war and the complex geography of the Middle East. Thank You Maisto, we look forward to your Cluster Bomb, Land Mine and Gas canister multi pack with anticipation hitherto unseen in the world of play.

By Gordon M. Wagner

The coolest detail about this toy are the small body fragments you can litter around your target area following a drone missile strike on a wedding party. THEN (this is where the real fun begins) you circle back in an hour and fire MORE missiles at the people rescuing survivors and mourning the dead! Sure if another country did such a thing we'd decry it as heinous terrorism, but when good Ol' Uncle Sam's finger is on the joystick, you can bet that we call what we hit our target, no matter what.

Seriously? This toy is inappropriate and ought to be removed from Amazon as soon as possible. If it hasn't occurred to you, "drone" murder is still murder. As in "war crime". As in "international tribunal".

ORDER NOW and get FREE packs of Cluster Bombs (banned by all countries except the US and Israel) as well as the latest 2013 assortment of Land Mines (also banned by international treaty except for the US and Israel).

By redpleb

Nothing teaches your kids about the fact that they may one day be the target of an extra-judicious execution by executive order via a flying death robot from the movie Terminator, then this beautiful piece of replica toy war crimes.

By Michael Liszewski

This model is a 100% accurate scale model, and you will likely be thrilled that the "for ages 3 and up" disclaimer only applies to those remotely flying the Predator, not its potential victims.

... and those not quite so enthusiastic:

By Defenestrate

I thought if I bought this, I could kill random people without facing justice. It doesn't work! It won't kill people, not even brown ones.

THIS IS AN EDUCATIONAL TOY AND I HOPE TO GOD THAT MY FELLOW MURCUN SHEEPLE LEARN SOMETHING FROM IT.

 

By sandinista death squad "sandinista death squad"

I thought this would come with "baseball cards" of American civilians living in other countries that I could target for termination, I had to satisfy myself by destroying everything in my house and giving up on everything I ever believed in, liberty, freedom, and due process!

By HDTV shopper "HDTV"

Whenever my 7-year-old takes his dose of psychotropic medication, he's always obsessed with First Person Shooter videogames. Boy, I want to thank Amazon for their patriotic act of making this MALE (awesome friggin' acronym, Maisto!) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) available. At first, when little Tommy unwrapped this gift from Santa, he said, "this blows," but when I informed him that this would give him an opportunity to blow up people "Who Hate Us For Our Freedoms," well, little Tommy just lit up.

Now, father and son sit in Little Tommy's tree fort, pretending we're in a 63-degree military installation in Tampa or New Mexico, toggling a joystick and doing some real "collateral damage" on women and children in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Yemen! It's a true bonding experience for father and son -- we're Real American Heroes, making up our own kill list and angling for that Nobel Peace Prize we so richly deserve for bringing Democracy to The Middle East and Africa! [...]

Plus, the real bonus is that I'm preparing Little Tommy for a future career. Let's face it -- our Congress has shipped all our manufacturing jobs to China, and Little Tommy is hopelessly addicted to psychotropic medication. His brain is fried, OK? So I thought he might have a great future with the TSA, groping other 7-year-olds or grandmothers at unconstitutional checkpoints, but considering there will be 30,000 REAL DRONES OVER THE SKIES OF THE U. S. OF A. by 2015, Little Tommy is actually preparing himself for the career of a lifetime by practicing to take out his fellow American citizens with a Hellfire missle. Hoowah! www. nowtheendbegins .com/blog/?p=8504

Look, I listen closely to everything the Brit Piers Morgan tells me. The Second Amendment right to own firearms is evil. So I've destroyed all of Little Tommy's toy guns. But piloting a killer drone is freaking awesome. I highly recommend that all you sheeple step up like me and be REAL American patriots. Turn in your guns, eat your GMO foods, drink your fluoride water, breathe in your chemtrails and BUY YOUR BOYS THIS AWESOME, AWESOME TOY for your kid! Remember -- they hate us for our freedoms. So we need to kill thousands of brown people we don't know remotely with the push of a button. Baba booey, y'all!

By Barry D. Berns

What's next, depleted uranium Play-doh? Yes, let's teach our children that endless war for the benefit of billionaire defense contractors and bankers is okay, that it's okay to kill unarmed civilians as long as it's in the name of "Democracy," that murdering innocent men, women and children is okay as long as it's the government telling you to murder them. I won't mention 9/11 "conspiracies," but isn't it obvious to all by now that war is a racket? Only the mega-rich profit from war while everyone else either suffers or dies. Oh yeah, let's arm and install those evil terrorists in Libya and Syria while we irradiate and/or sexually molest people at our airports to protect us from them. No wonder Al Qaeda has been called "Al CIA Duh." Of course, you need a nebulous "enemy" or boogeyman to fight an unending war. Orwell's "1984" was not supposed to be a book of prophecy.

In a word, disgusting.

By USS LIBERTY

My Ritalin®-fueled first grade son thought it would be so much fun to play "Drop the Hellfire missiles". But when he brought it to school, the taxpayer-funded armed guard overheard him say the word "Hellfire" during recess. The principal immediately assigned him to indefinite detention. Then she called the media, and shamed him at the national level. Now he's depressed and taking Zoloft®. Where did we go wrong? Oh well, at least my new husband and I can finally take that 7 million dollar vacation to Hawai'i! Talk about change... "Yes we did!"

By Gk Harris

A toy but it's still quite dangerous. My 7-year-old son launched this in the school playground and hit a Pakistani kid in the eye. These things just can't help themselves.

By Chai T. "texaschai

Disappointed in the price of this toy. Thought it would be paid for with my hard-working, middle-class, high tax rate taxes as the real ones are, but apparently not! Of course I'm kidding. There is no middle-class anymore.

By zc2012

DO NOT BUY THIS TOY! JUST MOVE TO PAKISTAN AND YOU WILL SEE THEM DROPPING BOMBS ON YOU.. AND IT ITS FREE! WELL NOT FREE... JUST PAID FOR BY THE AMERICAN TAXPAYER.

h/t Redpill

Your rating: None Average: 5 (15 votes)

Worldwide Political and Financial Tensions, Spiralling Debt Crisis in America

recession

Until now the course of the crisis has been accurately described according to the five phases identified by our team from May 2006 (GEAB n°5) and completed in February 2009 (GEAB n°32): release, acceleration, impact, decanting and global geopolitical dislocation, the last two stages developing simultaneously. In the last issues and in particular the GEAB n°70 (December 2012), we commented extensively on the ongoing processes of the two last phases, a decantation from which the world-after painfully emerges on the rubble of world geopolitical dislocation.

But we had underestimated the decanting period’s duration which we have gone through for more than four years, a period during which all the crisis’ players have worked to a common goal, to gain time: the United States, whilst making every effort to prevent the appearance of alternative solutions to the dollar, in spite of the catastrophic situation of all its systemic fundamentals, to prevent its creditors from abandoning it (discrediting other currencies including the Yen from now on, tenacity against the attempts to disconnect oil from the dollar, etc…); the rest of the world, in setting up skilful strategies consisting of maintaining its assistance towards the United States to avoid a sudden collapse from which it would be the first to suffer, and at the same time constructing alternative and of decoupling solutions.At the end of this long period of the system’s apparent “anaesthesia”, we consider it necessary to add a sixth phase to our description of the crisis: the last impact phase which will occur in 2013.

The United States certainly believed that the rest of the world would have an interest in keeping its economy on artificial respiratory assistance ad infinitum but it is likely that they don’t believe it any more today. As regards the rest of the world, the final chapters of the US crisis (major political crisis, decisional paralysis, near miss of the fiscal cliff, perspective of a payment default in March, and always the incapacity to implement the least structural solution) convinced it of the imminence of a collapse, and all the players are on the look-out for the least sign of a swing to extricate themselves, conscious that by doing so they will precipitate the final collapse.

Our team considers that in the context of the extreme tensions – both domestic political and world financial tensions – induced by the next raising of the US debt ceiling in March 2013, the signs will not be lacking to cause the disappearance of US treasury bonds’ last purchasers, a disappearance which the Fed will no longer be able to compensate for, resulting in an increase in interest rates which will propel American indebtedness to astronomical levels, leaving no hope of ever being repaid to creditors who will prefer to throw in the towel and let the dollar collapse… a collapse of the dollar which will de facto correspond to the first genuine solution, painful certainly but real, for US indebtedness.

It’s for this reason also that our team anticipates that 2013, the first year of the World-Afterwards, will see a setting up of this “purifying” of US and world accounts. All the players are tending towards this step whose consequences are very difficult to predict but which is also an unavoidable solution to the crisis taking into account the United States structural incapacity to set up genuine debt-reduction strategies.But in order to take the measure of the causes and consequences of this last impact phase, let’s reconsider the reasons for which the system lasted for so long. Our team will then analyze the reasons for which the shock will take place in 2013 afterwards.

Saving time: When the world rejoices at the US status-quo

Since 2009 and the temporary measures to save the global economy, the world has been waiting for the famous “double dip”, the relapse, as the situation continues to worsen day by day for the United States: breathtakingly high national debt, mass unemployment and poverty, political paralysis, loss of influence, etc. However, this relapse still hasn’t arrived. Admittedly, the “exceptional measures” of assistance to the economy (lowest interest rates, public expenditure, debt repurchase, etc.) are still in force. But against all expectations and contrary to any objective and rational judgment, the markets still seem to have confidence in the United States.

Actually, the system isn’t based on confidence any more but on calculating the best moment to extricate themselves and the means of hanging on until then.The time has passed when China challenged the United States to implement a second round of quantitative easing (1): the world seems to have adapted itself to the fact that this country is still growing its debt and is inescapably turning towards a payment default, provided that it’s still standing and doesn’t make too many waves again. Why don’t the other countries press the United States to reduce its deficit, but on the contrary are delighted (2) when agreement on the fiscal cliff keeps the status-quo? However nobody is fooled, the situation cannot last indefinitely, and the world economy’s main problem is really the United States and its dollar (3).

Countries’ public debt by the number of months tax receipts (4) - Source: LEAP / European Commission, ONS, FRB

Countries’ public debt by the number of months tax receipts (4) – Source: LEAP / European Commission, ONS, FRB

According to the LEAP/E2020 team, the various players are seeking to gain time. For the markets, it is a question of gaining maximum benefit from the Fed and the US government’s largesse in order to make easy money; for the foreign countries, it’s a question of extracting their economies to the maximum from that of the United States in order to be able to shelter themselves at the time of the coming shock. Thus, for example, it’s how Euroland makes the most of it in order to strengthen itself and China takes advantage of it to sink its dollars in foreign infrastructures (5) which will always be better value than dollars when that currency is on the floor.

Acceleration of the tempo and a build-up of challenges

But this period of complicit leniency is coming to an end because of intense pressures. It is interesting to note that the pressures don’t really come from abroad, confirming our analysis above; those are rather of two sorts, internal and financial-economic.On the one hand, it’s the internal political battle which threatens the house of cards. If Obama appears to be traversing a period of political grace facing a seemingly subjugated republican camp, the battle will begin again even more violently than ever starting from March. Indeed, if the republican representatives will be undoubtedly obliged to vote the increase in the debt ceiling, they will make Obama pay dearly for this “capitulation”, pushed here by their electoral base half of which in fact wants a US default considered by them as the only solution to free them from the country’s pathological debt (6). The republicans thus hope to do battle on the many issues and challenges which are shaping up: on the social side, firearms regulation (7), taking a new look at immigration and the legalization of 11 million illegal immigrants (8), health care reform, and more generally questioning the Federal state’s role; on the economic side, lowering expenditure, debt settlement (9), fiscal cliff « redux » (10), etc… All these issues are on the next few months’ agenda and the least hitch can prove to be fatal. Given the republicans’ pugnacity and their supporters’ even more so, it’s rather the hope that there is no hitch which is utopian.On the other hand, it’s the international markets, Wall Street at the forefront, which threaten not to extend their confidence in the US economy. Since Hurricane Sandy and especially since the episode of the fiscal cliff which hasn’t fixed any problems, the pessimistic analyses and doubts are becoming increasingly strong (11). It’s necessary to keep in mind that the stock markets are stateless and, even domiciled in New York, have only one goal, profits. In 2013, the world is sufficiently extensive so that investors and their capital, just like a flight of sparrows, slip away to other skies on the slightest warning (12).Whereas agreement on the debt ceiling in 2011 settled the question for 18 months (13), that on the fiscal cliff defers the problem for only two months. Whilst one felt the effects of QE1 for a year, QE3 had an effect for only a few weeks (14). Besides, with a diary loaded with negotiations to come, one sees the tempo accelerate significantly, a sign that the abyss is approaching and players’ nervousness along with it.

S&P performance during each quantitative easing action - Source: ZeroHedge/SocGen

S&P performance during each quantitative easing action – Source: ZeroHedge/SocGen

March-June 2013, extreme tension: the least spark lights the blue touch-paper

In addition to these US challenges, the whole world also has many tests to pass, here again its economic challenges above all. In particular it’s Japan and the United Kingdom, key elements in the US sphere of influence, which are fighting for their survival, both in recession, with insupportable debts, household savings on the deck and with no prospect of a short-term solution. We will examine these two countries in detail later in this issue. But it’s also a Brazilian economy which is just ticking over (15); difficulty to manage inflation rates in the emerging powers; the deflation of the Canadian, Chinese and European real estate bubbles (16), etc…

The challenges are also of a geopolitical nature: to quote only three examples, African conflicts among which of course France’s intervention in Mali, conflicts and indirect confrontation of the Middle Eastern powers around Syria, Israel and Iran, as well as the territorial tensions around China which we will examine during our following analysis on Japan.All these factors, economic, geopolitical, American, global, are coming together at the same moment in time: the second quarter of 2013.

Our team has identified the period running from March to June 2013 as being explosive, in particular at the conclusion of the negotiations in the United States on the debt ceiling and the fiscal cliff. The least spark will light the blue touch-paper, unleashing the second impact phase of the global systemic crisis. \

And there are many opportunities to create sparks, as we have seen.So what are the consequences of and the calendar for this second impact phase? On the markets initially, a significant fall will spread out until the end of 2013. All economies being inter-connected, the impact will spread throughout the whole planet and will drag the global economy into recession. Nevertheless, thanks to other countries’ decoupling which we mentioned previously, all countries won’t be affected in the same way. Because, more so than in 2008, opportunities exist for capital in Asia, Europe and Latin America, in particular.

In addition to the United States, the countries the most affected will be those in the US sphere, namely the United Kingdom and Japan primarily. And, while these countries will still struggle in 2014 with the social and political consequences of the impact, the other regions, BRICS and Euroland at the forefront, will finally see the end of the tunnel at that time.In order to understand the formation of this second impact phase, we next review the “suicidal tendencies” of four powers of the world before: the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan and Israel.

Then we will present the traditional January “Ups & Downs”, rising and falling trends for 2013, also serving as recommendations for this New Year. Finally, as in each month, our readers will also find the GlobalEurometre.

Notes:

(1) One can refresh one’s memory here (Wall Street Journal, 18/10/2010) or here (US News, 29/10/2010).

(2) « Relief after the happy epilogue of the fiscal cliff » headline ForexPros.fr (02/01/2013); « Relief at fiscal cliff crisis deal » headline BBC (03/01/2013)…

(3) As identified by LEAP/E2020 since 2006 from the GEAB n°2.

(4) The banks’ public reflation is included in the United Kingdom’s debt.

(5) The Chinese being very active in this arena; one has numerous examples such as the port of Piraeus in Greece, Heathrow airport in the UK, in Africa, but also the takeover of industrial jewels (Volvo for example) etc. See, for example Emerging Money (China to invest in Western infrastructure, 28/11/2011).

(6) Read, for example, ZeroHedge, 14/01/2013.

(7) Source: Fox News, 30/12/2012.

(8) Source: New York Times, 12/01/2013.

(9) Source: New York Times, 15/01/2013.

(10) The budgetary cuts debate has simply been pushed back two months. Source: New Statesman, 02/01/2013.

(11) Like here (CNBC, 11/01/2013), here (MarketWatch, 14/01/2013) or here (CNBC, 08/01/2013).

(12) The United States will in their turn taste the irony of history: the financial market deregulation and globalisation which they promoted so much is going to turn round dramatically against them.

(13) It’s as at this point in time that the automatic cuts of 01/01/2013 were enacted to force a bipartisan agreement. Source: CNN Money (02/08/2011) or Wikipedia.

(14) For a reminder on these quantitative easing operations, one can refer to BankRate.com, Financial crisis timeline.

(15) Source: Les Échos, 05/12/2012.(16) See previous GEAB issues.

Bank Of America Earnings Plagued By Legacy Countrywide Woes Offset By $900 Million In...

As disclosed 10 days ago in its agreement with Fannie, Bank of America already warned that it would see a $2.7 billion pre-tax hit to earnings resulting from just one GSE reps and warrants settlement. Sure enough, this was the biggest one time adjustment to the company's earnings which came out at $700 million on a pre-adjustment basis, or some $0.03. Excluding all the various incurred "charges", the bank reported $0.29 in earnings.  Of course, the assumption is that the bulk of the charges highlighted below are "one time" - yet, since most of them relate to the ongoing reps and warrants litigation, it is rather safe to put them in the recurring cost of business as the total amount of outstanding claims on R&W warrant cases has soared to a record $28.3 billion, compared to just $12.6 billion a year ago. Netting out the $13.5 billion in GSE claims which are now settled there are still some $125 billion in private and monoline claims which will continue to be a drain on BAC cash and EPS for years to come.

The full breakdown of Q4 "earnings", including the rather odd $2.4 billion tax benefit, and all the charges is shown below. Oddly enough, a year ago it paid some $441 million in taxes.

In brief: $10.56 billion in net interest income, better than the $10.24 billion estimate, driven by the arbitrate $900 million in loan loss reserve releases for the quarter (see below). The far less adjustable non-interest income was just $8.34 billion, far below the estimated $11.7 billion. Of course, BofA's argument is that this is due to one-time charges. Yet are these truly one time charges? A quick look at the outstanding Reps and Warrants claims shows there is much more legacy Countrywide pain to come for the bank:

In one years total claims have increased from $12.6 billion to $28.3 billion. Of this the GSE claims are now settled, which means only some $5-10 billion to settle the outstanding Private and Monoline R&W claims. In other words, it is safe to assume that the same kinds of "one-time" charges will be seen for years to come.

Net interest margin declined from a year ago, from 2.45% to 2.35%, although it rose by a tiny 3 bps from last quarter. This resulted in some $10.6 billion in Net Interest Income in the quarter, or well over half of the total revenue of $18.9 billion reported in Q4.

The $10.6 billion in Net Interest Income, which was "better than estimates" of $10.24 billion, was offset by some $2.2 billion provision for credit losses. Of course, this being Bank of America, there was a lot of Loan Loss Reserve Releases. Sure enough, as the chart below shows of the $700 million in unadjusted Net Income, some $900 million, or more than all of it, came from everyone's accounting gimmick. Absent the release, the firm would have reported a negative pre-adjustment Net Income number.

The $900 million reserve reduction was accompanied by some $3.1 billion in charge offs, of which $2.9 billion in consumer and $251 million in commercial. Of the consumer charge offs, $714MM was in resi mortgage, $767 million in home equity and $978 million in credit cards. The total was $2.2 billion provision for credit losses.

The loan book did not improve much if at all, with some $15.3 billion in residential NPAs. This was driven by a reduction in the 180 day past dues from $10.1 billion to $9.2 billion, offset by an increase in the < 180 days from $5.7 billion to $6.1 billion. Home Equity NPAs was unchanged at $4.3 billion.

Then we look at sales and trading revenue, that other bastion of profitability of the New Normal bank hedge funds, where we find that it declined by $0.7 billion from Q3 to $2.5 billion ($1.8 billion in FICC and $0.7 billion in Equity Income), although rising from a year ago. A far cry from the blow out trading numbers reported by Goldman. What is odd, is that while the Goldman VaR plunged, BAC's soared:

Finally, there were quite a few pink slips at the bank in the quarter, with some 228.5K FTEs at the end of Q4, down from 230.9K last quarter, and 242.3K a year ago.

In short: yet another quarter marked by "one-time" charges which will likely never go away, and ongoing deterioration in business fundamentals offset by loan loss reserve releases.

Full presentation below

BAC Q3 by zerohedge

Your rating: None

Bank Of America Earnings Plagued By Legacy Countrywide Woes Offset By $900 Million In...

As disclosed 10 days ago in its agreement with Fannie, Bank of America already warned that it would see a $2.7 billion pre-tax hit to earnings resulting from just one GSE reps and warrants settlement. Sure enough, this was the biggest one time adjustment to the company's earnings which came out at $700 million on a pre-adjustment basis, or some $0.03. Excluding all the various incurred "charges", the bank reported $0.29 in earnings.  Of course, the assumption is that the bulk of the charges highlighted below are "one time" - yet, since most of them relate to the ongoing reps and warrants litigation, it is rather safe to put them in the recurring cost of business as the total amount of outstanding claims on R&W warrant cases has soared to a record $28.3 billion, compared to just $12.6 billion a year ago. Netting out the $13.5 billion in GSE claims which are now settled there are still some $125 billion in private and monoline claims which will continue to be a drain on BAC cash and EPS for years to come.

The full breakdown of Q4 "earnings", including the rather odd $2.4 billion tax benefit, and all the charges is shown below. Oddly enough, a year ago it paid some $441 million in taxes.

In brief: $10.56 billion in net interest income, better than the $10.24 billion estimate, driven by the arbitrate $900 million in loan loss reserve releases for the quarter (see below). The far less adjustable non-interest income was just $8.34 billion, far below the estimated $11.7 billion. Of course, BofA's argument is that this is due to one-time charges. Yet are these truly one time charges? A quick look at the outstanding Reps and Warrants claims shows there is much more legacy Countrywide pain to come for the bank:

In one years total claims have increased from $12.6 billion to $28.3 billion. Of this the GSE claims are now settled, which means only some $5-10 billion to settle the outstanding Private and Monoline R&W claims. In other words, it is safe to assume that the same kinds of "one-time" charges will be seen for years to come.

Net interest margin declined from a year ago, from 2.45% to 2.35%, although it rose by a tiny 3 bps from last quarter. This resulted in some $10.6 billion in Net Interest Income in the quarter, or well over half of the total revenue of $18.9 billion reported in Q4.

The $10.6 billion in Net Interest Income, which was "better than estimates" of $10.24 billion, was offset by some $2.2 billion provision for credit losses. Of course, this being Bank of America, there was a lot of Loan Loss Reserve Releases. Sure enough, as the chart below shows of the $700 million in unadjusted Net Income, some $900 million, or more than all of it, came from everyone's accounting gimmick. Absent the release, the firm would have reported a negative pre-adjustment Net Income number.

The $900 million reserve reduction was accompanied by some $3.1 billion in charge offs, of which $2.9 billion in consumer and $251 million in commercial. Of the consumer charge offs, $714MM was in resi mortgage, $767 million in home equity and $978 million in credit cards. The total was $2.2 billion provision for credit losses.

The loan book did not improve much if at all, with some $15.3 billion in residential NPAs. This was driven by a reduction in the 180 day past dues from $10.1 billion to $9.2 billion, offset by an increase in the < 180 days from $5.7 billion to $6.1 billion. Home Equity NPAs was unchanged at $4.3 billion.

Then we look at sales and trading revenue, that other bastion of profitability of the New Normal bank hedge funds, where we find that it declined by $0.7 billion from Q3 to $2.5 billion ($1.8 billion in FICC and $0.7 billion in Equity Income), although rising from a year ago. A far cry from the blow out trading numbers reported by Goldman. What is odd, is that while the Goldman VaR plunged, BAC's soared:

Finally, there were quite a few pink slips at the bank in the quarter, with some 228.5K FTEs at the end of Q4, down from 230.9K last quarter, and 242.3K a year ago.

In short: yet another quarter marked by "one-time" charges which will likely never go away, and ongoing deterioration in business fundamentals offset by loan loss reserve releases.

Full presentation below

BAC Q3 by zerohedge

Your rating: None

Smartphones Could Become UK’s New Credit Cards

Most Britons will be able to pay for items using their mobile phone next year.

Banks and financial institutions representing 90% of current accounts have agreed to launch the UK's first industry-wide mobile payment service in spring 2014.

Using a process similar to texting, people will be able to sign up to send and receive payments using their own number.

It will be done without the need to disclose their bank account details.

The  Payments Council , the industry body that is leading the project, said using mobiles to buy goods and services, as well as send money to friends and family, would become a mainstream option due to the popularity of the plan among banks.

Eight financial institutions have already committed themselves to offering the service, and discussions are under way for others to join.

The council pointed out that while there are existing ways to pay using a mobile, the project is the first to have the potential to link every bank account in the country with a mobile number.

Chief executive Adrian Kamellard said: "This new service will offer a simple, secure way to split a bill for dinner, receive money from a friend or pay a tradesman without needing to remember or share account details."

Before the service launches, the financial institutions involved will invite customers to register via their online banking service, mobile app or other approved method.

The Payments Council said more details about the industry-wide registration process and the precise launch date would be announced later.

More than 5,000 consumers took part in Payments Council research, which revealed the service is likely to prove most popular with smartphone users, who accounted for 67% of those surveyed.

One in three smartphone users said they were either "definitely" or "extremely likely" to sign up to the new service when it launches.

Supreme Court orders arrest of Pakistani PM for corruption amid protest

Pakistani supporters of Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri look on during a protest march in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)

Pakistani supporters of Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri look on during a protest march in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)

Pakistani officers scuffled with followers of a cleric at a mass anti-government protest, firing shots in the air to disperse the demonstrators. Thousands gathered in Pakistan’s capital to call for revolution and the resignation of the government.

Followers of Canadian-Pakistani Sufi cleric Muhammad Tahirul Qadri marched through Islamabad as part of a two-day mass protest again government corruption. Qadri demanded that the Pakistani parliament dissolve itself by 11:00am local time (06:00 GMT) on Tuesday.

"Morally, your government and your assemblies have ended tonight," he said in a public address on Monday. "I will give [the government] a deadline until tomorrow to dissolve the federal parliament and provincial assemblies. After that, the people's assembly here will take their own decision."

The situation spiraled out of control when the deadline passed, as scuffles broke out between protesters and the police. Officers fired tear gas shells at the ground and shots into the air to disperse the crowd.

Muhammad Tahirul Qadri, leader of Minhaj-ul-Quran movement speaks before a protest march from Lahore to Islamabad January 13, 2013.(Reuters / Mohsin Raza)
Muhammad Tahirul Qadri, leader of Minhaj-ul-Quran movement speaks before a protest march from Lahore to Islamabad January 13, 2013.(Reuters / Mohsin Raza)

Pakistani supporters of Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri rest during a protest march in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)
Pakistani supporters of Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri rest during a protest march in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)

Pakistani supporters of Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri shout slogans during a protest march in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)
Pakistani supporters of Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri shout slogans during a protest march in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)

Qadri’s supports pelted police with stones and beat them with sticks. Six activists were allegedly injured in the altercation. In an email to AP, Qadri blamed the security forces for the violence, claiming that they attempted to arrest him.

Thousands continued to rally in central Islamabad in support of the cleric after the spate of violence. A city official told Reuters that there were around 30,000 people remaining the streets.

Barricades were set up around government buildings in the center of Islamabad, and additional security personnel have been deployed. Mobile phone networks have also been shut down in the area, as authorities fear cellphones could be used to detonate bombs.

Qadri has demanded that the Pakistani governmental elections scheduled for this spring should be delayed until corruption is stamped out in the current regime.

The Pakistani government warned that they will not concede the cleric’s demands following the outbreak of violence. "We will not accept Qadri's pressure because his demands are unconstitutional," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told local television channels

Pakistani supporters of Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri hold placards during a protest march in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)
Pakistani supporters of Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri hold placards during a protest march in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)

­

Military puppet?

Although Qadri enjoys significant support among Pakistan’s lower- and middle-class, some suspect that he is being backed by the Pakistani military.

The cleric has denied any involvement with the military, although he said that the army could form a transitional government while new rulers are elected, giving rise to speculation over his connections to the military.

"I have no link with military institutions,"
he told Reuters earlier. "I am one of the biggest staunch believers… of democracy in the whole world."

If the Pakistani elections proceed as planned this year, it will be the first time a civilian government has conducted democratic elections in the country’s history.

Pakistani supporters of Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri chant slogans during a protest march in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)
Pakistani supporters of Canadian-Pakistani cleric Tahir-ul Qadri chant slogans during a protest march in Islamabad on January 15, 2013.(AFP Photo / Farooq Naeem)

Panic In California As Thousands Of Food Stamps Cards Suffer Brief Outage

This past weekend, as part of a system update to the CalWIN software of California's Social Services department, HP accidentally cancelled EBT cards for some 37,000 Californians. We can only imagine the resulting panic and the scramble by all these Ca...

NYPD ‘get out of jail free’ cards selling for top-dollar on eBay

The online availability of the ‘get out of jail free’ cards has alarmed New York legislators, who fear that the cards could all too easily end up in the hands of criminals or terrorists.

The online availability of the ‘get out of jail free’ cards has alarmed New York legislators, who fear that the cards could all too easily end up in the hands of criminals or terrorists.

Want to get away with speeding? Flashing one of the New York Police Department’s union cards may cause officers to look the other way. For $100 or less, eBay users can now purchase the ‘get out of jail free’ cards for personal use.

Friends and family of NYPD officers are often handed police union cards, which reportedly lets some traffic offenders get away with minor crimes. Flashing an official “Gold Shield Association” cards to a police officer indicates a close association with another member of law enforcement.

Police officers who hand out the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (PBA) cards are vouching for that person, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. tells the New York Post.

“That type of recommendation shouldn’t be available to the highest bidder,” he says.

The cards are being sold free of shipping on eBay for as low as $10 and as high as $105. With little more than a mouse click, eBay users can buy their own immunity to minor offenses. The resale of the cards is prohibited, prompting several eBay sellers to refer to the cards as ‘collector’s items.’

“They make really nice collectibles. People use them for the wrong reasons. [But] I don’t condemn that,” says an eBay user and Brooklyn resident who sold one of the cards to the New York Post for $100.

But those who intend to use the cards for the “wrong reasons” might choose to purchase the most expensive ones: the 2013 Lieutenants Benevolent Association (LBA) cards work better than some of the other cards being sold on eBay.

“They do carry a bit more weight than a regular PBA card, as the union represents superior officers and are harder to come by than the standard PBA cards,” the seller, who goes by “Lester,” tells the Post.

The online availability of the ‘get out of jail free’ cards has alarmed New York legislators, who fear that the cards could all too easily end up in the hands of criminals or terrorists. Some have altogether condemned the existence of such cards, which they believe are unethical.

“Our traffic laws should not be enforced with winks and nods,” says Councilman Dan Garodnick. “I don’t know which is worse, the existence of a get-out-of-jail-free card or the fact that the cards are being hawked on the Internet.”

Councilman Vallone says he may try to initiate outlawing the cards altogether.

In November, a 46-year-old man was taken into custody after posing as an NYPD sergeant and violating a domestic-violence restraining order. Paul Andreu of New Milford was carrying one of the “Gold Shield Association” cards that can be used to get away with crimes. The man was also carrying a concealed Glock .40-caliber handgun. With the availability of the gold shield cards on eBay, it might not be long before someone else uses one with bad intentions.

Several eBay users are also selling “Gold Shield Association” lapel pins, which represent the NYPD union but cannot be flashed with a driver's license to evade criminal consequences.

Saudi Arabia beheads young migrant maid for killing infant

Sri Lankan activists hold placards and shout as they march past a mosque to the Saudi Arabian embassy demanding the Sri Lankan government assist in the release of housemaid Rizana Nafeek in Colombo on July 8, 2011 (AFP Photo / Lakruwan Wanniarachi)

Sri Lankan activists hold placards and shout as they march past a mosque to the Saudi Arabian embassy demanding the Sri Lankan government assist in the release of housemaid Rizana Nafeek in Colombo on July 8, 2011 (AFP Photo / Lakruwan Wanniarachi)

Saudi Arabia has beheaded a young Sri Lankan housemaid despite years of appeals for clemency from her home country and widespread international condemnation. The woman was sentenced to death for the 2005 killing of an infant entrusted to her care.

Rizana Nafeek, 24, was executed on Wednesday morning in the town of Dawadmy, some 250 miles from the capital Riyadh, the Saudi Internior Ministry said in a statement.

Nafeek was sentenced to death in 2007 after her wealthy Saudi employer accused her of killing his 4-month-old daughter after the baby chocked while being bottle fed. The Saudi Interior Ministry issued a statement claiming the infant was strangled after a dispute between Nafeek and the baby's mother.

Sri Lanka appealed against the death penalty, but it was upheld by the Saudi Supreme Court in 2010.

Sri Lanka’s President Mahinda Rajapaksa personally appealed to Saudi authorities on two separate occasions in an attempt to stop the execution from going forward.

"President Rajapaksa and the government of Sri Lanka deplore the execution of Miss Rizana Nafeek despite all efforts at the highest level of the government and the outcry of the people locally and internationally over the death sentence of a juvenile housemaid," Reuters cites the Sri Lankan foreign ministry as saying in a statement.

Nafeek was only 17-years-old when she flew to the Gulf Kingdom in May 2005 on a forged passport that said she was 6 years older than she actually was. She had no training and spoke no Arabic, and the incident is said to have occurred just days after her arrival in the country.

Rights groups claim her 2007 conviction was made under duress and have chastised Saudi authorities for carrying out the death penalty despite the fact that she was not legally an adult when the infant died.

Prior to her execution, Amnesty International said Nafeek had no access to lawyers either during her pre-trial interrogation or trial.

"Despite a chorus of pleas for Saudi Arabian authorities to step in and reconsider Rizana Nafeek’s death sentence, they went ahead and executed her anyway, proving once more how woefully out of step they are with their international obligations regarding the use of the death penalty,” Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program said on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch also condemned the execution.

"Saudi Arabia is one of just three countries that executes people for crimes they committed as children," said Nisha Varia, senior women's rights researcher for Human Rights Watch.

Saudi Arabia, an absolute monarchy that follows the strict Wahhabi school of Islam, has a legal system based on Islamic or Sharia law rather than legal codes and precedents.

Some 90 per cent of Saudi Arabia's private sector workforce is made up of foreign workers, and maids from Africa and South Asia have become indispensable in many households.

There are documented cases, however, of maids who suffered domestic abuse at the hands of their employers going on to attack the children entrusted to their care.

In January 2012 the United Nations human rights office expressed concern that executions in Saudi Arabia were on the rise.

Compared to 2010 when 26 people received capital punishment rulings for various crimes, in 2011 there were 76 executions in the kingdom.

The stiff penalties of Sharia can be mitigated however, especially for those who are financially well off.

In the case of murder, the “eye for an eye” principle of Islamic law allows capital punishment to be replaced with Diyya or “Blood money” – a ransom paid by the family of the killer if the bereaved family agrees.

For migrant workers who are unable to pay such high levels of compensation, however, the death penalty appears all but unavoidable.

Judge orders student to wear ‘Mark of the Beast’ ID badge

Student body ID cards with RFID-embedded chips (Image from Northside Independent School District)

Student body ID cards with RFID-embedded chips (Image from Northside Independent School District)

A federal judge has ruled that a 15-year-old Texas girl must wear an identification badge to her high school for monitoring purposes or else face suspension.

US District Judge Orlando Garcia decided with a Tuesday ruling that John Jay High School student Andrea Hernandez has only two choices: be tracked from classroom-to-classroom or go somewhere else.

Hernandez, backed by the support of her parents and civil liberties groups alike, says she shouldn’t have to a wear an ID badge to school, particularly the kind that’s embedded with RFID chips to track the movements of students. San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District made those devices mandatory in the fall in order to more accurately track attendance figures, but Hernandez objects because she says it’s the equivalent to walking the halls with the “Mark of the Beast.”

“‘We must obey the word of God,” her father said in court documents obtained by Wired. “By asking my daughter and our family to participate and fall in line like the rest of them is asking us to disobey our Lord and Savior.”

Attorneys for Hernandez have hoped that the court would grant an injunction against the district to keep the girl badge-free, but this week Judge Garcia said the requirement of wearing a card "has an incidental effect, if any, on (Hernandez's) religious beliefs.”

Herndanez’ refusal to follow the rules, ruled the justice, "is clearly a secular choice, rather than a religious concern."

Under the district’s new “Smart ID” program, roughly 4,200 students between two area schools are required to wear the cards. Hernandez says that, for not using the badge, she has been unable to participate in certain school functions and told she can’t enter certain rooms, such as the cafeteria and library.

"I had a teacher tell me I would not be allowed to vote because I did not have the proper voter ID," Hernandez told WND last year. "I had my old student ID card which they originally told us would be good for the entire four years we were in school. He said I needed the new ID with the chip in order to vote."

Northside has offered Hernandez an ID badge that is not outfitted with a microchip, but her parents and attorneys both say they will not accept that as a compromise.

“For Hernandez, a Christian, the badges pose a significant religious freedom concern in addition to the obvious privacy issues,” explains the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties and human rights group that has represented the student throughout her legal battle. “Andrea’s religious objection derives from biblical teachings that equate accepting a personalized code — as a sign of submission to government authority and as a means of obtaining certain privileges from a secular ruling authority — with a form of idolatry or submission to a false god.”

The court seemed less certain with that interpretation, however, insisting “The accommodation offered by the district is not only reasonable it removes plaintiff’s religious objection from legal scrutiny all together.”

The Northside School District hailed the judge’s decision by releasing a statement saying the ruling “affirms NISD’s position that we did make reasonable accommodation to the student by offering to remove the RFID chip from the student’s smart ID badge.”

Hernandez now has until January 18 to decide to either wear the badge or else go to a different school. Her legal counsel with the Rutherford Institute says they will file an appeal, though.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that government officials may not scrutinize or question the validity of an individual’s religious beliefs,” Rutherford Institute President John W. Whitehead says in a statement. “By declaring Andrea Hernandez’s objections to be a secular choice and not grounded in her religious beliefs, the district court is placing itself as an arbiter of what is and is not religious. This is simply not permissible under our constitutional scheme, and we plan to appeal this immediately.”

Chris Steinbach, the chief of staff for a Republican state lawmaker who wants to outlaw the technology in Texas schools, tells the AP it’s unusual to see the story attract the attention of such a diverse crowd.

"How often do you see an issue where the ACLU and Christian fundamentalists come together?” he asks the AP.

Judge orders student to wear ‘Mark of the Beast’ ID badge

Student body ID cards with RFID-embedded chips (Image from Northside Independent School District)

Student body ID cards with RFID-embedded chips (Image from Northside Independent School District)

A federal judge has ruled that a 15-year-old Texas girl must wear an identification badge to her high school for monitoring purposes or else face suspension.

US District Judge Orlando Garcia decided with a Tuesday ruling that John Jay High School student Andrea Hernandez has only two choices: be tracked from classroom-to-classroom or go somewhere else.

Hernandez, backed by the support of her parents and civil liberties groups alike, says she shouldn’t have to a wear an ID badge to school, particularly the kind that’s embedded with RFID chips to track the movements of students. San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District made those devices mandatory in the fall in order to more accurately track attendance figures, but Hernandez objects because she says it’s the equivalent to walking the halls with the “Mark of the Beast.”

“‘We must obey the word of God,” her father said in court documents obtained by Wired. “By asking my daughter and our family to participate and fall in line like the rest of them is asking us to disobey our Lord and Savior.”

Attorneys for Hernandez have hoped that the court would grant an injunction against the district to keep the girl badge-free, but this week Judge Garcia said the requirement of wearing a card "has an incidental effect, if any, on (Hernandez's) religious beliefs.”

Herndanez’ refusal to follow the rules, ruled the justice, "is clearly a secular choice, rather than a religious concern."

Under the district’s new “Smart ID” program, roughly 4,200 students between two area schools are required to wear the cards. Hernandez says that, for not using the badge, she has been unable to participate in certain school functions and told she can’t enter certain rooms, such as the cafeteria and library.

"I had a teacher tell me I would not be allowed to vote because I did not have the proper voter ID," Hernandez told WND last year. "I had my old student ID card which they originally told us would be good for the entire four years we were in school. He said I needed the new ID with the chip in order to vote."

Northside has offered Hernandez an ID badge that is not outfitted with a microchip, but her parents and attorneys both say they will not accept that as a compromise.

“For Hernandez, a Christian, the badges pose a significant religious freedom concern in addition to the obvious privacy issues,” explains the Rutherford Institute, a civil liberties and human rights group that has represented the student throughout her legal battle. “Andrea’s religious objection derives from biblical teachings that equate accepting a personalized code — as a sign of submission to government authority and as a means of obtaining certain privileges from a secular ruling authority — with a form of idolatry or submission to a false god.”

The court seemed less certain with that interpretation, however, insisting “The accommodation offered by the district is not only reasonable it removes plaintiff’s religious objection from legal scrutiny all together.”

The Northside School District hailed the judge’s decision by releasing a statement saying the ruling “affirms NISD’s position that we did make reasonable accommodation to the student by offering to remove the RFID chip from the student’s smart ID badge.”

Hernandez now has until January 18 to decide to either wear the badge or else go to a different school. Her legal counsel with the Rutherford Institute says they will file an appeal, though.

“The Supreme Court has made clear that government officials may not scrutinize or question the validity of an individual’s religious beliefs,” Rutherford Institute President John W. Whitehead says in a statement. “By declaring Andrea Hernandez’s objections to be a secular choice and not grounded in her religious beliefs, the district court is placing itself as an arbiter of what is and is not religious. This is simply not permissible under our constitutional scheme, and we plan to appeal this immediately.”

Chris Steinbach, the chief of staff for a Republican state lawmaker who wants to outlaw the technology in Texas schools, tells the AP it’s unusual to see the story attract the attention of such a diverse crowd.

"How often do you see an issue where the ACLU and Christian fundamentalists come together?” he asks the AP.

Hungary students intimidate government

Demonstrators made up of university students, teachers, doctors and artists shout anti-government slogans and carry placards in central Budapest on December 17, 2012.

Hungarian students have threatened to stage mass protests unless the government meets their demands of higher education reforms.

The government has until February 11 to settle a month-long standoff or student networks will launch protests across the country, Richard Barabas of the HH (Student’s Network) organization said on Tuesday.

"Our anger is totally justified,” Barabas said on Hungary’s independent broadcasting station, Klub Radio.

“We are trying to carry on a public, constructive and sensible dialogue with the government, but it seems we are banging our heads against the wall," Barabas added.

The students have had enough of the government’s “empty promises,” he said, over reforms of giving additional free university places, benefits in state scholarships at universities and freedom for students with grants to work outside Hungary after graduation.

Barabas pointed out that the government talks “one-on-one with professors and the different student groups,” an act which allows the government to resolve the issues without considering both sides of the argument.

"This is unacceptable and has caused us to issue our ultimatum" of education reforms or protests he said.

Thousands of students in December 2012 held weeks of protest over the government’s cuts and reforms to higher education.

The European Union (EU) has pressured Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban to keep Hungary’s budget deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013, and thus Orban has introduced measures to avoid cuts in EU aid.

GVN/PKH

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