Archive | July 1, 2013

Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow: “In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me,… No, the Obama administration is afraid of you.”

via wikileaks

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Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow

Monday July 1, 21:40 UTC

One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.

On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile.

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James Randi: Let Survival of the Fittest “Act Itself Out”

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James Randi, Skeptic… you betcha. Tolerant… not so much. via Daily Grail

I’ve previously posted here about the Social Darwinist-leaning comments of James ‘The Amazing’ Randi, such as this entry on his website where he supported the legalization of drugs, apparently largely for the simple reason that it would kill off a lot of people he doesn’t like:

“[T]hose individuals who were stupid enough to rush into the arms of the mythical houris and/or Adonis‘s they would expect to greet them, would simply do so and die – by whatever chemical or biological fate would overcome them… [T]he principle of Survival of the Fittest would draconically prove itself for a couple of years, after which Natural Selection would weed out those for whom there is no hope except through our forbearance.

…Any weeping and wailing over the Poor Little Kids who would perish by immediately gobbling down pills and injecting poison, is summoning up crocodile tears, in my opinion.

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Restore The Fourth Protest Organizer Speaks Out

I spoke yesterday with Restore The Fourth’s Sam Oslos, an organizer for the group’s San Francisco chapter.

The group is planning nationwide protests for the 4th of July – including major cities such as New York and San Fran – in order to oppose recent revelations that the NSA is targeting the communications of US citizens, in violation of Fourth Amendment constitutional protections.

It was a fascinating interview. Those interested in joining a protest (or starting one) in their town or city should visit restorethefourth.net. Oslos reminded me that the group is non-partisan and a “unifying cause” for those who oppose warrantless surveillance within the United States.

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NSA Spies On 500 Million German Calls, Emails, Or Messages Each Month

nsa spiesIt’s not just Americans having their every move captured by the NSA, but vast numbers of people in countries such as Germany, France, China, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia are being specifically targeted as well. This, plus the American government’s alleged tapping and bugging of foreign embassies and EU offices, are now threatening to unravel U.S.-European trade agreements. DER SPIEGEL reports:

Secret documents viewed by SPIEGEL reveal that the American NSA intelligence service monitors around half a billion telephone calls, emails and text messages in the country every month.

The data stored by the NSA includes telephone calls, emails, mobile-phone text messages and chat transcripts. The metadata — or information about which call or data connections were made and when — is then stored at the NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, near Washington, DC.

The documents also show that the NSA is primarily interested in important Internet hubs in southern and western Germany.

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Hail, Atlantis! Short History of the Legendary Lost Continent

AtlantisI’ve been fascinated with Atlantis all of my life. If you are, too, you might enjoy this short history I wrote about Atlantis in myth and fact.

Via Suvudu:

Atlantis has remained the subject of debate – and inspiration – for thousands of years. Writers like Francis Bacon saw in Atlantis much the same things that Plato might have: A great allegorical story that could be easily used to comment on contemporary society. Bacon’s book The New Atlantis described an island off the coast of the Americas that was home to Bensalem, a utopian society explicitly compared to Atlantis by one of the book’s characters.

Even in the 1600s most people understood that Bacon’s book was allegory, but there were some who either began to believe or already believed that the great indigenous nations of Central America were a legacy of the Atlanteans. Other ancient civilizations became subject to Atlantean speculation in time, either as recipients of Atlantis’ cultural legacy or as possible inspiration for the Atlantis myth.

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Obama Administration Proposes Weakening Freedom Of Information Act

freedom of information actObama pushes for officials to gain the right to lie about the existence of documents or materials. Via the Denver Post:

The federal Freedom of Information Act was supposed to be a torch that journalists, advocates and ordinary people could use to cast a light on the operations of their government. It’s profoundly disappointing to see the Obama administration proposing changes to FOIA that would allow federal agencies to lie about the very existence of information being sought.

The worst among them is the proposed change that would allow the government to tell those requesting information under FOIA that the material does not exist when, in fact, it does. The change would apply to certain law enforcement or national security documents.

Currently, the government can issue what is called a Glomar response, which is when the government neither confirms nor denies the existence of the material.

That term was coined after a Los Angeles Times reporter in the mid-1970s attempted to obtain information about the CIA’s Glomar Explorer, a vessel built to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the floor of the Pacific Ocean.

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Whatever Happened to Parapsychology?

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A scene from Altered States

Parapsychology: Did it ever leave?

via Discovery

It seems that stories of the paranormal sprout up every day, and everywhere, in pop culture and the media. Weird news websites number in the hundreds, and there are entire television series dedicated to psychic abilities, hauntings and paranormal investigation.

But that’s all showbiz, really. The actual academic study of parapsychology — the established term for phenomena such as clairvoyance, psychokinesis, telepathy and precognition — has seemingly disappeared since its heyday in the mid-20th century. So what happened to parapsychology?

It hasn’t gone anywhere, said John Kruth, executive director of the Rhine Research Center in Durham, N.C. It’s just become disorganized, underfunded and — in the realm of traditional science — largely ignored. The Rhine is one of a handful of privately funded groups in the United States still doing active research into parapsychology, sometimes called “psi phenomena.”

“People have never stopped doing research in these areas,” Kruth said.

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Gazing Into Police Culture Through Cop T-Shirts

Cop t-shirts: For when merely acting like an abusive asshole doesn’t send a strong enough message. Via the Huffington Post, Radley Balko runs down a litany of disturbing examples of custom t-shirts enjoyed by cops which hint at a problematic dynamic in law enforcement culture:

Earlier this week, an anonymous public defender sent Gothamist a photo of an NYPD warrant squad officer wearing a t-shirt with a pretty disturbing quote from Ernest Hemingway [below]. There have been a number of other incidents over the years in which cops have donned t-shirts that reflect a mentality somewhat less lofty than “protect and serve.”

The Village Voice reports that the quote was also printed on t-shirts worn by NYPD’s infamous Street Crimes Unit, which was disbanded after shooting unarmed immigrant Amadou Diallo 41 times in 1999 as Diallo reached for his wallet.

cop t-shirts

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California Man Could Face Decade In Jail For Writing Anti-Bank Slogans In Chalk

chalk protest

The local government is acting on instructions from a “high-ranking bank security manager.” KMFB San Diego reports:

A North Park man is looking at more than a decade behind bars for using washable chalk to protest the banking industry. Jeff Olson is being charged with 13 counts of vandalism for writing anti-bank slogans on sidewalks outside three Bank of America branches.

A surveillance camera caught Olson in the act, writing on the sidewalk in front of a Bank of America in North Park. Olson admits it: “I wrote ‘No thanks big banks,’ I wrote ‘Shame on Bank of America,’” he said.

But the city attorney’s office — after receiving multiple emails from a high ranking bank security manager — decided to charge Olson with 13 counts of misdemeanor vandalism.

Olson’s attorney argued in motions Tuesday morning that this is free speech written in easily cleanable chalk, but Judge Howard Shore disagreed, saying this case has nothing to do with free speech.

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