#AceGuestNews – PAKISTAN – September 03 – Youth can play a crucial role in positively transforming conflict situations and building peaceful societies. In countries like Pakistan, where peace and stability seem a far-fetched idea for most, investing into young people to build their synergies and unity is the need of hour.
Moreover, the current turmoil calls for youth in Pakistan to become prepared to shoulder the responsibility to respond to the situation with understanding and ownership.
Peace is all about understanding each other’s perceptions and learning to find common grounds. This year “Role of Youth in Peace-building” a series of discussions took place across cities with the collaboration of Youth Development Foundation YDF and ICMICA Pakistan.
It comprised of panel experts that highlighted motivational skills for peace awareness, urged youth to accept followers of different faiths, think above school syllabus and understand the true message of every religion.
Last year, this activity was organized by the Youth Development Foundation YDF/ Interfaith Youth in Action where the youth participants hailing from different religions interacted and took part in a diversity tour across Lahore to visit a historic mosque, two churches and a gurdwara, the place of worship for Sikhs.
The discussions started off with a slideshow showing the grave consequences Pakistani people suffer on hands of religion based discrimination and sectarian violence.
Different panel experts spoke on various topics and youth participants were able to clarify many misconceptions about different faiths. Participants learned more on reasons why Pakistan is radicalized. A myriad of complexities including the distorted education, prejudice against religious minorities, hatred towards non Muslims in school textbooks are the main elements that create disharmony and conflict in society and derail peace in Pakistan.
But, the discussions’ main focus remained the ways through which the nation’s youth mobilization could help in eradicating the national scale religious intolerance. The young participants of all religious communities were present and sensitized “to welcoming religious diversity”, and for rejecting violence.
These programs concluded with Q/A session, some of them quiet, other very heated on issues including religious discrimination and war on terror, and a candle lighting ceremony.
Our country is witnessing a rise in fanaticism, as never before and with no state control of their activities. But Pakistan is not an exception.The whole of South Asia is in the grip of right-wing ideas.
However, Pakistan’s case proves that a religious state cannot deal effectively with religious fanatics. Therefore, religion should be separated from the affairs of the state.
Overshadowed by an economic, social and humanitarian crisis in the wake of a bloody war against terrorism, Pakistan’s sole hope lies with the youth. It is time to let them pave a path towards a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan.
#AceMediaNews says that Jesse Washington wrote about Malcolm X and rap music having always fitted together like a needle in the groove, connected by struggle, strength and defiance.
But three recent episodes involving the use or misuse of Malcolm and other black icons have raised the question:
Has rap lost touch with black history?
Chart-topping rapstress Nikki Minaj provoked widespread outrage with an Instagram post featuring one of black history’s most poignant images:
Malcolm X peering out the window of his home, rifle in hand, trying to defend his wife and children from fire-bombs while under surveillance by federal agents.
Superimposed on the photo: the title of Minaj’s new song, which denigrates certain black men and repeats the N-word 42 times.
Belgium has adopted a law allowing terminally sick children to be euthanized. Now, these kids can have a say in whether they want to live or end their suffering. But are they able to make such irreversible decision? Should the society force those in pain to endure it further? Today we’ll be talking to one of the advocates of the law – a Belgian Senator Philippe Mahoux is on Sophie&Co.
Sophie Shevardnadze:And our guest is Belgian senator, and the supporter of the law, allowing euthanasia for minors, Philippe Mahoux, thank you very much for being with us at this program. So you are a doctor yourself, a surgeon – what have you seen that could possibly make you take up this issue in the first place?
Philippe Mahoux: Listen… as a doctor, I think … we were confronted with situations of great distress, patients with incurable disease, mostly cancers, and it also applies to minors, children and teenagers. Before the 2002 law was adopted in Belgium, we could not respond to the requests for euthanasia. Since the law was passed, many pediatricians and oncologists, in particular those who deal with children, asked us repeatedly… begged in some cases, to amend the law to allow those children that are suffering to benefit from dignified death. This is why we started this discussion in the Belgian Parliament.
SS:But I’m just wondering if you had any personal experience yourself, how many cases have you personally come across, where children have asked doctors to help them die, and how many parents have agreed to that?
PM: Oh, you know, it is always difficult to be able to evaluate the number of cases… I will tell you something quite specific. If in your life, especially if you are a physician, you are called to take care even of one of these cases, only one of these people, whether an adult or a minor, you are confronted with this situation and you quickly realize the need to find solutions and solve this issue of unbearable pain in case of incurable diseases. And so, the number is not the most important element. What matters is that there are children, teenagers who suffer from incurable diseases and for whom it is necessary to find a humane solution.
SS:It’s pure coincidence, but I am a journalist, I’m 35, but I also happen to be a board member of Moscow hospice – so, people that I worked with very tightly, they are actually confronted with terminally ill kids every day; kids, who die every day. When I talked to them, about euthanasia, they tell me that they yet have to come across a child who wishes to die, because that hasn’t happened yet, in our case.
PM: Quite frankly, there are such cases. Very fortunately, it is not the same person who is facing this type of situation every time, very fortunately it is not the same families. But I can tell you that pediatricians tell us that this type of situation exists, that unbearable suffering exists. Then is the number of cases that arise an extremely important number? The answer is no, very fortunately, the answer is no! But there are cases and it is necessary to respond to them. This is the reality. And you know, in 2002, when the law permitting euthanasia for adults was passed, we have heard arguments saying that we did not care enough about the patients, saying that’s the reason we propose this type of solution.
As for me, I can say that we do this because we truly care. We are putting this amendment through parliament to allow a solution, which is both euthanasia and palliative care, available for both adults and children. The caregivers and doctors who continue to tell us that this choice is needed, they want to support people at the end, make sure pain is gone in the end.
SS:Have you had a situation where parents ask for their children to be killed through euthanasia?
PM: Not with parents, not with my immediate circle. But I want to remind you again, that I am a doctor, and as doctors we can be confronted with situations that are highly different. It isn’t because we find ourselves in a situation similar to the experience of someone emotionally close to us. It is not because we find ourselves in this kind of situation that we take initiative. We take this initiative because we want to fix the overall situation, and that is what is most important.
SS:But why I insist to find out your personal opinion and experiences is because this is a very personal, very emotional law, and it’s a law that for many crosses ethics or morals. I don’t know if you have any children, but if you had any children – would you allow them to decide on matters of life or death?
PM: I can answer you, in any case, that if, God forbid, I had a child who’d end up in this type of situation… I want to point out that by this type of situation I mean a child, a teenager whose suffering is related to an incurable disease, and who will die in the near future. If such a child asked me to put an end to his or her suffering, I would respond positively. And I believe that the entire population, in Belgium, when asked to answer a survey posing the same question, also replied in an overwhelmingly positive manner. I want to repeat that it isn’t the fact that we want to end the suffering of a child, a teenager which is outrageous. It’s the suffering itself that is outrageous. What is outrageous is that children are suffering, children are dying.
What is outrageous is that there are children who are suffering from cancer. What we are doing is precisely preventing this scandal, and thus preventing the suffering of these children and teenagers.
SS:But we are still talking in general terms. Take us through an average case which ends in someone being euthanized. What are they suffering from, how long does the decision take?
PM: I will give you an example. A child is suffering from a cancer which particularly affects children. I don’t want to give an exact diagnosis, but we know about these cancers affecting children: leukemia, or kidney cancers, for example. We provide them with chemotherapy; we provide them a second chemotherapy, a third one. There comes a time for such patients, including for example the sick, young people with brain tumors, there comes a time where we can no longer ease the suffering and there is no hope for a cure. We know that death will occur, and it’s coming soon. A number of these cases exist, where under these conditions, these children turn out to be more mature than many adults. Precisely because they are facing disease, precisely because these children are about to die.
SS:Then, since you say that there are not so many cases, why make it into a law? Why not just deal with it on a case-by-case basis? Because at the point where it becomes a law, you know very well that it leaves a lot of room for mistakes, and abuses, because not all doctors are so honest and not all doctors are so of their profession. In all countries, it is the same.
PM: Listen, quite frankly, quite frankly, I do not know who you are talking about. There is a law in Belgium that has existed for ten years. We made a law that makes it possible for a doctor to make the last humane gesture for a patient who is suffering. At the same time, we established an evaluation commission to which all euthanasia cases should be reported. For ten years, there has been a regular report made by this commission. Never has this commission found abuse. That is an important element. And then, you know, those who talk about abuse, I think that they have rarely faced this type of situation. We know what it is like, for a doctor, or for a caregiver, or for the families, to take into account the requests that are being made by patients and relatives in case of an incurable disease, to be able to hear them out and to respond to them positively…
When we know what it means, in terms of patient support, the gesture that is the gesture of euthanasia, I think that we finally realize that abuse cannot exist. Because the burden that is, I would say, the emotional, empathetic burden linked to this gesture, is extremely important. And I believe that those who speak of abuse actually are those who, for their reasons, are obviously opposed to euthanasia. I want to recall that the laws in Belgium, in Holland, in Luxembourg, these laws open an area of freedom, put in place guarantees to prevent abuse, but do not force anyone to make the gesture if they do not want to. I still believe, that when we talk about these patients, adults or children or teenagers, if these patients request euthanasia, it is a very humane gesture to carry out their request.
SS:So, then Mr. Mahoux, just to be precise, there is no age restriction in this law.
PM: There are restrictions that are not connected to age, but tied to the understanding that the child or the teenager may have of the situation. Therefore, we kept as a criteria the capacity for discernment, that is, we have to ask a psychologist, a psychiatrist who is not connected to the situation, to assess if the request that is made by this minor, I repeat, who is suffering from an incurable disease after treatments that have become unnecessary – if that request is made with full understanding. That is the rule. I repeat, we found that the maturity of the children who are suffering, the maturity of children facing disease, facing death, is greater than that of many adults, so…
SS:So it is really the psychologists that decide if the child is in a condition to make a life decision or not. Is that it?
PM: Exactly, that is how it is written in the law. It is a person from the outside, a psychologist, psychiatrist, who determines if the minor has an understanding of the situation, if the minor is making a request of which he or she is fully aware.
SS:So, this minor can be four years old as well as sixteen years old; do I understand that right?
PM: It is hard, obviously, to understand that a minor who is four years old is able to make a request of this nature being perfectly aware of what he is asking. It is not the role of the legislator in any case to determine how these things could be evaluated by specialists. We have effective assurance that these specialists are able to determine if the child has this capacity for understanding.
SS:But you, as a doctor, what do you think, at what age does a child develop the capacity to make such a serious decision?
PM: You do understand, that as a legislator, I have proposed that there be a report on the state of awareness of a child, because each case is unique. And so, if I had thought there was a right age for this, I would have suggested that we set it. You know, we consulted with a bunch of specialists, many of whom are both doctors and psychologists, and we have consulted lawyers. They all told us that we should not introduce an age provision but instead put in this criterion of awareness. They suggested this because they consider that each case is individual, so it is impossible to determine an age limit. So I can answer your question that the law kept the condition of awareness, the ability of discernment.
SS:You know, because there are still some people who are, nevertheless, opposed to this law, and they say that minors do not have the right to vote, do not have the right to drink, do not have the right to marry, so then if they are suffering from an incurable disease, does it really give them the competence to make an adult decision?
PM: Madame, you are asking me if I know if a child is aware and capable of understanding his or her situation. I would like to remind you that we are not in the child’s shoes, we are not suffering from an incurable disease which causes pain, for which multiple treatments were given that have led to nothing. We have to remember this. You know, it is easy to have a definite answer, to make a decision like that, in the place of someone else, when we are not in the same situation. We do not make decisions for those for whom we care. Those who are working closely with patients, those who know, they can actually, according to the law, decide in their heart and conscience to respond to a formal request positively. I think that’s the right way to do it. It is not the legislator who will normally be at the bedside of children or adults who are suffering. It is the medical personnel who will have to solve the problem but, at least, the law allows them to respond humanely to those requests. This is about the possibility for everyone to choose at some point not to accept this suffering and to say at a certain point ‘this is enough’ And consider that one can finally ask to die, so that the suffering stops. It is, in the end, a freedom, freedom that is related to human rights and humans, in general. For centuries we valued pain. People who were condemned to death, before they’d be executed for, let’s say, offensive opinions – they weren’t just executed, but put to death with pain and horrible suffering. And well, we, we follow a process that is exactly the opposite approach. I am a strong supporter of the abolition of the death penalty. In all the countries of the world, I am opposed everywhere and always to all forms of torture. I am opposed to the value of pain. I think that pain is pointless, except when it is an alarm signal, a signal of diagnosis. But for the rest, the approach fits into a battle of individual vs. collective, a discussion of humanity against precisely this vision of a society. A society that would condemn to death, which would execute, which values the pain. Our approach is the next stage, when we say that one can avoid the inevitability of this pain, when it is unbearable – well, it is the duty of humanity to do so and to allow one to do so.
SS:And what do you do with the option of palliative care, for example? Because everyone who works in “palliative care” will tell you that, you know, the only time that a child or an adult would ask you for euthanasia is if you have not provided a palliative net, otherwise they would never ask you to kill them.
PM: Well, I will tell you this: in 2002, when there was a vote on the law for the adults, I tabled legislation, two pieces of legislation. One of which involved the implementation of palliative care, and the other concerning the possibility of patients benefiting from euthanasia. And so my belief, shared by the majority of the population, and the majority of the caregivers in general, at least in our country, to consider the implementation of palliative care. But that is not because we have implemented palliative care that automatically, first, this palliative care, eliminates any request for euthanasia. One does not exclude the other. And then, there’s the freedom of everyone to consider that at a certain point, palliative care isn’t enough. I really want to clarify that. You know, as a doctor and caregiver, first, for all patients who come to consult, what is the primary approach?
The approach is to treat them. And to try to heal them. That is the primary approach. The second approach, if that is not possible, is to recognize, at some point, that this is not possible and that the disease is too strong. And if we cannot treat the disease, if the patient must die, we must enable them to die in the most dignified way possible. And to die in the most dignified way possible, it can be done either through palliative care or through a request for euthanasia. Even the best palliative care does not eliminate requests for euthanasia, in any case it is a responsibility, a choice which is left with each patient. That is what’s important, the freedom that the ethical laws allow in our society. A positive response based on each choice.
SS:Since we are speaking about ethics, have you already had a case where the doctor refuses to use euthanasia with a client?
PM: But of course. You know, there is no element of coercion in the laws we are voting on. We open a space of freedom that makes it possible to give a positive response to a request for euthanasia. But when we speak of freedom, we also speak of freedom of conscience for everyone. And so it is provided for in the law that if a doctor refuses, he obviously has the right to do so. It is the conscience which dictates if he will accept it or not. It is his conscience that will tell him that he agrees to support a patient to the end, or that he is unable to do it because of philosophical or religious imperatives. Of course there are refusals. In these cases, when a patient makes a request and the doctor refuses in full right (and some do) – it is important to continue the care. It means that when confronted with a patient’s request, if a doctor refuses, I think he has the obligation to actually pass on the request to someone else, because at some point, he ultimately refuses to support his patient. It is a rule that applies not only here. You know, in medicine, when we take on a patient, we have an obligation of responsibility and when we can no longer provide this support, we also have the obligation to see that this responsibility is covered by someone else.
SS:And you do not see an ethical problem, for example, in paying a doctor just to put an end to the life of someone, to kill someone? Is there not an ethical problem there?
PM: Well, listen, we do not pay someone to end the life of someone else. As if that act was isolated… It is never isolated. In fact, if you talk of payment, doctors are paid for giving care, supporting people in a humane manner… A doctor, a health care team is responsible for a patient. Each time a different individual, an individual who is suffering. And there at the end of the road, when there is no way out, that support is the essence of assuming responsibility for one’s patient. So what are you saying about payment? Of course, I think that anything done professionally deserves compensation. Who could think otherwise? But the doctors receive payment for taking responsibility for their patients’ wishes and they understand what that responsibility entails.
SS:Mr. Mahoux, thank you very much for this interesting interview.
We need to change a lot of things about digital technology so that they’re not surveillance engines. The idea is that human rights should be respected in digital activities as in non-digital life, software freedom activist Richard Stallman told RT.
The world is witnessing a transition from non-digital life, in which people mostly have a lot of autonomy. However, people should also have human rights in their digital activities, the world-famous technologist and philosopher Richard Stallman said, interviewed by Oksana Boyko in RT’s Worlds Apart show. Stallman argues that though there are many exceptions in terms of human rights, they should be stopped in order to have effective democracy.
“It simply means returning to users of computing the autonomy that they have in non-digital life. What we see happening is a transition from non-digital life, in which people mostly have a lot of autonomy … There are countries that don’t respect human rights, but we call that an injustice. The point is that you should have human rights in your digital activities as well,” Stallman said.
“We need to change a lot of things about digital technology so that they’re not surveillance engines, but part of it is that we need to use software that the users control,” Stallman continued.
Richard Stallman tries not to use mobile phones in personal communication, he says, but that doesn’t mean he’s advocating some pre-digital innocence. We’ve got to limit surveillance to keep democracy, he believes.
AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards
“When I say we should have portable phones with only free software in them, and that the system should be designed, under legal requirement, not to track anybody but court-ordered investigation subjects, that’s not saying go back to an innocent pre-digital world,”Richard Stallman told RT.
“There are others who say using digital technology means total surveillance, just surrender to it. But since that surrender means no democracy anymore, because whistleblowers who tell us what the state is doing will be caught, and they have to flee to places like Russia in order not to be caught, that means it’s too much of a sacrifice. We’ve got to keep our democracy, and that means we’ve got to limit surveillance,” he added.
Stallman is known for developing the concept that every computer program must be free for users to study and modify as they want.
“Even those of us who are not programmers and won’t personally exercise the control, if the users control the program, and since most of the users don’t want to be spied on, each of us can count on the other users to make sure the program isn’t spying on us,” Stallman told RT.
He admits that depending on others can’t guarantee perfect results, but compares it tonon-free software, when users are dependent on the “tyrant”whose interest is to take advantage of them.
“With non-free software, the decisions about that program are all made by somebody whose interest is to exploit the users and you can pretty well expect the decisions to be bad for the users, whereas when you’re depending on other users, you’ve got a pretty good chance it’s going to be more or less good,”Richard Stallman said.
He added that the argument “Never try to get rid of a tyranny because you don’t know what’s going to happen, just accept the tyrant” is an utter fallacy, since this is particularly the thing that guarantees tyranny.
“So, this doesn’t mean that every contributor is an angel. It does mean, however, that none of the contributors faces the same kind of temptation to abuse power that a proprietary developer faces, because none of them has that kind of power,” Richard Stallman said.
The fact that various big companies like Google, Microsoft or Facebook were ready to cooperate with intelligence services is not surprising because they were money-driven, Stallman says. Nevertheless, it’s important to distinguish between governments spying on other governments, which is something that governments have done plenty of, and governments spying on all citizens.
“That [governments spying on governments] is just what governments do to each other. For me, that’s not the scandal. The scandal is not spying on other governments and their activities, it’s spying on all the citizens. And of course there are countries that work together to spy on the citizens of these countries,”he told RT.
“Thirty years ago we had phones, but they weren’t in general being monitored. There wasn’t a list of everybody’s phone calls, but now . And now the US government is collecting that all the time, and in Spain as well, with the help of the Spanish government. So, now we have to address that issue as well,”Stallman added.
Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist.
Published time: February 03, 2014 13:42
Despite what the UK’s ruling politicians or statisticians from palm-greased think tanks may say, the UK’s economic “recovery” is visible nowhere on the country’s streets.
The opiate ofQuantitative Easing (QE) or Printing Money, the £375 billion fraudulently spirited up so far, is making some of the figures look good, but it is killing the patient.
The effect of QE is to propel the nest eggs of the rich from prudent “savings accounts,” where interest rates are at an all-time low, into capricious stock and bond markets to be managed by hedge funds and other pushy players. Meanwhile, everything with half a brain that moves, including the Parliamentary Commission on Banking, chaired by Conservative MPAndrew Tyrie, is demanding to see clear blue water between public-facing banks and the casino economy. However, precisely the opposite is happening, as billions of savings leaves the safe ground in search of higher returns.
The London media have no excuse to talk of a “recovery.” They don’t have to look very far to see the tell-tale signs of a nation falling apart: Try looking down next time you’re in the street. None of the infrastructure of the nation is being maintained. From jutting-out high street paving slabs to potholed roads and even silted up rivers in the Somerset Levels that have been flooded since Christmas, the vital systems of the nation are clogged and breaking.
For a country with one of the highest living standards in the world to have 20 percent of its population, ticking up every month, existing below the poverty line, something must be very wrong. And the “democratic” strings that are supposed to tie Britain’s 65 million people to the cosseted elite that spend the nation’s taxes are also horribly frayed. The period before a general election is when a government courts its voters.
And what is the role of Britain’s third-party in all this? The Liberal Democrats (with 56 MPs) hold the balance of power between Labour (256) and the Conservatives (303). Any party in such a position should call the shots, as Irish MPs did with the 1885 Ashbourne Act which forced absentee English landowners to hand over land to Irish farmers who had been impoverished by the famine: A dramatic change in ownership that was one of the main catalysts for Irish Home Rule.
A broken labour market
Like the “Balance of Payments,” which compares British exports to imports, taking stock of the “Cost of Living” has fallen out of fashion in the London media. Maybe it’s the lack of the feel-good factor in both sets of statistics – but that doesn’t make either of them any less crucial to understanding whether or not the economy is working. Cost of living is rarely mentioned because an enormous, economically driven, social engineering by the power elite has been played out in our lives in a generation. Britain has fallen from a high-wage, unionized, high-job security economy, from a developed world to a third-world economy in those 30 years.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
A broken housing market
Former Conservative Party leaderIain Duncan Smith (IDS) has a “great plan” to exterminate Britain’s welfare benefits. So as Work and Pensions Secretary he has put the onus on the claimant, however disabled, mentally ill or otherwise infirm, to prove they are in need, and many are struggling to do so. Scores have already taken their own lives because the vulnerable cannot endure his“survival of the fittest” ATOS test. Duncan-Smith’s own family, though, continue to receive around £1.2 million in annual welfare benefits – in the form of agricultural subsidies for their inherited land.
IDS’s other “flagship” policy is the Bedroom Tax. So vicious is this tax that it puts the most vulnerable in constant fear of eviction and, unbelievably, costs the government more! Both to pay the higher rents the private sector demands and in eviction fees. Meanwhile, Britain is encouraging mass economic migration and building fewer homes than any time since the 1920s, so as to keep property prices artificially high. Now Britons who don’t get Housing Benefit are, on average, paying a staggering 45 percent of their income on rent or mortgage costs.
A broken food market
The international grain trade, according to Oxfam, is now dominated by only five multinational companies.ADM, Bunge, Cargill, Glencore and Louis Dreyfus control 90 percent of this fundamental trade. Through the unregulated derivative markets’ ability to speculate on a future collapse in world food supplies, a hideous profit motive is being whispered of which enriches the few by pushing billions of people to the edge of starvation.
With the demise of the biggest traditional fish, meat and fruit and vegetable markets, deals are now cut behind closed doors for vast quantities of food, the economies of scale suiting buyer and seller alike. With only seven supermarket chains in the UK (Aldi, Asda, Lidl, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose) selling 85 percent of the country’s food they are able to coax almost every consumer with other basic essentials on the same site: petrol, banking and pharmacies, for example, driving traditional, locally owned shops to the wall.
As historian E.P. Thompson wrote in his 1979 book, “Writing by Candlelight,”quoting from an Elizabethan diary he found behind an oak panel in his library:
Fruit cannot go to Markett, not for Money nor even yett as Charitye for the Poor. Some say it be through a Sort of Monopolisers in the Dealing Trade, wch wd keep all Price at its Customary Heighth as it is set in any Leen Yeer. And that these Dealers wd rather that the Poor Starve, the Fruits fall Rotted and Wormey, and the Husbandmen & their Familys Toile & Swinke for no Reward – all so that their Proffits be not Sunke.
Prices paid to farmers today, they say, are driven down by the supermarkets while what the consumer pays is ratcheted up. The small grocers go to the wall and the poor cannot afford to eat, while the multinational food cartels become more powerful every day. With an exponential threefold rise in food bank use this Christmas, and food bank users set to top the 1 million mark in 2014, it seems that monopolies – after 400 years, the crooked markets of Elizabethan times – are back.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
A broken energy market
One of the most damning indictments of Coalition Britain is the obscene way in which the destitute have been quietly and gradually made to pay the energy bills of the rich. An investment now in an energy company of £20,000, peanuts for the rich, delivers annual share dividends which will pay the annual gas and electricity bill of the average two or three-bedroom home. That investment grows above inflation too and will provide a tidy sum if the investor ever tires of his free energy. Through the privatization of the utilities, indentured servitude has been hardwired into the economy and the suffering.
At the other end of the spectrum, those living hand to mouth are forced off cheap direct debit payment schemes onto key meter energy tariffs, where they can pay as much as double what the rich are paying, or not paying, for each unit of energy they use. Such injustice and cruelty is scarcely conscionable in a nation proud to suit among the top ten wealthiest in the world. One can only speculate that this must be worked out on average wealth, a handful of billionaires surrounded by hoards of 16th Century destitute.
Perhaps these markets are not ‘broken’ at all?
Given that Britain’s plutocrats are doing very nicely, thank you, out of the £850 billion bank rescue in 2008 and the subsequent financial “crisis,” and that their friends in the London media have promised not to tread on their toes, let’s take an educated guess at what the real game might be here.
Perhaps there is no democracy? Perhaps all the political parties are bought and paid for lock, stock and barrel by the power elite who have no conscience, letting accountants run their affairs.
And when they have filled all their garages with the most ostentatious sports cars money can buy, the next thing up the pecking order perhaps is a government department or a newspaper or two?
“Nobody wants a crash,” some might say. But they’d be wrong. One of the unintended, or intended, consequences of deregulation in financial markets is that it’s now easier than ever to make a fortune from betting on disaster. What Naomi Klein calls “Disaster Capitalism” – economic warfare and deliberate sabotage of a nation’s economy – is more profitable than ever before.
The ordinary people of the world had better wise up and look sharp, because we are swimming in shark-infested waters. What the power elite don’t seem to have realized, though, is that we are teaching our children to watch those overnight subjects like hawks. The younger generation are good swimmers, and getting ready with their rocket harpoons.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and full editorial rights to print have been obtained.
#AceNewsServices says imagine a world were all that once seemed impossible ,could and already is starting to happen according to a recent post by Michael Snyder of Pakalert Press where he makes this proposal of the a US-Chinese Economy.
Are you ready for a future where China will employ millions of American workers and dominate thousands of small communities all over the United States? Such a future would be unimaginable to many Americans, but the truth is that it is already starting to happen. Chinese acquisition of U.S. businesses set a new all-time record last year, and it is on pace to absolutely shatter that record this year. Meanwhile, China is voraciously gobbling up real estate and is establishing economic beachheads all over America. If China continues to build economic power inside the United States, it will eventually become the dominant economic force in thousands of small communities all over the nation. Just think about what the Smithfield Foods acquisition alone will mean. Smithfield Foods is the largest pork producer and processor in the world. It has facilities in 26 U.S. states and it employs tens of thousands of Americans. It directly owns 460 farms and has contracts with approximately 2,100 others. But now a Chinese company has bought it for $4.7 billion, and that means that the Chinese will now be the most important employer in dozens of rural communities all over America. If you don’t think that this is important, you haven’t been paying much attention to what has gone on in the world. Thanks in part to our massively bloated trade deficit with China, the Chinese have trillions of dollars to spend. They are only just starting to exercise their economic muscles.
And it is important to keep in mind that there is often not much of a difference between “the Chinese government” and “Chinese corporations”. In 2011, 43 percent of all profits in China were produced by companies that the Chinese government had a controlling interest in. Americans are accustomed to thinking of “government” and “business” as being separate things, but in China they are often one and the same. Even when there is a separation in ownership, the reality is that no major Chinese corporation is going to go against the authority and guidance of the Chinese government. The relationship between government and business in China is much different from it is in the United States.
Over the past several years, Chinese companies have become increasingly aggressive. Last year a Chinese company spent $2.6 billion to purchase AMC entertainment – one of the largest movie theatre chains in the United States. Now that Chinese company controls more movie ticket sales than anyone else in the world. At the time, that was the largest acquisition of a U.S. firm by a Chinese company, but now the Smithfield Foods deal has greatly surpassed that.
But China is not just relying on acquisitions to expand its economic power. The truth is that “economic beachheads” are being established all over America. For example, Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, Inc. recently broke ground on a $100 million plant in Thomasville, Alabama. I am sure that many of the residents of Thomasville, Alabama will be glad to have jobs, but it will also become yet another community that will now be heavily dependent on communist China.
And guess where else Chinese companies are putting down roots?
#AceNewsServices says l have a number of people that send me posts all year round and would like me to post their Guest Views some l have found not to our news groups ethos, but occasionally someone has thought it through and their views are worthy of print. These are their view’s and l thank them for their input.
More than anything 2014 is going to be a year of beauty, acceptance, and becoming more comfortable with the fact that we’re not alone. even in our own thoughts.
In 2013 we saw:
The demise (more of a lowering of expectations) of 3D and movement to the next era of insanely brilliant moving image brilliance with 4K content and growing possibilities
The death (realignment) of the PC, rise of everything mobile, constant connection
The stimulated deterioration of long-term thinking being replaced by ultra short-term images/messages that are replaced in a nanosecond by newer/funer images/messages
Business pressures demanding a more rapidly deployed and flexible infrastructure that could respond/react in minutes/hours rather than days/weeks economically. The Cloud
The “horror” to discover that even our most innocuous utterances, activities were being followed by someone, somewhere but not enough to skip a beat or a keystroke
The list at first blush may look like a very pessimistic view of our “progress” but actually the last two years have been a major seismic shift – forward – in becoming increasingly more comfortable with the speed of technology change/adoption. And it’s only getting better…faster.
In 2014 we’ll see:
4K content production, delivery, enjoyment will increase more rapidly than many expect not just because people will buy UHD TV sets more quickly than anticipated but because more 4K content – new and old – will be appreciated and we’ll see a demand force the move more quickly than we did with the shift from SD to HD. The change will also have a positive/negative effect on what we watch, when we watch it, where we watch it. OTT (over the top) quality streaming will enable more viewing options forcing the change of cable/satellite firms to become service providers, not gate keepers.
First appearing in 1977 the PC has had a good run and is being rapidly augmented – not replaced – by new tablets and smartphones. It’s estimated that more than a half billion of the desktop/notebook systems are in use today and the technology is on track to keep them fresh and relevant. The challenge (opportunity) for the industry is to offer a range of screen sizes for tablets and smartphones so they meet the uses of each consumer not broad theoretical “groups.” The 9-12 inch tablet will establish itself as the entertainment/work device of choice by Gen X, Gen Yers while the 3-7 inch phone/phablet will become the communications/entertainment device of choice for Gen Cers
The instant-on acceptance of TVs and appliances has raised the expectations of people in almost everything they see, hear, do. It is difficult to “find the time” to sit through something as exciting and breathtaking as Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity without the addition of show Tweets and 3-minute YouTube views of outtakes and goofs. Fortunately the human computer – the mind – is upgrading itself to make multitasking easier to manage, control, live with…I hope
The Cloud will experience a lot of upheaval in 2014 that will also have a mixed effect on the computer hardware/software industry. The industry will experience a lot of change this year as startups will be squeezed out or acquired by others and the herd will be thinned to the point where the dominant players will be Amazon, IBM, Google, Microsoft. This consolidation of horrendously big data centers will also place a lot of pressure on hardware producers like Dell and HP as well as software providers such as Oracle, SAP and VMware which will have a much smaller prospective customer base. The saving grace for these organizations will be the growing SMB (small to medium business) segment which is growing very nicely
While we all “knew” that businesses were spying on each other and tracking customer activities on the Internet and we “knew” governments were spying on each other, 2013 marked the turning point where we now “really knew” it. While we will continue to give lip service to transparency, the security industry will enjoy solid – but futile – growth in every area – consumer, business, public organizations. Globally governments, businesses, individuals will use all the tools they can develop/find to keep their friends close and their enemies even closer. The black hats/white hats will finally become grey hats
Lower cost video capture solutions like Black Magic’s 4K $400 and $4,000 cameras combined with high-performance, low-cost video post production systems will reduce overall content production costs so studios, indies and businesses will deliver more eye-popping content more quickly
Standards organizations like SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) are already developing more efficient solutions for delivering (streaming) content rather than forcing native 4K content delivery. Rather than relying on pushing more pixels through the already cramped pipe they will focus on more delivering higher frame rates, better bit rates and a broader color gamut more effectively with lower bandwidth requirements
While producing new 4K content is an expensive/time-consuming process, studios, content owners and firms like 4K Studios are finding they can mine their libraries of content, economically re-purpose/represent old movies/shows and find an eager market for the material
UHD TV set manufacturers are “stimulating” people to replace their “old” HD sets more quickly and are working directly with content owners to deliver material now rather than waiting for the cable gatekeepers to negotiate distribution
The perfect storm of new Xbox and PS4, growing array of versatile media players like Roku, Nuvola, NetFlix, Hulu and UltraFlix are giving consumers just the content they want – mixture of free/paid – helping legacy TV services to become less relevant
Today there are a half billion PCs in use and the sales growth has obviously slowed as mobile devices – tablets/smartphones – take more of the consumer’s budget. Still only about 230M + tablets will be sold this next year and more than 500M smartphones. Three players will continue to dominate the tablet market – Apple, Samsung, Amazon – and two will dominate the smart phone market – Apple and Samsung. The big struggle here will be in the OS arena – Android, iOS and Windows. To be more in control of its own destiny you can expect to see Samsung move more of its mobile devices from Android to Baba in a slow, cautious fashion
Face it there are just too many cloud service companies in the pool and 25 percent of them will disappear this coming year either through acquisition or bankruptcy. The economy of scale plays too big of a roll for second tier service providers to make the heavy investment in infrastructure
Because C office folks see huge savings by buying into the cloud it also means less IT investment – servers, storage, software – which could reduce global IT spending to single-digit growth. It will also require a major focus shift from enterprise to SMB sales
I’m not quite certain why Snowdon’s “revelations” of the foul activities of the #NSA (National Security Agency) gets so much attention but it has certainly stimulated the security industry. People have put, gathering, grabbing big data on the Internet for years. Look in the mirror…you are big data. And there’s money to be made, things to be found in your data. It’s what people gave freely to get free stuff! It’s the financial motivation to mine that data that fuels Facebook’s/Google’s growth. It is just too tempting for governments, organizations not to tap into. It’s not that people didn’t know that spies, espionage, surveillance didn’t know it…it’s on the news and the storyline of every movie, TV show. Everyone is suddenly outraged even though he/she wants to know what the other is thinking/doing while protecting their thoughts/ideas/actions. Covering up my stuff while finding out dirt about the other guy is a big business, getting bigger. Just know everyone !
p style=”text-align:center;”>Is cheating, spying except you and me and…I’m not too sure about you.
p style=”text-align:left;”>Editor: Says if you have your own thoughts and feelings about 2013 or 2014 or anything really, just send me your details, by leaving a simple link to your site on the comments box, to a post or posts you would like to feature. Thank you.
And now, it appears that John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, has become a key player in the cover-up. A willing participant in the “political treachery.”That’s why earlier this week, Judicial Watch joined forces with the grieving family members of the Benghazi terrorist attack, U.S. military leaders, and other prominent conservatives to call out Boehner on the wretched and deplorable job he’s doing investigating the tragedy. Or, more likely, blocking a thorough investigation.
In a scathing letter delivered on January 6, 2014, JW and our co-signers blasted the Republican leader, demanding that he install a Select Committee to investigate the atrocity. Forcefully, and to the point, the letter informs the recalcitrant Speaker, “You have an opportunity to show strong leadership and resolve a national disgrace perpetrated by specific public officials. You are failing.”On September 11, 2012. Islamic jihadists attacked the U.S. Special Mission in Benghazi, Libya, murdering Ambassador Christopher Stevens, the first diplomat to be killed overseas since 1979, and three other Americans. The Obama administration has worked hard to keep details of the attack-and the negligence that led to it-from the American public. But JW has refused to let the cover-up go unabated. To date, we have four pending Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the Obama administration for documents about the attack, 14 FOIA requests and one Mandatory Declassification Review Request. And we have published two in-depth special reports on Benghazi, the last one on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack. You can read the special reports here andhere.It was JW that obtained the first photos depicting the devastating aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. diplomatic and CIA facilities in Benghazi, as well as details of the inexperienced foreign company hired to protect the American compound. The State Department paid the virtually unknown British firm $794,264 for nearly 50,000 guard hours, according to the federal contract obtained in the course of JW’s ongoing Benghazi probe. And all that we got for our money was four murdered Americans.Now, we have put the responsibility on House Speaker Boehner to take action to extract the truth about Benghazi from the Obama administration. I signed the letter on behalf of Judicial Watch, along with the mother and uncle of slain Foreign Officer Sean Smith, and the father of murdered security officer Tyrone Woods. Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, former Florida Congressman Allen West, and nearly 50 additional retired military officers signed; as did Freedom Center President David Horowitz, Black Voters Alliance’s Anita MonCrief, and scores of other conservative leaders.As I said, the letter pulled no punches. In fact, the letter, which gained nationalheadlines and significant coverage on Fox News, was drafted by our own Chris Farrell, who heads our investigations team. The message to the Speaker is blunt:To date, five (5) different committees of the House have conducted separate hearings, uncovering information in a piecemeal fashion lacking professional investigators. The five committees’ efforts are disjointed and uncoordinated. The Obama administration has benefited from that dysfunctional process to hide the truth. Hardly any Obama administration witnesses have testified – publicly or privately. You have resisted repeated calls for the creation of a select investigative committee with subpoena authority. It appears that you are satisfied to allow that state of investigative incoherence and ambiguity to continue. The last public hearing by any of the five committees was held in September – four (4) months ago. The families of the dead who fought valiantly to protect the mission and their families, the survivors, and the American people deserve better from you and your Members of Congress. They deserve the absolute truth from their government. Your failure to get the truth and hold public officials accountable increases the possibility of other repeat attacks and additional failures to defend Americans abroad.
The letter goes on to remind Boehner that his oversight of the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation has been without any meaningful effect or result. “Not a single terrorist in this well-planned and executed military attack by radical Islamists has been apprehended. Ahmed Abu Khattala, a ringleader of the attack, granted long interviews to reporters in Benghazi cafes while the Obama administration-and you-have done nothing. Nearly 16 months after the terrorist attack, the American public has no accountability and no plan of action from House leadership.”
Raising the issue of why Boehner may be stonewalling a thorough investigation of the Benghazi tragedy, the coalition of Benghazi victims and patriots asks tough questions that demand answers:
Some analysts believe your inaction and passivity towards getting to the truth concerning Benghazi is because you were briefed on the intelligence and special operations activities in Libya as a member of the “Super 8.” You may possess “guilty knowledge.” We recall how then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi developed a form of “amnesia” concerning a documented briefing she received on so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” – later termed “torture” for political purposes. Are you in the same position as your predecessor? Are you dodging a legitimate, thorough, coordinated investigation of Benghazi because it will damage your political position as Speaker?
The conclusion leaves no wiggle room for Boehner to dodge the issue:
Mr. Speaker, we call upon you to act now and create a Select Committee on Benghazi to investigate all aspects of the United States involvement in Libya, to include, but not be limited to the attacks of September 11, 2012. It must now also include the protracted cover-up the American people, the families of the fallen and those with loved ones serving overseas have endured. The new committee must have subpoena power, capable staff and Members from both parties who are committed to finding the truth, not playing politics. The Committee must be staffed with new, professional, qualified and experienced investigators. It must have resources to conduct a thorough, comprehensive investigation and issue an exhaustive report before this Congress adjourns.
As you know by now, JW will not let this matter rest. As Voltaire wrote, “To the living, we owe respect. To the dead, we owe the truth.” And, regardless of how hard Obama tries to cover up his misdeeds or Boehner tries to stonewall the truth, we will work to see that both debts are paid in full for Benghazi.
“It’s Time for the Obama Administration to Stop Blocking Ballot Box Integrity”
What a wonderful change of pace it would be if the federal government actually began protecting the integrity of the ballot box, instead of being one of the nation’s leading defenders of practices that can lead to voter fraud and stolen elections. As a reader of the Weekly Update, you know that Barack Obama and election fraud are fellow travellers. Judicial Watch has fought tooth-and-nail nationwide to prevent Obama and his acolytes from thoroughly corrupting our electoral process.
JW’s most recent move to defend free and fair elections from federal assault came early this month, when our expert team of attorneys took on a little-known agency known as the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC). In finest Orwellian fashion, the EAC seems intent upon “assisting” in elections by assuring that noncitizens – both illegal and legal residents – are able to cast bogus ballots.
So, on January 3, JW filed comments with the EAC in support of efforts by Arizona, Kansas, and Georgia to compel the EAC to amend its National Voter Registration Voter Registration Mail Application (a federal form) to require voter registration applicants to provide proof of citizenship. Arizona and Kansas have sued the EAC to force such action; Georgia has issued a formal letter of request.
By way of brief background, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires the states to accept the “federal form” to register individuals to vote. The EAC maintains the federal form, which fails to include any requirement that registrants provide proof of U.S. citizenship.
Kansas first requested that the EAC update to its federal form instructions in August 2012, following changes in the state’s election law requiring evidence of U.S. citizenship when registering to vote. Arizona, since 2004, had required an Arizona driver’s license, a U.S. birth certificate, a passport or other similar document before the state would approve the federal registration application.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Arizona provision requiring proof of citizenship. InArizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc., the Court said the 1993 NVRA trumps the state law. The ruling affected Arizona, Kansas, Georgia and Alabama.
But the court left the door open for Arizona to assert its arguments through separate litigation, a possibility mentioned by justices during oral arguments in April. Writing for the majority, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that Arizona could still challenge the current EAC form in court or ask the commission to include the citizenship requirement on the federal form in the future. At that point, both Kansas and Arizona sued the EAC to amend the federal form.
Filing in support of the state actions, Judicial Watch argued that “Under Section 8 of the NVRA, states are under a federal obligation to assure that non-citizens neither register nor vote.” It added, “A failure to allow states to require such information would undermine Americans’ confidence that their elections are being conducted fairly and honestly, and would thwart states’ ability to comply with the election integrity obligations imposed by federal law.”
We then pointed out that there are “good reasons to believe that the public needs to be reassured on this point”:
In poll after poll, for some time now, large segments of the American populace have expressed their dismay with various aspects of our electoral system. A Rasmussen poll from August of 2013 reported that only 39% of Americans believe elections are fair. In 2012, a Monmouth University poll reported that more than two-thirds of registered voters thought voter fraud was a problem. In 2008, when a Gallup poll asked respondents around the world whether they had “confidence in the honesty of elections,” 53% of Americans said that they did not.
And JW’s lawyers argued that “routine failure of certain states to comply with their voter list accuracy obligations … is quickly becoming a national, nonpartisan issue,” adding:
For example, the Pew Research Center on the States released an astonishing report in 2012 noting that “[a]pproximately 2.75 million people have active registrations in more than one state.” That same report observed that “24 million – one of every eight – active voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate,” and that “[m]ore than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as active voters.” Non-citizen voter registration fraud is a contributor to this problem.
We also cited the outrageous failure of the EAC to have a quorum as a further factor strengthening the arguments of Arizona, Kansas, and Georgia that they be granted a federal form amendment. Unbelievable as it may be, the EAC has not had a quorum since December 2010, has had no commissioners since December 2011, no executive director since then, and no general counsel since May 2012. To add insult to injury, the EAC is using its own ineptitude as an excuse to block changes to the federal form. So, we turned the tables on them, commenting:
Judicial Watch notes that only a quorum of EAC Commissioners can refuse the states’ requests. An Acting Director lacks authority to take official regulatory action for the Commission. See 42 U.S.C. § 15328 (action by the EAC can be authorized “only with the approval of at least three of its members.”). Because there is no quorum of Commissioners, the EAC cannot reject the states’ request.
As I said at the time we filed our comments with the EAC, “For the EAC to use its own inability to convene a quorum as an excuse to contravene the right of the states of Arizona, Kansas, and Georgia to protect the integrity of the ballot box is a travesty. Gladstone’s axiom that ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ has never been more obvious than in this situation. And the EAC ought to stop its stonewalling and let justice proceed.” (These EAC comments are not the first time Judicial Watch has intervened on this issue to protect election integrity. In December 2012, Judicial Watch filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Arizona’s proof of citizenship voter registration law.)
On August 21, 2013, the states of Kansas and Arizona jointly filed a complaint against the EAC asking the federal court in Topeka, Kansas, to force the agency to require proof of citizenship in the state-specific instructions on the National Mail Voter Registration Form. On August 1, the state of Georgia sent a letter to the EAC asking the same. The EAC had rebuffed previous requests for modifications, blaming a lack of quorum on the commission.
In filing their lawsuit, Kansas and Arizona cited the June 2013, Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona Inc. While the Court ruled that the NVRA “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” it also stipulated that states are free to petition the EAC to add the proof of citizenship requirement and, if the EAC does not act or rejects the request, take it to court.
I’ll be sure to keep you updated on this effort to protect the integrity of our elections.
#AceHealthNews says when you are elderly and infirm ,would you expect your doctor, drug company and advisers, to give you a “Medicare Drug Plan” you do not really need. Well according to this recent article that is exactly what happened to this person, under this “Medicare Drug Fraud” read the story ……………………………………………. below: comment and share
Story of the Events:
At another time in her life, Denise Heap might have tossed aside the insurance forms listing the drugs prescribed to her mother.
The “explanation of benefits” forms came like clockwork and didn’t require any action on her part.
But Heap was worried about her mother, Joyce, who was in the end stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Her health had inexplicably declined in the Los Angeles-area nursing home where she’d been living. So in April, when a thick envelope arrived from her mother’s Medicare drug plan, Heap scrutinized it.
As Heap began Googling the drugs, she realized something was drastically wrong. Either her mother was being given expensive medications for conditions she didn’t have 2014 such as breast cancer, asthma, emphysema and high cholesterol 2014 or something sinister was going on: Someone was using her mother to steal drugs.
“I flipped,” Heap said. Medicare’s prescription program, known as Part D, paid for more than “$10,000 worth of meds” in just three months, she said.
She first called Medicare to report her suspicions, she said, then the insurance company that managed her mother’s Medicare drug plan. Neither, she said, seemed very concerned.
“I was like, No, No, No, You have to understand. I am trying to help you guys,'” she said.
Soon, Heap became convinced someone had stolen her mother’s identity while she was living at a nursing home run by an Armenian couple. The couple kept moving the location of the nursing home. And Heap believed they had over-sedated her mother with high doses of antipsychotics, inappropriately treating her blood pressure and allowing bed bugs to feast on her.
“I knew something crooked was going on,” said Heap, 59, who, with her mother, had co-founded a Holocaust education nonprofit in the 1990s to document stories of German resistance to Hitler.
Frustrated, Heap called Los Angeles County sheriff‘s Sgt. Steve Opferman, head of a task force specializing in prescription drug fraud. As soon as Heap began describing what had happened, Opferman said he knew her mother had been caught up in a fraud scheme involving Armenian organized crime.
Opferman and other investigators say criminals wager that patients and their families will not be like Heap. They bank on the fact that their victims 2014 Medicare beneficiaries 2014 will be too old or too sick to review insurance forms summarizing the medications and services billed in their names. And they count on the tendency of busy family members to give such forms a cursory glance, if that.
“Suffice it to say most people don’t pay attention, let alone know what they’re looking at,” Opferman said.
But Heap’s case, and others like it, shows the important role patients and their families can play in uncovering fraud within Part D. The program now covers 36 million seniors and disabled people and fills 1 in 4 prescriptions nationwide. Last year, it cost taxpayers $62 billion.
In an earlier report, ProPublica found that Medicare’s system for pursuing such fraud is so cumbersome and poorly run that schemes can quickly siphon away millions. Tips such as Heap’s can come into private insurers, which run Part D for Medicare, to contractors hired by Medicare to spot fraud, or to the U.S. Department of Health Human Services inspector general, which investigates health care fraud. But only a small percentage of cases funneled through this chain are prosecuted.
Reporters, using Medicare’s own data, were able to identify scores of doctors whose prescribing within the program followed known patterns of fraud: the cost of doctors’ prescribing jumped dramatically 2014 sometimes by millions of dollars 2014 from one year to the next and they chose brand-name drugs that scammers’ can easily resell.
Some doctors claimed that they 2014 like some of the patients involved 2014 were unwitting victims of identity theft. In other cases, federal investigators found, the doctors were paid for writing bogus or inappropriate prescriptions.
In a response to these findings, a Medicare official said more focus has been placed on fraud detection within Part D.
The drugs listed on Joyce Heap’s explanation of benefits forms are those most-desired in such fraud schemes. They included the asthma drugs Spiriva and Advair Diskus, for which her insurance plan paid nearly $270 a month each, the cholesterol drug Crestor, which cost nearly $170, and the antipsychotic Abilify, for which the plan paid about $920 for a 30-day supply.
Opferman said Heap’s call launched an investigation that uncovered a large Part D scheme allegedly connecting the owners of the nursing home to a North Hollywood pharmacy operation, including evidence that other residents’ identities were used. A September search of the pharmacy where Heap’s mother’s prescriptions were filled found evidence that drugs were being relabeled or repackaged for resale, he said.
The doctor who prescribed the drugs has denied prescribing the majority of them, Opferman said. The case is now part of an ongoing investigation by California’s Department of Justice and his group, he said.
Opferman said investigators might never have known of the scheme without Heap’s tip.
Joyce Heap didn’t live long after her daughter unearthed the problems.
She improved briefly after moving to a new nursing home, where a doctor reduced her psychiatric medications, Denise Heap said. But she died of a heart attack on April 21.
In the months following her mother’s death, Heap said, she sent letters alerting Medicare and her mother’s insurer to the possible fraud. In July she wrote, “Please note that 100% of the prescriptions charged in April 2013 2026 areFRAUDULENT.”
Heap said she is “outraged” Medicare didn’t follow-up and ask detailed questions about her allegations. In fact, it was either her insurer or Medicare 2014 she can’t recall which 2014 that recommended she call the local sheriff if she was worried.
“I would have thought immediately they would have gotten on it,” she said.
But Heap said she is mostly tormented that she didn’t know such fraud schemes existed 2014 and that elderly people like her mother could become prey.
“It’s a hard thing to live with,” she said, tearfully. “I feel like I failed.”
The numbers became public because IMS, currently in private hands, recently filed to make a public stock offering. The company’s prospectus gives fresh insight into the huge dollars 2013 and huge volumes of data 2013 flowing through a little-watched industry.
IMS and its competitors are known as prescription drug information intermediaries.Drug companysales representatives, using data these companies supply, can know before entering a doctor’s office if he or she favours their products or those of a competitor. The industry is controversial, with some doctors and patient groups saying it threatens the privacy of private medical information.
The data maintained by the industry is huge. IMS, based in Danbury, Conn., says its collection includes “over 85 percent of the world’s prescriptions by sales revenue,” as well as comprehensive, anonymous medical records for 400 million patients.
All of this adds up to 10 petabytes worth of material 2014 or about 10 million gigabytes, a figure roughly equal to all of the websites and online books, movies, music and TV shows that have been stored by the non-profit Internet Archive.
IMS Health says it processes and brings order to more than 45 billion health care transactions each year from more than 780,000 different feeds around the world. “All of the top 100 global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies are clients” of its products, the firm’s prospectus says.
Dr. Randall Stafford, a Stanford University professor who has used IMS data for his research, said the company has grown markedly in recent years through acquisitions of competitors and other companies that host and analyze data. As the pharmaceutical industry has consolidated, he says, IMS has evolved by offering more services and expanding in China and India.
“They’ve tried to beef up their competitiveness in some areas by making all of these acquisitions,” he said.
IMS has especially expanded its database of anonymous patient records, which can match patients’ diagnoses with their prescriptions and track changes over time, Stafford said.
IMS sells two types of products: information offerings and technology services. The information products allow pharmaceutical companies to get national snapshots of prescribing trends in more than 70 countries and data about each prescribers in 50 countries.
IMS’s prospectus offers examples of the questions companies are able to answer with its data, including which providers generate the highest return on a sales rep’s visit, whether a rep drives appropriate prescribing and how much reps should be paid.
Several years ago, three states passed laws limiting the ability of IMS and companies like it to collect data on doctors’ prescriptions and sell it to drug-makers for marketing purposes. Their intent was to protect physician and patient privacy and to reduce health care costs by reducing marketing of brand-name drugs. Once a drug loses patent protection and becomes generic, promotion essentially ceases.
ProPublica has sought to purchase data on each provider from IMS and some of its competitors but was told by each that it could not buy the information at any price.
Instead, reporters obtained data from Medicare on providers in its taxpayer-subsidized drug program, known as Part D, which fills more than one in every four prescriptions nationally. The data are now on Prescriber Checkup, where anyone can look up each doctor and compare their prescriptions to peers in their specialty and state.
ProPublica has found that in Part D, some of the top prescriber’s of heavily marketed drugs received speaking fees from the companies that made them.
Physicians and privacy advocates have argued that prescription records could be used to glean information about specific patients’ conditions without their permission. In addition, physicians have argued that they have a right to privacy about the way they choose drugs 2014 but aren’t asked before pharmacies sell information about them.
Stafford said those concerns have parallels to recent revelations about mass surveillance by theNational Security Agency.
“It’s part of a larger dialogue, which things like the NSA scandal have brought up,” he said. “There’s a lot of data out there that people don’t necessarily know about. … We’re living in a time where people can accept some loss of privacy, but they at least want to know how their privacy is being compromised.”
In its prospectus, IMS cited several challenges to its growth, including data-protection laws, security breaches and increased competition from other data collectors. The filing notes that the United Kingdom’sNational Health Service in 2011 started releasing large volumes of data on doctor prescribing “at little or no charge, reducing the demand for our information services derived from similar data.”
Until 2010, IMS Health was a publicly traded company. At that point, it was acquired for $5.2 billion, including debt, by private-equity groups and the Canadian pension board.
Bloomberg News, citing confidential sources, reported last fall that IMS’s owners may seek to value the company at $8 billion or more.
IMS Health declined to comment for this story, citing the regulatory quiet period before the public offering takes place. No date has been set.
The#TPP agreement could devastate communities, our climate and our environment. It would open the floodgates for the expansion of natural gas exports and fracking across the U.S. Graphic courtesy of the Electronic Frontier Foundation
First, fast track is an outdated and inappropriate mechanism. It was first passed in 1974 when trade pacts focused on traditional trade issues, like tariffs and quotas. Today, trade pacts like the#TPPcover a broad range of issues including the environment, investment, labour, government procurement, consumer protections and many more things we face in our everyday lives. It is therefore critical that Congress maintain its constitutional authority to oversee trade policy and ensure that trade pacts protect communities, workers and the environment before the pacts get finalized.
Second, fast track is undemocratic. After congressional approval, the President could submit signed trade pacts to Congress for an up-or-down vote within 90 days with all amendments forbidden and a maximum of 20 hours of debate. Even more atrocious is that it would actually allow the President to write legislation that would change U.S. laws to make them conform to the terms of the secretly negotiated trade agreement.
In other words, fast-track authority eliminates a critical constitutional check-and-balance structure that aids most other democratic processes. By stripping Congress of its ability to fully debate and amend the language of today’s all-encompassing trade pacts, fast-track authority renders Congress unable to ensure that trade negotiations result in agreements that benefit communities and the environment.
Third, it’s a risky endeavor that could help rubber-stamp very harmful trade pacts such as the #TPP. The #TPP agreement could devastate communities, our climate and our environment. It would elevate corporations to the level of nations, thus allowing foreign companies to directly sue governments in private trade tribunals over laws and policies that corporations allege reduce their profits. It would also open the floodgates for the expansion of natural gas exports and, therefore,fracking across the U.S.
And the real kicker is that—despite these any many other consequences—there has been virtually no opportunity for public discussion of the trade pact, as no draft text has been publicly revealed. So Congress is actually voting on whether to quickly pass trade agreements it’s never even seen!
Now is the time we need a full discussion about the true costs of the #TPP and other trade pacts—not a process to rush flawed deals through the finish line.
The bottom line is that fast track would set us up for failure. It’s critical that Congress has the ability to effectively oversee trade negotiations and ensure that the contents of our trade agreements protect our workers, communities and environment in the U.S. and abroad. The public and members of Congress have effectively been left in the dark for too long. Now it’s up to Congress to take the reins and oppose fast track. On behalf of the Sierra Club and our 2.1 million members and supports, I urge members to oppose this fast-track bill and retain their right to ensure that the U.S. trades responsibly.
#AceGuestNews and Views provided the basis of this article on “Factory Farming and the Destruction of Lands and Lives in Argentina due to the Soy Industry” For which our thanks goes to her.
The world’s reliance on soy to feed factory farmed animals is having a devastating impact. In Argentina, ’Big Soy’ production is ruining lands and lives. Raw campaigners spent time with Argentinean communities to investigate the true cost of factory farming. Witness the Soy Story below.
According to the write upJonty Whittleton, campaigner at Compassion in World Farming, recounts the time he spent with communities in Argentina, where the ‘Big Soy’ boom is ruining lands and lives – and it’s all in the pursuit of cheaper meat and bigger profits.
Argentina is the world’s biggest exporter of soy meal – the solid, protein-rich part of the bean that’s left after grinding. On paper, it’s the agricultural lifeblood of the country (the UK imports more soy meal than wine), but there’s a dark side to this green-gold rush. The bean isn’t feeding Argentinians; 97% of soy meal is used to fatten up farm animals around the world, most of whom are reared in factory farms (also known as concentrated animal feeding operations – CAFOs). The animal-welfare problems associated with these intensive systems are well documented, but their impact goes far beyond this; these systems are also ruining people’s lands and lives.
In October 2013, I travelled to the Chaco and Pampas regions of Argentina, northwest of the country’s capital, Buenos Aires. Big Soy has come at a heavy cost for many Argentinians, with lands being grabbed, rampant deforestation and intense chemical spraying. Here’s what I found.
Soybeans: Not so Green
First, I met Alicia Barchuk, who works at the University of Cordoba. She told me that more than 100 million hectares of native forest have been lost to Big Soy in the last 50 years – only 10–12% of the original forest still stands.
A similar story came from my guide, Alberto Villarreal, who works at Friends of the Earth in Uruguay. He spoke of the ‘ecological graveyards’ that are brought about by Big Soy’s reliance on chemicals – they don’t just kill everything on the ground, but also everything in the ground (apart from the genetically modified soy beans, of course).
Living on the Front Line of Big Soy
Alberto also talked about Big Soy’s far-reaching social impact. He introduced me to Ramona Bustamante, who is in her late 80s. She told me that her home has been bulldozed twice by soy barons, who wanted to take her land. Ramona even showed me where her house once stood, now a heap of rubble.
I also met peasant farmer Christina Sanaviron, who spent three days in jail with her 11-month old baby, just for standing up to the land-grabbers. ‘The land is for everyone’, her family told me. ‘It belongs to the people, not the government.’
Sick to Your Stomach
There has been much speculation about the possible links between the chemicals sprayed on the crops (glyphosate, in particular) and sickness in humans. According to the Associated Press, in Argentina ‘agrochemical spraying has increased nine fold, from 9 million gallons in 1990 to 84 million gallons today’. And although the manufacturers insist that these chemicals are safe to use, a lack of awareness around their proper handling and ineffective enforcement of legislation have created a dangerous situation, with medical cases that are hard to ignore.
Both Norma Herrera and Marcela Ferreyra have deeply personal reasons to fight Big Soy: Norma’s daughter had leukemia and one of Marcela’s children was stillborn. They showed me a worrying map in a recent newspaper article – it suggested that the closer you get to the soy fields, the more sick people you find.
Driving past a small school, I stopped to talk to teacher Marta Ferreyra. The spraying planes apparently come dangerously close to the school, and pupils are regularly affected by breathing problems from the haze of chemicals in the air.
I spoke to Doctor Medardo Avila Vazquez – a well-known face in the Argentinean media. He’s studied the effect of the industry’s chemicals on humans and has found a significant increase in the number of babies born dead or with severe physiological problems in areas where the soy spraying is intense.
A Violent Legacy
On my last day in Argentina, I visited a protest camp, full of people resisting companies, like Monsanto, who are responsible for the soy boom here. Later, I read reports of intimidation and violence against camp members – desperate attempts to prevent the public’s voice from being heard.
The soy story in Argentina is a truly toxic tale. Lands are being grabbed, lives are being ruined. And so much of this is happening to fill the bellies of farm animals around the world – mostly in factory farms.
For me, it’s yet more proof that factory farming isn’t just an animal welfare issue.
We can all help to tackle this crisis. You can cut down on the amount of meat you eat, and make it as high quality as possible. And if you eat soy products, you can look for options that are GM-free and organic.
#AceNewsGroup says today marks another milestone for our group and it is all thanks to you the readers kind support and all your likes, as we have reached 1000 and we could not do it without your support.
So all l can say is a great big thank you from the Ace News Group
Bogen and Aune, WHO work for Norway’s Privately-owned TV2 Channel, Say the Police Stopped Them six times in the space of Three days, interrogated Them in Detail About Their work and Their local contacts and, at one Point, even took Them into custody for several hours.
“Arbitrary arrest, violation of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, seizure of journalistic material – this string of breaches of freedom of information suggests a strategy of all-out harassment,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“The international media must not be intimidated by this episode. There is nothing criminal about covering the preparations for the Winter Olympics or meeting local journalists and activists. We reiterate our appeal to foreign reporters to take advantage of the spotlight on Sochi to look beyond the Olympic facade and to meet local civil society representatives.
Bogen and Aune had proper accreditation and used a rental car to travel around Krasnodar, the region where Sochi is located, and to visit the neighbouring autonomous Republic of Adygea.
They were first questioned about their plans and the people they were interviewing on 31 October.They were questioned again, twice, on 1 November in Maykop, Adygea’s capital. At the end of the second session on 1 November, other police officer suddenly arrived, accused Bogen of taking drugs and made him accompany them to a nearby clinic for a drug test. This episode ended after an hour and a half, when a person identifying himself as the local police chief released the two journalists and apologised for the “mistake.”
The next day, they were stopped again and interrogated for an hour between Maykop and Sochi. And they were questioned again in the early evening near Tuapse, a town in the Krasnodar region. This time they were taken into custody without any explanation and were put in a cell with other suspects.
Their equipment was temporarily confiscated and their repeated requests to be allowed to call their embassy were ignored. They were freed at around 10 pm but, as they reached the outskirts of Sochi, they were stopped again.
After searches and a security check, they were taken to the nearest police checkpoint, where an officer questioned Bogen about his private life and his work, going so far as to ask him for a list of the people he planned to meet in Sochi and the places where he planned to film. After being forced to sign a statement without being given a copy, they were finally allowed to continue their way at around 1 am
The Russian foreign ministry gave the two journalists a formal apology yesterday for the “series of unwarranted actions” and said the police responsible would be punished for “abusing their authority.”
Foreign journalists must not retreat in the face of intimidation
Reporters Without Borders shocked intrusive actions by the police, who were subjected to two Norwegian journalists in Sochi region during from October 31 to November 2, 2013 Reporter private channel TV2 Heist Bogen and operator Ogge Eyun came to the region for reporting problems, related to the organization of the Winter Olympic Games, which begin in February 2014 According to the journalists they were detained by law enforcement officials six times in three days.During the detention of journalists questioned in detail about their professional and local contacts and even placed under arrest without explanation.
“Arbitrary detention, secret neglect of journalistic sources, the confiscation of professional equipment … This set of violations of freedom of information shows determination to expose harassment of two journalists. Their painful stay in the region does not bode well against tough security measures that will be taken in anticipation of the Olympics, starting in January of next year. Combating the threat of terrorism is certainly necessary, but it does not justify such action. We hope that the Norwegian authorities very soon receive an explanation from the Russian leadership, “- said Reporters Without Borders.
“The international media should not allow themselves to be intimidated by this incident. There is nothing criminal to carry reports on the preparation of the Olympic Games and to meet with local journalists and activists. We again appeal to foreign correspondents calling a wide press coverage of Sochi to not be limited to the Olympic theme and meet with civil society. At the same time, we urge to take all necessary precautions to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources of information and to avoid total control of their communications: for this purpose we have available for journalists’ digital survival kit ‘. ”
Heist Bogen and Ogge Eyun – duly accredited journalists. They rented a car for journeys in the Krasnodar region, which is located in Sochi, as well as the neighboring autonomous republic of Adygea. Answering questions for the first time on October 31 about the plans and the persons from whom they interviewed journalists were again a series of interviews on November 1 in Maikop (Adygea). At the end of the second interview arrived at the scene other Interior Ministry officials, accusing Heist Bogen in the use of drugs and forcibly took him to the nearest clinic for a series of tests. Journalists detained after half an hour and then released after a man arrived who introduced himself as the local police chief, and brought them to apologize for making a “mistake.”
Nevertheless, the next day journalists were detained and interrogated again an hour between Maikop and Sochi. Then again, in the late afternoon, near Tuapse (Krasnodar region). But this time the journalists detained without explanation in a cell with other suspects, temporarily withdrawing their equipment. Their repeated requests to contact the embassy were not taken into account. Finally, in the area 22 hours journalists released from custody. However, when reporters finally got to Sochi, they once again detained. After the search and security control procedures, they were taken to a nearby checkpoint where police officer questioned Heist Bogen detail about his personal and professional life, asking to provide a list of persons with whom the latter was planning to meet in Sochi, as well as places that he was going to shoot film. Journalists have not received any copies of their statements, which were forced to sign. They finally were allowed to continue their journey in the morning.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs presented a formal apology to two journalists on November 6 for “a number of unreasonable actions” that they have experienced. The ministry said that law enforcement officials, “exceeded its authority” will be punished.
Reporters Without Borders published in early October, a report on the status of the investigation in relation to freedom of information in the region of Sochi.
#AceGuestNews says according to a recent article in RFS the authorities have used the issue of national security to expand Web monitoring and censorship – even while continuing to promote and develop Internet access for the population at large. The Web has played a key role in the political debate prompted by legislative and presidential elections and in the post-election mobilization of the opposition and civil society. These developments provoked a strong official response. The blogosphere has grown stronger and better organized in the face of state attacks.
Government anti-“extremism” campaign hits Internet content and access
Prime Minister (now President-elect) Vladimir Putinsaid on 9 February 2012: “Negative phenomena exist everywhere, including on the Internet, and should not be used as a pretext to limit Internet freedom.” However, the authorities have used the justification of preventing violence to reinforce their control of the Internet, with the Federal Security Service (FSB) taking steps to close a number of online organizations in late 2011. Most of these groups have clearly called on their members to respect the law and not to let themselves be provoked into violence.
The government list of “extremist” content, as well as the boundaries of the category itself, keep growing. It now includes everything touching on religion and issues of ethnicity, which have become taboo subjects on RuNet – as the Russian Internet is known. That list is the basis of official demands to take down content, and of actions to block site access (see the Russia chapter in the 2011 report on Enemies of the Internet).
The process of domain name registration could affect freedom of expression online by leading to closure of more sites. New rules promulgated by Nic.ru, the biggest Russian domain name-registration company, allow the cancellation of domain names for inciting violence, “extremist” activity, advocating overthrow of the government, activity in conflict with human dignity or religious beliefs. The rules reflected new official regulations. Domain name-registration companies are authorized to suspend names in the .ru and .rf (pΦ) domains upon written notification from “agencies conducting an investigation.” That provision would potentially authorize prosecutors, the FSB, the police, or the drug enforcement agency (FSKN) to order such a move.
In Tomsk, Siberia, the broadcast arm of Roskomnadzor, the federal mass communications supervisory agency, has recently pressured the regional television network TV-2 to stop transmitting two news programs by Dozhd, the first Internet TV network in Russia, whose content is critical of the government.
Anatoly Baranov, owner of the forum.msk.ru discussion platform, states that the Yandex search engine filtered out news items from his site on Yandex.News searches.
Danger of the spread of online monitoring and censorship
Roskomnadzor, whose regulatory authority extends to information technology and mass communications, has announced that it has installed on-line software to detect “extremist” material. The sites identified through this process will be given three days to take down content that meets this ill-defined standard. If a site does not comply, two additional warnings will be sent. The site will then be shut down.
The software was to go into operation in test mode in December, 2011. Its full deployment has beenpostponed indefinitely. Nevertheless, it carries the risk of system-wide monitoring of the Russian Weband could lead eventually to the taking down of all content that displeases the authorities.
The justice ministry, for its part, has invited bids to create its own monitoring system of content on the Internet. Such a system would allow close examination of all content touching on Russian government and justice systems, and any European Union statement concerning Russia.
Bloggers under pressure
Prison sentences and violent attacks were less frequent in 2011, except during the election campaign period. Yet legal proceedings and pressures of all kind continue – above all when the activities of netizens focus on sensitive topics and powerful interest groups.
Maj. Igor Matveev of the interior ministry garrison in Vladivostok has been prosecuted on charges that seem to have been prompted by his revelations last June of practices in the military region where he served. He reported that troops were served dog food in cans falsely labelled as containing beef stew. He faces a possible 10-year sentence.
Yuri Yegorov, a former employee of the regional government of Tatarstan’s human rights ombudsman’s office, received a six-month suspended sentence last June, as well as two years of probation, for defamation. He had revealed a case of alleged corruption in the ombudsman’s office, headed by Rashit Vagiov, that took place from February to July 2007.
Leonid Kaganov, a prominent blogger, was forced last May to house his site abroad. In 2009, the FSB had demanded, through his hosting service, the removal of an anti-Semitic poem that was on his site because he had mocked it.
Roman Hoseyev is the target of administrative action for having quoted from “Mein Kampf” on a site in 2005, before the 2010 banning of the book in Russia. He had drawn comparisons between statements by US President George W. Bush and Hitler.
No information has been received about the fate of a Navy conscript who blogged under the nameVasily, publishing on Twitter under the name Sosigusyan. He denounced hazing and poor living conditions in his unit. His Twitter account was hacked and the content about the military taken down, except for the last three posts, which were written by another person.
Propaganda and cyber-attacks
In addition to mounting a campaign of repression against on-line oppositionists, the Kremlin deploys its own cyber-weapons. Several thousand Twitter accounts were hacked at the end of 2011 in order to flood social media with pro-government messages, using hashtags popular with oppositionists (notably, #navalny, from the name of the well-known political activist and anti-corruption bloggerAlexei Navalny, and #триумфалънпая, from Triumfalnaya Square in Moscow).
Many Russian bloggers have pointed to a wave of “bots” unleashed against the LiveJournal social media platform. Oleg Kozyrev, an opposition blogger, has counted more than 2,000 of these software weapons.
Oppositionist Navalny’s e-mail inbox has been hacked, with the contents displayed on a site called navalnymail.kz. According to several bloggers, this action could be part of a government-organized campaign to discredit Navalny.
The wave of cyber-attacks peaked at the time of the legislative elections last December. A series of Distributed Denial of Service attacks paralyzed sites critical of the government before and during the vote, apparently to silence the dissidents. Access to LiveJournal, which hosts blogs critical of the Kremlin, was blocked for three days, starting on 1 December 2011. The site had already suffered a DDoS attack the month before.
Among other Web targets are:
Echo of Moscow radio’s site, Echo.msk.ru
The independent daily Kommersant’s site, komersant.ru
The election-monitoring NGO’s site, golos.org
KartaNarusheniy.ru, an interactive map created by Golos to track reports of election fraud
Gazeta.ru, an independent news site
Lenizdat.ru, a Saint Petersburg-based independent news site
Slonl.ru and Newtimes.ru, opposition sites which posted the Golos map after Gazeta.ru took it down
Ridus.ru, a citizen-journalism site
Doshdu.ru, the site of Dosh, an independent news magazine about the Russian Caucasus
Zaks.ru, a news site on the northwest region.
Some media organizations and opposition groups, having anticipated these developments, migrated to social networks and called on their readers to follow them on Twitter and Facebook in the event that their sites went down.
Disputed elections, attempted control of online political debate
Most traditional media organizations, notably television networks, are under Kremlin control, genuine political discussions have been possible only online. Any measure deemed necessary to uphold the country’s strongman, Putin, has been considered appropriate.
Even before and during the legislative elections, debates had been hindered by cyber-attacks and by the arrests of journalists and bloggers. Those detained included Alexey Sochnev, the editor of the independent news site Besttoday.ru; Maria Plieva, a prominent blogger in Ossetia; and the president of Golos, Lilia Chibanova.
Golos’ interactive election-fraud monitoring map proved to be a great success as the elections unfolded. Thousands of videos showing irregularities at voting places were posted to the site, prompting Russians to take to the streets in great numbers to denounce election fraud. Navalny and many journalists were arrested during these post-election demonstrations,
The great majority of traditional media organizations – especially television networks – ignored these events. Instead, they provided largely favourable coverage of Putin’s party, United Russia, which swept the legislative elections.
The social media site Vkontakte, which has more than 5 million members in Russia, found itself in the government spotlight. The FSB told the site’s founder and director, Pavel Durov, to shut down seven groups calling for demonstrations last December (including a group rallying to defend the ruling party). A Russian blogger estimated that up to 185,000 netizens subscribed to protest-organizing groups. A spokesman for Vkontakte said publicly that the site would not practice censorship and would not carry out the FSB order. Following the statement, Durov was summoned to appear before prosecutors in Saint Petersburg on 9 December.
Regional discussion forums, very popular at the provincial level, with most participants anonymous, have become a favourite resource for political debate among Russian netizens, and a nightmare for the authorities. However, these sites are less powerful than the national media and easy to censor, though that has not prevented netizens from migrating to other sites, hosted abroad. At least three forums were closed or suspended during the months leading up to the early December elections.
One of these sites is the Kostroma Jedis regional forum, which was targeted following the posting of two satirical videos criticizing Igor Slyunyaev, governor of the Kostroma region, some 300 km northwest of Moscow. In November, other forums were shut down or purged of all political content by their administrators. One such case occurred in the Arzamas, a city 410 km east of Moscow, affecting the mcn.nnov.ru site. Another took place in the west-central city of Miass, 95 km west of Chelyabinsk, affecting the forum.miass.ru site. It is not clear if these were cases of official action or self-censorship. In either case, the closing of these forums signifies a narrowing of the possibilities for political debate on the Russian Web.
In the run-up to the presidential election in March, Golos, the election-monitoring NGO, put up a new version of its interactive map to track election fraud, with stronger defences against cyber-attack. Navalny, the activist and blogger, mounted a site, Rosvybory.org, to assist citizens in becoming presidential election observers.
The campaign of repression mounted for the legislative elections illustrated the official attitude toward protest. And the official response was designed to create a deterrent to popular action in the presidential election period. Tensions grew during the months between the two elections. On 17 February, Reporters Without Borders denounced a wave of intimidation aimed at national independent media. Major targets included Echo of Moscow; Novaya Gazeta, an independent newspaper, and Dozhd, the online television operation. The latter organization received a fax on 16 February from the Moscow prosecutor’s office, demanding detailed information on the “network’s financing for coverage of mass demonstrations on 10 and 24 December.”
These barely veiled accusations against Dozhd track precisely with statements by Prime Minister Putin, who had publicly accused demonstrators of having acted at the encouragement of the US state department. Roskomnadzor, the mass communications authority, had already required Dozhd to defend its coverage of the December protests. After examining in detail the images that the network had transmitted, the agency finally concluded that they contained nothing objectionable.
Journalists were again arrested and beaten during the post-election demonstrations of 5 March 2012. The clear goal was to prevent coverage of the demonstrations. However, contrary to what was seen in December, cyber-attacks seem to have been set aside – for now.
Export of the Russian model of Web control?
Russia has played a leading role on the international scene in promoting its vision of the Internet and exporting its Web control strategy. Moscow has proposed to the UN, together with China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, an Internet conduct code designed to provide “information security.”
The impact of the Kremlin’s policy is all the greater because the RuNet sphere of influence extends throughout the region, influencing countries such as Belarus and Kazakhstan in their Internet monitoring and censorship programs.
#AceWorldNews says according to this latest news post by Silvia Aloisi on Dec 30, that changes to labelling can lead to loss of a person’s lifestyle in an instant, when the police arrive. This happened to Shen Jianhe who lost both her job and home when Italian police shut down her garment factory in the Tuscan city of Prato.
Shen Jianhe lost both her job and home when Italian police shut down her garment factory in the Tuscan city of Prato.
By day, the 38-year-old mother of four would sew trousers at one of the nearly 5,000 workshops run by Chinese immigrants in Prato, which largely turn out cheap clothing for fast-fashion companies in Italy and across Europe.
At night she slept in a plasterboard cubicle hidden behind a wooden wardrobe at the Shen Wu factory – until the police arrived one cold December morning. They sealed the doors and confiscated the 25 sewing machines under a crackdown on an industry that is booming but blighted by illegality and sweatshop conditions.
Amid rolls of fabric, food leftovers and dangling electric cables lay Shen’s belongings: a pink baby coat, a blue children’s stool, a laptop. She stuffed them into a van, ready to be transported away.
“What choice do I have?” said Shen, tears filling her eyes.
Prato, the historical capital of Italy‘s textile business, has attracted the largest concentration of Chinese-run industry in Europe within less than 20 years.
As many as 50,000 Chinese live and work in the area, making clothes bearing the prized
label which sets them apart from garments produced in China itself, even at the lower end of the fashion business.
In some ways, the Chinese community of Prato has succeeded where Italian companies have failed. Italy’s economy has barely grown over the past decade and is only just emerging from recession, partly due to the inability of many small manufacturers to keep up with global competition.
Yet Prato, which lies 25 km (16 miles) from the Renaissance jewel of Florence, is also a thriving hub of illegality committed by both Italians and Chinese, a byproduct of globalization gone wrong, many people in the city say.
Up to two thirds of the Chinese in Prato are illegal immigrants, according to local authorities. About 90 percent of the Chinese factories – virtually all of which are rented out to Chinese entrepreneurs by Italians who own the buildings -break the law in various ways, says Aldo Milone, the city councilor in charge of security.
This includes using fabric smuggled from China, evading taxes and grossly violating health and labor regulations. This month a fire, which prosecutors suspect was set off by an electric stove, killed seven workers as they slept in cardboard cubicles at a workshop.
Italian officials acknowledge they haven’t cracked down effectively on the mushrooming illicit behavior.
Prato mayor Roberto Cenni, himself a textiles entrepreneur, arrived in 2009 promising to clean up the area. Cenni says he has trebled inspections since then, but still only a small fraction of the factories are monitored regularly.
“We don’t have the ability to fight this system of illegality,” he said, noting that Prato has only two labour inspectors.
In some cases, local officials share the blame. Prato chief prosecutor Piero Tony ordered the arrest of 11 people this month, including a city council employee who is suspected of issuing false residency permits – for between 600 and 1,500 ($820-$2,100) euros a piece – to more than 300 Chinese immigrants since May.
Most of Prato’s Chinese come from Wenzhou, a coastal city in Zhejiang province. They started flocking to Prato in the mid-1990s to work in Italian-owned textile factories and quickly mastered the entire production chain.
Andrea Cavicchi, local head of the Confindustria business lobby, says China’s entry in the World Trade Organisation in 2001 sounded the death knell for many of Prato’s local clothing artisans as trade barriers imposed by the European Union to protect its manufacturers were gradually phased out.
As local companies specialized in high-quality fabric began cutting jobs to compete with cheaper foreign imports, Chinese entrepreneurs started renting abandoned Italian warehouses to set up their own factories. Gradually, the Chinese of Prato offered the speed, efficiency and high productivity that many Italian businesses had lacked.
Now they export millions of low-cost garments – a woman’s cotton shirt sells for under 2 euros, a coat for 12 – across the continent. The Prato branch of Confindustria estimates this business is worth 2 billion euros a year, or half the turnover of Italian-run textile manufacturers in the district.
“Between 2001 and 2011, the Italian textile industry in Prato has seen its turnover and its workforce halve. But the reality is we can’t really blame the Chinese. The problem is our labor and energy costs mean we can’t compete,” says Cavicchi. “Speed is crucial. In just three days they can churn out thousands of garments. And the final result – even though it’s cheap cloth imported from China – is perfect.”
Trucks ferry the clothing to shoppers in the major European markets within a day or two. In the fast-changing fashion business, this gives the Prato workshops a competitive edge over rivals in China, which take 40 days to ship their output by sea to Europe.
Outside Prato’s city walls, the main Via Pistoiese has turned into a bustling Chinatown, with Chinese restaurants, hairdressers, schools, travel agents, and youths practicing the martial art of Tai Chi in the park.
For many years, Prato’s local government did little about the growing Chinese community, whose presence helps the local economy. “There was a tacit pact to look the other way, because the Chinese were also bringing in a lot of money, helping cushion the impact of the global financial crisis on the region,” said Massimo Bressan, a researcher on immigration issues at Prato’s Iris institute.
When Cenni became Prato’s mayor, he promised to restore the rule of law in the city of just under 200,000. In addition to increasing the number of inspections on factories, the local government raised the cost of reclaiming confiscated machinery and introduced a decree that allows a warehouse to be declared “unfit” until it meets safety regulations.
But part of the problem is that 60 percent of Chinese workshops last just two years, often closing and reopening under a different name to evade checks by tax authorities. Illegal immigrants found by the police are ordered to leave Italy within five days, but there is no way of making sure that they actually do so, said the city councilor for security, Milone. “It’s a joke,” he said.
Moreover, many illegal immigrants arrive on three-month tourist visas but stay in Italy for a few years, until they make enough money to go back to China.
“I have done inspections for 15 years, and I can tell you that for every factory we close, another one will sprout the next day. Here the attitude is too lax, there is a form of connivance,” said a judicial police officer who did not want to be named because he is not allowed to talk to the press.
Outside the Teresa Moda factory which went up in flames this month, charred coat hangers and rolls of fabric lie scattered on the ground, the remains of burnt black out curtains preventing people from looking inside.
“Pain has no color” read a sheet of paper outside the gate taped above pictures of the seven victims, whom police say took days to identify because relatives were too scared to come forward. One of the dead suffocated as he tried to escape through a window guarded by iron bars.
A Chinese worker who had come to pay his respects said he made on average 70 shirts a day and was paid 70 cents for each shirt. In a good month, the worker – who said he was afraid to give his name – said he could earn 1,500 euros.
Nearby, at the Shen Wu factory workers had regularly sat at their sewing machines for up to 14 hours a day. Li Hong, 29, had been working there for nearly a month, every day, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Shen Jianhe was the longest-serving worker at the factory. She had been in Italy for 10 years, and was the only worker there with a residency permit and work contract. “What will happen to my sewing machine? I need it to work,” she said, as police began sealing all tools found on the premises.
Shen said her children did not live with her at the factory, although children’s items – including a storybook with the title “Where is my mummy?” – were strewn across the floor of her windowless, damp cubicle, which measured about 2 square meters and was almost entirely filled by a bed.
“Now I need to find another job. I must feed my children,” she said.
Snowden and Greenwald: The Men Who Leaked the Secrets
How two alienated, angry geeks broke the story of the year
by JANET REITMAN
#AceGuestPost and Guest Views Courtesy of Rolling Stone this story is from the December 19 – 2013 – January 2 – 2014 issue.Rolling Stone – Copyrighted
DECEMBER 04, 2013
Early one morning last December, Glenn Greenwald opened his laptop, scanned through his e-mail, and made a decision that almost cost him the story of his life. A columnist and blogger with a large and devoted following, Greenwald receives hundreds of e-mails every day, many from readers who claim to have “great stuff.” Occasionally these claims turn out to be credible; most of the time they’re cranks. There are some that seem promising but also require serious vetting. This takes time, and Greenwald, who starts each morning deluged with messages, has almost none. “My inbox is the enemy,” he told me recently.
And so it was that on December 1st, 2012, Greenwald received a note from a person asking for his public encryption, or PGP, key so he could send him an e-mail securely. Greenwald didn’t have one, which he now acknowledges was fairly inexcusable given that he wrote almost daily about national-security issues, and had likely been on the government’s radar for some time over his vocal support of Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks. “I didn’t really know what PGP was,” he admits. “I had no idea how to install it or how to use it.” It seemed time-consuming and complicated, and Greenwald, who was working on a book about how the media control political discourse, while also writing his column for The Guardian, had more pressing things to do.
“It felt Anonymous-ish to me,” Greenwald says. “It was this cryptic ‘I and others have things you would be interested in. . . .’ He never sent me neon lights – it was much more ambiguous than that.”
So he ignored the note. Soon after, the source sent Greenwald a step-by-step tutorial on encryption. Then he sent him a video Greenwald describes as “Encryption for Journalists,” which “walked me through the process like I was a complete idiot.”
And yet, Greenwald still didn’t bother learning security protocols. “The more he sent me, the more difficult it seemed,” he says. “I mean, now I had to watch a fucking video . . . ?” Greenwald still had no idea who the source was, nor what he wanted to say. “It was this Catch-22: Unless he tells me something motivating, I’m not going to drop what I’m doing, and from his side, unless I drop what I’m doing and get PGP, he can’t tell me anything.”
The dance went on for a month. Finally, after trying and failing to get Greenwald’s attention, the source gave up.
Greenwald went back to his book and his column, publishing, among other things, scathing attacks on the Obama administration’s Guantánamo and drone policies. It would take until May, six months after the anonymous stranger reached out, before Greenwald would hear from him again, through a friend, the documentarian Laura Poitras, whom the source had contacted, suggesting she and Greenwald form a partnership. In June, the three would meet face to face, in a Hong Kong hotel room, where Edward Snowden, the mysterious source, would hand over many thousands of top-secret documents: a mother lode laying bare the architecture of the national-security state. It was the “most serious compromise of classified information in the history of the U.S. intelligence community,” as former CIA deputy directorMichael Morell said, exposing the seemingly limitless reach of the National Security Agency, and sparking a global debate on the use of surveillance – ostensibly to fight terrorism – versus the individual right to privacy. And its disclosure was also a triumph for Greenwald’s unique brand of journalism.
Greenwald is a former litigator whose messianic defense of civil liberties has made him a hero of left-libertarian circles, though he has alienated elites across the political spectrum. Famously combative, he “lives to piss people off,” as one colleague says. And in the past eight years he has done an excellent job: taking on Presidents Bush and Obama, Congress, the Democratic Party, the Tea Party, the Republicans, the “liberal establishment” and, notably, the mainstream media, which he accuses – often while being interviewed by those same mainstream, liberal-establishment journalists – of cozying up to power. “I crave the hatred of those people,” Greenwald says about the small, somewhat incestuous community of Beltway pundits, government officials, think-tank experts and other opinion-makers he targets routinely. “If you’re not provoking that reaction in people, you’re not provoking or challenging anyone, which means you’re pointless.”
This perspective has earned Greenwald tremendous support, especially among young, idealistic readers hungry for an uncompromised voice. “There are few writers out there who are as passionate about communicating uncomfortable truths,” Snowden, who was one of Greenwald’s longtime readers, tells me in an e-mail. “Glenn tells the truth no matter the cost, and that matters.”
The same, of course, could be said of Snowden, who, from the moment he revealed himself as the source of the leaks, has baffled the mainstream critics who’ve tried to make sense of him. “The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed,” wrote New York Times columnist David Brooks, who held up Snowden as one of “an apparently growing share of young men in their 20s who are living technological existences in the fuzzy land between their childhood institutions and adult family commitments.”
To the likes of Brooks, Snowden was a disconcerting mystery; Glenn Greenwald, though, got him right away. “He had no power, no prestige, he grew up in a lower-middle-class family, totally obscure, totally ordinary,” Greenwald says. “He didn’t even have a high school diploma. But he was going to change the world – and I knew that.” And, Greenwald also believed, so would he. “In all kinds of ways, my whole life has been in preparation for this moment,” he says.
For a man living in the middle of a John le Carré novel, Greenwald has a pretty good life. Based in Brazil since 2005, he lives about 10 minutes from the beach in the hills above Rio de Janeiro, in an airy, four-bedroom wood-and-glass house that backs directly into the jungle. There are monkeys, birds and a small waterfall, and with its sparse furnishing, the place has the feel of a treehouse. It also smells distinctly of dog – of which there are 10, rescued by Greenwald and his partner, David Miranda, whom Greenwald calls the “dog whisperer” for his Cesar Millan-like command over the pack. The dogs, which occupy every imaginable space there is, provide an ever-present backdrop to the couple’s domesticity, following Greenwald and Miranda from room to room and, from time to time, breaking into exultant barks for no real reason (other than maybe just the fact that they live in paradise).
Contrary to his confrontational persona, Greenwald is actually quite sweet in person, apologizing for his car, a somewhat beat-up, doggy-smelling, red Kia with tennis clothes tossed in the back, and a Pink CD case on the dashboard that Greenwald, 46, is quick to explain belongs to Miranda, who is 28. “I still listen to all the stuff I liked in high school – Elton John, Queen,” he says, shrugging, and then immediately wonders if it’s weird that “music just never spoke to me all that much.”
Politics, on the other hand, had a powerful hold on him from an early age. Originally from Queens, his family settled in South Florida, in the bland, cookie-cutter enclave of Lauderdale Lakes, then inhabited largely by ethnic, working-class families and wealthier Jewish retirees. The oldest of two, Greenwald was raised in a small house on the low-rent side of town, where his mother, “a typically 1960s-1970s housewife who married young and never went to college,” as he says, ended up supporting her sons by working as a cashier at McDonald’s, among other jobs.
Greenwald’s childhood role model was his paternal grandfather, Louis “L.L.” Greenwald, a local city councilman, and “sort of this standard 1930s Jewish socialist type,” who crusaded on behalf of the poor against the voracious “condo bosses” who controlled the city. In high school, Greenwald ran a quixotic campaign for a city-council seat, which he lost, but not before scoring a “moral victory” by simply challenging his entrenched opponents. “The most important thing my grandfather taught me was that the most noble way to use your skills, intellect and energy is to defend the marginalized against those with the greatest power – and that the resulting animosity from those in power is a badge of honor.”
This was useful advice for a gay teen growing up in the early 1980s, during the advent of AIDS, when “being gay was thought of, genuinely, as a disease, and so you just felt this condemnation and alienation and denunciation.”
Of course, all gay teens deal with their sexuality in different ways. “One is to internalize the judgment and say, ‘Oh, my God, I’m this horrible, sick, defective person’ – which is why a lot of gay teens commit suicide,” says Greenwald. Another, he says, is to escape the judgment entirely by creating an alternate world – “which is where a lot of gay creativity comes from because this world doesn’t want you.” Greenwald chose a third path. “I decided to wage war against this system and institutional authority that had tried to reject and condemn me,” he says. “It was like, ‘Go fuck yourselves. Instead of having you judge me, I’m going to judge you, because I don’t accept the fact that you’re even in a position to cast judgments upon me.'”
This began a lifelong struggle against authoritative structures, beginning with his teachers, with whom he engaged in epic battles over “unjust rules,” as Greenwald puts it. “Glenn was this supersmart, extremely obnoxious, eccentric kid, and depending on your sense of humor, you either loved him or hated him,” recalls his friend Norman Fleisher. “He was probably the smartest kid in the school, but it’s kind of miracle that he graduated.”
Greenwald’s contrarian nature made him a star on the debate team, where he ran circles around his opponents and became a state champion. He enrolled at George Washington University in 1985, and spent so much time debating that it took him five years to graduate. After achieving a near-perfect score on his LSATs, he enrolled at the NYU School of Law, where, as a budding gay activist, he decided to “test the authenticity” of NYU’s liberal reputation by leading what became a successful campaign to ban Colorado firms from recruiting on campus after the state’s voters passed an amendment to overturn existing anti-discrimination laws.
After graduation, he accepted a job in the litigation department of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, called “America’s most grueling law firm,” which represented blue-chip clients like Bank of America, JPMorgan and AT&T. In his first year, Greenwald made over $200,000 – more money than he’d ever seen in his life. But he found the world of corporate law “dull and soul-draining,” he says. “I could not thrive or even function in a controlling institution like that. There’s a huge dichotomy between people who grow up with alienation, which, for me, was invaluable, and people who grow up so completely privileged that it breeds this complacency and lack of desire to question or challenge or do anything significant. Those are the types of people who become partners at the corporate law firms.”
In early 1996, the 28-year-old Greenwald, deciding he’d rather subvert the powerful than defend their interests in court, left Wachtell Lipton and opened his own practice. Consistently underestimated by big firms, he reached successful outcomes in case after case – often after deluging the opposition with motions and hundreds of pages of depositions – and insisted that his small staff wear suits, even while sitting around the office, to impose a sort of corporate discipline on a practice focused primarily on constitutional law and civil-liberties cases. He spent five years defending the First Amendment rights of neo-Nazis. It was one of Greenwald’s prouder accomplishments as an attorney. “To me, it’s a heroic attribute to be so committed to a principle that you apply it not when it’s easy,” he says, “not when it supports your position, not when it protects people you like, but when it defends and protects people that you hate.”
But law, even in its purest, most civil-liberties-oriented variety, was an ultimately frustrating endeavor, full of “unjust rules” and even fewer judicious outcomes. More interesting, particularly after 9/11, were the egalitarian conversations that were occurring online. Greenwald discovered this world in the mid-1990s when, bored at work, he’d begun cruising the CompuServe message boards, including Town Hall, a conservative forum created by the Heritage Foundation and the National Review. Instantly seduced by the chance to debate pro-lifers and other social conservatives, Greenwald soon began spending hours in heated arguments with disembodied strangers. He even, to his surprise, became friends with one or two. The Internet, he realized, was perhaps the only place where rules simply didn’t apply. “I believe in the clash of ideas,” he says, “and mine were being meaningfully challenged.”
These free-form debates were occurring in the virtual world at precisely the same time they were disappearing from the general discourse, submerged, as Greenwald says, in the wave of “nationalism and jingoism” that followed 9/11. Greenwald first began to realize how much things had changed in the political culture after the arrest of Al Qaeda “dirty bomber” José Padilla. “The idea that an American citizen could be arrested on U.S. soil, and then imprisoned for years, not charged, and delayed access to a lawyer, that always seemed like one line that couldn’t be crossed,” Greenwald says. “It was more than the fact that it was being done – it was the fact that nobody was questioning it. That was a ‘What the fuck is going on in the United States?’ moment for me.”
In the winter of 2005, Greenwald, seeking to transition away from practicing law, went to Brazil. On his second day of what was a planned seven-week vacation in Rio, he met Miranda, a handsome 19-year-old Brazilian who was playing beach volleyball not far from Greenwald’s towel. The two have been inseparable ever since. “When you come to Rio as a gay man, the last thing you’re looking for is a monogamous relationship,” Greenwald says. “But, you know, you can’t control love.”
Within a year, Greenwald had decided to relocate to Brazil, where, unable to practice law, he tried his hand at political blogging. Greenwald’s first week as a blogger, in October 2005, coincided with the indictment of Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame leak case. Greenwald wrote a long post meticulously deconstructing the conservative argument against Libby’s indictment from a legal standpoint, which The New Republic linked to, driving thousands of readers to his site, Unclaimed Territory. Greenwald soon turned his attention to the explosive revelation that the NSA was spying on Americans under a secret, “warrantless wiretapping” program authorized by the Bush administration.
The program was exposed in a December 16th, 2005, article in The New York Times written by investigative reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau. But the Times, under pressure from the Bush administration and from Bush himself, had sat on the piece for more than a year. The paper finally published the story 13 months after reporting it, and a year after Bush was re-elected. “It was as disgraceful as anything the Times has ever done in terms of betraying what they’re supposed to be as a journalistic institution,” Greenwald says. “After that, I decided that I needed to sort out what was actually true, and what wasn’t.”
Another person who was bothered by the Times‘ treatment of the warrantless-wiretapping story – and a number of others based on classified leaks – was Edward Snowden, a patriotic young man who dreamed of a life in foreign espionage. “Those people should be shot in the balls,” Snowden, then a 25-year-old computer technician, posted to an online forum in 2009, criticizing both the anonymous sources who leaked and the publications that printed the information. “They’re reporting classified shit,” he said. “You don’t put that shit in the newspaper. . . . That shit is classified for a reason.”
Snowden grew up in the shadow of the biggest intelligence-gathering organization in the world – the National Security Agency – in the Anne Arundel County community of Crofton, Maryland. A solidly middle-class, planned community of 27,000 that Money has ranked as one of the “100 Best Places to Live,” Crofton, like the towns around it, fed the workforce of the defense and intelligence contractors in the area. The NSA, which employs tens of thousands of people in the public and private sectors, was just 15 miles away, at Fort Meade, whose high school boasts a “homeland-security program” to funnel kids into the industry.
Virtually everyone worked for the government or in “computer technology,” recalls Joshua Stewart, 30, who moved to Crofton in 1999. “You never really knew exactly what many adults did for money,” he says. There were houses with special secure phone lines – “bat phones,” as Stewart, now a reporter at the Orange County Register, called them. Some even had their own Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities in their homes.
The son of civil servants – his father, Lon, served in the Coast Guard, and his mother, Wendy, is a clerk in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore – Snowden was a skinny, quiet boy who appears not to have made much of a mark on his former classmates or teachers. The Internet, he would later tell Greenwald, was his universe. He posted regularly at Ars Technica, the technology news and culture site, where, under the username TheTrueHOOHA, he chatted about video games and queried the more experienced geeks for help improving his computer skills. “I really want to know ‘how’ a real web server works,” he posted, at 18. He also pondered some of the philosophical underpinnings of life. “Freedom isn’t a word that can be (pardon) freely defined,” he wrote. “The saying goes, ‘Live free or die,’ I believe. That seems to intimate a conditional dependence on freedom as a requirement for happiness.”
Though brilliant by every account, Snowden had been an indifferent student who’d dropped out of high school in the 10th grade. After that, he drifted in and out of community college, but never earned a formal degree. In his late teens, he spent his days surfing the Internet, practicing kung fu and playing Tekken, while casting around trying to figure out what to do. “I’ve always dreamed of being able to ‘make it’ in Japan,” he said in one 2002 chat. “There have also been a couple studies that show out of qualified applicants, blondes are hired more often. . . . I’d love a cushy .gov job over there.”
But the path to success seemed unclear. At 20, as he wrote in one post, he was “without a degree or a clearance” in an area dominated by the NSA and its private offshoots. “Read that as ‘unemployed.'”
Like Bradley Manning, whose case he would later study, Snowden had an idealized view of the United States and its role in the world. He also had a gamer’s sense of his own ability to beat the odds – he’d later tell Greenwald that his moral outlook had been shaped by the video games he played as a kid, in which an everyman-type battles tremendous and seemingly invulnerable forces of injustice, and prevails. Following that ethos, and deeply affected by 9/11, Snowden enlisted in the Army in 2004, hoping to join the Special Forces and fight in Iraq. “I believed in the goodness of what we were doing,” he said. “I believed in the nobility of our intentions to free oppressed people overseas.” But he was quickly disabused of this idea – “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said – and months into his Special Forces training course at Fort Benning, Snowden later said, he broke both his legs and was discharged.
Back in Maryland, Snowden got a job as a security guard at the University of Maryland’s Center for Advanced Study of Language, a Defense Department-funded facility he would later describe as “covert,” though as The Washington Post pointed out, “its website includes driving directions.” He also re-enrolled at Anne Arundel Community College and burnished his computer skills. Then, in 2006, he landed a job as a computer technician with the CIA.
The CIA, with its air of entitlement and mystery, is the most elitist of U.S. government agencies. But the beauty of the IT sector, no matter where you were, as Snowden said, was its egalitarianism. “Nobody gives a shit what school you go to . . . I don’t even have a high school diploma,” he wrote in 2006. “That said, I have $0 in debt from student loans, I make $70k, I just had to turn down offers for $83k and $180k. . . . Employers fight over me. And I’m 22.”
In 2007, he was posted to the CIA station in Geneva. Mavanee Anderson, a young legal intern also stationed in Geneva, befriended Snowden and recalled him as thoughtful but insecure. “He talked a great deal about the fact that he didn’t complete high school,” Anderson later wrote in an op-ed for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “But he is an IT whiz – I’ve always taken it for granted that he’s an IT genius, actually.”
Snowden came to be bothered by much of what he saw in the CIA. He would later cite an operation to recruit a Swiss banker as an asset that involved getting the man arrested on drunk-driving charges. He also recalled, in an interview with The New York Times‘ Risen, the retaliation from a senior manager whose authority he’d once questioned. The incident arose over a flaw Snowden found in some CIA software, which he pointed out to his superiors. Rather than praising his initiative, however, one manager, who didn’t appreciate such enterprising behavior, placed a critical note in his personnel file, effectively killing Snowden’s chance for promotion. He eventually left the agency, “experiencing a crisis of conscience of sorts,” as Anderson remembered. But Snowden also learned a valuable lesson: “Trying to work through the system,” he told Risen, would “only lead to punishment.”
As Snowden was navigating the intricacies of the U.S.-intelligence world, Greenwald continued to rail against the Bush administration and its policies, while also taking aim at the Democratic Congress for refusing to end the war in Iraq. In speaking engagements, and increasingly on television, he prosecuted his strategy to subvert the status quo by donning a suit and, in perfect and impossible-to-argue-against rhetoric, spouted the sort of radical ideology – pointing out the causal chain between U.S. foreign policy and terrorism – that would have landed anyone else in talk-show purgatory. Greenwald, though, became a regular guest on MSNBC.
“You have to learn the game,” he says. “I put on a suit. I speak in sound bites. I know what I’m talking about – and I don’t drone on and on. One of the main criticisms I have of Noam Chomsky is that he allowed himself to get marginalized by not ever strategizing how to prevent it. If you’re an advocate and believe in political values, your obligation is to figure out how to maximize your impact. Basically, my strategy has been, ‘I’m going to barge into every fucking place I can get and make my own access.'”
After Obama was elected, Greenwald alienated many of his former liberal allies by vowing to be as hard on the new president as he’d been on his predecessor. He was particularly critical of Obama’s “Look forward, not backward” mandate, which effectively immunized officials who’d committed felonies during the Bush years, even as the Justice Department began to zealously prosecute its own “war” on national-security whistle-blowers.
This “two-tiered justice system,” as Greenwald put it, was striking in the case of a former NSA official named Thomas Drake, whom Greenwald wrote about in 2010. Drake is famous in whistle-blowing circles for providing information to Congress about post-9/11 surveillance programs and disclosing information about mismanagement within the NSA including a costly, and failed, project, known as Trailblazer, to The Baltimore Sun. In 2010, he was indicted under the 1917 Espionage Act for mishandling classified material, though the government’s case against him ultimately fell apart. Nonetheless, the investigation cost him his job, drained his savings and ruined his reputation. Today he works at the Apple Store in Bethesda, Maryland. To Greenwald, and to Snowden, Drake would be a cautionary tale of what happens to dissenters who try to work within the system.
Drake, whom I meet in his lawyer’s office in Washington, is a tall, intense man with the earnest-yet-cynical bearing of a disillusioned Boy Scout. A former Navy intelligence officer, Drake spent 12 years in the private sector as a contractor, working as a systems software test engineer, among other positions. In 2001, he was hired by the NSA and assigned to its Signals Intelligence Directorate as part of an effort initiated by new NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, to “stir up the gene pool,” as Drake puts it, and overhaul the agency, a Cold War institution, for the 21st century.
Though the NSA had once led the world in areas like cryptology and electronic eavesdropping, after the fall of the Soviet Union it was underfunded and without a clear mission. Its calcified management failed to anticipate the advances in fiber optics and cellular technology that would revolutionize the rest of the world, leaving the agency “on the verge of going deaf, dumb and blind,” according to NSA historian Matthew Aid. And it thoroughly failed to understand the importance of the Internet, says Drake. “The attitude was, nothing worth knowing is on the Internet, because it was open, right? They only wanted to know things that were closed.”
September 11th, which also happened to be Drake’s first day at Fort Meade, changed the equation. Drake explains the shift in two ways: The first was a massive expansion of U.S. spying capabilities as the agency “unchained itself from the Constitution,” and began to spy on Americans and foreign citizens, at home and abroad. The other change, felt across the entire intelligence community, was a rapid expansion of the NSA itself.
“Massive amounts of money were pumped into the NSA after 9/11, and Congress was saying, ‘How big do you want the check?'” says Drake. With virtually every agency involved in tracking terrorists clamoring for its SIGINT, or signals intelligence, the NSA expanded its outposts in Texas, Georgia, Hawaii, Colorado and Utah, as well as listening posts abroad, and also went on a building spree at Fort Meade, where the NSA’s sprawling 5,000-acre campus is now almost 10 times the size of the Pentagon. By 2013, according to The Washington Post, the NSA had expanded its workforce by one-third, to about 33,000. The number of private companies it depended upon more than tripled during that time.
Soon, thanks to this influx of money and the increasing reliance on the private sector to handle even sensitive jobs, the very heart of America’s intelligence infrastructure was being outsourced to contractors. “Essentially, 9/11 was a massive jobs program, in which the ticket you needed for the party was your clearance,” says Drake. “And tons of people were getting those clearances. So you had this huge apparatus being built, and the government was just managing it. And in some cases, they weren’t even doing that.”
Snowden, who left the CIA in 2009, was a natural fit for the NSA, which embraced the kind of problem-solving initiative his CIA bosses seemed to resent. “The NSA was very blue-collar, much more utilitarian than the CIA,” says Drake. “If you could prove your chops with computers, it didn’t matter what your background was, or what your grades were. We had a lot of people like Snowden at the NSA, who I hired. And there was no limit on the contracting side.”
Snowden was initially hired as a contractor for Dell, which had large contracts to maintain the NSA’s internal IT networks. He would also work for the megacontractor Booz Allen Hamilton, who last year earned $5.76 billion almost solely from government contracts, and is considered to be involved in virtually every aspect of intelligence and surveillance.
Within the world of the NSA, there is little difference between those employed by the agency and the private sector. Where there was a clear difference, was between the conventional management types and the scruffy hackers and IT geniuses who now filled the rank and file. “It was a weird world – there were these kids walking down the halls, and I never knew what color their hair would be when I’d see them,” says Richard “Dickie” George, a 40-year veteran of the NSA who, before retiring in 2011, oversaw the agency’s Information Assurance Directorate in the 2000s, hiring scores of young hackers. “They had ideas us older folk didn’t have, and we counted on that.”
To some intelligence insiders, it also made them a risk. “There was some discussions in the beginning of ‘We’re going after hackers, so how do we know that they’ll be good guys?'” says James Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “The real problem is that there’s a generational difference. You have an entrenched culture at the NSA, and suddenly you bring these kids in from outside, and they have very different attitudes toward information.”
By the time Snowden joined the agency’s workforce, the surveillance he would later expose was becoming not just institutionalized but very big business. “It was around 2009, 2010 that you saw the full flower of that massive, massive bubble of money,” says Drake. “And people were taking it for a ride as far as it could go.”
This system, however, was not without its internal problems. “When you hire all these contractors to do what were inherently government functions, you need the documents that authorize these kinds of access and operations,” Drake says. Paperwork was generated at record speed. Once-secret documents like FISA orders, which used to be stowed in special safes that only a few would be able to access, were now digitized and collected into a vast trove of electronic records that held the entire architecture of the national-security state.
Snowden began his NSA career in Japan, where he was given a fairly mundane job supervising upgrades to NSA computer systems. He’d later move back to the U.S. – making a campaign donation to former congressman Ron Paul in March 2012 – and settle in Hawaii. He worked as a systems administrator and eventually as an infrastructure analyst, including within the agency’s special Threat Operations Center (NTOC) on Oahu. Though he wasn’t one of the elite hackers, he held the keys to highly classified computer networks, and was likely also responsible for building target lists in preparation for future cyberconflict and looking for electronic backdoors into foreign networks. According to Aid, who has spoken to numerous sources familiar with Snowden’s work, “he had access to things that no one at NSA Hawaii had access to.” But to them it wasn’t alarming, “it was just Ed doing his job.”
Prior to 2009, Snowden had considered leaking government secrets when he was at the CIA, but held off, he later said, not wanting to harm agents in the field, and hoping that Obama would reform the system. His optimism didn’t last long. “[I] watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in,” he later said. As a result, he added, “I got hardened.” The more Snowden saw of the NSA’s actual business – and, particularly, the more he read “true information,” including a 2009 Inspector General’s report detailing the Bush era’s warrantless-surveillance program – the more he realized that there were actually two governments: the one that was elected, and the other, secret regime, governing in the dark. “If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all, secret powers become tremendously dangerous.”
Another concern was what he viewed as the willingness of big business to further government secrecy. In 2010, Snowden responded to an Ars Technica post about a vulnerability in Cisco’s wiretapping system, which had been designed to meet the needs of U.S. law enforcement. “It really concerns me how little this sort of corporate behavior bothers those outside of technology circles,” he wrote. “Society really seems to have developed an unquestioning obedience towards spooky types.” He wondered: “Did we get to where we are today via a slippery slope that was entirely within our control to stop, or was it a relatively instantaneous sea change that sneaked in undetected because of pervasive government secrecy?”
Snowden was by then branching out to more advanced levels of cybersecurity. In 2010, he took an “ethical hacking” course that teaches computer-security workers how hackers infiltrate large computer systems and operate invisibly. This kind of skill is highly prized in the modern NSA, where Hayden’s successor, Gen. Keith Alexander, a slick promoter of cybersecurity programs that virtually no one in Congress understood, relentlessly pushed the government to grant the NSA more spying authority and more resources. “He had unfailing credibility, and they just deferred to him,” says one former White House official, who grew alarmed by Alexander’s ability to spin members of both Houses, and the president. “Until recently, cybersecurity was magic, and Keith Alexander was the Wizard of Oz.”
As a result, Alexander was able to fully realize a concept, promoted by Hayden, of the NSA’s “owning the Net” – gaining access to virtually everything. By February 2012, the agency had laid out its strategic vision in a five-page mission statement declaring its intention to acquire data from “anyone.” One program in support of this goal, known as “Treasure Map,” was so overarching it claimed to map out information from “any device, anywhere, all the time.” The agency referred to the present as the “golden age of SIGINT.”
“They built a secret surveillance system that penetrated the fabric of our society and Snowden saw all this,” says Drake, who has spoken with Snowden and describes him as “like a Tron: cruising the networks and going into different systems – all for legitimate reasons. But in the course of his travels, he realized, ‘Wow, could he be part of enabling this system? Could he continue to do that and live with himself?'”
Snowden has been vague about when he decided to leak, but he has been very clear on what compelled him to act. “It was seeing a continuing litany of lies from senior officials to Congress – and therefore the American people – and the realization that Congress . . . wholly supported the lies,” he said. “Seeing someone in the position of James Clapper – director of National Intelligence – baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy.”
In April 2012, while working for Dell, Snowden reportedly began to download documents, many pertaining to the eavesdropping programs run by the NSA and its British equivalent, the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Eleven months later, he quit his job and accepted another, with Booz Allen, which he said he’d sought specifically for the broader access he’d have to the wealth of information pertaining to U.S. cyberspying. “My position with Booz Allen Hamilton granted me access to lists of machines all over the world the NSA hacked,” Snowden told The South China Morning Post. He spent the following three months downloading part of what officials later estimated were well more than 50,000 documents, divided into four categories: NSA capabilities, partnerships with private tech companies and foreign-intelligence agencies, requests for information by other U.S. agencies, and intelligence reports based on its collection of electronic intercepts. Now, he had to figure out how to expose the material.
He would not, he knew, follow the path of Thomas Drake, whose case he had carefully studied, along with many other NSA whistle-blowers from the 1990s and early 2000s who had taken their grievances, often undocumented, to Congress or the press. “Look, for 12 years, much of what Snowden would disclose had already been discussed by others like myself,” says Drake. “He knew, based on what had happened with us, that he’d have to provide some kind of documentation if he were to have any chance of being heard. But even that might not have been sufficient. The difference was that the whole system had become fully institutionalized.”
But Snowden also understood that giving the documents to WikiLeaks, or simply posting them himself, had drawbacks. “I don’t desire to enable the Bradley Manning argument that these were released recklessly and unreviewed,” Snowden later said. “I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest. There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”
The mainstream press, another option, seemed even riskier. Recalling how The New York Times delayed Risen’s 2005 warrantless-wiretapping story under pressure from the government, Snowden feared the same happening to him. “When the subject of [one’s] reporting is an institution as wildly beyond the control of law as the US Intelligence Community, even the best intentions of the New York Times begin to quaver,” he writes me in an e-mail. “You can’t stare down a spy agency without being prepared to burn your life to the ground over the smallest grain of truth, because truth is the only thing they are afraid of. Truth means accountability, and accountability terrifies those who have gone beyond what is necessary.”
In mid-May, Snowden took a short leave of absence from his job at Booz Allen to return to the mainland, where, he told his supervisors, he was going to get treatment for epilepsy, a condition he’d been diagnosed with the year before. But instead, he took a direct flight to Hong Kong and, checking into the Mira, a $300-per-night boutique hotel overlooking Kowloon Park, made contact with Glenn Greenwald. This was their first direct correspondence since December, when Snowden, who’d given up his attempts to persuade Greenwald to learn encryption, turned to filmmaker Laura Poitras, whom he knew, as Snowden told me, “understood the risks of weak security.”
The director of two films that were highly critical of U.S. counterterror policy and the war in Iraq, Poitras had found herself in the crosshairs of the U.S. government after the 2006 release of the Oscar-nominated My Country, My Country, which looked at the experiences of Iraqis under the U.S. occupation. The Department of Homeland Security reportedly put her on a watch list, and over the next six years, she estimates she was stopped and detained nearly 40 times at U.S. border crossings. All of this had made Poitras intensely paranoid. (She declined to comment for this story.) To prevent her work from being spied upon, she learned encryption. That allowed Snowden, who wrote her anonymously, to outline, over the course of several e-mails, a number of government-surveillance programs.
Poitras showed some of the e-mails to Greenwald, who sensed their legitimacy right away. He installed encryption software, and under Poitras’ tutelage, began his own conversation with the source, who was eager for the journalists to meet him in person. Greenwald was wary: “I told him, ‘I need to have some sample of the documents to prove you are who you say you are and you have something worthwhile.'” So Snowden sent Greenwald about two dozen documents, including a PowerPoint presentation revealing the NSA PRISM program, by which the government, gaining access through U.S. Internet companies like Google, Facebook and Apple, could retrieve volumes of user data, including e-mails, chat records and search histories.
Sitting on his porch with the dogs at his feet, Greenwald opened the documents and gasped. “I mean, holy shit, right? Just out of nowhere, I’m holding in my hand 25 top-secret documents from the NSA, an agency that had rarely leaked anything, let alone massive numbers of top-secret documents.” Breathless, he ran to tell Miranda. “I cannot believe what I fucking have in my hands,” he said.
Greenwald flew to New York, where he met Poitras, and with a third journalist, longtime Guardian correspondent Ewen MacAskill, who’d been assigned as the paper’s representative, left for Hong Kong. In the cab on their way to JFK, Poitras, who’d been sent a much larger set of documents by Snowden, gave Greenwald a short tutorial on how to open and read the files on her memory sticks. As soon as the plane took off, he opened his laptop and began to go through the material. “I immediately realized that the 25 documents he had sent me, which I thought were the best he had – those were just random,” he says. “I had thousands of documents just like them, on every conceivable topic, the vast bulk top-secret, some of them much better than the ones he had sent me. It was the mother of all leaks.”
“How long had the source been planning this?” Greenwald thought. Just the organization of the material alone would have taken months, if not longer. Each memory stick had an elaborate filing system. “On the front page were, let’s say, 12 files. You click on one of the files and there are 30 more files. You click on one of those files and there are six more, and finally you got the documents. And every last motherfucking document that he gave us was incredibly elegant and beautifully organized.” Greenwald had no doubt that the leaker had read every page; not a single one was misfiled. “It’s 1,000 percent clear that he read and very carefully processed every document that he gave us by virtue of his incredibly anal, ridiculously elaborate electronic filing system that these USB sticks contained.”
All the way to Hong Kong, over a 16-hour flight, Greenwald pored through the materials. “There was stuff on what’s going on in Iraq, in Afghanistan, with the drone program, spying on our allies, the technology of how this works, the intelligence budget – every possible thing, all completely fucking secret, and I’m just reading through it at my leisure on the plane.” Memos and PowerPoint presentations detailed the breathtaking scope of the NSA’s global operations: metadata collection on American and foreign citizens; spying on the communications and Internet traffic of world leaders; intelligence operations aimed at oil companies and other businesses. Poitras, sitting a number of rows back, wandered up to check Greenwald now and then, at which point, he says, “I’d hop out of my fucking seat, like, ‘Have you seen this? Does this actually say what I think it says?'”
He describes it as his “holy shit” moment. “We just sat there elation,” he says. “For both of us, it was the moment of a lifetime.”
Greenwald had an image in his head of the person he was going to meet in Hong Kong: “This grizzly, 60-year-old, gray-haired, balding veteran of the intelligence community who had just become sufficiently disillusioned and jaded that he decided he just couldn’t take it anymore.” Instead, the person he met outside a restaurant in a shopping center looked barely old enough to shave. Pale and thin and dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt it appeared he hadn’t changed for days. “He looked like a kid from the mall,” Greenwald says.
Immediately, Greenwald thought this had been a mistake. “No way could this kid have anything like the access he led me to believe he had. It just didn’t compute: Was he the son of the source, the assistant to the source? It was so wildly disparate from what I had expected that I just thought I had wasted my time flying there.”
Still, the journalists, exhausted from their travels, followed Snowden to his hotel room, which he’d left only two or three times since he’d arrived, out of fear he might soon be tracked down. Stacks of room-service trays were piled everywhere. Clothes littered the floor. Worried that he might be spied upon, he’d been reluctant to even let housekeeping in to change the sheets. Before he would talk, Snowden propped pillows up against the door to prevent eavesdropping. Greenwald was tempted to view the precautions as paranoia, but decided to withhold judgment. He launched into litigator mode. “The best way to describe it would be as cross-examination,” Snowden tells me. “It was more rigorous than the vetting CIA assets in the field get! The benefit was that it resulted in absolute trust: There was no room for lies to survive.”
Clearly, Greenwald realized right away, Snowden was extremely bright, and his story, as improbable as it initially seemed, had coherence to it. After five or six hours of questioning, “I had a really solid faith that he was who he was saying he was.” Yet much of Snowden still didn’t make sense. He had a girlfriend of eight years in Hawaii, a beautiful dancer named Lindsay, whom he clearly loved. He earned a six-figure salary, and was on a career trajectory whose possibilities, even without a college degree, seemed limitless. Everything about him suggested he was happy and stable. “I spent a long time trying to figure out why he actually did what he did, knowing that he was likely going to end up in prison for the rest of his life.”
Snowden – who didn’t want the search for the source of the leaks to distract from the national conversation he hoped they would spark – had informed the journalists of his plan to go public even before they got to Hong Kong. The idea of outing a source of classified materials went against every instinct, both journalistic and human. MacAskill, who has three sons in their midtwenties and early thirties, says he spent days trying to understand why Snowden was so intent on doing it. But Snowden seemed to have thought it all out. He had purposely not taken all the precautions he could have to cover his tracks, he explained – arguably to protect his co-workers, who could easily be drawn into a prolonged investigation. “I could not be part of someone throwing their life away unless I was absolutely convinced that it was done with complete and total agency,” Greenwald says. “So I spent hours on that question: What was this grounded in? Where does he get the idea that it was his obligation to sacrifice his life for the good of other people?”
Ultimately, Greenwald realized, Snowden was acting on the same moral code that had led him, at age 20, to enlist in the Army to fight a war he believed was designed to “free” the oppressed. What the NSA was doing, Snowden said, posed an “existential threat to democracy,” and he felt it was his duty to act. He explained to Greenwald that he’d set up a website and written a manifesto explaining the breadth of the surveillance system the NSA had constructed. He’d intended to post the roughly 1,000-word essay on the website, in the hopes of getting hundreds of thousands, even millions to read it and sign a petition to end the surveillance state.
But the manifesto, as Greenwald says, “was a little Ted Kaczynski-ish.” He and Poitras advised Snowden it might be misinterpreted by the public. “It was pretty melodramatic and overwrought, which makes sense, because you’ve got to think in pretty extreme terms if you’re going to throw your life away to fight against these injustices. But to the average person you want to reach, it might sound creepy.” Snowden ultimately let it go.
Greenwald spent every day with Snowden for the next two weeks, interviewing him in the morning, breaking off to write, going back later in the day, and frequently continuing their conversations online. Snowden would go to bed every night around 10:30 or 11, casually telling the journalists he was going to “hit the hay.” While Greenwald barely slept, Snowden greeted them at seven each morning, rested and refreshed. “He was about to become the most wanted man in the world,” Greenwald says, “but slept as if he didn’t have a care in the world.” Both he and Poitras were “infected” by the younger man’s idealism and enthusiasm, Greenwald admits, and so were his editors at The Guardian, which published the first story on the leaks on Wednesday, June 5th. That piece, detailing a secret court order issued in April 2013 that compelled Verizon to hand over consumer data to the NSA, was followed, on June 6th, by a second story, exposing the PRISM program, and then a third, on June 7th, explaining how the British GCHQ gained access to PRISM in order to collect user data from U.S. companies. On the 8th, Greenwald and MacAskill published in The Guardian a report about an internal NSA tool, known as “Boundless Informant,” which recorded, analyzed and tracked the data collected by the agency – suggesting that National Intelligence Director James Clapper had lied to Congress when he insisted that the NSA did not wittingly keep track of the communications of millions of American citizens.
From that time on, Greenwald was never without a set of documents, stored on various drives, which he carried with him everywhere in a black backpack. As for Snowden, whose greatest fear, according to Greenwald, was that he’d release the material and no one would care, just the opposite occurred. On June 7th, Obama, forced to admit that the administration was collecting huge amounts of intelligence on ordinary citizens, insisted that they were only “modest encroachments” on privacy. “You can’t have 100 percent security, and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” the president said.
On June 8th, the NSA officially filed a “crimes report” on the exposure of their sensitive intelligence, and also opened a criminal probe into who might have leaked it. The next day, Snowden went public in a video produced by Poitras, posted on The Guardian‘s website. On June 10th, having acquired two Hong Kong lawyers vetted by The Guardian‘s legal counsel, and with the world press closing in, Snowden left the Mira hotel through a back door with his attorneys, and disappeared. Poitras wondered if they’d ever see him again. Greenwald doubted it. “I truly believed that the chances were very, very good that the next time we saw him would be on television,” Greenwald says, “wearing an orange jumpsuit, in shackles, in a courtroom.”
On June 21st, the Obama administration brought criminal charges against Edward Snowden for three felonies, two of which fall under the Espionage Act, which has been used in federal indictments nine times in almost a century, six of those cases being brought in the past six years. Snowden became the seventh person to be charged under the act by the Obama White House, which has launched more leak investigations than any other administration in U.S. history. A score of U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, declared Snowden a traitor. At a cybersecurity summit in the fall, former NSA director Hayden joked about putting Snowden on the kill list. “I can help you with that,” Rep. Mike Rogers, head of the House Intelligence Committee, offered in reply.
With these sorts of condemnations, offset by the blockbuster stories produced by Greenwald, Poitras and The Washington Post‘s Barton Gellman, who had also been introduced to Snowden through Poitras and received his own set of documents, Snowden began his journey through what one of his legal advisers, Jesselyn Radack, calls the “underground railroad” of whistle-blower advocates and sympathizers, a worldwide drama stage-managed by Julian Assange.
Shortly after Snowden left the Mira hotel for a safe house in Hong Kong, his lawyers received a call from Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic journalist and spokesman for WikiLeaks. Hrafnsson had heard that Snowden might want to seek asylum in Iceland. “It was natural for us to be received as an ally,” Hrafnsson tells me. “He didn’t have many at the moment.” Soon afterward, a 31-year-old Brit named Sarah Harrison, a longtime associate of Julian Assange’s, arrived in Hong Kong as WikiLeaks’ eyes and ears, and Snowden’s escort out of Hong Kong. She didn’t leave Snowden’s side for the next four months.
On June 24th, Assange, who has lived in exile at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for more than a year, held a press conference and claimed responsibility for successfully shepherding Snowden out of Hong Kong to Russia, where, after 39 days in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport – and filing 21 asylum applications to as many countries – he was granted temporary asylum by Vladimir Putin, for a year.
It was a huge moment for Assange, who, as one observer notes, “must have gone insane, watching all these leaks go to Glenn and Laura,” neither of whom shared them with WikiLeaks, but instead published them in mainstream outlets like The Guardian. In a telephone interview, Assange accused The Guardian, with whom he has had a very public feud since 2010, of “abandoning” Snowden in Hong Kong. This is a statement Assange, through WikiLeaks, has made numerous times on Twitter, though Greenwald, as well as Guardian staffers, insist it is a complete misrepresentation of fact. “Snowden was really clear that he didn’t want to involve the reporters in his future plans – my understanding was that he didn’t want them implicated in it,” says one senior Guardian editor.
But WikiLeaks clung to its narrative. “We understood the situation,” says Assange. “We worked through the diplomatic network, and we made sure Mr. Snowden’s rights were protected. And as a consequence, we’ve demonstrated that WikiLeaks, as a media institution, has the resources, capacity and will that a lot of media organizations do not.”
Snowden has been an undeniable boon for WikiLeaks, which has struggled financially since 2011 (last year, it reportedly received just $93,000 in donations, barely making a dent in its 2012 annual budget of $530,000). After Snowden went public, donations to the group began to pour in at around $1,300 per day. WikiLeaks now sells T-shirts, mugs and tote bags with Snowden’s face on them (Bradley Manning’s visage, which once adorned similar paraphernalia, has all but disappeared).
Greenwald has a complicated relationship with WikiLeaks and Assange, whom he considers an ally, though given Assange’s controversial reputation in the United States, he admits that “Julian stepping forward and being the face of the story wasn’t great for Snowden.” But he credits Assange with having helped save Snowden from almost certain extradition to the U.S. Snowden, however, never wanted to go to Russia, which Assange acknowledges. “Snowden believed that in order to most effectively push for reform in the U.S., Latin America would be the better option,” Assange tells me. “He did not want to invite a political attack that he’d ‘defected.'”
Assange, however, disagrees. “While Venezuela and Ecuador could protect him in the short-term, over the long-term there could be a change in government. In Russia, he’s safe, he’s well-regarded, and that is not likely to change. That was my advice to Snowden, that he would be physically safest in Russia.” Assange also claims that Snowden has proved “you can blow the whistle about national security and not only survive, but thrive.”
But how much Snowden is thriving in Russia is unknown. According to his Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, he has learned the language and reading Russian literature. (He recently finished Dostoyevsky’sCrime and Punishment.) Snowden also reportedly took a job not long ago at a Russian Internet company. Greenwald, who says he talks with Snowden regularly via encrypted chat, maintains that he knows very few details of Snowden’s daily life. “For both his and my own protection, there are questions I stay away from,” he says. Radack and Drake recently visited Snowden as part of a whistle-blower delegation; they were whisked to a secret meeting and dinner with him at a stately mansion in or near Moscow. That they were taken in a van with darkened windows, at night, meant they had no idea where they were going. Radack nevertheless insists that Snowden is not being controlled by the Russian intelligence service, the FSB, nor has he become a Russian spy. “Russia treats its spies much better than leaving them trapped in the Sheremetyevo transit zone for over a month,” Radack recalled Snowden darkly joking to her.
Perhaps though, just because he’s not a spy, says Andrei Soldatov, one of Russia’s leading investigative journalists, doesn’t mean he’s free. “It is quite clear that Snowden is being protected by the FSB,” says Soldatov, co-author of The New Nobility: The Restoration of Russia’s Security State and the Enduring Legacy of the KGB (2010). What this means is that every facet of Snowden’s communications, and his life, is likely being monitored, if invisibly, by the Russian security services. “The mansion where he met those whistle-blowers? Rented on behalf of the government. All of the safe houses, apartments and dachas where we’ve traditionally kept defectors are owned by the Russian security services. No one has been able to figure out where he works, if he actually has this job. The FSB would never let him do anything where they couldn’t monitor his communications.” Even if Snowden were to decide he wanted to go to the U.S. Embassy and turn himself in, “it would be difficult for him to find a completely uncontrolled way of communicating with the Americans,” Soldatov says.
Soldatov believes that Snowden might underestimate how closely he’s being watched, suggesting somewhat of a Truman Show-like existence. “To what degree has he been turned into a different person?” he says. “Snowden is not a trained intelligence agent. But those who are can tell you, if you live in a controlled environment, you cease to be truly independent-minded because everyone and everything around you is also controlled. It doesn’t matter if you have your laptop.”
As for Greenwald, he’s become an international celebrity in the past six months, and I meet him while he is cresting a wave of fame unlike any he’s ever known. Since Snowden, he’s been interviewed by virtually every form of media known to humankind, broken huge stories in both the English-speaking and foreign media, and has won the Brazilian equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize (for a story he did with Brazil’s Globo newspaper that exposed the scale of the NSA spying in the country).
In order to protect their material – and avoid serious legal entanglements – Greenwald and Poitras agreed that no one other than they would ever have access to the full set of documents (The Washington Post‘s Gellman has his own set). Instead, they’ve doled out information on a story-by-story basis, with their bylines always attached, to “keep media organizations on a leash,” as Greenwald puts it. Though some critics maintain that Snowden, who carried four laptops with him to Hong Kong, must have shared the information with either the Russians or the Chinese, Snowden insists this isn’t true. Not only did he not carry any documents with him to Russia – “it wouldn’t serve the public interest,” he’s said – he can’t even access the material any longer. “He has built these encryption cells, and made sure that he doesn’t have the passwords to them – other people have the passwords,” says Greenwald, who has also said the “insurance” archive will only be accessed if something happens to Snowden. Greenwald doesn’t say who those “other people” are. U.S. officials have ominously referred to this archive, likely stored on a data cloud, as a “doomsday” cache.
In August, Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained at London’s Heathrow Airport over the Snowden matter. Miranda was on his way home to Rio after a week’s vacation in Berlin, where he had visited Poitras, who’d given him some of the Snowden documents to bring back to Greenwald. As he was entering the transit lounge, he was stopped by British police. The authorities seized the materials, as well as Miranda’s laptop, cellphone and other electronic devices, and demanded passwords for the encrypted electronics. They detained and interrogated him for nine hours, before finally allowing him to continue on to Brazil.
Greenwald, who’d asked Miranda to bring him the materials, was outraged. “It was a fucking attack on press freedom,” he says. “Journalism is not a crime, and it’s not terrorism. For every journalist not to be infuriated by this aggressive attack was insane.”
Many were stunned by the harassment, but Greenwald’s methods, and his unabashed denunciation of those who criticize them, have raised questions about his own agenda. “This is a carefully constructed narrative,” says James Lewis of CSIS. “They’ve got documents pertaining to foreign spying against the U.S., but not a single one of those has been released. Instead, this is scripted to lead you to a certain outcome, that it’s just the U.S. doing this. The fact that they haven’t released these documents makes me very suspicious. They’re spinning as much as the U.S. government is.”
The question is whether Greenwald is considered a threat by the U.S. government. While he is certainly doing better than Snowden, Greenwald too, as Radack says, is “free but not free,” living comfortably in Rio, but unsure when he will be able to come home. Though Attorney General Eric Holder recently said that “I’m not sure there is a basis for prosecution,” Greenwald isn’t reassured. He believes it unlikely that he’d be hauled off a plane and arrested at immigration – if only for the negative press that would cause – but there’s no way to know. “They could indict you in secret and just seal it, but there’s no way to ever make them tell you one way or the other if they intend to arrest you. So you could theoretically be in legal limbo forever.”
This is the situation, at least for the moment, that Edward Snowden faces. His coordinating attorney, Ben Wizner of the ACLU, has put together a team that he says is hoping to facilitate some form of agreement so Snowden can find asylum in a more open country, like Germany, and possibly “someday, when the climate is right,” return to the U.S. without fear of prosecution. But that day has not yet come, Wizner admits. “It’s not going to happen overnight,” he says.
For now, Snowden is in Russia, living in an apartment or a house that so far, no one has been able to find; maybe employed, shielded from the public by the state-security apparatus and communicating through encrypted e-mail or chat with just a handful of people, none of whom know the full extent of his daily life. “He is much more than just a mere source to me,” Greenwald says. “I consider him heroic and brave. I care about him and do not want to see him imprisoned – that would be a horrific travesty as well as a profound waste.”
Snowden, Greenwald says, has become “a huge celebrity” in Russia, where people muse about his whereabouts, wondering about his next move. Russian paparazzi, frustrated in their attempts to find him, have taken to selling fake pictures of Snowden shopping at the supermarket. “He’s like Elvis,” Greenwald says. But he’s still in Russia. “I think the U.S. actually wants him in Russia because that’s what lets them demonize him.” And demonizing him is important, he adds. “If a whistle-blower becomes a hero, people start thinking, ‘Wow, the stuff he saw must have really been awful for him to go and risk his life and blow the whistle.’ But if you get to say, ‘He’s crazy, he’s unstable, he’s a Russian spy,’ it de-legitimizes the premise of the whole act, which is that he saw something so fundamentally wrong that his conscience demanded that he do it.”
Right now, Greenwald, who says he remains “infected” by Snowden’s heroism, is determined to work in his stead. His first step has been to take the remaining documents, which exceed 10,000 in number, and start a new media enterprise with Poitras and investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, funded by a $250 million investment from tech billionaire Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay – who came to Greenwald specifically because of the Snowden leaks. The venture – currently dubbed “NewCo” – will be dedicated to investigative journalism and will purposely seek conflict with the government. “So we’ll do the journalism, and then be like, ‘OK, government, come get us,'” Greenwald says, clearly delighted at the prospect.
How the venture will take shape is still unknown. Greenwald, who left The Guardian in October, says he plans to have bureaus in New York and Washington, as well as what may be his own bureau of one in Brazil. “I’m not going to allow myself to be exiled from my own country because I did journalism, but as long as there’s a meaningful chance that I’d be arrested and prosecuted for my journalism, I can’t gamble with it,” he says. “And that, itself, is such a powerful indictment.”
This story is from the December 19th, 2013 – January 2nd, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone.
#AceWorldNews says this is a guest post from a writer about Thailand‘s embattled regime and is shared as a baseless narrative disingenuously portraying Thailand as divided along class, rather than united against regime.
December 14, 2013 (Tony Cartalucci) – Thailand’s embattled regime has long fashioned itself as the champion of the nation’s north and northeast rural poor – and its opponents, essentially the rest of the nation – as aloft elitists which also inexplicably includes hardworking middle class, and much of the nation’s central and south, including laborers and farmers. It is a myth that the regime’s extensive Western backers are also helping perpetuate, but is one that is easily dispelled with irrefutable hard statistics and common sense.
Image: Even a cursory examination of the anti-regime protesters reveals immense diversity in both its constitution and it grievances against the regime – from labor unions, Buddhist sects, business owners both big and small, to ordinary workers from both labor and middle classes. Reuters‘ hit piece is designed to disingenuously malign the protesters, portraying them all as spoiled rich snobs. Of course, with hundreds of thousands of protesters turning up at mass rallies, even at face value one should spot the deception.
Chitpas Bhirombhakdi is heiress to a $2.6 billion family fortune and, according to high-society magazine Thailand Tatler, one of Bangkok’s “most eligible young ladies”. She can also handle tear gas and ride a tractor.
On December 2, as anti-government demonstrations in Bangkok turned violent, the 27-year-old climbed aboard a front-loader brought in by protesters to break down police barricades.
Chitpas, whose family owns the Boon Rawd Brewery that makes Singha Beer, had dismounted the machine long before police pelted it with rubber bullets and gas canisters. But her gung-ho act showed how members of Thailand’s most celebrated families are discarding all past pretence of neutrality to hit the streets in the hope of toppling Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
Along with their wealth and privilege, these elite protesters share a declarative love of Thailand’s aging King Bhumibol Adulyadej and an abhorrence for Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, a billionaire ex-prime minister ousted by a 2006 military coup, whom they accuse of corruption and abuse of power.
For many in Bangkok’s high society, anti-government rallies have supplemented – if not quite replaced – customary haunts in posh hotels and restaurants, although only a dwindling hardcore of less privileged protesters sleeps rough on the street.
The biased tone of the story almost reaches out and touches readers, begging to be believed. Throughout the article Reuters’ Andrew RC Marshall cites a total of 6 anecdotal tales of wealthy protest participants in an attempt paint the entire movement as elitist, but cites absolutely no statistics or evidence to give readers an honest idea of the actual makeup of the opposition.
After imbuing readers with the perception that protesters are merely elitist snobs, it goes on further to portray them as condescending as well. Quoting entrepreneur Petch Osathanugrah, Reuters states:
His opinion of the mainly rural Thais who voted for Yingluck is unsparing but typical. They are ill-educated, easily swayed and greedy, he said, and their willingness to sell their vote to Thaksin-backed politicians renders elections pointless.
However, Reuters’ cherry-picked representation is not only dishonest as a demographic representation of the protesters, but also dishonest in portraying the actual grievances of the protesters. The attempt to portray them as fascistic for rejecting elections is also a gross, intentional misrepresentation as we will soon see.
Demographically speaking, even by the most conservative estimates, December 9, 2013’s anti-regime rally drew at least 150,000 protesters (though actual numbers reached near a million). These six anecdotal cases then constitute a meager .004% of even 150,000, and it is doubtful indeed that there are many more “billionaire heiresses” among the hundreds of thousands that continuously turn up for mass mobilizations.
Considering that Reuters spent no time qualifying the narrative they’ve attempted to foist upon unsuspecting readers one might wonder what the truth of the matter actually is. What do honest, objective numbers and analysis actually say?
To understand just how far off Reuters and the regime are about their “class divide” myth, one needs to go by actual numbers, tellingly missing from both Reuters’ propaganda, and the regime’s.
Breaking Down the “Class Divide” Myth – By the Numbers
35%: The number of eligible voters, according to the Thai Election Commission’s final tally for the 2011 elections, that actually voted for the Shinawatra regime. Were we to believe Reuters, that would mean the other 65% of all eligible voters were billionaire urban aristocrats – an absurdity even at face value.
48%: The percentage out of those that did bother to vote who voted for the regime – meaning Thaksin Shinawatra‘s proxy party did not even garner a basic popular majority in the last election.
7%: The number of Thais who identify themselves as “red,” or supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra and his political machine. Another 7% identify themselves as only leaning toward “red,” for a grand total of 14% – this according to the Asia Foundation’s 2010 National Public Perception Survey of the Thai Electorate – full .pdf here).
3,000: The approximate number of innocent people mass murdered by the Thaksin Shinawatra regime in 2003 over the course of 90 days in what he called his “war on drugs.” It would later be revealed that nearly half of those killed had nothing at all to even do with the drug trade. Human Rights Watch (HRW) would confirm this in their 2008 report titled, “Thailand’s ‘war on drugs’,” a follow up to the much more extensive 2004 report, “Not Enough Graves.”
The brutal campaign was wildly popular amongst Thaksin’s supporters. The fact that those who do support Thaksin Shinawatra seem not to care or understand basic concepts like “human rights,” “trials,” and the “presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” is in fact what leads some to call the regime’s remaining supporters “ill-educated, easily swayed and greedy” – as Reuters published – and why some may believe that “their willingness to sell their vote to Thaksin-backed politicians renders elections pointless.”
The childishly simple “class divide” Reuters and others have disingenuously attempted to lay over Thailand’s political landscape in reality does not fit. There is no division, only an attempt by the regime and its Western sponsors to create one. This is to justify the insidious tactics of violence, intimidation, and corruption that has propped the Shinawatra’s up for now nearly a decade, and to portray the anti-regime protesters in a manner that will earn the contempt of Reuters’ unsuspecting international readers.
Reuters did not omit statistics or actual evidence by accident or because it is incompetent, but because it is intentionally deceitful. A professional journalist, or even a careful reader, can easily recognize the weasel words, lack of actual statistics and facts, and the logical fallacies employed by Reuters in its attempt to buttress the crumbling regime and portray the protesters as spoiled, fascistic brats – a narrative peddled by the regime itself and its gaggle of propagandists.
Indeed – the 2003 “war on drugs” which left 3,000 in their graves and the wild popularity this crime against humanity to this day still has among Thaksin Shinawatra’s supporters has terrifying implications for Thailand’s future if this despotism is left unchecked and allowed to fester. A “democratically elected” government put into office by an electorate that cannot grasp the basics principles of a democratic society is not democratic at all. It is brutal, exploitative despotism shabbily dressed in the trappings of democracy, defended by shameless foreign propagandists working for equally insidious corporate-financier interests and is an immediate danger to Thailand, its people, and its future.