Archive for June, 2014

Department told of lax oversight at firm with $1bn contract to protect US diplomats weeks before Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqis

Blackwater security guards scan Baghdad from their helicopter
Blackwater private security guards scan Baghdad from their helicopter. Photograph: Marwan Naamani/AFP/Getty Images


A state department investigator warned that the private security firm Blackwater considered itself above the law, just weeks before Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians, it has been reported.

According to the New York Times, Jean Richter, who was sent to Iraq to review Blackwater’s operations, warned in a memo dated 31 August 2007 that little oversight of the company, which had a $1bn contract to protect US diplomats, had created “an environment full of liability and negligence”.

Blackwater guards “saw themselves as above the law”, Richter wrote in the memo. His inquiry was abandoned after Blackwater’s top manager said he could kill the government’s chief investigator and no one could or would do anything about it as it was in Iraq. The threat came from Daniel Carroll, Blackwater’s project manager in Iraq, during a meeting with Richter and another state department official, Donald Thomas, to discuss the review, which had uncovered overbilling and complaints about a cafeteria in Blackwater’s compound.

Richter wrote: “I took Mr Carroll’s threat seriously. We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.”

US embassy officials in Baghdad sided with Blackwater rather than the state department investigators as tension escalated between Richter and Blackwater in August 2007, the Times reported on Monday. The officials told the investigators they had disrupted the embassy’s relationship with the security contractor and asked them to leave. Once back in Washington, Richter wrote his 31 August memo to state department officials to warn of lax oversight of the company.

The state department has not commented on the aborted investigation. A spokesman for Erik Prince, the founder and former chief executive of Blackwater, who sold the company in 2010, told the Times that Prince had never been told about the matter. Blackwater was renamed Xe Services in 2009. After Prince sold the company, the new owners named it Academi. In early June, it merged with Triple Canopy, one of its rivals for government and commercial contracts to provide private security. The new firm is called Constellis Holdings…










I sit down with Professor James Fallon, renowned neuroscientist and author of The Psychopath Inside, to talk about the past, present, and future of psychopathology, the violence of Elliot Rodger, and why these “human predators” might, for better or for worse, be necessary.

“Sitting inside now,” says the short, punctuated text message. I read it at the red light on Sunset Boulevard and Crescent Heights, a block away from the coffee shop where we planned to meet. It is a late, lazy afternoon. The sun is drooling molasses behind the Strip’s low horizon of billboards.

I take a deep breath.

The man I am meeting is Professor James Fallon.

He is a neuroscientist, an author, a husband, a father, and a grandfather.

He is also a borderline psychopath.

In October of 2005, Professor Fallon was looking through a stack of PET brain scans for a study on Alzheimer’s, for which he and his family had volunteered as a control group.

By chance, something caught his eye.

There was a dark, hollow hole in one of the brain scans in his family’s pile–a hole Professor Fallon was intimately familiar with. The areas of the brain responsible for empathy were muddled and dark. When he removed the seal covering the name, Professor Fallon discovered the brain belonged to him. The hole, the shadow, was inside his head.

Upon further investigation, Fallon discovered a deep history of violence carved into his family tree: seven alleged murderers, including the infamous (acquitted) ax-murderer Lizzie Borden.

The darkness in his head was a family legacy.

And now, I am meeting him for coffee.

Professor Fallon is a large man, bearded and shaggy-haired, articulate with a friendly timbre to his voice that belies what is, apparently, his true nature. He looks every bit a professor — and nothing at all like Hannibal Lecter.

Since his macabre discovery, his story has caught fire. He wrote a book about his experience called The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist’s Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain. Fox News, The Atlantic, Smithsonian, and numerous others have picked up the story. He’s been interviewed on television (even playing himself in an episode of CBS’ Criminal Minds), and was considered a renowned authority even before he realized how closely related he was to his object of study.

As we take our seats across from one another, I start with what seems like the obvious question. I ask if anyone close to him treated him differently, since they found out about his brain scan. Even before we begin speaking at length, I get the feeling that, for all my effort to appear professional and courteous, I’m sure I’m one of the least experienced interviewers he has encountered. I’m self conscious that it shows. He’s respected, learned, and, just maybe, biologically lacks the ability to feel any empathy for me.

“One person that was very close to me, who was younger, said, ‘I cant see you anymore, I can’t be around you anymore,'” he laughs. He goes on to describe a story, which he details in his book, about a trip to the movies with his wife to see Manhunter, the very first cinematic appearance of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. When Lecter’s rival, the functioning psychopath Will Graham appeared, his wife pointed to the screen and remarked: “That’s you!”…







Man sets himself on fire

. Hundreds of onlookers watched as the man set himself ablaze on the bridge
. He suffered serious burns before being rescued by emergency workers
. The action was in protest against changes to Japan’s defence policy
. The country wants to be more assertive in international security matters

By Steve Hopkins

A man set himself on fire at Tokyo’s busy Shinjuku railway station on Sunday in what appears to be a rare violent political protest.

The man, who appeared to be in his 50s or 60s, was taken to hospital after suffering serious injuries, said Daiji Kubota, an officer at the Shinjuku police station. He said the man’s identity and the reason for the self-immolation was under investigation.

Footage of the incident on Twitter and other social media showed a man wearing a suit and tie sitting on a small mat along the metal framework above a pedestrian walkway with two plastic bottles of what looked like gasoline beside him.

Witnesses were quoted as saying the man spoke through a megaphone to protest the government’s moves to change Japan’s defence policy.

He then doused himself with gasoline and set himself alight as hundreds of people watched from below and from nearby buildings…

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Source: Andrej Hunko
EU prepares the ground for military use against the citizens

See also: EU prepares the ground for military use against the citizens

The EU creates a legal framework for Europe-wide deployment of police and military units . At the same time, the EU Commission is working intensively on the creation of a single EU police unit as well as an EU public prosecutor (more here ).

The use of the “European Gendarmerie Force” (EUROGENDFOR) is made ​​possible by the “solidarity clause” as Heise reported. At the unit, headquartered in Vicenza, Italy, all EU Member States are involved, the Gendarmerien, so police forces with military status are used. One of the founding countries of the EUROGENDFOR include Portugal, Spain, Italy, France and the Netherlands. We provide our services to the police unit of the EU, NATO or the UN.

“The ‘solidarity clause’ is redundant, since the EU already has mechanisms for mutual assistance in case of disasters. Secondly, the clause amplifies the course to a militarization of domestic politics, since upon request military can be used in another Member State.

“On Tuesday, the representatives of the EU Member States in the Council adopted a decision on the so-called ‘solidarity clause’. Were a disaster or a loosely defined crisis to occur, the organs of the European Union would be obliged to assist using all the instruments at their disposal. This includes military resources”, warned Member of the Bundestag Andrej Hunko.

The proposal on ‘arrangements for the implementation by the Union of the Solidarity Clause’ was jointly presented by the Commission and the EU High Representative in 2012. A country can invoke the “solidarity clause” if a crisis “overwhelms its response capacities”. Mention is made of operational, policy and financial instruments and structures.

Andrej Hunko continued:

“The adoption at the General Affairs Council took place in secret: the point was not mentioned on the agenda of the meeting. The press was not informed. Yet this is one of the most controversial clauses contained in the EU treaties. That is precisely the reason why agreement on the details of the solidarity clause was postponed to a later point at the time of the signature of the Lisbon Treaty.

The ‘solidarity clause’ boosts the role of the two intelligence-service-style EU situation centres. But it also creates the legal framework for deployment of the special police units of the ‘ATLAS network’ being developed by the Commission. From Germany, the GSG 9 is involved; last year this Federal Police Special Forces unit was able to head a large-scale ATLAS exercise encompassing several countries for the first time.

The ‘solidarity clause’ is superfluous, since the EU already has mechanisms for mutual assistance in disaster situations. At the same time, however, the clause strengthens the course towards militarisation of home-affairs policy, since military personnel can be sent to another Member State on request. I am concerned that this is about the home-affairs version of the Article 5 clause on mutual defence: it would apply in situations which ‘may have an adverse impact on people, the environment or property’. Even politically motivated blockades in the areas of energy and transport and general strikes are covered…






By Lesley Docksey

As if Prime Minister David Cameron hasn’t got enough problems, the promised referendum allowing Scotland to vote on whether people want independence from the rest of the United Kingdom looms ever closer, and some polls show that the gap between the Yes and No camps is closing. It will be a tight race come September. While staying within the UK still leads in the polls, over 50% of people believe an independent Scotland could be successful.

One reason for the increasing number of once-independent areas seeking to regain that independence is that people also want to recover their character, their heritage, their sense of belonging to that particular patch of the earth which defines who they are.

While most of us are happy to trade, to buy products from other countries, to take part in what is now a “global community”, we want to do it on our own terms. We do not want to be governed by global corporations which have far too much influence on our governments.

Globalisation is a process of homogenisation. We do not want to be mixed together until we are all the same tiny digits in the corporate balance sheet. We want to be different, and we want to market that difference. We want our contributions to the world to be recognised as ours, not swallowed up by some greater, faceless state.

Let me make it clear – I am English. I am British in the sense of belonging (as did my ancestors) to the British Isles, which is not a nation but a geographic location, a part of which is England. I come from a place, not a political entity. And I am definitely not United Kingdom-ish. I have huge loyalty to my land but little in the way of political “patriotism”.

When I visit Wales or Scotland I am conscious of entering countries separate from mine, full of Welsh and Scots – not Brits. We define ourselves as Welsh, Scottish or English. We belong to countries with different accents, idioms and languages, different histories and cultures, legends and customs, and ways of thinking and perception. And I love it that way.

Therefore I respect the fact that many Scots want to return to being independent of the United Kingdom – not that any of our ancestors got to vote on the issue of being “United” back in the 17th century. I also respect the fact that the Scots are holding a referendum on whether to regain their independence from Westminster, and that it is their referendum, not mine.

There’s another thing. Although it has not been openly said, is it really Westminster that many Scots feel the need to separate themselves from? Because there are quite a lot of us English folk who feel the same!

But as an Englishwoman, I am ashamed of some of the arguments put forward by the “Better Together” camp. That title for a start. And the launch of Better Together was used by ex-Chancellor Alistair Darling, himself a Scotsman, to make much of the fact that an independent Scotland would “lose its standing in the world”.

Even worse, a diminished United Kingdom would lose its “clout”. Very important, clout is, to self-important politicians. They don’t get to interfere in other countries’ affairs, something that other countries might consider a good thing.

How tediously long is the list of what Scotland would lose if it cut its ties with England. Oh yes. It is England that is all-important. Little mention is made of Wales or Northern Ireland, but then they are not host to Westminster or the “financial capital of the world”.

Better Together said Scotland can’t be part of the EU. Why not? They can easily apply for membership or is Westminster going to have a hissy-fit and veto their entry? But the ex-head of the EU Commission Jose Manuel Barroso said “it would be extremely difficult”…






Michael Smith

Michael Smith. Photograph: Australian Associated Press

2GB management cancels guest slot for former 2UE star Michael Smith after comment on Ben Fordham show

A Sydney radio presenter has been told he will not be filling in a guest slot on 2GB after he called the prophet Muhammad a paedophile.

The former 2UE presenter Michael Smith made the comments on Thursday during his regular guest spot with 2GB host Ben Fordham.

Smith was discussing the recent controversy about a talk the Festival of Dangerous Ideas had booked, and later cancelled, with a Muslim activist, titled “Honour killings are morally justified”.

He compared the festival’s invitation to Uthman Badar to asking the leader of the Ku Klux Klan to speak and said the founder of Islam was “… a man who promoted the idea that it was OK to marry a six-year-old and consummate the marriage when the little girl was nine”.

The broadcaster had been due to fill in for the afternoon presenter Chris Smith from Monday for three weeks. However, on Saturday he wrote on his website that 2GB’s program director, David Kidd, had telephoned and cancelled the booking, telling him he could not “call a deity a paedophile”. Smith added: “Just for the record, Muhammad was a man, a prophet – but not a deity.”

Smith pointed out that he had made similar comments on 2UE in 2011 and had been acquitted of a complaint of inciting hatred, and of factual inaccuracy, by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.

Smith said on his website that he stood by his comments.




by Mike Ulanski

The following account has been generously contributed by The Prepper Project.


When it hit, it wasn’t like the movies, there were no zombies. It wasn’t World War III, and the attack itself was barely visible. The aftermath, however, was far worse than any Hollywood movie could ever portray. A weakened world economy paved the way for what would become known as worst rash of cyber terrorism in the history of the human race. With a crippling national deficit and costly military actions, coupled with a plummeting G.D.P. from the mass exodus of American jobs to foreign markets, the United States government couldn’t afford the best and brightest computer scientists anymore. Unfortunately for America, and the rest of the world, the ones who could afford the top minds in computer science were also the ones who wished to cause harm – to disrupt the free world, and use the power of technology to their own selfish ends.

Drug lords, terrorist groups, extremists – the people who made their money illegally had plenty of it. Shootings and bombings had suddenly become obsolete once the enemies of the free world acquired the power to attack and wreak havoc using computers. It started small enough; identity theft on a mass scale, attacks on credit card companies, border control databases, city surveillance, but then they crashed Wall Street. After that, things got worse and worse, government documents were stolen and sold on the black market, attacks were made on power grids and municipalities, the very infrastructure of America and major cities around the world were beginning to lose stability. By the time they began accessing military operational commands via the Pentagon mainframe, governments around the world had no choice but to take it all out and attempt to start over.

Without warning, the government detonated massive E.M.P. devices in every major city. America first, then most of Europe, Asia, and onward, each continent going dark, city by city, like falling dominoes. Within a week, there wasn’t a single inhabited area on the planet that hadn’t had its electronics fried by the devices. All of the technology, vehicles, and machines that relied on electricity had become nothing more than empty useless shells of a once prosperous and advanced society, and the world as it was known was completely and devastatingly changed.

Jason Jones was a man who paid attention. A veteran with twenty-two months of service in both Iraq and Afghanistan, he was no stranger to the chaos and violence that existed in his fellow man, no stranger to the atrocities men were capable of when the conditions were right. As each day’s news reports poured in, telling of the continuing cyber attacks and growing instability around the country in the months leading up to what had been dubbed “Dark Dawn”, Jason knew better than to trust the talking heads and politicians who assured everyone that everything was under control.

He loved his country, and his countrymen, he’d proven that by earning his decorations in combat, including two silver stars for bravery, and the purple heart for taking three shards of shrapnel in his right leg from an I.E.D.. But he also loved his family, and knew that there could come a time when the systems in place to keep them safe would fail. It was this love for his two sons Jim and Dale, his wife Patricia and his young daughter Cathy that pushed Jason to prepare, to become self-reliant, to ignore the mutterings from his neighbors about paranoia and overzealous behavior and to plan for what he hoped would never happen…







map preview

Upon declaring a caliphate, the Sunni militants proclaimed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (bottom right) the leader of the world’s Muslims under his new name Caliph Ibrahim. Drawing up an ambitious map of the regions they hope to control within five years (main image) – including Spain and the Balkan states as well as the Middle East and North Africa – ISIS demanded allegiance from Muslims around the world, prompting some, including a group allegedly in the Netherlands (top right), to use social media to show their support.

. Sunni militants have announced formation of Islamic state in Middle East
. They demand Muslims around the world swear allegiance to the caliphate
. Claim leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi now has authority over all Muslims
. Group has also now changed its name from ISIS to just the Islamic State
. Announcement described as ‘most significant development in international jihadism since 9/11’.

By John Hall

ISIS has formally declared the establishment of a caliphate, or Islamic state, in the vast stretches of the Middle East that have fallen under its control, and has outlined a vision to expand into Europe.

The announcement was described as the ‘most significant development in international jihadism since 9/11’.

Upon declaring a caliphate, the Sunni militants – whose brutality in attempting to establish control in Iraq and Syria has been branded too extreme even by Al Qaeda – demanded allegiance from Muslims around the world.

With brutal efficiency, ISIS has carved out a large chunk of territory that has effectively erased the border between Iraq and Syria and laid the foundations of its proto-state.

The announcement, made on the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, could trigger a wave of infighting among Sunni extremist factions that have until now formed a loose rebel alliance.

A spokesman for ISIS declared the group’s chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as the leader of the new caliphate, or Islamic state, and called on Muslims everywhere, not just those in areas under the organization’s control, to swear loyalty to him…

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by Ooi Kee Beng

Islam has no centralized controls; any power-hungry despot can use religion as an excus

The world is wrestling with a variety of events, all classed under the name of Islam.

A storm of social media criticism against the shocking kidnapping by the militant Boko Haram of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria, eventually prompted countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Israel and Canada to offer military and intelligence aid to Nigeria.

At the same time, a spontaneous and celebrity-led boycott of top hotels in Hollywood owned by the Sultan of Brunei, though not expected to be effective, is underway after the little Southeast Asian kingdom initiated a staggered implementation of hudud punishments, which would eventually include stoning adulterers to death.

While the two events are not connected, both help fuel a perception of a deep polarization between ways regarded as “Islamic” and those that are not.

Two related dynamics are involved, which if left undiscussed may inflame international relations for decades to come. The first has to do with the excessive use of “Islam” in denoting as many aspects of daily life as possible. With Islam being a holistic religion, modern leaders of Muslim-majority societies tend to encourage the description of as many aspects as possible of modern life under a restrictive Islamic paradigm. Regrettably, this tendency mirrors and sustains the simultaneous propensity of non-Muslims to regard Muslim societies as being steered by a rigid religious ideology.

Second, the sense of besiegement felt in Muslim societies since the fall of the Ottoman Empire has discouraged public criticism among Muslims of any aspect of culture their society has already labeled Islamic. This is avoided especially in contexts involving non-Muslims. Again, matters are exacerbated by a growing propensity of non-Muslims to vex unfavorably on Islamic culture.

Typically, the international assistance being given to Nigeria in the search for the schoolgirls does not include Muslim countries. This is a pity and is symptomatic of the treacherous Islam-versus-the-rest paradigm the world has created and of the two dynamics mentioned above

Historically, effective resistance to excessive Islamization in Muslim-majority countries has often been headed by the military, as champions of secularism. This has been obvious in the modern history of the Middle East.

Where monarchies have reigned, Islam’s role has been harder to predict. And so in Brunei, a stable country living off oil wells, the sudden implementation of hudud has left many baffled. The government has suppressed social media response against the sudden imposition of hudud. Whether the whole exercise is simply the whim of an autocrat or long-term strategic politics is too early to determine.

In nations where Muslims comprise a small majority of the population, the role of Islam has been more undecided. In Malaysia, where about 60 percent are Muslims, the trend has been towards a homogenizing of Islam and a strengthening of the religious bureaucracy. The incessant drawing of an effective line to separate Muslims from non-Muslims has over the last 40 years also precipitated the painful erasure of healthy distinctions among the Muslims themselves.

This is an unfortunate historical change. A common understanding about the spread of Islam in Southeast Asia since the 14th century is that it was largely peaceful and commerce-driven. In a wish to attract the Arab and other Muslim merchants who then dominated oceanic traffic, port rulers became Muslims…





By: Rocco Pendola

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Get a load of this visual, courtesy of the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA), via Digital Music News:

That’s a breakdown of total music industry revenues. And it’s nothing short of what my headline says … a “collapse” that is “devastating.” No click bait hyperbole here, brother. Just plain fact.

And it’s plain fact I’ve been riffing on ever since I started writing on the broad subject, as it particularly relates to Pandora(P) and Internet radio, at TheStreet. We’re seeing it play out as Congress listens to arguments from the various sides with respect to how much traditional radio and streaming media outlets should pay to license music.

The music industry continues to go after anybody it thinks it can make a case against. It argues Pandora and Internet radio doesn’t pay enough. It claims — suddenly — that it’s unfair that broadcast radio has never paid a performance royalty. Executives from the various cogs of the music industrial complex would sell their mothers out, to a person, if it keeps them from having to face up to their own ineptitude. To the fact that they — not Pandora, not traditional radio — created the mess they’re in.

I get into some detail in February’s Apple Hosed the Music Industry. But, yes, in the shell of a nut, the record labels and other key industry factions sat back and let Apple(AAPL) do the hosing. They allowed Steve Jobs to crush the $15 CD sale in favor of $0.99 a la carte downloads. Even as it was clear they were losing money on that deal, they sat somehow fat and happy with that arrangement. As downloads showed signs of fading, they allowed streaming radio pioneers, particularly Pandora, to take the driver’s seat.

There was never any action taken by the music industry to right its own ship. To look at its outdated landscape and take reflective/proactive action to alter it. Music industry brass remained static and went on a campaign — that’s in full steam today — to blame everybody but themselves for their problems.

The music industrial complex didn’t build it own platforms to distribute the music it owns and/or controls. It didn’t take its own streaming media platforms (the ones it didn’t build) and partner meaningfully with others to harness the power of music preference and other music-related data to create and perpetuate new, robust and forward-looking lines of revenue. Outside of a few visionary individuals acts, the music industry didn’t move to monetize touring and merchandise in the dynamic ways necessary to make up for rapidly declining physical sales and downloads and the lower payout rates from streaming radio. It sat back and committed itself to the blame game.

That’s what losers do. And, as the chart at the outset of this article shows beyond a shadow of a doubt, the folks who run the music industry — not the musicians, the executives — are clearcut, over and done losers.







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