Author Archives: louiszyphire

Torture in America, as upheld by Obama

Yesterday saw the release of the 2004 CIA’s Inspector General Report on the use of torture by the US.  Salon’s Glenn Greenwald highlights the important points. In spite of everything that has come to light over the last years this should be read far and wide.

The IG Report also documents numerous other abuses that have been documented by prior OLC memos, including having waterboarded detainees 82 and 183 times; hanging them by their arms until interrogators thought their shoulders might be dislocated; stepping on their ankle shackles to cause severe bruising and pain; putting them in a diapers and leaving them doused with water on cold concrete floors in cold temperatures to induce hypothermia, etc.  Some of the numerous deaths of detainees during interrogations were also discussed.

The article

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Trouble in paradise – don’t drink the water

Browsing BoingBoing this morning, I came across a rather interesting post about the island of Fiji. Apparently not all is well in paradise, especially regarding one of its prime exports – Fiji Water. The thing that gets to me here is how it is even remotely possible for a company that ships bottled water around the world to call itself green and get away with it.

Apart from that it’s a dictatorship that doesn’t take kindly to people criticising its economic activities, as this reporter found out while visiting.

I sat down and sent out a few emails–filling friends in on my visit to the Fiji Water bottling plant, forwarding a story about foreign journalists being kicked off the island. Then my connection died. “It will just be a few minutes,” one of the clerks said.

Moments later, a pair of police officers walked in. They headed for a woman at another terminal; I turned to my screen to compose a note about how cops were even showing up in the Internet cafés. Then I saw them coming toward me. “We’re going to take you in for questioning about the emails you’ve been writing,” they said.

What followed, in a windowless room at the main police station, felt like a bad cop movie. “Who are you really?” the bespectacled inspector wearing a khaki uniform and a smug grin asked me over and over, as if my passport, press credentials, and stacks of notes about Fiji Water weren’t sufficient clues to my identity. (My iPod, he surmised tensely, was “good for transmitting information.”) I asked him to call my editors, even a UN official who could vouch for me. “Shut up!” he snapped. He rifled through my bags, read my notebooks and emails. “I’d hate to see a young lady like you go into a jail full of men,” he averred, smiling grimly. “You know what happened to women during the 2000 coup, don’t you?”

Eventually, it dawned on me that his concern wasn’t just with my potentially seditious emails; he was worried that my reporting would taint the Fiji Water brand. “Who do you work for, another water company? It would be good to come here and try to take away Fiji Water’s business, wouldn’t it?” Then he switched tacks and offered to protect me–from other Fijian officials, who he said would soon be after me–by letting me go so I could leave the country. I walked out into the muggy morning, hid in a stairwell, and called a Fijian friend. Within minutes, a US Embassy van was speeding toward me on the seawall.

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Goldman Sucks

For everyone not following the ever more grotesque developments in finance. Here‘s a terrific article by Matt Taibbi about how investment bank Goldman Sachs keeps screwing the world.

For starters, how GS is connected to the US government:

By now, most of us know the major players. As George Bush’s last Treasury secretary, former Goldman CEO Henry Paulson was the architect of the bailout, a suspiciously self-serving plan to funnel trillions of Your Dollars to a handful of his old friends on Wall Street. Robert Rubin, Bill Clinton’s former Treasury secretary, spent 26 years at Goldman before becoming chairman of Citigroup — which in turn got a $300 billion taxpayer bailout from Paulson. There’s John Thain, the asshole chief of Merrill Lynch who bought an $87,000 area rug for his office as his company was imploding; a former Goldman banker, Thain enjoyed a multibilliondollar handout from Paulson, who used billions in taxpayer funds to help Bank of America rescue Thain’s sorry company. And Robert Steel, the former Goldmanite head of Wachovia, scored himself and his fellow executives $225 million in goldenparachute payments as his bank was selfdestructing. There’s Joshua Bolten, Bush’s chief of staff during the bailout, and Mark Patterson, the current Treasury chief of staff, who was a Goldman lobbyist just a year ago, and Ed Liddy, the former Goldman director whom Paulson put in charge of bailedout insurance giant AIG, which forked over $13 billion to Goldman after Liddy came on board. The heads of the Canadian and Italian national banks are Goldman alums, as is the head of the World Bank, the head of the New York Stock Exchange, the last two heads of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York — which, incidentally, is now in charge of overseeing Goldman — not to mention …

It’s quite a long article detailing GS’s involvement in every major crisis since the Great Depression. Here’s another thing most people are not even talking about yet. How GS helped drive up the oil price in 2008 thereby giving our struggeling economy another reason to collapse: Continue reading

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The greatest show on TV

HBOs “The Wire” is imho the best piece of american television produced in decades. Fot those already in the know here is a very in depth coverage of the whole series from a variety of angels by Darkmatter Journal.

For everybody else here is a taste:

Here two of the protagonists solve a murder, using only one word:

and another:

The Balitmore slang thing:

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Coffee-flavored coffee

Besides Starbucks apparent lack of a decent workplace, they have another major shortcoming. Considering they are supposed to serve coffee it is a bit funny how difficult it can be to actually get just that. Or as Dennis Leary said it below “Coffee-flavord Coffee”.

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Starbucks – some call it the Evil Empire

Here’s the trailer for a movie highlighting Starbucks unionbusting activities:

Not really surprising. This is what a lot of companies do. The local badboy probably being Lidl.

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MBA = Master Bullshit Administration

Here are two interesting pieces about the role of business schools in the recent economic meltdown. One is a podcast by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National called “Most Bloody Awful”. Here the history of management is examined, which up until about 35 years ago was a craft that one learned in a company by working one’s way up and aquiring knowledge important to this particular sector. While today one buys an MBA at a business school where one gets told that afterwards one can manage everything from a company to a government agency not matter what it is about. Another way of phrasing this is: “People with money buy an admission ticket to a higher paying job” – think elite…

Interestingly enough this topic was taken up a few weeks ago by “Tagesanzeiger” here in Switzerland. Here they asked about the role of local pride and joy the Universität St. Gallen (which was called Hochschule until about 1994 btw).

Der frühere Rektor Rolf Dubs fragt sich in einem Gastbeitrag im «St. Galler Tagblatt», «warum es in der Ausbildung der massgeblichen Führungskräfte nicht gelungen ist, die Studierenden zu einem vernünftigen unternehmerischen Verhalten zu erziehen». «Unbestritten» ist laut Dubs: «Die katastrophale Bankenkrise ist zu einem guten Teil die Folge eines sträflichen Versagens vieler – nicht aller – höheren Führungskräfte bei Banken, Revisions-, Ratings- und Beratungsgesellschaften.»

And more in this vein, for those capable of reading german. Basically they know something went wrong and think they ought to do something, but not too much. Continue reading

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Hollywood ends…

Probably not, but I find myself enjoying Caitlin Moran‘s column at the Times Online lately:

Imagine, then, if the factory of our collective dreams was suddenly uprooted from the West Coast and relocated to, say, Michigan. There’s no Hasselhoff and dolphins there. With Detroit’s average winter temperature hovering around minus 2C, average-sized Hollywood actresses would lapse into a hypothermic coma and die within minutes of landing at Metro airport — compromised by a lack of any subcutaneous fat. Unless their agents had arranged for them to be picked up in a tank of warm water — constantly kept at a cosy 22C — and subsequently transported everywhere in it, actresses would, for the first time in two decades, have to start eating carbs again, simply to survive until spring. These people will become plump, pale and fully-dressed — or, to put it another way, normal.

Those forced to decamp to Louisiana, meanwhile, would immediately enter into a battle best surmised as Bling v Humidity. Remember Jennifer Aniston’s infamously paradigmatic hair? It won’t look like that when it hits the bath-warm, bath-wet atmosphere of New Orleans. It will become simultaneously lanky and frizzy, much like the hair of Ozzy Osbourne, rendering Aniston — and dozens of other hair-based actresses like her — unemployable. Similarly, paunchy males who’ve been relying on secret corsetry to feign svelteness will, in New Orleans’s sauna, be sweated out of their secret in minutes, like badgers gassed in their setts.

A few thousand miles away, and it’s a totally different story for those who move to Utah. For them, living in a Mormon state could prove a useful way of finally, formally ratifying all the entertainment industry’s screwing around — by marrying everyone they have sex with.

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Deutschland zensiert das Internet und jeder der dagegen ist, ist ein pedophiler Terrorist

Ja, bei unserer anhaltenden Wanderung in den Totaliarismus geht es jetzt in die nächste Runde. Unter dem Vorwand Kinder zu schützen und gegen Kinderpornografie vorzugehen, wird die deutsche Regierung morgen ein Gesetz auf den Weg bringen, das es ihr erlauben wird, jegliche Inhalte vom Netz zu verbannen.

Wahrscheinlich schaut man in Berlin neidisch nach Peking und was da so alles möglich ist und will das nun auch hier mit deutscher Gründlichkeit umsetzten. Dabei geht es nicht einmal darum, dass die Sperren nicht funktionieren werden. Es geht darum, Zensurlisten zu etablieren. Danach kann man diese dann in Runde zwei um beliebige Inhalte erweitern. Diese Listen sind auch nicht einsehbar und eine Sperrung ist auch nur undurchsichtig nachzuvollziehen. Und das ist nur der Anfang: Als nächstes geht es dann gegen Whistleblower-Sites wie Wikileaks. Da wird Demokratie aktiv abgeschafft.

Wollte man tatsächlich gegen Kinderpornografie vorgehen ginge das so:

Untersucht man, wo die gesperrten Seiten gehostet werden, ergibt sich ein erstaunliches Bild: Auf der finnischen Sperrliste etwa sind größtenteils in den USA gehostete Inhalte geführt, gefolgt von Australien, den Niederlanden und Deutschland. Von c’t befragte Ermittlungsbeamte betonten, dass gerade in diesen Ländern das Stilllegen von Kinderpornografie-Sites besonders schnell und einfach funktioniert. In den USA dauert es bei stichhaltigem Verdacht ein bis drei Tage, bis das Angebot vom Netz ist.

Vor diesem Hintergrund machte jüngst die Kinderschutzorganisation Carechild ein aufschlussreiches Experiment. Sie verwendete dazu 20 Adressen aus der im Netz aufgetauchten dänischen Sperrliste. 17 der Seiten waren in den USA gehostet, jeweils eine in den Niederlanden, Südkorea und England. Carechild schrieb an die Abuse-Mail-Adressen der Hostingprovider und bat um Entfernung der Inhalte. Das Ergebnis: acht US-amerikanische Provider haben die Domains innerhalb der ersten drei Stunden nach Versand der Mitteilung abgeschaltet. Innerhalb eines Tages waren 16 Adressen nicht mehr erreichbar, bei drei Websites teilte der jeweilige Provider laut Carechild glaubhaft mit, dass die Inhalte nach augenscheinlicher Prüfung keine Gesetze verletzen oder der Betreiber für die abgebildeten Personen entsprechende Altersnachweise vorlegen konnte.

Geht man davon aus, dass die Inhalte zuvor längere Zeit auf der Sperrliste standen, führt dieses Experiment die Argumentation des Familienministeriums ad absurdum: Die dänischen Strafverfolgungsbehörden setzten anscheinend illegale Inhalte lieber auf eine Sperrliste, als sich darum zu bemühen, sie aus dem Netz zu verbannen. So sind die Inhalte für den unbedarften Teil der Bevölkerung vielleicht nicht mehr sichtbar, aber für die Pädokriminellen umso besser und länger.

Und noch weiter aus dem sehr lesenswerten Artikel bei Heise:

Was steckt also wirklich hinter all diesen Hirngespinsten? Wenn es nicht die Bekämpfung von Kinderpornos ist, dann kann es nur um die Installation der Sperren selbst gehen. Das würde bedeuten, dass hier mit einem Vorwand eine geheime Liste eingeführt wird, die man nach und nach um weitere strafbare und unliebsame Inhalte erweitern kann. Die viel gelobten skandinavischen Länder zeigen bereits die Richtung: In Schweden versuchte die Polizei 2007 auf Lobbydruck hin, Adressen der Tauschbörsen-Suchmaschine Pirate Bay auf die Kinderporno-Sperrliste zu heben. Ähnliches ereignete sich 2008 in Dänemark.

Und in Deutschland stehen die Interessensgruppen bereits in den Startlöchern. Dieter Gorny, Vorstandsvorsitzender des Bundesverbands Musikindustrie, hakte sich sogleich bei der Ministerin ein: „Der Vorstoß der Familienministerin zum Verbot von Kinderpornografie im Internet ist ein richtiges Signal. Es geht um gesellschaftlich gewünschte Regulierung im Internet, dazu gehört auch der Schutz des geistigen Eigentums.“ Das ist die mühsam verklausulierte Forderung, unliebsame P2P-Linkseiten auf die Sperrliste zu hieven.

Längst wurden sogar Forderungen laut, nach denen auf die Liste auch gewaltverherrlichende Inhalte und Glücksspielangebote gehören. Es dürfte nur noch eine Frage der Zeit sein, bis auch radikale politische Aussagen ausgeblendet werden sollen. Dann fehlt nur noch ein Gesetz, das jedes Umgehen der technischen Sperre unter Strafe stellt, und die Machthabenden hätten ein perfektes Zensurwerkzeug.

Wer das nicht glaubt, kann sich die Position des Kabinetts dazu anschauen:

Zur Verteidigung gegen diese Kritik schreibt das Kabinett klipp und klar, dass “die Vorschrift auf eine Handlungspflicht ausgerichtet ist, nicht auf einen Erfolg”. Es sei schließlich nach dem gegenwärtigen Stand der Technik nicht auszuschließen, “dass der Zugang zu kinderpornographischen Inhalten trotz der Sperrmaßnahmen der Anbieter nicht vollständig verhindert werden kann”. Es sei aber “bereits viel erreicht, wenn solche Angebote nicht ohne Weiteres zugänglich sind”.

weil:

Leider harken die Medien immer noch auf dem Punkt herum, dass die Sperren nicht funktionieren werden. DAS IST NICHT DER PUNKT. Im GEGENTEIL. Ihr lasst euch da gerade Instrumentalisieren für die nächste Runde. In der ersten Runde etablieren sie Zensur, die nicht funktioniert, aber gerade noch so von den üblichen Mitläufern als vertretbar angesehen wird, und in der zweiten Runde werden sie dann richtige Zensur etablieren, und dann ist es zu spät, grundsätzlich dagegen zu sein, weil wir ja schon Zensur haben.

Noch mehr interessante Infos dazu gibt es bei Netzpolitk.

Warum ist das auch hierzulande wichtig? Meinst du im Ernst, der Bundesrat und das Fedpol wollen das nicht auch?

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Somali pirates fight the dumping of nuclear waste (among others)

Since the somali pirates are all over the news, here‘s a bit of info about why some of them went a-pirating. Granted it’s a bit spotty in terms of proof, but not completely implausible. Anyone have more on this?

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: “Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it.” Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to “dispose” of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: “Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention.”

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia’s seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: “If nothing is done, there soon won’t be much fish left in our coastal waters.”

This is the context in which the “pirates” have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a “tax” on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence”.

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