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Spy agencies fund climate research in hunt for weather weapon, scientist fears: US expert Alan Robock raises concern over who would control climate-altering technologies if research is paid for by intelligence agencies A senior US scientist has expressed concern that the intelligence services are funding climate change research to learn if new technologies could be used as potential weapons.
Alan Robock, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, has called on secretive government agencies to be open about their interest in radical work that explores how to alter the world’s climate.
Robock, who has contributed to reports for the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), uses computer models to study how stratospheric aerosols could cool the planet in the way massive volcanic eruptions do.
But he was worried about who would control such climate-altering technologies should they prove effective, he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose.
Last week, the National Academy of Sciences published a two-volume report on different approaches to tackling climate change. One focused on means to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the other on ways to change clouds or the Earth’s surface to make them reflect more sunlight out to space.
Is geoengineering a bad idea?
The report concluded that while small-scale research projects were needed, the technologies were so far from being ready that reducing carbon emissions remained the most viable approach to curbing the worst extremes of climate change. A report by the Royal Society in 2009 made similar recommendations. (London Guardian)
Monsanto earnings fall 34% after a year of global protests: Company that has come under fire for its genetically modified seeds said its earnings fell 34% in its first fiscal quarter Monsanto said Wednesday its earnings fell 34% in its first fiscal quarter, as South American farmers cut back on planting corn, reducing demand for the company’s biotech-enhanced seeds.
US farmers harvested record crops of soybeans and corn last year, sending prices on those food staples to their lowest levels in years. That has resulted in farmers in South America and elsewhere reducing the number of acres they dedicate to corn. Monsanto said its business was also affected by reduced cotton planting in Australia.
The agriculture products company’s revenue fell more than 8% to $2.87bn in the period, on lower sales of corn seeds and herbicide. Analysts expected $2.96bn, according to Zacks.
The St Louis-based company reported a profit of $243m, or 50 cents per share, down from $368m, or 69 cents per share in the same period last year. (London Guardian)
Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ 1.8m users targeted by UK agency in six-month period alone -- Optic Nerve program collected Yahoo webcam images in bulk -- Yahoo: 'A whole new level of violation of our users' privacy' -- Material included large quantity of sexually explicit images - Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.
In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.
Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of "a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy".
GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans' images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant. (London Guardian)
Nobel winner declares boycott of top science journals: Randy Schekman says his lab will no longer send papers to Nature, Cell and Science as they distort scientific process Leading academic journals are distorting the scientific process and represent a "tyranny" that must be broken, according to a Nobel prize winner who has declared a boycott on the publications.
Randy Schekman, a US biologist who won the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine this year and receives his prize in Stockholm on Tuesday, said his lab would no longer send research papers to the top-tier journals, Nature, Cell and Science.
Schekman said pressure to publish in "luxury" journals encouraged researchers to cut corners and pursue trendy fields of science instead of doing more important work. The problem was exacerbated, he said, by editors who were not active scientists but professionals who favoured studies that were likely to make a splash. (London Guardian)
Climate sceptics more likely to be conspiracy theorists and free market advocates, study claims -- Research confirms previous findings which caused fury among sceptics of human-caused climate change Do you think the Apollo moon landings might have been faked or that Britain's Royal family maybe, just maybe, conspired to assassinate Princess Diana because they didn't like her very much?
How about that other conspiracy theory, where there really is this secret New World Order group with designs on global domination.
Maybe you're up for that other chestnut that has the US government knowing beforehand about the September 11 attacks but letting them happen anyway so as to have a good excuse to bomb Afghanistan?
If you answered yes to any of these conspiracy theories then a new study published today has found that you probably also think the science of human-caused climate change is some sort of hoax and you might think too that there's no good evidence for vaccinating children.
The study, titled The Role of Conspiracist Ideation and Worldviews in Predicting Rejection of Science and published in the journal PLOS ONE, also finds another strong predictor for the dismissal of the science of human-caused climate change.
That is, if you're a conservative who believes the world runs best when businesses operate in a "free market" with little government interference, then the chances are you don't think human-caused climate change represents a significant risk to human civilisation. (London Guardian)
NSA stores metadata of millions of web users for up to a year, secret files show
Vast amounts of data kept in repository codenamed Marina -- Data retained regardless of whether person is NSA target -- Material used to build 'pattern-of-life' profiles of individuals - The National Security Agency is storing the online metadata of millions of internet users for up to a year, regardless of whether or not they are persons of interest to the agency, top secret documents reveal.
Metadata provides a record of almost anything a user does online, from browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity, and even some account passwords. This can be used to build a detailed picture of an individual's life.
The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that the NSA keeps only the content of messages and communications of people it is intentionally targeting – but internal documents reveal the agency retains vast amounts of metadata.
An introductory guide to digital network intelligence for NSA field agents, included in documents disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, describes the agency's metadata repository, codenamed Marina. Any computer metadata picked up by NSA collection systems is routed to the Marina database, the guide explains. Phone metadata is sent to a separate system.
• What is metadata? Find out with our interactive guide (London Guardian)
The new IPCC climate change report makes deniers overheat -- As their erroneous efforts to discredit the 'Hockey Stick' curve reveal, sceptics are tying themselves in knots to maintain denial The fifth IPCC report express confidence that climate change is causing various forms of extreme weather.
It happens every six years or so: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publishes its assessment of the current state of scientific understanding regarding human-caused climate change. That assessment is based on contributions from thousands of experts around the world through an exhaustive review of the peer-reviewed scientific literature and a rigorous, several-years-long review process.
Meanwhile, in the lead-up to publication, fossil-fuel industry front groups and their paid advocates gear up to attack and malign the report, and to mislead and confuse the public about its sobering message. So, in the weeks leading up to the release of the IPCC Fifth Assessment scientific report, professional climate change deniers and their willing abettors and enablers have done their best to distort what the report actually says about the genuine scientific evidence and the reality of the climate change threat.
This time, however, climate change deniers seem divided in their preferred contrarian narrative. Some would have us believe that the IPCC has downgraded the strength of the evidence and the degree of threat. Career fossil fuel-industry apologist Bjorn Lomborg, in Rupert Murdoch's the Australian, wrote on 16 September:
UN's mild climate change message will be lost in alarmist translation.
On the other hand, serial climate disinformer Judith Curry, in a commentary for the same outlet five days later, announced:
Consensus distorts the climate picture.
So, make up your mind, critics: is it a "mild message" or a "distorted picture"? (London Guardian)
The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back The NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. We engineers built the internet -- and now we have to fix it - Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us.
By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.
This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.
And by we, I mean the engineering community.
Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.
But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do.
One, we should expose. If you do not have a security clearance, and if you have not received a National Security Letter, you are not bound by a federal confidentially requirements or a gag order. If you have been contacted by the NSA to subvert a product or protocol, you need to come forward with your story. Your employer obligations don't cover illegal or unethical activity. If you work with classified data and are truly brave, expose what you know. We need whistleblowers. (London Guardian)
New York woman visited by police after researching pressure cookers online -- Long Island resident said her web search history and 'trying to learn how to cook lentils' prompted a visit from authorities but police say search was prompted by tipoff A New York woman says her family's interest in the purchase of pressure cookers and backpacks led to a home visit by six police investigators demanding information about her job, her husband's ancestry and the preparation of quinoa.
Michele Catalano, who lives in Long Island, New York, said her web searches for pressure cookers, her husband's hunt for backpacks and her "news junkie" son's craving for information on the Boston bombings had combined somewhere in the internet ether to create a "perfect storm of terrorism profiling".
Members of what she described as a "joint terrorism task force" descended on Catalano's home on Wednesday.
Catalano was at work, but her husband was sitting in the living room as the police arrived. She retold the experience in a post on Medium.com on Thursday. She attributed the raid largely to her hunt for a pressure cooker, an item used devastatingly, allegedly by the two Tsarnaev brothers, in Boston, but also used by millions across the country to prepare vegetables while retaining most of their nutrients.
The story later took on a different complexion when police finally explained that the investigation was prompted by searches a family member had made for pressure cooker bombs and backpacks made at his former workplace. The former employer, believing the searches to be suspicious, alerted police. Catalano said the family member was her husband. (London Guardian)
How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages
• Secret files show scale of Silicon Valley co-operation on Prism
• Outlook.com encryption unlocked even before official launch
• Skype worked to enable Prism collection of video calls
• Company says it is legally compelled to comply - Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users' communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.
The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.
The documents show that:
• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
• Microsoft also worked with the FBI's Data Intercept Unit to "understand" potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
• In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism;
• Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a "team sport". (London Guardian)
Chechen leader: 'The roots of evil must be searched for in America' • Ramzan Kadyrov uses Instagram to deliver statement • Boston manhunt -- live coverage - Ramzan Kadyrov, the ruthless leader of Chechnya, took to Instragam on Friday to respond to the identification of the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings as Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Kadyrov sought to distance his republic from the suspects.
The brothers are said by friends and family to have been of Chechen descent and to have grown up in Kyrgyzstan, but there is no established link between the suspects and the political situation in Chechnya. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot by police on Thursday night, and later died in hospital; Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is currently the subject on a manhunt which has seen the city of Boston placed on lockdown.
Kadyrov wrote: "Tragic events happened in Boston. As a result of a terrorist attack, people were killed. We already expressed our condolences to the residents of the city and to the people of America. (London Guardian)
Boston Marathon explosions kill at least three -- in pictures At least three people – including an eight-year-old – were killed and 144 more injured, 30 critically, in a pair of explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday. The explosions occurred at 2.50pm ET, just feet away from the finishing line, where hundreds of runners were still arriving as the world's oldest annual marathon was in full flow (London Guardian)
The Filabot will revolutionise the home 3D-printing market Got any spare Lego? Invention by American college student recycles plastic household scrap into 3D-printing material - DIY desktop 3D-printers may be taking off, with basic flatpack models available for as little as £250, but the printing material itself still has a hefty price tag. A 1kg spool of plastic filament – which is heated then squeezed out in layers like icing to create objects – costs around £50, keeping it in reach of only the most enthusiastic hobbyists.
But the home-printing revolution may now be on its way, thanks to an invention by American college student Tyler McNaney. The Filabot brings a miniature industrial recycling plant to your desktop, grinding down everyday plastic waste and transforming it into ready-to-use printing material.
Everything from water pipes to drinks bottles, plastic wrappers and Lego bricks can be fed into the contraption – which grinds, melts and extrudes the plastic into a filament of either 3mm or 1.75mm diameters. It can also melt down failed or broken 3D prints, allowing for increased trial and error, or the ability to upgrade redundant parts. (London Guardian)
Mali neighbours send troops to help French intervention ~ African states agree to send soldiers following French military intervention against Islamist rebels holding Mali's north Troops from Mali's neighbours are expected to join hundreds of French soldiers in the battle to push back Islamist extremists holding Mali's north, a fight that in its first two days has left at least 11 civilians dead, including three children who threw themselves into a river and drowned trying to avoid the bombs.
Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Nigeria agreed on Saturday to send soldiers, a day after France authorised air strikes, dispatching fighter jets from neighbouring Chad and bombing rebel positions north of Mopti, the last Malian government-controlled town in the north.
State television announced that the African troops, including up to 500 each from Burkina Faso and Niger, are expected to start arriving on Sunday. Britain has offered the use of its transport planes to help bring in the soldiers. (London Guardian)
Euros discarded as impoverished Greeks resort to bartering ~ Communities set up local currencies and exchange networks in attempt to beat the economic crisis It's been a busy day at the market in downtown Volos. Angeliki Ioanitou has sold a decent quantity of olive oil and soap, while her friend Maria has done good business with her fresh pies.
But not a single euro has changed hands – none of the customers on this drizzly Saturday morning has bothered carrying money at all. For many, browsing through the racks of second-hand clothes, electrical appliances and homemade jams, the need to survive means money has been usurped.
"It's all about exchange and solidarity, helping one another out in these very hard times," enthused Ioanitou, her hair tucked under a floppy felt cap. "You could say a lot of us have dreams of a utopia without the euro."
In this bustling port city at the foot of Mount Pelion, in the heart of Greece's most fertile plain, locals have come up with a novel way of dealing with austerity – adopting their own alternative currency, known as the Tem. As the country struggles with its worst crisis in modern times, with Greeks losing up to 40% of their disposable income as a result of policies imposed in exchange for international aid, the system has been a huge success. Organisers say some 1,300 people have signed up to the informal bartering network. (London Guardian)
The coming drone attack on America -- Drones on domestic surveillance duties are already deployed by police and corporations. In time, they will likely be weaponised People often ask me, in terms of my argument about "ten steps" that mark the descent to a police state or closed society, at what stage we are. I am sorry to say that with the importation of what will be tens of thousands of drones, by both US military and by commercial interests, into US airspace, with a specific mandate to engage in surveillance and with the capacity for weaponization – which is due to begin in earnest at the start of the new year – it means that the police state is now officially here.
In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes that this followed a major lobbying effort, "a huge push by […] the defense sector" to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds – meaning that you won't necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs.
Others will be as big as passenger planes. Business-friendly media stress their planned abundant use by corporations: police in Seattle have already deployed them.
An unclassified US air force document reported by CBS (pdf) news expands on this unprecedented and unconstitutional step – one that formally brings the military into the role of controlling domestic populations on US soil, which is the bright line that separates a democracy from a military oligarchy. (The US constitution allows for the deployment of National Guard units by governors, who are answerable to the people; but this system is intended, as is posse comitatus, to prevent the military from taking action aimed at US citizens domestically.) (London Guardian)
In Colombia, David Cameron's stance on drugs looks cynical -- The prime minister's belief that the war on drugs is working ignores Britain's complicity in the trade Twenty-six years ago, on 17 December 1986, my uncle, Guillermo Cano Isaza, editor of the Colombian daily newspaper, El Espectador, was killed by gunmen paid by Pablo Escobar and his drug trafficking cartel. He had led a journalistic crusade to denounce the corruptive and violent power of drug trafficking. He paid with his life. The newspaper he edited was bombed and became a target as we lived through the bloody years of the so-called "war on drugs".
Back then, and every year since, I've asked myself the same question: was it inevitable? Was there another way to fight the perverse effects of the illegal trade in drugs?
With few positive results to show from the "war", another way now seems possible. Throughout the world, a serious debate is gaining momentum on the inefficacy of prohibition. Prosecuting growers, distributors and consumers leaves a trail of violence and does nothing to curb the sky-high profits of the cartels from corrupting the body politic and police. We need to look at different ways of managing the terrible social effects of drug abuse, while also eliminating the enormous profits of the illegal drug traffic. (London Guardian)
£13tn hoard hidden from taxman by global elite Study estimates staggering size of offshore economy; Private banks help wealthiest to move cash into havens - A global super-rich elite has exploited gaps in cross-border tax rules to hide an extraordinary £13 trillion ($21tn) of wealth offshore -- as much as the American and Japanese GDPs put together -- according to research commissioned by the campaign group Tax Justice Network.
James Henry, former chief economist at consultancy McKinsey and an expert on tax havens, has compiled the most detailed estimates yet of the size of the offshore economy in a new report, The Price of Offshore Revisited, released exclusively to the Observer.
He shows that at least £13tn -- perhaps up to £20tn -- has leaked out of scores of countries into secretive jurisdictions such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands with the help of private banks, which vie to attract the assets of so-called high net-worth individuals. Their wealth is, as Henry puts it, "protected by a highly paid, industrious bevy of professional enablers in the private banking, legal, accounting and investment industries taking advantage of the increasingly borderless, frictionless global economy". According to Henry's research, the top 10 private banks, which include UBS and Credit Suisse in Switzerland, as well as the US investment bank Goldman Sachs, managed more than £4tn in 2010, a sharp rise from £1.5tn five years earlier. (London Guardian)
Is internet access a human right? As family life migrates online and the web becomes the home of free expression, it's getting harder for courts to prevent individuals going online - A recent United Nations Human Rights Council report examined the important question of whether internet access is a human right.
While the Special Rapporteur's conclusions are nuanced in respect of blocking sites or providing limited access, he is clear that restricting access completely will always be a breach of article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the right to freedom of expression.
But not everyone agrees with the UN's conclusion. Vint Cerf, a so-called "father of the internet" and a vice-president at Google, argued in a New York Times editorial that internet access is not a human right:
The best way to characterise human rights is to identify the outcomes that we are trying to ensure. These include critical freedoms like freedom of speech and freedom of access to information — and those are not necessarily bound to any particular technology at any particular time. Indeed, even the United Nations report, which was widely hailed as declaring internet access a human right, acknowledged that the internet was valuable as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. (London Guardian)
Ecstasy trial planned to test benefits for trauma victims -- Scientists hope to overcome tabloid anger after US trial suggests clubbers' drug can bring dramatic improvements for PTSD sufferers Doctors are planning the first clinical trial of ecstasy in the UK, to see whether the drug can be beneficial to the traumatised survivors of child abuse, rape and war.
Ecstasy and other illegal drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms are potentially useful in treating people with serious psychological disturbance who cannot begin to face up to their distress, some psychiatrists and therapists believe. But because of public fear and tabloid anger about illegal drugs, scientists say they find it almost impossible to explore their potential.
Professor David Nutt, the psychopharmacologist who used to head the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs until he fell out with the Labour home secretary and was sacked, said: "I feel quite strongly that many drugs with therapeutic potential have been denied to patients and researchers because of the drugs regulation. The drugs have been made illegal in a vain attempt to stop kids using them, but people haven't thought about the negative consequences." (London Guardian)
The shocking truth about the crackdown on Occupy: The violent police assaults across the US are no coincidence. Occupy has touched the third rail of our political class's venality US citizens of all political persuasions are still reeling from images of unparallelled police brutality in a coordinated crackdown against peaceful OWS protesters in cities across the nation this past week. An elderly woman was pepper-sprayed in the face; the scene of unresisting, supine students at UC Davis being pepper-sprayed by phalanxes of riot police went viral online; images proliferated of young women – targeted seemingly for their gender – screaming, dragged by the hair by police in riot gear; and the pictures of a young man, stunned and bleeding profusely from the head, emerged in the record of the middle-of-the-night clearing of Zuccotti Park.
But just when Americans thought we had the picture – was this crazy police and mayoral overkill, on a municipal level, in many different cities? – the picture darkened. The National Union of Journalists issued a Freedom of Information Act request to investigate possible federal involvement with law enforcement practices that appeared to target journalists. The New York Times reported that "New York cops have arrested, punched, whacked, shoved to the ground and tossed a barrier at reporters and photographers" covering protests. Reporters were asked by NYPD to raise their hands to prove they had credentials: when many dutifully did so, they were taken, upon threat of arrest, away from the story they were covering, and penned far from the site in which the news was unfolding. Other reporters wearing press passes were arrested and roughed up by cops, after being – falsely – informed by police that "It is illegal to take pictures on the sidewalk." (London Guardian)
Met offer £5,000 compensation to arrested royal wedding protester Adam Moniz, 30, was detained for six hours while travelling to council-approved demonstration for republicans in Holborn -
A protester who was held in police cells for six hours during a crackdown on street protests during the royal wedding has received £5,000 compensation and an official apology from the Metropolitan police.
Republican, Adam Moniz, 30, was arrested by 10 officers and kept locked up in custody for the duration of the wedding while attempting to make his way to a council-approved demonstration nearly a mile away from Buckingham Palace that morning.
His detention was part of dozens of other "pre-crime" arrests that took place around the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William on 29 April. The arrests were later condemned by activists and lawyers as "Orwellian" and potentially illegal.
Moniz, who was travelling alone by train from his home in Southampton had been planning to join other republicans in Red Lion square, Holborn, at an event registered by Camden council called Not the Royal Wedding. (London Guardian)
Memo reveals intelligence chief's bid to fuel fears of Iraqi WMDs: Sir John Scarlett wanted dossier to strengthen case for war The senior intelligence official responsible for Tony Blair's notorious dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction proposed using the document to mislead the public about the significance of Iraq's banned weapons.
Sir John Scarlett, who as head of the Joint Intelligence Committee was placed "in charge" of writing the September 2002 dossier, sent a memo to Blair's foreign affairs adviser referring to "the benefit of obscuring the fact that in terms of WMD Iraq is not that exceptional".
The memo, released under the Freedom of Information Act, has been described as one of the most significant documents on the dossier yet published.
The disclosure supports the evidence of the former intelligence official Michael Laurie, who told the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war that it was widely understood that the dossier was intended to make a case for war and misrepresented intelligence to this particular end. (London Guardian)
About Anwar al-Awlaki, Mr President … In his CBS interview with Obama, Steve Kroft failed to ask about the US's next assassination target – a stunning omission - I wasn't expecting much in the way of tough questioning last night when I sat down to watch President Obama's interview with "60 Minutes". The idea was to revel in the killing of Osama bin Laden. Steve Kroft's questions — all of which were a variation on "Mr President, why are you so wonderful?" — were no surprise.
Even so, I was startled when, towards the end of the interview, Kroft asked Obama, "Is this the first time that you've ever ordered someone killed?" The president blandly answered that every time he orders a military action, he does so with the understand that someone will be killed.
But what was missing from Kroft's question and Obama's answer was the name of Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni-American cleric whom the president ordered killed last year. Al-Awlaki survived a US drone attack on his headquarters in Yemen on Saturday, after the "60 Minutes" interview was recorded. But the targeting of al-Awlaki was hardly a secret – it was even the subject of an unsuccessful lawsuit brought by his father. If Kroft didn't know that, then he had no business sitting down with the president. If he did, well, why didn't he say something? (London Guardian)
How a big US bank laundered billions from Mexico's murderous drug gangs As the violence spread, billions of dollars of cartel cash began to seep into the global financial system. But a special investigation by the Observer reveals how the increasingly frantic warnings of one London whistleblower were ignored - On 10 April 2006, a DC-9 jet landed in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, on the Gulf of Mexico, as the sun was setting. Mexican soldiers, waiting to intercept it, found 128 cases packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100m. But something else – more important and far-reaching – was discovered in the paper trail behind the purchase of the plane by the Sinaloa narco-trafficking cartel.
During a 22-month investigation by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, it emerged that the cocaine smugglers had bought the plane with money they had laundered through one of the biggest banks in the United States: Wachovia, now part of the giant Wells Fargo.
The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller's cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts. Wachovia was put under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering programme. Of special significance was that the period concerned began in 2004, which coincided with the first escalation of violence along the US-Mexico border that ignited the current drugs war.
Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia, though not against any individual, but the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the US bank secrecy act, through the US district court in Miami. Now that the year's "deferred prosecution" has expired, the bank is in effect in the clear. It paid federal authorities $110m in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50m fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine. (London Guardian)
Al-Qaida leaders welcome Arab uprisings, says cleric Anwar al-Awlaki uses online magazine to explain why Middle East revolts are not a setback for al-Qaida - Anwar al-Awlaki's article appeared in online magazine Inspire and appears to have been written before the fall of Hosni Mubarak two months ago. Photograph: AP
Senior al-Qaida leaders have welcomed the uprisings in the Arab world in their first comprehensive statement on recent events, published in an internet magazine earlier this week.
Anwar al-Awlaki – the radical preacher who grew up in America but is now a fugitive in Yemen – used a lengthy article in an English-language magazine called Inspire to explain why the revolts sweeping the Middle East were not a setback for al-Qaida.
"Our mujahideen brothers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and the rest of the Muslim world will get a chance to breathe again after three decades of suffocation," Awlaki wrote in an article entitled The Tsunami of Change. (London Guardian)
Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power Japan's disaster would weigh more heavily if there were less harmful alternatives. Atomic power is part of the mix - You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.
A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.
Some greens have wildly exaggerated the dangers of radioactive pollution. For a clearer view, look at the graphic published by xkcd.com. It shows that the average total dose from the Three Mile Island disaster for someone living within 10 miles of the plant was one 625th of the maximum yearly amount permitted for US radiation workers. This, in turn, is half of the lowest one-year dose clearly linked to an increased cancer risk, which, in its turn, is one 80th of an invariably fatal exposure. I'm not proposing complacency here. I am proposing perspective.
If other forms of energy production caused no damage, these impacts would weigh more heavily. But energy is like medicine: if there are no side-effects, the chances are that it doesn't work. (London Guardian)
An alternative to the new wave of ecofascism By liberating humanity from the compulsion to consume, climate catastrophe can be averted without recourse to authoritarianism - It is time to acknowledge that mainstream environmentalism has failed to prevent climate catastrophe. Its refusal to call for an immediate consumption reduction has backfired and its demise has opened the way for a wave of fascist environmentalists who reject democratic freedom.
One well-known example of the authoritarian turn in environmentalism is James Lovelock, the first scientist to discover the presence of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere. Earlier this year he told the Guardian that democracies are incapable of adequately addressing climate change. "I have a feeling," Lovelock said, "that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while." His words may be disturbing, but other ecologists have gone much further.
Take for example Pentti Linkola, a Finnish fisherman and ecological philosopher. Whereas Lovelock puts his faith in advanced technology, Linkola proposes a turn to fascistic primitivism. Their only point of agreement is on the need to suspend democracy. Linkola has built an environmentalist following by calling for an authoritarian, ecological regime that ruthlessly suppresses consumers. (London Guardian)
BP spill: White House says oil has gone, but Gulf's fishermen are not so sure Counsellors and lawyers are busier than seafarers in Louisiana, as some experts warn that fishing industry will never recover - High tide, and the remains of a late summer storm, and it is hard to tell on this strip of land between the Mississippi and the marsh where land ends and water begins. It was here – in the most southerly reaches of Louisiana on terrain that is slowly sliding into the sea – that oil from BP's Macondo well first started coming ashore, about a week after the 20 April explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. Eleven men were killed when the drilling platform blew up.
And it is here where local people will take the most convincing that the worst of the oil spill is behind them and that recovery is under way.
Barack Obama's point man on the spill, the US Coast Guard's former commander, Thad Allen, said at the weekend that the well no longer posed any threat to the Gulf. Crews will begin the last few remaining operations needed to abandon the well this week.
People here live and die by the water. On a fine day the docks in Venice empty out, with seaworthy boats and able-bodied crew off to look for oil contamination, at sea and in the marsh grass.
No one, it seems, believes the assurances from the White House or government scientists that the oil is largely gone. And no one really believes BP when oil company executives say they will stay in Louisiana for the long haul. (London Guardian)
Bilderberg 2010: Between the sword and the wall The Catalan police are refreshingly friendly. But if the time for action comes, whose side will they be on? - "Do you know how much this is costing?" asked Hannah. "Do you think the Spanish economy can afford all this?" Grimly, the enormous bald detective started deleting images of his comrades with his giant thumb. "Your opinion," he growled, "is right." (London Guardian)
Bilderberg 2010: Why the protesters are your very best friends The people who are being detained, searched and questioned are not playing some game. They are deadly serious, and they are worried to death - The head of the IMF (and Bilderberger), Dominique Strauss-Kahn, looks at the world and declares: "Crisis is an opportunity." He sees the precarious global economy and floats the idea for "a new global currency issued by a global central bank". (London Guardian)
Bilderberg 2010: The security lockdown begins It's midday at the Bilderberg conference hotel – and that means helicopters, riot police and angry staff - The paranoia was riding high amongst the conference organisers. A pair of them talked about the 2006 Bilderberg conference in Ottawa, where the radio host Alex Jones led the protests with his megaphone. "They were very close to the hotel," said one. Another looked shocked and asked: "Did they ever try to attack?" A shake of the head and the answer: "No, but it was very scary." A third leaned in: "This is the negative side of the welfare state. People have enough income, so they can do this – it's like a permanent threat." (London Guardian)
Bilderberg 2010: Plutocracy with palm trees The shadowy global elite is meeting in Sitges – and Charlie Skelton is there, hoping for a new spirit of CamCleggian openness - Police are already stretching their red stripy tape around the hotel, and zipping up and around the local roads in their squad cars, sniffing for trouble. I'm really hoping there's none to find. The Spanish are promising a beach party and an "awareness camp", with political discussion forums and meditation zones. (London Guardian)
James Lovelock on the value of sceptics and why Copenhagen was doomed The great climate science centres around the world are more than well aware how weak their science is. If you talk to them privately they're scared stiff of the fact that they don't really know what the clouds and the aerosols are doing. They could be absolutely running the show. We haven't got the physics worked out yet. - The UN was a lovely idea, but its primary objective was to make sure the British Empire was got rid of. You just can't get all those people to agree. - I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while. (London Guardian)
James Lovelock: 'Fudging data is a sin against science' In his first major interview since the climate-change emails scandal, James Lovelock says he is disgusted by the actions of some scientists, applauds 'good' climate sceptics, and warns that global warming could even lead to war - I don’t know enough about carbon trading, but I suspect that it is basically a scam. The whole thing is not very sensible. We have this crazy idea that we are setting an example to the world. What we’re doing is trying to make money out of the world by selling them renewable gadgetry and green ideas. It might be worthy from the national interest, but it is moonshine if you think what the Chinese and Indians are doing [in terms of emissions]. (London Guardian)
UN report: World's biggest cities merging into 'mega-regions' Trend towards 'endless cities' could significantly affect population and wealth in the next 50 years - The largest of these, says the report - launched today at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro - is the Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Guangzhou region in China, home to about 120 million people. Other mega-regions have formed in Japan and Brazil and are developing in India, west Africa and elsewhere.
The trend helped the world pass a tipping point in the last year, with more than half the world's people now living in cities.
The UN said that urbanisation is now "unstoppable". Anna Tibaijuka, outgoing director of UN-Habitat, said: "Just over half the world now lives in cities but by 2050, over 70% of the world will be urban dwellers. By then, only 14% of people in rich countries will live outside cities, and 33% in poor countries."
The development of mega-regions is regarded as generally positive, said the report's co-author Eduardo Lopez Moreno: "They [mega-regions], rather than countries, are now driving wealth." - In a sample survey of world cities, the UN found the most unequal were in South Africa. Johannesburg was the least equal in the world, only marginally ahead of East London, Bloemfontein, and Pretoria.
Latin American, Asian and African cities were generally more equal, but mainly because they were uniformly poor, with a high level of slums and little sanitation. Some of the most the most egalitarian cities were found to be Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh.
The US emerged as one of the most unequal societies with cities like New York, Chicago and Washington less equal than places like Brazzaville in Congo-Brazzaville, Managua in Nicaragua and Davao City in the Phillippines. (London Guardian)
Airline passengers have 'no right' to refuse naked body scanners Ministers ignore human rights advice and rule out option of pat-down search when scanner goes on trial at Heathrow next week - The option of having a full-body pat-down search instead, offered to passengers at US airports, will not be available despite warnings from the government's Equality and Human Rights Commission that the scanners, which reveal naked bodies, breach privacy rules under the Human Rights Act. (London Guardian)
Airport scanner companies queue for business after 'underpants bomber' Detroit bomb attempt opens $600m opportunities for Rapiscan and other full-body scanner manufacturers - Investors have been quick to spot a rapid profit. One Californian firm specialising in imaging machines, Rapiscan, has seen its shares in its parent company, OSI Systems, leap by 27% since Christmas. American Science and Engineering, is up by 16% and has deployed its chief executive to have his own body scanned on live television. (London Guardian)
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