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Archive for March 6th, 2012

 

The country has been graced with Mitt Romney’s tax returns. They show that in 2010 the candidate earned $21.7 million, and paid $3 million in federal taxes, for an effective tax rate of 13.9%. Romney also gave $2.98 million to charity, $1.5 million of which went to the Mormon Church. Reuters also reports that Romney closed down accounts in Switzerland and the Caymans that year “after an investment advisor decided it could be politically embarrassing to Romney.”

Romney also failed to sound like a normal human being when asked about his taxes during last night’s debate. “I pay all the taxes that are legally required, not a dollar more,” he nobly said. Didn’t he crib that from the opening line of the Gettysburg Address?

Romney also released information regarding his 2011 return: he made $20.9 million and paid $3.23 million in taxes, and gave $4 million to charity, $2.6 million of which went to the Mormon Church. That’s a 15.4% effective tax rate, considerably lower than the standard rate of 35%, thanks to most of Romney’s income earned as capital gains.

The candidate is refusing to release more than two years worth of returns—wonder why? His father George Romney, who is believed to be the first major politician to do so, released 12 years of tax returns, saying, “One year could be a fluke, perhaps done for show.”

Mayor Bloomberg notes that he “paid the highest personal income tax rate,” which would be 35%. “I don’t even have carried interest or any of those things. I don’t even have a lot of capital gains. It’s virtually none. It is all the income from the company and it’s taxable as ordinary income, and I pay the highest rate, state, city and federal.”

The mayor also told the Times that if it were up to him, Romney would have made considerably less money: “If it were up to me, I would end the concept of carried interest. In every industry there are things that were put there perhaps to encourage or discourage certain kinds of economic activity, but that may not be appropriate today.” Whoa, has Mike gone all Bob Cratchit on us?

So Romney made $42.5 million in two years and paid less than a 15% effective rate: not bad for a guy who’s unemployed. What kind of sucker pays 26%?

source.

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The Department of Defence estimates that more than 19,000 military men and women were sexually assaulted by fellow troops in 2010 alone while serving in the U.S. armed forces.

At least 20 per cent of servicewomen and one per cent of men – an estimated 500,000 troops – have experienced sexual trauma while serving.

In most cases, a rape victim’s only judicial recourse is to report the attack to his or her commander, even if it was the officer who attacked them, and it is the officer’s decision whether or not to investigate and prosecute.

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With Vladimir Putin declared the president-elect, congratulations have begun to come in from around the world, the West included. However, some say Washington is still fighting imaginary Russian demons – demons orchestrated by Putin.

­Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar says that despite that, the Russian people are making their choice clear even if the US is still on a mission to vilify the country.

“Putin … said that close co-operation among the BRICS will be absolutely essential. He sees this as the founding stone of the new emerging multipolar world order …Obviously, the Washington elites won’t like it,” Escobar told RT. “If you follow what news corporations … are [saying] about Putin, it’s the same old thing – it’s a relentless demonization, a personification of evil.”

The journalist explains that all the members of the international community who are not viewed by the West as a part of the “Anglo-American ‘Masters of the Universe’ narrative,” are immediately defined as enemies. It can be any country from Syria and North Korea to Putin’s Russia or Argentina under President Cristina Kirchner, he added.

Escobar refers to a comprehensive article last week where Putin outlined his views on Russia’s international relations and future foreign policy. “It’s a multipolar world, a close cooperation with BRICS, fighting NATO encroachment – which is a very, very strong preoccupation of most Russian voters – and trying to find a place for Russia in this new emerging multipolar [world] order,” he noted.

“Russia, according to the post-Yeltsin script, was … supposed to be a vassal state, like a kind of used satrapy for Washington’s interests. And in fact, Russia got closer to China; the BRICS came up – they start integrating. Russia started to be more forceful among the Central Asian states as well. [Russians] have already forged a strategic partnership with Germany – Germany is investing in Russia, and Russia is selling its natural resources to Germany,” Escobar explained.

All these events, Escobar says, are a nightmare for the United States – and there is nothing Washington can do reverse them.

“Get over it! Putin was reelected. He is going to be there for six years,” the Asia Times correspondent concluded.

His words were echoed by Daniel Wagner, author and CEO of Country Risk Solutions.

“Let’s not forget it’s political season [in the US]. There’s a lot of pandering to the audience and there’s a lot of things that will be said… strictly for the consumption of the voter,” he told RT. “When push comes to shove, everybody recognizes Mr. Putin is here to stay, he has been elected through a legitimate process… And I think on that basis, everything will settle down after the [US] election, and everybody will get down to business.”

source.

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By Amal Saad-Ghorayeb

To all the pro-oppositionists who use Palestine as a tool to legitimize the alliance (intended or not) with Israel and imperialism on the issue of Syria:

The opposition and many “third way” intellectual seems to have developed an acute case of amnesia regarding Assad’s (especially Bashar’s) steadfast position on Palestine and Arab rights. They remind us of the late 70s and 80s under Hafez’s leadership and extrapolate from that period the regime’s current strategic position and value to the resistance axis.

They look at the diplomatic maneuvering Assad made vis-a-vis the West and misconstrue that as a sign of his apparent readiness to sell-out given the right price; they whine about the Syrian Army’s military inaction on the Golan front while forgetting how many troops Syria lost in Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of 1982, and overlooking how Syria’s conventional armed forces are no match for Israel.

Interestingly, these same people don’t realise that the constraints imposed by political and geo-strategic reality have neutralized Hizbullah’s resistance activity since 2006 although Lebanese territory remains occupied. And like Syria, Hizbullah has also prevented other rogue groups from attacking Israel so as to deprive it of a pretext to re-invade. Hamas and Islamic Jihad have done the same in Palestine. Does that make them all traitors? This simplistic type of reasoning is used as a kind of moral cover for the oppositionists who frankly don’t prioritise Palestine any more or never did to begin with.

As for the third way types, this argument is devoid any strategic thinking and consideration of realities on the ground. If Assad was such a sell-out why has he been under constant pressures, sanctions and isolation for over a decade now? As the Seyyid [Hizbullah leader, Nasrallah] advised, one has to look at the big picture for answers: the regime’s political and military assistance for resistance movements (as well as its alliance with Iran) is the answer. We need only look the repressive and religiously bigoted regimes of Arab moderation to find proof of how subservience to the US and Israel pays off in regime stability. For now anyway…

“Why is the Syrian state not pro-Palestine? Because Assad won’t go to war with Israel over the Golan Heights?? That is like Cuba risking their Revolution going to war with the United States for Guantanamo Bay. Get real.” – Salvatore Giametta.

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Undercover NATO troops are already in Syria despite denials from their parent governments, according to a leaked brief from a highly-placed analyst.

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The information comes from a hacked email from leading private US intelligence agency Stratfor, whose correspondence has been released by Wikileaks since February 27. The email appears to be written from the address of Reva Bhalla (bhalla@stratfor.com), the company’s director of analysis, for internal use, and details a confidential Pentagon meeting in December. The consultation is alleged to have been attended by senior analysts from the US Air Force, and representatives from its chief allies, France and the United Kingdom.

Western powers have categorically denied military involvement in Syria’s internal conflict, for which they have no international mandate. But if the information contained in the letter is reliable, a radically different picture of Western activity in Syria emerges.

The author of the letter claims that US officials “said without saying that SOF [special operation forces] teams (presumably from the US, UK, France, Jordan and Turkey) are already on the ground, focused on recce [reconnaissance] missions and training opposition forces.” A little later the US army experts expand on the role of the undercover commandos:  “the idea ‘hypothetically’ is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within.”

Alawites are a minority Islamic sect, to which Syrian President Bashar Assad and his support base belong. For the past year he has battled an insurrection that has united a range of opponents, from pro-democracy activists to radical Sunni Muslims.

There have been previous allegations of a Western presence on the side of the rebels and on Monday 13 French officers were reportedly captured by the loyalist forces.

Despite the commandos’ already wide remit, the email states that the US experts “stress that this is all being done as contingency planning, not as a move toward escalation.”

If confirmed, the information will give ammunition to Russia and China, who have accused Western powers of paving the way for an invasion of Syria. These fears have already been cited as the reasons the two countries vetoed the US-backed UN resolution on Syria in February.

­US and allies wary about air strikes

The majority of the December meeting was dedicated to discussing the possibility of a US aerial attack on Syria, and offers an unvarnished glimpse into US foreign policy thinking.

The letter reports military experts as saying that the US has a “high tolerance for killings” and will not execute air strikes on Assad’s regime “unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Gaddafi move against Benghazi.”

The strikes themselves would be “doable” but “the air campaign in Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake.” All the same, a US Air Force intelligence officer is described as “obsessed with the challenge of taking out Syria’s ballistic missile capabilities and chem [chemical] weapons.”

On Monday, Republican Senator John McCain called for an air strike on Syria, But the following day, President Obama spoke out against “unilateral action”, noting that the situation in Syria was not as clear cut as in Libya.

If the US does end up staging another military intervention, it is not clear how much support it would receive. The French representative said to the author that “Syria won’t be a Libya-type [sic] situation in that France would be gung-ho about going in. Not in an election year.” Meanwhile, Britain would be “reluctant” on the one hand, but on the other is “looking for ways to reassert itself on the continent [Europe]” following the renegotiation of the EU treaty.

This is the latest in a line of revelations from the 5 million emails obtained by Internet hacker group Anonymous in December and passed to Wikileaks, which is currently publishing them on a drip-drip basis. While Stratfor refuses to comment on the emails, it has not been able to refute their authenticity.

from RT

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“Anonymous is a hydra, cut off one head and we grow two back.”

It was one of thousands of micro-messages sent early Tuesday from Twitter accounts associated with the loose-knit yet internationally scattered and seemingly unstoppable hacking collective Anonymous. Seemingly unstoppable because a reign of high-profile assaults on governments, corporations and other entities with questionable connections has become a calling card of a group that has experienced few losses in a checkered online career that has at the same time spawned successful exploits against the likes of the FBI, CIA, SONY and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Seemingly, however, is a word absolutely worthy of emphasis in this instance.

Authorities announced early Tuesday that a handful of operatives allegedly involved with the Anonymous collective and a now defunct offshoot, LulzSec, had been arrested. What’s more, adds officials, is that an alleged ringleader, a hacker who used the alias Sabu over the Web, had been cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation since June 2011.

In all, the FBI announced they charged five hackers in the US and abroad on Tuesday, with a sixth pleading guilty for related crimes. “We’re chopping off the head of LulzSec,” an FBI official close to the investigation told media outlets early Tuesday. “This is devastating to the organization.”

For Anonymous, however, the end is far from here.

The YourAnonNews Twitter account, an unofficial press liaison of sorts for the group, was quick to tweet to half-a-million followers that Anonymous will only get bigger. At a time when authorities are alleging that they have removed the center stone from the Web’s most feared foe, Anonymous is responding that their war is only beginning. The hydra’s second head was being birthed within mere moments; it’s angry, too.

Anonymous says they aren’t dead. It would even appear already as if they are opening up a second front: this time on one of their own.

Authorities say Sabu, born Hector Xavier Monsegur, plead guilty to charges relating to his involvement in the hacking group back on August 15. The FBI calls him an “influential member of three hacking organizations – Anonymous, Internet Feds and Lulz Security,” and links him to Anon-led attacks on Visa, MasterCard, the US Senate, PayPal and even the governments of Tunisia and Zimbabwe, among others.

Within Anonymous, some members of the group add that Lulz Security, or LulzSec, has been an offshoot long dead, though. Since that collective officially announced its disbandment in late June, Anonymous has gone on to do other activities — arguably their biggest and ballsiest ever — without the aid of Sabu, it would seem. In the months since LulzSec stopped assaults under that umbrella, Anonymous has not only forged relationships with the Occupy Wall Street movement and Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks, but have gone after numerous law enforcement agencies on an international scale, the private intelligence group Stratfor and most major entities of the United States government; upon announcement that INTERPOL arrested a few of their own last month, the worldwide policing group themselves saw their website crippled by an Anonymous-endorsed retaliation. “Anonymous is not a criminal organization,” tweeted another popular account, @AnonOps, at the time.

Although the FBI calls Tuesday’s raid a success, Anonymous members are charging that authorities arrested the culprit whose influence extended to a collective long passed and nothing else. The @p0isAn0N account, the subject of a Boston Police Department investigation over tweets related to an Occupy Wall Street protest there, was quick to counter on Tuesday that LulzSec has BEEN dead”

“We don’t have a leader,” reads another tweet from the YourAnonNews account. “A movement against authority without leaders drives authority insane; they cant break down a movement by corrupting the leader,” adds the account.

Not only has Anonymous long attested that no such hierarchy exists within the internationally-distributed band, but they have alleged that one of their own had been cooperating with authorities for quite some time. In July, an alleged Anonymous user raised suspicions of Monsegur and posted personal details of his online. At the time he published photos, family information, vehicles registered under his name and even his home address to the Internet. In an online chat between Sabu and another hacktivist named Virus from this past August, Virus wrote, “I’m absolutely positive, you already got raided, and are setting your friends up and when they’re done draining you for information and arrests they’ll sentence you and it’ll make nose.” Others had insisted that Sabu tried to entrap other hacktivists with money.

Sure enough, six months later that prophecy has come true. Much to the chagrin of law enforcement, however, what’s left of Anonymous suggests that the war will rage on.

Barrett Brown, an occasionally Anonymous collaborator and founder of the group Project PM, flatly acknowledged what many others had hinted at. “Sabu is a traitor,” tweeted Brown on Tuesday. That accusation seems appropriate, given that Brown says his own apartment was raided by the FBI on the same morning, and authorities went to another location to seek him out.

The YourAnonNews account echo’s Brown’s statement, saying that if “Traitor Sabu”is convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 124 years in prison. Why should that matter to Anonymous, though?“Anonymous has no leaders, we will still be stronger than ever. LulzSec has been dead for a while,” adds the account.

“Don’t you get it by now? #Anonymous is an idea. #Anonymous is a movement. It will keep growing, adapting and evolving, no matter what.”

source.

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The mother of a 12-year-old Native American girl reprimanded by a teacher at a Catholic school in Wisconsin for speaking in her native language says she believes the instructor should be fired.

On February 28, Tanaes Washinawatok said that she was not satisfied with a letter of apology sent by the teacher and would ask the Catholic Church’s Diocese of Green Bay in the US state of Wisconsin to fire her.

Twelve-year-old Miranda Washinawatok was told off by her teacher for saying “I love you” in the language used by the Menominee Nation of American Indians during class at the Sacred Heart Catholic School in the city of Shawano, Wisconsin, on January 19.

“What she (the teacher) has done is try to justify her actions against Miranda and diminish the character of a 12-year-old child,” Tanaes said, in reference to the teacher’s letter of apology.

Miranda was also banned from playing in a basketball game for having “an attitude problem” later on January 19, she added.

The federal government of the United States established boarding schools in the mid-1880s that banned the students from acknowledging their culture and language.

Native American students in the United States were punished for using their native languages until the 1960s, and the incident at the Wisconsin school brings back painful memories for the country’s indigenous people.

from PressTV

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