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Archive for March 22nd, 2012

A US government-contracted private security firm is helping the Syrian opposition to overthrow the Bashar al-Assad regime, leaked Stratfor emails indicate. The same firm earlier operated extensively in Libya.

The private military company SCG International had been contracted to engage the Turkey-based Syrian opposition, according to correspondence released by WikiLeaks.

Their assignment was called a “fact finding mission”, but “the true mission is how they can help in regime change,”an email addressed to Stratfor VP for counter-terrorism Fred Burton says.

The source reporting the info is most reliable – it is SCG Chief Executive James F. Smith, who used to be director of notorious company Blackwater, now known as Academi. In a separate message Smith introduces himself to Stratfor as having background in CIA and heading a company “comprised of former DOD, CIA and former law enforcement personnel.”

SCG’s mission with the Syrian opposition is said to have “air cover from Congresswoman [Sue] Myrick,” a Republican lawmaker from North Carolina, who is a member of the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The body is charged with overseeing the American intelligence community.

The email adds that Smith “intends to offer his services to help protect the opposition members, like he had underway in Libya.”

Smith has an extensive record of sharing intelligence with Stratfor, according the Al-Akhbar, the Lebanese daily newspaper, which is one of the media outlets chosen by WikiLeaks as an information partner for disclosure of private Stratfor emails.

The security contractor provided insider data on services he provided to members of the Libyan National Transitional Council during the 2011 uprising, the search for the portable surface-to-air missiles that went missing during the civil war there, and the assassination of Muammar Gaddafi, among other things.

The trail on email ends in mid-December, days before Stratfor mail servers were reportedly hacked by the hacking group Anonymous. The WikiLeaks whistleblower website began publishing the emails, apparently handed over to it by the hacker team, in late February.

The US has been increasingly dependent on private contractors like SCG, outsourcing functions to them that were previously fulfilled by regular troops. Employees of these “modern mercenaries” provide services like personal and area security, intelligence gathering and recruit training in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Critics of the practice say such firms lack accountability and allow the government to carry out “black op” tasks while being able to deny any involvement.

source.

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National Public Radio reports that the FBI is still complaining about January’s Supreme Court ruling that installing a GPS tracking device on a suspect’s car without the owner’s knowledge requires a warrant under the Fourth Amendment. The FBI said last month that it was forced to turn 3000 GPS devices off when the Supreme Court handed down its decision.

Yet NPR’s reporting suggests the situation wasn’t actually as dire as earlier reporting had suggested. NPR reports that the FBI “scrambled to get search warrants for weeks before the decision, working to convince judges they had probable cause to believe crimes were taking place.” NPR says the government “still had to turn off 250 devices that they couldn’t turn back on.” In other words, they may have turned off 3,000 devices the day the Supreme Court issued its ruling, but they turned about 2,750 of them back on soon afterwards.

In Congressional testimony last month, FBI Director Robert Meuller said the ruling “will inhibit our ability” to do GPS tracking “in a number of surveillances where it has been tremendously beneficial.” Mueller said that in cases where they didn’t have probable cause, the FBI is forced to deploy teams of six to eight people to track suspects the old-fashioned way.

“If you require probable cause for every technique, then you are making it very, very hard for law enforcement,” an FBI lawyer told NPR.

Of course, that’s kind of the point. Law enforcement’s job would be a lot easier if we just did away with the Fourth Amendment and gave the police unfettered spying powers. But that would open the door to abuses of power, so the founders wisely limited government searches to cases where the government could demonstrate it had probable cause to believe that a crime had been committed.

The fact that the FBI was able to get a warrant for more than 90 percent of the GPS devices it had in the field suggests the warrant requirement isn’t too onerous. And in rare cases where a judge refuses to issue a warrant for tracking that’s essential to an investigation, the FBI has the option to deploy its own resources to track suspects with human agents. The high costs of this option ensures that the FBI will use it sparingly. But that’s a feature, not a bug.

source.

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In 2006, Rick Falkvinge, a Swedish software entrepreneur, founded a new political party centred around the subjects of file sharing, copyright and patents. He called it the Pirate Party and it rose to prominence after a government crackdown on the file-sharing site, the Pirate Bay. Since then, the Pirate Party has swept Europe and beyond to become an international political movement, active in 40 different countries with representation in the European parliament.
In Sweden, it’s the largest party for voters under the age of 30 with 25% of the vote, and in September 2011, the German Pirate Party won an unprecedented 8.9 per cent of the vote and now has several members in the Berlin state parliament. Focused on the subjects of government transparency, internet privacy and copyright law, the Pirate Party hosts Wikileaks on its servers and uses new technology to leverage political power in new and interesting ways. In 2011, Foreign Policy magazine called Falkvinge one of the top 100 global thinkers.

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We are told repeatedly that we must all pay for the ongoing crisis that capitalism finds itself in… Pension cuts, job losses, longer hours, worse pay, more taxes, less services, more privatization, bail outs and subsidies for the rich and increased hardship and destitution for the working class and the poor.

This is on a global scale. The debt crisis that capitalism created is being used to excuse an all out attack on those who did not create that ‘crisis’ in the first place.

Capitalism is based on robbery – it is built on profit and greed. The working class built the wealth of this society through our labour. The wealthy have siphoned off the true value of our labour to create immense wealth for themselves. This is what they call profit. They would prefer to leave us with just the bear minimum we need to survive.

This does not always work out just how they would like it to. Through organising and taking action against bosses and government working class and unemployed people forced concessions from them. Higher wages, the 8 hour day, paid holidays, health care, access to free education, pensions. Our combined struggles won all of these things and much more. Now it seems the bosses are having none of that and are stripping us of the little we have fought for over the years to line their pockets with even more of the wealth we create!

In the north youth unemployment has more than trebled since 2008. We are set to lose 26,000 public sector jobs by 2017. With the Welfare Reform Bill before Stormont this month the most vulnerable in our society are set to become even worse off. Poverty is on the increase while the gap between rich and poor has never been greater. The rich continue to get richer while we continue to get poorer. Mortality rates for those living in deprived areas have been found to be no better than during the depression of the 1930s!

The thing is this isn’t a crisis – well not for capitalism anyway. It is simply business as usual.
Instead of continuing to let these bastards rob us blind its time we robbed them! Or rather turned the tables and organized to take back what, is after all, rightfully ours.

from the Leveller March 2012

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Mérida, March 21st 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has urged the Supreme Court and the public prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, to investigate the private media and opposition spokespeople for “spreading information about supposed contamination of some of the country’s water supplies” and called it “war propaganda”.

“I’ve been watching this closely… the opposition’s fear agenda has got to extreme levels…I was watching a right wing governor saying that all the water that is consumed in the centre of the country is contaminated, well, this governor will have to assume the consequences,” Chavez said, referring to the governor of Carabobo state, Henrique Salas.

Last week Salas said that the water plant in his state was sending contaminated water to the central states of Venezuela and blamed the supposed situation for an apparent increase in infected water type illnesses. Since then, a range of opposition spokespeople and private newspapers have emitted various claims regarding water contamination and drinkability.

Private national paper El Universal quoted state legislator German Benedetti as saying that the Carabobo water plant’s “high chemical levels were in order to hide the contamination”. He said the water contained “nitrogen, nitrate, aluminium, and trihalomethanes, capable of causing …memory loss, dementia, damage to the central nervous system, severe shaking, Alzheimer’s, vitamin A deficiency, osteoporosis, and even cancer”.

Ultra right television news station Globovision, as well as others, today quoted Silvana Penuela, an “engineer specialising in water” that “80% of water in our country is untreated”.

Tal Cual’s editorial headline was “Toxic water”, with a drawing of oil, or a black liquid, coming out of a water tank, while El Nacional’s headline was “80% of the capital’s water is in danger of contamination”.

Chavez said such misinformation was a “crime” and that it “can’t be tolerated, we can’t be the silly republic”.

“It’s very serious, it’s an attack on the mental and physical health of the people… a crime, it can’t be tolerated, we have to act, open up an investigation…and the opposition have to show their evidence,” Chavez said.

“This is how fear starts, and that is [media] terrorism,” he said.

Luigina Cercio, of the Carabobo water plant’s board, reminded press that in 2010 a joint commission between the national government and the Carabobo state government (controlled by the opposition and Salas) certified the quality of the water.

“All of the tests carried out…on the plant itself and its distribution networks, showed that the water was in good condition and apt for human consumption,” she said, adding that of the 26 categories, only two were not within the range established by World Health Organisation standards.

The two out of range were aluminium and chlorine. Cercio explained that chlorine was for disinfecting water, something most Venezuelan’s also do by boiling their water, and that the aluminium level was 0.6mg per litre, a level that is “not detrimental to the health”.

Environment minister Alejandro Hitcher said yesterday that now 96% of the population has access to tap water, and 99%, “even 100%” of urban populations have it.  He said that in order to reach those levels, over the last 13 years the government has increased water treatment, repaired water plants, pumps, and pipes and built new aqueducts.

In 1999, according to the minister, “after ten years of un-investment in water” 55% of residents in “exclusion zones” lacked access to drinking water. In urban areas, access was 82%, “but it was a deficient service for 48%,” Hitcher said.

“There was water once a week in Caracas and the inhabitants of El Junquito [a suburb in Caracas] denounced that they were supplied with it three or four times a year,” he said.  However, he added that while water services have improved, sometimes there are “problems with continuity” and for that the government is constructing extra piping, which he said would be finished in May, November, and February of next year, depending on the region.

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The Syrian army has cleared the eastern city of Dayr al-Zawr of armed groups after heavy clashes with terrorists operating in the area near the Iraqi border.

The rebel Free Syrian Army has also confirmed that the army has taken full control of Dayr al-Zawr and that rebel fighters were forced to flee the city.

Some reports, however, suggest that the terrorists are now taking shelter in homes and apartments, using civilians as human shields.

Dayr al-Zawr is the third rebel stronghold to fall to government control. Syrian troops had earlier defeated Free Syrian Army in Homs and Idlib.

In recent days, terrorist groups fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have repeatedly called on the countries supporting chaos in Syria, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to send in more weapons, saying that they are losing the battle to government over lack of guns and ammunition.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have said that they support the idea of sending weapons to anti-government groups, who have been fighting against the Syrian government since last year.

Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi has also said that arming the Syrian rebels might be a possible alternative if the international community fails to end the violence in the country.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March and many people, including security forces, have lost their lives in the violence.

The West and the Syrian opposition accuse the government of killing the protesters. But Damascus blames ”outlaws, saboteurs and armed terrorist groups” for the unrest, insisting that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

from PressTV

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