March 10, 2014
No irony lost here
The Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Saturday told an audience in Texas that people power is the key to rolling back the power of the National Security Agency and other surveillance agencies.
“We have to do something about it. All of us have to do something about it,” he said, in an interview at the SXSW conference in Austin. “How can individuals do something about it? Well, we’ve got no choice.”
Assange was speaking in a “virtual” conversation conducted by video from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has been confined since June 2012. The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald will appear in similar sessions over the coming days.
Interviewed by Benjamin Palmer of the marketing agency the Barbarian Group, Assange discussed issues including government surveillance, online democracy and the future of the internet.
On life within the embassy, he said: “It is a bit like prison. Arguably prison is far worse in relation to restrictions on visitors, for example, and the level of bureaucracy involved.” Noting that at any given point there are about a dozen police officers stationed outside, he said: “The UK government has admitted to spending $8m so far just on the police surveillance of the embassy.”
Asked for his views on what governments should be doing, after the NSA revelations, about the way surveillance agencies interact with people, Assange said: “The NSA has grown to be a rogue agency. It has grown to be unfettered … the ability to surveil everyone on the planet is almost there, and arguably will be there within a few years. And that’s led to a huge transfer of power from the people who are surveilled upon, to those who control the surveillance complex.”
@ THE GUARDIAN
March 9, 2014
FIREBALLS OVER CANADA AND NEW MEXICO: March 6th began with a bang. “Last night, here was a significant fireball over north central New Mexico at precisely 00:19:20 am MST,” reports Thomas Ashcraft. “It was brighter than the full Moon and shook houses from its sonic boom.” Ashcraft operates a fireball camera and forward-scatter meteor radar at his private observatory near Santa Fe. Turn up the volume and play the movie he recorded.
Approximately two hours later, a similar fireball streaked over Yellowknife, Canada, exploding so brightly that the flash turned the night sky blue.
March 8, 2014
There should be, one might think, a note of triumph or at least quiet satisfaction in Muraco Kyashna-tocha’s voice. Her patient-based cooperative in north Seattle dispenses medical marijuana to treat seizures, sleeplessness and other maladies. And with the state gearing up to open its first stores selling legal marijuana for recreational use, the drug she has cultivated, provided to patients and used herself for years seems to be barreling toward the mainstream.
But her one-word summary of the outlook for medical marijuana is anything but sunny: “Disastrous,” she said, standing in her shop, Green Buddha, which she fears she will soon have to close.
The legalization of recreational marijuana for adults in Washington, approved by voters in 2012 and now being phased in, is proving an unexpectedly anxious time for the users, growers and dispensers of medical marijuana, who came before and in many ways blazed the trail for marijuana’s broader acceptance.
March 7, 2014
Doc, dressed to kill
March 6, 2014
Sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) scrub the flight deck to decontaminate it while the ship is operating off the coast of Japan
Sixty years ago this week, a misfired hydrogen bomb test plastered with lethal radiation the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryu Maru—“Lucky Dragon”—and its 23-man crew. The March 1, 1954, test, code-named Castle Bravo, spewed a deadly ash cloud into wrongly predicted winds, contaminating a huge swath of the Pacific Ocean.
The Dragon’s crew fell ill with burns, hair loss, joint pain, nausea, headaches and other ailments diagnosed by medical experts as acute radiation syndrome. Radio operator Aikichi Kuboyama died six months later at the age of 40, praying that he would be “the last victim of an atomic or hydrogen bomb.” Liver cancer eventually killed more than a quarter of the crew.
The ship’s radioactive tuna catch was banned from American fish markets, but a massive public uproar erupted when some was sold in Japan.
Marshall Islanders trapped in the fallout also suffered a terrible wave of disease, including an epidemic of birth defects and malformations. According to Robert Alvarez, an expert who served for six years as a senior official in the Energy Department, parts of the downwind atoll Rongelap remain uninhabitable to this day.
March 5, 2014
“Do as I say not as I do”
Hellfire Missile Strikes Yemen Playground 7 Dead, 14 Wounded
The vast bulk of the commentary issuing from American commentators about the Russian military action in Ukraine involves condemning exactly that which they routinely advocate and which the U.S. itself routinely does. So suffocating is the resulting stench that those who played leading roles in selling the public the attack on Iraq and who are still unrepentant about it, such as David “Axis of Evil/The Right Man” Frum, have actually become the leading media voices condemning Russia on the ground that it is wrong to invade sovereign countries; Frum thus has no trouble saying things like this with an apparently straight face: “If Russia acts the outlaw nation, can it be expected to be treated as anything but an outlaw?”
Enthusiastic supporters of a wide range of other U.S. interventions in sovereign states, both past and present and in and out of government, are equally righteous in their newfound contempt for invasions – when done by Russia. Secretary of State John Kerry – who stood on the Senate floor in 2002 and voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq because “Saddam Hussein [is] sitting in Baghdad with an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction” and there is “little doubt that Saddam Hussein wants to retain his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction” – told Face the Nation on Sunday: “You just don’t in the 21st Century behave in 19th Century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped-up pretext.” The supremely sycophantic Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer – as he demanded to know how Russia would be punished – never once bothered Kerry (or his other Iraq-war-advocating guests, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius) by asking about any of that unpleasantness (is it hard at all for you to sermonize against invasions of sovereign countries given, you know, how often you yourself support them?)
American invasions and occupations of nations halfway around the world are perfectly noble, but Russian interference in a part of a country right on its border is the supreme act of lawless, imperial aggression. Few things are worse than watching America’s militarists, invasion-and-occupying-justifiers, regime-change enthusiasts, drone-lovers, and supporters of its various “kinetic military actions” self-righteously wrap themselves in the banner of non-intervention, international law and respect for sovereignty. Does anyone take those denunciations seriously outside of the class of western elites who disseminate them?
@ THE INTERCEPT
March 4, 2014
The über rich are full of ideas. Not ideas to help humanity, unfortunately. They’ve thought up new ways to help themselves grab more money and power at our expense.
Take Tom Perkins. He’s one of a growing number of the put-upon rich — billionaires who grabbed a fabulous fortune by hook or crook but now complain that they are victims of a “rising tide of hatred.”
Yet, even though he candidly concedes that he lives a life of vulgar excess, Perkins wrote a sob-story letter to the editor The Wall Street Journal published in January. In it, he pleaded for relief from the “war on the American 1 percent, namely the ‘rich.’”Excuse me, Tom, but the words “billionaire” and “victim” aren’t a natural pairing.
Jim Hightower @ NOC