Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Is Big Pharma testing your meds on homeless people?

How the destitute and the mentally ill are being used as human lab rats

Two years ago, on a gray January afternoon, I visited the Ridge Avenue homeless shelter in Philadelphia. I was looking for poor people who had been paid to test experimental drugs. The streets outside the shelter were lined with ruined buildings and razor wire, and a pit bull barked behind a chain-link fence. A young guy was slumped on the curb, glassy-eyed and shaky. My guide, a local mental health activist named Connie Schuster, asked the guy if he was okay, but he didn’t answer. “My guess is heroin,” she said.

We arrived at the shelter, where a security guard was patting down residents for weapons. It didn’t take long for the shelter employees to confirm that some of the people living there were taking part in research studies. They said that the studies are advertised in local newspapers, and that recruiters visit the shelter. “They’ll give you a sheet this big filled with pills,” a resident in the shelter’s day room told me the next day, holding up a large notebook. He had volunteered for two studies. He pointed out a stack of business cards on a desk next to us; they had been left by a local study recruiter. As we spoke, I noticed that an ad for a study of a new ADHD drug was running on a television across the room.

If you’re looking for poor people who have been paid to test experimental drugs, Philadelphia is a good place to start. The city is home to five medical schools, and pharmaceutical and drug-testing companies line a corridor that stretches northeast into New Jersey. It also has one of the most visible homeless populations in the country. In Philly, homeless people seem to be everywhere: sleeping in Love Park, slumped on benches in Suburban Station, or gathered along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, waiting for the free meals that a local church gives out on Saturdays. Full story...

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The US harms its global prestige over Israel...

It is incomprehensible why the United States, which supposedly – if its rhetoric could be believed – stands for fairness around the world, is allowing its client state Israel to pound a small, virtually defenseless Gaza into splinters.

The US’s inexcusable defense of Israel is ruining whatever is left of Washington’s reputation with Muslims across the planet including in Asia. In the midst of Malaysia’s own fecklessness in refusing to condemn the Russians and their allies for shooting down MH17, Mukhriz Mahathir, Mahathir Mohamad’s son and the chief minister of the state of Kedah, tweeted “Western Govt’s insist missile dat shot MH17 is Russian-made. Who made the deadly weapons Israel uses to kill Gaza civilians?”

That message, retweeted by a Malaysian Muslim friend, is hard to argue with. It is certainly true that Hamas started the current round of hostility by firing rockets into Israel. But Muslims across the world are watching as Israel mercilessly pounds Gaza, allegedly, Palestinian physicians say, with so-called “dense inert metal explosives” technology developed by the US Air Force.

According to the United Nations, at least 620 Palestinians have died in the current round of violence, some 75 percent of them civilians and 100 of them children in an area jammed into just 41 km long and 6 to 12 km wide. Its citizens, among the most densely packed population on the planet with 1.6 million residents, are squeezed into 340 sq. km. There is no place to run, no place to hide, as the saying goes. On one border is Israel, on the other a largely unsympathetic Egypt. And the sea. By contrast, 27 Israelis have died. Full story...

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Pakistani mob kills two children including a baby and their grandmother after 'blasphemous' Facebook post...

A mob killed a seven-year-old and her baby sister along with their grandmother, a member of the Ahmadi sect, after another follower was accused of posting blasphemous material on Facebook, police in Pakistan said.

The dead were part of a religious sect, who consider themselves Muslim but believe in a prophet after Mohammed. A 1984 Pakistani law declared them non-Muslims and many Pakistanis consider them heretics.

The incident is the latest instance of growing violence against minorities in Pakistan.

Police said the violence late on Sunday in the town of Gujranwala, 220 km (140 miles) southeast of the capital, Islamabad, started with an altercation between young men, one of whom was an Ahmadi accused of posting "objectionable material".

"Later, a crowd of 150 people came to the police station demanding the registration of a blasphemy case against the accused," said one police officer who declined to be identified.

 "As police were negotiating with the crowd, another mob attacked and started burning the houses of Ahmadis." Full story...

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Thousands of women, accused of sorcery, tortured and executed in Indian witch hunts...

If it began like the others, the first sign that Saraswati Devi would be murdered was an accusation delivered to a shaman. Perhaps she had offended someone. Perhaps someone had fallen sick and had wondered why. Perhaps a community well had suddenly dried and someone needed blaming. Perhaps they chose her because Devi was lower caste, because she was a woman, and because they’d probably get away with it.

The killers came for her on Saturday. Two of her sons tried to save her, but couldn’t and were beaten. Their punishment wouldn’t match Devi’s. Before the 14 villagers inflicted injuries so severe they would claim her life, they “forced her to consume human excreta,” police told the Hindustan Times.

Though shocking by nearly any standard, the murder was not unique. It was not even uncommon in pockets of rural India.

In places where superstition and vigilantism overlap and small rumors can turn deadly, nearly 2,100 people accused of witchcraft have been killed between 2000 and 2012, according to crime records gathered by the Indian newspaper Mint. Others placed the number at 2,500; others higher still. “Like the proverbial tip of a very deep iceberg, available data hides much of the reality of a problem that is deeply ingrained in society,” according to New Delhi-based Partners for Law in Development. “It is only the most gruesome cases that are reported — most cases of witch-hunting go unreported and unrecorded.” Full story...

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Qatar World Cup: migrants wait a year to be paid for building offices...

Exclusive Migrant workers who built luxury offices used by Qatar's 2022 football World Cup organisers have told the Guardian they have not been paid for more than a year and are now working illegally from cockroach-infested lodgings.

Officials in Qatar's Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy have been using offices on the 38th and 39th floors of Doha's landmark al-Bidda skyscraper – known as the Tower of Football – which were fitted out by men from Nepal, Sri Lanka and India who say they have not been paid for up to 13 months' work.

The project, a Guardian investigation shows, was directly commissioned by the Qatar government and the workers' plight is set to raise fresh doubts over the autocratic emirate's commitment to labour rights as construction starts this year on five new stadiums for the World Cup.

The offices, which cost £2.5m to fit, feature expensive etched glass, handmade Italian furniture, and even a heated executive toilet, project sources said. Yet some of the workers have not been paid, despite complaining to the Qatari authorities months ago and being owed wages as modest as £6 a day.

By the end of this year, several hundred thousand extra migrant workers from some of the world's poorest countries are scheduled to have travelled to Qatar to build World Cup facilities and infrastructure. The acceleration in the building programme comes amid international concern over a rising death toll among migrant workers and the use of forced labour. Full story...

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

New information provides new questions about Malaysian flight MH17

Only yesterday, I wrote an article entitled “6 Reasons To Question The Official Story Of The Malaysian Flight Over Ukraine” where, as the title suggests, I briefly discussed a number of reasons the story presented by Western media outlets blaming Ukrainian separatists and even the Russian government for shooting down the plane were both contradictory and dubious.

Now, on the day after the crash of the flight, more information has emerged regarding the details surrounding what actually brought the flight down. Yet, as is typical in international incidents, the Western press reports simply add more questions to the pile. First, it is important to point out the deceptive nature of many of the Western reports so it can be demonstrated that the credibility of all future reports should be viewed as highly questionable.

For instance, in the late hours of the evening, a volley of reports emerged suggesting that a Ukrainian separatist leader had Tweeted a statement gloating over shooting down the Malaysian flight before subsequently deleting the Tweet.

In reality, the Twitter statement suggested that the separatists had downed an AN-26, a much smaller cargo transport plane, not the Malaysian flight. If those controlling the Twitter account had fired upon the plane, it seems unlikely that they would have confused the aircraft since there is such a difference in their size. Full story...

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Top Sri Lankan politician jailed for killing British holidaymaker and gang raping girlfriend...

A ruling party politician in Sri Lanka has been jailed for 20 years for killing a British tourist and taking part in a gang rape on his girlfriend.

Sampath Vidanapathirana and three others were sentenced by the High Court in Colombo earlier today over the killing of Khuram Shaikh, 32 from Rochdale, the Manchester Evening News reports.

The four were also convicted of raping Mr Shaikh's girlfriend.

Originally six men were charged with the offences but two were found not guilty after trial.

Mr Shaikh died at the southern tourist resort of Tangalle on Christmas Day 2011.

He was shot and stabbed at a hotel while on holiday. Full story...

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Peeling the onion: Almost everyone involved in developing Tor was (or is) funded by the US government...

In early July, hacker Jacob Appelbaum and two other security experts published a blockbuster story in conjunction with the German press. They had obtained leaked top secret NSA documents and source code showing that the surveillance agency had targeted and potentially penetrated the Tor Network, a widely used privacy tool considered to be the holy grail of online anonymity.

Internet privacy activists and organizations reacted to the news with shock. For the past decade, they had been promoting Tor as a scrappy but extremely effective grassroots technology that can protect journalists, dissidents and whistleblowers from powerful government forces that want to track their every move online. It was supposed to be the best tool out there. Tor’s been an integral part of EFF’s “Surveillance Self-Defense” privacy toolkit. Edward Snowden is apparently a big fan, and so is Glenn Greenwald, who says it “allows people to surf without governments or secret services being able to monitor them.”

But the German exposé showed Tor providing the opposite of anonymity: it singled out users for total NSA surveillance, potentially sucking up and recording everything they did online.

To many in the privacy community, the NSA’s attack on Tor was tantamount to high treason: a fascist violation of a fundamental and sacred human right to privacy and free speech. Full story...

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Malaysia Airlines flight MH17: Conspiracy theories start to circulate about crash...

As the Ukrainian military and separatist rebels continue to deny shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, people have been offering their own theories about the tragedy.

One prominent accusation is that Russia attempted to start “World War III” by ordering rebels in Ukraine to fire at the plane.

A pundit on Before It’s News claimed the tragedy was “clearly” an attempted false flag to launch a new global war by the “New World Order” (NWO).

The post read: “The occult/illuminati connection to this plane crash are laid out in the video below and are absolutely stunning as the NWO attempts to start WW3 as their grip on power falls apart as the US dollar dies and on the same day TWA Flight 800 was shot down in 1996.”

Others believe the Ukrainian government was behind the attack but had aimed to kill Putin, believing the passenger aircraft was his personal jet. Full story...

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MH17 dominates newspaper front pages around world, but not in Russia...

The downing of MH17 over eastern Ukraine was the main story on the front pages of most newspapers around the world on Friday. Not so in Russia, where the state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta led with a story about the eating habits of Russians, relegating the 298 deaths on board MH17 to the bottom of the front page.

Other Russian newspapers led with stories about US sanctions on Russia, including the respected Vedomosti, in what was either a strange editorial decision or a conscious plan to play down an attack that much of the world was already linking to Russia.

State television reported the incident, but claimed Ukrainian army missiles shot down the plane. On Friday, Channel One said the Russian defence ministry had spotted missile radar activity in Ukraine on Thursday. More outlandish theories, such as the idea that the plane's red-white-blue colouring had meant that the Ukrainians mistook it for Vladimir Putin's presidential jet and thus shot it out of the sky, were jettisoned after an initial airing.

The Russian twittersphere was awash with conspiracy theories about Ukrainian or even US involvement in the downing of the plane. The boss of the Kremlin's English-language television channel, Russia Today, wrote on Twitter that she despaired of people jumping to conclusions about what had happened, shortly after retweeting an opinion saying that Ukrainian "freaks" were behind the attack but would attempt to blame pro-Russian rebels. Full story...

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UN: 80 per cent of Palestinians killed in Israeli offensive are civilians...

Four out of every five Palestinians killed during Israel's ongoing military offensive in Gaza have been civilians, including dozens of women and children, the United Nations said on Monday.

The statistic was disclosed by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) amid mounting international concern over non-combatant casualties during an operation Israeli officials have said is aimed solely at rooting out militants and stopping rockets being fired into Israel.

It came as pressure intensified for a ceasefire to a conflict that entered a seventh day on Monday, with the latest death toll climbing to 172, as Israel continued its bombardment and Hamas resumed its rocket fire after a brief pause.

The White House said it did not want to see an Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip “because that would put even more civilians at risk”.

 Of 160 deaths that had occurred by Sunday, 133 – 80 per cent – had been among Gaza's civilian population, OCHA said, including 35 children and 27 women. Only 26 were established to have belonged to "armed groups" while the status of another nine men was unverified. Full story...

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Margaret Thatcher 'personally covered up' child abuse allegations against senior ministers...

Margaret Thatcher personally covered up child abuse allegations made against one of her senior ministers, according to explosive new claims.

The Sunday People reports Tory Prime Minister is said to have held a high-powered meeting with the rising star, who was being tipped for promotion, and told him: “You have to clean up your sexual act.”

It followed an allegation that the minister had sexually abused young boys at the home of one of his political allies in 1982.

However the minister apparently ignored the warnings.

It is claimed that four years later he was spotted by police seeking young boys for sex at Victoria railway station in London.

But no action was taken. Full story...

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Why is Europe grovelling to the United States?

Just how independent is the European Union? Given recent events involving the United States and its European allies, one really must wonder.

First, there was the US National Security Agency brazenly tapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private cellphone and, very likely, many more VIP’s in Germany, a key US ally and Europe’s most important nation.

Washington and the NSA shrugged off this horribly embarrassing incident with the usual “well, everyone does it.”

Not true. Imagine the stink if Germany bugged President Barack Obama’s Blackberry. Chancellor Merkel was humiliated but she downplayed the scandal, unable or unwilling to chastise the US by taking any real punitive action – like closing one of the 69-year old US military bases in Germany.

Next, Britain’s Mutual Defense Agreement with the US is up for renewal. This 1958 pact is the foundation of the much ballyhooed US-British “Special Relationship.” Full story...

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This land is mine...

Friday, July 11, 2014

The World Cup spilleth over: as the soccer games end, political ones begin...

The World Cup has spilleth over. With the FIFA spectacle about to pack up its goodies--most of their lucre has already been wired out of Brazil--it's time for hype for the next global spectacle, as the "host" country now tries to cope with its financial losses, intensified social conflicts and humiliating defeat at the hands of the Germans after earlier losing their star player to a nasty collision on the field, and their valiant Captain to a penalty.

On s symbolic level, Brazil's bashing at the feet of Germany using bum rush tactics compared to the Nazi "Blitzgrieg" brought smiles to Old Europe, and pain to a nation struggling with massive poverty and inequality.

In a way, it underscored the dependence and anger that so many Brazilians felt, even as the issues they have raising and marching to call attention to, have all been but ignored by the sportscasters who know game scores but not the scores of life--the great gaps that events like the World Cup paper over.

We saw this movie before, just 4 years ago, in South Africa where warnings of corrupt practices and unreasonable demands by FIFA---to have companies they pick build unwanted and unneeded stadiums, and control all TV rights, among other "requirements"" insuring they controlled the events and made the most money--were lost in well orchestrated patriotic fervor to bring the games to Africa for the first time.

South Africans were persuaded after years of struggling for freedom that they had finally arrived in the big time. Full story...

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Singapore provokes outrage by pulping kids’ books about gay families...

The Singapore government has ordered the National Library Board (NLB) to remove from library shelves and destroy three children’s books that portray gay, lesbian or unconventional families.

The multi-award winning And Tango Makes Three recounts the real life-inspired story of two male penguins raising a baby chick at New York’s Central Park Zoo. The other two banned titles are The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption, which features a lesbian couple, and Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families, which describes unconventional parental set-ups.

The move has resulted in a torrent of opposition in mainstream and social media, the latter largely via the #FreeMyLibrary hashtag. An open letter criticizing the ban has also received more than 4,000 signatures.

“This is a very unfortunate step backwards,” Kirpal Singh, associate professor of English Literature at Singapore Management University, tells TIME. “While we try to balance the conservatives and liberal minded, do we remove anything or everything that gives offense, especially if this offense is quite problematic, quite complex?” Full story...

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Thai government strips overseas dissidents of their passports...

Having failed to persuade foreign governments to repatriate dissidents, Thailand’s junta is now revoking the passports of its overseas critics.

Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University in Japan who has become one of the junta’s most prominent critics, said earlier this week that he had been notified that he is now stateless. Pavin is a regular contributor to Asia Sentinel. In all, at least 10 people have lost their passports although he said he had not yet been officially notified by the Thai consulate in Kyoto. There was talk that he might be given an international political refugee passport, but nothing official has surfaced.

Besides Pavin, Those known to have lost their travel documents include Somsak Jeamthirasakul, a history professor at Thammasat University, and like Pavin an academic critic of the regime; Jarupong Ruengsuwan, former Pheu Thai Party chief ; former Pheu Thai spokesman Jakrapob Penkair; former Pheu Thai MP Sunai Chulapongsathorn; former actor Attachai Anantamek; and Chatwadee Rose Amornpat, the firebrand hairdresser now in London who on facebook and her website has been massively critical of the regime.

There may be more. There are said to be about 15 academics who have been targeted. Thongchai Winichakul from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a former president of the Association for Asian Studies, who signed a letter denouncing the coup, is believed to be among them. Immediately after the coup, a sizeable number of Red Shirts and academics ran for the Cambodian border. On June 24, Jarupong Ruangsuwan announced via social media that he and others had formed the Organization of Free Thais for Human Rights and Democracy somewhere outside the country. He told the Voice of America news service he couldn’t say where because he said it would put his life in danger. Some sources believe the exile group is headquartered in Cambodia, where the government of Hun Sen in the past has expressed support for exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Full story...

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India's PM blasted after budgeting £20 million for statue...

INDIA’S Hindu chauvinist Prime Minister Narendra Modi drew widespread criticism today after budgeting 2 billion rupees (£20 million) for a statue in his home state.

The 600-ft iron-and-bronze statue — more than twice the size of the Statue of Liberty or the Motherland memorial to Stalingrad — will be erected to Indian independence leader Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat.

Women’s campaigners pointed out that the price of the monument — the Statue of Unity — dwarfed the 1.5 billion rupees assigned to women’s safety nationwide or the 1 billion rupees devoted to girls’ education.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who introduced the budget, noted: “India’s performance continues to be below global average in most of the human development index indicators like life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling and even the per capita income.”

Despite the large sum set aside for the project, Mr Jaitley said that his budget would be a departure from the “mere populism and wasteful expenditure” that had dragged down India’s economy. Full story...

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Gaza homes destroyed in deadly Israeli airstrike...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Protests sweep across Europe against Israeli aggression...

Concerned citizens in a number of European cities have staged peaceful protests against Israel's aggression in the Gaza Strip, which so far has resulted in the killing of several dozen Palestinians, Felesteen newspaper reported.

In Spain, the Palestine Solidarity Forum organised a protest in Madrid, during which the participants appealed to Israel to immediately stop its aggression against the Gaza Strip. The protesters read out a statement reminding the international community that 9 July marked the tenth anniversary of the International Court of Justice's decision on the Apartheid Wall erected by Israel inside the occupied Palestinian territories, declaring it illegal.

The protestors demanded "to freeze the partnership agreement between Israel and the European Union; to abolish all forms of military and security cooperation; and to stop all Spanish companies' activities in Israel to avoid becoming a war criminal".

In Barcelona, a pro-Palestine group organised a similar protest attended by several representatives of political parties and nearly a thousand people, who all condemned the Israeli raids on Gaza. The protestors demanded a stop to all forms of cooperation between the city's autonomous authority and Israel over the latter's "aggressiveness".

The Spanish Foreign Ministry has warned its citizens planning to travel to Israel or Palestine to take full caution. Full story...

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Vaccine ingredients and vaccine secrets...

There has been much recent concern regarding giving vaccines to children and the related side effects. Particularly concerning is the link between early childhood vaccines and autism. What follows will be a list of known ingredients inside vaccines, and their documented side effects. It will aid you in making informed decisions, which is something that the industry seems to be against. The corporations involved have attempted to suppress this information for decades. Readers are advised that there are additional chemicals and toxins not mentioned, because we had to base this list upon ingredients that are already public knowledge. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has made every attempt to suppress the disclosure of vaccine ingredients, much of the information herein was released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

The connection to autism has already been repeatedly established, and there are many other conditions caused by vaccines. Permanent paralysis (Guillain Barré syndrome) is surprisingly common, for instance. Vaccines are said to prevent certain diseases. However, the chance of catching these diseases is incredibly remote, and the horrid side effects from vaccines are so common that vaccines overall cause much more harm than good. The chance that a particular vaccine will actually offer protection varies between 35% and 90%, and almost all of them lose effectiveness over time. In some cases, vaccines infect patients with the very diseases that they were meant to offer protection from, because they utilize live viral strains.

(...)

The live viruses found in some vaccines are frequently said to be killed, inactivated, or attenuated. This is a myth. The main method used to inactivate viruses is treatment with formaldehyde. Its effectiveness is limited and temporary. Once the brew is injected into the body, the formaldehyde is broken down: potentially releasing the virus in its original state. It is documented in orthodox medical literature that the "crippled" viruses can revert to their former virulence.

The viruses and bacteria included in vaccines are claimed to be in very small volume. However, these quantities are high enough for the diseases to occur in some people. Most of the diseases that people are vaccinated against no longer occur in the Western world, and only ever result from the vaccines. When they do occur, the vaccine-induced cases are always more severe than normal infections of the same pathogens, and these cases are sometimes fatal. Deaths have been reported in the British medical journal, Lancet, from vaccine-induced yellow fever. A susceptible person may succumb to infection when exposed to only a minute dose, especially when it is injected directly into the bloodstream. Conversely, there are other cases in which a healthy person will not succumb, even when exposed to large doses environmentally. It is not the pathogens, but the interaction methods between pathogens and hosts which causes diseases to appear, and ultimately determines their severity. Full story...

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Germany expels CIA station chief in Berlin over US spying row...

Germany has expelled the CIA's station chief in Berlin in a dramatic rebuke to Washington after its security services uncovered two cases of alleged American spying in a week.

The American intelligence official was asked to leave the country in a public signal of Angela Merkel's fury over US spying on Germany.

It is highly unusual for a European ally to expel a CIA station chief and the move is the most dramatic response from Germany since it was disclosed last year that the NSA was monitoring Mrs Merkel's phone.

"The representative of the US intelligence services at the United States embassy has been asked to leave Germany," a German government spokesman said.

"The request occurred against the backdrop of the ongoing investigation by federal prosecutors as well as the questions that were posed months ago about the activities of US intelligence agencies in Germany." Full story...

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Altantuya Shaariibuu comes back to haunt Malaysia...

Nearly eight years after her gruesome murder in a jungle clearing near Kuala Lumpur, Mongolian translator and party girl Altantuya Shaariibuu is coming back to haunt Malaysian Prime Minister Najib, his wife, Rosmah Mansor, and other members of Najib’s family.

The action is taking place in a Malaysian Bar Council three-person Advocates and Solicitors Disciplinary Board committee that is seeking to determine whether one of the country’s top lawyers acted improperly in helping to force a now-dead private investigator, Perumal Balasubramaniam, known as Bala, to recant a sworn statement tying Najib to the murdered woman.

The lawyer, Cecil Abraham, is a Tan Sri, one of the highest honorifics passed out by the king to praise prominent citizens. Americk Sidhu, a lawyer for Bala, who died of a heart attack in March of 2013, is charging on Bala’s behalf that Abraham, at the behest of Najib, his wife and others, wrote a statement for Bala to sign which said Najib had never had anything to do with Altantuya.

The tribunal is now hearing charges of unprofessional conduct against Abraham. A second top Malaysian lawyer is expected to be called soon before the committee and is expected to say that he too had been approached by an individual close to Najib to write the fake statement, but that he had refused to do so. Although such disciplinary proceedings are usually held in private, lawyers are pressing to open this one to the public because of what they called the overriding public interest in the matter. They might get it. The Bar Council is independent of the government and its top members traditionally have been regarded as hostile to it. Full story...

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

World Cup: This wasn’t about a Brazilian collapse… It was all about German engineering...

It’s seven games, you see. Just seven.

The World Cup takes a month to unfold, and with so many matchups, goals, subplots and twists, it’s easy to forget, from the first game to the final, it is only seven steps.

Germany, the team and its management, understood this in the precise, impactful way that matters, that makes winners. Prepare for each game separately, fashion a strategy specific to each one, then throw it aside and move on to a precision-engineered plan for the next. That’s how they destroyed Brazil in the semi-final.

Before the match, consensus was that it was a toss-up, the closest game on the betting-odds board this whole tournament. Brazil, without Neymar and Silva, was vulnerable. Ah yes, said the deep-thinkers with beard-stroking consideration, but the Brazilians have home advantage, passion and tons of raw talent. Besides, they can play agressively, with theatrical showmanship, to spook the opposition and the referee, if necessary. Gives them an edge.

Even Nate Silver favoured Brazil to edge it. The American statistician/writer, famous for his accurate, data-based predictions about baseball and election campaigns, said on his blog, “Even without Neymar and Silva, the team remains the leading contender to win the World Cup in our estimation. You may or may not agree with the math, but the intuition behind it is this: Soccer is a team sport, and Brazil is a very deep team.”

That, it turns, is so not true. You can keep your data, dude. Full story...

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Woman becomes pregnant in her mouth after eating squid!!!

A 63-year-old South Korean woman discovered that she had become pregnant in the mouth after eating a squid. While this may seem ridiculous, a paper by researchers at Kwandong University College of Medicine confirmed that the story is true and went on to explain just how someone could become pregnant after eating a squid.

“A 63-yr-old Korean woman experienced severe pain in her oral cavity immediately after eating a portion of parboiled squid along with its internal organs,” the study reads. “She did not swallow the portion, but spat it out immediately.

She complained of a pricking and foreign-body sensation in the oral cavity. Twelve small, white spindle-shaped, bug-like organisms stuck in the mucous membrane of the tongue, cheek, and gingiva were completely removed, along with the affected mucosa. On the basis of their morphology and the presence of the sperm bag, the foreign bodies were identified as squid spermatophores.”

The International Business Times describes spermatophores as, “packages that carry semen and other tools that attach themselves to the female squid's body. Spermatophores are adhesive in some species of squid, which allows them to easily glue onto the surface of the female's skin.” Full story...

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Down Under data dump: Australian police track mobile phones the NSA way...

Australian law-enforcement has been exposed scooping metadata from thousands of mobile phones of ordinary citizens, using the same kind of equipment and methods previously attributed to US police and intelligence agencies, like the NSA and FBI.

A US-invented technique dubbed ‘tower dump’ is now enabling Australian police to learn the exact location, established contacts and duration of calls of a chosen mobile device (and its owner) over a certain period of time, Fairfax Media reported.

A ‘tower dump’ receives data from multiple towers all mobile providers using them, thus collecting information on countless mobile phones.

“It’s another example where [agencies] are collecting the entire haystack in order to find the needle,” Greens Party spokesman for communications Scott Ludlam told Fairfax in an interview. Senator Ludlam confirmed that this is the first known case of tower dumps practice in Australia.

This information is called metadata and generally speaking it does not give access to personal conversations and texts. Yet police can make a minute by minute history of where you have been and with whom you have talked. Full story...

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100 million more Indians classed as poor...

An extra 100 million people in India have been classified as poor by an expert panel that has redefined the country’s poverty benchmark, reports say.

The panel, appointed by the Indian government, estimated that around 30 percent of the country’s population --or 363 million people-- lived in poverty in 2011-2012, after raising the poverty line suggested by the Planning Commission, which is India’s top economic planning body.

The report, which was submitted to the government last week, is expected to provoke debate in India where hundreds of millions of people still lack food and housing.

The panel’s findings were leaked to Indian media on Monday.

India’s previous government had asked the panel, led by a former central bank governor, to review the figures after a protest over the Planning Commission's threshold for poverty. Full story...

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Tamil refugees stranded as Tony Abbott blocked from returning them to Sri Lanka...

A dramatic legal standoff in Australia has left 153 asylum seekers stranded at sea after the nation’s High Court blocked prime minister Tony Abbott’s secret plan to hand them over to Sri Lanka.

Mr Abbott has been accused of trying to “disappear” the asylum seekers after he ordered the navy to pick them up and process them on the high seas and then prepared to hand them back to Sri Lanka, the country from which they were seeking asylum. Australia has already handed back 41 Sri Lankan Tamils despite concerns that the move breaches international law and that the Tamils face possible imprisonment and torture.

George Newhouse, a lawyer for the asylum seekers, said the new boatload includes 31 women and 37 children as young as two years old and the group fears “death, torture or significant harm by Sri Lankan authorities”.

“The minister cannot simply intercept their vessel in the middle of the night and 'disappear' them," he said. Full story...

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Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Indian migrant workers exploited and abused in Saudi Arabia...

The lack of effective regulation of visa brokers and rogue recruiting agents make Indian migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, Amnesty International said today in a new report focusing on migrants from the Indian state of Kerala working in Saudi Arabia.

The report, Exploited Dreams: Dispatches from Indian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, highlights cases of migrant workers from Kerala who were deceived about their jobs, wages and working conditions by Indian visa brokers and rogue recruiting agents. The workers went on to face abuse in Saudi Arabia, including forced labour. Migrants reported working 18 hour days, being beaten, threatened and prevented from returning home by their employers.

Saudi Arabia has attracted more low-paid Indian migrants over the last 25 years than any other country in the Gulf region. Every day, close to 1,000 Indian low-wage migrant workers are provided with emigration clearances to travel to Saudi Arabia.

They are recruited to work in cafeterias, supermarkets, construction sites, and guest houses; they sweep streets, cook in restaurants, and serve in households as domestic workers. Together, they send close to 500 billion INR (approximately £5 billion) back to India every year. Remittances to Kerala account for nearly a third of the state’s net domestic product. Full story...

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Australia returns asylum seekers to Sri Lanka: what happens next?

Sri Lankan officials have confirmed that the 41 returned asylum seekers have been handed over to the police criminal investigation department, and will be held for "clarification" purposes, potentially charged or released.

According to Sri Lankan law it is illegal to leave the country without departing from an official port.

A report published by the Human Rights Law Centre highlighted that asylum seekers caught attempting to leave Sri Lanka by boat are handed to the criminal investigation department and often charged with illegal migration and put before the magistrate court within a day of their return.

There have been numerous reports of mistreatment and torture inside Sri Lankan detention facilities, which Human Rights Watch described as a “widespread problem”.

A joint Human Rights Law Centre and Guardian Australia investigation revealed in March that a returned Sri Lankan asylum seeker from Australia made claims of being tortured in prison. These allegations were reported to the Australian federal police station in Colombo, who declined to interview the man, indicating an act of “wilful blindness” on the Australian authorities’ behalf. Full story...

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Modern-day slavery? Shopping mall in Singapore found to be selling housemaids like commodities...

A shopping mall in Singapore is believed to be selling Housemaids as if they were commodities, according to reports.

An investigation by Al Jazeera has found that the Bukit Timah Shopping Centre situated in the South East Asian nation is known for selling women mainly from neighbouring Indonesia, the Phillipines and Myanmar, as if they were shoes or home ware.

Witnesses say women in the Shopping Centre, stand beneath signs such as “Homekeeper” and “Budget Maid” with the hope that a shopper might buy their services.

These maid agencies have the women ironing shirts over and over, cradling fake babies and pushing wheelchairs to show they can care for the elderly, with the hope that this make might them more attractive to a potential buyer.

Others are marketed by racial stereotypes, with Filipinos advertised as being smarter maids, while a Burmese maid is seen as compliant.

On some of the signs advertising these women they say “Filipino and Indon Maids: No Off Day Lowest Pay and Fee.” Full story...

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

The little girl, her dad's day off and Google...

One Google employee has his daughter to thank for scoring him a week’s worth of summer vacation.

A letter sent from the little girl to the Internet giant asked that they provide her father with a day off to celebrate his birthday.

“Dear google worker,” read the letter, which was widely circulated on the Internet Thursday. “Can you please make sure when daddy goes to work, he gets one day off. Like he can get a day off on wednesday. Because daddy ONLY gets a day off on saturday.”

“P.S. It is daddy’s BIRTHDAY!” the letter added.

The company not only obliged, but sweetened the deal. Full story...

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Spying together: Germany's deep cooperation with the NSA...

Three months before Edward Snowden shocked the world with his revelations, members of NSA's "Special Source Operations department" sat down for a weekly meeting at their headquarters in the US state of Maryland. The group, considered internally to be particularly efficient, has several tasks, one of which is overseeing the intelligence agency's delicate relationship with large telecommunications firms. It is the department that Snowden referred to as the "crown jewels" of the NSA.

At this particular meeting, one significant slip-up was on the meeting agenda. On March 14, 2013, an SSO member had reported a potentially damaging incident. "Commercial consortium personnel" had apparently discovered the program "Wharpdrive," for which SSO had tapped a fiber-optic cable. "Witting partner personnel have removed the evidence," he explained further, "and a plausible cover story was provided." According to an internal NSA document to which SPIEGEL has access, a team was quietly put together to to reinstall the program.

The NSA, apparently, did not perform the highly sensitive operation on its own. All signs indicate that the agency had help from Germany's Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the country's foreign intelligence agency. The code name Wharpdrive appears in a paper drafted in preparation for a BND delegation's visit to NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, and which instructs NSA leaders to "thank the BND for their assistance with the trilateral program." It also makes clear that the German agency plays a leadership role in the Wharpdrive program, with the NSA providing only technical assistance.

It isn't clear from the document exactly where the BND and NSA accessed the fiber-optic cable nor is there any indication of the operation's target. Neither agency responded to questions about Wharpdrive. What appears obvious, however, is that the BND cooperates closely with NSA in one of its most sensitive areas of operation. Full story...

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Former Goldman Sachs trader upset at $8.25M bonus, files suit seeking $16M more...

Poor baby.

A former Goldman Sachs trader angry that he got a bonus of only $8.25 million has gone to court to get the millions of dollars that he says his bosses still owe him.

Deeb Amin Salem, 35, claims he helped Goldman Sachs make billions of dollars in profits by betting against the mortgage market and he expected a bonus of roughly $13 million for 2010, Bloomberg News reported.

Salem says that Goldman Sachs executives shortchanged him because he had discussed the firm’s lucrative mortgage-hedging bets in writing and his comments became the focus of ire in the U.S. Senate, according to Manhattan Supreme Court papers filed last week. As a result, Goldman Sachs was deeply embarrassed.

Salem had earned a $15 million bonus in 2009 and had told his mother after her house burned down on Christmas 2010 that she shouldn’t worry because he was expecting $13 million, Bloomberg reported. Full story...

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