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Bad Guys

'Torture gear' brochures at world's largest weaponry fair backfire

Anti-arms trade campaigners have launched an unprecedented private prosecution against two defence companies for allegedly marketing torture equipment at the world's largest weaponry fair in London.

Lawyers said that the rare private proceedings were being mounted because state bodies had failed to act on allegations that laws banning the export of illegal weaponry were broken at the biennial Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) exhibition in London's Docklands last year.
Chess

The most powerful individual on Earth: Russian president Vladimir Putin

Vladmir Putin
© Associated Press
A few years ago, it began to look like Vladimir Putin, the man who had been at the center of Russian power since 1999, was finally losing his grip. Protesters in Moscow and other major Russian cities took to the streets in the bitter cold of winter to protest the very convincing allegations of corruption in the 2011 Russian Duma elections. Putin, who was looking to return to the Russian presidency in 2012, was the focus of their bile, and for the first time in years a real, credible opposition movement appeared, in part led by the charismatic anti-corruption activist Alexey Navalny.

At the time, it really looked like Russia was poised to undergo its own Arab Spring, and finally move away from strongman politics to a real democracy. Flash forward to 2013, and that all seems rather laughable.

Putin did return to the presidency in 2012, easily beating his rivals. The opposition movement ultimately struggled and split; Navalny in particular was hobbled not only by criminal prosecutions, against him but also his uncomfortable associations with nationalism. The Kremlin has been able to casually repress dissent, from the art rock troupe Pussy Riot to the LGBT movement, despite Western condemnation. Just last week Putin announced that the well-respected and frequently critical Russian news agency RIA Novosti, founded in 1941, would be dissolved - with a new network led by a notorious reactionary taking its place.

Perhaps nowhere has Putin's new self confidence been better revealed than on the world stage. As Max Fisher of The Washington Post's WorldViews blog wrote when declaring Putin his "Man of the Year," "Putin has made himself and his country unusually consequential this year, exerting Russian influence - usually meager - over some of the most important moments in international relations."
Umbrella

God, a 'psychotic mass murderer' who 'drowns babies' - Bill Maher

© Unknown
Comedian Bill Maher told his HBO Real Time audience recently that God was a "psychotic mass murderer."

He made the comments during a conversation on the biblical story of Noah and the upcoming Hollywood version of it that's about to hit the big screen.

"But the thing that's really disturbing about Noah isn't the silly, it's that it's immoral. It's about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God," Mr. Maher said, adding, "What kind of tyrant punishes everyone just to get back at the few he's mad at? I mean, besides Chris Christie."

Mr. Maher continued: "Hey God, you know you're kind of a [expletive] when you're in a movie with Russell Crowe and you're the one with anger issues. [...] Conservatives are always going on about how Americans are losing their values and their morality, well maybe it's because you worship a guy who drowns babies."
Calendar

Dmitry Orlov on the Ukraine crisis and America's self-destruction

Dmitry Orlov of Cluborlov.com predicts: "The United States right now, from my point of view and the point of view from observers from around the world, is on suicide watch. It's a country that is going to self-destruct at some point in the near future."

On the Ukraine crisis, Orlov thinks: "The Crimea referendum was the first legal way to find out what the people wanted to do." Orlov goes on to say, "In Washington, in the Obama Administration and in the Kerry State Department, we have absolutely breathtaking levels of incompetence. These people really don't know what they're doing and are dangerous at any speed."
USA

Michigan CPS has gigantic secret list of parents labeled "child abusers" without due process

CPS
© Police State USA
No family is safe while CPS is operational.

Hundreds of thousands of parents have been flagged as "child abusers" in a huge database maintained in secret by Michigan's Child Protective Services (CPS) agency. The names are entered into the database without due process, without a judicial hearing, without an opportunity for defense, without a conviction, and without even letting the individuals know they have been targeted.

The list is called the Michigan Child Abuse and Neglect Central Registry. It reportedly contains the names of 275,000 "abusive" parents currently in that state alone, as WXYZ reported.

Most people on the list have no idea they have been put there. They have not received convictions, a trial, or even notification.

"In our constitutional system, they can't cut off your electricity or welfare benefits without giving you a fair hearing first. But in Michigan, they can put you on the black list of child abusers, and they don't have to give year a hearing, and that's written in the law," says attorney Elizabeth Warren.

Getting on the CPS database is like a scarlet letter that can negatively affect the lives of those who have blacklisted. Many good names have been smeared through unproven allegations.

"I can't foster, I can't get a job anywhere, and background check, I can't get a job," said Helen Miller of Battle Creek, who had been unfairly labeled a child abuser.
Red Flag

Separatist battle in Canada rekindled: possible referendum on secession - Will the US declare war on Quebec?

© AP/The Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec Premier and Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois
Canada is bracing for another fight with Quebec separatists.

Premier Pauline Marois today called an election for April 7 as she met Lieutenant-Governor Pierre Duchesne to ask him to dissolve the provincial legislature. Polls show Marois' separatist Parti Quebecois may have enough support to form its first majority government in more than a decade.

"Today, I have summoned my ministers and we have taken the necessary steps to dissolve the National Assembly and call an election," Marois said in televised remarks in Quebec City. "It's now up to you, Quebeckers, to decide."

A majority would set the stage in the French-speaking province for a possible referendum on secession from the rest of Canada, roiling credit markets and threatening to push the Canadian dollar lower.

"If they get a majority, I fully expect they will hold a referendum during their next mandate," said Harold Chorney, a political science professor at Concordia University in Montreal. "Marois isn't going to give up sovereignty."
Whistle

Venezuela: a revolt of the well-off, not a 'terror campaign'

© Jorge Silva / Reuters
A Venezuelan protester poses for a portrait at Altamira square in Caracas.
Images forge reality, granting a power to television and video and even still photographs that can burrow deep into people's consciousness without them even knowing it. I thought that I, too, was immune to the repetitious portrayals of Venezuela as a failed state in the throes of a popular rebellion. But I wasn't prepared for what I saw in Caracas this month: how little of daily life appeared to be affected by the protests, the normality that prevailed in the vast majority of the city. I, too, had been taken in by media imagery.

Major media outlets have already reported that Venezuela's poor have not joined the right-wing opposition protests, but that is an understatement: it's not just the poor who are abstaining - in Caracas, it's almost everyone outside of a few rich areas like Altamira, where small groups of protesters engage in nightly battles with security forces, throwing rocks and firebombs and running from tear gas.

Walking from the working-class neighborhood of Sabana Grande to the city center, there was no sign that Venezuela is in the grip of a "crisis" that requires intervention from the Organization of American States (OAS), no matter what John Kerry tells you. The metro also ran very well, although I couldn't get off at Alta Mira station, where the rebels had set up their base of operations until their eviction this week.

Comment: Comment: The Venezuelan government is well aware of who is behind the protests and is now countering U.S. and CIA tactics:
Venezuela: It's the opposition that's anti-democratic
Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Fomenting Color Revolution Unrest
Venezuela beyond the protests: The Chavez Revolution is here to stay‏
Cold war CIA coup tactics continue to be used worldwide: Ukraine, Venezuela and Thailand are the latest victims

War Whore

U.S. seen as greatest threat to world peace, voted three times more dangerous than the next country in 2014 Gallup international poll

Hat tip: RT
"The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in [war], that we have been detrimental to the life of the [target nations'] people." - Martin King, Beyond Vietnam
Gallup International's poll of 68 countries for 2014 found the US as the greatest threat to peace in the world, voted three times more dangerous to world peace than the next country.

Among Americans, we overall voted our own nation as the 4th most dangerous to peace, and with demographics of students and 18-24 year-olds also concluding the US as the world's greatest threat.
Vader

U.S. empire officials treat foreigners like garbage

US Empire
© Duncan Long
As English colonists living in America understood, living under an empire is not a pleasant experience. Empire officials are inevitably arrogant, pretentious, pompous, haughty, big-headed, insufferable type of people. They believe that others should bow down them, pay them homage, and behave subserviently to them.

American colonists, of course, haven't been the only ones who have had to suffer under the dominion of imperialist officials. Generations of people in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia have had to live under the insufferable rule of officials in the French Empire and British Empire.

And now we have the U.S. Empire, whose officials have proven to be no different in how they treat people around the world. Like other empires in history, U.S. empire officials treat foreigners like garbage. That's precisely why there is so much deeply seated resentment against the United States all over the world - not because people resent Americans for their wealth, freedom, or values but because people are sick and tired of being treated like garbage by the U.S. Empire.

The most recent example is, of course, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Whatever might be said about Putin - that he himself is an arrogant, pompous, dictatorial autocrat - the fact remains that ever since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Empire has treated him, other Russian officials, and the entire Russian populace like garbage.
Evil Rays

US coups for export: US has a history of supporting anti-govt upheavals

John Kerry in Kiev
© AFP Photo / Volodymyr Shuvayev
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to people at the Shrine of the Fallen in Kiev on March 4, 2014.
The US has been selective in supporting the self-determination of nations. It continues to dismiss Crimea's choice to reunite with Russia, while at the same time backs the coup in Kiev. And the idea is hardly new for Washington.

The current situation in Ukraine has something in common with the one in Colombia, James Petras, a political analyst and Professor (Emeritus) at Binghamton University, New York, believes. The common part is the US role in what's going on in both countries, he suggests in his op-ed, recently published at the website of Montreal-based Centre for Research on Globalization.

"The two paths to 21st century empire-building-via-proxies are illustrated through the violent seizure of power in the Ukraine by a US-backed junta and the electoral gains of the US-backed Colombian war lord, Alvaro Uribe," Petras says. "By rendering democratic processes and peaceful popular reforms impossible and by overthrowing independent, democratically elected governments, Washington is making wars and violent upheavals inevitable."

The US has quite a history of meddling in Colombia since encouraging the breakaway of Panama, in the early 20th century. The US was then able to negotiate favorable conditions for the creation of the Panama Canal. The most recent example comes from 2013, when The Washington Post published an article revealing that the CIA actively helped the Colombian government to locate and kill guerrilla leaders.
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