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Puppet Masters


Assange likens surveillance to reformation-era Catholic Church on BBC 'religion' show

© AFP Photo
BBC Radio 4′s Today program has WikiLeaks founder in religious slot, as chosen by guest editor - musician PJ Harvey

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has used the unlikely platform of the religious slot on the BBC's Today program to condemn attempts by US and UK governments to acquire a "god-like" knowledge of citizens through mass surveillance.

Assange, who has been holed up in an embassy in London for more than a year, delivered a sermon about the importance of freedom of information, and liberating "hoarded knowledge", in an alternative Thought for The Day on the Today Program.

He said disclosures by the security contractor Edward Snowden about the scale of mass surveillance by the US and UK security services had exposed how governments and corporations seek to "know more and more about us" while "we know less and less about them".

Assange, who has been granted asylum by Ecuador but faces arrest if he leaves the country's London embassy, was chosen to appear by Today's guest editor, musician PJ Harvey, who introduced him as a "person of great courage". She said he had "opened a door to freedom that ought to be the essence of democracy".


NSA spying program threatens entire world, says International Action Center

The US National Security Agency's massive surveillance activities revealed during the past months "threaten the entire world," an analyst says.

"This is an institution that is attempting to gather everything, everything and use it constantly and threaten the entire world," Sara Flounders, co-director at Intl. Action Center, told Press TV on Saturday.

"NSA spying was always unnecessary, but will it stop? This is happened above and beyond of any of these institutions," she added.

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has leaked several documents since June, showing the scale of Washington's spying activities around the world.


Patrick Basham, Cato Institute: U.S. is greatest threat to world peace

America's military interventions and its deadly drone strikes overseas along with its massive spying efforts have turned the country into the "greatest threat to world peace," a US policy analyst says.

A recent WIN/Gallup International survey suggests the US is considered the greatest threat to peace in the world. According to the poll, 24 percent of people worldwide see the United States as the biggest threat.

"The new poll results are very bad news for the United States as they show increasingly that around the world, people view America as the greatest threat to global peace, said Patrick Basham, a scholar with the Cato Institute and founding director of Democracy Institute in Washington.


Why is the IRS fighting efforts to unmask Karl Rove and U.S. Chamber of Commerce political money laundering?

© Priog.org
Dr. Robert Jacobson, IRS Whistleblower
An IRS whistleblower lawsuit that attempts to finger an overseas non-profit affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a dark money conduit that put tens of millions into Karl Rove's hands during the 2010 elections may soon die in an obscure federal court - unless the judge allows evidence-gathering over the IRS's objections.

Robert Jacobson, a Tuscon, Arizona physician who brought the lawsuit, believes that a nonprofit created by the State Department in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber to build a much-ridiculed exhibition at the 2010 Shanghai Expo in China had another purpose - diverting large slices of the $70-plus million in donations to Rove for campaigns to retake the House. The idea was that money from GOP-friendly corporations and even the Chinese government would evade oversight by flowing through barely regulated nonprofits.

"I took it to U.S. Tax Court to do discovery," Jacobson said this week (discovery is the legal term for gathering evidence). "We were in the midst of doing informal discovery, which is the process the IRS has to avoid trials. The [tax agency's] chief counsel hates whistleblowers... They have a routine to kill whistleblowers."

Suffice it to say that federal courts have ruled,and the Supreme Court has affirmed, that the IRS doesn't have to pursue whistleblowing investigations if it finds there is no penalty money to be collected. Jacobson filed his case against Shanghai Expo three years ago. Between 2008 and 2012, the IRS received 33,064 whistleblower complaints and made 630 awards, recouping $1.46 billion and paying $180.1 million in awards, it reported to Congress. Last year, the IRS concluded that since the Shanghai Expo nonprofit had disbanded there was no point in pursuing a further investigation.


Croatia arrests ex-spy chief wanted in Germany

© Press TV
Croatia's former spy chief Josip Perkovic was arrested on January 1, 2014.
Croatian police has arrested a former top spy sought by Germany in a case that sparked a row between the European Union and Zagreb.

Josip Perkovic, a former Yugoslav secret service agent and Croatia's ex-intelligence chief, was taken into custody on Wednesday, his lawyer Anto Nobilo said.

The former spy is wanted for his alleged role in the killing of a Croatian dissident in 1983 in Germany.

Nobilo said Perkovic would oppose extradition to Germany and that a Zagreb court was to rule on the case within eight days.

The arrest came on the same day as Zagreb lifted a limitation it had imposed on extraditions with the EU.

Croatia had changed its laws a few days before it joined the bloc on July 1, effectively stopping an extradition of Perkovic.


Putin discusses security in Volgograd

© Press TV
Russian President Vladmir Putin
Russia's President Vladimir Putin has discussed public security and anti-terrorism measures in Volgograd, following two recent bomb attacks in the southern city.

At least 18 people were killed in a bomb blast in Volgograd's main railway station on December 29 followed by a second explosion on a trolley bus during rush hour on December 30, which left 16 dead.

The Russian president met with top regional and federal officials after reaching Volgograd on Wednesday to discuss "what is being done here and all across the country to maintain public security," RIA Novosti reported.

The meeting was attended by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) chief, interior minister, health minister as well as Volgograd region governor among others.

After the meeting, Putin laid flowers at one of the bomb sites and exchanged sympathies with survivors at a hospital in the city.


U.S. veterans angered by cuts to pension benefits

© Press TV
The authors of the budget deal say they will amend the provision to exempt disabled retirees and survivors of those killed in action.
A controversial provision in a recent US budget deal that will trim pension increase for working-age military retirees has angered younger military veterans in the United States, a report says.

The deal approved by Congress and signed last week by President Barack Obama.

The one-percentage-point reduction in the annual cost-of-living increase has provoked outrage among veterans, some of whom argue that the country is reneging on a solemn pact, The Washington Post reports.

"This is a pact between the greater population of the United States and the fraction of people who served and sacrificed. If you didn't want to pay us what you promised us, then you probably shouldn't have promised it," retired Lt. Col. Stephen Preston said, as quoted by the Post.

"I'm not an angry man, but I was very, very angry," Preston, 51, said in a telephone interview with the newspaper from his home in Tampa.

Many lawmakers have vowed to roll the cut back when Congress returns to work next week even though GOP lawmakers have fulminated about the need to cut the cost of federal health and retirement benefits, the report says.

Snakes in Suits

Shameless, crack smoking Ogre of Toronto, mayor Rob Ford, signs up for re-election despite scandal

© Gangstersout.blogspot
Toronto mayor Rob Ford has put his name on the ballot to run for another term, defying repeated calls for him to step down after admitting he smoked crack "in a drunken stupor".

Ford was the first candidate to show up at city hall when registration opened Thursday for the city's municipal election on 27 October.

He promised "Ford more years", the Toronto Star reported. He also called himself "the best mayor this city has ever had".

"If you want to get personal, that's fine," Ford told reporters, according to the Star. "I'm sticking to my record, and talk is cheap. You're going to see action like you've never seen before."

He was more restrained on Twitter, tweeting a photo of himself signing up to run again and saying simply, "Just filed my paperwork for the 2014 election. Vote on October 27."

The conservative mayor of Canada's largest city has said he would run again, even after the revelations last year about his drug use.

Red Flag

Texas: Surplus armed forces equipment further militarizes local police

© DMNA.ny.gov
Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle
The sheriff of Bastrop County, Texas, is a pretty happy man.

He just took possession of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle for his police force. It's a gift from the US military -- paid for by taxpayers -- part of a surplus giveaway program to police deparments.

Bastrop County Sheriff's Office Lt. Joey Dzienowki told the Austin Statesman, "I look at this as the fire department looks at a new fire truck." Gee, I wonder when the kids can get a free ride on the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, July 4th? "When it's not in use on calls, the county's SWAT team will use the MRAP in training and the county may display it at various events for citizens to examine," Dzienowki explained to the Statesman.

To be fair to Lt. Dzienowski, he also avows, "We're not militarizing the department at all." Given that law enforcement agencies in cities and hamlets alike across the land are being given such defense department surplus items, you can be sure that one of the goals of the program is indeed to blur the distinction between local police and the military. This was begun long ago, and was most visibly evident in the emergence of SWAT teams a few decades back.


Volgograd blasts follow same template as US, Syrian, Afghan attacks - MOSSAD & CIA?

A destroyed trolleybus stands on a street in Volgograd on December 30, 2013 after ten people were killed in a bombing on the packed vehicle, the second attack in the city in two days after a suicide strike on its main train station, officials said.
The suicide blasts in Volgograd signal that it's time for international players to stop dividing terrorists into "good" and "bad" ones based on geopolitical agenda, and to unite the globe in a battle against the threat, Russia's Foreign Ministry stated.

"A strike, cynically planned on the eve of New Year celebrations, is another attempt by the terrorists to open a domestic 'front,' spread panic and chaos, cause interfaith strife and conflicts within the Russian society," the ministry said in a statement.

The two consecutive suicide attacks in the southern Russian city of Volgograd - which killed more than 30 people on Sunday and Monday - will not see Russia retreating in its "tough and consistent battle against the insidious enemy that knows no boundaries and can only be stopped collectively," the ministry said.

The ministry stressed that the Volgograd blasts were staged using the same template as recent terror attacks in the US, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and other countries.

"The position of some politicians and political strategists, who are still trying to divide terrorists as 'good' and 'bad' ones, depending on current geopolitical aims, is becoming evidently mischievous," the ministry stressed. "Terrorism is always a crime and the punishment for it must be inevitable."