Puppet MastersS


Ten Chinese officials fired over sex scandal in former Bo Xilai fiefdom

© Photograph: Jason Lee/ReutersBo Xilai, the disgraced former Chongqing party chief, whose trial is expected soon.
Developers secretly filmed men sleeping with women then used videos to extort construction deals.

Chinese authorities have fired 10 officials caught in a sex and blackmail scandal in Chongqing, the former fiefdom of the disgraced politician Bo Xilai, state media have reported.

Developers hired women to have sex with the men, then secretly filmed the meetings and used the videos to extort construction deals from the officials in the south-western city. The state news agency Xinhua said police had now broken up the criminal ring responsible.

But questions remain about how and why the videos emerged and the links between the case and Wang Lijun, the former police chief who sparked the downfall of Bo, previously his patron. It is the latest in a series of scandals over corruption and other abuses of power under Bo and Wang's watch to be aired in the Chinese media.

The Beijing-backed Hong Kong newspaper Ta Kung Pao reported on Friday that Bo would go on trial in south-western Guiyang on Monday, but a Guiyang court official told Reuters: "The case has not yet even been put forward for prosecution".


North Korea threatens to attack South Korea

© Photograph: David Guttenfelder/APA North Korean tour guide speaks at an exhibition of posters, including those hailing the recent rocket launch.
Pyongyang says if Seoul joins new round of tightened UN sanctions over rocket launch it amounts to a 'declaration of war'.

North Korea has threatened to attack South Korea if Seoul joins a new round of tightened UN sanctions, as Washington unveils more of its own economic restrictions following Pyongyang's rocket launch last month.

In a third day of fiery rhetoric, North Korea directed its verbal onslaught at its neighbour on Friday, saying: "'Sanctions' mean a war and a declaration of war against us".

The reclusive country this week declared a boycott of all dialogue aimed at ending its nuclear programme and vowed to conduct more rocket and nuclear tests after the UN security council censured it for a long-range missile launch in December and expanded existing sanctions.

"If the puppet group of traitors takes a direct part in the UN 'sanctions', the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] will take strong physical counter-measures against it," North Korea's committee for the peaceful reunification of Korea said, referring to its neighbour.

The committee is Pyongyang's front for dealings with Seoul.


Sandy Hook Logistics: Mike Powers on The Power Hour

Joyce Riley interviewed former US special forces commando Mike Powers on January 16th on The Power Hour's 'Sandy Hook Special Investigation'.

With a lack of detail coming from the authorities concerning people's questions about the Sandy Hook Massacre, Mike Powers speaks from his extensive experience about the kinds of weapons, ammunition and tactical gear 20-year-old, 120-pound, autistic Adam Lanza would probably have needed to pull off his extraordinary feat on December 14th, 2012.

Comment: Police have since retracted the initial 'law enforcements reports' claiming that Lanza was dressed from head to toe in tactical gear. The official line now is that Lanza was wearing a "fishing-type vest/jacket with multiple pockets."

Star of David

SOTT Focus: Chutzpah, Hypocrisy, and Lies: A review of Norman Finkelstein's 'This Time We Went Too Far'

"[I]n a rational world the locution 'laws of war' would make as much sense as 'etiquette of cannibals.'" - Norman Finkelstein

too far book
Just over four years ago, in December of 2008, Israel invaded Gaza in an operation dubbed Operation Cast Lead, breaking the then-current ceasefire and killing 1400 Palestinians by the time all was said and done three weeks later. Most of the Palestinian dead were civilians, including 350 children; 13 Israelis died, 4 by friendly fire, including 3 civilians. That's a 100:1 ratio. The invasion, carried out by one of the most advanced militaries in the world against what was, by comparison, a defenseless 'enemy,' was overwhelmingly supported and defended by the Israeli populace.

Those are just the barest of facts included in Jewish-American activist and political scientist Norman Finkelstein's 2010 book 'This Time We Went Too Far': Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion. But even those facts were either disputed or spun by media pundits, government officials, and military personnel during and after the invasion, many going so far as to exonerate Israel of any wrongdoing whatsoever and fully defend its actions. Many justified the attacks because of the 'terror' under which Israelis were living from Hamas rocket attacks.

Keeping in mind the death statistics mentioned above, consider the fact that in any twenty-two-day period of 2008, an average of 148 Israelis died from diabetes. Even pneumonia killed more Israelis than died in the conflict: 60. (You can view the 2008 cause-of-death statistics for Israelis here.)

Finkelstein argues that the purpose of Operation Cast Lead (OCL) was both as a counter to the Palestinian 'peace offensive' and to re-establish Israel's 'deterrence capability', essentially a display of murderous 'strength' and ultraviolence, enough to instill fear into the hearts of Israel's 'enemies' and to deter the Palestinians from fighting back against the harsh oppression that hasn't let up for the last fifty-plus years, or from thinking they and other Arab states could get by simply without having to worry about Israeli interference in their affairs. As Ariel Sharon had put it, deterrence capability is "our [Israel's] main weapon - the fear of us" (p. 31). And as IDF Spokesperson Major Avital Leibowitz said, in reference to OCL: "It [should be] possible to destroy Gaza, so they will understand not to mess with us" (p. 35). Charming, huh?


A small sign of Virginia's eugenics sins

© Eugenics ArchiveDate on which each State inaugurated its eugenical sterilization law (view in Eugenics Archive)

There is no way to truly compensate tens of thousands of men and women who were declared "defective" and involuntarily sterilized under cruel programs operated by Virginia, North Carolina and dozens of other states.

But lawmakers, even after all these years, should still try to make amends.

In Richmond, the General Assembly is considering a measure that would offer $50,000 to people once deemed by the state to be unfit to have children. Between 1924 and 1979, more than 7,000 men and women were sterilized after being classified "insane, idiotic, imbecilic, feeble-minded or epileptic."

Among the victims was Lewis Reynolds, who was sterilized at age 13 because he was wrongly believed to have epilepsy. He ended up serving his country in two wars and retiring from the Marine Corps after 30 years.

As The Pilot's Bill Sizemore recounted in a story this week, Reynolds, now 85, didn't find out what had happened to him until after he had gotten married. He said his wife left him because they were unable to have a family.

Reynolds' second marriage lasted 47 years, ending with his wife's death five years ago. He said they'd always wished they could have had children.

Bad Guys

Henry Kissinger warns of Iran nuclear crisis in 'very foreseeable future'

Israeli officials said Thursday that military action against Iran needed to stay on the table, as former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger warned of a crisis over Tehran's nuclear ambitions in the "very foreseeable future".

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Defence Minister Ehud Barak said the threat of military action was vital to efforts against Iran's nuclear programme.

"There will be more attempts to try and negotiate, but there will always be in the horizon a military option, because if the Iranians think it's only economic and political, they won't pay attention," Peres told global political and business leaders at the annual gathering in the Swiss ski resort.

Israel and Western powers accuse Iran of seeking to acquire a weapons capability under the guise of its nuclear energy programme but Iran denies the charge, saying its work is for peaceful purposes only.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who emerged from an election Tuesday with a new term as Israel's leader, has frequently warned about the danger of Iran's nuclear programme.


New York Police Department testing out gun detection device

© Image via NYPD
The New York Police Department is testing a new device it says can detect firearms concealed beneath layers of clothing, a high-tech crime-fighting tool seemingly torn from the pages of science fiction.

The so-called T-Ray machine detects terahertz radiation, a high-frequency electromagnetic natural energy that is emitted by people and can penetrate many materials, including clothing.

"If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for example a weapon, the device will highlight that object," said Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who described the device Wednesday in a speech at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

News of the device prompted concerns from privacy advocates, though they also saw a potential benefit: It might render unnecessary the legally disputed police policy of stopping and frisking people who haven't been first identified as suspects in crimes.

In an image displayed by Mr. Kelly, the T-Ray scanner highlighted the body of a plainclothes officer in neon green - with a gun clearly visible as a black shape. The image was captured with the officer standing about 30 feet away.


Former CIA officer John Kiriakou: Justice Department is targeting whistleblowers

© Jacquelyn Martin/APFormer CIA officer John Kiriakou, right
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who blew the whistle on waterboarding and exposed how CIA torture was policy, was convicted of a classified leak for sharing the name of an officer involved in the rendition program with a reporter. He is set to be sentenced to jail for thirty months on Friday.

Kiriakou appeared on an episode of "Citizen Radio" this morning. Interviewed by the show's co-host Allison Kilkenny, he revealed that his attorneys have a document showing that he clearly was the victim of a selective prosecution.

"While I confirmed the name of one CIA officer involved in the torture regime," Kiriakou stated, "There was a second CIA officer who provided the same reporter the names of ten undercover officers as well as information about counterterrorist operations and flight plans for the black flights going to CIA prisons but that CIA officer was not investigated and was not prosecuted."

The reporter is Matthew Cole, who at the time claimed to be writing a book on a CIA rendition operation in Italy.

Green Light

San Francisco streetlights will spy on passersby

© Reuters / Robert Galbraith
San Francisco, California is the second-most densely populated urban area in the US, but those nearly one million residents of the City by the Bay are about to lose what little amount of privacy they have.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission has started work on a program that will update a number of the city's 18,000 streetlights during the next few years. Those new installations might do a whole lot more than just illuminate sidewalks and keep streets lit for cars, though. Through part of a pilot program, city officials can send data wirelessly between more than a dozen of those streetlights.

What kind of data can a lamppost collect, though? In San Francisco, the answer is a lot. According to a report in the SF Bay Guardian, Paradox Engineering of Switzerland has already started testing streetlamps in the city that have the ability to wirelessly transmit data from traffic signals and surveillance cameras from one device to another. Soon, though, there will be more than just 14 cameras with that kind of capability. Additionally, the city is currently searching five vendors to test even more advanced lampposts across the city.

During last year's Living Labs Global Award in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the LLGA gave Paradox the go-ahead to start testing lights in San Francisco. In a just-issued Request for Proposals, the city calls on others to pitch similar products. In the request, the City writes that as they begin replacing the 18,000 streetlights, the SFPUC "also plans to install an integrated wireless communication monitoring and control system" in order to manage the devices."


LAPD using controversial spy tool in routine crime cases

© Shutterstock
Police used a device intended to monitor terror suspects, which gathers phone data from nearby non-suspects too.

The LAPD used a cell phone monitoring device designed for counterterror purposes in routine criminal investigations 21 times in just four months last year, LA Weekly reported.

Using federal funds the police department obtained the Stingray technology, which allows police to track mobile phones in real time, with the purported intention of using the devise to monitor terror suspects. However, notes LA Weekly, the device was used in "13 percent of the 155 'cellular phone investigation cases' that Los Angeles police conducted between June and September last year" - including for burglary, drug and murder investigations.