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D.C. Expanding Public Surveillance Camera Net

Camera lenz
© Photos.com
Cameras from private businesses and Metro will soon be added to the network of more than 4,500 electronic eyes that the District's homeland security agency already monitors
Big Brother may already be watching you in the District, and he will soon have a lot more eyes trained in your direction.

The city's homeland security agency is planning to add thousands of security cameras from private businesses around the nation's capital and the Metro system to the thousands of electronic eyes that authorities are already monitoring 24/7.

D.C.'s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency has already centralized the feeds from more than 4,500 cameras operated by the District's department of transportation and school system. Those feeds are watched around the clock by officials from those departments who sit together in homeland security's Joint All-Hazards Operation Center.

By bringing feeds from thousands more cameras to the central watching room through links to cameras at businesses such as banks, corner stores and gas stations, the District is joining other big cities like London, New York and Baltimore that in recent years have turned to cameras to fight crime and terrorism. But critics worry the District's government might be going too far.

Dollar

US Cities Facing Severe Budget Deficit

Image
© unknown
More than 160 police officers from a Camden County town have been laid off.
Dozens of city mayors are meeting in Washington to request President Barack Obama and the federal government to rescue them from imminent financial disaster.

The nearly two hundred mayors will meet on Friday to discuss budget cuts to cities already struggling with the recent economic recession.

Financial distress in US municipalities has been unfolding in the form of lay-offs of public workers, cuts to public education and the reduction of city services.

"Every city in the United States is faced with an economic collapse, the collapse of its economic base which is causing its revenues to fall off," said Carl Osgood from the Executive Intelligence Review in an interview with Press TV.

"The need to spend is more than what they [cities] are getting in revenue. So mayors, city managers and city councilors are responding by cutting essential services," he added.

Ambulance

Monsanto's Roundup Triggers Over 40 Plant Diseases and Endangers Human and Animal Health

Image
© Photo Don Huber
The diseased field on the right had glyphosate applied the previous season.
While visiting a seed corn dealer's demonstration plots in Iowa last fall, Dr. Don Huber walked passed a soybean field and noticed a distinct line separating severely diseased yellowing soybeans on the right from healthy green plants on the left (see photo). The yellow section was suffering from Sudden Death Syndrome (SDS), a serious plant disease that ravaged the Midwest in 2009 and '10, driving down yields and profits. Something had caused that area of soybeans to be highly susceptible and Don had a good idea what it was.
The diseased field on the right had glyphosate applied the previous season. Photo by Don Huber

Don Huber spent 35 years as a plant pathologist at Purdue University and knows a lot about what causes green plants to turn yellow and die prematurely. He asked the seed dealer why the SDS was so severe in the one area of the field and not the other. "Did you plant something there last year that wasn't planted in the rest of the field?" he asked. Sure enough, precisely where the severe SDS was, the dealer had grown alfalfa, which he later killed off at the end of the season by spraying a glyphosate-based herbicide (such as Roundup). The healthy part of the field, on the other hand, had been planted to sweet corn and hadn't received glyphosate.

This was yet another confirmation that Roundup was triggering SDS. In many fields, the evidence is even more obvious. The disease was most severe at the ends of rows where the herbicide applicator looped back to make another pass (see photo). That's where extra Roundup was applied.

Radar

Zimbabwe mulls treason charges over WikiLeaks

Harare, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe's top lawyer may seek treason charges against former opposition politicians named in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, a move that drew criticism Thursday from a prominent legal rights group.

Attorney-general Johannes Tomana said he has formed an unnamed five-member expert panel to assess some 3,000 Zimbabwe-related U.S. cables for breaches of security laws.

But Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights chief Irene Petras said Thursday the constitution and terms of Tomana's official powers don't allow him to call in outside advisers. She called the investigation "an abuse of power."

Tomana says the panel cannot be identified for ethical reasons. He said he asked panel members to submit their legal opinions by March on contacts between U.S. diplomats and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party that allegedly conspired to oust longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe.

Petras said Tomana's actions contradicted basic principles of openness and transparency in the judicial system.

Arrow Up

US trader Hetco drives up oil price

Hands in oil
© Corbis
Many analysts expect the oil price to move above $100 a barrel this year.
An American trading group reportedly building up a "huge" physical position in North Sea oil has driven London Brent prices above $98 a barrel.

Hetco, which is part-owned by US oil and gas group Hess Corp, was said to have taken control of eight North Sea Forties oil shipments and two Brent cargoes - and it is believed to be in the market for more. The move would give Hetco more influence over the price of oil for immediate delivery. The cargoes are for February delivery.

The reports suggested that Hetco's purchases were the basis of a trading play and the trading house now has 30pc of the Forties oil being loaded next month and 25pc of Brent cargoes. Brent crude's premium over West Texas Intermediate oil has been increasing to abnormal levels since August last year, as US inventories of both oil and gas remain at high levels.

Card - VISA

World needs $100 trillion more credit, says World Economic Forum

Earth
© Alamy
The global credit stock has already doubled in recent years, from $57 trillion to $109 trillion between 2000 and 2009.
The world's expected economic growth will have to be supported by an extra $100 trillion (£63 trillion) in credit over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum.

This doubling of existing credit levels could be achieved without increasing the risk of a major crisis, said the report from the WEF ahead of its high-profile annual meeting in Davos.

But researchers warned that leaders must be wary of new credit "hotspots", where too much lending takes place, as the world emerges from a financial catastrophe blamed in large part "to the failure of the financial system to detect and constrain" these areas of unsustainable debt.

Star of David

Wikileaks on Israel's Gaza Onslaught: US was Cheerleader for Massacre

operation cast lead
© Unknown
CounterPunch has accessed Wikileaks' file of cables on Israel's Gaza assault two years ago (Operation Cast Lead, December 27, 2008 through January 18, 2009). Though the cables often simply rehash Israeli press reporting, providing little new insight into Israel's attack or the planning behind it, they show with pitiless clarity the U.S. government to be little more than a handmaiden and amanuensis of the Israeli military machine.

The cables make clear, were any further disclosure needed, exactly where the United States stands with respect to Israel's unprovoked attacks on Palestinians and its other Arab neighbors. Although Operation Cast Lead took place in the last days of the Bush administration, ending two days before Barack Obama was inaugurated, every Obama policy in the succeeding two years - including the administration's repudiation of the Goldstone Report detailing Israeli atrocities and war crimes during Cast Lead - has demonstrated a striking continuity of support for Israeli actions.

The cables give a notably one-sided account of the assault. Because they take their daily reporting primarily from the Israeli media, the cables keep a tally of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza and dramatically describe "burned dolls and destroyed children's toys" at an unoccupied kindergarten in Beer Sheba hit by a rocket, but make virtually no mention of Israel's intensive air and artillery bombardment of Gaza, including its civilian population. There are no reports of burned Palestinian babies or very few of destroyed property in Gaza. Even the western media provided more accurate coverage of Palestinian casualties than this.

Stormtrooper

Bombs kill at least 50 along pilgrim route to Shiite holy city of Karbala

Image
© Xinhua/Reuters Photo
Image from an August 3, 2010 bomb attack in Kut, Baghdad
A pair of car bombs blasted through security checkpoints ringing the Iraqi holy city of Karbala Thursday and killed at least 51 people, most of whom were Shiite pilgrims headed to observe yearly religious rituals.

It was the latest in a wave of attacks in recent days, as insurgents test Iraqi security forces ahead of the planned U.S. withdrawal at the end of the year.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the bombings bore the hallmark of al-Qaida and other Sunni-dominated extremist groups that frequently target Shiite pilgrimages in hopes of re-igniting sectarian violence that brought Iraq to the brink of civil war just a few years ago.

Authorities estimated as many as 183 people were wounded in the near-simultaneous blasts set off by suicide bombers driving cars packed with explosives.

Alarm Clock

US: Mark Ruffalo's Crusade Against Fracking: 'The World Is Leaving Us Behind'

Mark Ruffalo
© Joanna Zelman
On what many New Yorkers deemed a snow day, one overflowing gallery in the city was filled with artists and activists who decided to leave their warm apartments and hot chocolates behind in support of a cause worthy of traipsing through the snow. The event was "Fracking and Its Effects: A Panel Discussion," in support of Exit Art's "Fracking: Art and Activism Against the Drill," an exhibit open through February 5th.

The panel was hosted by Mark Ruffalo, an acclaimed actor/activist known among Huffington Post readers for his insightful pieces, famous among film watchers for his recent award-nominated performance in The Kids Are All Right, and now infamous among government officials as a man who won't stop talking about fracking.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process that can be used to retrieve natural gas. It involves injecting chemicals, sand, and millions of gallons of water into shale rock. The shale is then shattered, releasing trapped gas. The problem is that when the gas comes to the surface, some water returns as well, and this water is often tainted with poisonous, carcinogenic chemicals.

The harmful effects of fracking are all too tangible, and Mark Ruffalo will be the first to tell you this. His friend's one-lane country road became a 30-foot highway for sonar pounding, and the quiet region of New York where Mark lives with his family may soon be destroyed by natural gas drilling.

Hourglass

Nudge, nudge, wink wink... How the Government wants to change the way we think

Pavlogs dog1
© Unknown

Shame, vanity, laziness and the desire to fit in are all to be used as tools of Government policy by ministers acting on the advice of a new psychology unit in Whitehall.

The first glimpse into the confidential work of the Cabinet Office's Behavioural Insight Team came on Tuesday when ministers suggested members of the public should be able to make small charitable donations when using cashpoints and their credit cards.

On Friday, the Cabinet Office again followed the unit's advice in proposing that learner drivers be opted in to an organ donation scheme when they apply for a licence, and also floated the idea of creating a lottery to encourage people to take tests to prove they have quit smoking.

These initiatives are examples of the application of mental techniques which, while seemingly paradoxical to the Coalition's goal of a smaller state, are likely to become a common feature of Government policy.