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Sat, 16 Oct 2021
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U.S. in Contempt Over Gulf Drill Ban, Judge Rules

BP oil
© badjonni / Flickr Creative Commons
The Obama Administration acted in contempt by continuing its deepwater-drilling moratorium after the policy was struck down, a New Orleans judge ruled.

Interior Department regulators acted with "determined disregard" by lifting and reinstituting a series of policy changes that restricted offshore drilling, following the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history, U.S. District Judge, Martin Feldman of New Orleans ruled yesterday.

"Each step the government took following the court's imposition of a preliminary injunction showcases its defiance," Feldman said in the ruling.

"Such dismissive conduct, viewed in tandem with the re-imposition of a second blanket and substantively identical moratorium, and in light of the national importance of this case, provide this court with clear and convincing evidence of the government's contempt," Feldman said.

President Barack Obama's administration first halted offshore exploration in waters deeper than 500 feet in May, after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig off the Louisiana coast led to a subsea blowout of a BP Plc well that spewed more than 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Arrow Down

Canada: Interest Rate Rise Could Trigger House Price Collapse, Report Says

© The Canadian Press / Darren Calabrese
A real estate agent puts up a "sold" sign in front of a house in Toronto Tuesday, April 20, 2010. Canadian homes could lose as much as a quarter of their value over time once interest rates start rising, says a new report.
A new report predicts that Canada's housing market is poised for a collapse and is only waiting for the trigger of rising interest rates expected for later this year - a view that flies in the face of many other forecasts.

Capital Economics calculates Canadian home prices could fall by about 25 per cent - and even as much as 35 per cent - over the next three years once the Bank of Canada begins tightening monetary policy.

Most economists expect the central bank will begin doing just that in late spring or early summer, with the trendsetting rate rising from the current one per cent to over two per cent by the end of the year.

And the Bank of Canada is expected to keep hiking the policy rate next year until it returns to normal levels - about 3.5 per cent - by the end of 2012.

That would have profound implications both for home values and the economy, says David Madani, Canadian chief economist of Capital Economics.

"Even small rises in official interest rates have been shown to have a big effect on homeowner confidence in other countries under similar circumstances," Madani said Thursday.

"If the Bank of Canada does resume its monetary tightening this year, this could easily prove to be a tipping point for a house price collapse."

Star of David

Egypt's blood is on Obama's hands

egypt protest sign
© Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images
A sketch of Hosni Mubarak and the words '30 years of devastation and treason'

The United States and Israel were caught off-guard by the size and ferocity of the demonstrations in Egypt, but they have since regained their balance and caught up to events. The two allies have settled on a strategy to preserve the Mubarak dictatorship (in some form) and assure that US-Israel regional hegemony will not be challenged. Thus, the Obama administration will continue to offer lip-service to democracy and human rights, while behind-the-scenes operatives coordinate efforts with Mubarak to maintain Washington's stranglehold on power in Cairo.

The first step in this process is to quash the rebellion with force.

Yesterday, after promising he would not use violence against the protesters, Mubarak deployed his goons to Tahrir Square where they attacked the the assembly with batons, rocks, and clubs. Men on horseback and camels charged into the crowd sending droves of protesters fleeing in panic. Al Jazeera reported that hundreds of people were injured in the melee. It's clear that the so-called "Mubarak supporters" were not civilians at all, but members of the feared Egyptian security forces in disguise. The Obama administration is aware of the clashes but has refused to condemn the perpetrators.

Bad Guys

Biometric Recognition: More Than a Fictional Spy-Thriller

© Computer World
DARPA defines biometrics as "the science and technology of measuring and analyzing biological data." Biometric technology has a trickledown theory, where military technology eventually makes its way into civilian applications. Biometric recognition is not just something from a fictional spy-thriller.

Since 9/11, the government and law enforcement increased the use and collection of biometric identification in the name of security to identify terrorists or criminals. Yet civil liberty advocates worry about the increased use of biometric recognition as well as the storage and management of government databases. However, biometric recognition technologies continue to emerge.

According to Wikipedia, uniquely identifying a person via biometric characteristics can be physiological like fingerprints, facial recognition, DNA, palm prints, iris or retina recognition, and odor/scents; or behavioral like voice or gait recognition. Biometric technology has been around for a long time, but here's a look at some current and future uses.


Police Van Running Over Peaceful Protesters In Cairo

This video of the Egypt Police hit and run has been posted on Al-Jazeera's website and on YouTube.

Eye 1

COINTELPRO: Information Warfare

"He is supposed to be Turkish. Some say his father was German. Nobody believed he was real. Nobody ever saw him or knew anybody that ever worked directly for him, but to hear Kobayashi tell it, anybody could have worked for Soze. You never knew. That was his power. The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." - The Usual Suspects (MGM, 1995)

On March 8, 1971, a group calling itself The Citizen's Commission to Investigate the FBI broke into the FBI office in Media, PA and emptied its filing cabinets of documents. What they found should have shocked the country. The stolen FBI files revealed a series of covert programs called COINTELPROS, short for counter intelligence programs, carried out by the FBI against groups and individuals it considered subversive. Take note that these 'subversive' groups and individuals were not foreign groups. The FBI was waging a counter intelligence war against the American people and the very basis of their democratic system of government.

Perhaps this revelation would have had a more profound effect if it weren't for the fact that the world was turning upside-down at the time. Everything was changing, and much of the change was simply too much for many people to handle. 1971 was only two years after the first moon landing and the concert in Woodstock, NY billed as "3 days of peace and music," and only three years after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy - the end of a long stream of assassinations of civil rights leaders and activists that began with his brother John and included Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.


Syria next? Calls for weekend protests against Syrian government


Pages on Facebook have been urging Syrians to stage anti-government demonstrations after Friday prayers
Social media used in bid to mobilise Syrians for rallies demanding freedom, human rights and the end to emergency law.

Calls for protests in Syria are spreading on social media websites, following popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Organisers say protests will be staged in front of the parliament in the capital, Damascus, on Friday and Saturday, and at Syrian embassies across the world.

Several pages have been set up on Facebook, with the most popular one, named "The Syrian Revolution", "liked" by about 13,000 people by Thursday.

However, many of those writing comments on Facebook appeared to be Syrians living abroad calling on their "brothers" at home to protest.

Sources in Syria told Al Jazeera they doubted that the calls for protests would really result in much action on the ground.

"I think the day of anger will turn out to be no more than a day of mild frustration," one journalist told Al Jazeera.

"There's no appetite for regime change in Syria as there has been in Egypt for a while. The president isn't hated as much as [Hosni] Mubarak, or seen as out of touch. Also, the local context is very different ... and the poverty rate is significantly lower in Egypt."

No Entry

US-based Israeli company sold internet "kill-switch" technology to Egypt

As we speak, Egypt is struggling with a near-total Internet and communications shut-off, and not just Egyptians are grappling with the implications. Can the flow of social media information to an entire country simply be cut? Apparently, yes. And that's not just an Egyptian concern.

It's very much an American concern, in that a US-based company seems to be the maker of the Internet off-switch. As Tim Karr of Free Press notes, the US company Narus was founded in 1997 by Israeli security experts. Based in Sunnyvale California, Narus has devised what business fans call a "social media sleuth."

As boosters put it: "Narus is the leader in real-time traffic intelligence for the protection and management of large IP networks.... Used by the world's service providers and governments, Narus has developed and patented state-of-the art algorithms to detect network anomalies and manage unwanted IP traffic. Additionally, Narus has the unique ability to precision target and fully reconstruct all types of IP traffic, including e-mail, Web mail and instant messages."


US Embassy staff (CIA) in Oslo 'armed'


The US Embassy in Oslo
Various monitoring groups formed at the US embassies around the world could have been armed, American Foreign Service documents show.

The US Embassy in Oslo's Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU), which was set up to spy on Norwegians, could have been one of these armed embassies.

"It's had the opportunity. They could have been carrying concealed weapons in high threat level situations or exceptional circumstances, providing the embassy and the host nation granted them permission," Vegard Valter Hansen, senior adviser at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), told Norwegian state TV NRK.

Spokesman for the American Embassy in Oslo, Timothy Moore, said he was unaware of whether the SDU staff were carrying weapons or not, according to The Foreigner.

"They only have to keep an eye on things and observe, so why should they be armed? SDU members are just regular US embassy employees [and] are paid the same way. Some of them work full-time, others part-time," he said.

No Entry

Germany bans anti-Israeli movie


'The Valley of the Wolves - Palestine' promotional poster
Germany has banned the public screening of a movie, which depicts that atrocities Israel has committed against activists aboard an Ankara-backed Gaza-bound aid convoy.

The German Movie Control Association took issue with the content of The Valley of the Wolves - Palestine, preventing its screening, which had been planned to open on Thursday, Israeli NGO Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported on Sunday.

Modeled after the TV series of the same name, the movie tells the story of how the protagonist captures the Israeli military commander, who had planned and ordered the May 31 attack on the Freedom Flotilla.

The assault on the relief mission, which had set off to take relief supplies to the Tel Aviv-blockaded Gaza Strip, killed nine Turkish activists and injured about 50 other people.

The production also caused political furor in Germany, English-language Turkish newspaper Hurriyet Daily News reported on Tuesday.