Puppet MastersS

Dollar Gold

The rich keep getting richer and the poor poorer: More billionaires in 2013

© John Macdougall/AFP via Getty ImagesBill Gates, the founder and chairman of Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp., was the year’s biggest gainer. The 58-year-old tycoon’s fortune increased by $15.8 billion to $78.5 billion
The richest people on the planet got even richer in 2013, adding $524 billion to their collective net worth, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, a daily ranking of the world's 300 wealthiest individuals.

The aggregate net worth of the world's top billionaires stood at $3.7 trillion at the market close on Dec. 31, according to the ranking. The biggest gains came in the technology industry, which soared 28 percent during the year. Of the 300 people who appeared on the final ranking of 2013, only 70 registered a net loss for the 12-month period.

"The rich will keep getting richer in 2014," John Catsimatidis, the billionaire founder of real estate and energy conglomerate Red Apple Group Inc., said in a telephone interview from his New York office. "Interest rates will remain low, equity markets will keep rising, and the economy will grow at less than 2 percent."

Bill Gates, the founder and chairman of Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp., was the year's biggest gainer. The 58-year-old tycoon's fortune increased by $15.8 billion to $78.5 billion, according to the index, as shares of Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, rose 40 percent.

Gates recaptured the title of world's richest person on May 16 from Mexican investor Carlos Slim. Gates's fortune has also benefited from a rally in stock holdings that include the Canadian National Railway Co. and sanitizing-products maker Ecolab Inc., which rose 34 percent and 45 percent respectively.


Nothing to see here, go back to work: Top Canadian CEOs earn annual worker's salary by lunchtime on Jan. 2

Top 100 CEOs made average $7.96M; average Canadian worker made $46,600

CEO Joy of Money
Why is this man smiling? Hunter Harrison, head of the Canadian Pacific Railway, was paid $49.1 million in salary, stock options and bonuses in 2012. (The Canadian Press)
By the time you finish lunch on Thursday, Canada's top paid CEOs will have already earned the equivalent of your annual salary.
It may be hard to swallow, but according to an annual review by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, by 1:11 p.m. on Jan. 2, the average top paid Canadian CEO will have been earned as much as the average full-time worker's yearly income.

The review found the average compensation among Canada's top 100 CEOs was $7.96 million in 2012. This compared with the average annual Canadian worker's salary of $46,634.

Eye 2

Butcher of Beirut Ariel Sharon near death after grave deterioration in his condition

© Reuters
85-year-old former prime minister and defense minister, comatose since 2006, suffers renal failure in hospital

Comatose former prime minister Ariel Sharon's condition has gravely deteriorated and he is near death, doctors said on Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Sheba Hospital in Tel Hashomer said Sharon's condition began taking a turn for the worse in recent days.

Doctors said Sharon, 85, who has been in a vegetative state since 2006, was suffering from renal failure that could lead to multiple organ system failure and death.

Hebrew media reports late Wednesday said doctors had told the family that Sharon had, at most, no more than four days to live.

"The situation now depends mainly on the family and the decisions they make," a senior doctor at the Sheba Hospital told Walla News.

Snakes in Suits

The Financial Crisis: Why have no high-level executives been prosecuted?

© NY Times
Five years have passed since the onset of what is sometimes called the Great Recession. While the economy has slowly improved, there are still millions of Americans leading lives of quiet desperation: without jobs, without resources, without hope.

Who was to blame? Was it simply a result of negligence, of the kind of inordinate risk-taking commonly called a "bubble," of an imprudent but innocent failure to maintain adequate reserves for a rainy day? Or was it the result, at least in part, of fraudulent practices, of dubious mortgages portrayed as sound risks and packaged into ever more esoteric financial instruments, the fundamental weaknesses of which were intentionally obscured?

If it was the former - if the recession was due, at worst, to a lack of caution - then the criminal law has no role to play in the aftermath. For in all but a few circumstances (not here relevant), the fierce and fiery weapon called criminal prosecution is directed at intentional misconduct, and nothing less. If the Great Recession was in no part the handiwork of intentionally fraudulent practices by high-level executives, then to prosecute such executives criminally would be "scapegoating" of the most shallow and despicable kind.

But if, by contrast, the Great Recession was in material part the product of intentional fraud, the failure to prosecute those responsible must be judged one of the more egregious failures of the criminal justice system in many years. Indeed, it would stand in striking contrast to the increased success that federal prosecutors have had over the past fifty years or so in bringing to justice even the highest-level figures who orchestrated mammoth frauds. Thus, in the 1970s, in the aftermath of the "junk bond" bubble that, in many ways, was a precursor of the more recent bubble in mortgage-backed securities, the progenitors of the fraud were all successfully prosecuted, right up to Michael Milken.


Health law challenge blocks enforcement of Obamacare for some

© Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesJustice Sonia Sotomayor issued a temporary injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing the birth control requirement against an order of Colorado nuns.
In temporarily blocking enforcement of the part of President Obama's health care law that requires many employers to provide health insurance coverage for birth control or face penalties, Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Tuesday opened a second

The initial front opened in November, when the justices agreed to hear a pair of cases from for-profit companies challenging that provision. Now Justice Sotomayor has ordered the Obama administration to file a brief by Friday morning responding to a different kind of challenge, this one from groups affiliated with religious organizations.

In the meantime, she issued a temporary injunction barring the administration from enforcing the birth control requirement against an order of Colorado nuns, the Little Sisters of the Poor, and related groups.

After the brief is filed, Justice Sotomayor or the full court could extend or dissolve Tuesday's temporary injunction while litigation moves forward in the lower courts. It is also possible that the Supreme Court would agree to hear the case immediately.

To understand the context of Justice Sotomayor's decision, it helps to look at the details of the Affordable Care Act. The law distinguishes among three kinds of organizations: religious employers, for-profit corporations and nonprofit groups affiliated with religious organizations but not owned or controlled by them.

Comment: Further reading:
Medical Error Is The Fifth-Leading Cause Of Death In The U.S.
WHO: Millions Of People Die Each Year Due To Medical Errors
Health care errors impact 1 in 10
Why Hospitals Are Dangerous to Your Health
Study: Harmful Errors Still Common in U.S. Hospitals
New Doctors Linked to Unnecessary Deaths, Especially in July
The Silence Surrounding Diagnostic Errors
Going into hospital far riskier than flying: WHO
Oops! U.S. doctors screw up surprisingly often


Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire! President Obama claims the NSA has never abused its authority.

© Michael Reynolds/EPA Barack Obama speaks during the end of year news conference at the White House
The facts that we know so far - from Fisa court documents to LOVEINT - show that the NSA has overstepped its powers

Time and again since the world learned the extent of what the NSA was doing, government officials have defended the controversial mass surveillance programs by falling back on one talking point: the NSA programs may be all-powerful, but they have never been abused.

President Obama continually evokes the phase when defending the NSA in public. In his end-of-year press conference, he reiterated, "There continues not to be evidence that the [metadata surveillance] program had been abused". Former NSA chief Michael Hayden says this almost weekly, and former CIA deputy director and NSA review panel member Mike Morrell said it again just before Christmas.

This mantra is likely to be repeated often in 2014 as Obama is set to address the nation on government surveillance, and Congress and the president debate whether any reforms are necessary.

There's only one problem: it's not true.

Star of David

Gilad Atzmon: Israeli lobby a 'threat' to Western politics

Israel and its powerful lobby in Washington D.C. are considered a risk to "our Western politics," said a London-based political activist on Monday, in a reference to Tel Aviv's opposition to a newly-reached nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 - the five permanent members of the UN Security council plus Germany.

People around the world start to realize that the price we are paying "for the Jewish lobby's interfering with our Western politics is severe," said Gilad Atzmon in a phone interview with Press TV.

After Iran and the six world powers reached an interim deal in Geneva on Nov. 24 over Tehran's nuclear energy program, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fiercely opposed the agreement calling it "weak and desperate."

Netanyahu even appealed to members of the US Congress as negotiations were underway to kill the Geneva deal, which is set to ease some of sanctions imposed on Tehran.

Atzmon said "it is Israel that imposes civil threats, not just to the region but to the world" but now it is opposing a deal that will bring peace to the region.

Star of David

'Israel wants Palestine obliterated'

israeli settlement
© File photoLaborers work at a housing construction site in an Israeli settlement in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).
The Israeli regime is obliterating Palestine through its continued expansionist policies while the world turns a blind eye to the plight of Palestinians, says a political analyst.

"Over the past 20 years, Palestine has been plundered by Israel, its rich arable lands confiscated, its water resources rerouted to benefit illegal settlers and its people treated as mere cattle awaiting slaughter," Catherine Shakdam wrote in a Monday article for Press TV.

"After decades of injustice, humiliation and bloodshed, the land of Palestine is but a shadow of its former self, a fractured country whose ever-shrinking borders will soon collapse on themselves to leave behind only the memory of what once was," she added.

Shakdam said the Tel Aviv regime has mastered the practicing of "apartheid" policies over the past decades, adding, "Far beyond security concerns, Israel seeks to eat away at Palestine until nothing is left but memories, believing otherwise would simply be utterly naïve."

Comment: Israel's ethnic cleansing and apartheid in Palestine
U.N. rights inquiry says Israel must remove settlers
UN General Assembly Passes Nine Resolutions on Israel-Palestine
Israel Won't Cooperate With UN Probe of West Bank Settlements
Leaked Document: Israeli Forces Train And Arm Settlers To Attack Palestinian Protesters
Who is the Superpower, America or Israel?
US vetoes UN vote on Israeli land grab and genocide
Peace In the Middle East? - Over the bodies of 3 million Palestinians
Netanyahu vows to keep building illegal settlements: Who will stop him?
The Palestinian Genocide Continues
Israel blows off UN review, buying time to whitewash human rights record
UN investigator: Israel engaged in ethnic cleansing with settlement expansion

Eye 1

The most important surveillance order we know almost nothing about

blog spying
Over the last seven months, we have learned an incredible amount about the government's post-9/11 surveillance efforts. But there is a crucial gap in our basic understanding.

We now know, for example, a good deal about how the government conducts surveillance that targets Americans, and about surveillance of foreigners that sweeps up Americans' international communications when the actual surveillance takes place on U.S. soil (for example, from a Google facility in the United States). But we still know very little about Executive Order 12,333, which governs the NSA's surveillance abroad - even when that surveillance sweeps up Americans' communications.

To fill that gap, the ACLU, along with the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic at Yale Law School, today filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding that the government release basic information about its use of Executive Order 12,333 to conduct surveillance of Americans' international communications.


Beware of suspicious farmers: FBI links almanacs with terror planning

2013 almanac
© unknown
The FBI is warning police nationwide to be alert for people carrying almanacs, cautioning that the popular reference books covering everything from abbreviations to weather trends could be used for terrorist planning.

In a bulletin sent Christmas Eve to about 18,000 police organizations, the FBI said terrorists may use almanacs "to assist with target selection and pre-operational planning."

It urged officers to watch during searches, traffic stops and other investigations for anyone carrying almanacs, especially if the books are annotated in suspicious ways.

"The practice of researching potential targets is consistent with known methods of Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that seek to maximize the likelihood of operational success through careful planning," the FBI wrote.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the bulletin this week and verified its authenticity.