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Bitcoin exchange operators arrested in connection with Silk Road case

Image
© Reuters / Pawel Kopczynski
Federal charges were made public early Monday against two men accused of operating a bitcoin exchange business in connection with the ongoing investigation involving the Silk Road online marketplace.

The United States Justice Department published a statement on their website on Monday morning confirming that the two men, Robert Faiella and Charlie Shrem, had been arrested within hours of each other and charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. The charges carry a maximum of 25 years in prison.

"As alleged, Robert Faiella and Charlie Shrem schemed to sell over $1 million in bitcoins to criminals bent on trafficking narcotics on the dark web drug site, Silk Road," Preet Bharara, the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in Monday's statement. "Truly innovative business models don't need to resort to old-fashioned law-breaking, and when bitcoins, like any traditional currency, are laundered and used to fuel criminal activity, law enforcement has no choice but to act. We will aggressively pursue those who would coopt new forms of currency for illicit purposes."

Comment: There's room for only one crime and drug syndicate in the United States. See, for instance:

U.S. government and top Mexican drug cartel exposed as partners
American War Machine: Deep Politics, The CIA Global Drug Connection, and the Road to Afghanistan: book review


Chart Bar

French jobseekers hit record 3.3 million last December

French jobseekers

Jobseekers are waiting in line at a job center in Paris
The number of registered jobseekers in France rose to a record 3.3 million in December, the French Labor Ministry says.

The ministry said on Monday that the number of jobless people rose by 10,200 despite President Francois Hollande's electoral pledge to control the trend by the end of 2013.

The figures are considered to be a major challenge for Hollande, who had vowed to curb the unemployment rate from more than 10 percent to a single-digit figure by December.

Comment: With almost 5 million people unemployed, the French president is in trouble indeed:

Protest turns into riot as 120,000 take to Paris streets to demand President's resignation


Airplane Paper

More people left recession-hit Italy in 2012

jobless italians

Unemployed Italians line up at job center in Rome
Official figures have shown that an increased number of Italians left their recession-hit country in 2012 to seek employment in other European countries.

Figures by the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) revealed that the number of the Italians who left the country in 2012 rose to 68,000 people in 2012 from 50,000 in 2011, registering a 36-percent rise.

According to ISTAT, a quarter of those ages above 24 emigrating from Italy had university degrees and mostly headed for Germany, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and France.

Comment: The Italians are suffering the same fate as the Irish, the Spanish, the Portuguese and the Greek members of the EU: they are left alone to make ends meet with ridiculously low to non-existent salary that has led to arise in suicides, mass exodus and protests. What else do these countries share? They are being "helped" economically by the EU and their governments can compete in corruption and indifference to their plight.


2 + 2 = 4

Fukushima loses first high school to meltdowns

Image
© FUKUSHIMA MINPO
Out forever: The main gate of Shoei High School in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, is blocked by a signboard announcing the private school will close for good.
A private high school in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, will close for good at the end of March because the nuclear disaster has decimated enrollment, school officials said.

Shoei High School, founded in 1957, will be the first in the prefecture to close its doors permanently since the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant began unfolding on March 11, 2011.

Roses

RIP Pete Seeger: Anti-fascist, songwriter and champion of the people's music, dies at 94

Seeger
© Reuters
Mr Seeger sang with fellow activists at Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee rally in Greenwood Miss., in 1963
Pete Seeger, the singer, folk-song collector and songwriter who spearheaded an American folk revival and spent a long career championing folk music as both a vital heritage and a catalyst for social change, died Monday. He was 94 and lived in Beacon, N.Y.

His death was confirmed by his grandson, Kitama Cahill Jackson, who said he died of natural causes at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Mr. Seeger's career carried him from singing at labor rallies to the Top 10 to college auditoriums to folk festivals, and from a conviction for contempt of Congress (after defying the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s) to performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at an inaugural concert for Barack Obama.

For Mr. Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.

Megaphone

Propaganda Alert! Dieudonné M'bala M'bala, as portrayed in the 'left-wing, liberal' British press

Dieudonne
© Unknown
Dieudonné M'bala M'bala appears on stage to a feral roar from the audience, with his arms held aloft, more politician than comedian.

Which is he? No politician in France generates such raw excitement. No comedian produces such an intoxicating and disturbing cocktail of self-righteous laughter and joyous anger among his fans.

Howls of gleeful fury greet Dieudonné's every reference to a French politician, or to his alleged "persecution" by the French establishment. Louder howls and boos greet every reference to a Jew or to a Jewish organisation.

Dieudonné M'bala M'bala - the man who invented the controversial "quenelle" arm gesture performed by the Premiership footballer Nicolas Anelka - has belatedly started his 2014 stand-up Tour de France. The show replaces a performance banned by the French authorities earlier this month for inciting racial hatred against Jews.

Comment: This article obviously needs to be read with heaping mounds of salt. Alain Soral, for example, the "virulently anti-semitic French intellectual", is portrayed as the devil because he speaks the truth:

French writer and activist Alain Soral: There is only the illusion of choice in politics

BBC Newsnight interview with Alain Soral: The French government's actions against Dieudonné are illegal

Just to give readers an idea of how many light years the above author is away from the consensus view of this Dieudonne/Soral/'Jewish'/revolution issue in France, the vast majority are on Dieudonne and Soral's side...

Dieudonné ban "a victory for French Republic", declares Manuel Valls: Poll shows 95% of France disagrees with Interior Minister, jeered by large crowd in Brittany


Extinguisher

Colorado student sets himself on fire in high school cafeteria

 Standley Lake high school
© xoMichalaxo
Standley Lake high school
A student has been injured after setting himself on fire in the cafeteria of a suburban Denver high school, authorities said.

Westminster police department spokeswoman Cheri Spottke said she did not know if the student made any threats or statements before starting the fire at Standley Lake high school in Westminster, north-west of Denver.

He was taken to a hospital with unknown injuries.

Spottke said the fire was contained in the cafeteria and was put out by an adult with a fire extinguisher. There also was extensive smoke in the building.

Comment: Two links of association that spring to mind are:

Standley Lake high school student Austin Reed Sigg arrested in Colorado girl's abduction, death

&

The recent tendency to self-immolate. Ex:
Wave of immolation: Bulgarians are setting themselves on fire in record numbers
Self-immolation protests shock Italians


Meteor

The Myth of Human Progress and the Collapse of Complex Societies

Image
© Breaking Pofiles
The most prescient portrait of the American character and our ultimate fate as a species is found in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Melville makes our murderous obsessions, our hubris, violent impulses, moral weakness and inevitable self-destruction visible in his chronicle of a whaling voyage. He is our foremost oracle. He is to us what William Shakespeare was to Elizabethan England or Fyodor Dostoyevsky to czarist Russia.

Our country is given shape in the form of the ship, the Pequod, named after the Indian tribe exterminated in 1638 by the Puritans and their Native American allies. The ship's 30-man crew - there were 30 states in the Union when Melville wrote the novel - is a mixture of races and creeds. The object of the hunt is a massive white whale, Moby Dick, which in a previous encounter maimed the ship's captain, Ahab, by dismembering one of his legs. The self-destructive fury of the quest, much like that of the one we are on, assures the Pequod's destruction. And those on the ship, on some level, know they are doomed - just as many of us know that a consumer culture based on corporate profit, limitless exploitation and the continued extraction of fossil fuels is doomed.

"If I had been downright honest with myself," Ishmael admits, "I would have seen very plainly in my heart that I did but half fancy being committed this way to so long a voyage, without once laying my eyes on the man who was to be the absolute dictator of it, so soon as the ship sailed out upon the open sea. But when a man suspects any wrong, it sometimes happens that if he be already involved in the matter, he insensibly strives to cover up his suspicions even from himself. And much this way it was with me. I said nothing, and tried to think nothing."

Our financial system - like our participatory democracy - is a mirage. The Federal Reserve purchases $85 billion in U.S. Treasury bonds - much of it worthless subprime mortgages - each month. It has been artificially propping up the government and Wall Street like this for five years. It has loaned trillions of dollars at virtually no interest to banks and firms that make money - because wages are kept low - by lending it to us at staggering interest rates that can climb to as high as 30 percent. ... Or our corporate oligarchs hoard the money or gamble with it in an overinflated stock market. Estimates put the looting by banks and investment firms of the U.S. Treasury at between $15 trillion and $20 trillion. But none of us know. The figures are not public. And the reason this systematic looting will continue until collapse is that our economy [would] go into a tailspin without this giddy infusion of free cash.

Arrow Down

Indiana woman sentenced to two days in prison; Ends up trapped for 154

Adult Correction Complex
© Wikipedia Commons
A woman from Clark County, Indiana, was held in jail for five months after being ordered to spend only two days there.

Judge Jerry Jacobi sentenced Destiny Hoffman, 34, to 48 hours in jail for failing to pass a drug test - one of the conditions of her drug court programs, which are notorious for being terrible forms of rehabilitation.

He instructed the Sheriff's office to hold her with no bond, and not to release her until "further order of the court" (it is currently unclear why a non-violent drug offender needed to be held indefinitely, without bail).

Hoffman was subsequently (and illegally) denied a hearing and any form of legal counsel, and would probably still be in jail if it weren't for Deputy Prosector Michaelia Gilbert, who noticed something was amiss while she was looking over old case files.

Gilbert quickly attempted to set the record straight by entering a motion for a status hearing, and Hoffman was finally appointed a lawyer, who "expect[s] this will result in a lawsuit for the county."

Judge Jacobi did not appear in court, and has not been reached to comment on the case.

Arrow Down

A ban on owning farm animals? Michigan is considering it

Kelly VanderKley
© MLive.com
Keeping even one "farm animal" in residential neighborhoods could soon be illegal in Michigan. That's because a proposed change to state regulations could strip property owners of the right to keep and raise small numbers of poultry or livestock.

Michigan's Right to Farm Act currently extends to all property owners in the state, including those in areas zoned residential or commercial. The state Agricultural Commission is considering a change to the regulations - called Generally Acceptable Agricultural And Management Practices (GAAMPS) - that would strip property owners of that right.

"It would exclude a whole bunch of people who are seeking Right to Farm protection," Randy Buchler of the Michigan Small Farm Council said of the proposal, "and strip the small farmers of their right to be protected by a state law."

The change would allow local governments to bar people from keeping small numbers of animals such as one cow or pig or a flock of chickens on their property. The law does this by labeling certain kinds of property, such as lots in subdivisions or small homesteads, as unacceptable for livestock.