Society's ChildS

Eye 1

U.S. troops are stationed in Japan to protect the nation - but to sex workers in Okinawa, they bring fear, not security

Okinawa has lived uneasily for decades with its huge American military presence
Business is slow in Okinawa's biggest red-light district. Touts stand idle beneath neon signs advertising "soap-land" brothels, where prostitutes lather male clients for money. A handful of men loiter to peer at the photos of women pasted on billboards outside, though few appear willing to part with Y15,000 (£100) to spend an hour with one inside. Desperate as some of the businesses are, however, many still decline one type of customer: US military servicemen.

"Too much trouble," explains one tout working the Tsuji-machi district of Naha, Okinawa's capital. The soap-land businesses that do admit Americans tend to pair them with older, more experienced women. "They scare the younger girls," says another tout. "Especially when they have had a few drinks."

Okinawa has lived uneasily for decades with its huge American military presence. US bases occupy nearly 20 per cent of the crowded main island of Japan's southernmost prefecture, as part of Tokyo's half-century alliance with Washington. The US maintains 14 military installations on Okinawa housing roughly 25,000 men and women - the Marine Corps Northern Training Area alone occupies close to 40 square miles, and includes the world's only jungle warfare training centre.


World bodies say global food prices to rise

Governments need to boost investment to increase farm output, according to a forecast by international agencies

Rising global food demand will push up prices 10 to 40 per cent over the coming decade and governments need to boost investment to increase farm production, a forecast by two international agencies said on Thursday.

Growth in food production has slowed over the past decade even as rising incomes in developing countries boosted consumption, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

"We're observing slower growth in production and productivity, and that is a concern," said Merritt Cluff, an FAO economist, at a news conference.

Governments need to find ways to give farmers access to technology to increase output and get more of their crops to market, the agencies said in a report, "Agricultural Outlook 2013-2022."

Prices are expected to rise 10 to 40 per cent over the coming decade, with the cost of meat rising faster and that of grains more slowly, according to Ken Ash, director-general of the OECD's trade and agriculture division.


Ecuadorean minister arrives in UK to discuss future of Julian Assange

William Hague to meet Ricardo Patino over WikiLeaks founder confined to embassy in London since August last year

© Frank Augstein/APWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, left, and Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.
Ecuador's foreign minister has arrived in Britain for talks with William Hague over the future of the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, who has been confined to the Ecuadorean embassy in London for almost a year.

Ricardo Patino met Assange on Sunday and will meet Hague on Monday. On Wednesday it will be one year since the WikiLeaks founder walked into the embassy in Knightsbridge in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex assault and rape accusations, which he denies.

In August last year, Ecuador granted him political asylum but the British authorities have made clear that he will be arrested if he leaves the building.

Patino said Assange was in "good spirits" despite the "limitations of his accommodation".

He added: "I was able to say face to face to him, for the first time, that the government of Ecuador remains firmly committed to protecting his human rights and that we continue to seek cast-iron assurances to avoid any onward extradition to a third state.

"During the meeting we were able to speak about the increasing threats against the freedom of people to communicate and to know the truth, threats which come from certain states that have put all of humanity under suspicion."

Since Assange entered the embassy, the Metropolitan police have maintained a round-the-clock guard, which cost £3.3m up to March.

Patino has previously accused the British government of trampling on the human rights of the Australian national by refusing to allow him to travel to Ecuador. Assange said last year he expected to wait six months to a year for a deal that would allow him to leave the embassy. On Sunday he said: "I remain immensely grateful to the support Ricardo, President [Rafael] Correa and the people of Ecuador have shown me over the last year."

He fears answering the allegations in Sweden would make him vulnerable to onward extradition to the US to face potential charges relating to the WikiLeaks releases, fears dismissed by Swedish prosecutors.

Eye 2

How Hollywood softened us up for NSA surveillance

From Enemy of the State to Eagle Eye to Minority Report, US films have accustomed us to the idea that we are constantly being watched

© Allstar/Touchstone/Sportsphoto LtdWill Smith is pursued by NSA agents in Enemy of the State
Last week's NSA leaks scandal had a scary side-story: a poll found that many Americans were not that worried about the degree of access the agency apparently now has to their digital lives. Perhaps it is because "precrime", a sci-fi concept of some vintage, is now real.

Hollywood has been softening us up for this for years now, accustoming us to the notion that our spending habits, our location, our every movement and conversation, are visible to others whose motives we cannot know.

The NSA (unofficial motto: "Nobody Say Anything") and Hollywood (unofficial motto: "Nobody Knows Anything") have been feeling each other up at arm's length for decades, but after 9/11 era the romance became official, and surveillance-based entertainment, from 24 to Alias, from Spooks to Big Brother to Person of Interest, went global.

In movies where the NSA appears as itself (or a production designer's imagining thereof), there is always one rogue NSA agent abusing the vast informational and surveillance capabilities available to him. In Enemy of the State, it is the dependably barmy Jon Voight who goes off the reservation, and in Echelon Conspiracy, it is Martin Sheen. But these lone villains are routinely depicted as abusing a magnificent and fundamentally benign spy apparatus. The thing itself is morally neutral, they seem to argue, it is bad humans who make it behave badly.

In Eagle Eye, the Department of Defence surveillance programme ARIIA (autonomous reconnaissance intelligence integration analyst - sexily voiced by Julianne Moore) goes all Skynet on its users, becoming self-aware and determining by ruthless logic that the real bug in the system isn't digital at all - it is the human political class, and resolving to wipe out the lot of them at the state of the union address.

The NSA has been up to its tricks since the late 1940s, and people have been fretting about it for almost as long. Philip K Dick, patron saint of American paranoia, wrote Minority Report in 1956, in which the precrime police of Washington DC claim to foresee crimes in order to prevent them. The usually less swivel-eyed Isaac Asimov, in his 1958 story All the Troubles of the World, delineated a computer system not unlike the NSA's called Multivac, which aims to drain the world's entire fund of raw data for its insights into future crime. You can tell how that ends by the title.

We have been here before, folks - we were just never quite so happy about it.

Arrow Up

U.S. wholesale prices rise 0.5 percent in May

Washington - A rise in food and gas costs drove a measure of wholesale prices up sharply in May. But outside those volatile categories, inflation was mild.

The Labor Department said Friday that the producer price index rose 0.5 percent in May from April. Gas prices rose 1.5 percent last month, and food costs increased 0.6 percent.

The increase last month followed a 0.7 percent decline in April and a 0.6 percent drop in March, both of which were driven by steep declines in gas prices.

Core prices, which exclude food and energy, rose just 0.1 percent in May. That matches the April increase.

The index measures price changes before they reach the consumer.

Source: Associated Press


77% do not trust television news

MSM News
© Activist Post
The annual Gallup survey revealing confidence in institutions made news earlier this week for a record low score of 10% for Congress. But another figure is noteworthy in the study: only 23% of those polled said they had a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in Television News.

One would think that 77% lacking trust in television news is a staggering number. Yet it is actually an improvement over last year's results of 79% (or 21% with confidence).
© Gallup
If the new low for Congress has something to do with recent political scandals, perhaps the media's coverage of those scandals has given them a slight boost. However, other polls show trust in media to be even worse.

Eye 1

Riot police attack protesters in Taksim Square

The Turkish riot police have attacked anti-government protesters in Istanbul's flashpoint Taksim Square, shortly after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the demonstrators to evacuate the area.

Turkish riot police use a water cannon and tear gas to disperse protesters at Istanbul’s Gezi Park on June 15, 2013
The forces stormed the protest camp in Gezi Park on Saturday, firing tear gas and using water cannons to disperse thousands of protesters defying the prime minister's order to leave.

They trampled tents, pulled down banners, and broke down barricades in the park. Afterwards, a city cleaning crew, backed by bulldozers, moved into the green patch and cleared the site.

Police pursued protestors as they ran in all directions including to a nearby hotel. Several protesters have been detained from the area or in house-to-house searches.

Several people also were wounded, some of them allegedly by rubber bullets.


Massive fire near downtown Indianapolis forces evacuations, explosions reported

A fire engulfed a sprawling mixed-use building near downtown Indianapolis filled with tires and wooden pallets Saturday, producing a towering pillar of black smoke that prompted the evacuation of a five-block area surrounding the structure, authorities said.

Capt. Rita Burris of the Indianapolis Fire Department said about 100 firefighters from six departments were battling the fire that was consuming the two-story brick building about one mile southwest of the city's downtown.

The building was rocked by numerous explosions that Burris said are believed to have been small propane tanks exploding from the heat of the fire.

She said the building houses tire- and pallet-recycling businesses, a bicycle shop and storage facilities, but none were believed to have been open when the fire was reported Saturday afternoon.

The blaze produced such a large plume of black smoke that firefighters ordered the evacuation of a five-block area around the building due to the health threat posed by the smoke, Burris said.

Arrow Down

Kickstarter almost enabled a $120,000 fraud, and it's not the first

Kobe Beef Jerky
© KickstarterThe Kickstarter campaign for Kobe Red beef jerky was yanked just minutes before thousands of backers lost their money.
Kickstarter just narrowly averted what would have been the biggest definitive fraud in the crowdfunding site's history. It shut down the Kobe Red project, which promised to deliver mouthwatering beef jerky made from Japanese cows fed on 100% organic feed and treated to beer and massages (we're not making this up) - just an hour before scammers would have successfully made off with $120,309 from the project's 3,239 backers.

Rather than vetting projects on its own, Kickstarter relies on its own users to report suspicious campaigns. Kobe Red was flagged by, among others, a group of filmmakers who are working on a documentary about Kickstarter.

Bad Guys

Bulgarians protest over media magnate as new head of 'FBI' security service

Sofia protest
© Sofia Photo Agency The protest in Sofia Saturday evening was held once again in front of the Council of Ministers and gathered some 8000 people.
Thousands of people rallied on Friday to protest against the appointment of a media magnate as Bulgaria's new security chief in a show of discontent after disputed elections.

Chanting "Mafia" and "resign", about 10,000 people rallied in a main square in front of government headquarters in the capital Sofia. Smaller protests were held in other cities.

Protesters expressed anger at parliament's appointment of Delyan Peevski to the security post, which political analysts have described as another example of Bulgaria subjecting state institutions to private interests.

Legislators from the ruling Socialists and the allied ethnic Turkish MRF party endorsed Peevski, also an MRF deputy, for the security chief post by a simple majority without debate.

They acted hours after legal changes stripping the president of his power to appoint heads of secret services took effect.