Aletho News


Protests, Disturbances, and Violence Continue in Venezuela, General Strike a “Failure”

Venezuelanalysis | April 16th 2013

Merida –  This afternoon president Maduro said the opposition’s call for a general strike today had “failed”. He also blamed the losing candidate in Sunday’s elections, Henrique Capriles, for the seven deaths last night.

Maduro said last night’s violence was part of a plan “to take Venezuela off the road of democracy”, and called on the people to be peaceful and not “fall for provocations”.

He also declared “the coup d’état defeated”, and inaugurated a health centre in Miranda state. However he said it seemed the “destabilisations will continue”. Though there has been no direct attempt to overthrow the government, some government authorities have referred to the opposition’s refusal to recognise the election results as a “coup” or part of an attempt to bring about a coup.

President of the National Electoral Council (CNE) Tibisay Lucena said yesterday that the electoral system functioned “perfectly” on Sunday. She urged Henrique Capriles, who has not recognised the results, to use legal methods to present his complaints. 54% of the votes were audited on Sunday in the presence of booth witnesses from both political parties, and no problems were found, but opposition protestors are demanding that 100% of the votes be recounted.

Telesur reports that according to CNE norms, the opposition have “twenty [working] days to contest the results, they can do it through the Supreme Court, or the CNE, but they should formalise it, and not do it through the media”.

“Majority is majority, and should be respected under a democracy, they shouldn’t seek ambushes and invent things in order to make popular sovereignty vulnerable… that has just one name, “coup-ism” [golpismo],” Maduro said yesterday.

Monday’s aggressions

Last night seven people were killed as a result of opposition violence; two in Caracas, three in Ojeda, Zulia, one in Cumana, and one person in San Cristobal.

fascismo11-300x300The opposition set fire to 18 Central Diagnostic Centres (CDIs – part of the Barrio Adentro health mission), and 3 subsidised food markets (Mercals). They also attacked the director of the CNE, Tibisay Lucena’s house, and the Telesur and VTV offices.

There are also unconfirmed reports of four attacks on housing mission buildings in Miranda, with seven people killed and ten injured.

The governor of Carabobo state, Francisco Ameliach, reported that 8 CDIs were “besieged” and Cuban doctors were attacked in his state. He said 64 people were detained inside the CDI, and “should go to jail, because we’re not going to tolerate a coup d’état here”.

In Merida, around 700 mostly young opposition students protested outside the CNE, as well as in four other places in the city. observed that police presence was light, and most police unarmed.  Many of the students armed themselves with rocks and glass bottles however, as though hoping something would happen. There were similar such protests outside most of the country’s main CNE headquarters.

Many people have posted photos around social networks, claiming they are of the CNE disposing of Sunday’s ballot boxes, though they are in fact of the CNE disposing of 2010 voting boxes, as the law requires. Media like La Patilla and RCTV have also used the photos.

Further, pundit Nelson Bocaranda tweeted that the “CDI in La Paz, Gallo Verde, Maracaibo is hiding some electoral boxes and the Cubans there won’t allow them to be removed”. Opposition television station Globovision has been arguing that “if they don’t want to count the votes, they must have something to hide”.

Capriles called for marches around the country to each state’s head CNE office for today, and for a large march lead by him tomorrow to the headquarters of the CNE in Caracas.

President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, reported through Twitter that he will propose an investigation to the assembly against Capriles for the acts of violence. Luisa Ortega said the public prosecutor’s office will investigate the seven confirmed deaths.

Further, the suspension of the right to carry arms in place during the election, as is the custom, has been extended to this Saturday 6.00pm, following last night’s violence.

State, municipal, and national police are also confined to barracks until Saturday. Police need permission from  the National Bolivarian Armed Forces strategic operational command to intervene or act on any of the violence taking place.

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Protests, Disturbances, and Violence Continue in Venezuela, General Strike a “Failure”

IRS Says It Will Respect 4th Amendment With Regard to Email, But Questions Remain

By Nathan Freed Wessler | ACLU | April 16, 2013

With tax day behind us, taxpayers may soon have something else to celebrate from the IRS. In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee today, IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller was questioned aggressively about documents released by the ACLU last week that indicate that the IRS does not think it needs a warrant to read all emails and other electronic communications during criminal investigations. Under pressure from senators, Miller agreed to update IRS policy documents within 30 days to state that a warrant is required for access to all emails, regardless of their age.

Two senators from opposite sides of the aisle, Senator Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Wyden (D-OR), pressed Miller about whether the IRS has sought or obtained emails without a warrant since a federal appeals court ruled in 2010 that a warrant is required for all emails. (You can watch the hearing here. Sen. Grassley’s questions start at 1:25:00 and Sen. Wyden’s questions start at 1:31:10.) They asked why the IRS seems to be ignoring that 2010 decision—United States v. Warshak—in most of the country, and advising its criminal investigative agents that emails stored on a server for more than 180 days can be obtained without a warrant. Surprisingly, Miller answered that the IRS follows Warshak across the country. That’s not what internal IRS documents and its public policy manual show, but if true it is welcome news. Importantly, Miller committed to clarify written IRS policy within 30 days to state that a warrant is always required.

Miller’s testimony leaves several important questions unanswered, however:

  1. Although Miller stated that the IRS Criminal Investigation unit obtains warrants for all emails, he did not discuss other forms of electronic communication such as text messages, instant messages, and direct messages on social media. Under the Fourth Amendment, a warrant should be required for those private communications as well.
  1. Miller stated that, to his knowledge, the IRS has not obtained electronic communications without a warrant in the past. But an internal IRS Chief Counsel Advice memorandum from 2011 reveals that, months after Warshak, IRS investigative agents requested emails from an internet service provider without a warrant at least once. The IRS should explain when it started following Warshak nationally, and whether it has sought or obtained emails without a warrant in the past.

We applaud Senators Grassley and Wyden for quickly taking up this important issue and getting an answer from the IRS, less than a week after the ACLU released the IRS documents. But while the IRS’s apparent change of policy is a step in the right direction, there is more for Congress to do. The current IRS policy manual relies on the outdated Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which only requires a warrant for some emails and other electronic communications. In order to uniformly protect the privacy of Americans’ private communications, lawmakers must update ECPA to require a warrant for the contents of all electronic communications, regardless of age or other factors. Strong reform legislation has been introduced by a bipartisan group of sponsors, and is starting to make its way through the legislative process. Follow this link to urge Congress to modernize our electronic privacy law and close the loophole that’s letting the government access email and other electronic communications without a warrant.

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Comments Off on IRS Says It Will Respect 4th Amendment With Regard to Email, But Questions Remain

Google Spy Drones For Street View?

By Wolfe Richter | Testosterone Pit | April 15, 2013

Back in 2009, Google CEO and now Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, already under heavy fire for his company’s strategy to collect, store, and mine every shred of personal data out there, said on CNBC, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

It makes sense. Why worry about surveillance if you haven’t done anything wrong? This, in his unvarnished manner, is what he thinks about privacy. There is none. You don’t need it. You don’t want it. It’s not good for you. It just makes you appear guilty. It’s the philosophy under which police states operate.

Google has no compunction about reading emails of its Gmail users, browsing through user details in its social network services, tracking people throughout their searches, purchases, and reading patterns. It draws conclusions and combines it all with other data into a beautiful whole. For people with Android mobile devices, there is little Google doesn’t know.

Google isn’t the only data hog out there, and perhaps not even the one with the most intimate data – that would probably be Facebook – but it has some unique non-internet tools. Its Street View cars for example. They record visually what is going on in every neighborhood in the world – while also picking up wireless data from home or business networks. So when its new “privacy policy” took effect last year, it caused a lot of fretting. “Calling this a ‘privacy policy’ is Orwellian doublespeak,” lamented John Simpson of Consumer Watchdog. It should instead be called a “spy policy.” But the ruckus, like so many things, subsided after a few weeks.

But suddenly, Schmidt got all riled up about privacy issues of devices that Google doesn’t control through its software and that can access and record promising details of life: civilian drones. Including the toy-like “everyman” minidrones, such as multi-rotor helicopters. He wants them banned outright. And if they can’t be banned, he wants them regulated. To make his point, he dragged out an unfortunate example of a neighbor with an axe to grind:

“How would you feel if your neighbor went over and bought a commercial observation drone that they can launch from their back yard,” he said. “It just flies over your house all day. How would you feel about it?” He didn’t like that prospect. Not at all. “It’s got to be regulated,” he said, he whose company fights regulations wherever it encounters them. “It’s one thing for governments, who have some legitimacy in what they’re doing, but have other people doing it … It’s not going to happen.”

An unfortunate example because an insidious and at once funny Google moment of this type erupted in a village in France. A guy was urinating in his yard. We know he did; just then a Street View car drove by. Its camera, mounted on a rooftop post, could see over the closed gate and the perimeter enclosure and caught the hapless dude in flagrante delicto.

He didn’t know it at the time. And he didn’t know it when the scene appeared on Street View. His neighbors discovered the photo of him in his yard, relieving himself, face slightly blurred. It was only after he’d become the laughingstock of his village that he learned about it. Sure, in Schmidt’s surveillance-state words, he “shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

So the difference between a Street View car and a drone is one of degrees. One can only capture what’s visible from its elevated equipment; the other can fly. One is an essential part of its business model; the other should be banned? Why his sudden handwringing about privacy when it comes to drones? Especially since Google is plowing a fortune into cars that drive themselves – road-bound drones, so to speak. The next step would be devices that fly. The mapping and control software would by then be on the shelf.

In a couple of years, the FAA will take up the delicate matter of drones used by civilians and companies. Perhaps by then, Google Ventures will fund a company that is developing the latest and greatest unmanned multi-rotor helicopters the size of a briefcase to replace the awkward Street View cars. They’d take pictures of the insides of homes, to show what a neighborhood is really like, beyond the facades. Users would love it. Software will blur the faces of the people inside to guard their “privacy,” very helpful, as the hapless dude in France found out. And then Google will oppose vigorously any regulation that doesn’t suit it. Because Airborne Street View would be the next leap forward for Google – and Schmidt must already be fantasizing about it.

Here are some tricks I use to maintain privacy and security on the internet – written in my own manner so that even I can follow the instructions: Windows 7, Internet Explorer, Silverlight, Flash Player, & Java Privacy Settings and Cleanup.

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Google Spy Drones For Street View?

Margaret Thatcher, and the man in the shadows

By Tony Gosling | RT | April 16, 2013

Eyebrows have been raised around the world to see Brits in their thousands dancing through the night in spontaneous street parties following the death of 1980s Prime Minister ‘Iron Lady’ Margaret Thatcher.

As the nickname suggests, she had a fearsome reputation round the world for hitting hard for Britain, but at home it was a different story. In the industrial North most knew several families who lost their livelihood on her watch. Londoners saw ominous shifting sands, homeless youngsters begging on the streets whom her regime had turned it’s back on.

The taboo not a single commentator has broached though is the shadowy ‘advisory’ role played throughout her premiership by European banking fraternity’s Labour peer Lord Victor Rothschild. He was revealed in the book the Thatcher government tried to suppress, Peter Wright’s Spycatcher, to be behind London’s top secret service appointments. In 1986 Rothschild penned ‘Paying for Local Government’ the policy paper that led to the notorious Poll Tax that fell hardest on the poorest, and which brought Britons onto the streets of London in their hundreds of thousands in 1990, riots echoing London’s Poll Tax revolt of 1381.

And according to the then BBC Chairman Marmaduke Hussey, Lord Victor also initiated the sacking in 1987 of the last independent-minded Director General of the BBC, a castration from which the corporation never quite recovered.

One word captures the essence of the Thatcher legacy; ‘privatisation’. As an exasperated former Tory Prime Minster Harold Macmillan put it “she’s selling off the family silver!”. And so tens of mind-boggling billions of pounds of silver were auctioned off to the highest bidders, mostly to Rothschild’s kith and kin. From shipyards and public housing to telephones, steel, oil, gas and water, anyone in the world was free to own the infrastructure and manufacturing heart of Britain that was once collectively ‘ours’.

Was this to pay the USA Lend-Lease second world war debts? To repay Britain’s humiliating 1976 IMF loan? Or simply to fill the hole left in the national accounts after Thatcher dropped income tax on Britain’s richest by more than half from 83% to 40%? Or was it just daylight robbery? When she refused to join the EMU, the forerunner to the vice-like Euro, she was promptly knifed in the back by those who sing her praises today.

Since Thatcher, City institutions have bought up much of our politics and mass media, leaving a post-industrial wasteland ‘museum’ of a nation where the Joseph Rowntree Foundation recently estimated six-and-a-half million British adults are being cruelly blamed, punished and made destitute for ‘not wanting’ full-time jobs, that don’t exist.

Today the cracks that Margaret and Victor’s turbo-charged crowbar opened up have become a chasm which is reawakening this nation’s anger at injustice. The £10 million of taxpayers money being spent on Lady Thatcher’s state funeral, by the millionaires for the millionaires, is rubbing salt in the wounds. Hundreds of thousands of Britons who know right from wrong will turn away and raise a solemn glass to the damnation of Margaret Thatcher and her ‘rehabilitation of greed’ this week, demanding better. The sleeping giant of the British public is rousing from its slumber.

As millionaire Prime Minister David Cameron reads the Christian eulogy at Lady Thatcher’s lavish funeral, those of Britain’s ruling class who still have something resembling a conscience will do well to heed them.

Britain’s first woman Prime Minister – the Margaret Thatcher timeline

1925 October 13 – Margaret Thatcher is born in the market town of Grantham, Lincolnshire
1947 – Thatcher graduates from Oxford with a Chemistry degree
1954 June 1 – Qualifies as a lawyer
1970 – Enters the Cabinet as Education Secretary
1975 February 11 –  Elected Conservative Party leader, beating Edward Heath.
1975-9 – Leader of the Opposition
1979 May 4 – The Conservative Party wins the general election, Thatcher succeeds James Callaghan as PM
1979 December 13 – Abolition of Exchange Controls
1980 – Buses deregulated and bus routes privatised
1980 – British Aerospace partly privatised
1980 – April – Local Government stopped from building council homes and tenants given the right to buy
1981 – March Prisoners at Northern Ireland’s Maze Prison go on hunger strike to regain status as political prisoners
1981 – April-July Urban rioting in Brixton in London, Toxteth in Liverpool and St. Pauls in Bristol.
1982 – January Unemployment tops 3 million
1982 – April-June Falklands War
1983 – Associated British Ports (ABP) privatised
1983 – British Shipbuilding privatised
1983 June 9 – Second term as PM begins; the Conservatives secure a landslide election victory
1984-5 – Miners strike, amid the closure and privatisation of coal mines
1984 – British Leyland car manufacturers privatised
1984 October 12 – Narrowly escapes death after the IRA bombs the Conservative party conference in Brighton, killing 5
1984 November – British Telecom (BT) the old Post Office Telecommunications is privatised
1985 – Attempted suppression of former MI5 officer Peter Wright’s autobiography ‘Spycatcher’ which is then published in Australia & Scotland.
1985 June 1 – Battle Of The Beanfield, Britain’s traveller peace convoy destroyed near Stonehenge, Wiltshire by violent police action as recorded in the ‘Operation Solstice’ documentary
1986 – January Wapping dispute as Rupert Murdoch embraces electronic publishing and breaks the power of print unions, depicted in the documentary ‘Despite The Sun’
1986 – British Airports Authority (BAA) privatised
1986 – March Abolition of Ken Livingstone’s opposition Labour controlled Greater London Council or GLC
1986 October 27 – Big Bang deregulation of the City of London financial sector which many believe contributed to the 2008 financial crisis
1986 December – British Gas privatised
1987 January – After several TV and radio programmes critical of the Thatcher government Victor Rothschild & Marmaduke Hussey sack BBC Director General Alasdair Milne
1987 February – British Airways privatised
1987 – Majority share in British Petroleum (BP) privatised
1987 – Rolls Royce aero engines privatised
1987 June 11 – Wins third term as Prime Minister
1988 – British Steel privatised
1989 – British Aerospace fully privatised
1989 – Water Boards privatised
1990 – The Electricity Act began the complex privatisation of electricity (except nuclear)
1990 March 31 – Poll tax riots culminate in a 200,000 strong march on central London, as portrayed in The Battle Of Trafalgar documentary
1990 October 30 – Thatcher No!, No!, No! speech in Commons makes it clear she is set against European Monetary and Political Union
1990 November 13 – Geoffrey Howe resigns in protest at Thatcher’s refusal to agree a timetable for European Monetary Union
1990 November 14 – Former cabinet minister Michael Heseltine challenges Margaret Thatcher for the party leadership
1990 November 28 – Thatcher resigns, despite having won the first ballot. She is succeeded by John Major
1992 – Thatcher leaves the House of Commons, joins the Lords as Baroness Thatcher
1994 – Praises Tony Blair and New Labour as her proudest achievement
2013 April 8 – Lady Thatcher dies in The Ritz hotel owned by Daily Telegraph proprietors the Barclay twins.

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist.

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Joseph Stiglitz blasts America’s wealthy-coddling tax system

Naked Capitalism | April 16, 2013

It’s a sign of how well relentless propagandizing works that Joe Stiglitz has to devote a lengthy op-ed in the New York Times to debunking the idea that our income tax system, whose salient characteristic is low tax burdens for the rich, is good for anyone other than the rich. Economists have increasingly taken note of the fact that the U.S. experiment in lowering taxes produced the opposite of the outcomes that were claimed for it, namely, spurring growth and increasing incomes in all cohorts (the barmy “trickle down” theory). Cross-country comparisons show that advanced economies with higher growth rates, like Germany, typically tax their wealthy more, showing that high taxes on the rich are not a negative for growth. Instead, giving tax breaks to the rich has turbo-charged rentier capitalism:

Remember, the low tax rates at the top were supposed to spur savings and hard work, and thus economic growth. They didn’t. Indeed, the household savings rate fell to a record level of near zero after President George W. Bush’s two rounds of cuts, in 2001 and 2003, on taxes on dividends and capital gains. What low tax rates at the top did do was increase the return on rent-seeking. It flourished, which meant that growth slowed and inequality grew. This is a pattern that has now been observed across countries. Contrary to the warnings of those who want to preserve their privileges, countries that have increased their top tax bracket have not grown more slowly. Another piece of evidence is here at home: if the efforts at the top were resulting in our entire economic engine’s doing better, we would expect everyone to benefit. If they were engaged in rent-seeking, as their incomes increased, we’d expect that of others to decrease. And that’s exactly what’s been happening. Incomes in the middle, and even the bottom, have been stagnating or falling.

Stiglitz provides a compelling summary of how the rich get favored treatment:

The richest 400 individual taxpayers, with an average income of more than $200 million, pay less than 20 percent of their income in taxes – far lower than mere millionaires, who pay about 25 percent of their income in taxes, and about the same as those earning a mere $200,000 to $500,000. And in 2009, 116 of the top 400 earners – almost a third – paid less than 15 percent of their income in taxes….

With such low effective tax rates – and, importantly, the low tax rate of 20 percent on income from capital gains – it’s not a huge surprise that the share of income going to the top 1 percent has doubled since 1979, and that the share going to the top 0.1 percent has almost tripled, according to the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. Recall that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own about 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the picture becomes even more disturbing.

Stiglitz points out that not only are our tax rates on top earners strikingly low by OECD standards, but the income level at which they kick in are also higher than in most other advanced economies. And that is before you factor in that the rich for the most part don’t make their money through income but capital gains, which are taxed at lower rates. That preferable treatment has been exploited flagrantly by the hedge fund and private equity industries, which have been able to structure their funds so that the overwhelming majority of the income they get from managing the funds, which is labor income, is taxed at capital gains rates. And the worst is that the Masters of the Universe act as if that is perfectly reasonable. Stiglitz objects:

Some Wall Street financiers are able to pay taxes at lower capital gains tax rates on income that comes from managing assets for private equity funds or hedge funds. But why should managing financial assets be treated any differently from managing people, or making discoveries? Of course, those in finance say they are essential. But so are doctors, lawyers, teachers and everyone else who contributes to making our complex society work. They say they are necessary for job creation. But in fact, many of the private equity firms that have excelled in exploiting the carried interest loophole are actually job destroyers; they excel in restructuring firms to “save” on labor costs, often by moving jobs abroad.

And then the good professor turns to corporate tax breaks, citing poster child GE, which has paid on average less than 2% of its income in taxes since 2002. The picture is likely even worse than these figures suggest since corporations and wealthy individuals can hide income tax havens. … Full article

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments

Mom Says DC Cop Assaulted Little Kid

By IULIA FILIP | Courthouse News | April 15, 2013

WASHINGTON – A police officer slammed a 10-year-old student’s head on a table, concussing him, while talking to students about “behaving in class,” the boy’s mother claims in court.

Chante Price sued Metropolitan Police Officer David Bailey Jr. and the District of Columbia, in Federal Court.

She claims Bailey assaulted her son while the boy was discussing a book with a classmate, at Wilkinson Elementary School in Southeast Washington.

Moten Elementary students were temporarily assigned to Wilkinson because of renovations, Price says in the complaint. She claims Bailey’s assault gave her 80-lb., 4-foot 10-inch son headaches for two weeks and made him afraid to go to school.

“On April 19, 2012, T.P. was in music class,” the complaint states. “T.P.’s teacher sent him to the cafeteria because he wasn’t participating adequately in the class. In the cafeteria, he sat at a lunch table with a few other classmates who were also being disciplined. Officer Bailey was present in the cafeteria. There were no other adults in the immediate vicinity.

“On information and belief, Officer Bailey regularly stopped in Moten Elementary School at Wilkinson as part of his routine patrol.

“Officer Bailey lectured the children about behaving in class. T.P. quietly discussed the book he was reading with a classmate.

“Officer Bailey approached T.P. and said, ‘Stop playing with me.’ T.P. responded that he was ‘not playing.’ Officer Bailey grabbed T.P. by the back of his head and slammed T.P.’s head forward into the table. Officer Bailey then grabbed T.P. by the shirt and forcefully lifted him off his chair. Officer Bailey threatened, ‘Play with me again, I’ll take you to 7D [the Seventh District police station].’ Officer Bailey dropped T.P. back onto his chair. (Brackets in complaint).

“T.P.’s teacher entered the cafeteria shortly after the incident, and T.P. reported the incident to her. The teacher responded that she could not do anything because Officer Bailey was a police officer.”

In addition to the concussion and headaches, the assault injured her son’s chest, Price says in the complaint.

She claims says her son now is afraid to go to school, where he “feels insecure in his classroom, even with a teacher present.”

Price says she filed a complaint against Bailey with the District of Columbia Office of Police Complaints, which is investigating, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Bailey.

D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said in a statement that “police officers should be afforded due process just like anyone else, before judgment is passed. It should also be noted that criminal charges were declined in this matter.”

Price seeks compensatory and punitive damages for constitutional violations, assault and battery.

She is represented by Arthur Spitzer with the American Civil Liberties Union.

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , | 1 Comment