world news

1-23-13      since 2008 15 million more Americans rely on food stamps. According to the Census Bureau, 146 million of us, nearly half of the U.S. population, are poor or low-income. The Civilian Employment/Population ratio, which is the broadest measure of employment in the country, is at its lowest level since the early 1980s. Median household income has retreated to its 1995 level. Lastly, the economy is not producing jobs for US college graduates; 53 percent of them under the age of 25 are either unemployed or underemployed. Given that many graduated with huge college debt, what could the future hold for these folks?

But, don’t despair. Some in our society are doing quite well because of the federal largess thrown their way. Most of them just happen to be located around New York City and the District of Columbia. You see, the U.S. stock and bond markets are at, or near, all-time highs. Real estate in Manhattan and Washington, D.C. has bounced back nicely and both are at all-time highs. Even the Contemporary Art market in the Big Apple has seen sales skyrocket in spite of higher prices.

But, this is predictable, given that New York and the nation’s capital are where the Wall Street/Washington Axis of Financial Evil is headquartered. It is where that axis prints the new money and injects it into the economy through its well-connected surrogates: the “too big to fails”.      http://blogcritics.org/gap-between-rich-and-poor-rooted/

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excellent photos of steel & glass buildings not collapsinghttp://www.serendipity.li/wot/other_fires/other_fires.htm

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Reports on February 24 say at least eight Lenin monuments were either pulled down or dismantled in the central Poltava region.
In the city of Poltava, the regional capital, a Lenin monument was pulled down by a truck.
On February 23, pro-Russian protesters formed human chains to protect Lenin monuments in the eastern cities of Donetsk and Kharkiv.
On February 22, a Lenin statue in Crimea was pulled down and cut into pieces.  http://www.rferl.org/content/ ukraine-lenin-soviet-statues/ 25275512.html
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Russia, which joined France, Germany and Poland in mediating the settlement*, introduced a further element of uncertainty by declining to sign the accord, which reduces the power of Mr. Yanukovych, an ally of Moscow. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/ 02/22/world/europe/ukraine. html?_r=0
*balanced government commitment in return for turning over protestors’ guns.  deal didn’t last many hours.
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“Again we see Mercedes and BMWs bringing deputies who are supposed to represent the people,” said Mr. Kuak, “We don’t want to see
these people again. We want to see people from the square, from the revolution.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/ 02/25/world/europe/ukraine- parliament.html
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Between the signing ceremony for the peace deal, held at the vast colonnaded building that houses Ukraine’s presidential administration, and his break for Olympic cheerleading, the president’s prospects had taken a drastic turn for the worse: Hundreds of riot police officers guarding the presidential compound and nearby government buildings had vanished.

“It was astonishing,” said Mr. Sikorski, who, while leaving the presidential building, watched in dismay as police officers jumped into buses and drove off. “That was not part of the deal. Astonishing.”
The departure of the police had been days in the making, a result of a sequence of events that began late on Wednesday with the seizing of an Interior Ministry armory in the western city of Lviv and the transportation of those weapons to the outskirts of Kiev, the capital. Violent clashes on Thursday, which left more than 80 protesters and many police officers dead, enraged the opposition and sapped the will of Mr. Yanukovych’s enforcers, if not Mr. Yanukovych himself.
By the end of Friday, the deal that Mr. Yanukovych had believed would win him at least a few more months in office was dead, discarded the moment enraged protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square learned of it….
On Tuesday, empowered by a new aid package from Russia announced the day before, Mr. Yanukovych pressed to remove an encampment of antigovernment activists from Independence Square, where they had been cursing his government since November.
Squads of riot police overpowered the outer ring of defenses protesters had set up and advanced to within 25 yards of a stage in the center of the square, called the Maidan.
Running out of options, the protesters mounted a final, desperate defense, a so-called ring of fire stoked with tires, firewood and even their own sleeping bags and pads.
But Andrei Levus, deputy head of the Maidan “self-defense” forces, the umbrella organization of militant activists fighting the government, knew he had reinforcements on the way. Protesters in Lviv had overrun an Interior Ministry garrison and were en route to Kiev with the captured military weapons.
“I’m reluctant to talk about this because we are protesters and not illegal armed groups,” Mr. Levus said. “But the square was about to look different. There would be more people, and they would not have had empty hands.”
Despite the dwindling of the protective fires, the protesters decided to hold on to the square long enough for both sides to consider the significance of the arrival of the weapons in the capital.
Using a member of Parliament as an intermediary, Mr. Levus opened a line of communication with a deputy interior minister, whom he declined to name. It appeared that Mr. Yanukovych, perhaps sensing that his security forces were reluctant to press the crackdown, was inclined to turn to the army for help. He had fired the armed forces chief of staff, Col. Gen. Volodymyr Zamana, on Monday.
“We understood they had a few hundred fanatical riot police, but the rest of the police would not fight,” Mr. Levus said….Mr. Levus said he received a call on his cellphone around noon on Thursday from the deputy interior minister. “I told him, ‘We will guarantee the safety of the police if they leave the city,’ ” he said….
“You need to declare on what date you’ll resign,” Sikorski said he told the president.
Mr. Yanukovych “went white,” Mr. Sikorski said. But the deadlock lifted after the Ukrainian leader received a phone call shortly afterward from President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. “He came back, he was agreeing to limit his time in office,” Mr. Sikorski said. “That made everything possible.”
At the same time, the police and Parliament had their own deliberations underway. On Friday morning, Parliament passed a motion dismissing Mr. Yanukovych’s hated interior minister, Vitaly Zakharchenko, for using violence against protesters.
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2-20-14   FISA, a secret court. Its judges, appointed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court alone, are charged with ruling after hearing only one side of any case involving a governmental desire to snoop or pry or surveil. Unsurprisingly enough, over the three and a half decades of its existence, the court proved a willing rubber stamp for just about any urge of the national security state.

In retrospect, this remedy for widespread government illegality clearly was just another step in the institutionalization of a secret world that looks increasingly like an Orwellian nightmare. In creating the FISA court, Congress functionally took the seat-of-the-pants, extra-Constitutional, extra-legal acts of the Nixon era and put them under the rule of (secret) law. http://www.thenation.com/article/178467/what-snowden-leaked-was-nothing-compared-what-he-didnt#
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2-22-14  However, unlike the court system for regular police warrants, the judicial system for the NSA is far more secretive. In order to give judicial scrutiny to preserve the secrecy of NSA activities, the FISA court meets in secret with only government representatives present at its proceedings. The hearings are closed to the public and the rulings of the judges are classified, and rarely released after the fact. (Some rulings have been partly declassified, but are still heavily redacted.) The judges in the FISA court hear applications from a representative of the NSA, and ask questions, allowing the agency to amend their applications to meet any shortcomings. Adversarial argument from other parties is absent, since there are no other parties at the hearing.

Some of this is similar to the operation of public courts for regular police warrants, but there is a great deal more secrecy, and a great deal more power granted to the government. One distinction between the FISA Court, and regular public courts issuing warrants for police searches, is the type of warrant system that is practiced under the FISA Court. For police searches it is generally the case that the police will apply for a warrant to surveil a particular person, or a small group or people, and give some evidence of “probable cause” for a search, i.e., the police must convince the court that there is reasonable suspicion for surveillance on a case-by-case basis. Under the FISA Court the warrants for the NSA are much wider in scope. Many of the warrants authorize the collection of communications data on a particular phone carrier, capturing the communications of millions of people over sustained periods of time. Other warrants are “procedure-based” warrants which authorize a proposed data-collection process, subject to various “minimization procedures” designed to confine the querying of data. These generally allow mass data-collection on a population, with application of the minimization procedures left to the NSA.   http://mises.org/daily/6672/FISA-the-NSA-and-Americas-Secret-Court-System 
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2-19- 2014   
But experts say that lobbying isn’t dying; instead, it’s simply going underground. The problem, says American University professor James Thurber, who has studied congressional lobbying for more than thirty years, is that “most of what is going on in Washington is not covered” by the lobbyist-registration system. Thurber, who is currently advising the American Bar Association’s lobbying-reform task force, adds that his research suggests the true number of working lobbyists is closer to 100,000.
A loophole-ridden law, poor enforcement, the development of increasingly sophisticated strategies that enlist third-party validators and create faux-grassroots campaigns, along with an Obama administration executive order that gave many in the profession a disincentive to register—all of these forces have combined to produce a near-total collapse of the system that was designed to keep tabs on federal lobbying
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