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NSA Monitored Calls of 35 World Leaders After US Official Handed Over Contacts

October 24, 2013 in Blogs

By James Ball, The Guardian

Angela Merkel was right. Leaders calling it “unprecedented breach of trust.”


The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its “customer” departments, such the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their “Rolodexes” so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems.

The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately “tasked” for monitoring by the NSA.

The revelation is set to add to mounting diplomatic tensions between the US and its allies, after the German chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday accused the US of tapping her mobile phone.

After Merkel's allegations became public, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued a statement that said the US “is not monitoring and will not monitor” the German chancellor's communications. But that failed to quell the row, as officials in Berlin quickly pointed out that the US did not deny monitoring the phone in the past.

The NSA memo obtained by the Guardian suggests that such surveillance was not isolated, as the agency routinely monitors the phone numbers of world leaders – and even asks for the assistance of other US officials to do so.

The memo, dated October 2006 and which was issued to staff in the agency's Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID), was titled “Customers Can Help SID Obtain Targetable Phone Numbers”.

It begins by setting out an example of how US officials who mixed with world leaders and politicians could help agency surveillance.

“In one recent case,” the memo notes, “a US official provided NSA with 200 phone numbers to 35 world leaders … Despite the fact that the majority is probably available via open source, the PCs [intelligence production centers] have noted 43 previously unknown phone numbers. These numbers plus …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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11-Year-Old Arrested for Bringing Gun and Ammunition to School

October 24, 2013 in Blogs

By Rod Bastanmehr, AlterNet

12-year-old shooter in Sparks, Nevada. Now this. In gun-soaked culture, the kids really do not seem all right.


An 11-year-old, middle-school student in Vancouver, Washington, accused of bringing a handgun to school, along with 400 rounds of ammunition and several knives, was arrested by police on Wednesday night. The arrest came after police recovered the weapons and ammunition earlier in the day at Frontier Middle School.

The boy, whose name won’t be released to the press due to his age, was interviewed by detectives and arrested while police investigate of one count of attempted murder, police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said in a statement. Officers responded to a tip that ammunition was found at the school at around 9:30 a.m. Once the police located the ammunition and multiple weapons, the middle school and adjacent elementary school, were placed in a two-hour lockdown. 

It is estimated that 1,500 students attend the two schools combined.

The arrest comes in the wake of the deadly Sparks Middle School shooting in Nevada, in which a 12-year-old reportedly shot a teacher dead, wounded two classmates, and then took his own life. He had brought the gun from home and his parents may face criminal charges for failing to prevent access to such a deadly weapon. Bullying is said to have been a potential motive in the shooting.

Vancouver, Washington police continue to investigate the case of the heavily armed 11-year-old, and how he obtained his weapons. 

Related Stories

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Source: ALTERNET

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'Zero Dark Thirty' Character Really Was Injured by the CIA, Attorney Says

October 24, 2013 in Blogs

By Adam Klasfield, Courthouse News

Lawsuit: Torture left lasting brain damage.


GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (CN) – One of the suspected plotters in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks – depicted being tortured in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” – suffered a head injury in CIA custody, his attorney said Wednesday.

     Defense attorney James Connell claimed the revelation was the second declassified fact about the treatment of Ammar al-Baluchi, one of five defendants being tried in connection with the attacks.

     Other than that, “the only declassified fact” about al-Baluchi is that he is the basis for the character “Ammar” in the Kathryn Bigelow movie, the lawyer added. Members of Congress and others have criticized the movie for presenting a rosy view of the supposed effectiveness of torture.

     Before this week of hearings, al-Baluchi's lawyers filed a motion seeking to pull the film's writer Mark Boal into the war court to find out what information the CIA may have given to him and not the defense counsel.

     The matter is not expected to be heard at this week's hearings.

     Al-Baluchi and the four other defendants, including self-professed “mastermind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are trying to gain access to information that may corroborate that they were abused.

     Their attorneys say they want to investigate the allegations in Congress, international litigation and elsewhere, but cannot, because of a rule that their client's memory of mistreatment is classified information.

     Connell on Monday told the military judge, Col. James Pohl, that former U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak, if allowed to testify, would say that such a position is unprecedented.

     On Tuesday, the attorney displayed a document that showed that al-Baluchi told identified doctors that he suffered from memory loss, hallucinations and delusions from a head injury he got before 2006, the year he was sent to Guantanamo. He spent the previous three years in secret prisons overseas.

     ”These records just moldered away in reports to psychiatrists,” Connell said, referring to the accounts of his meetings with the doctors.

     Prosecutor Clay Trivett argued that al-Baluchi and his alleged co-conspirators should not be allowed to share the “sensitive sources and methods” they were “exposed to” in CIA custody, when …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Mises’s Student From Japan, Toshio Murata, Turns 90

October 24, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates

abela-murata

Toshio Murata, Ludwig von Mises’s only student form Japan, turned 90 this month. Here he is in Misesian attire with Marc Abela, organizer of the “Mises Meetings” in Japan.

Murata translated Human Action and other works of Mises into Japanese, and is believed to be responsible for the introduction of Austrian Economics to the country.
Jörg Guido Hülsmann mentions Murata in his biography of Mises, The Last Knight of Liberalism:

Mises knew them all, and Human Action had given a great boost to his authority. The Volker Fund had been funding him since 1945. But after the publication of his treatise, the Fund began supporting lectures and extended seminars for Mises, and it even started funding his students. Thus from 1955 to 1969, the Volker Fund sponsored a one-year fellowship in political economy at NYU’s Graduate School of Business Administration. Mises nominated the recipient….

…The first recipient was Hans Sennholz (1955–56). Israel Kirzner was the laureate in 1956–57 and Toshio Murata in 1959–1960 (upon his return to Japan, he began to spread Mises’s theories and also translated The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science and Human Action into Japanese).

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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Mark Thornton Explains One Way the FDA Drives Up Prices

October 24, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates

6567

In Mises Daily today, Mark Thornton writes:

Colcrys has been used to treat gout for a very long time, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had not approved Colcrys specifically for the treatment of gout prior to 2009. Alternative drugs, such as Allopurinal, are also used to treat gout and related ailments. Until recently, you could treat your own gout using one of these medicines for pennies a day.

In the summer of 2009, the Food and Drug Administration approved Colcrys as a treatment for gout flare-ups and the Mediterranean fever. The FDA gave pharmaceutical company URL Pharma an exclusive marketing agreement for selling Colcrys in exchange for completing studies on Colcrys and paying the FDA a $45 million application fee.

This deal effectively created a patented drug with no generic alternative. Therefore it gave the company a monopoly for the duration of the agreement. URL Pharma immediately raised the price from less than a dime to nearly $5 dollars per pill.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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My Question for Simon Johnson

October 24, 2013 in Economics

By Peter G. Klein

As Bob Higgs has tirelessly reminded us, regime uncertainty — doubt about the security of person and property — retards investment and delays recovery from economic downturns. FDR’s constantly changing economic policies help explain why it took the US so long to recover from the Great Depression, and the inconsistent bailout, subsidy, and regulatory regimes of the Bush and Obama Administrations continue to harm the economy today.

Bob points out that that regime uncertainty is distinct from “policy uncertainty,” as that term is typically used today to describe changes in fiscal or monetary policy within a particular legal regime. This kind of policy uncertainty is getting increasing attention in the mainstream press — not in reference to things like Obamacare, but to proposed reductions in government borrowing and spending. For example, Simon Johnson, the IMF’s former chief economist, writes in today’s New York Times that Congressional debates about the non-shutdown and raising the debt ceiling have created uncertainty that is damaging the economy. “If people really believe that the government could default on its debts or otherwise not make payments to which it is committed, that introduces a huge element of uncertainty into many economic calculations. When you are less certain about what is going to happen tomorrow, you tend to postpone big irreversible decisions – like buying a new car or building a factory.”

Here’s my question for Johnson: Imagine a set of government policies deeply harmful to the economy — in this case, the continued monetary and fiscal stimulus from the Fed and Treasury that is perpetuating the malinvestment responsible for the recession. Which is worse, a belief that these bad policies will continue ad infinitum, giving people incentives to make bad economic decisions, or uncertainty about whether the bad policies will remain in place, possibly discouraging people from making the bad decisions?

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

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UC Davis Pepper Spray Cop Awarded $38,000 in Workers Comp

October 24, 2013 in Blogs

By Rod Bastanmehr, AlterNet

Lt. John Pike is being paid handsomely for spraying peaceful protesters in the face.


The former University of California Davis police lieutenant who was caught on video brutally pepper-spraying a line of peaceful protestors in 2011 during the Occupy protests was awarded a sum of $38,000 in workman’s compensation in a settlement with the university last week.

Former Lt. John Pike, 40, is reported to have suffered depression and anxiety after a video of his November 18, 2011 confrontation with Occupy Davis protestors went viral. The video sparked outrage across the country and became the clearest symbol of police brutality against the Occupy movement. Soon after the video spread, Pike claims that he and his family began regularly receiving death threats.

“This case has been resolved in accordance with state law and processes on workers’ compensation,” UC Davis spokesman Andy Fell told the Davis Enterprise. Pike’s attorney, Jason Marcus, declined to comment on the ruling. 

California state’s Disability Evaluation Unit is tasked with determining permanent disability ratings based on doctor’s reports. According to a January 5 psychiatric report issues by Richard Lieberman, and released by the state, Pike’s disability and mental distress were rated as “moderate.” 

A second psychiatrist, Bernard Bauer of San Francisco, was brought in to blindly score Pike’s responses on a battery of psychological tests—but the results have not been made public. 

In January of this year, UC Davis agreed to pay $1 million to settle a federal suit in which 21 plaintiffs who were sprayed or arrested each received $30,000. Another 15, who had claims relating to the altercation were to be paid $6,666. At over $38,000, Pike is now to be paid a larger settlement than any of the students injured or traumatized while protesting peacefully.

Pike was fired in July of 2012, following eight months of paid administrative leave. During that time, different investigations were launched in an effort to conclude whether Pike’s actions—discharging large amounts of pepper-spray into the faces of a group of quietly seated students, arms locked in peaceful protest—was valid. 

A public task force led by former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso faulted …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Eye Opening Chart: The JP Morgan $13-Billion Settlement in Perspective

October 24, 2013 in Blogs

By Kevin Connor, LittleSis Blog

Holder and his team all worked for the law firm that had JP Morgan as client.


It is 

The DOJ negotiating team.

JPMorgan has been a client of each firm in recent years, though it is unclear if Holder, West, or Cole personally worked on matters for the bank while at their respective firms.*

This white collar defense work pays pretty well, if not at Cutler’s levels. According to financial disclosure forms, Holder received $3.32 million in partnership income from Covington in 2008, before being appointed AG the next year. Cole received $900,000 in 2010 from Bryan Cave, before joining the Justice Department. West received a relatively paltry $318,000 in partnership income from Morrison & Foerster in 2008.

Expect them to be making a lot more in a couple years, if they choose to return to the private sector. While their government salaries are much lower than their private sector compensation, their government service – and their involvement in deals like this one, sitting across the table from Jamie Dimon and negotiating a “tough” deal – has significantly bolstered their value in the marketplace.

Unfortunately, democracy is footing the bill.

*Coincidentally, when JPMorgan settled a $400 million suit with FERC over charges that its commodities unit had been manipulating energy markets earlier this year, it tapped lawyers at Holder’s old firm, Covington & Burling, and West’s old firm, Morrison & Foerster. But the fact that the lawyers at each firm were former FERC officials may go further in explaining why the bank did not suffer greater penalties in that case.

Update (10/23/2013 5:15pm): Tony West, the former WaMu attorney, was the DOJ official who negotiated the details of the settlement with Cutler, after Dimon and Holder got off the phone, according to the NYT:

On a final call that Friday night — Mr. Cutler, Mr. West, Mr. Holder and Mr. Dimon all joined the call — the C.E.O. asked, “What will it take to get this done?”

Mr. Holder informed him that the government would not accept less than $13 billion. And with that, they had a tentative deal.

Mr. Holder and Mr. Dimon left Mr. Cutler and Mr. …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Tom Woods: Attack on Austrian Apriorism Refuted

October 24, 2013 in Economics

By Mises Updates

Tom Woods writes at Liberty Classroom:

Today there was a most unfortunate post at Bleeding Heart Libertarians that attacked “extreme apriorism” among Austrian economists. The attack was focused on an unnamed “Austrian Dude,” but Mises’ own position is nowhere explained or clarified as a counterpoint — one suspects that Mises, too, is an “extreme apriorist.”

I asked Jeffrey Herbener, department chairman at Grove City College and the professor forour Austrian economics course here, to reply:

Anti-Extreme-Austrian-Apriorism as the Straw Man Fallacy

At Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Jason Brennan dismisses Ludwig von Mises’s view of a priori knowledge by reducing it to a statement from the mouth of “Austrian Dude” about a distinction between action and behavior. What Mises himself claimed is that one can know something about human action without learning it from experience. The conceptual framework by which we understand the meaning of human action is known a priori. The concepts of ends and means, for example, are part of the categorical structure of the mind, Mises claimed, which is itself a requisite of understanding the movements that one observes in himself and others as human action, i.e., an attempt to attain ends by using means.

Because each person possesses a human mind with the same categorical structure, the a priori knowledge about human action that one can learn is universal. It is true for any and all human action. Knowledge about human action learned by experience is contingent on the person, place, time, and circumstances of the action. For Mises, then, the relevant distinction is between universal knowledge of human action and contingent knowledge.
Mises called the realm of universal knowledge “economic theory” and the realm that blends together universal and contingent knowledge “economic history.”

Mainstream economists reject Mises’s distinction and instead consider “economic theory” a formal model which generates testable hypotheses. The hypotheses of a superior theory are not often rejected while the hypotheses of an inferior theory are too often rejected. Behavioral economists have been pointing out to neoclassical economists that some of the hypotheses of their models, models which postulate “rational economic agents,” are being too often rejected. To correct this flaw, behavioral economists have postulate models with “less than fully rational economic agents.”

Whatever one thinks of this sectarian squabble within the mainstream, it has nothing to do with economic theory as Mises thought of it. The universal features about human action stand regardless of its contingent aspects. Whether …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE