Friday, March 27, 2009

Christmas on Wall Street

Earth hour

Vote Earth



Turn off your lights for Earth Hour, record your vote and share it with the world! Here's how:

Take a photo on the night, upload it to flickr and add it to Earth Hour's flickr group.

Make a video of your event, upload it to YouTube and add it to our YouTube group.

Write a live blog post during the event and tag it with earthhour or voteearth, and your location.

Update your Twitter on the night and write #earthhour or #voteearth and your #location in your update to tag it.

G20 Welcoming Committee Gets Ready

Why secretly funded DEA surveillance planes aren't flying

WASHINGTON — The first sign of trouble with the Drug Enforcement Administration's new surveillance planes surfaced almost immediately. On the way from the manufacturer to the agency's aviation headquarters, one of them veered off a runway during a fuel stop.

The malfunction last spring was only the beginning. A month later, the windshield unlatched in mid-flight and smashed into the engine. Then, in a third incident on the same plane, a connection between the propeller and the engine came loose and forced an emergency landing.

In January, after less than 10 months of operation, the cascade of mechanical problems forced the DEA to ground the planes.

The planes recently were scheduled to be "cannibalized" so the DEA could sell the parts and recover as much of its money as possible.

The story behind why the DEA sought out the three planes, only to become the second federal agency to give them up, illustrates the pitfalls of "black," or classified, budgeting in which Congress approves tens of billions of dollars for intelligence agencies outside the public's view.

The twin-engine planes, manufactured by Schweizer Aircraft, likely came out of an even more shadowy funding provision known as "black earmarks," according to government officials with knowledge of the contract. The officials asked to remain anonymous because the planes, known as "Shadowhawks," received funding secretly.

Lawmakers often earmark projects to score sought-after contracts for companies back home.

The idea is to encourage cutting-edge research and development that wouldn't otherwise get approval during the ordinary budgeting process. During the regular and more transparent budgeting process, earmarks can sometimes pay for worthwhile projects, experts said.

Black earmarks, however, receive almost no scrutiny. Even worse, there's little accountability when the technology doesn't work.

US deploys warships as North Korea prepares to launch missile

USS Chafee: US deploys warships as North Korea prepares to launch missile

The US has deployed two warships with anti-missile capabilities in the waters off Japan as tensions mount over North Korea's plans to test-fire a long-range ballistic missile capable of striking Alaska.

Fat cats in terror after anti-capitalists attack Fred the Shred's home

Vandalised: A policeman outside the Edinburgh home of former bank boss
Sir Fred Goodwin today after it was attacked by vandals overnight

By Stephen Wright

Security will be stepped up around fat-cat bankers after the home of disgraced former RBS boss Sir Fred Goodwin was targeted by vandals.

Smashed: A window of the house was broken in the attack A statement claiming to be from the group responsible for damage at his £3million mansion warned of further attacks, saying: 'This is just the beginning.'

The threat sparked fears of a terror campaign against those blamed for the collapse in the financial system.

The concern is that anti-capitalist groups will copy the tactics of animal rights militants by directly targeting individuals they hold responsible for the credit crunch.

Tensions are already high, with anarchists reported to be plotting mayhem at next week's G20 summit in London.

Their intention is to paralyse the Square Mile by staging sit-in protests and storming financial institutions, with the Bank of England and RBS among the top targets.

Effigies of bankers will be hung from lampposts. Security adviser Dai Davies, a former head of Scotland Yard's Royalty Protection squad, said: 'Risk assessments will have to be carried out by the police on individuals who are concerned about their safety. If there is cause for concern then appropriate advice will be given and pre put in place.

'The developments at Sir Fred Goodwin's home will almost certainly make some other high-profile bankers want to review their own private security arrangements.'

GoodwinSir Fred, nicknamed Fred the Shred because of his ruthless cost-cutting regime, is the first top banker to be personally targeted over the financial meltdown. Windows were smashed at his home in Edinburgh's upmarket Morningside area.

A Mercedes S600 saloon parked in the driveway came in for similar treatment in the 4.35am attack. Sir Fred, 50, a father of two, is abroad and has not been seen in public since giving evidence at the Treasury Select Committee on February 10.

His team of public relations advisers have told him to lie low until the furore subsides over his £700,000-a-year pension deal. Sources close to the disgraced banker said he had been left 'shaken' by the attack.

Shortly after the vandalism was discovered, a group calling itself Bank Bosses Are Criminals claimed responsibility in an email sent to news organisations under the name Moira McLeod and the address

'Mandatory youth service' bill advances


House version commissions panel to consider 'volunteer' requirement
by Jerome R. Corsi

Congress appears ready to pass an Obama administration plan that could create mandatory public service requirements for all American youth, fulfilling a campaign promise.

The bill, HR 1388: The Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act, otherwise known as the "GIVE Act," has already passed the House by a vote of 321-105.

On Tuesday, the Senate voted closure on the motion to proceed by a margin of 74-14 in a move that makes its ultimate passage likely.

The bill, promoted by the Obama administration as a means of encouraging America's youth to participate in voluntary community service, has received little scrutiny from Congress or the public.

Yet, a version of the bill in the House proposes to establish a Congressional Commission on Civil Service tasked with determining whether a mandatory service requirement for all young people in America could be developed and implemented, though it is not clear that provision will survive a conference committee.

Moreover, an amendment to the bill introduced by Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., one of the bill's 37 co-sponsors in the House, appears to severely restrict the First Amendment by prohibiting the youth participating in the program from attempting to influence legislation, organize or engage in protests, petitions, boycotts or strikes.

Funds under the bill are designated to be distributed through AmeriCorps, even though AmeriCorps volunteers have a history of being recruited and employed by community programs with an ideological purpose supported by Democratic Party politicians, including Planned Parenthood.

Under terms of the legislation, volunteers recruited into AmeriCorps through the GIVE Act could end up counseling Planned Parenthood clients to recommend and arrange abortions.

States consider drug tests for welfare recipients


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Want government assistance? Just say no to drugs.

Lawmakers in at least eight states want recipients of food stamps, unemployment benefits or welfare to submit to random drug testing.

The effort comes as more Americans turn to these safety nets to ride out the recession. Poverty and civil liberties advocates fear the strategy could backfire, discouraging some people from seeking financial aid and making already desperate situations worse.

Those in favor of the drug tests say they are motivated out of a concern for their constituents' health and ability to put themselves on more solid financial footing once the economy rebounds. But proponents concede they also want to send a message: you don't get something for nothing.

"Nobody's being forced into these assistance programs," said Craig Blair, a Republican in the West Viginia Legislature who has created a Web site - - that bears a bobble-headed likeness of himself advocating this position. "If so many jobs require random drug tests these days, why not these benefits?"

Blair is proposing the most comprehensive measure in the country, as it would apply to anyone applying for food stamps, unemployment compensation or the federal programs usually known as "welfare": Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Women, Infants and Children.

Lawmakers in other states are offering similar, but more modest proposals.

On Wednesday, the Kansas House of Representatives approved a measure mandating drug testing for the 14,000 or so people getting cash assistance from the state, which now goes before the state senate. In February, the Oklahoma Senate unanimously passed a measure that would require drug testing as a condition of receiving TANF benefits, and similar bills have been introduced in Missouri and Hawaii. A Florida senator has proposed a bill linking unemployment compensation to drug testing, and a member of Minnesota's House of Representatives has a bill requiring drug tests of people who get public assistance under a state program there.

A January attempt in the Arizona Senate to establish such a law failed.

In the past, such efforts have been stymied by legal and cost concerns, said Christine Nelson, a program manager with the National Conference of State Legislatures. But states' bigger fiscal crises, and the surging demand for public assistance, could change that.

"It's an example of where you could cut costs at the expense of a segment of society that's least able to defend themselves," said Frank Crabtree, executive director of the West Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Drug testing is not the only restriction envisioned for people receiving public assistance: a bill in the Tennessee Legislature would cap lottery winnings for recipients at $600.

Wavy Gravy Leads Austin Musicians in March for Peace By Thorne Dreyer

By Thorne Dreyer
(Photos: The Rag Blog)

AUSTIN, Texas — They weren't quite a million, but they sure made some beautiful music.

As hundreds of locals, tourists, musicians and industry types attending South by Southwest — the massive technology, film and music fest — packed the streets of downtown Austin Saturday afternoon, March 21, the Million Musicians March for Peace — with hippie legend Wavy Gravy leading the way — snaked by in a rhythmic procession, creating its own lively soundtrack as it passed.

[SXSW is the largest event of its kind in the world, focusing the attention of the music industry on Austin for several days in March. In the face of a down economy, this year's event was a rousing success. It featured 2,000 musical acts from over 50 countries and drew hundreds of industry reps. It was highlighted by unannounced performances by Metallica, Kanye West, Devo and others.]

Marching behind a banner that said, "Be an Instrument for Peace," more than 200 singing, chanting and dancing marchers followed a second-line type brass band from the Texas State Capitol through the busy streets of downtown Austin — up Congress Ave. past the crowds queued up for a premiere at the Paramount Theater, then delighting the throngs along Sixth Street's music row, and on to City Hall for a rally and concert.

Wavy Gravy, aka Hugh Romney, wore a tie-dyed peace symbol-adorned t-shirt with matching baggy pants, a sideways beanie, a red clown's nose and a beaming smile.

Riding a yellow pedicab, he was the Grand Marshal. Gravy, of Hog Farm and Woodstock fame, was in town for SXSW, promoting a documentary about his looney life called "Saint Misbehavin'."

Also in the parade was Jim Fouratt, New York-based activist and cultural critic who was a founder of the theatrical Sixties new left group, the Yippies.

The Million Musicians March was organized by Instruments for Peace and sponsors included MDS/Austin, Texans for Peace, CodePink Austin, Texas Labor Against the War, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and The Rag Blog.

One banner shouted "Rich Man's War, Poor People's Fight." Demonstrators carried signs saying "Prosecute War Criminals" and "Truth is the First Casualty."

According to writer and graphic designer Jim Retherford, the event, which is an Austin tradition, "may not have been as large as in some years past, but it had a wonderful energy. There were affinity groups of musicians throughout the parade and it was great to see the ethnic mix and the kids with parents and grandparents laughing and dancing together along the way."

Jim Fouratt told The Rag Blog, "I was impressed that Austin Music Award winner Carolyn Wonderland was front and center. She warmed my heart. And I was proud to march beside Wavy Gravy. It will be artists and musicians who lead us out of the chaos."

Wonderland, a consistent activist for peace and other issues, joined noted musicians like Guy Forsyth, Leeann Atherton and Shelley King, the first woman to be named official Texas State Musician, in the concert at City Hall.

"It was great to see all my grey-haired colleagues alongside multi-generational families, all decked out in the costumes of old Austin like it was before the high-tech incursion," Jim Fouratt added.

The theme of this year's Million Musician March was to oppose the continuing occupation of Iraq and it also saluted the alternative media and its role in getting out the word.

Musician Richard Bowden of Instruments for Peace, the moving force behind MMM, said, "Of all the events worldwide in remembrance of the sixth anniversary of the Iraq disaster, the Million Musicians March for Peace was the only one led by musicians." He added, "I am so glad to be in Austin where we can do something like this."

[Thorne Dreyer, a Sixties activist and underground journalist, lives in Austin, Texas. He is a director of the New Journalism Project, a contributing editor to Next Left Notes and is co-editor of The Rag Blog --]

Thomas Good, Editor
Next Left Notes (NLN)
National Writers Union - UAW Local 1981
International Federation of Journalists

Schwarzenegger To Provide Government Camps For Homeless

Shut down and takeover of "tent cities" stokes fears of internment pretext

by Paul Joseph Watson

Schwarzenegger To Provide Government Camps For Homeless 260309top2Plans to shut down tent cities in California and relocate homeless people to government-run facilities have stoked fears that the move could be a pretext for a wider internment of Americans in the event of a total economic collapse.

"California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said a make-shift tent city for the homeless that sprang up in the capital city of Sacramento will be shut down and its residents allowed to stay at the state fairgrounds," reports Bloomberg News.

Homeless people will be moved to the state facility known as Cal-Expo as the Sacramento City Council last night agreed to spend $880,000 to expand homeless programs.

"Together with the local government and volunteers, we are taking a first step to ensure the people living in tent city have a safe place to stay, with fresh water, healthy conditions and access to the services they need," Schwarzenegger said in a statement. "And I am committed to working with Mayor Johnson to find a permanent solution for those living in tent city."

That "permanent solution" has some people worried that many more Americans could be interned against their will in the event of widespread rioting and the implementation of martial law.

What happens when lemmings design navagational equipment

Man follows sat nav to cliff edge

Satellite navigation system
Mr Jones said he relied on his sat nav system in his job as a driver

A car was left teetering on a cliff edge after the driver followed sat nav directions down a Pennine footpath.

Robert Jones continued to follow the instructions when they told him the narrow, steep path he was driving on in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, was a road.

Mr Jones, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, only stopped when his BMW hit a fence above Gauxholme railway bridge on Sunday morning.

Police have charged Mr Jones with driving without due care and attention.

The 43-year-old, who works as a driver, said he relied on his sat nav for his job.

He described Sunday's incident, during a visit to friends in Todmorden, as "a nightmare".

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "Officers received a call at 11.18am on Sunday March 22 reporting that a BMW was hanging off the edge of a cliff off Bacup Road.

"The driver was a 43-year-old man from Doncaster. He has been summonsed to court for driving without due care and attention."

The driver may face prosecution for careless driving

Extreme Sheep Herding

Greenwash: Shell betrays 'new energy future' promises

Fred Pearce's Greenwash

The energy company has sold out on its renewable investments, claiming they are 'not economic'

Fred Pearceby Fred Pearce


Shell has pulled back from its renewable investments, claiming they are 'not economic' Photograph: James Boardman/Public Domain

Shell, I have to report, is the new Exxon. The company that back in December was filling this and other newspapers with double-page adverts promoting its conversion to a "new energy future" of wind farms, hydrogen fuels, fuel made from marine algae and much else, has pulled the plug.

In the 1990s Royal Dutch Shell set its boffins on finding new green fuels, such as forest plantations to make biofuels. I remember them at the Earth Summit in Rio back in 1992. Not long after, Shell was for a time the world's second largest manufacturer of solar panels. In 2004, it opened the world's largest grid-connected solar park.

The company seemed to embrace the idea that a modern global oil company could and should transform itself into a green energy company. But, to rewrite its old advertising slogan, you can never be sure of Shell.

Just as the other European oil giant, BP, flattered to deceive when it began to call itself Beyond Petroleum, so too with Shell.

At a time when new bosses at Exxon in the US are making overtures to Barack Obama's idea of a new green deal to fight climate change, Shell is going back to the bad old days.

Last week, this and other papers reported: "Shell will no longer invest in renewable technologies such as wind, solar and hydropower because they are not economic."

The best oil company in America is Venezuelan

CITGO Corpus Christi Refinery Receives 2008 OSPRA Award

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, March 26, 2009 -- The CITGO Corpus Christi Refinery was awarded on Wednesday the Texas General Land Office's prestigious 2008 Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act (OSPRA) Award.  For the first time, the award has been bestowed on the same company for two consecutive years, as a testament to the core values of CITGO and its commitment to environmental stewardship.  CITGO employees take very seriously their responsibility to comply with environmental regulations and serve as guardians of our natural resources and environment.


The OSPRA Award was established by the TGLO, the oldest state agency in Texas, to recognize organizations that have excelled in their efforts to comply with the state's Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 1991.  The agency's primary functions include managing state lands and mineral rights, leasing drilling rights for oil and gas production and protecting the state's natural resources.


Specifically, the 2008 award recognized the Refinery's initiatives and achievements during the 2008 calendar year.  These included:


  • Zero oil spills from January 1, 2008 through December 31, 2008 while transferring some 6 billion gallons of crude, feedstocks and refined petroleum products across its marine docks.

  • Commissioned an underflow dam to contain any residual oil within Refinery property while still allowing for movement of rain run-off and tidal waters between Oak Park waterway and ship channel.

  • Purchased, retrofitted, and donated a portable trailer to the Texas General Land Office dedicated exclusively for treatment and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife affected by oil spills.

  • Sponsored a "Regulatory Agency Day" for USCG, TGLO, TCEQ, U.S. Fish & Wildlife, Texas Parks & Wildlife, U. S. Customs, and Corpus Christi Fire Dept.  representatives to educate them on the Refinery's operations and to tour its facilities.

  • Sponsored a "Marine Consortium" for USCG, TGLO, U.S. Customs, Pilots Association, Corpus Christi Fire Dept., and local shipping companies' representatives to discuss various topics including dock operations, environmental, and safety issues.

  • Launched a campaign named "Finish Great in 2008" in late October as part of the Refinery's "Eyes on the Environment Program" to focus on completing the year on a very positive note by emphasizing environmental awareness.

CITGO, based in Houston, is a refiner, transporter and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals and other industrial products.  The company is owned by PDV America, Inc., an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of PetrĂ³leos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.


For more information visit

Weird Mysteries