MatrixLeaks: 2014

5 Myths About Marijuana Debunked

The more research is released, the more legalization makes sense.

Back in the 1930s, the arguments to criminalize cannabis were bizarre and openly racist. The anti-pot crusader Harry Anslinger made all sorts of over-the-top claims, such as, “Marihuana is a short cut to the insane asylum. Smoke marihuana cigarettes for a month and what was once your brain will be nothing but a storehouse of horrid specters.”

Nowadays more than 100 million Americans say they’ve smoke pot, millions use cannabis regularly to treat illnesses and it is as legal as alcohol in two U.S. states. However, it remains illegal under federal law largely due to scare tactics ingrained in our society, which date back even prior to Anslinger.

Today, pot legalization opponents try a little harder to sound reasonable, but their claims don’t do much better than Anslinger’s under scrutiny. Recent studies have picked apart the justifications for criminalizing marijuana. Here are five of the most popular arguments against cannabis legalization that are easily undermined by objective data.

   1. Pot leads to crime

If alcohol prohibition taught us anything it’s that prohibition itself leads to crime, not what is prohibited. While cannabis has shaken the psychotic Reefer Madness reputation over the years, the association between weed and crime is still alive and well in certain realms of the media, which are happy to present data without appropriate statistical caveats.

As for the studies that carefully and objectively examine their data, they find no association between cannabis and crime. A recent study  in the journal PLOS One found that in states that legalized medical marijuana between 1990 and 2006 the crime rate either remained the same or decreased.

Another study looked at the Lambeth borough of London, which depenalized cannabis for 13 months in 2001-2002. The study found that this actually reduced other types of crime, because Lambeth police could focus their energy elsewhere.

These results fit with common sense. Cannabis has a range of effects on mood and behavior, but they don’t include violence, impulsivity or other traits that would turn otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals.

   2. The gateway theory

The gateway theory has long been the stock response of marijuana opponents to the notion that cannabis itself isn’t that bad for you. They falsely claim it leads to harder stuff, and insist that what starts with a joint ends with a heroin needle.

While it’s true that most users of hard drugs used marijuana and alcohol first, that doesn’t prove that cannabis use leads to harder drugs. Correlation does not equal causality—most heroin users have worn jeans at some point in their lives, but it’s unlikely that one leads to another.

But is it at least plausible that cannabis use creates a bridge to experimenting with more dangerous chemicals? The research says no.

RAND Institute study using data collected from 1982-1994 found that drug use patterns in American youths can be explained without resorting to a gateway effect. People who are interested in mind-altering substances are likely to have tried pot, as it is the most popular and available illicit drug. This and other circumstantial factors related to drug availability and how old someone was when they first used cannabis were sufficient to explain drug use patterns. Since then, numerous peer-reviewed studies have been published supporting RAND’s basic conclusions.

Holland provides a good natural experiment in the effects of cannabis use, as marijuana has been legal there for citizens since 1976. A RAND Corporation study from 2011, titled What Can We Learn From The Dutch Coffee Shop Experience? found no causal relationship between using cannabis and harder drugs. In fact, because legalization meant that people went to a coffee shop, not a dealer, to get high, RAND found that legal cannabis likely reduced rates of harder drug use.

   3. Cannabis has no medicinal purpose

Even though it has been slain many times over at this point, this idea is worth mentioning because cannabis is still listed as a Schedule I substance by the U.S. government, which implies that the official federal stance is that it has no medical use and is “dangerous.” However, just the opposite is true according to the actual facts. Almost half the states in the U.S. already have some kind of medical marijuana law (20 plus Washington D.C.) and many more are likely to legalize medical marijuana in this year’s elections.

Cannabis has been shown to effectively treat a slew of conditions including seizure disorders (often quite dramatically), glaucoma, and symptoms related to chemotherapy. There is even evidence it can reduce certain types of cancerous tumors.

This is all well known and well documented, and yet cannabis remains a Schedule I drug. While it’s hard to find anyone who will still defend this policy, it remains the law of the land, and a major stumbling block on the path to reform.

   4. Marijuana is addictive

The addiction claim has been contained over time, but never fully eradicated. Cannabis faces some guilt by association. How could alcohol, tobacco, heroin and cocaine all be clearly addictive and yet weed somehow isn’t?

Furthermore, with words like stoner and pothead in the lexicon, our culture has a firm grasp of the weed-dependent stereotype. When we think of marijuana addiction, an image comes to mind. He (usually a he), smokes pot and eats all day, is smelly and unshaven, watches too much TV and/or plays too many video games, and has a crappy job if he has a job at all. And sure, a lot of people actually do know someone like that, but the research show that, that someone is probably choosing their lifestyle rather than trapped in it by an actual addiction.

Regardless of how the addiction myth has stuck around, it is just that: a myth. The most commonly cited study on cannabis dependence declared that 4% of Americans 15-54 are dependent on cannabis. That’s compared to 24% who are dependent on tobacco and 14% on alcohol. Among users, they found that 9% of cannabis users who try it get hooked, as compared to 32% for tobacco and 15% for alcohol.

So cannabis seems to show some propensity for dependence, but for every dependent user, there are 10 who don’t develop that sort of issue, and this rate is better than that of popular legal drugs.

Furthermore, even the 9% figure is likely inflated. A subject in the oft-cited study was deemed “dependent” if they answered yes to at least three of seven questions. The survey included questions that would take a very different meaning with legal drugs than illegal, such as if “a great deal of time was spent in activities necessary to get the substance, taking the substance, or recovering from its effects.”

This study was conducted in the 1990s, before any state had recognized the medical use of cannabis, and acquiring it regularly involved considerable effort. Because of this, it’s not hard to imagine that users would experience “important social, occupational, or recreational activities given up or reduced because of use,” which was another criterion for dependence. It is quite possible the survey mistook habitual use for dependence in some cases.

We can be sure that cannabis is significantly less habit-forming than alcohol, and especially tobacco, and the degree to which people become dependent is probably overstated.

   5. Pot makes users lazy

This idea is the most persistent: we rarely question the cultural belief that getting high saps one’s motivation. If there is any truth to that, it has been difficult to find in studies. What seems to be going on instead is that about 5-6% of the population has “amotivational syndrome,” and there is no significant difference in this between cannabis users and everyone else. One study looked at daily pot smokers and compared them to people who never touch pot. This found no significant difference between the two groups. There was a small difference in “subjective well-being” (how happy the subject says he or she is) favoring non-smokers, but the study authors ascribed much of this to medical conditions some of the subjects were taking cannabis to mitigate.

More than anything, the idea that stoners are lazy seems to be confirmation bias. We shrug off the examples that contradict that notion as special cases and nod sagely when our suspicions are confirmed. Furthermore, we fail to group unmotivated non-users with unmotivated users.


As the stigma against cannabis research has disappeared and more good data has been made available, the arguments against legalization have fallen. If cannabis is a plant with legitimate medical uses, does not lead to crime or harder drugs, is not addictive and doesn’t make you lazy, what argument for prohibition remains?

If there are still legitimate reasons to keep cannabis criminalized, let’s talk about them, but if not, let’s cut out a major revenue stream of Mexico’s vicious drug cartels, grant easy access to medicine for people who need it, provide a major boost to our economy, and legalize already.

Print Page

Top 10 Greatest Problems Humanity Currently Faces

There are many issues currently threatening humanity. Here are some of the most critical issues that come to mind. Issues that humanity must figure out if it is to survive the current fight against the controlling class. Perhaps at some point we will figure it all out.

Changes never happen overnight; and, as a whole, most Americans hopefully do have a few things in common. Surely one of the solutions is to look for what we all have in common and see how we can all work together to improve things. Coming together on wider platforms is also a key to moving forward.

Here are the top issues and potential solutions.

   10. Government secrecy

John F. Kennedy warned of the dangers of secret societies making decisions for humanity. More on this speech later. Secrecy of government could be number one on this list. Ultimately all of humanity's problems stem back to government secrecy. From CIA to the Pentagon, to CFR, Bilderberg secret meetings, to the Masonic groups, secret fraternities and more, secrecy is the norm in this government and is the building block upon which all other forms of deception are built. This secrecy is not spoken about enough because we are all conditioned to believe that government needs to be secret. All state crimes are secret. All evidence against government is secret. All covert crimes are protected from exposure due to the nature of the beast. See any problems with this? There are no scenarios where humanity will be able to thrive while state crimes and illegalities are all secret. We will never have legitimate elections, and activist groups dedicated to truth and justice will always fight against the wall of secrecy that humanity is up against. Conversely, governments that operate in secret are obsessed with making your life known to all. It is a crime in every scenario for you to not divulge the truth about yourself or to not speak the truth to a police officer or a member of the courts. The individual is immediately charged with perjury. Government, however, as well as police, can lie to you, trick you, and hide the facts from you often without any consequences.

   9. Secret private Federal Reserve operation

Amazingly, one of the mysteries of our generations dating back over one hundred years is how a private cabal of non-government business guys can actually be given a status that is clearly above the law. How can an entire generation accept slavery under the authority of men who can and should be arrested, tried and imprisoned for life? How can a private entity tell the government what to do, lie, cheat, steal, even create money out of thin air and then charge the government interest without real consequences.

How can they pull this off even in the age of information and the Internet? The question is as amazing and mind-blowing a question as there is. I don't know the answer to this and I don't know anyone who does. We know all about the private illegal creation of the Federal Reserve and we know all about their illegal banking schemes whose termination could heal all of humanity with one stroke of a pen, yet no one dares act upon this. That is, except John F. Kennedy - and we know what happened to him. Without a doubt the Federal Reserve banking scheme and collectively the global banking scheme to include the IMF, BIS and World Bank makes my list of the top threats to humanity. These bankers are the ones profiting from both sides of all wars. The magnitude of this issue goes beyond the spectrum of this article but suffice to say this is one of the major issues humanity needs to confront.

   8. Legalized propaganda - Politicians and government can lie

One of the greatest problems we face here in America and extends throughout the world because the impact it has on world news, is that propaganda is now legal in the United States. Without a second thought or remorse, the State Department can now carve out what it WANTS to say instead of what it HAS to say. Accountability to the American people is now completely removed. Noticing a lot of bold claims from the State Department regarding evidence and the constant deflection of original sources? Notice how key pieces of "evidence" get released much later from the time the specific incident occurred? Wonder what's happening during the delay or what the U.S. military or local police call the "investigative process"?

From Hillary Clinton's sudden unverified "accident" which conveniently got her out of having to testify in the Benghazi hearing until months later, to the U.S.'s claims of "evidence" against Russia in Ukraine, to the MH17 fake video proof confession, to the phony James Foley beheading video with no blood and edited action, people all around the world keep asking the same questions; where is the evidence? and what in the world is going on? I've discussed in previous articles how this topic of legalized propaganda (made legal by the NDAA) is one of the core problems staring us right in the face, and we will never get over this until we criminalize propaganda once and for all. Propaganda after all, kills millions, justifies wars and murders and exonerates criminals. Why then are we allowing it to be legal? The "war on drugs" alone is less dangerous than legal propaganda, not to mention marijuana laws, jaywalking, even traffic laws.

   7. Hollywood TV hypnosis

The massive effect of Hollywood on the minds of millions of Americans is now a grand experiment on humanity. More than ever, children are watching television which has been proven to be a powerful tool of mind control. No other tool is doing more to keep humanity in a state of hypnosis and complacency than TV. It has robbed the young generation of all forms of critical thinking, creativity, passion, focus, determination, and political awareness. It is almost impossible to visualize humanity overcoming our current crisis with the current level of Hollywood and TV propaganda and conditioning. The celebrity gossip and propaganda alone is enough of a threat to humanity to concern anyone paying attention. Lessons of fascism, tyranny, and collectivism can be taught to a person much quicker using television than almost any other medium. Furthermore, there is no easier way to destroy family values, sell adult sexual ideas to kids, lower school grades and reading skills than to expose a child to television.

   6. Pro sports and worship of the military

Quietly, pro sports is now a force to be dealt with in terms of survival of the human race and here's why. Pro sports is not just a collection of games and entertainment (MLB, NFL, NBA, NFL, MSL), it is a form of survival for millions of young men, it is a religion for many, it is a ritual, an obsession, an addiction that cannot and will not be broken. It is perceived by all of society to be harmless and fun, and it can be harmless and fun if you are already awakened. For those who are not awakened, sports is a primary brainwashing tool of the globalists. This is their primary military recruiting ground and millions of young men go from watching a TV commercial glorifying the military during a game to dying in globalist wars. We all see how the globalists used the Pat Tillman story as an advertisement to get more kids into the military. Recently, Major League Baseball has been promoting the military using the image and story of Ted Williams.

The worshiping of the military at the level of pro sports is reaching dangerous levels. MLB in particular regularly has promotional days when your favorite team may be seen actually wearing military-like uniforms for the day. Every week we are seeing military personnel literally worshiped by the powers that run pro sports. These ceremonies and dedications are targeting the young kids so that when they grow up they'll want to join the military. Also, this threat to humanity works hand in hand with many of the other threats. Ultimately, sports is selling blind patriotism. Meaning, regardless of the mission, we are Team America (urrrahh). Values, ethics, and morality are not taken into account in the selling of the military. They tell you they represent honor and values and they know they don't need to actually prove it. This selling of blind patriotism is dangerous and encourages closed-mindedness to any information that interferes with your emotional ties to your own country and military.

   5. Government takeover of science and reason

When did science become a government thing? Quietly, over the last 5-6 decades and more, government has taken over science and ignored the prime rule of science. That being the Scientific Method which states that scientists must present their hypothesis then conduct open experiments to prove or disprove their hypothesis. These experiments must be open to public scrutiny, not open to OTHER government contractors but to the true scientific community. Too many Americans who don't like science won't even pay attention to this issue which is one of the major threats to humanity.

When government takes over science, that swings the door wide open for retroactive manipulation of scientific results, exaggerations of results, customizing studies to line up with predetermined results, faulty correlations, non-scientific government abstracts of studies that no one in the independent scientific community can verify and challenge, controlled opposition of scientific views, blind claims, even theories that outright defy the laws of science. All of this can be done without any opposition or scrutiny. Sound crazy to you? It should. Government takeover of science is without a doubt what has led to many theories which have paved the road for environment crimes against humanity (chemtrails spraying and geoengineering programs destroying the ecosystem on a daily basis), administration of deadly vaccines (which are now proven to cause autism) and even massive false flags (like the government science of the World Trade Center towers collapse that defy all forms of reason and laws of physics and thermodynamics).

The thinking seems to be that if you control the science you control reality. Thankfully, there are many of us who recognize the sabotaging of the science and hopefully humanity can pull it together to force scientific accountability. The 9/11 truth movement has gained ground in the demand for scientific accountability and all of us should be paying attention to this battle as well as the recent CDC whistleblower statement admitting the CDC ignored scientific evidence linking the MMR vaccine to autism. These battles over scientific claims are very important to the future survival of humanity.

   4. Military uncontrolled spending - paying for wars

As of the end of fiscal year 2012 the U.S. defense budget was an astronomical $688 BILLION dollars totaling more than the defense budget of China, Russia, UK, Japan, France, Saudi Arabia, India, Germany, Italy, and Brazil. Tackling this one issue alone could save humanity from killing itself. Without money to buy weapons and fund wars we wouldn't be waging them. The numbers alone are staggering enough to make anyone think and wonder what the hell are we doing? Just imagine what we could do with this money. Humanity should be preparing strategies for ending this major spending problem which really means we as a species are funding our own extinction. How does that make sense?  

   3. U.S. citizens condoning and ignoring war crimes and atrocities

In some conservative Christian and right wing circles throughout America we are seeing a deeply rooted belief that says all Muslims are dangerous terrorists except for maybe a few here and there. This ideology of bigotry is no different than other ideologies of hate and bigotry we've seen throughout history. Some of these individuals are blindly convinced that "terrorists" are everywhere and that these "terrorists" (who have by the way never been tried or found guilty of any wrongdoing with facts and evidence) have no rights whatsoever. The terrorists, according to this mindset, deserve lifetime imprisonment without charge, they deserve to be tortured and murdered if necessary.

In the midst of this culture of hatred brewing in America, we are now seeing the rise of another wave of hate, bigotry, and what I call linear (narrow-minded) thinking. We've all seen the breathtaking images of atrocities in Gaza committed by Israel, and although Jews around the world are protesting alongside human rights groups against the action of Israel against the people of Gaza, others have chosen to stand FOR Israel despite these war crimes. This recent wave of dangerous narrow-minded thinking, which holds a flag in higher esteem than a human life, is now one of the greatest threats humanity faces. It is exactly this kind of narrow-minded thinking which has served as a precursor to the murder of billions of lives throughout history. We've been warned - those who ignore the lessons of history are bound to repeat it.

Conversely, just imagine if the people of the United States all came together to denounce aggression across the board without sympathizing for a political cause or a flag. Imagine the United States actually becoming the world leader again. All because we actually stand for human rights and freedom again. What better reason for other countries to look up to the U.S. again.

   2. Racial division and enslavement of the masses

Engineered race wars are now becoming the norm. Humanity is in one big competition against itself. Parents and children are being conditioned not to trust people of other races, or each other for that matter. Every single shooting death is painted as a race issue whenever possible by the media. We all saw what happened in Ferguson, Missouri. A typical police state murder spun into a race war by the media. Over a year ago we saw Travon Martin murdered by a Hispanic male shooter yet the media spun it into a race issue. As racial division continues, the globalists are enjoying seeing humanity unable to work together.

   1. Mainstream media

And the greatest problem humanity now faces is from mainstream media. In his famous speech about secret societies John F. Kennedy said this to the mainstream media:

But I am asking them members of the newspaper profession and the industry in this country to reexamine their own responsibilities, to consider the degree and the nature of the present danger, and to heed the duty of self-restraint which that danger imposes upon us all ... I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed. I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers -- I welcome it... Without debate, without criticism no administration and no country can succeed, and no republic can survive... It means greater coverage and analysis of international news, for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security, and we intend to do it. And so it is to the printing press, to the recorder of man's deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news, that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.

JFK was calling out mainstream media to be responsible because they were supposed to bear the mantle of free speech and ultimately guard our freedom and independence. Looking at this speech one can appreciate how frightening it is to see mainstream media sold out to the very government that we were supposed to be free from. This speech also shows us how far we've come. Is it any secret why they murdered JFK?

I agree with president Kennedy and I believe mainstream media has done everything opposite of what Kennedy called on them to do. They don't bear any responsibility for what they say, they are not guarding freedom or free speech instead they demonize it. They do not encourage criticism; instead they tag everyone as a "conspiracy theorist" without any reason or evidence. They don't provide us with the fullest possible information; instead White House Deputy Spokespersons like Marie Harf snap at reporters and threaten to not say anything if she has to divulge her secret sources. Mainstream media is unquestionably the greatest threat to the safety of humanity, freedom and the entire existence of a republic that protects the rights of the individual. With mainstream media now lying, deceiving, and manipulating the truth for the sake of government and political propaganda, now more than ever it is important for everyone to recognize that this is now the number one threat to humanity.

No, ISIS and Al Qaeda didn't come close to making my list of most dangerous threats to humanity. The danger with ISIS is the ability of our government to arrange such funding and supply of U.S. weapons and armed fighters (with social media use and all) in such a short period of time. To survive and make our future bright again we as a humanity will have to rise above government propaganda and simultaneously keep working overtime on ideas for solutions to the problems of humanity. It's good to know which are the major problems as well as which are not the major problems.

Know someone in mainstream media? Forward this article to them and pass the word onto others about the importance of not believing mainstream media news and why. For everyone else we have no choice but to become the media. Share these ideas and come up with new one. Add fuel to the fire of hope, the power of truth and the flames of freedom. Do your part to keep the light shining!

Bernie Suarez

Bernie Suarez is an activist, critical thinker, radio host, musician, M.D, Veteran, lover of freedom and the Constitution, and creator of the Truth and Art TV project. He also has a background in psychology and highly recommends that everyone watch a documentary titled The Century of the Self. Bernie has concluded that the way to defeat the New World Order is to truly be the change that you want to see. Manifesting the solution and putting truth into action is the very thing that will defeat the globalists.

Print Page

Another Fake Bin Laden Story

 RT, one of my favorite news sources, has fallen for a fake story put out by the Pentagon to support the fantasy story that a SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden, who died a second time in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a decade after his first death from illness and disease.

This fake story together with the fake movie and the fake book by an alleged SEAL team member is the way the fake story of bin Laden’s murder is perpetrated. Bin Laden’s alleged demise at the hands of a SEAL team was a propaganda orchestration, the purpose of which was to give Obama a hero’s laurels and deep six Democratic talk of challenging his nomination for a second term.

Osama bin Laden died in December 2001 of renal failure and other health problems, having denied in his last recorded video any responsibility for 9/11, instead directing Americans to look inside their own government. The FBI itself has stated that there is no evidence that Osama bin Laden is responsible for 9/11. Bin Laden’s obituary appeared in numerous foreign and Arabic press, and also on Fox News. No one can survive renal failure for a decade, and no dialysis machine was found in the alleged Abbottabad compound of bin Laden, who allegedly was murdered by SEALs a decade after his obituary notices.

Additionally, no one among the crew of the ship from which the White House reported bin Laden was buried at sea saw any such burial, and the sailors sent messages home to that effect. Somehow a burial was held onboard a ship on which there are constant watches and crew on alert at all hours, and no one witnessed it.

Additionally, the White House story of the alleged murder of bin Laden changed twice within the first 24 hours. The claim that Obama and his government watched the action transmitted live from cameras on the SEALs’ helmets was quickly abandoned, despite the release of a photo of the Obama regime intently focused on a TV set and alleged to be watching the live action. No video of the deed was ever released. To date there is no evidence whatsoever in behalf of the Obama regime’s claim. Not one tiny scrap. Just unsubstantiated self-serving claims.

                                                               Osama bin Laden

Additionally, as I have made available on my website, witnesses interviewed by Pakistan TV reported that only one helicopter landed in Abbottabad and that when the occupants of the helicopter returned from the alleged bin Laden compound, the helicopter exploded on takeoff and there were no survivors. In other words, there was no bin Laden corpse to deliver to the ship that did not witness a burial and no SEAL hero to return who allegedly murdered an unarmed bin Laden. Moreover, the BBC interviewed residents in Abbottabad, including those next door to the alleged “bin Laden compound,” and all say that they knew the person who lived there and it was not bin Laden.

Any SEAL who was so totally stupid as to kill the unarmed “Terror Mastermind” would probably have been courtmartialed for incompetency. Look at the smiling face of the man Who Killed Bin Laden. He thinks that his claim that he murdered a man makes him a hero, a powerful comment on the moral degeneracy of Americans.

So what is this claim by Rob O’Neill about? He is presented as a “motivational speaker” in search of clients. What better ploy among gullible Americans than to claim “I am the one who shot bin Laden.” Reminds me of the western movie: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. What better way to give Rob O’Neill’s claim validity than for the Pentagon to denounce his revelation for breaking obligation to remain silent. The Pentagon claims that O’Neill by claiming credit has painted a big target sign on our door asking ISIS to come get us.

Policemen stand guard near the partially demolished compound where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces, in Abbottabad February 26, 2012.(Reuters/Faisal Mahmood)

What unbelievable nonsense. ISIS and anyone who believed Obama’s claim to have done in bin Laden already knew, if they believed the lie, that the Obama regime claimed responsibility for murdering an unarmed bin Laden. The reason the SEAL team was prevented from talking is that no member of the team was on the alleged mission,

Just as the ship from which bin Laden was allegedly buried has no witnesses to the deed, the SEAL unit, whose members formed the team that allegedly dispatched an unarmed Terrorist Mastermind rather than to take him into custody for questioning, mysteriously died in a helicopter crash when they were loaded in violation of procedures in an unprotected 1960s vintage helicopter and sent into a combat zone in Afghanistan shortly after the alleged raid on “bin Laden’s compound.”

For awhile there were news reports that the families of these dead SEALS do not believe one word of the government’s account. Moreover, the families reported receiving messages from the SEALs that suddenly they felt threatened and did not know why. The SEALs had been asking one another: “Were you on the bin Laden mission?” Apparently, none were. And to keep this a secret, the SEALs were sent to their deaths.

Anyone who believes anything the US government says is gullible beyond the meaning of the word.

Print Page

Kids For Cash

  Inside One of the Nation’s Most Shocking Juvenile Justice Scandals

As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the landmark Supreme Court decision that gave poor defendants the right to counsel, it would be nice to celebrate. That case, taken together with the 1967 decision In re Gault, which gave juveniles the same rights in court as adults, stands for the principle that process matters in our system of justice; when faced with the awesome power of the state, the accused — rich or poor, old or young — must be properly armed.

Two recent books put a damper on the celebration, revealing just how random and impoverished justice can be, and how flimsy the right to counsel. In “Kids for Cash,” the investigative reporter William Ecenbarger tells the story behind a corruption scandal so brazen and cruel it defies imagination. Between 2003 and 2008, two Pennsylvania judges accepted millions of dollars in kickbacks from a private juvenile detention facility in exchange for sending children — girls and boys, some as young as 11 — to jail.

It is a harrowing tale, lucidly told by a journalist with a good eye for detail. The children’s stories continue to unsettle long after the book ends: the 13-year-old incarcerated forthrowing a piece of steak at his mother’s boyfriend; the 15-year-old for throwing a sandal at her mother; the 11-year-old for calling the police after his mother locked him out of the house; the 14-year-old for writing a satirical Myspace profile. Another 14-year-old, an A student, was sentenced for writing “Vote for Michael Jackson” on a few stop signs; she had a seizure while in detention, banging her head so hard she cracked her dental braces.

Mark Ciavarella is the judge who sent away all those children — and several thousand others — in cahoots with Judge Michael Conahan. Ecenbarger calls what took place “a routine and systematic form of child abuse.” After the briefest of hearings — the average length was four minutes — kids were dispatched to detention centers in which the judges had a financial interest. If parents were unable to pay the costs of detention, their children were sometimes held longer. One teenager’s Social Security survivor’s check, from his father’s death, was garnished to pay the costs.

                                                                      Mark Ciavarella

What happened in Luzerne County, formerly known for coal and now for organized crime and public corruption (in certain districts, teachers have to pay for teaching jobs), was not a case of rogue judges acting alone. In a “festival of injustice,” prosecutors, public defenders, teachers and court employees saw it all and did nothing. At Ciavarella’s direction, juvenile probation officers talked kids out of exercising their right to counsel.

There are some heroes: local reporters who broke the story; a whistle-blowing family court judge; Juvenile Law Center attorneys who represented two of the detained children and petitioned the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to stop the widespread waiver of counsel; parents who did everything they could to fight for their kids. There is some vindication: Ciavarella and Conahan are serving lengthy prison terms, and the children’s records have been expunged. But there is no happy ending. Many children were traumatized by being shackled and summarily shipped off to jail only to be shunned by friends when they were ­released. Seven years after his incarceration, the young man accused of steak-throwing (he denied the charge) still has “a lost look about him,” Ecenbarger writes, “as though he has been permanently startled.”

In “The Injustice System,” the lawyer and writer Clive Stafford Smith (author of the excellent “Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side: Seeking Justice in Guantánamo Bay”) makes a strong case that Krishna Maharaj, a British man sentenced to death for a double murder in Miami 26 years ago, is innocent. Smith (no relation) took up the case after Maharaj had been on death row for seven years and succeeded in getting the death sentence thrown out. Ironically, this may have hurt his client’s fight: prisoners who merely die in prison don’t receive the attention or resources of those on death row.

Maharaj is now 74 and in a wheelchair. He recently filed a post-conviction challenge based on newly discovered evidence, which the State of Florida is contesting. Previous appeals have been rejected. If Maharaj is turned away from the courts once more, his hope will lie with the governor of Florida.

The book is a complicated whodunit, with the likely perpetrators still at large or dead. The murder victims, a father and son who were apparently involved in nefarious, lucrative activities, some connected to Colombian drug cartels, knew plenty of people who might have wanted to kill them. Maharaj’s supposed motive — resentment over the breakup of a business partnership and wounded vanity over an unflattering newspaper portrayal — is convoluted by comparison. In the course of recounting the crime, trial and appeals, Smith paints a bleak picture of criminal justice in America — this is Miami, after all, not some backwater town. There are dishonest cops, smug prosecutors, a feckless defense lawyer (now a judge) and venal witnesses.

Although Maharaj was once wealthy and well traveled — he was an importer of exotic fruit — he had no idea what he was in for when he was arrested. He spent little on a lawyer because he believed a jury would easily see he wasn’t guilty. Maharaj remains bewildered by a system that seems to care more about finality than anything else. One judge forbade his lawyer to even mention the word “innocent.”

Notwithstanding the book’s unfortunate title, which suggests a polemic, “The Injustice System” is really a love story — a moving tale of devotion by an extraordinary lawyer who nearly bankrupts himself and his fledgling public-interest law office to fight for his client’s life and liberty. Smith is at his best when he shares small stories — his first visit with Maharaj; his talks with Maharaj’s wife, Marita, who has stood by her husband all these years; his visit with Maharaj when he was shackled to a hospital bed after surgery for a flesh-eating disease contracted in prison — and his own feelings of despair. Sometimes the book gets lost in detail and reads too much like a brief. It is not always easy to be both a storyteller and an advocate.

 "Kids for Cash" and “The Injustice System” reveal the deep gap between cherished ideals and harsh reality in a country addicted to incarceration. A majority of the children in Luzerne County who did time had no legal counsel. Krishna Maharaj no longer has a right to counsel; he has a great lawyer by sheer luck. But, a half-century after Gideon, justice in this country is not supposed to depend on something as capricious as luck.

Print Page

( Bad ) Karma Amerikana

Here are a couple of definitions of karma: A) the total effect of actions and conduct during successive phases of existence, regarded as determining destiny; B) the principle of retributive justice determining one's state of life. So, there you have it, as the man who hundreds of millions worship as Lord had put it: " As ye sow so shall ye reap." One need not be too deep in the study of American history to realize that we , as a nation, sure as hell sowed a lot of evil and selfish deeds.

Let us simply look at the 20th and early 21st centuries to browse a bit. To really study in more depth the scope of what our country has done to others, please get William Blum's book Rogue Nation. This writer, for this commentary, will focus on a few tidbits of the Karma we have created, and , as Chalmers Johnson so aptly phrased it: Blowback.

Perhaps we should sit down with those angry white males and females who wish to close our Southwestern borders to the ' hordes ' of illegals. All those areas of our country, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico ( aptly named ) and southern California were once... parts of Mexico!

In this Jan. 18, 2009 file photo, a U.S. Border Patrol vehicle sits parked in front of a crowd of people peering through the U.S.-Mexico border fence at Border Field State Park in San Diego. At one time, before the enhanced border fence in the area, the San Diego area held the most popular routes for illegal immigrants heading into the U.S. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Using the false flag propaganda of Manifest Destiny and a strong military we robbed those regions from Mexico. Now, they are all coming back to live in what was there's to begin with! Of course, most of those who are able to make it here are not the gun toting drug cartel thugs that our media plays up. No! The overwhelming majority of these people are the ones who mow the lawns, wash the dishes, clean the hotel rooms and do the shit jobs that most Americans refuse to work.

When you visit one of the countless Indian casinos to roll the dice and pull the levers, it is the American Indian tribes that have ownership ( though a corporate paleface machine is behind the scenes operating and profiting from these places ).Will all the centuries of massacres and brutalities thrown at these people be washed away because they now make a buck from us?

No, but for some Indians ( and not enough ) it softens the anger a bit. If only the tribes who profit from this arrangement would do more for their fellow Indians who don't... but that's what makes capitalism so great: faulty moral compasses.

When the Reagan gang funded and supported the Mujahedeen to push the Soviets out of Afghanistan, we accomplished two things: A) We helped give strength to what later became Al Qaeda and B) we allowed the Afghan drug lords to send more and more poison to the veins of our kids here at home. What a blowback that still reverberates some 30+ years later!

The ' piece de resistance ' was the illegal and immoral invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Boy, did the Bush/Cheney gang do some job! They fermented such anti Amerikan rage in that region , which became the greatest recruiting tool for morons like the current Isis nuts.

While destroying perhaps one million Afghans and Iraqis combined, not to mention their infrastructures ( which of course cronies of the Bush/ Cheney gang made billions repairing), our economy has been devastated. When over half of our federal tax revenue goes to the Military Industrial Empire... our cities wither. With the current stooge in the White House, we all can only hope there is some change left to spend on we working stiffs!

So, my fellow suckers, saps and lollipops, keep focusing on those sneaky Mexicans who are here to bleed us dry. Keep focusing on the gays who are subverting our morality or the minorities who are getting over on us all with those entitlements. Don't realize the fact that one Boeing Apache Helicopter costs you taxpayers ... are you ready for this... 52 million dollars! How many welfare cheats does that equal?

Focus on the fact that those who run things here have hijacked both our flag and our patriotism. They love to honor our troops by what... keep sending them to invade, occupy and kill in places we have no business being in! Of course, if you work for Halliburton, General Dynamics , KBR and the other cronies, then , like the Robert Duval character in Apocalypse Now, you " love the smell of Napalm in the morning!"


Ten Companies Profiting Most from War

Legal drug cartel

Print Page

Fake Cell Towers

Mysterious, covert cell towers placed across U.S. cities found to intercept your phone calls and texts

There's something really fishy going on with the mainstream media right now. Multiple outlets such as Reuters and CBS News are reporting a story which they would normally dismiss as a "conspiracy theory." According to these news outlets, rogue cell phone towers known as "interceptors" have been discovered across America, and they don't belong to communications companies, the NSA or the U.S. military. They reportedly snoop on your private phone calls by intercepting cell phone signals, then relaying them to other towers.

"Rogue cell phone towers, the type that can intercept your mobile calls and data, are cropping up all over the United States, including here in Chicago," reports CBS News.

"Seventeen fake cellphone towers were discovered across the U.S. last week," reports Reuters in an article on Yahoo Finance.  "Rather than offering you cellphone service, the towers appear to be connecting to nearby phones, bypassing their encryption, and either tapping calls or reading texts."

Even Computerworld got in on the story, writing that "CryptoPhone users found and mapped 17 fake cell towers in the U.S. during the month of July."

    The one conspiracy theory the media instantly believes?

What's fishy here is that this is precisely the kind of story the mainstream media would normally attack and disregard as a "conspiracy theory." This is also the same mainstream media that, for years, called people tin foil hat-wearing lunatics if they said the U.S. government was listening to our phone calls and monitoring our emails. Thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, of course, this is all out in the open now, but just five years ago anyone who dared suggest such a thing was labeled a "wing nut."

I remember Alex Jones being ridiculed over his breaking story that cities were installing street lamps that could listen to the verbal conversations of people passing by. That story once again turned out to be entirely true, yet it was widely disparaged by the mainstream media which seems to default to the phrase "conspiracy theory" any time they want to dismiss a true story without actually having to investigate it.

  Never forget that the media is in the business of censoring the truth, not printing it

The mainstream media, you see, has always been stupidly slow to recognize reality. Anything that doesn't fall in line with barking orders from Washington D.C. or corporate sponsors has been ridiculed as a conspiracy theory or censored entirely. To this day, the media still ridicules all the architects and engineers who question the lunacy of the official 9/11 story. That official story still claims that the third building which collapsed that day -- WTC 7 -- magically lost all structural column support and collapsed in a perfect demolition footprint even though it was never struck by any airplane. The official story defies the laws of physics, yet the media has never had any problem with repeating it as if it were fact.

Yet now, this "interceptor cell tower" story is suddenly and instantly embraced across the mainstream media as true. All the media outlets that normally scream "conspiracy theory!" are reporting these secret cell towers as fact. Something's fishy here.

Remember: The mainstream media isn't in the "truth business." It's in the business of telling you what it wants you to know while ignoring anything it doesn't want you to know. If mainstream media stories are coming out about secret cell phone towers listening to your conversations, then there's a deliberate reason behind it.

It could be that this entire story is a hoax and they're watching to see who picks up on it. Later, they might run a new headline, "How we hoaxed the gullible internet with a goofy story about fake cell phone towers" or something similar.

Or, on the positive side of this, perhaps the mainstream media has finally realized it needs to start covering the truth from time to time in order to stop losing so many readers. While the alternative media has been exploding in popularity, the mainstream media has been bleeding out in terms of readership. The public craves the truth, and there is zero loyalty to mainstream news sources in the minds of content consumers.

Bottom line: Any story the mainstream media jumps on must be immediately questioned. This doesn't automatically mean the story isn't true, but we must always keep the real agenda of the media in mind as we analyze these developments.

Print Page

UN warns Britain over child voodoo rituals, pedophile sex tourists

Hundreds of children are believed to have been kidnapped in Africa and brought to Britain for brutal voodoo rituals, a UN watchdog said, urging London to do more to combat the scourge

Hundreds of children are being kidnapped in Africa and bought to the UK for voodoo rituals, a UN watchdog said, also voicing alarm about the number of British pedophiles who prey on children abroad.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) urged Britain to do more to stop this brutal form of people trafficking.

“We’re concerned about reports that hundreds of children have been abducted from their families in Africa and trafficked to the UK, especially London, for religious rituals,” Kirsten Sandberg, head of the CRC and a former Norwegian Supreme Court judge, said Thursday.

She said that trafficking for rituals was part of a wider problem where thousands of minors are brought to the UK, who end up being child prostitutes or being sexually exploited.

The CRC advised that Britain should “strengthen the capacity of law-enforcement authorities and judiciary to detect and prosecute trafficking of children for labor, sexual and other forms of exploitation, including for religious rituals.”

There have been numerous cases of children who have been brought to the UK from Africa and suffered torture and abuse, often as part of witchcraft rituals, AFP reports.

Victoria Climbie from the Ivory Coast was killed by her own relatives in 2000, who thought she was a witch.

More recently, in March 2012, Eric Bikubi and Magalie Bamu, both from the Democratic Republic of Congo, who moved to London, were found guilty of murdering Magalie’s teenage brother, Kirsty.

The prosecution argued that Bikubi had a “profound and disturbing” belief in witchcraft and although the defense said that Bikubi was suffering from schizophrenia, the judge sentenced both defendants to life in prison.

A year later the Metropolitan Police found the dismembered corpse of a Nigerian boy in the River Thames, who they believed was a victim of a ritual.

The CRC also warned about the number of British pedophiles who travel abroad – most notably to Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia and Thailand, for sex with children. Orphanages were a favored destination where sex predators could pick on vulnerable kids.

“There are continued reports that United Kingdom citizens, including some convicted sex offenders, set up charities or travel abroad, where they sexually abuse children,” Sandberg said.

                                                                                                                                    Photo: Reuters

She called on the British government to get its act together to toughen identification, investigation and prosecution of British citizens involved in such crimes, as well making sure convicted and known pedophiles do not travel abroad.

The UK government has said that new orders can now be applied to individuals who are deemed to pose a risk of sexual harm, even if they have never been convicted.

A national group led by the Home Office will look at ways the police and other agencies can better detect and combat sex offenders.

“Our two new civil prevention orders will make it easier to restrict the movement and activities of anyone who poses a risk of causing sexual harm to children and adults – not just those who have been convicted of sexual offences,” Norman Baker, the crime prevention minister, said in a statement.

A BBC journalist posing as a children’s trafficker trawled the bars and cafés of the Kampala underworld in Uganda in 2011. He found a kidnapper who boasted he could “offer as many children as required” without the police knowing for $15,600 a child.

Print Page

“They Have To Die”

Israeli Politician’s Comments Calling For Killing of Mothers of Palestinians Trigger International Backlash

The situation in Israel and Palestine continues to grow worse on both sides. First you had the savage murder of three Israeli teens. Then you had the retaliation burning of a Palestinian teenager. Now protests are erupting all over Israel and the world on both sides.

Some of the coverage is focusing on statements made by Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked on Facebook that day before three Israeli men went out and picked up Muhammad Abu Khdeir, 16, at random and burned him alive. Shaked’s post calls Palestinians “little snakes” and declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy.” Now comments by Israeli Knesset member Ayelet Shaked has caused an international outcry including contributing to a continuing rift with Turkey. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced the remarks and denounced Israel in an analogy to the Nazi regime. The situation is clearly getting worse by the day in the region.

Ayelet Shaked is a member of the ultra-nationalist Jewish Home party, which is part of the ruling coalition. She is quoted as calling for the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

                                                                       Ayelet Shaked

Shaked posted a screed on Facebook that various critics are denouncing as a call for genocide. Shaked reportedly stated: “They have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists . . . are all our enemies and their blood should be on our hands. This also applies to the mothers of the dead terrorists.”

The Facebook posting stated:

“Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

Her comments have become the focus of the rising protests over Israel’s response to the killing of the teenagers and later rockets attacks. Turkey’s Prime Minister responded with to the comments and later Israeli retaliatory strikes with a charge that Israel is now engaging state terrorism. He drew an analogy that itself is likely to enrage many Israelis: “An Israeli woman said Palestinian mothers should be killed, too. And she’s a member of the Israeli parliament. What is the difference between this mentality and Hitler’s?”

Shaked holds degree in electrical engineering and computer sciences and she worked in marketing for Texas Instruments. She has past ties to Benjamin Netanyahu. From 2006-2008, she was the office director for the office of Netanyahu. She then established “My Israel” with Naftali Bennet, but in January 2012 she was elected to serve as the coordinator of Likud. She later became a Knesset member for the Jewish Home Party, a successor party to the National Religious Party. The party is committed to a nation governed by Jewish law under the belief that Jews are divinely ordained to rule over the Land of Israel. The party has been active in supporting the expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestinian terrorizes and largely represents Orthodox Jews according to news report.

Here is what has been posted as a full translation of Shaked’s statement:

The Palestinian people has declared war on us, and we must respond with war. Not an operation, not a slow-moving one, not low-intensity, not controlled escalation, no destruction of terror infrastructure, no targeted killings. Enough with the oblique references. This is a war. Words have meanings. This is a war. It is not a war against terror, and not a war against extremists, and not even a war against the Palestinian Authority. These too are forms of avoiding reality. This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. Why? Ask them, they started.

I don’t know why it’s so hard for us to define reality with the simple words that language puts at our disposal. Why do we have to make up a new name for the war every other week, just to avoid calling it by its name. What’s so horrifying about understanding that the entire Palestinian people is the enemy? Every war is between two peoples, and in every war the people who started the war, that whole people, is the enemy. A declaration of war is not a war crime. Responding with war certainly is not. Nor is the use of the word “war”, nor a clear definition who the enemy is. Au contraire: the morality of war (yes, there is such a thing) is founded on the assumption that there are wars in this world, and that war is not the normal state of things, and that in wars the enemy is usually an entire people, including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.


And the morality of war knows that it is not possible to refrain from hurting enemy civilians. It does not condemn the British air force, which bombed and totally destroyed the German city of Dresden, or the US planes that destroyed the cities of Poland and wrecked half of Budapest, places whose wretched residents had never done a thing to America, but which had to be destroyed in order to win the war against evil. The morals of war do not require that Russia be brought to trial, though it bombs and destroys towns and neighborhoods in Chechnya. It does not denounce the UN Peacekeeping Forces for killing hundreds of civilians in Angola, nor the NATO forces who bombed Milosevic’s Belgrade, a city with a million civilians, elderly, babies, women, and children. The morals of war accept as correct in principle, not only politically, what America has done in Afghanistan, including the massive bombing of populated places, including the creation of a refugee stream of hundreds of thousands of people who escaped the horrors of war, for thousands of whom there is no home to return to.

And in our war this is sevenfold more correct, because the enemy soldiers hide out among the population, and it is only through its support that they can fight. Behind every terrorist stand dozens of men and women, without whom he could not engage in terrorism. Actors in the war are those who incite in mosques, who write the murderous curricula for schools, who give shelter, who provide vehicles, and all those who honor and give them their moral support. They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.

By the way, there was an interesting interview (here) with the Israeli spokesman (who by they way — regardless of how you feel about the merits of his argument — holds up well under a withering series of questions). The interview covers both views of the ongoing conflict.

Print Page

State of the Bible Survey

   Bible Skeptics on the Rise

The American Bible Society recently found a rise in the percentage of Americans who view the Bible skeptically, according to its Annual State of the Bible report.

Since 2011, the percentage of those who believe that the Bible is "just another book of teachings written by men that contains stories and advice" has risen from 10 percent to 19 percent of those surveyed.

The report, conducted by Barna Group, details Americans' beliefs about the Bible, its role in society, its presence in U.S. homes and other information about the best-selling book of all time.

"With four years of data from American Bible Society's State of the Bible research, we are now able to see trends in attitudes about and behaviors around the Bible," said Roy Peterson, president and CEO of American Bible Society. "The increasing polarization in attitudes about the Bible has implications for us as a nation and for our churches and families."

The new report released on Tuesday finds that the percentage of Americans who are engaged with Scripture is equal to the percentage who are skeptical — both at 19 percent. The latest findings are in American Bible Society's fourth annual State of the Bible survey.

The percentage considered "Bible-friendly" dropped from 45 percent to 37 percent, while "Bible-engaged" remained steady. The percentage of those considered neutral toward the Bible, 26 percent in 2014, has remained statistically unchanged.

As in previous years, the survey found the Bible remains a highly valued, influential force in America. But beliefs about the Bible and its role in society are becoming increasingly polarized — particularly when the data is examined by age group.

Overall, Millennials (ages 18–29) are driving the shift toward an agnostic view of the Bible. Among Millennials, the 2014 State of the Bible survey found:

Nineteen percent believe no literature is sacred (compared to 13 percent of all adults), while 64 percent believe the Bible is sacred literature (compared to 79 percent of all adults). Thirty-five percent believe the Bible contains everything a person needs to know to live a meaningful life, as compared with 50 percent for all adults.

While 50 percent of all adults believe the Bible has too little influence in society, only 30 percent of Millennials express the same belief. By way of comparison, 61 percent of Elders (those 68+) surveyed said they believe the Bible has too little influence in society.

Thirty-nine percent of Millennials never read the Bible, as compared to 26 percent of all adults.

The most common reason given for not reading the Bible more frequently among those who said their Bible reading decreased remained "busyness." The percentage of Bible readers citing busyness as their top barrier to additional Bible reading grew significantly in the last year, from 40 percent in 2013 to 47 percent in 2014.

                                                            (Infographic: Barna Group)

The way Americans access the Bible is also changing, according to the State of the Bible survey results. An unprecedented 44 percent of Bible readers surveyed have accessed the Bible on a computer. Still, print versions are far from disappearing from the Bible landscape. Eighty-four percent of Bible readers surveyed said a print version of Scripture is still their primary format.

Peterson, who took the helm of American Bible Society in February, believes there is reason to hope for an upswing in Bible engagement in the future.

"American adults, young and old alike, overwhelmingly recognize a moral decline is taking place in the nation," said Peterson. "As they seek solutions, we hope they will find the Bible as the guidebook that can reverse the decline and help its readers make sense of life."

Seventy-four percent of Millennials believe morals are declining in America, while 81 percent of all adults affirm this.

American Bible Society's State of the Bible 2014 survey also found:

The Bible continues to dominate both mind space and book retail space as America's undisputed best-seller.

One in seven people reported buying a copy of the Bible in the last year.

Seventy-nine percent of Americans identify the Bible as sacred.

The Bible is readily available to nearly all Americans with an average of 4.7 Bibles per household.

More than a quarter (28 percent) of all adults read the Bible every day or several times a week, while a quarter (26 percent) never read it.

Among Bible readers, the average amount of time spent reading the Bible is 35 minutes.

One in four Bible readers (42 percent) felt peaceful after reading the Bible, three in 10 (29 percent) felt hopeful and 33 percent felt encouraged and inspired.

                                                            (Infographic: Barna Group)

The King James Version is still preferred over any other translation as 34 percent of all adults read this version the most often.

Survey Methodology: The State of the Bible 2014 report contains the findings from a nationwide study commissioned by American Bible Society and conducted by Barna Research (a division of Barna Group). Two research methodologies were used for the study; one included 1,012 telephone interviews (including cellphone interviews) with adults in the continental U.S., while the second study consisted of 1,024 online surveys using a nationally representative panel. The use of two methodologies provided a larger sample size for key questions and ensured even greater representation among all age groups. The telephone interviews were conducted Jan. 8–20, 2014, and included U.S. adults 18 years of age or older. The online surveys were conducted Jan. 28–Feb. 5, 2014.

Print Page

For most families, wealth has vanished

If you’re a typical family, you’re considerably poorer than you used to be. No wonder the “recovery” feels like a recession.

new study published by the Russell Sage foundation helps explain why many families feel like they’re falling behind: They actually are. The study, which measures the average wealth of U.S. households by income level, reveals a startling decline in wealth nationwide. The median household in 2013 had a net worth of just $56,335 -- 43% lower than the median wealth level right before the recession began in 2007, and 36% lower than a decade ago. “There are very few signs of significant recovery from the losses in wealth suffered by American families during the Great Recession,” the study concludes.

Wealth generally comes from two types of assets: financial holdings and real estate. Financial assets have more than recovered ground lost during the recession, thanks largely to a stock-market rally now in its sixth year. The S&P 500 index, for instance, has hit several new record highs this year and is up more than 25% from the peak it reached in 2007. Home values, however, are still about 18% below the peak reached in 2006, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index.

Since wealthier households tend to hold more financial assets, they’ve benefited the most form the stock-market recovery, which itself has been assisted by the Federal Reserve’s super-easy monetary policy. Fed policy has been intended to help typical homeowners and buyers too, by pushing long-term interest rates unusually low and, in theory, goosing demand for housing. But a housing recovery is taking much longer to play out than the reflation of financial assets. That’s part of the reason the top 10% of households have held onto more of their wealth than the other 90% during the past 10 years. Here’s how different income groups have fared since 2003:

The Russell Sage data is based on surveys, and differs in a few important ways from data gathered by the Federal Reserve, which paints a rosier picture. The Fed’s numbers, derived from banking data, show that total net worth plunged during the recession but hit new highs in 2012, and is now nearly 20% higher than the prerecession peak. Since the Fed’s numbers aren’t broken down by income level, they don’t show whether more wealth has been concentrated among a smaller number of rich households.

The Sage numbers fill in that blank and do show that the top 10% of households control a larger portion of the nation’s total wealth than they used to. They also show, however, that every income group is still behind where it used to be, on average. The top 5% of households, for instance, have an average net worth of about $1.4 million — but that’s still about 16% lower than in 2007. The top 10% have an average net worth of about $763,000, down about 18%. Yet that’s far better than the median household, which has lost about 43% of its net worth since 2007. “Wealth inequality increased significantly from 2003 through 2013,” the study found.

By technical measures, the economy has been expanding since the middle of 2009, which is why economists label the past six years a recovery. Yet it’s the weakest recovery since the 1930s, with incomes stagnant, consumers reluctant to spend and employers skittish about hiring. Lost wealth has a lot of do with that, since people can’t spend money they don’t have, and they don’t feel like spending when they’re in the hole, anyway.

The wealthy do contribute to an economic recovery, but they can’t pull the whole economy up on their own. That requires a vibrant middle class spending en masse as their earnings and wealth climb. Maybe next year, or the year after that, or the year...

Print Page

The Home

Bodies Of 800 Children, Found at Former Irish Home For Unwed Mothers

In a town in western Ireland, where castle ruins pepper green landscapes, there's a two-metre stone wall that once surrounded a place called the Home. Between 1925 and 1961, thousands of "fallen women" and their "illegitimate" children passed through the Home, run by the Bon Secours nuns in Tuam.

Many of the women, after paying a penance of indentured servitude for their out-of-wedlock pregnancy, left the Home for work and lives in other parts of Ireland and beyond. Some of their children were not so fortunate.

More than five decades after the Home was closed and destroyed - where a housing development and children's playground now stands - what happened to nearly 800 of those abandoned children has now emerged: their bodies were piled into a massive septic tank sitting in the back of the structure and forgotten, with neither gravestones nor coffins.

Children at "the Home" in Ireland in 1924 (Connaught Tribune, 21st June 1924) Source: @Limerick1914 Photo: Supplied

"The bones are still there," local historian Catherine Corless, who uncovered the origins of the mass grave in a batch of never-before-released documents, told The Washington Post in a phone interview. "The children who died in the Home, this was them."

A campaign is under way to place a statue and memorial plaque near the site where the children were buried in County Galway, according to Irish Central.

The grim findings, which are being investigated by police, provide a glimpse into a particularly dark time for unmarried pregnant women in Ireland, where societal and religious mores stigmatised them. Without means to support themselves, women by the hundreds wound up at the Home. "When daughters became pregnant, they were ostracised completely," Ms Corless said. "Families would be afraid of neighbours finding out, because to get pregnant out of marriage was the worst thing on Earth. It was the worst crime a woman could commit, even though a lot of the time it had been because of a rape."

According to documents Ms Corless provided the Irish Mail on Sunday, malnutrition and neglect killed many of the children, while others died of measles, convulsions, TB, gastroenteritis and pneumonia. Infant mortality at the Home was staggeringly high.

"If you look at the records, babies were dying two a week, but I'm still trying to figure out how they could [put the bodies in a septic tank]," Ms Corless said. "Couldn't they have afforded baby coffins?"

                                                 Local historian Catherine Corless

Special kinds of neglect and abuse were reserved for the Home Babies, as locals call them. Many in surrounding communities remember them. They remember how they were segregated to the fringes of classrooms, and how the local nuns accentuated the differences between them and the others. They remember how, as one local told the Irish Central, they were "usually gone by school age - either adopted or dead".

According to Irish Central, a 1944 local health board report described the children living at the Home as "emaciated," "pot-bellied," "fragile" and with "flesh hanging loosely on limbs."

Ms Corless has a vivid recollection of the Home Babies. "If you acted up in class, some nuns would threaten to seat you next to the Home Babies," she said. She said she recalled one instance in which an older schoolgirl wrapped a tiny stone in a bright candy wrapper and gave it to a Home Baby as a gift.

"When the child opened it, she saw she'd been fooled," Ms Corless told Irish Central. "Of course, I copied her later and I tried to play the joke on another little Home girl. I thought it was funny at the time ... Years after, I asked myself what did I do to that poor little girl that never saw a sweet? That has stuck with me all my life. A part of me wants to make up to them."

She said she first started investigating the Home, which most locals wanted to "forget," when she started working on a local annual historical journal. She heard there was a little graveyard near what had been the Home, and that piqued her curiosity. How many children were there?

So she requested the records through the local registration house to find out. The attendant "came back a couple of weeks later and said the number was staggering, just hundreds and hundreds, that it was nearly 800 dead children," Ms Corless said.

The site of a mass grave for children who died in the Tuam mother and baby home, Galway, Ireland Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Once, in 1995, Ms Corless said in the phone interview, several boys had stumbled across the mass grave, which lay beneath a cracked piece of concrete: "The boys told me it had been filled to the brim with human skulls and bones. They said even to this day they still have nightmares of finding the bodies."

Locals suspect that the number of bodies in the mass grave, which will likely soon be excavated, may be even higher than 800. "God knows who else is in the grave," one anonymous source told local media. "It's been lying there for years, and no one knows the full extent of the total of bodies down there."

Print Page

Facebook - The Perfect Mass Surveillance Tool

How the NSA & FBI Made Facebook The Perfect Mass Surveillance Tool

The National Security Agency and the FBI teamed up in October 2010 to develop techniques for turning Facebook into a surveillance tool.

Documents released alongside security journalist Glenn Greenwald’s new book, “No Place To Hide,” reveal the NSA and FBI partnership, in which the two agencies developed techniques for exploiting Facebook chats, capturing private photos, collecting IP addresses, and gathering private profile data.

According to the slides below, the agencies’ goal for such collection was to capture “a very rich source of information on targets,” including “personal details, ‘pattern of life,’ connections to associates, [and] media.”

NSA documents make painfully clear how the agencies collected information “by exploiting inherent weaknesses in Facebook’s security model” through its use of the popular Akamai content delivery network. The NSA describes its methods as “assumed authentication,” and “security through obscurity.”

The slide below shows how the NSA and U.K. spy agency GCHQ also worked together to “obtain profile and album images.”

Two months ago, following a series of Facebook-related NSA spying leaks, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg stated in a blog post that he’s “confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the U.S. government.”

According to a report by The Intercept, the above slides do not reveal the NSA’s Facebook surveillance program in full. The report states that the NSA also “disguises itself as a fake Facebook server” to perform "man-in-the-middle" and “man-on-the-side” attacks and spread malware [below].

How the NSA Secretly Masqueraded as Facebook to Hack Computers for Surveillance from First Look Media on Vimeo.

As we wrote at the time, the “NSA’s Facebook targeting is reportedly a response to the declining success of other malware injection techniques. Previous techniques included the use of “spam emails that trick targets into clicking a malicious link.”

Following the report, released in March, Zuckerberg said, “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

Zuckerberg claimed he disapproved of the NSA’s actions and said that he’s spoken to president Barack Obama by phone to “express [his] frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future.”

VentureBeat has reached out to both Akamai and Facebook for comment on the matter.

Update - Facebook and Akamai responded to VentureBeat’s report:

Four years ago the NSA and FBI turned Facebook into a vehicle for mass surveillance.

In order to gain access to the private Facebook photos of targets, NSA slides allege that the two government agencies went after Facebook’s content delivery network (CDN), Akamai.

Documents released by security journalist Glenn Greenwald make clear how the agencies collected information “by exploiting inherent weaknesses in Facebook’s security model,” through a collaboration which began in October 2010, and was declared successful by the two agencies six months later.

In response to VentureBeat’s report on the matter, a Facebook spokesperson claimed that the company doesn’t “have any evidence of these allegations.” Yet, in an email the company went on to emphasize that the slides are not new, and that in recent years Facebook’s “security technology improved in many important ways.”

                    A photo composition of National Security Agency headquarters in Maryland, U.S.
                                  Image Credit: Wikipedia & Harrison Weber / VentureBeat

While sharing various security improvements, the Facebook spokesperson highlighted Facebook’s revised image upload URL structure — a change which sits at the heart of the controversy.

Akamai, tight-lipped, told VentureBeat the following: “while we can’t comment on specific customer configurations, to our knowledge there was no vulnerability on the Akamai CDN.” The firm’s denial went much further than this, however. In our discussions with Akamai, all vulnerabilities appeared to point towards Facebook’s image upload URL structure — not Akamai’s CDN.

The firm acknowledged that the photos, according to the leaked slides, were retrieved from Akamai’s CDN, yet insisted that such a circumstance could have occurred regardless of which CDN or caching capabilities were utilized by Facebook.

Further complicating the issue, however, is the lack of details in the NSA’s slides, one of which [above] appears to implicate Akamai as a direct target of NSA mass surveillance.

Print Page
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...