Edward Snowden denounces global spying

This video from the USA is called FULL: Edward Snowden and ACLU at SXSW.

By Thomas Gaist and Barry Grey:

Snowden denounces global mass surveillance at SXSW festival

11 March 2014

National Security Agency (NSA) whistle-blower Edward Snowden gave a brief interview Monday via teleconference to a crowd assembled at the South by Southwest festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. The event was hosted by two attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Ben Wizner and Chris Sogohian, who led the discussion and made extended remarks.

Documents leaked by Snowden over the past nine months have exposed the existence of a vast state spying apparatus that operates surveillance programs gathering every type of data imaginable, including cell phone locations, video chat streams, emails, text messages, Internet browsing habits and much more. Snowden’s courageous actions in bringing to light these massive and flagrantly illegal operations have made him a hero to millions and his appearance was highly anticipated.

The event itself was politically significant—a live broadcast to a US audience made by someone who is being hunted by the US government and has been indicted on espionage charges, demonized by politicians and the media, and threatened with death by intelligence officials. Snowden was greeted with enthusiastic applause as his face appeared on screen against a backdrop of the Declaration of Independence.

During the telecast, one of the hosts noted that Snowden’s connection was bounced between seven “proxies” to thwart any attempt to locate him.

In his remarks, Snowden denounced the surveillance operations, describing the past decade as a “global free-fire zone for governments.” He categorically defended his actions. “The global mass surveillance occurring in all of these countries, they are setting fire to the future of the Internet,” Snowden said.

“Would I do it again? Absolutely. Regardless of what happens to me, this is something we had a right to,” Snowden said. He added that, “the reality is now we’ve reached a point where the majority of US telephone conversations are being recorded, metadata being stored, for years and years.”

“We also have the FISA court,” he continued, “a secret rubber-stamp court, only supposed to approve wiretap applications. At the same time, a secret court shouldn’t be interpreting the Constitution when only the NSA’s lawyers are presenting the case.

“We all are at risk of unfair, unjustified interference in our private lives. If we don’t resolve these issues, if we allow the NSA to continue unrestrained, every other government will take that as a green light to do the same.”

Reflecting on his motivation for leaking the data, Snowden commented, “I saw that the Constitution has been violated on a massive scale.” This evoked loud applause.

“The interpretation of the Constitution had been changed in secret from no unreasonable search and seizure to just go ahead and seize it, and that’s something the public ought to know about,” Snowden said.

He continued: “The problem is that the overseers aren’t interested in oversight. We’ve got committees that are championing for the NSA, not holding them to account. [Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper tells a lie that they all know is a lie, allowing the American people to believe it’s the truth.

“We can’t have officials like James Clapper who can lie to everyone in the country, the Congress, and face no criticism, not even a strongly worded letter.”

Some of Snowden’s remarks reflected a limited political understanding of the full significance of the spying programs and the international campaign being waged against him by the US government. Snowden and the interview hosts from the ACLU speculated that more rigorous regulation, watchdog groups, and technical innovations would be effective means to rein in the surveillance programs and reduce the threat they pose to innocent people.

“We need more public oversight… some way for trusted public figures to advocate for us. We need a watchdog that watches Congress, because if we’re not informed, we can’t consent to these (government) policies,” Snowden said.

At one point, he called for a “more constitutional, more carefully overseen intelligence model.”

These statements reflect illusions that the present political system can be reformed and the surveillance agencies can be held accountable within the framework of the existing political and economic system.

The illegal operations of the US surveillance state are not mere aberrations. Rather, they are part of systematic preparations by the ruling elite in anticipation of mass social struggles. Under conditions of deep economic crisis and unprecedented levels of social inequality, the capitalist elite is preparing to suppress political opposition by force.

The very fact that Snowden’s exposures have evoked virtually no opposition to government spying operations from any section of the political or media establishment demonstrates how deeply the drive to dictatorship is rooted in the existing economic, social and political order.

The totalitarian surveillance operations are, moreover, not limited to the US, but are being carried out by capitalist governments all over the world.

At another point, Snowden suggested that the mass spying programs detracted from US government efforts to prevent terrorist attacks. This indicated that Snowden gives a certain credence to government claims that its spying programs are motivated by a desire to protect the American people from terrorist threats. In fact, the virtually unlimited scale of the spying programs, sweeping up private information on hundreds of millions of people, including political leaders of nominal US allies and international organizations such as the United Nations, makes it clear that these programs have virtually nothing to do with a supposed “war on terrorism.”

They are directed against the democratic rights of the people and carried out in the interests of a ruling class petrified at the prospect of the emergence of a movement of the working class against poverty, inequality and war.

At one point, ACLU lawyer Chris Sogohian acknowledged that his organization’s recommendations to improve privacy would still leave individuals and groups that are specifically targeted by the NSA with no real way to protect themselves. “If the government wants to get at your communications, the encryption won’t stop them. They will hack your computer. If you are a target of the NSA, you are beyond saving,” he said.

The hostility of the US establishment towards Snowden has not abated. Last week, Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas called on SXSW organizers to rescind the invitation in a letter denouncing Snowden.

The congressman wrote: “When I served in the Army along the Iron Curtain, we had a word for a person who absconds with information and provides it to another nation: traitor. We also had a name for a person who chooses to reveal secrets he had personally promised to protect: common criminal. Mr. Snowden is both a traitor and a common criminal.”

As American Civil Liberties Union attorney Ben Wizner observed in response to these comments, “If he [Snowden] were here in the US, he’d be in a solitary cell.”

Snowden to SXSW: NSA “Setting Fire to Future of Internet, and You’re the Firefighters”: here.

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Dutch poet Leo Vroman dies

This is a video of a poem by Leo Vroman.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Saturday 22 Feb 2014, 17:23

In his hometown Fort Worth (Texas) poet and biologist Leo Vroman has died at the age of 98 years. He was one of the greatest Dutch poets. In 1964 he received the P. C. Hooft Prize.

Vroman published ever since 1946 more than 50 books of poetry. In 2013 his book “Die vleugels (Those wings)’ still appeared, and another one will still be published. Many people know Vroman’s poem “Vrede (Peace)”, which begins with the words “Kom vanavond met verhalen (Come tonight with stories).”

As a researcher of blood Vroman became famous for the Vroman effect named after him, which refers to phenomena of coagulation. He lived in the United States since 1947.

Though he lived in the USA, almost all Vroman’s poems are in Dutch. He publisheed only two poetry books in English.

The Poetry International site writes on Vroman here.

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Big Triassic reptiles discovery in Texas

This video says about itself:

Texas Tech University Scientists Discover Prehistoric Crocodile Species

28 Jan 2014

Texas Tech scientists recently discovered a new species of phytosaur, which is like a modern-day crocodile. The skull was found near Post, Texas, and is believed to be 210 million years old.

Though phytosaurs look like crocodiles, there is doubt how closely related to them they were.

Today, not only news from China about the discovery of a gigantic dinosaur from the Cretaceous age.

Also news from Texas in the USA about the discovery of another reptile species; much older; smaller, but still big.

From Texas Tech University today:

Paleontologists discover new Triassic swamp monster (w/ Video)

18 hours ago by John Davis

In the dangerous waters of an ancient oxbow lake created by a flooded and unnamed meandering river, the female phytosaur died and sank to the bottom 205 million years ago. About 40 yards away the remains of a larger male also came to rest, and both disappeared in a tomb of soil and sediment.

Evidence for the cause of their deaths and the rest of their bodies have vanished with time, but their skulls remained. After careful research, a Texas Tech paleontologist says he and others have discovered a new species of the Triassic-age monster in the wilds of West Texas.

Their findings were published in the peer-reviewed journal, Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Bill Mueller, assistant curator of Paleontology at the Museum of Texas Tech University, said the team named their find Machaeroprosopus lottorum after the Lott family who own the ranch on which the animal was discovered.

“We found them in an area we’d been excavating in,” Mueller said. “I think we’ve gotten four skulls out of that area already. Doug Cunningham found this specimen, and then we dug it up. When he found it, just the very back end of the skull was sticking out of the ground. The rest was buried. We excavated it and brought it into the museum to finish preparation.”

Cunningham, currently a field research assistant at the museum and a retired firefighter, remembered finding the unusual female skull on June 27, 2001. After removing it from the mudstone, he recalls looking it over carefully with others and wondering if his discovery would add a new animal to science.

“It was really well preserved with the teeth and everything,” Cunningham said. “Finding one with teeth is pretty rare. It was so odd, but when they come out of the ground, you have a long way to go to actually see what you have because they’re still covered in matrix. We were all kind of in awe of it. It had this long, skinny snout. It was quite a bit different. It took me years to get it prepped and ready. At the time, I was working full-time and I did that on my days off.”

By looking an opening on the skull called the supratemporal fenestra, the snout and the shape of the bones at the back of the head, the team compared it to other phytosaurs and determined they’d discovered a separate species.

While West Texas is dry and dusty today, Mueller said the landscape looked more like a swampy, tropical rainforest during the Triassic period. Our planet’s landmasses had converged to form the supercontinent of Pangaea. In the forest undergrowth covered by tall conifers and choked with ferns, phytosaurs lurked beneath the water and waited for prey.

“A phytosaur resembles a crocodile,” Mueller said. “They had basically the same lifestyle as the modern crocodile by living in and around the water, eating fish, and whatever animals came to the margins of the rivers and lakes. But one of the big differences is the external nares, the nose, is back up next to its eyes instead of at the end of its snout.”

Mueller said scientists can tell the sexes of the animals by a distinctive feature on males. A bony crest stretched from the nostrils by the eyes to the tip of the animal’s beak – a feature lady phytosaurs probably found sexy.

Judging by the female’s skull size, which is more than three feet in length, Mueller guessed she would have measured 16 to 17 feet in length from nose to tail tip. The male would have measured about 17 to 18 feet. Their thin jaws suggested they hunted mainly fish as opposed to big prey.

Mueller said phytosaurs lived throughout the Triassic period from 230 to 203 million years ago, but died out during a mysterious mass extinction. Highly successful animals, they are commonly found because these animals liked to live in swampy areas and were more likely to become covered in sediment and fossilized.

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Private prison corporation Geo Group kills immigrants

This video from the USA is called GEO Background – Investigation shows GEO group has history of prisoner abuse.

It says about itself:

1 Dec 2008

WILLACY COUNTY – The GEO Group, the prison corporation at the center of the indictments has a long history filled with allegations of prisoner abuse. The abuse has sometimes even turned deadly.

A former corrections officer who did not want to be identified says she was on-duty at the Willacy State Jail in 2001 when Gregorio De La Rosa, Jr. was beaten to death by fellow inmates. She says he was bloody and not very responsive after the incident. De La Rosa died just four days before his release date.

His family sued the prison owner at that time, the GEO group known then as Wackenhut. The family won a $47 million settlement.

Paul Wright, editor of Prison Legal News, a prison watchdog group, says that the GEO Group has a bad reputation for a reason. “They gain their contracts through lobbying and cronyism and political favoritism,” Wright said. “They make their profits once they have the contracts through short staffing their facilities and underpaying their staff.”

Wright says the GEO runs prisons full of problems. “Very high incidents of escapes, assaults, murders, sexual assaults and riots as well,” he said. However, the former corrections officer of the jail says that there’s always going to be riots and assaults in a prison setting. She says those incidents don’t make it to the news because they are kept in-house. Lawmakers are calling for a review of all GEO’s contracts in Texas, though they claim it has nothing to do with the Willacy County indictments, which accuse the Vice President of the U.S., Dick Cheney of wrong doing since he owns a stock in company connected to the GEO group.

By Paddy McGuffin in Britain:

Privateer ‘lacks humanity’ but wants probation

Friday 17th January 2014

Firm bids for sold-off service despite being slammed by prison watchdog

A privateer accused yesterday of lacking basic humanity is in the running to scoop lucrative contracts as ministers flog off the probation service.

HM Inspectorates of Prisons uncovered an appalling litany of failing at Geo Group-run Harmondsworth immigration removal centre.

Among the most alarming documented incidents was the death of an 84-year-old immigration detainee with dementia after he was taken to hospital in handcuffs.

The Canadian national, believed to be Alois Dvorzac, spent three weeks at Harmondsworth despite doctors saying he was unfit for detention.

His death is one of a number of “shocking cases where a sense of humanity was lost,” HMIP said in its report on an unannounced visit last August.

Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon asked: “Have the authorities responsible for Harmondsworth forgotten the basic principles of humanity and decency that must apply to any form of custody?”

Geo, a British subsidiary of the US group of the same name, also runs Dungavel House immigration removal centre in South Lanarkshire.

The firm, which has been dogged by allegations of abuse, mistreatment and fraud, runs an estimated 96 facilities and provides services to the US concentration camp Guantanamo Bay.

But the Ministry of Justice announced in December that Geo Group UK and Geo Delta were among the firms which had made it through to the next round of bidding on the spoils of the government’s selloff of 70 per cent of probation services.

Probation union Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said: “Yet again we are hearing another private contractor’s failure to meet the requirements of their contract and it is the people they are charged with looking after that are suffering.

“The very idea that these companies should be in charge of monitoring and rehabilitating offenders in the community is ludicrous and dangerous.

“The public need to start asking this government why they insist on putting costs cuts before public safety.”

Last year, an 84-year-old man with Alzheimer’s disease died in handcuffs in a British immigration centre: here.

Fears over public safety have led to a delay in privatising a large part of the probation service, shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said yesterday: here.

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Good American aplomado falcon news

This video from the USA says about itself:

16 March 2009

This is a video of Aplomado Falcons that have been reintroduced in south-eastern New Mexico. This is an educational video to familiarize people with the movements of the falcons and the type of preferred habitat. The recovery project is a group effort involving the US Fish and Wildlife Service, The Peregrine Fund, Turner Endangered Species Fund and other organizations.

From BirdNote in the USA:

Aplomado Falcon

Species Recovery Projects Are Working!

Aplomado Falcons were once widespread residents of the American Southwest, but by the 1950s, they’d disappeared entirely from the region. Loss of habitat, loss of prey, and pesticides all played a role.

But in the 1980s, a group called The Peregrine Fund began breeding captive Aplomado Falcons. Over the next 25 years, 1,500 fledglings were set free in South Texas. At the same time, conservation pacts with private landowners provided more than two million acres of habitat. Learn more in Related Resources below.