Something very wrong in the UK

Mention the UK and most of us imagine fish and chips or a decent pint rather than the Orwellian levels of online censorship about to be imposed on Brits at the end of 2013.  A new law will require ISPs block objectionable online content by default. Although there is an option to opt-out, anyone wanting the filter removed will need to contact their ISP to ask that it be switched off.  Censorship proponents argue that the filter isn’t a bad thing – keeping ones family safe from dodgy online content can only be a good thing right? The filter can also be turned off – even if that does mean an embarrassing call to your ISP.

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JPMorgan Looks to Pay to Settle U.S. Inquiries

JPMorgan Chase is pulling out its checkbook to help mend frayed relationships with the government.  But its new and conciliatory approach — a departure for the bank and its leader, Jamie Dimon, who generally has taken a hard line with the authorities — is yielding mixed results. Government officials, stung by the bank’s past displays of hubris, may drive up the price of settlements or resist the overtures altogether.

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Editor jailed for seven years and sentenced to 600 LASHES

The editor of a Saudi Arabian social website has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for founding an Internet forum that violates Islamic values and propagates liberal thought, Saudi media reported on Tuesday.  Raif Badawi, who started the ‘Free Saudi Liberals’ website to discuss the role of religion in Saudi Arabia, has been held since June 2012 on charges of cyber crime and disobeying his father – a crime in the conservative kingdom.

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Manning found not guilty of aiding the enemy, guilty of espionage

An Army judge on Tuesday acquitted Pfc. Bradley Manning of aiding the enemy by disclosing a trove of secret U.S. government documents but found him guilty of espionage, a mixed verdict that dealt a rebuke to military prosecutors who sought to prove that the largest leak in U.S. history had assisted al-Qaeda.  The judge, Col. Denise Lind, found Manning guilty of most of the more than 20 crimes he was charged with, including several violations of the Espionage Act. He could face a maximum of 136 years in prison.

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80 Percent Of U.S. Adults Face Near-Poverty, Unemployment: Survey

WASHINGTON — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.  Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.  The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration’s emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to “rebuild ladders of opportunity” and reverse income inequality.

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Bahrain: The Arab Spring Protests You Don’t Know About

I am astonished by how little the media has covered the ongoing protests in Bahrain, Kuwait, and eastern Saudi Arabia. You would think that the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council states would be under a microscope, because what happens there immediately affects oil prices. But large media corporations have opted not to cover events in these countries, so as not to cause market panic. And there is a lot to panic about.  The Arab Spring, or something like it, in Bahrain is all about Sunni-Shia tensions. Bahraini Shia make up almost 70% of the country’s total population. They are freer than the Saudi Shia (who are a distinct minority) to practice their faith in public, and they have never been subject to the incredible brutality of anti-Shia campaigns like the ones that were conducted in Iraq by Saddam’s forces following the 1991 uprising.

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CIA’s favorite Saudi prince is laying the groundwork for a post-Assad Syria

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar bin Sultan fell in love with the United States when he was still an air force pilot and took aerobatics training on an American air base. The romance was renewed several years later when he was named the Saudi ambassador to Washington, a tenure that lasted 22 years. He was a regular guest of George H.W. Bush and later his son, and was the only ambassador guarded by the U.S. Secret Service.  Last week, King Abdullah named Bandar, 62, director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, on top of his post as secretary-general of the National Security Council, which he has held since 2005.

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Sisi’s Islamist Agenda for Egypt

Addressing graduates of military academies is a standard responsibility for high-ranking military officers all over the world. But last week, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the commander of Egypt’s armed forces, which recently deposed the country’s first freely elected president, went far beyond the conventions of the genre in a speech to graduates of Egypt’s Navy and Air Defense academies. Sisi’s true audience was the wider Egyptian public, and he presented himself less as a general in the armed forces than as a populist strongman. He urged Egyptians to take to the streets to show their support for the provisional government that he had installed after launching a coup to remove from power President Mohamed Morsi, a longtime leader of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.

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Why Putin Crushed Navalny

For the last several weeks, Alexei Navalny has been a man living with a split personality. He has been carrying on a spirited campaign for the post of Moscow mayor while, at the same time, mounting a defense in his trial for embezzlement in the city of Kirov, 500 miles from the Russian capital. No longer: on Thursday, he was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. He was taken into custody and his supporters announced he was suspending his mayoral campaign. His double life has become one.  The verdict, and the prison term, carried the air of inevitability: as I wrote when the trial began in April, once the gears of the Russian justice system click into motion, the machine cannot slow itself down, let alone reverse course. That is all the more true in political cases. Yet some, including Navalny himself, believed at times that the court might hand down a suspended sentence, which would have kept Navalny out of prison. Such a move would have spared the Kremlin the opprobrium that would have resulted from handing down a lengthy jail sentence but still allowed it to prevent Navalny from running for political office. That would be the subtle and clever move; but subtlety and cleverness are not traits that mark the current presidential term of Vladimir Putin.

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Chinese Weibo users are salivating over Detroit’s bankruptcy

Downtown Detroit has long been one of the nation’s worst housing markets. Home values have plummetedVacancies abound. And foreclosure numbers are through the roof. Not that that’s surprising; who’d want to live in a neighborhood with soaring unemployment and the highest rate of violent crime in the US?  The bad news for Detroiters is that the city’s bankruptcy will likely only deepen the decay of its downtown housing market.  That might deter most prospective home buyers. But some look at Detroit’s hard times and see profit.  Specifically, bargain-hunting Chinese investors. Since the bankruptcy was announced on July 18, talk of snapping up Detroit housing for a pittance has picked up on Sina Weibo (link in Chinese), reports Sina Finance. And it appears to be translating into real interest; Caroline Chen, a real estate broker in Troy, Michigan, says she’s received “tons of calls” from people in mainland China.

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Holder Declares War on Texas, Ignores Supreme Court Ruling

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) was enacted pursuant to the Constitution’s Fifteenth Amendment, making it illegal to deny someone’s voting rights due to race. Under VRA Section 2, if any government official violates your voting rights anywhere in the country, you can sue in federal court.  But some parts of this country (mostly in southern states) had such rampant voter suppression in the 1960s that case-by-case litigation could not solve all those problems prior to each election. So VRA also created a special “preclearance” system: under VRA Section 5, those jurisdictions could not change their voting laws or procedures without receiving permission beforehand either from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), led by the attorney general, or a federal court in Washington, D.C. VRA Section 4 contained the provision defining which states are under Section 5’s federal supervision.

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The Decline of China’s Internet Cafes

Yesterday Freedom House released a report on Internet censorship in China based on information they collected for their Freedom on the Net survey.  The report is especially interested in Internet censorship since the leadership transition that brought Xi Jinping to power last November. It not only examines the obstacles citizens face in getting Internet access, but also on what is censored, surveillance, and how citizens are punished by the state for their activities online.  One of the more interesting findings contained in the report was that 40 percent of China’s cybercafés are now owned by chains instead of small businesses.

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The Biggest Oil Discovery In 50 Years?

In a virtually uninhabitable section of South Australia, a discovery has been made which could rock the world.  Some are calling it the biggest discovery of oil in 50 years.  Earlier this year, a company called Linc Energy announced that tests had revealed that there was a minimum of 3.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent sitting under more than 65,000 square kilometres of land that it owns in the Arckaringa Basin.  But that is the minimum number.  It has been projected that there could ultimately be up to 233 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the area.  If that turns out to be accurate, the oil sitting under that land is worth approximately 20 trillion dollars, and it would be roughly equivalent to the total amount of oil sitting under the sands of Saudi Arabia.  In essence, it would be a massive game changer.

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Muslim Brotherhood Groups: Full Court Press Against Ray Kelly

Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, adored by American Islamists and their allies, has resigned and the Islamists aren’t happy about the name being floated to replace her: NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.  Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) have both endorsed Kelly for the position, with Schumer going so far as to immediately recommend Kelly to the White House Chief of Staff upon Napolitano’s resignation. Kelly is receptive to the idea, and President Obama is sending the signal that Kelly is a real contender.  But the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and other U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entities are working hard to block his potential nomination to head the DHS.

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Say Hello to Roderick Scott – the anti-George Zimmerman?

Did you notice during the George Zimmerman trial how the media kept repeating the salacious question “What if Trayvon Martin had been white?” They acted as if this question was the perfect response to Zimmerman defenders. They pretended that this was a question without a “safe” answer, but in reality, the question had already been answered.  In April of 2009 Mr. Roderick Scott awoke at 3am to the sounds of three young men breaking into cars on his street. He called the police and went down to the street to make sure the young men did not flee before the police arrived. He shouted at the three to “freeze” and told them that the police were coming soon. The three boys stood before the big man obviously considering what they should do.

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U.S. city looks to penalize Bible believers

Think it’s hot in Texas these days? Just wait a few weeks, until the San Antonio City Council ends its summer hiatus and resumes work on a proposed change to its  nondiscrimination ordinances that apparently will discriminate against all who take the Bible at its word and follow it.  That’s because the change creates a penalty for those who ever exhibit a “bias,” which clearly could include adopting the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality, with a permanent ban on participation in city government, business or employment.  Opponents of the plan, which would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the nondiscrimination ordinances, charge it is a violation of constitutional Article VI, paragraph 3, which states, “[N]o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

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Inside Google HQ: What does the future hold for the company whose visionary plans include implanting a chip in our brains?

The power of computing, and the thrill of its apparently infinite possibilities, has also long been a source of fear.  Going into a San Francisco second-hand book shop, shortly before a visit to Google’s headquarters in California, I happened upon a copy of Dick Tracy, an old novel based on Chester Gould’s cartoon strip starring America’s favourite detective.  For a 1970 publication, the plot seemed remarkably topical. Dick, and his sidekick Sam Catchem, find themselves battling a sinister character known as “Mr Computer” who wants to control the world. His strange powers enable him to remember everything he hears or sees and recall it instantly. This is a bad guy who can store data, analyse voice patterns and read private thoughts.

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Arabs Ready Anti-Israeli Resolution Over Nukes

After a two-year hiatus, Arab nations are relaunching efforts to single out Israel for criticism at a major international conference by preparing a resolution over the country’s alleged nuclear arsenal, suggesting that the Jewish state’s refusal to acknowledge it has such arms is threatening Middle East peace.  The Arab push was a mainstay of recent annual meetings of the 159-nation International Atomic Energy Agency, where it was usually narrowly voted down by Israel’s allies. It was suspended in 2011 and 2012, in what Arab nations viewed as a concession to keep hopes alive of high-profile talks on banning weapons of mass destruction from the Mideast.

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CIA Backs $630,000 Scientific Study on Controlling Global Climate

The Central Intelligence Agency is funding a scientific study that will investigate whether humans could use geoengineering to alter Earth’s environment and stop climate change. The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) will run the 21-month project, which is the first NAS geoengineering study financially supported by an intelligence agency. With the spooks’ money, scientists will study how humans might influence weather patterns, assess the potential dangers of messing with the climate, and investigate possible national security implications of geoengineering attempts.

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“What Is That Box?” When The NSA Shows Up At Your Internet Company

When people say the feds are monitoring what people are doing online, what does that mean? How does that work? When, and where, does it start?  Pete Ashdown, CEO of XMission, an internet service provider in Utah, knows. He received a Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) warrant in 2010 mandating he let the feds monitor one of his customers, through his facility. He also received a broad gag order. In his own words:  The first thing I do when I get a law enforcement request is look for a court signature on it. Then I pass it to my attorneys and say, “Is this legitimate? Does this qualify as a warrant?” If it does, then we will respond to it. We are very up front that we respond to warrants.

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