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Ukraine Imposes Capital Controls, Limits Foreign Currency Withdrawals | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Imposes Capital Controls, Limits Foreign Currency Withdrawals | Zero Hedge.

Yesterday we reported that as part of the Ukrainian central bank’s plan to bailout the nation’s largely insolvent private banks, it would provide any needed funding but only “if they will remain under open control of the National Bank of Ukraine.” And since the new CB head Stepan Kubiv’s allegiance to Europe were already well-known, this was merely a quick and efficient way of providing Europe with all the banking details including asset holdings of the local population. Today, the annexation of the country’s banking system by a “benevolent” Europe is complete.

Itar-Tass reports that Ukraine’s national bank has imposed temporary limits to withdraw money from foreign currency deposits to sums equivalent to no more than 15,000 hryvnias (about $1,500) a day, National Bank Chief Stepan Kubiv told a press conference. Or, as the citizens of Cyprus call it – capital controls.

Why is Ukraine doing this? Because when your currency is crashing at a record pace to unseen lows, what is the best way to limit FX transactions? Simple – just minimize the amount of foreign currency that can be in circulation.

Which is also why the the central bank’s capital controls do not touch local currency: there is more than enough of that in circulation since after all Ukraine has its own currency and can print it in infinite amounts: “For hryvnia deposits you may take as much as a million or two. Banks have liquidity,” Kubiv said.

Then there was the token propaganda:

The chief banker also noted that the situation on Ukraine’s currency market was under control. “The exchange rate may move in one direction and the opposite. There are just emotions and misinformation on the financial market,” he noted.

He assured the national bank would toughly stop violators of the currency law. For example, inspectors were sent to eight banks that had engaged in speculation, he said.

To summarize: first banks abdicate their control to a pro-European central bank, and now the citizens face their first (of many) capital controls which incidentally will simply aggravate the fund outflow situation even more, leading to an even faster drop in foreign reserves.

Finally comes the inflation. Wait until the people start rioting – think Egypt – when the economy collapses and a loaf of bread costs its wheelbarrow equight equivalent in Hryvnias. Just how fast will the countercoup in Ukraine take place then? Recall, in Egypt it was just over a year and a half…

When Is RRSP Deadline? Contribution Cutoff Date For 2013 Almost Here

When Is RRSP Deadline? Contribution Cutoff Date For 2013 Almost Here.

The Huffington Post Canada  |  Posted: 02/26/2014 5:48 pm EST  |  Updated: 02/26/2014 5:59 pm EST

The deadline to contribute to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) is drawing near, and apparently quite a few Canadians are leaving their contributions to the last minute.

Thirty-one per cent of eligible Canadians still planned on making a contribution before this year’s cutoff date, according to a poll conducted by Harris/Decima for CIBC from Feb. 13-17.

This year’s RRSP deadline is March 3, now less than a week away.

Out of that 31 per cent who still wanted to contribute so close to the deadline, just under half hadn’t made any contributions for that tax year, while the remainder had, but planned to contribute more.

The poll showed those most likely to procrastinate on planned RRSP contributions were between the ages of 25 and 44. CIBC said previous research indicated younger Canadians often need to balance their savings with debt repayment, which can result in delaying contributions.

A previous poll conducted in November 2013 for RBC said only 23 per cent of Canadians planned to contribute the maximum amount allowed. Younger Canadians are less likely to have the cash to make the maximum contribution, CBC noted, but just 20 per cent of people between the ages of 35 and 54 and 25 per cent of people over age 55 said they’d contribute the full amount.

Senior Manager with RBC Financial Planning Richa Hingorani said putting money aside on a regular basis can help make the process more affordable.

“Maxing out your contribution at the start of the year is great if you can afford it,” she said in a press release, “but for most Canadians, regular contributions throughout the year is a more realistic and effective approach.”

Christina Kramer, CIBC’s Executive Vice President, Retail and Business Banking, also noted the benefit of saving throughout the year, rather than scrambling to find cash close to the cutoff.

“Some Canadians find it difficult to come up with a lump sum for their RRSP, underscoring the importance of creating a budget and a regular savings plan for the year ahead to avoid the last-minute crunch,” she said in a news release.

The Federal Reserve’s Transcripts: The Greatest Propaganda Coup of Our Time? | Global Research

The Federal Reserve’s Transcripts: The Greatest Propaganda Coup of Our Time? | Global Research.

The New York Times and the Fed’s Transcripts

Global Research, February 28, 2014
fed

There’s good propaganda and bad propaganda. Bad propaganda is generally crude, amateurish Judy Miller “mobile weapons lab-type” nonsense that figures that people are so stupid they’ll believe anything that appears in “the paper of record.” Good propaganda, on the other hand, uses factual, sometimes documented material in a coordinated campaign with the other major media to cobble-together a narrative that is credible, but false.

The so called Fed’s transcripts, which were released last week, fall into the latter category. The transcripts (1,865 pages) reveal the details of 14 emergency meetings of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) in 2008, when the financial crisis was at its peak and the Fed braintrust was deliberating on how best to prevent a full-blown meltdown. But while the conversations between the members are accurately recorded, they don’t tell the gist of the story or provide the context that’s needed to grasp the bigger picture. Instead, they’re used to portray the members of the Fed as affable, well-meaning bunglers who did the best they could in ‘very trying circumstances’. While this is effective propaganda, it’s basically a lie, mainly because it diverts attention from the Fed’s role in crashing the financial system, preventing the remedies that were needed from being implemented (nationalizing the giant Wall Street banks), and coercing Congress into approving gigantic, economy-killing bailouts which shifted trillions of dollars to insolvent financial institutions that should have been euthanized.

What I’m saying is that the Fed’s transcripts are, perhaps, the greatest propaganda coup of our time. They take advantage of the fact that people simply forget a lot of what happened during the crisis and, as a result, absolve the Fed of any accountability for what is likely the crime of the century. It’s an accomplishment that PR-pioneer Edward Bernays would have applauded. After all, it was Bernays who argued that the sheeple need to be constantly bamboozled to keep them in line. Here’s a clip from his magnum opus “Propaganda”:

“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

Sound familiar? My guess is that Bernays’ maxim probably features prominently in editors offices across the country where “manufacturing consent” is Job 1 and where no story so trivial that it can’t be spun in a way that serves the financial interests of the MSM’s constituents. (Should I say “clients”?) The Fed’s transcripts are just a particularly egregious example. Just look at the coverage in the New York Times and judge for yourself. Here’s an excerpt from an article titled “Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”:

“The hundreds of pages of transcripts, based on recordings made at the time, reveal the ignorance of Fed officials about economic conditions during the climactic months of the financial crisis. Officials repeatedly fretted about overstimulating the economy, only to realize time and again that they needed to redouble efforts to contain the crisis.” (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)

This quote is so misleading on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin.

First of all, the New York Times is the ideological wellspring of elite propaganda in the US. They set the tone and the others follow. That’s the way the system works. So it always pays to go to the source and try to figure out what really lies behind the words, that is, the motive behind the smokescreen of half-truths, distortions, and lies. How is the Times trying to bend perceptions and steer the public in their corporate-friendly direction, that’s the question. In this case, the Times wants its readers to believe that the Fed members “misread the crisis”; that they were ‘behind the curve’ and stressed-out, but–dad-gum-it–they were trying their level-best to make things work out for everybody.

How believable is that? Not very believable at all.

Keep in mind, the crisis had been going on for a full year before the discussions in these transcripts took place, so it’s not like the members were plopped in a room the day before Lehman blew up and had to decide what to do. No. They had plenty of time to figure out the lay of the land, get their bearings and do what was in the best interests of the country. Here’s more from the Times:

 ”My initial takeaway from these voluminous transcripts is that they paint a disturbing picture of a central bank that was in the dark about each looming disaster throughout 2008. That meant that the nation’s top bank regulators were unprepared to deal with the consequences of each new event.”

Have you ever read such nonsense in your life? Of course, the Fed knew what was going on. How could they NOT know? Their buddies on Wall Street were taking it in the stern sheets every time their dingy asset pile was downgraded which was every damn day. It was costing them a bundle which means they were probably on the phone 24-7 to (Treasury Secretary) Henry Paulson whining for help. “You gotta give us a hand here, Hank. The whole Street is going toes-up. Please.”

Here’s more from the NYT:

“Some Fed officials have argued that the Fed was blind in 2008 because it relied, like everyone else, on a standard set of economic indicators. As late as August 2008, “there were no clear signs that many financial firms were about to fail catastrophically,” Mr. Bullard said in a November presentation in Arkansas that the St. Louis Fed recirculated on Friday. “There was a reasonable case that the U.S. could continue to ‘muddle through.’ (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)

There’s that same refrain again, “Blind”, “In the dark”, “Behind the curve”, “Misread the crisis”.

Notice how the Times only invokes terminology that implies the Fed is blameless. But it’s all baloney. Everyone knew what was going on. Check out this excerpt from a post by Nouriel Roubini that was written nearly a full year before Lehman failed:

“The United States has now effectively entered into a serious and painful recession. The debate is not anymore on whether the economy will experience a soft landing or a hard landing; it is rather on how hard the hard landing recession will be. The factors that make the recession inevitable include the nation’s worst-ever housing recession, which is still getting worse; a severe liquidity and credit crunch in financial markets that is getting worse than when it started last summer; high oil and gasoline prices; falling capital spending by the corporate sector; a slackening labor market where few jobs are being created and the unemployment rate is sharply up; and shopped-out, savings-less and debt-burdened American consumers who — thanks to falling home prices — can no longer use their homes as ATM machines to allow them to spend more than their income. As private consumption in the US is over 70% of GDP the US consumer now retrenching and cutting spending ensures that a recession is now underway.

On top of this recession there are now serious risks of a systemic financial crisis in the US as the financial losses are spreading from subprime to near prime and prime mortgages, consumer debt (credit cards, auto loans, student loans), commercial real estate loans, leveraged loans and postponed/restructured/canceled LBO and, soon enough, sharply rising default rates on corporate bonds that will lead to a second round of large losses in credit default swaps. The total of all of these financial losses could be above $1 trillion thus triggering a massive credit crunch and a systemic financial sector crisis.” ( Nouriel Roubini Global EconoMonitor)

Roubini didn’t have some secret source for data that wasn’t available to the Fed. The financial system was collapsing and it had been collapsing for a full year. Everyone who followed the markets knew it. Hell, the Fed had already opened its Discount Window and the Term Auction Facility (TAF) in 2007 to prop up the ailing banks–something they’d never done before– so they certainly knew the system was cratering. So, why’s the Times prattling this silly fairytale that “the Fed was in the dark” in 2008?

I’ll tell you why: It’s because this whole transcript business is a big, freaking whitewash to absolve the shysters at the Fed of any legal accountability, that’s why. That’s why they’re stitching together this comical fable that the Fed was simply an innocent victim of circumstances beyond its control. And that’s why they want to focus attention on the members of the FOMC quibbling over meaningless technicalities –like non-existent inflation or interest rates–so people think they’re just kind-hearted buffoons who bumbled-along as best as they could. It’s all designed to deflect blame.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying these conversations didn’t happen. They did, at least I think they did. I just think that the revisionist media is being employed to spin the facts in a way that minimizes the culpability of the central bank in its dodgy, collaborationist engineering of the bailouts. (You don’t hear the Times talking about Hank Paulson’s 50 or 60 phone calls to G-Sax headquarters in the week before Lehman kicked the bucket, do you? But, that’s where a real reporter would look for the truth.)

The purpose of the NYT article is to create plausible deniability for the perpetrators of the biggest ripoff in world history, a ripoff which continues to this very day since the same policies are in place, the same thieving fraudsters are being protected from prosecution, and the same boundless chasm of private debt is being concealed through accounting flim-flam to prevent losses to the insatiable bondholders who have the country by the balls and who set policy on everything from capital requirements on complex derivatives to toppling democratically-elected governments in Ukraine. These are the big money guys behind the vacillating-hologram poseurs like Obama and Bernanke, who are nothing more than kowtowing sock puppets who jump whenever they’re told. Here’s more bunkum from the Gray Lady:

 ”By early March, the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.

Financial firms, particularly in the mortgage business, were beginning to fail because they could not borrow money. Investors had lost confidence in their ability to predict which loans would be repaid. Countrywide Financial, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, sold itself for a relative pittance to Bank of America. Bear Stearns, one of the largest packagers and sellers of mortgage-backed securities, was teetering toward collapse.

On March 7, the Fed offered companies up to $200 billion in funding. Three days later, Mr. Bernanke secured the Fed policy-making committee’s approval to double that amount to $400 billion, telling his colleagues, “We live in a very special time.”

Finally, on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.” (“Fed Misread Crisis in 2008, Records Show”, New York Times)

This part deserves a little more explanation. The author says “the Fed was moving to replace investors as a source of funding for Wall Street.” Uh, yeah; because the whole flimsy house of cards came crashing down when investors figured out Wall Street was peddling toxic assets. So the money dried up. No one buys crap assets after they find out they’re crap; it’s a simple fact of life. The Times makes this sound like this was some kind of unavoidable natural disaster, like an earthquake or a tornado. It wasn’t. It was a crime, a crime for which no one has been indicted or sent to prison. That might have been worth mentioning, don’t you think?

More from the NYT: “…on March 16, the Fed effectively removed any limit on Wall Street funding even as it arranged the Bear Stearns rescue.”

Yipee! Free money for all the crooks who blew up the financial system and plunged the economy into recession. The Fed assumed blatantly-illegal powers it was never provided under its charter and used them to reward the people who were responsible for the crash, namely, the Fed’s moneybags constituents on Wall Street. It was a straightforward transfer of wealth to the Bank Mafia. Don’t you think the author should have mentioned something about that, just for the sake of context, maybe?

Again, the Times wants us to believe that the men who made these extraordinary decisions were just ordinary guys like you and me trying to muddle through a rough patch doing the best they could.

Right. I mean, c’mon, this is some pretty impressive propaganda, don’t you think? It takes a real talent to come up with this stuff, which is why most of these NYT guys probably got their sheepskin at Harvard or Yale, the establishment’s petri-dish for serial liars.

By September 2008, Bernanke and Paulson knew the game was over. The crisis had been raging for more than a year and the nation’s biggest banks were broke. (Bernanke even admitted as much in testimony before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission in 2011 when he said “only one ….out of maybe the 13 of the most important financial institutions in the United States…was not at serious risk of failure within a period of a week or two.” He knew the banks were busted, and so did Paulson.) Their only chance to save their buddies was a Hail Mary pass in the form of Lehman Brothers. In other words, they had to create a “Financial 9-11″, a big enough crisis to blackmail congress into $700 no-strings-attached bailout called the TARP. And it worked too. They pushed Lehman to its death, scared the bejesus out of congress, and walked away with 700 billion smackers for their shifty gangster friends on Wall Street. Chalk up one for Hank and Bennie.

The only good thing to emerge from the Fed’s transcripts is that it proves that the people who’ve been saying all along that Lehman was deliberately snuffed-out in order to swindle money out of congress were right. Here’s how economist Dean Baker summed it up the other day on his blog:

“Gretchen Morgensen (NYT financial reporter) picks up an important point in the Fed transcripts from 2008. The discussion around the decision to allow Lehman to go bankrupt makes it very clear that it was a decision. In other words the Fed did not rescue Lehman because it chose not to.

This is important because the key regulators involved in this decision, Ben Bernanke, Hank Paulson, and Timothy Geithner, have been allowed to rewrite history and claim that they didn’t rescue Lehman because they lacked the legal authority to rescue it. This is transparent tripe, which should be evident to any knowledgeable observer.” (“The Decision to Let Lehman Fail”, Dean Baker, CEPR)

Here’s the quote from Morgenson’s piece to which Baker is alluding:

“In public statements since that time, the Fed has maintained that the government didn’t have the tools to save Lehman. These documents appear to tell a different story. Some comments made at the Sept. 16 meeting, directly after Lehman filed for bankruptcy, indicate that letting Lehman fail was more of a policy decision than a passive one.” (“A New Light on Regulators in the Dark”, Gretchen Morgenson, New York Times)

Ah ha! So it was a planned demolition after all. At least that’s settled.

Here’s something else you’ll want to know: It was always within Bernanke’s power to stop the bank run and end to the panic, but if he relieved the pressure in the markets too soon (he figured), then Congress wouldn’t cave in to his demands and approve the TARP. Because, at the time, a solid majority of Republicans and Democrats in congress were adamantly opposed to the TARP and even voted it down on the first ballot. Here’s a clip from a speech by, Rep Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) in September 2008 which sums up the grassroots opposition to the bailouts:

“The $700 bailout bill is being driven by fear not fact. This is too much money, in too short of time, going to too few people, while too many questions remain unanswered. Why aren’t we having hearings…Why aren’t we considering any other alternatives other than giving $700 billion to Wall Street? Why aren’t we passing new laws to stop the speculation which triggered this? Why aren’t we putting up new regulatory structures to protect the investors? Why aren’t we directly helping homeowners with their debt burdens? Why aren’t we helping American families faced with bankruptcy? Isn’t time for fundamental change to our debt-based monetary system so we can free ourselves from the manipulation of the Federal Reserve and the banks? Is this the US Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?”

But despite overwhelming public resistance, the TARP was pushed through and Wall Street prevailed. mainly by sabotaging the democratic process the way they always do when it doesn’t suit their objectives.)

Of course, as we said earlier, Bernanke never really needed the money from TARP to stop the panic anyway. (Not one penny of the $700 bil was used to shore up the money markets or commercial paper markets where the bank run took place.) All Bernanke needed to do was to provide backstops for those two markets and, Voila, the problem was solved. Here’s Dean Baker with the details:

“Bernanke deliberately misled Congress to help pass the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). He told them that the commercial paper market was shutting down, raising the prospect that most of corporate America would be unable to get the short-term credit needed to meet its payroll and pay other bills. Bernanke neglected to mention that he could singlehandedly keep the commercial paper market operating by setting up a special Fed lending facility for this purpose. He announced the establishment of a lending facility to buy commercial paper the weekend after Congress approved TARP.” (“Ben Bernanke; Wall Street’s Servant”, Dean Baker, Guardian)

So, there you have it. The American people were fleeced in broad daylight by the same dissembling cutthroats the NYT is now trying to characterize as well-meaning bunglers who were just trying to save the country from another Great Depression.

I could be wrong, but I think we’ve reached Peak Propaganda on this one.

(Note: By “good” propaganda, I mean “effective” propaganda. From an ethical point of view, propaganda can never be good because its objective is to intentionally mislead people…..which is bad.)

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

How Climate Change Helped Decimate a 4,000 Year Old Megacity | Motherboard

How Climate Change Helped Decimate a 4,000 Year Old Megacity | Motherboard.

February 27, 2014 // 05:01 PM EST 

More than 4,000 years ago, three civilizations dominated South Asia and North Africa. Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia are names you’ll surely recognize, but the lesser-known Indus Valley Civilization was actually the largest of the three. During its height, at around 2600 BCE, the Indus spread across what is now India and Pakistan, and built large cities like Mohenjo-Daro, whose population is estimated to have been well into five figures.

Around 1800 BCE, the Indus civilization began to decline, and all but disappeared by 1300 BCE. The reason has been the source of controversy for decades, but new research adds evidence to the theory that climate change led to a sharp weakening of the key summer monsoon season, which left the Indus river valley drier and inhospitable.

Tracking weather patterns from millennia ago isn’t easy. The University of Cambridge research team first started by finding an ancient lake, called Kotla Dahar, that still existed in the Indus’ time. The dirt at the bottom of an ancient lake doesn’t offer many clues, but what it holds does: By identifying the species and chemical makeup of ancient snails buried in the former lake, the Cambridge team was able to calculate how much rainfall the region received thousands of years ago. The results are published in Geology.

They found that the paleolake in Haryana, India was a deep body of water between 6,500 and 5,800 years ago, which corresponded with a time of heavy monsoon action. But, in snail shells dating to around 4,100 years ago—right before the time the Indus when into decline—the researchers found an increase of an oxygen isotope, which suggests the lake was drying up due to a weakening of the summer monsoon.

“We think that we now have a really strong indication that a major climate event occurred in the area where a large number of Indus settlements were situated,” study co-author Professor David Hodell said in a release. “Taken together with other evidence from Meghalaya in northeast India, Oman and the Arabian Sea, our results provide strong evidence for a widespread weakening of the Indian summer monsoon across large parts of India 4,100 years ago.”

At the time, drought was spreading throughout much of Asia. “The 4.2 ka aridification event is regarded as one of the most severe climatic changes in the Holocene, and affected several Early Bronze Age populations from the Aegean to the ancient Near East,” the authors write.

A map of the spread of the Indus Valley Civilization, including Mohenjo-Daro (5) and Harappa (4), another large city. Image: Wikipedia

 

Such drought would certainly have had a destabilizing effect. And even given some wiggle room within the dates—again, dating isotopes of snail shells in ancient lake beds is a tall task—the authors argue such monsoon weakening corresponds with known times for Indus decline. “The resultant age of drying at Kotla Dahar is consistent with the suggested archeological dates for the onset of Indus de-urbanization within dating uncertainties,” the authors write.

As you might expect, drought wreaks havoc on agriculture. Feeding a megacity, even an ancient one like Mohenjo-Daro, takes a strong farm sector, and without one, people will disappear. “Our paleoclimate record also provides indirect evidence for the suggestion that the ISM weakening at ca. 4.1 ka in northwestern India likely led to severe decline in summer overbank flooding that adversely affected monsoon-supported agriculture in this region,” the authors write.

The Indus civilization collapse has remained a mystery for at least a century of archeological investigation, but the climate angle has been batted around for nearly that long. As V.N. Misra notes in a deep look at the subject, British archeologists Sir Aurel Stein and Sir John Marshall both posited in 1931 that the Indus lived in a far wetter climate, which was held as fact until the 60s, when an American team poked holes in previous evidence.

Since then, the evidence has largely been on the side of drought coinciding with the Indus collapse, although there have also been arguments to the contrary. Isotopic studies have provided more conclusive evidence. A 2003 study in Geophysical Research Letters also found evidence of drought occurring around 4,200 years ago. Combined with the most recent study, it’s becoming more clear that while drought alone may not have caused the Indus collapse, it does appear to have helped push things along.

“We know that there was a clear shift away from large populations living in megacities,” co-author Dr. Cameron Petrie said. “But precisely what happened to the Indus civilization has remained a mystery. It is unlikely that there was a single cause, but a climate change event would have induced a whole host of knock-on effects.”

And guess what? Research in the last few years has shown that the current warming climate will likely lead to a decrease in India’s monsoon season. A 2012 paper in Environmental Research Letters put it rather simply: “Indian monsoon rainfall is vital for a large share of the world’s population,” the authors write in their abstract, before noting that “monsoon failure is possible but very rare under pre-industrial conditions, while under future warming it becomes much more frequent.”

Compounding the problem, Pakistani media reported last fall that researchers have modeled a decline in Himalayan glaciers, which means that rivers already feeling the effects of decreasing monsoon intensity could also have less snow melt to rely on. For the hundreds of millions of people in the region, the coming drought may feel a bit too reminiscent of the Indus’ collapse for comfort. But there is one major difference: This time, the climate change is man-made.

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : In Ukraine, EU and US Interventionists Nearing the Civil War They Caused

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : In Ukraine, EU and US Interventionists Nearing the Civil War They Caused.

written by michael scheuer
sunday february 23, 2014
Bbc

“The pretext of propagating liberty can make no difference. Every nation has a right to carve out its own happiness in its own way, and it is the height of presumption in another to attempt to fashion its political creed.”
-Alex. Hamilton to George Washington, 2 May 1793.

It always seems to start with the BBC. Months ago when the Ukrainian president patiently explained that his country’s economic and energy realities — which Vladimir Putin underscored — required that it stay close to Russia and not yet enter into a closer relationship with the EU, the BBC flooded Kiev with correspondents. These “independent” journalists began covering every angle of the crisis, or at least the angles that coincided with the view of pro-EU Ukrainian demonstrators and the BBC’s own, now thoroughly institutionalized, worship of the divinity known as the EU.

As one rule of thumb, any non-EU government that is dealing with domestic unrest ought to immediately close all BBC facilities in its country and issue no visas for BBC correspondents who want to enter the country and “cover” — a word that always means “support” — the demonstrations. The BBC — except for five minutes at the top and bottom of the hour — has long since ceased being a news organization. It is now better seen as a “campaign group,” the name the BBC itself uses for reckless, irresponsible, and violence-and-anarchy causing international groups like Amnesty International and other components of the human-rights mafia.

With the BBC positioned and intending to make Ukrainian matters worse, the European Commission and individual EU states began to send their senior officials to sympathize with and support the anti-government forces in Kiev, as well as to threaten, belittle, and ridicule the Ukrainian president, his government, and their decision about what was economically best for the Ukraine. The prize ass of this herd of incendiary EU officials was without question the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. On numerous visits to Kiev, Bildt openly supported the demonstrators, damned the Ukrainian president and his government, and threatened EC sanctions if the Ukrainian regime did not surrender to the rabble in the street.

Two points come immediately to mind on this issue. First, why would any Europeans in their right mind listen to anything that a senior Swedish official had to say? Sweden’s 20th century behavior speaks for itself. In two world wars it stayed neutral so that it could make enormous profits by selling nickel ore, iron ore, and other strategic minerals to Imperial Germany and Hitler’s Reich, entities which in turn used the metals to kill millions of other Europeans. This simple fact alone, one would think, should be enough to ensure no Swedish official gets a hearing anywhere in Europe, ever.

The second point is another rule of thumb. Any non-EC government that is dealing with domestic unrest ought never to issue visas for EU or US diplomats to visit their protesting citizens. Such a government also should not allow resident EU and US diplomats to involve themselves with the demonstrators, and should expel those who seek to do so.

These EU and US official visitors and resident diplomats do not intend to negotiate an even-handed end to the government-protestors confrontation. They mean to force the government to surrender, and, if that does not occur, to foment increased resistance among the demonstrators, even if such encouragement leads to violence. No matter. EU and US diplomats will easily get away with recklessly stoking violence because whatever happens in Kiev’s streets will be reported by the BBC as the Ukrainian regime’s fault.

In the past two weeks, a new dimension of the West’s civil war-stimulating intervention in Ukraine has appeared in the form of those self-proclaimed if clearly addled avenging angels of freedom — Joe Biden and Barack Obama. Although late to the intervention party, Biden and Obama have made up for lost time by starting to beat the drums of economic war against Ukraine, a country that probably neither could find on a map. Obama also has threatened that the Ukrainian president would be “held responsible” by Washington for the violence in his country; this from the first US president who is responsible for absolutely nothing that occurs on his watch.

If it was not clear that their words and threats are already getting Ukrainians killed, these two dilettante American diplomatists would be hilarious. Indeed, the Biden-and-Obama team could be the next Laurel and Hardy, except that neither is smart enough to make up for the other’s hopeless arrogance, historical ignorance, and naiveté. In this regard, the death-causing propensities of the Biden-Obama team in conducting US foreign policy mirrors that of the other well-know team of US war-causers, McCain and Graham.

As civil war inches closer in the Ukraine — with an outside chance of an European war — it is clear that its arrival will be the responsibility of the EU and the United States who, through their intervention in Ukraine in the name of democracy, have ensured many dead Ukrainians, much less democracy and a ruined economy there, and greater influence for Russia in Kiev. What Alexander Hamilton called the “height of presumption” is the standing operating procedure for US and EU political leaders and diplomats, men and women who are out to teach the world’s nations how to be behave — as long as they are weak nations — and who absolutely know that no nation can solve its problems without their brilliant assistance and close instruction.

There is nothing Americans can do to stop the EU empire-builders and their BBC cheerleaders from causing war in the Ukraine, but Washington must not help them. For the sake of US security, as the ever-reliable Dr. Ron Paul has said, Americans should just shut up and watch because the United States has no genuine national interest at stake in the Ukraine that would require any involvement whatsoever by our government. “That’s their [the Ukrainians’] business, and it certainly isn’t ours,” Dr. Paul said. “We’ve tried it for too long [to tell others what to do], and the American people are sick and tired of it, and we’re also out of money.”

Cogent and ardently patriotic as always, Dr. Paul is a too-long under-appreciated national treasure, except among some citizens and most U.S. military personnel, men and women who know that he would defend America but not waste their lives in unnecessary wars fought for unsavory allies. Indeed, Dr. Paul stands forthrightly in the tradition of America’s greatest citizen, whose birthday happens to be today.

Always the deadly foe of US interventionism, General Washington fathered the non-interventionist path that Dr. Paul and his admirers and supporters follow. “I have always given it as my decided opinion that no nation has the right to inter-meddle in the internal affairs of another …,” Washington told James Monroe, who wanted US intervention to aid French revolutionaries who would cause a world war, in July 1794, “and that, if this country could, consistent with its engagements, maintain a strict neutrality and thereby preserve peace, it was bound to do so by motives of policy, interest, and every other consideration.” That is the path of sanity and security for the United States, and it mandates no US involvement in the Ukraine.

Finally, a Well Done to Dr. Paul, a great American, and a Happy Birthday to General Washington, the greatest American.

Canada Should Keep Training Military in Afghanistan | Lauryn Oates

Canada Should Keep Training Military in Afghanistan | Lauryn Oates.

Lauryn Oates

Human Rights Activist and Development Worker

Canada Should Keep Training Military in Afghanistan

Posted: 02/28/2014 9:10 am

Foreign policy towards Afghanistan has never been known for its farsightedness. From the Soviet Union’s decision to invade the country in 1979 or America’s response in covertly arming the Islamist mujahedin, to Pakistan’s assistance incubating the Taliban, the policies of stakeholder countries towards Afghanistan have often been characterized by negligence, and the consequences have been dire for Afghanistan and these same countries.

The past decade of the international community’s efforts to bring security and development to Afghanistan has also had its share of shortsightedness. But where there has been dogged, long-term investment that accounts for lessons learned and that aims to build systems from the ground up, recognizing that this takes time, there have been successes. These successes are such that the country has propelled forward despite an ongoing insurgency, a government mired in corruption, and much uncertainty over future security arrangements beyond this year.

The change can be seen in skyrocketing human development indicators, the visibility of women in public life, the thriving media sector, and Afghans’ ambitious pursuit of education, from the spike in primary enrolment to the rapid spread of post-secondary institutions throughout the country. And despite a highly centralized government still liable to patronage under an increasingly unstable leader, there are still understated processes of democratization underway. One such process is the professionalization and strengthening of Afghan-led security.

Professionalizing the security sector is not only about security, but is also critical to democratic development. The Afghan police and army, together known as the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF), represent government at the ground level, where the state interfaces with citizens.

These institutions serve as a kind of barometer for public confidence in government. That’s why it’s a hopeful sign that 88% of Afghans report having confidence in the Afghan National Army (ANA) while 91% say that the ANA is helping to improve security in the country, according to the 2013 Survey of the Afghan People. These confidence levels have remained consistent since 2007, and are assessed to be because the presence of the ANSF “has brought at least some sense of law and order to the country.”

That has been no small feat. These institutions have been largely built from scratch, with little to draw from the pre-2002 Taliban Government’s style of security, which consisted of ragtag bands of illiterate religious police, menacingly dangling off the backs of pick-up trucks, on the prowl for those committing “moral crimes.” With no uniforms aside from their black turbans and kohl-smudged eyes, yielding whips and Kalashnikovs, they gave the local population every reason to fear them, and little sense of being served or protected by professionals enforcing the law.

Besides attempting to change the very purpose and spirit of the police force and army in the aftermath of the Taliban, the current effort has required a heavy infusion of equipping, supplying, and training a force now numbering some 350,000 Afghans, including a growing number of women police and soldiers.

Canada has been part of the team of 37 nations undertaking NATO’s training mission of the ANSF, providing 950 Canadian trainers and support personnel who have delivered training in core skills for the forces, as well as leadership and other areas, in Kabul and at satellite sites in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif.

In 2011, literacy became part of the required training for Afghan forces, and the successes in this area have been among the most remarkable. Consider that prior to the start of the training mission only 13,000 ANSF had even the most rudimentary literacy, while nearly all ANSF have now either completed literacy training or are currently enrolled (according to ISAF, as at January 2014, 233,643 have completed Level 1, 98,648 completed Level 2, and 76,834 completed Level 3, the level for functional literacy).

In 2012, the Darulaman Literacy Centre opened at the Regional Military Training Centre in Kabul. The literacy component of training is crucial because literate police and soldiers take themselves seriously: they think of themselves as educated professionals, serving their people, as opposed to preying on them. Further, literacy is the steppingstone to learning trades like signals or artillery, allowing the further professionalizing of the ANSF.

All of this is akin to a transformation of some consequence in terms of state building. Yet to be durable, this work must continue, for at least another two years, according to NATO. But at the end of March, Canadian military personnel will leave Afghanistan. That is too soon. As the second largest contributing nation to the training mission after the US, Canada’s contributions to this capacity development are too valuable to withdraw this close to the finish line. Canada should renew its training mission for another term, and continue contributing to the Afghan mission in an area in which it clearly excels.

NATO civilian leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called the “zero option”, of having no international forces left in Afghanistan simply “not an option”, stressing the need for continued capacity and training support in particular, to get the ANSF to a point where it can reliably and independently provide security for the citizens of Afghanistan.

I recently asked Canadian Major-General Dean Milner, Commander of the NATO training mission, how far the Afghan security forces have come in their development, and how far they have left to go. “They are well past the half-way point” Milner told me, “with just a few more years of financial and practical assistance from the international community they should be capable of sustaining themselves. They defeat the Taliban in every tactical engagement, but now they need assistance with more complex skills such as building their Air Force and their logistical and maintenance systems.”

With President Karzai delaying the signing of a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) there is fevered speculation that NATO troops will leave the country by 2015 and Afghanistan will once again return to chaos. When asked for his view, Major-General Milner was optimistic the BSA would be signed. “The Loya Jirga overwhelmingly supported the immediate signing and every serious contender in the presidential election has committed to signing the BSA if elected,” said Milner. “It would be unfortunate if the support of the international community were to come to an end after the Afghans have progressed so far.” Milner likened it to a swimmer making it 60% of the way across the channel when he gets tired and turns back.

It’s often said that Canada has expended blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Some say this to argue that we’ve given enough to a troubled country on the other side of the world that we had little to do with prior to 2003. But many who know Afghanistan well, and who, like me, have seen how close we are to reaching some enduring stability there, would say this is exactly why we have to see this through. Cutting short the goal of building a professional armed forces after years of investment, when valuable gains need to be protected, when the state’s institutions are within sight of being fully functional, and when the Taliban arerunning out of money to continue their insurgency would continue the pattern of shortsightedness that has too long afflicted the international community’s efforts in Afghanistan. Canada should stay, and continue to add value to the effort of training and educating Afghan soldiers and police. We have given too much and come too far to walk out this close to the finish line, and with so much progress at stake.

China Strikes Back At US “Human Rights Violations”: Slams PRISM Spying, Droning, Gun Violence, Homelessness And Unemployment | Zero Hedge

China Strikes Back At US “Human Rights Violations”: Slams PRISM Spying, Droning, Gun Violence, Homelessness And Unemployment | Zero Hedge.

Everyone knows that when it comes to abysmal human right records, China is the perpetual whipping boy – in most cases rightfully so – of the US whose own “pristine” record of human rights violations in recent years has also been exposed as mockery, courtesy almost exclusively of one NSA whistleblower. Of course, the US has been far more tacit in how it encroaches on the rights of its own civilians at home, if not so much abroad where US drone strikes have killed and continue to kill countless innocent civilians

Today, China decided to strike back at the US with its own report on US “human rights.” In a nutshell, China launches a full frontal attack on the hypocrisy of the US, saying that “posing as “the world judge of human rights,” the U.S. government “made arbitrary attacks and irresponsible remarks” on the human rights situation in almost 200 countries and regions again in its just-released reports, the report says. “However, the U.S. carefully concealed and avoided mentioning its own human rights problems,” it adds. The report calls the U.S. tapping program, code-named PRISM, which exercises long-term and vast surveillance both at home and abroad, “a blatant violation of international law” and it “seriously infringes on human rights.”

Hard to argue with that.

Full report from Xinhua:

China on Friday responded to the United States criticism and irresponsible remarks of its human rights situation by publishing its own report on the U.S. human rights issues.

The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2013 was released by the Information Office of China’s State Council, or the Cabinet, in response to the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 issued by the U.S. State Department on Thursday.

China said in the report that there were still serious human rights problems in the U.S in 2013, with the situation in many fields even deteriorating.

Posing as “the world judge of human rights,” the U.S. government “made arbitrary attacks and irresponsible remarks” on the human rights situation in almost 200 countries and regions again in its just-released reports, the report says.

“However, the U.S. carefully concealed and avoided mentioning its own human rights problems,” it adds.

The report calls the U.S. tapping program, code-named PRISM, which exercises long-term and vast surveillance both at home and abroad, “a blatant violation of international law” and it “seriously infringes on human rights.”

The U.S. also faces rampant gun violence, according to the report. “In 2013, 137 people died in 30 mass killings, which caused four or more deaths each, in the U.S..”

The report also cites figures to show that frequent drone strikes by the U.S. in countries including Pakistan and Yemen have caused heavy civilian casualties.

The U.S. has carried out 376 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, causing deaths of up to 926 civilians, according to the report.

“The U.S. still faces grave employment situation with its unemployment rate remained high,” the report says.

Rates of unemployment for the lowest-income families have topped 21 percent. The homeless population in the U.S. kept swelling and it had climbed 16 percent from 2011 to 2013, it added.

“There are also a large amount of child laborers in the agricultural sector in the U.S. and their physical and mental health was seriously harmed,” the report says.

To date, the U.S. remains a country which has not ratified or participated in a series of core UN conventions on human rights, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, according to the report.

Deposed-Ukraine President Yanukovich Speaks At Press Conference – Live Webcast | Zero Hedge

Deposed-Ukraine President Yanukovich Speaks At Press Conference – Live Webcast | Zero Hedge.

The long awated press conference has begun. Here are the highlights:

  • YANUKOVICH BLAMES WEST FOR IRRESPONSIBLE CONDUCT
  • YANUKOVICH CALLS FOR UKRAINE REFERENDUM ABOUT GOVERNMENT ORDER
  • YANUKOVYCH SAYS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS SHOULD BE IN DECEMBER
  • YANUKOVYCH SAYS CALLS FOR NORMAL LIFE IN UKRAINIAN REGIONS
  • YANUKOVICH SAYS POWER IN UKRAINE WAS SEIZED BY “PRO-FASCIST” FORCES
  • YANUKOVYCH SAYS TO CONTINUE FIGHT FOR UKRAINE’S FUTURE

Live webcast below:

Ukraine: Armed Men In Russian Uniforms Reportedly Occupy Crimea Airport

Ukraine: Armed Men In Russian Uniforms Reportedly Occupy Crimea Airport.

AP  | by  DALTON BENNETT and MARIA DANILOVA
Posted: 02/27/2014 5:52 am EST Updated: 02/28/2014 3:59 am EST

SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine (AP) — Dozens of armed men in Russian-marked military uniforms occupied an airport in the capital of Ukraine’s strategic Crimea region early Friday, a report said, but a later report cited an airport official as saying the men apologized and left after finding no Ukrainian troops had landed.

Witnesses told the Interfax news agency that the 50 or so men were wearing the same gear as the ones who seized government buildings in the city, Simferopol, on Thursday and raised the Russian flag. The report said the men with “Russian Navy ensigns” first surrounded the Simferopol Airport’s domestic flights terminal.

The report could not be immediately confirmed. A later Interfax report, datelined Moscow, quoted an airport representative as saying the men apologized and left and that the airport was operating normally.

A woman who answered the phone at the airport said “no comment,” and the airport’s website listed the morning’s first flight, to Moscow, as boarding on schedule.

The events in the Crimea region have heightened tensions with neighboring Russia, which scrambled fighter jets to patrol borders in the first stirrings of a potentially dangerous confrontation reminiscent of Cold War brinksmanship.

Russia also has granted shelter to Ukraine’s fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, after recent deadly protests in Kiev swept in a new government.

While the government in Kiev, led by a pro-Western technocrat, pledged to prevent any national breakup, there were mixed signals in Moscow. Russia pledged to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

Yanukovych was said to be holed up in a luxury government retreat, with a news conference scheduled Friday near the Ukrainian border. He has not been seen publicly since Saturday.

On Thursday, as masked gunmen wearing unmarked camouflage uniforms erected a sign reading “Crimea is Russia” in Simferopol, Ukraine’s interim prime minister declared the Black Sea territory “has been and will be a part of Ukraine.”

The escalating conflict sent Ukraine’s finances plummeting further, prompting Western leaders to prepare an emergency financial package.

Yanukovych, whose abandonment of closer ties to Europe in favor of a bailout loan from Russia set off three months of protests, finally fled by helicopter last week as his allies deserted him. The humiliating exit was a severe blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had been celebrating his signature Olympics even as Ukraine’s drama came to a crisis. The Russian leader has long dreamed of pulling Ukraine — a country of 46 million people considered the cradle of Russian civilization — closer into Moscow’s orbit.

For Ukraine’s neighbors, the specter of Ukraine breaking up evoked memories of centuries of bloody conflict.

“Regional conflicts begin this way,” said Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, calling the confrontation “a very dangerous game.”

Russia’s dispatch of fighter jets Thursday to patrol borders and drills by some 150,000 Russian troops — almost the entirety of its force in the western part of the country — signaled strong determination not to lose Ukraine to the West.

The dramatic developments posed an immediate challenge to Ukraine’s new authorities as they named an interim government for the country, whose population is divided in loyalties between Russia and the West. Crimea, which was seized by Russian forces in the 18th century under Catherine the Great, was once the crown jewel in Russian and then Soviet empires.

It only became part of Ukraine in 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred jurisdiction from Russia — a move that was a mere formality until the 1991 Soviet collapse meant Crimea landed in an independent Ukraine.

In the capital, Kiev, the new prime minister said Ukraine’s future lies in the European Union, but with friendly relations with Russia.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, named Thursday in a boisterous parliamentary session, now faces the difficult task of restoring stability in a country that is not only deeply divided politically but on the verge of financial collapse. The 39-year-old served as economy minister, foreign minister and parliamentary speaker before Yanukovych took office in 2010, and is widely viewed as a technocratic reformer who enjoys the support of the U.S.

Shortly before the lawmakers chose him, Yatsenyuk insisted the country wouldn’t accept the secession of Crimea. The Black Sea territory, he declared, “has been and will be a part of Ukraine.”

In Simferopol, tensions soared Thursday when gunmen toting rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles raised the Russian flag over the local parliament building. They wore black and orange ribbons, a Russian symbol of victory in World War II.

A pro-Russian activist who gave only his first name, Maxim, said he and other activists were camped overnight outside the parliament when about 50 men wearing flak jackets and carrying rocket-propelled grenade launchers and sniper rifles took over the building.

“They were asking who we were. When we said we stand for the Russian language and Russia, they said: ‘Don’t be afraid. We’re with you.’ Then they began to storm the building, bringing down the doors,” he said. “They didn’t look like volunteers or amateurs; they were professionals. This was clearly a well-organized operation.”

“Who are they?” he added. “Nobody knows.”

Oleksandr Turchynov, who stepped in as acting president after Yanukovych’s flight, condemned the assault as a “crime against the government of Ukraine.” He warned that any move by Russian troops off of their base in Crimea “will be considered a military aggression.”

“I have given orders to the military to use all methods necessary to protect the citizens, punish the criminals, and to free the buildings,” he said.

Experts described a delicate situation in which one sudden move could lead to wider conflict.

“The main concern at this point is that Kiev might decide to intervene by sending law enforcement people to restore constitutional order,” said Dmitry Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “That is something that would lead to confrontation and drag the Russians in.”

In a bid to shore up Ukraine’s fledgling administration, the International Monetary Fund said it was “ready to respond” to Ukraine’s bid for financial assistance. The European Union is also considering emergency loans for a country that is the chief conduit of Russian natural gas to western Europe.

IMF chief Christine Lagarde said in the organization’s first official statement on Ukraine’s crisis that it was in talks with its partners on “how best to help Ukraine at this critical moment in its history.” Ukraine’s finance ministry has said it needs $35 billion over the next two years to avoid default. Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia, dropped to a new record low of 11.25 to the U.S. dollar, a sign of the country’s financial distress.

Western leaders lined up to support the new Ukrainian leadership, with the German and British leaders warning Russia not to interfere.

“Every country should respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Ukraine,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in London.

NATO defense ministers met in Brussels, and U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel emerged appealing for calm.

“These are difficult times,” he said, “but these are times for cool, wise leadership on Russia’s side and everyone’s side.”

Yet the prospect of the West luring Ukraine into NATO is the very nightmare that Russia is desperately trying to avoid. Trenin of the Carnegie Center said a Ukraine-NATO courtship “would really raise the alarm levels in Moscow.”

Yanukovych declared Thursday in a statement that he remains Ukraine’s legitimate president. He was reportedly to hold a news conference Friday in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, not far from the Ukrainian border.

“I have to ask Russia to ensure my personal safety from extremists,” Yanukovych’s statement read, according to Russian news agencies. Shortly after, an unnamed Russian official was quoted as saying that Yanukovych’s request had been granted.

___

Associated Press writers Karl Ritter in Kiev, Nataliya Vasilyeva and Laura Mills in Moscow and Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

Yes the Government is Spying on You Through Your Webcam – Another “Conspiracy Theory” Proven True | A Lightning War for Liberty

Yes the Government is Spying on You Through Your Webcam – Another “Conspiracy Theory” Proven True | A Lightning War for Liberty.

I still remember many years ago in response to becoming aware of the possibility that my computer webcam could be accessed remotely I decided to put a piece of duct tape over the camera. I also remember the look on some of my friends’ faces upon seeing this. They thought I was nuts. It wasn’t even a conversation I was comfortable having since the idea that the government or NSA could or would peep on innocent Americans through their webcams was beyond preposterous for the vast majority of people

This topic is not exactly new, and I addressed it last April in my piece: A Look into the Malware the FBI Uses to Spy Through Webcams.

Now, thanks to Edward Snowden, we know more. Much, much more.

From the Guardian:

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans’ images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.

The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell’s 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ’s existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs.

Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ’s servers. The documents describe these users as “unselected” – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.

While the documents do not detail efforts as widescale as those against Yahoo users, one presentation discusses with interest the potential and capabilities of the Xbox 360′s Kinect camera, saying it generated “fairly normal webcam traffic” and was being evaluated as part of a wider program. 

It’s interesting that they were considering using the Kinect camera for spying, something I wrote about last spring in my post: What’s in Your Xbox? A Lot of Surveillance Capabilities.

Documents previously revealed in the Guardian showed the NSA were exploring the video capabilities of game consoles for surveillance purposes.

Beyond webcams and consoles, GCHQ and the NSA looked at building more detailed and accurate facial recognition tools, such as iris recognition cameras – “think Tom Cruise in Minority Report”, one presentation noted.

Don’t forget: Your Government Loves You. Particularly your nude webcam pics.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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