German Telecom Rocked By Spy Scandal

Former telecoms monopoly Deutsche Telekom over the weekend became the latest German firm to be rocked by revelations of spying on its employees.

Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s biggest phone company, confirmed on Saturday allegations in Spiegel magazine that it hired an outside firm to track hundreds of thousands of phone calls by senior executives and journalists in 2005-6.

It denied that the Berlin consultancy firm listened to the conversations, instead merely logging details on who phoned whom as well as the time and duration of the calls.

Spiegel said that “Operation Clipper” and “Operation Rheingold” were set up in order to identify the source of leaks of sensitive financial information to financial journalists.

Chief executive Rene Obermann, who was not in charge when the spying took place, said that state prosecutors and a law firm in Cologne were investigating the affair.

Less than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany, Germans are particularly sensitive about infringements into their privacy.

Other firms have also been accused of spying on their own workers.

The biggest such scandal involved Lidl, one of German’s biggest budget supermarket chains, which reportedly violated labour laws by by installing hidden cameras in its stores to systematically keep tabs on staff.

Lidl even recorded employees when they used the toilet, their conversations while on break, and kept track on who their friends outside work were, reports said in March.

Anti-terrorism surveillance measures introduced by the government such as installing secret cameras in terror suspects’ homes and including biometric data on passports have also riled civil liberties groups.

May 25 08:04 PM US/Eastern

Source: AFP

Energy expert: Gas could reach $15 per gallon

Robert Hirsch, senior advisor for Science Applications International Corporation, sat down with MSNBC’s Alex Witt to discuss the possibility of an upcoming oil crisis. Hirsch says that gas could reach $15/gallon within a few years because it is “essentially certain” the world has reached the maximum levels of oil production.

“The problem is that there’s not that much oil left in the ground,” Hirsch says. “What we’ve done is been very fortunate to have oil production increase as our economies have developed over the past decades. And now we’re reaching a point where we’re about to get, or we may be, at the maximum world oil production. After that, oil production will then decline and prices, of course, will continue to do what they’ve been doing recently. So what we’ve got today may be the ‘good old days.’”

Hirsch addressed the timeframe in which the US could see $15/gallon gas: “It could happen within a matter of months. It could happen within a matter of a few years. But it’s essentially certain that we are at the maximum of world oil production. And after that, we’ll go into decline, and when there’s much less oil available, then, of course, the price of oil is going to increase dramatically.”

Fuels, heating oil, and consumer products that rely on petroleum will all be impacted by the decline in world oil production. Hirsch estimates the world GDP declining at the same rate as oil production.

This video is from MSNBC’s News Live, broadcast May 24, 2008.

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By David Edwards
Posted May 24th, 2008 at 10:08 am

Source: The Raw Story

Economist challenges government data

Oakland economist John Williams doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to pick fights with the government.

He’s slow moving and soft spoken, conservative in politics and personal habits, a pale and portly 59-year-old who favors Oxford shirts, Rep ties and sensible shoes. Williams is the sort who pays his taxes on time, waits when the signal says “Don’t Walk” and snaps to attention when the national anthem is played.

But don’t be fooled. The New Jersey native is leading a one-man crusade to expose official economic data as grossly misleading at best and, at worst, a pack of lies.

His Shadow Government Statistics Web site (shadowstats.com) has become a magnet for those convinced that official data put a happy-talk gloss on the nation’s economy. The growing popularity of the site, which costs subscribers $175 a year, is testimony to the deep suspicion many Americans harbor about government information as the economy falls into a swoon.

“There’s something wrong with the numbers,” said ShadowStats subscriber Harry Seitz, a retiree in Davie, Fla. “Over the years, (Williams) has essentially been proven correct.”

By Williams’ estimation, the government’s calculation that unemployment was 5 percent in April and that inflation was 4 percent and economic growth 2 percent over the last year, is fantasy. It might even be disinformation.

An update e-mailed to ShadowStats subscribers at the beginning of the month warned darkly that “GDP (gross domestic product) and Jobs Data Appear Rigged” and “Despite Manipulated Data, the Recession Deepens.”

By his reckoning, the economy shrank 2.5 percent in the year that ended in March, unemployment is really 13 percent and year-over-year inflation is 7.5 percent.

Government economic data are “out of touch with common experience. That’s why people used to believe the numbers but no longer do,” Williams said during an interview in his modest one-bedroom apartment near Lake Merritt.

Read moreEconomist challenges government data

Sunspot cycles may hold key to global warming, cooling

The 2008 winter was the coldest in 40 years for the upper Midwest, Plains states and most of Canada. Minnesota newspapers report that this year’s opening of the locks to Mississippi barge traffic, delayed by three weeks, was the latest since the modern waterway opened in 1940.

Eau Claire, where “old-fashioned winters” have been a thing of the past, recorded 43 days of below-zero temperatures, while folks down in Madison shoveled away at a 117-year record snowfall throughout the season, as did many in New England and Canada.

Rare snowfalls struck Buenos Aires, Capetown, and Sidney during their mid-year winter, while China continually battled blizzards. Even Baghdad experienced measurable snowfall.

Antarctic pack-ice far exceeded what Captain Cook saw on his 18th century voyage into the Southern Ocean. On the continent itself the miles-thick ice continues to accumulate despite peripheral melting along the Antarctic Peninsula and occasional calving of an ice block. At the opposite pole, flow-ice once again spans the entire Arctic Ocean, and by April it had extended into the Bering Strait, making up for the much heralded melt-back last summer.

From January 2007 through the end of January 2008, the average global temperature fell by nearly a degree Fahrenheit, based on data obtained by the MET Office in Great Britain and other international temperature monitoring networks.

What are we to make of this? The recent climate conference held in New York City, sponsored by the Heartland Institute, provides some answers. Several hundreds climatologists in attendance dispelled notions that the global warming debate is over. Most attendees, who readily acknowledge the existence of post-Little Ice Age warming, believe man-made emissions are unlikely to cause major climate change and signed a declaration to that effect.

Read moreSunspot cycles may hold key to global warming, cooling

Libertarian Party picks Barr as presidential candidate

The Libertarian Party on Sunday picked former Republican Rep. Bob Barr to be its presidential candidate after six rounds of balloting.

Barr beat research scientist Mary Ruwart, who also sought the party’s presidential nomination unsuccessfully in 1983, on the final ballot. The vote was 324-276.

Barr endorsed Wayne Allyn Root, who was eliminated in the fifth round, to be his vice-presidential nominee.

Barr left the GOP in 2006 over what he called bloated spending and civil liberties intrusions by the Bush administration.

The former Georgia congressman said he’s not in the race to be a spoiler.

“I’m a competitor and I’m in this to win. I do not view the role of the Libertarian Party to be a spoiler and I certainly have no intention of being a spoiler,” Barr said.

Barr said he expects the party to be on the ballot in at least 48 states and perhaps all 50 if the party can qualify in West Virginia and Oklahoma. Barr said he also expects to be invited to the national political debates by qualifying with poll support of 15 percent or more of registered voters.

Sunday’s election also marked the end of the latest chapter in the political career of Mike Gravel, a former senator from Alaska who recently dropped out of the Democratic presidential race.

“I just ended my political career,” he said. “From 15 years old to now, my political career is over, and it’s no big deal. I’m a writer, I’m a lecturer, I’m going to push the issues of freedom and liberty. I’m going to push those issues until the day I die.”

Gravel left the Democratic Party after he was excluded from some Democratic debates because he failed to meet fundraising or polling thresholds. He said the Democratic Party no longer represented his values because it continues to sustain Iraq war, the military-industrial complex and imperialism.

(This version CORRECTS that Ruwart was not party’s presidential nominee in 1983 or vice presidential nominee in 1992.)

By STEVEN K. PAULSON,
Associated Press Writer
Sun May 25, 7:33 PM ET

Source: AP

Titanic search was cover for secret Cold War subs mission

Actors Leonardo DiCaprio (L) and Kate Winslet (R) in a scene from the movie
Actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in a scene from the movie Titanic

The man who located the wreck of the Titanic has revealed that the discovery was a cover story to camouflage the real mission of inspecting the wrecks of two Cold War nuclear submarines.

When Bob Ballard led a team that pinpointed the wreckage of the liner in 1985 he had already completed his main task of finding out what happened to USS Thresher and USS Scorpion.

Both of the United States Navy vessels sank during the 1960s, killing more than 200 men and giving rise to fears that at least one of them, Scorpion, had been sunk by the USSR.

Dr Ballard, an oceanographer, has admitted that he located and inspected the wrecks for the US Navy in top secret missions before he was allowed to search for the Titanic.

Only once he had used his new underwater robot craft to map the submarine wreck sites was he able to use it to crisscross the North Atlantic seabed to pinpoint the last resting place of the luxury liner. It meant he had only 12 days to find the Titanic.

“I couldn’t tell anybody,” he said. “There was a lot of pressure on me. It was a secret mission. I felt it was a fair exchange for getting a chance to look for the Titanic.

“We handed the data to the experts. They never told us what they concluded – our job was to collect the data. I can only talk about it now because it has been declassified.”

Dr Ballard said what he had seen during the inspection of the wrecks gave him the idea of finding a trail of debris that would lead to the main sections of the Titanic. Thresher, had imploded deep beneath the surface and had broken up into thousands of pieces and Scorpion was almost as completely destroyed. “It was as though it had been put through a shredding machine. There was a long debris trail.” Dr Ballard developed a robotic submarine craft in the early 1980s and approached the US Navy in 1982 for funding to search for the Titanic, which sank in 1912 with the loss of 1,500 lives after hitting an iceberg.

He was told that the military were not willing to spend a fortune on locating the liner, but they did want to know what had happened to their submarines.The military were anxious to know how the nuclear reactors had been affected by being submerged for so long.

Read moreTitanic search was cover for secret Cold War subs mission

Student researching al-Qaida tactics held for six days

· Lecturers fear threat to academic freedom
· Manual downloaded from US government website

A masters student researching terrorist tactics who was arrested and detained for six days after his university informed police about al-Qaida-related material he downloaded has spoken of the “psychological torture” he endured in custody.

Despite his Nottingham University supervisors insisting the materials were directly relevant to his research, Rizwaan Sabir, 22, was held for nearly a week under the Terrorism Act, accused of downloading the materials for illegal use.

The student had obtained a copy of the al-Qaida training manual from a US government website for his research into terrorist tactics.The case highlights what lecturers are claiming is a direct assault on academic freedom led by the government which, in its attempt to establish a “prevent agenda” against terrorist activity, is putting pressure on academics to become police informers.

Sabir was arrested on May 14 after the document was found by a university staff member on an administrator’s computer. The administrator, Hisham Yezza, an acquaintance of Sabir, had been asked by the student to print the 1,500-page document because Sabir could not afford the printing fees. The pair were arrested under the Terrorism Act, Sabir’s family home was searched and their computer and mobile phones seized. They were released uncharged six days later but Yezza, who is Algerian, was immediately rearrested on unrelated immigration charges and now faces deportation.

Read moreStudent researching al-Qaida tactics held for six days

Washington State Residents the Most Recent Victims of Homeland Security

According to the news articles linked to below, the Department of Homeland Security has continued the expansion of its un-American enforcement activities by directing them against Washington State residents utilizing Northwest domestic Ferry services.

Specifically, Border Patrol Agents have established suspicionless checkpoints at domestic Ferry terminals servicing the residents of the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. The islands are part of Washington State and island inhabitants are Washington State residents.

Despite the fact that the Ferry services in question never cross an international border, this hasn’t deterred Homeland Security agents from directing scarce ‘security’ resources against Washington State residents absent reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing. Thus proving once again that DHS either has no clue on how to defend the ‘Homeland’ or no intention of doing so.

Rather the specter of terrorism and illegal immigration are used as excuses for the continued expansion of federal influence and control at the expense of the founding principles of this country.

While recent events in Washington State are being mimicked in one form or another in border states across the country, I’d like to bring attention to a quote from attorney Matt Adams of the Northwest Immigration Rights Project:

They can ask you where you’re from; they can ask you to show your papers or to show your driver’s license or to show your birth certificate — but you don’t have to provide that information,” Adams says.

Because these checkpoints are not on the border, people have a greater right to privacy, Adams says.

“What I suggest to individuals is to politely refuse to answer questions, and then if they still don’t let you go, to say ‘Am I under arrest? If I’m not under arrest, I’d like to continue on my way,’ ” he says.

Words we all need to take to heart as ‘Homeland Security’ intrusion continues to grow in our daily lives.

Putting a stop to the burgeoning American police state will not happen from the top down. It will only happen when enough individuals decide to take individual action in common cause.

Several recent articles detailing this story appear below along with links back to the original websites:

Read moreWashington State Residents the Most Recent Victims of Homeland Security

Bad debts up 500 per cent as easy credit bites

The credit crunch has hit home for thousands of New Zealanders as debt collection agencies report up to a 500 per cent increase in workload over the past few months.

Debt collectors who have been in the industry for more than 15 years say they have never been busier, with small-time borrowers and businesses “across the board” defaulting on loans and payment for services.

Meanwhile, budgeting advisory services are swamped with people needing help as debts spiral out of control. One service says its waiting time to see new clients is up to five weeks.

Graeme Byers, owner of debt collector Guardian Credit Services, told the Herald on Sunday his business had increased by between 400 and 500 per cent this year.

“There’s just more debt out there. Poorer people are getting hammered.”

Byers said the collapse of numerous finance companies had put many people into positions where they could not pay everyday debts. “One feeds off the other. It snowballs,” he said.

Read moreBad debts up 500 per cent as easy credit bites

California Home Prices Drop 32% Amid Foreclosures, Realtors Say

May 23 (Bloomberg) — California home prices tumbled 32 percent in April from a year earlier as “distressed” properties and a lack of financing cut demand, the state realtors group said.

The median existing home price fell to $403,870, the California Association of Realtors said in a statement today. Sales increased 2.5 percent, ending 30 months of consecutive year-on-year declines. Homes priced under $500,000 accounted for 64 percent of sales compared with 40 percent a year earlier.

California had the second-highest U.S. foreclosure rate in April, one for every 204 households, and the most foreclosure filings for the 16th consecutive month, RealtyTrac Inc., a seller of default data, reported on May 14. Sales increased in northern and southern California last month as buyers purchased discounted properties that had been in some stage of default, DataQuick Information Systems said this week.

Read moreCalifornia Home Prices Drop 32% Amid Foreclosures, Realtors Say