June 28, 2013 archive

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NYC Council Reins in Bloomberg & NYPD

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Late last night the New York City Council passed two bills that will reign in an out of control NYPD and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Passed with veto-proof majorities, the pair of bills aim at increasing oversight of the Police Department and expanding New Yorkers’ ability to sue over racial profiling by officers.

One, known as Intro 1079, would create an independent inspector general to monitor and review police policy, conduct investigations and recommend changes to the department. The monitor would be part of the city’s Investigation Department alongside the inspectors general for other city agencies.

The law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2014, leaving the matter of choosing the monitor to the next mayor.

The other bill, Intro 1080, would expand the definition of bias-based profiling to include age, gender, housing status and sexual orientation. It also would allow individuals to sue the Police Department in state court – not only for individual instances of bias, but also for policies that disproportionately affect people in any protected categories without serving a significant law enforcement goal.

Mayor Bloomberg is expected to veto both bills. The council has 30 days from its next full meeting to hold an override vote.

Queens councilman Pete Vallone (D), who voted against the bill, gave a preview of the over the top rhetoric that will be used to convince New Yorkers to tell their council members to not override the mayor’s veto:

“New Yorkers went to bed a long time ago, safe in their beds,” Vallone said after the vote. “But they are going to wake up in a much more dangerous city.”

The Mayor and Police Commissioner Raymaond Kelley have already played the Al Qaeda and “be afraid” cards

“Every tort lawyer is gonna buy a new house and a new car right away,” Bloomberg said. “They’re not even gonna have to wait for the cases to come in.” Kelly added, “City council might as well have named the legislation, the ‘Full Employment for Plaintiffs Attorneys Act’…Take heart Al Qaeda wannabes.” [..]

“This is not a game, this is a life-threatening thing…This is life and death, this isn’t playing some game…It’s very nice to have a lawyer and everybody after say you should have done this and you should have done that, but when the other guy maybe has a gun in his pocket, that’s a different story.”

The most laughable moment in that press conference came from Mayor Bloomberg when asked if there is an independent body who oversees NYPD policy like an Inspector General would:

Yes there is. It’s called the Mayor…The police commissioner in our city works for the mayor serves at the pleasure of the mayor, and I can just tell you I’m not a professional in this but I have every single policy that this police department has the police commissioner has explained to me, kept me posted on it and when I talk to other experts, I’m convinced that they are the exactly the right thing.

Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) urged people to listen carefully:

“There have been a lot of bald-faced lies told about this bill,” [..]

“We can have safety and can have police accountability at the exact same time,” he said. “If you don’t live there, if you haven’t been going through it … please side with us.”

Michael Bloomberg has turned the NYC Police Department into his own private army, which was witnessed in the crack down on Occupy Wall St.’s peaceful demonstrations and occupation of Zuccotti Park. It’s long past time that City Council acted taking back the NYPD for the people.


On This Day In History June 28

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 28 is the 179th day of the year (180th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 186 days remaining until the end of the year.

In common years it is always in ISO week 26.

This date is the only date each year where both the month and day are different perfect numbers, June 6 being the only date where the month and day are the same perfect number.

On this day in 1919, Keynes predicts economic chaos

At the Palace of Versailles outside Paris, Germany signs the Treaty of Versailles with the Allies, officially ending World War I. The English economist John Maynard Keynes, who had attended the peace conference but then left in protest of the treaty, was one of the most outspoken critics of the punitive agreement. In his The Economic Consequences of the Peace, published in December 1919, Keynes predicted that the stiff war reparations and other harsh terms imposed on Germany by the treaty would lead to the financial collapse of the country, which in turn would have serious economic and political repercussions on Europe and the world.


A decade later, Hitler would exploit this continuing bitterness among Germans to seize control of the German state. In the 1930s, the Treaty of Versailles was significantly revised and altered in Germany’s favor, but this belated amendment could not stop the rise of German militarism and the subsequent outbreak of World War II.

In the late 1930s, John Maynard Keynes gained a reputation as the world’s foremost economist by advocating large-scale government economic planning to keep unemployment low and markets healthy. Today, all major capitalist nations adhere to the key principles of Keynesian economics. He died in 1946.

Governments ignore Keynes at their own peril.

Where Folks Do Care About Being Clean and Green

Finnish Fortum CHP Plant Dents Russian Dominance in Lithuania

Russian gas supplier Gazprom’s 100 percent prevalence in Lithuania has been shaken up in the seaport city of Klaipeda, where Finnish energy firm Fortum has opened a $173-million combined heat and power plant (CHPP). The 20-MW biomass and waste-fuelled plant will produce 40 percent of Klaipeda’s heating needs and decrease its dependency on Russian gas approximately as much.

“Use of sorted waste and biomass as fuel in the CHPP will offer a sustainable and cost-effective solution for city and is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by about 100,000 tons annually in the city,” said Andrius Kasparavicius, head of the communications department at Fortum Klaipeda.

The plant is believed to have far-reaching political and economic ramifications. “Finland is known for high transparency of business. The plant will be not only an example for Lithuania of an excellent foreign investment but also an example of political and business culture investment,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.



Think what this sort of thing would do to our high-priced, sometime solar and wind energy monopoly, not to mention the badness it would do to Exxon and other fossil fuel pushers who depend on sometime, high-priced inferior energy.

You will never hear Obama talking highly of such things that could make the world free from fossil fuels altogether.

Best,  Terry

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An Outright Liar

NSA collected US email records in bulk for more than two years under Obama

Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Thursday 27 June 2013 11.20 EDT

According to a top-secret draft report by the NSA’s inspector general – published for the first time today by the Guardian – the agency began “collection of bulk internet metadata” involving “communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States”

The Obama administration argues that its internal checks on NSA surveillance programs, as well as review by the Fisa court, protect Americans’ privacy. Deputy attorney general James Cole defended the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records as outside the scope of the fourth amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

“Toll records, phone records like this, that don’t include any content, are not covered by the fourth amendment because people don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy in who they called and when they called,” Cole testified to the House intelligence committee on June 18. “That’s something you show to the phone company. That’s something you show to many, many people within the phone company on a regular basis.”

But email metadata is different. Customers’ data bills do not itemize online activity by detailing the addresses a customer emailed or the IP addresses from which customer devices accessed the internet.

Internal government documents describe how revealing these email records are. One 2008 document, signed by the US defense secretary and attorney general, states that the collection and subsequent analysis included “the information appearing on the ‘to,’ ‘from’ or ‘bcc’ lines of a standard email or other electronic communication” from Americans.

How the NSA is still harvesting your online data

Glenn Greenwald and Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Thursday 27 June 2013 11.20 EDT

A review of top-secret NSA documents suggests that the surveillance agency still collects and sifts through large quantities of Americans’ online data – despite the Obama administration’s insistence that the program that began under Bush ended in 2011.

On December 26 2012, SSO announced what it described as a new capability to allow it to collect far more internet traffic and data than ever before. With this new system, the NSA is able to direct more than half of the internet traffic it intercepts from its collection points into its own repositories. One end of the communications collected are inside the United States.

The NSA called it the “One-End Foreign (1EF) solution”. It intended the program, codenamed EvilOlive, for “broadening the scope” of what it is able to collect. It relied, legally, on “FAA Authority”, a reference to the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act that relaxed surveillance restrictions.

This new system, SSO stated in December, enables vastly increased collection by the NSA of internet traffic. “The 1EF solution is allowing more than 75% of the traffic to pass through the filter,” the SSO December document reads. “This milestone not only opened the aperture of the access but allowed the possibility for more traffic to be identified, selected and forwarded to NSA repositories.”

It is not clear how much of this collection concerns foreigners’ online records and how much concerns those of Americans. Also unclear is the claimed legal authority for this collection.

Explaining that the five-year old program “began as a near-real-time metadata analyzer … for a classic collection system”, the SSO official noted: “In its five year history, numerous other systems from across the Agency have come to use ShellTrumpet’s processing capabilities for performance monitoring” and other tasks, such as “direct email tip alerting.”

Almost half of those trillion pieces of internet metadata were processed in 2012, the document detailed: “though it took five years to get to the one trillion mark, almost half of this volume was processed in this calendar year”.

Another SSO entry, dated February 6, 2013, described ongoing plans to expand metadata collection. A joint surveillance collection operation with an unnamed partner agency yielded a new program “to query metadata” that was “turned on in the Fall 2012”. Two others, called MoonLightPath and Spinneret, “are planned to be added by September 2013.”

Bush NSA Bulk Email Collection Policy Continued Under Obama

By: DSWright, Firedog Lake

Thursday June 27, 2013 9:55 am

The revelation contradicts initial talking points by spying program apologists that the NSA’s surveillance of American citizens was targeted and limited.

So much for hope and change.

Obama came to office with a mandate to rollback the police state and decided – nah. This proves Obama to be an outright liar given his numerous campaign promises and public pronouncements opposing these types of policies.

(C)ontrary to some misleading pushback, the government is reading your email and has been since at least 2001.

Bunga Bunga

So the short story is that Silvio Berlusconi was caught paying an underage prostitute who claimed to be the niece of Hosni Mubarak to ply her trade at some of his infamous “Bunga Bunga” sex parties.

This week he was finally convicted.

Italy’s Berlusconi convicted in sex-for-hire trial


Posted on Monday, June 24, 2013

A court in Milan on Monday handed down a seven-year jail sentence to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi after finding him guilty of soliciting sex from a minor and abusing his position to cover up the affair.

The sentence by judges in charge of the so-called “bunga bunga” trial was one year more than what had been sought by the prosecution. A lifetime ban on holding public office also was imposed.

The three-time premier is a key backer of the grand coalition government led by Prime Minister Enrico Letta. Cicchitto said the PDL would continue backing the government, despite its anger at the ruling.

The center-left Democratic Party, the other key member of the ruling coalition, simply “took notice” and said it respected “the decisions that the judiciary takes autonomously, whatever they may be.”

Nicola Morra from the Five Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo said the opposition group would insist on holding a vote in the Senate to declare Berlusconi unfit for parliament, due to a conflict of interest stemming from his business holdings.

In a trial that lasted over two years, an all-female court heard that Berlusconi would hold night-time parties where women performed lap dance routines in a special “bunga bunga” room, dressed up as nuns, nurses or public figures such as U.S. President Barack Obama.

Berlusconi has other legal troubles, including a final appeal ruling expected by the end of the year on a tax fraud case that could force him to step down from parliament.

A judge is also expected to decide Thursday whether he should face trial on charges of bribing an opposition lawmaker. On the same day, Italy’s top appeals court is due to consider whether his firm Mediaset should pay a hefty compensation bill to a business rival.

Berlusconi Is Sentenced to Seven Years in Sex Case, but Can Still Appeal Verdict


Published: June 24, 2013

Mr. Berlusconi, 76, who is widely seen as remaining in politics to keep his parliamentary immunity and to protect his business interests, has vehemently denied the charges, accusing prosecutors of being on a left-wing witch hunt against him. His lawyers had tried to change the location of the trial, arguing that the Milanese judicial milieu was biased against Mr. Berlusconi, who has faced several trials in that city.

Mr. Berlusconi was found guilty of paying for sex with Ms. Mahroug, who was under age at the time she attended parties at his villa. Though Ms. Mahroug denied that charge, she admitted that the prime minister had given her 7,000 euros, or about $9,100, the first time she visited his villa for a party in 2010. He was also convicted of abusing his office by calling the police to intervene when she was detained in May 2010 for theft. Mr. Berlusconi has said he called the police to avoid a diplomatic incident because he had been told that Ms. Mahroug was a niece of Hosni Mubarak, then the Egyptian president.

Monday’s ruling puts strains on the nearly two-month-old government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta, which unites the prime minister’s center-left Democratic Party with Mr. Berlusconi’s People of Liberty.

The coalition has so far withstood other moments of tension linked to the former prime minister’s legal woes. In May, an appeals trial upheld Mr. Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud in a film rights case involving his Mediaset television empire, a verdict that carries a four-year prison sentence and a five-year ban from holding public office. A final ruling in that case is expected later this year, though the ban would be upheld only after receiving parliamentary approval.

Will Berlusconi Be Bunga’d Up At Last?

By Tim Judah, Bloomberg News

Jun 25, 2013 2:58 PM ET

Italy’s former prime minister was due to meet today with incumbent Enrico Letta to discuss their fragile coalition government’s plans for tax cuts. No doubt Berlusconi’s conviction June 24 on charges of paying an underage prostitute for sex, for which he was given a seven-year prison sentence, will come up, too.

Berlusconi is also very unlikely to go to jail in the Mediaset SpA case, in which he was convicted in May of fraud and tax evasion. Lacking sex appeal, this prosecution has drawn less international attention but is probably more serious. Mediaset is Berlusconi’s multi-billion-euro media company. He was sentenced to four years in jail and given a five-year ban on holding public office in the case, which concerns the purchase of U.S. film and television rights. On May 8, he lost the first appeal. The second and final appeal must happen by next July or the case will expire due to a statute of limitations.

It is hard to predict how all of this will affect Italy’s ruling coalition. If Berlusconi’s conviction is finally upheld, then the Senate, in which Berlusconi sits, will have to vote to confirm his ban from office. The vote would be secret, so it is possible Berlusconi may threaten to bring down the government unless Letta instructs his Democratic Party senators to vote against the ban.

In the meantime, Beppe Grillo, founder of the maverick Five Star Movement, the largest party in Italy’s Parliament, is seeking to uphold a 1953 law that prevents anyone who has a concession from the state — such as a broadcasting license, which Berlusconi has — from holding public office. Indeed, had the law been enforced in the first place, Berlusconi could never have been a politician and a media mogul at the same time.

According to James Walston, a specialist in Italian politics, if Grillo succeeds in having this long-ignored law applied, then Letta and his party “will be forced to chose between consistency (they have accepted Berlusconi for 20 years) and legality and political expediency (they cannot be seen to be outflanked by Grillo).”

Berlusconi found guilty after case that cast spotlight on murky premiership

Lizzy Davies, The Guardian

Monday 24 June 2013

The more serious charge, however, was that in May of that year he exerted prime-ministerial pressure on police in Milan to release Mahroug from custody for fear she would reveal details of their liaisons. He admitted having made a call to police, but said he did so in the belief that her detention might cause a “diplomatic incident” because he believed her to be a relative of Hosni Mubarak, then the president of Egypt.

One person who will be less than delighted by the verdict is Enrico Letta, Italy’s current prime minister, who has the unenviable task of holding together a fraught grand coalition of his centre-left and Berlusconi’s centre-right. Although he occupies no ministry, Berlusconi still plays an influential role in national politics, and he has the power – as Letta is acutely aware – to bring it down by withdrawing his support and triggering new elections.

Silvio Berlusconi supporters stage ‘we are all whores’ protest over conviction

Lizzy Davies, The Guardian

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Silvio Berlusconi’s supporters have mounted a provocative protest against his conviction for paying an underage prostitute for sex and abusing his office to cover it up, amid concerns the verdict could destabilise the fragile coalition government.

As the centre-right leader prepared to meet Italy’s prime minister, Enrico Letta, a number of his angry allies descended on a central square in Rome on Tuesday to hold a protest under the banner of siamo tutti puttane, which translates as “we are all whores”. In advance of the demonstration, the organiser Giuliano Ferrara, editor of right-wing newspaper Il Foglio, filmed a video of himself applying lipstick.

Observers say Letta’s government, however, may feel its impact quickly, with the PdL portion of the coalition thought likely to make increasing demands on policies such as tax and judicial reform.

On Tuesday Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano, chided bickering politicians and urged them to commit to continuity in government. “It hasn’t been two months since the formation of a government and already the daily talk is of next, imminent or fatal government crisis,” he said.

The political ramifications of the verdict look all but certain to rumble on. The Left Ecology Freedom party (SEL) called on Tuesday for the deputy foreign minister, Bruno Archi,, to resign following the inclusion of his name on a list of more than 30 defence witnesses the Milan judges said they thought should be investigated for suspected perjury during Berlusconi’s trial.