Below are key excerpts of important news articles on a government agency's finding that the NSA's phone data sweeps are illegal, the wealth of the 85 richest people equaling that of the bottom half of the world population, major banks' collusion with the Chinese elite to set up offshore money havens, and more.
Read also wonderfully inspiring articles on a new app for autism, a new species of river dolphin discovered in the Brazilian Amazon and the amazing growth of the solar panel industry. To skip to the section on inspiring articles, click here.
Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails, click here. The most important sentences are highlighted. And don't miss the "What you can do" section below the summaries. By educating ourselves and spreading the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Special note: For a fascinating article by Graham Hancock with powerful evidence of an ancient civilization hitherto unknown, click here. For 26 inspiring moments captured in photos, click here. For a highly intriguing seven-minute video about the meaning of life, click here. For eight fascinating, little-known facts about Dr. Martin Luther King, click here. For a thought-provoking comic strip which explores why the US is declining, click here. For a news report suggesting that the Drug Enforcement Administration may be the world's largest cocaine smuggler, click here.
Quote of the Week: "A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty." ~~ Albert Einstein, 1954
Watchdog Report Says N.S.A. Program Is Illegal and Should End
January 23, 2014, New York Times
An independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the National Security Agency’s program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down. The findings are laid out in a 238-page report [that represents] the first major public statement by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress made an independent agency in 2007 and only recently became fully operational. The Obama administration has portrayed the bulk collection program as useful and lawful. But in its report, the board lays out what may be the most detailed critique of the government’s once-secret legal theory behind the program: that a law known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the F.B.I. to obtain business records deemed “relevant” to an investigation, can be legitimately interpreted as authorizing the N.S.A. to collect all calling records in the country. The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.” The report also sheds light on the history of the once-secret bulk collection program. It contains the first official acknowledgment that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court produced no judicial opinion detailing its legal rationale for the program until last August, even though it had been issuing orders to phone companies for the records and to the N.S.A. for how it could handle them since May 2006.
Note: The PCLOB report is titled "Report on the Telephone Records Program Conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and on the Operations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," and is available here. For more on government attacks to privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Richest 85 boast same wealth as half the world
January 21, 2014, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia's leading newspaper)
Eighty-five people control the same amount of wealth as half the world's population. That is 85 people compared with 3.5 billion. A new report from Oxfam has been published in time for the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. It shows the world's ultra-wealthy have not only recovered from the global financial crisis, they have positively blossomed. The report shows the wealth of the 1 per cent richest people in the world is worth about $US110 trillion, 65 times the total wealth of the bottom half of the world's population. It also shows the world's richest 85 people control about $US1.7 trillion in wealth, equivalent to the bottom half of the world's population. And far from hindering the wealthy, the political response to the global financial crisis - including the actions of central banks and the austerity measures introduced by national governments - has made the rich fabulously richer. In the US, the wealthiest 1 per cent of the population grabbed 95 per cent of post-financial crisis growth between 2009 and 2012, while the bottom 90 per cent became poorer. An Oxfam survey of six countries - the United States, UK, Spain, Brazil, India and South Africa - has found that the majority of people believe laws and regulations are skewed in favour of the rich, so people are noticing.
Note: For more on income inequality, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
China's princelings storing riches in Caribbean offshore haven
January 21, 2014, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
More than a dozen family members of China's top political and military leaders are making use of offshore companies based in the British Virgin Islands, leaked financial documents reveal. The brother-in-law of China's current president, Xi Jinping, as well as the son and son-in-law of former premier Wen Jiabao are among the political relations making use of the offshore havens, financial records show. The documents also disclose the central role of major Western banks and accountancy firms ... in the offshore world, acting as middlemen in the establishing of companies. The Hong Kong office of Credit Suisse, for example, established the BVI company Trend Gold Consultants for Wen Yunsong, the son of Wen Jiabao, during his father's premiership — while PwC and UBS performed similar services for hundreds of other wealthy Chinese individuals. The disclosure of China's use of secretive financial structures is the latest revelation from "Offshore Secrets", a two-year reporting effort led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which obtained more than 200 gigabytes of leaked financial data from two companies in the British Virgin Islands, and shared the information with the Guardian and other international news outlets. In all, the ICIJ data reveals more than 21,000 clients from mainland China and Hong Kong have made use of offshore havens in the Caribbean. Between $1tn and $4tn in untraced assets have left China since 2000, according to estimates.
For the Love of Money
January 19, 2014, New York Times
In my last year on Wall Street my bonus was $3.6 million — and I was angry because it wasn’t big enough. I was 30 years old, had no children to raise, no debts to pay, no philanthropic goal in mind. I wanted more money for exactly the same reason an alcoholic needs another drink: I was addicted. It was actually my absurdly wealthy bosses who helped me see the limitations of unlimited wealth. I was in a meeting with one of them, and a few other traders, and they were talking about the new hedge-fund regulations. Most everyone on Wall Street thought they were a bad idea. “But isn’t it better for the system as a whole?” I asked. The room went quiet, and my boss shot me a withering look. I remember his saying, “I don’t have the brain capacity to think about the system as a whole. All I’m concerned with is how this affects our company.” I felt as if I’d been punched in the gut. He was afraid of losing money, despite all that he had. From that moment on, I started to see Wall Street with new eyes. I noticed the vitriol that traders directed at the government for limiting bonuses after the crash. I heard the fury in their voices at the mention of higher taxes. These traders despised anything or anyone that threatened their bonuses. Wealth addiction was described by the late sociologist and playwright Philip Slater in a 1980 book, but addiction researchers have paid the concept little attention. Like alcoholics driving drunk, wealth addiction imperils everyone. Wealth addicts are, more than anybody, specifically responsible for the ever widening rift that is tearing apart our once great country.
Note: For more on financial corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Vatican Monsignor Arrested for Money Laundering
January 21, 2014, ABC News/Associated Press
A Vatican monsignor already on trial for allegedly plotting to smuggle 20 million euros ($26 million) from Switzerland to Italy was arrested ... for allegedly using his Vatican bank accounts to launder money. Financial police in the southern Italian city of Salerno said Monsignor Nunzio Scarano, dubbed "Monsignor 500" for his purported favored banknotes, had transferred millions of euros in fictitious donations from offshore companies through his accounts at the Vatican's Institute for Religious Works. Acting on evidence provided by the Vatican bank, police said they seized 6.5 million euros in real estate and assets in Italian bank accounts Tuesday, including Scarano's luxurious Salerno apartment, filled with gilt-framed oil paintings, ceramic vases and other fancy antiques. Police said in all, 52 people were under investigation. The money involved in both the Swiss smuggling case and the Salerno money-laundering case originated with one of Italy's most important shipping families, the d'Amicos. Financial police said more than 5 million euros had been made available to Scarano by the D'Amicos via offshore companies. Scarano allegedly withdrew 555,248 euros from his Vatican account in cash in 2009 and brought it into Italy. Since he couldn't deposit it in an Italian bank without drawing suspicion, he selected 50 friends to accept 10,000 euros apiece in cash in exchange for a check or wire transfer in that same amount.
Note: For more on financial corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
New analysis of rocket used in Syria chemical attack undercuts U.S. claims
January 15, 2014, Miami Herald
A series of revelations about the rocket believed to have delivered poison sarin gas to a Damascus suburb last summer are challenging American intelligence assumptions about that attack and suggest that the case U.S. officials initially made for retaliatory military action was flawed. A team of security and arms experts, meeting this week in Washington to discuss the matter, has concluded that the range of the rocket that delivered sarin in the largest attack that night was too short for the device to have been fired from the Syrian government positions where the Obama administration insists they originated. The authors of a report released Wednesday said that their study of the rocket’s design, its likely payload and its possible trajectories show that it would have been impossible for the rocket to have been fired from inside areas controlled by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. In the report, titled “Possible Implications of Faulty U.S. Technical Intelligence,” Richard Lloyd, a former United Nations weapons inspector, and Theodore Postol, a professor of science, technology and national security policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argue that the question about the rocket’s range indicates a major weakness in the case for military action initially pressed by Obama administration officials. Postol said that a basic analysis of the weapon ... would have shown that it wasn’t capable of flying the 6 miles from the center of the Syrian government-controlled part of Damascus to the point of impact in the suburbs, or even the 3.6 miles from the edges of government-controlled ground.
Note: For more on government lies designed to start wars, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Brazil’s Latest Clash With Its Urban Youth Takes Place at the Mall
January 20, 2014, New York Times
The images have already been so jolting to Brazil’s elites that President Dilma Rousseff has convened a meeting of top aides to form a response and business owners have obtained injunctions to shut them down: thousands of teenagers, largely from the gritty urban periphery and organizing on social media, going on raucous excursions through shopping malls. Called rolezinhos (little strolls) in the slang of São Paulo’s streets, the rowdy gatherings may be going beyond mere flash mobs to touch on issues of public space and entitlement. “Why don’t they want us to go inside malls?” asked Plinio Diniz, 17, a high school student who attended a rolezinho this month in Shopping Metrô Itaquera, a mall here where police officers used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the estimated crowd of 3,000. Unnerved by the street protests that shook cities across the country last year, the authorities are carefully trying to evaluate ways to react to the gatherings, which began heightening in size and intensity in December. Rolezinhos are generally organized on Facebook, with nearly 20 planned in Brazilian cities in the weeks ahead, and often involve running up and down escalators and a good deal of shouting, flirting and singing of Brazilian funk songs. For many participants, although they may come from relatively poor urban areas, the events are also opportunities to show off costly brand-name clothing. Others contend that the rolezinhos, while not explicitly political, nevertheless open the way for new methods of protest at malls.
Note: For more on civil liberties, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Japan fishermen take cover to slaughter dolphins in face of Western criticism
January 21, 2014, Chicago Tribune/Reuters
Japanese fishermen drove a large group of dolphins into the shallows ... and, hiding from reporters and TV cameras behind a tarpaulin, killed at least 30 as the annual dolphin hunt that sparked protest in the West entered its final stages. Both the U.S. and British ambassadors to Japan have strongly criticized the "drive killings" of dolphins citing the "terrible suffering" inflicted on the marine mammals. Every year the fishermen of Taiji, in western Wakayama prefecture, drive hundreds of dolphins into a cove, select some for sale to marine parks, release some and kill the rest for meat. On Tuesday, at least 30 dolphins out of the group of more than 200 held in the cove since Friday were herded by boat engines and nets into a killing area of the Taiji cove. Before the killing began, fishermen pulled a tarpaulin in front of the cove to prevent activists and reporters from seeing the killing. A large pool of blood seeped under the tarpaulin and spread across the cove. "A metal rod was stabbed into their spinal cord, where they were left to bleed out, suffocate and die. After a traumatic four days held captive in the killing cove, they experienced violent captive selection, being separated from their family, and then eventually were killed today," Sea Shepherd Conservation Society activist Melissa Sehgal told Reuters. The annual hunt has long been a source of controversy and was the topic of "The Cove", an Oscar-winning documentary that brought Taiji into the international spotlight.
Note: For more on the devastation of marine mammal populations by human activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Texas Police Hit Organic Farm With Massive SWAT Raid
August 15, 2013, Huffington Post
A small organic farm in Arlington, Texas, was the target of a massive police action ... that included aerial surveillance, a SWAT raid and a 10-hour search. Members of the local police raiding party had a search warrant for marijuana plants, which they failed to find at the Garden of Eden farm. Farm owners and residents who live on the property [said] that the real reason for the law enforcement exercise appears to have been code enforcement. Local authorities had cited the Garden of Eden in recent weeks for code violations, including "grass that was too tall, bushes growing too close to the street, a couch and piano in the yard, chopped wood that was not properly stacked, a piece of siding that was missing from the side of the house, and generally unclean premises." The raid on the Garden of Eden farm appears to be the latest example of police departments using SWAT teams and paramilitary tactics to enforce less serious crimes. In recent years, SWAT teams have been called out to perform regulatory alcohol inspections at a bar in Manassas Park, Va.; to raid bars for suspected underage drinking in New Haven, Conn.; to perform license inspections at barbershops in Orlando, Fla.; and to raid a gay bar in Atlanta where police suspected customers and employees were having public sex. A federal investigation later found that Atlanta police had made up the allegations of public sex. Other raids have been conducted on food co-ops and Amish farms suspected of selling unpasteurized milk products. The federal government has for years been conducting raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized them.
Note: The author of this report, Radley Balko, is a senior writer and investigative reporter for The Huffington Post. He is also the author of the new book, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America's Police Forces. For an ABC News report on this disturbing raid, click here.
The hidden history of the CIA’s prison in Poland
January 23, 2014, Washington Post
In early 2003, two senior CIA officers arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw to pick up a pair of large cardboard boxes. Inside were bundles of cash totaling $15 million that had been flown from Germany via diplomatic pouch. The Americans and Poles then sealed an agreement that over the previous weeks had allowed the CIA the use of a secret prison — a remote villa in the Polish lake district — to interrogate al-Qaeda suspects. The Polish intelligence service received the money, and the CIA had a solid location for its newest covert operation, according to former agency officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the interrogation program, including previously unreported details about the creation of the CIA’s “black sites,” or secret prisons. The CIA prison in Poland was arguably the most important of all the black sites created by the agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was the first of a trio in Europe that housed the initial wave of accused Sept. 11 conspirators, and it was where Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-declared mastermind of the attacks, was waterboarded 183 times after his capture. In December, the European Court of Human Rights heard arguments that Poland violated international law and participated in torture by accommodating its American ally. “In the face of Polish and United States efforts to draw a veil over these abuses, the European Court of Human Rights now has an opportunity to break this conspiracy of silence and uphold the rule of law,” said Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative.
Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
9/11 Fraud Scandal 'Probably' More Widespread, Top Official Says
January 16, 2014, ABC News
Lawmakers pressed Social Security Administration officials ... over a massive fraud scandal involving New York City cops and firefighters who allegedly bilked the government out of millions by falsely claiming disability from working at Ground Zero after 9/11. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), chairman of the House's Ways and Means subcommittee that oversees the agency ... convened the hearing following the stunning arrests last week of more than 100 in New York from vaunted public safety agencies known in the city as the "Finest" and the "Bravest," who stand accused of filing phony disability claims. Many allegedly faked mental disabilities they claimed were as a result of the [attacks] that reduced the World Trade Center into a smoldering wasteland of rubble. Johnson demanded accountability from the acting chief of the Social Security Administration, Carolyn Colvin and agency Inspector General Patrick O'Carroll. Workers labored for months to retrieve remains of hundreds who perished in the twin towers on 9/11 and were sickened by toxic air that the feds had said was safe to breathe without respirator masks. The alleged New York scam was lucrative for the perpetrators and is estimated to have cost the Social security pension fund at least $22 million so far, with more arrests to come, according to testimony from Edward Ryan, New York SSA IG Special Agent in Charge. "When we executed search warrants we found large amounts of cash in safes……and gold bars" Ryan testified.
Note: For more on government corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Documents Reveal Decades Of Child Abuse Among Some Chicago Priests
January 21, 2014, NPR
Papers documenting allegation of sexual abuse by priests in the Chicago Archdiocese were released to the public today by victims' attorneys. The documents cover only 30 of at least 65 priests for whom the Chicago church says it has substantiated claims of child abuse. The papers, put online, were made available through settlements between Church and victims' lawyers. Church officials said most of the abuse occurred before 1988, none after 1996. The documents tell one heartbreaking story after another - 6,000 pages detailing not just how children and adult victims were abused by trusted priests, but also how church officials often bungled their responses, failing to turn sexual predators over to criminal authorities and often shuttling the offending priests from parish to parish, where they abused again. That deception ... came from the cardinal on down. Not only were the victims and their families deceived, but so too were parishioners where offending priests were transferred, as well as the police and the public at large. In one case in 1979, a priest raped a 13-year old boy and later warned him at gunpoint not to tell anyone. The documents show the boy's parents were assured that the priest would get treatment and would be kept away from minors, but he wasn't. Within a year, that priest was returned to ministry in another parish where he abused again. In another case, the late Cardinal John Cody tells a priest accused of sexually abusing a girl that the allegations, quote, "should just be forgotten." That priest later abused again.
Note: For more on sexual abuse of children, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.
Researchers developing communication app for children with autism
August 1, 2013, CBS News/Associated Press
University of Kansas researchers have received a $1.2 million grant to test whether an iPad voice output application can help children with autism. Similar apps have previously been developed for adults with autism. In June 2012, 60 Minutes interviewed a 27-year-old man with autism who uses the keypad on the iPad to type out letters, words and phrases. A robotic voice then reads the words on the screen, giving a voice to an intelligent young man who previously struggled to communicate. Other researchers have developed apps to test vocabulary and math skills of autistic children. They are finding that the apps reveal a greater level of intelligence than previously expected in many of the children. Lead researcher Kathy Thiemann-Bourque says many young children with autism have complex communication needs but do not develop functional speech. In previous research, she has examined both peer training and direct teaching strategies to increase social communication between children with autism and their classmates without disabilities.
Note: For an amazing eight-minute clip showing how a non-verbal autistic woman uses her computer to eloquently invite people into her world, click here. The amazing writing starts at 3:15. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
New species of river dolphin identified in Brazilian Amazon
January 25, 2014, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
Scientists have made the first discovery in 100 years of a new river dolphin species in the waters of the Araguaia river in Brazil's vast Amazon rainforest. The discovery of the Inia araguaiaensis was officially announced earlier this week in a study posted online by the Plos One scientific journal. The study's lead author, biologist Tomas Hrbek, of the Federal University of Amazonas in the city of Manaus, said the new species is the third ever found in the Amazon region. "It was an unexpected discovery that shows just how incipient our knowledge is of the region's biodiversity," Hrbek said by telephone. "River dolphins are among the rarest and most endangered of all vertebrates, so discovering a new species is something that is very rare and exciting." He said: "people always saw them in the river but no one ever took a close up look at them." Hrbek added that scientists concluded the large dolphin was a new species by analysing and comparing DNA samples of several types of dolphins from the Amazon and Araguaia river basins. There [are] about 1,000 Inia araguaiaensis dolphins living in the 2,627km-long (1,630 miles) river.
Note: For more on the amazing world of marine mammals, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here. For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Explosive growth for state's surviving solar firms
January 19, 2014, San Francisco Chronicle SF's leading newspaper)
Many California and Bay Area [solar] companies are in a period of explosive growth. Companies such as SolarCity, Sungevity, SunPower and Sunrun are installing panels at a heady pace, and adding jobs along the way. Their expansion has been fueled by ... a worldwide plunge in the price of solar cells. Companies that design and install solar systems for homes, businesses or utilities have seen their sales rise. "They're not just survivors - they're strong survivors," said Lyndon Rive, chief executive officer of SolarCity in San Mateo. "And it's not just us. It's the industry. ... The notion that it's a failure is so outrageous." The number of solar installations - both large and small-scale - is booming. In 2013, the United States added enough new photovoltaic panels to generate a maximum of 4.2 gigawatts of electricity, roughly the output of four nuclear reactors. Over the past five years, the number of residential installations has grown at an average annual rate of 70 percent, according to the NPD Solarbuzz market information firm. "The demand today is coming from the fact that someone can put solar on their house and save money," said Paul Nahi, CEO of Enphase Energy, a Petaluma company that makes microinverters for solar arrays. "It is true that they may also be saving the planet. But that's not their main consideration." The drop in prices isn't their only reason for growth. Companies including SolarCity, SunEdison and Sunrun began offering solar leases or power purchase agreements to homeowners and businesses. Rather than buy the panels, customers could just buy the energy. That financial innovation revolutionized the industry.
'Solar suitcase' saving moms, babies during childbirth
October 13, 2013, CNN
Dr. Laura Stachel watched as physicians performed an emergency cesarean section. What happened next stunned her. "The lights went out," Stachel recalled, "and I said, 'How are they going to finish?' " Fortunately, Stachel had a flashlight with her, and the doctors were able to use it to complete the surgery. But during that two-week trip in 2008, she witnessed countless other times when the lives of mothers and babies were at risk simply because of a lack of reliable electricity. With the help of Hal Aronson, her husband and a solar energy educator, Stachel worked to find a solution. He drew up designs for a solar electric system to provide a free source of power to the state hospital in northern Nigeria where Stachel had conducted her research. Each time Stachel would return to Africa, she came with one or two new "solar suitcases" assembled by her husband. Today, the solar suitcase includes two solar panels that are mounted on a clinic's roof and connected to high-quality LED lights. Once fully charged, it can provide light for up to 20 hours. The kit also contains headlamps, a fetal Doppler to monitor a baby's heart rate and a cell phone charging unit. "We got to something that was really rugged, simple to use, portable and that we knew would really work in harsh environments," Stachel said. It also spread to other countries after Stachel and Aronson started a nonprofit, We Care Solar. Since 2009, the kits have been helping health-care workers save lives not only in Nigeria but in facilities throughout Africa, Asia and Central America.
Note: For a treasure trove of great news articles which will inspire you to make a difference, click here.
Please note that most of the summarizing of the revealing news articles in the above summary was done by Tod Fletcher of WantToKnow.info. Many thanks to Tod for all the time and skill he puts into this. The section below provides several ideas on what you can do to spread the news.
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