Daily Archives: July 15, 2008

French president orders Irish to vote again on EU treaty

Nicolas Sarkozy said Ireland must vote again on EU Lisbon treaty, angering Irish politicians

Telegraph | Jul 15, 2008

By Henry Samuel in Paris

President Nicolas Sarkozy of France angered politicians in Ireland by declaring that the country will have to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon treaty.

“The Irish will have to vote again,” Mr Sarkozy told deputies from his UMP party in a meeting in his office, several of those present confirmed.

He also said he would “veto any enlargement” until a new treaty had been pushed through.

Mr Sarkozy, whose country holds the EU’s rotating six-month presidency, is due to travel to Ireland next week to “listen” to why the Irish rejected the Lisbon treaty on June 12.

Last week he said he hoped to find a solution to the Irish issue by the end of the year saying time was running out, but stopped short of suggesting they vote again.

Ireland’s minister for foreign affairs Micheál Martin said he couldn’t comment on Mr Sarkozy’s reported comments, but that the government was examining “all the options” following the rejection of the Lisbon treaty.

However, Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said that if Mr Sarkozy’s comments were confirmed, he “has seriously put his foot in it”.

“We were given to understand that one of the principal reasons for the president’s visit to Ireland next week was to allow him to hear the views of Irish people as to what should now be done. However, if he has already made his mind up on this issue, it will be a rather hollow listening.”

Mr Gilmore added: “We need that time and space and President Sarkozy should be told that in blunt terms.”

“It would be extraordinary if Irish voters were made to vote twice on this EU Treaty before British voters got to vote once”, said Britain’s shadow foreign secretary William Hague, who said getting countries to vote twice in the hope of them changing their minds was not “very democratic”.

“The best thing for EU leaders to do is simply to respect the Irish people’s verdict, drop this deeply unpopular Treaty and get on with delivering what matters to people, like healthier European economies”, he said.

Mr Sarkozy’s trip next week may not be helped by the presence – confirmed yesterday – of his foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, who some in Ireland blame for the No vote. Before it, the outspoken left-winger had reportedly suggested that it would be bad form for Ireland to vote no given the amount of EU aid it has received over the years.

The leader of the Socialist group in the European parliament, Martin Schulz last week urged Mr Sarkozy to leave him at home.

Mr Sarkozy’s office yesterday sought to put a more diplomatic spin on the President’s unequivocal comment, insisting that he would not go to Dublin with an action plan to present to Taoiseach Brian Cowen, despite reports that a ready-made plan is being drawn up.

“The president is coming to listen to the Irish, to listen to what Brian Cowen tells him. He is not coming to make proposals,” one Sarkozy aide said.

“It is not up to us to make proposals,” he added. “It is up to the Irish to tell us what the problem is and what they need to resolve it.”

Newspaper Le Monde said one possible sweetener to convince the Irish to ratify the treaty would be to reverse the planned streamlining of the European Commission, retaining the current system of one commissioner per country. Ireland would thus keep a seat.

But the Elysée said that such an idea was “in the air rather than on the table”.

Other options include offering Ireland guarantees on neutrality, taxation and abortion, the paper said.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said yesterday he did not expect any more countries to reject the Lisbon treaty after the Irish No vote, following assurances from the presidents of Poland and the Czech Republic that they would not try and block ratification.

Mr Sarkozy has championed the Lisbon treaty and is adamant that it be pushed through before France’s European presidency runs out at the end of the year.

Analysts predict more banks will collapse

IndyMac, like many of the nation’s banks, was facing pressures of tighter credit, tumbling home prices and rising foreclosures. In recent weeks it had experienced a run on the bank, with depositors pulling out $100 million a day.

What if your bank fails? Is your money safe?

MSNBC | Jul 15, 2008

Analysts predict that more financial institutions will collapse

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The government’s seizure of IndyMac Bank raises concerns for many consumers about whether their banks might be next.

While it is unlikely the nation will see thousands of banks fail as they did during the savings and loan industry collapse in the late 1980s and early ’90s, analysts predict there will be more battered financial institutions that are unable to survive in today’s marketplace.

“IndyMac’s failure is certainly a broader issue,” said Eva Weber, an analyst at Aite Group, a financial services research firm. “Those who are trenched in more risky business, who are feeling more heavy losses, may be at more risk.”

On Friday, the Office of Thrift Supervision transferred control of the California lender to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. because it did not think IndyMac could meet its depositors’ demands. By Monday, the bank reopened as IndyMac Federal Bank, FSB, and customers whose deposits were insured by the FDIC were able to access full banking services, including online banking, during normal business hours.

IndyMac, like many of the nation’s banks, was facing pressures of tighter credit, tumbling home prices and rising foreclosures. In recent weeks it had experienced a run on the bank, with depositors pulling out $100 million a day.

Here are some questions and answers about the government’s role when a bank fails and if other banks are at risk:

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Fluoridated water now reaches nearly 70% of U.S. population

Xinhua | Jul 11, 2008

WASHINGTON, July 10 (Xinhua) — Nearly 70 percent of U.S. residents who get water from community water systems now receive fluoridated water, according to a report published Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The proportion of the U.S. population receiving fluoridated water, about 184 million people, increased from 65.8 percent in 1992 to 69.2 percent in 2006, said the report.

Related: The Chemical Dumbing Down of America

The percentage of people served by community water systems with optimal levels (which are defined by the state and vary based on such things as the climate) of fluoridated water ranged from 8.4 percent in Hawaii to 100 percent in the District of Columbia, according to the report.

“Community water fluoridation is an equitable, cost-effective, and cost-saving method of delivering fluoride to most people,” said William Maas, director of CDC’s Division of Oral Health. “We’ve seen some marked improvements; however, there are still too many states that have not met the national goal. The national goal is that 75 percent of U.S. residents who are on community water systems be receiving fluoridated water by 2010.”

Fluoride, a naturally occurring compound in the environment, can reduce or prevent tooth decay. Adding or maintaining tiny levels of fluoride in drinking water is a safe and effective public health measure to prevent and control tooth decay (dental caries). The second half of the 20th century saw a major decline in the prevalence and severity of dental caries, attributed in part to the increasing use of fluoride.

Based upon studies and a systematic review, the new report suggests that fluoridation resulted in a median 29.1 percent relative decrease in tooth decay in the United States.

‘Big Brother’ database of all phone calls and emails condemned by watchdog

A new Big Brother database holding the telephone numbers and email accounts of everyone in Britain would raise serious data protection concerns, the information commissioner said.

Telegraph | Jul 15, 2008

By Christopher Hope

Details of every phone conversation, text message and email would be held in the database for 12 months

Gordon Brown signalled plans to bring in the database holding details of every phone call, email and time spent on the internet by the public in last month’s draft Queen’s Speech.

The proposal is part of Government plans to implement a European Union directive which was brought in after the 7 July bombings to encourage uniform record-keeping across EU states.

However information commissioner Richard Thomas warned the database would be “a step too far for the British way of life”.
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He said: “Do we really want the police, security services and other organs of the state to have access to more and more aspects of our private lives?

“There needs to be the fullest public debate about the justification for, and implications of, a specially-created database – potentially accessible to a wide range of law enforcement authorities – holding details of everyone’s telephone and internet communications.”

The proposals have gained credence in Whitehall after the Government’s Draft Legislative Programme last month made mention of ‘”modifying procedures for acquiring communications data”.

The new Data Communications Bill is set to be put forward in November’s Queen’s Speech.

Under the plans, internet service providers and phone companies would hand over their records to the Home Office, which would hold the information for 12 months.

The police and security services would access the database if they have been granted permission by the courts.

Last year, nearly 60 billion text messages were sent in Britain, and 17.5million people accessed the internet via a mobile phone or Blackberry-type handheld device.

Mr Thomas said there had not been sufficient parliamentary or public debate on proposals to collect more and more personal information without proper justification.

He cited the expansion of the DNA database and the centralised collection and retention of data from Automatic Number Plate Recognition roadside cameras as two examples.

In a report last week, Mr Thomas warned that the public had little confidence in large organisations to handle people’e personal information.

Mr Thomas said that there had to be further consultation with the public to find out whether people wanted big databases to be set up.

“Before major new databases are launched careful consideration must be given to the impact on individuals’ liberties and on society as a whole.

“Sadly, there have been too many developments where there has not been sufficient openness, transparency or public debate.”

There have been a number of high profile data losses in the past few months including the loss by HM Revenue and Customs of the details of over 25million families on two CDs .

Mr Thomas yesterday served enforcement notices against HM Revenue and Customs as well as the Ministry of Defence, after an official lost a laptop containing soldiers’ and possible recruits’ personal details.

The notices require both departments to provide progress reports documenting in detail how the recommendations have been, or are being, implemented to improve Data Protection compliance.

Failure to comply with the notices could lead to prosecution.

Earlier this year Mr Thomas revealed that he had been notified of 94 data breaches over the past five months. Two thirds – 62 -were committed by Government and other public sector bodies.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The changes to the way we communicate, due particularly to the internet revolution, will increasingly undermine our current capabilities to obtain communications data – essential for counter-terrorism and investigation of crime purpose – and use it to protect the public.

“Losing the ability to use this data would have very serious consequences for law enforcement and intelligence gathering in the UK. To ensure that our public authorities and law enforcement agencies can continue to use this valuable tool, the Government is planning to bring forward the Communications Data Bill.

“Proposals are being developed and full details of the draft Bill will be released later this year, allowing for full engagement with Parliament and the public.”

MI5 officers ‘outsourced the torture of British nationals to Pakistani agencies’

Telegraph | Jul 15, 2008

By Lucy Cockcroft

MPs have called for an investigation into allegations that MI5 officers “outsourced” the torture of British citizens to Pakistani security agencies.

John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, and Andrew Tyrie, Conservative member for Chichester, have said that the reports of abuse must be examined by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), which oversees the security agencies.

A Home Office official has said that MI5 agents “do not participate in, solicit, encourage or condone the use of torture or inhumane or degrading treatment.”

But details of three new alleged abuse cases have raised concerns for Mr McDonnell and Mr Tyrie.

Mr McDonnell said one of his constituents, a male medical student, claims to have been abducted at gunpoint in 2005 and held for two months at the offices of Pakistan’s Intelligence Bureau, which stands opposite the British Deputy High Commission in Karachi.

He said he was then whipped, beaten, deprived of sleep and threatened with execution.

The student had been held as part of investigations into the suicide attacks in July that year, and claims he was questioned by British intelligence officers after being tortured by Pakistani agents. He was then released to his father.

Mr McDonnell said: “I believe there is now sufficient evidence from this and other cases to demonstrate that British officials outsourced the torture of British nationals to a Pakistani intelligence agency.”

Another British man, Tariq Mahmood, 35, a taxi driver from Birmingham, also claims he was abducted in Rawalpindi in October 2003 with the knowledge and collusion of MI5 agents and released without charge five months later.

A third British national to make claims against Pakistani agents is 41-year-old author Tahir Shah from London. He says he was held against his will for 16 days in 2005 and interrogated about the July 7 bombings. He does not claim MI5 were involved in his mistreatment, but he believes they were informed of the situation.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government unreservedly condemns the use of torture as a matter of fundamental principle and works hard with its international partners to eradicate this abhorrent practice worldwide.

“The ISC gave the Security Service a clean bill of health in its 2005 report on torture.”

Star Wars-style laser technology to reach battlefield

The LADS system will utilise the phalanx system and literally shoot incoming missiles and mortars out of the sky using a laser beam

Telegraph | Jul 15, 2008

By Thomas Harding

Star Wars-style technology is about to take to the battlefield for the first time with the launch of a laser system to shoot down enemy missiles and mortars.

Laser beam technology is being rushed into service to combat the threat of insurgent missiles and mortars raining down on British and American military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After decades of delay and billions of pounds spent, it will be simple commercial lasers rather than the hugely expensive US Department of Defence technology that could be used to save hundreds of troops’ lives.

In just 18 months the American defence firm Raytheon has turned a laser used in the car manufacturing industry into a weapon that can hit incoming rounds at the speed of light, melting the outer casing and detonating the explosive inside.

A laser has already been used in a test to destroy a 60mm mortar round and in September the company plans its first “shoot down” of a shell in flight in a test to be conducted with the US military. If successful it could be used on battlefields as early as next year.

The Ministry of Defence is also already in discussions with the company for the new weapon that will be mounted alongside the current Phalanx Gatling gun system that uses thousands of 20mm bullets to shoot down missiles physically.

During one attack when The Daily Telegraph was present at Basra airbase in February two out of four 107mm rockets hurtling towards the accommodation area were shot down. But one of the two that penetrated the defences landed on a shower block killing a RAF serviceman.

With the new laser technology it is hoped that all bombs fired at the base will be shot down before they get a chance to inflict damage.

“This is a huge enhancement of Phalanx. It will have accuracy to shoot down these targets,” said Raytheon’s chief of directed energy weapons, Mike Booen, speaking at the Farnborough Air Show.

“When you trade photons for bullets you have an unlimited magazine you can shot forever as long as you have electricity,”

Protecting commercial aircraft from the threat of terrorist missiles has also become a major concern for airlines and airports.

It will cost an estimated $30 billion (£15 billion) to install effective defensive devices on board all America passenger jets if one was shot down.

Terrorists have already fired SAMs at an Israeli jetliner in Kenya in 2002 and a freight jet in 2003 outside Baghdad.

The Vigilant Eagle system will create a “dome of protection” around a major airport protecting all aircraft at the most vulnerable phases of take-off and landing.

It shoots electromagnetic energy that disrupts the missile’s circuit boards diverting it away form the aircraft.

“This is not just restricted to US airspace because any terrorist with a shoulder-launched missile can use them,” said Mike Booen. “If a commercial aircraft got shot at tomorrow we would have an order for 10 of these immediately.”

Energy beams have also been developed that can fire a laser with pinpoint accuracy to drive away potential suicide bombers, rioters or hostage takers.

The Silent Guardian system fires millimetre wave beam at individuals that cause an excruciating burning sensation without causing any damage.

The beam travels at the speed of light, penetrating the skin and causing an intolerable burning sensation causing suspects to flee.

With dozens of helicopters being destroyed by Taliban and Iraqi insurgent missiles, technology advances have seen a device that has been shrunk from the size of a football to a tennis ball that will fire lasers to confuse infra-red guidance inside a missile.

Chipping’ of Humans No Longer the Stuff of Novels; Use of RFIDs Becoming Commonplace in America

More and more, George Orwell’s 1984 becoming reality—babies, students, elderly being ‘chipped’.

American Free Press | Jul 13, 2008

By Mike Finch

Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFIDs) are finding their way into and onto humans in many ways. There are several ways government and commercial entities are looking to profit through impressive ID and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies. Verichip Corp. successfully marketed “Hugs” Infant Protection System to hospitals in 2005. Since then, infants at many major hospitals receive ankle bracelets something like what many people on probation are currently required to use.

The ankle bracelets were marketed as a remedy for hospital infant abduction. When a child is removed from the infant care area of the hospital, an alarm sounds. About 230 infants are abducted every year from U.S. hospitals. The Hugs system saved one child in 2005. This may be a good idea, but it lays the groundwork for later RFID tagging on children and elderly for “safety reasons.” Some unverified Internet sources report that U.S. and European governments have plans to implant RFIDs in every newborn instead of using ankle bracelets.

A Rhode Island school plans to electronically track the movements of students using Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID). Microchips will be attached to the students’ backpacks next year. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other civil liberties groups say the RFID chips are an invasion of privacy. “Encouraging the placement of RFIDs on young children, even in this limited and questionable context, can only have the unintended effect of acclimating them to being monitored by the government in other contexts and wherever they go, as if it were perfectly normal and appropriate,” the ACLU said.

The RFID chips will be accessed via satellites through tiny GPS systems within the chips. The school will be able to follow the children anywhere. It is likely, though, that young people will just choose to leave their backpacks at school when they do not want to be followed. School officials may then contend for further invasion of privacy, and require RFIDs to be worn on clothing, or possibly injected.

In 2007, about 200 Alzheimer’s patients were implanted with non-GPS RFIDs in a market test done by Verichip. The devices held medical information that could be scanned with a special reader. Many more Alzheimer’s patients and people suffering with dementia have been implanted since the 2007 pilot program. Soon after the market testing by Verichip, sample RFIDs were handed out at the Alzheimer’s Community Care 2007 Educational Conference. In a 2007 Fox News report Verichip offered free RFID tagging for any interested party that wanted to tag an elderly parent.

Currently Verichip is reported to charge about $200 for the implant. The United Kingdom has concrete plans to implant RFID chips into prison populations. Other nations have been reported to use RFIDs on prisoners, including Sweden and several South American nations. The initial plans are to inject prisoners with RFIDs that can be read by a scanner, with limited access and limited amounts of information. UK Officials said they will soon implant chips with GPS capabilities to monitor a prisoner’s location at any given time.

IBM recently applied for a patent regarding a system that would not only place RFIDs on all clothing items, but also track those items of clothing on a global scale. The patent implies that all clothing sold would have “globally unique” RFID tags in them in the future. The information would primarily be used for marketing purposes, but the government could also use such technology. “The exact identity of the person or certain characteristics about the person can be determined [through the use of this technology],” the patent said. “This information is used to monitor the movement of the person through the store or other areas . . . tracking information can be used to provide targeted advertising and to improve existing store systems and tracking systems.”

The RFID information could easily be used with credit card information for identification. The power and scope of the proposed database would certainly have civil rights implications. Goodyear began using RFIDs in tires in 2003, and all other major tire manufacturers have tested, or are using, RFIDs in tires to prevent tire counterfeiting, reports RFID Update, an industry RFID website. The RFIDs could easily be used to track tires anywhere in the country by private or government interests. Plans are underway for a global tire recognition program, all in the name of stopping tire counterfeiting.

Hitachi created an RFID chip that is smaller than a grain of sand. The .002-inch-by-.002-inch chip can be imbedded in paper, and could be used to track just about anything. The chips do not have GPS capability, but can store a 38-digit number that can be read by a hand held scanner. This chip is 60 times smaller than the first generation Hitachi micro-RFID. The former smallest of the small, the Mu-chip, measures in at .4 millimeters by .4 millimeters and could fit on the tip of a pencil. The Mu-chip is already used to track and identify items and prevent forgery of concert tickets.

“Invisible tracking brings to mind science-fiction- inspired uses, or even abuses, such as unknowingly getting sprinkled with smart-tag powder for Big Brother-like monitoring,” Associated Press said. The prediction that microchips will be able to interface with nerves and implanted in the brain in the next 30 years was recently put forth by a UK government think tank. The microchips predicted would be able to give sensory input, allow a sort of mind-to-mind communication (like an implanted cell phone) and allow direct to the brain marketing. This Orwellian prediction opens the door for direct mind control in true 1984 fashion.

The Calmative Before the Storm

While “mind control” as a weapon of war has proven chimerical, the Pentagon has hardly neglected its search for biochemical agents as mechanisms for repressive domination. Under the broad heading “calmatives,” such research continues to this day.

Dissident Voice |  Jul 14, 2008

by Tom Burghardt

Ours is a social system spinning wildly out of control. Wherever one glances, the political-economic-ecological crises engulfing late capitalism are insolvable in terms of structural reforms that might mitigate the system’s approaching zero hour. Call it the proverbial band-aid over gangrene syndrome; a plethora of terminal “fixes” that fix nothing.

During periods of extreme crisis, ruling class elites and the technocratic “wizards of armageddon” who serve them–bankrupt authoritarians without authority–harbor a not-so-secret longing for “magic bullets” that will put things right.

Thus, the quixotic crusade by politicians, military planners and corporate grifters out to make a buck to discover what they hope will be an antidote to the spreading virus of desperation and anger gripping the planet as the alleged “beautiful world” promised by neoliberalism morphs into an unlimited–and endless–low-intensity “war on terror” waged against the world’s poor.

A futile quest to be sure, while the immense, untapped social potential for resolving humanity’s most pressing needs–food, shelter, healthcare, repair of the environment–are grimly shuttled “off world” to various “green zones” and “secure, undisclosed locations” where science, and scientists, function as the equivalent of nerdy call-girls in the “Pentagon Madame’s” little black book of atrocities.

In “‘Non-Lethal’ Weapons: Where Science and Technology Service Repression,” I began a preliminary inquiry into “less than lethal” weapons research; that investigation continues.

Calmative Agents

For six decades, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have explored ways to harness biochemical substances as incapacitating weapons of war. During 1977 congressional hearings, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence published material on “Project MKULTRA, The CIA’s Program of Research in Behavioral Modification.”

While the media focused on the sensationalistic dosing of unsuspecting “subjects” with LSD and other psychoactive substances during unethical CIA and Army experiments, purportedly as a means to gain “control” over the minds of “enemy agents” or “target populations,” the demise of MKULTRA supposedly signalled that research into these forbidden zones were a closed book.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. While “mind control” as a weapon of war has proven chimerical, the Pentagon has hardly neglected its search for biochemical agents as mechanisms for repressive domination. Under the broad heading “calmatives,” such research continues to this day.

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Brown: People caught carrying knives shall be punished

Reuters | Jul 14, 2008

By Tim Castle

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Gordon Brown said on Monday people carrying knives would be “caught, prosecuted and punished” as he defended the government’s handling of knife crime following a spate of stabbing deaths.

But his message was overshadowed over claims from opposition parties that the government had already backtracked from a “half-baked” policy to force those caught with knives to visit hospitals to see stabbing victims for themselves.

“We need to make it absolutely clear to everyone, but especially young people, that in our country there are boundaries of acceptable behaviour, that it is completely unacceptable to carry a knife,” Brown told his monthly news conference.

Four fatal stabbings in one day in London last week, taking the total killed with knives in the capital this year above 50, has returned the issue of violent crime to the top of the political agenda.

The capital’s Metropolitan Police Service says tackling knife crime has now overtaken counter-terrorism as its main priority.

Senior Scotland Yard officer Alf Hitchcock, the government’s newly appointed “knife tsar”, said stab injuries had become more severe and were being committed by younger offenders.

Brown said the government was taking a range of measures to reduce the menace of knife attack, including more visible policing, greater stop-and-search powers, increasing use of metal detectors and tougher prison sentences or community punishments.

“It is a combination of prevention, enforcement and punishment,” he said. “I wouldn’t want people to think it is one measure alone.”

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U.S. terrorist watch-list tops 1 million

Reuters | Jul 14, 2008

By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. watch list of terrorism suspects has passed 1 million records, corresponding to about 400,000 people, and a leading civil rights group said on Monday the number was far too high to be effective.

The Bush administration disagreed and called the list one of the most effective tools implemented after the September 11 hijacked plane attacks — when a federal “no-fly” list contained just 16 people considered threats to aviation.

The American Civil Liberties Union publicized the 1 million milestone with a news conference and release.

It said the watch list was an impediment to millions of travellers and called for changes, including tightening criteria for adding names, giving travellers a right to challenge their inclusion and improving procedures for taking wrongly included names off the list.

“America’s new million-record watch list is a perfect symbol for what’s wrong with this administration’s approach to security: it’s unfair, out-of-control, a waste of resources (and) treats the rights of the innocent as an afterthought,” ACLU technology director Barry Steinhardt said in a release.

President George W. Bush ordered in the current list in September 2003 as a way to wrap several growing terrorism watchlists into a single government database compiled and overseen by the FBI, through a Terrorist Screening Center.

Suspected terrorists or people believed to have links to terrorism are included on the list, which can be used by a wide range of government agencies in security screening. About 50,000 individuals are included on the Transportation Security Administration “no-fly” or “selectee” lists that subject them to travel bans, arrest or additional screening.

Critics have pointed to troubles that figures such as U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, 1960s civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis and singer Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) have had with watch lists as evidence the consolidated database is poorly managed.

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