Daily Archives: September 3, 2008

Murdoch brokered secret truce between Obama and Fox News

Rupert Murdoch helped broker a “tentative truce” between Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and key News Corporation lieutenant Roger Ailes, the boss of Fox News Channel, earlier this year, according to the media mogul’s biographer.

Guardian | Sep 2, 2008

Rupert Murdoch acted as peacemaker between Barack Obama and Fox News

By Oliver Luft

Murdoch, the News Corp chairman and chief executive, was forced to court Obama after the rising star of US politics rebuffed his initial approaches, it is believed because of what he saw as the derogatory coverage of him and his wife, Michelle, on Fox News, according to Michael Wolff.

The News Corp boss also advised Wolff, his biographer, to vote for the man who eventually became the Democratic presidential candidate during the New York primary earlier this year, saying: “He’ll sell more papers.”

These revelations are reported in the October edition of Vanity Fair magazine, which details contributing editor Wolff’s interviews with Rupert Murdoch over a period of nine months for his upcoming biography of the media mogul, The Man Who Owns the News.

After initially snubbing offers of a get-together with the media tycoon, made through the Kennedy family, Obama relented and a secret courtesy meeting with Murdoch was arranged at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, according to Wolff.

When Obama eventually met Murdoch early this summer in secret, they were joined by Ailes, who runs News Corp’s Fox News Channel.

Wolff reported in Vanity Fair that during the meeting Obama and Murdoch sat knee to knee, with the older man offering the prospective candidate advice.

“Murdoch, for his part, had a simple thought to share with Obama. He had known possibly as many heads of state as anyone living today – had met every American president from Harry Truman on – and this is what he understood: nobody got much time to make an impression. Leadership was about what you did in the first six months,” wrote Wolff.

But Wolff claimed things were different when Ailes took Murdoch’s place.

“Obama lit into Ailes. He said that he didn’t want to waste his time talking to Ailes if Fox was just going to continue to abuse him and his wife, that Fox had relentlessly portrayed him as suspicious, foreign, fearsome – just short of a terrorist,” he wrote.

“Ailes, unruffled, said it might not have been this way if Obama had more willingly come on the air instead of so often giving Fox the back of his hand.

“A tentative truce, which may or may not have vast historical significance, was at that moment agreed upon.”

In the Vanity Fair article Wolff also claimed that Murdoch advised him to vote for Obama during the democratic primaries.

“Just before the New York Democratic primary, when I found myself undecided between Clinton and Obama, I said to Murdoch (a little flirtation, like a little gossip, softens him), ‘Rupert, I don’t know who to vote for – so I’m going to give you my vote. You choose’,” he wrote.

“He paused, considered, nodded his head slowly: ‘Obama – he’ll sell more papers.'”

Murdoch courting Obama marks something of role reversal from the mid-1990s, when UK prime minister-in-waiting Tony Blair actively courted Murdoch as part of his bid for power.

“This is a leap for Murdoch. Murdoch has traditionally liked politicians to come to him. His historic shift in the 1990s to Tony Blair came after Blair made a pilgrimage to Australia,” wrote Wolff.

“Obama, on the other hand, was snubbing Murdoch. Every time he reached out (Murdoch executives tried to get the Kennedys to help smooth the way to an introduction), nothing. The Fox stain was on Murdoch.”

However, the “Fox stain”, as Wolff calls it, does not appear to be one that Murdoch is so comfortable with any more.

Wolff wrote that the influence of Murdoch’s wife Wendi and the courting of more liberal figures in the media has raised a conflict in the News Corp founder, as he would love to build on his purchase of the Wall Street Journal by taking over the New York Times.

“He is spending time now in consideration of an even more far-fetched fantasy, the New York Times: he’d really like to own it too,” Wolff added.

“Now, everybody around him continues to tell him that buying the Times is pretty much impossible. There will be regulatory problems. The Sulzberger family would never … And then there’s the opprobrium of public opinion.

“But it’s obviously irresistible to him. I’ve watched him go through the numbers, plot out a merger with the Journal’s backroom operations, and fantasise about the staff’s quitting en masse as soon as he entered the sacred temple.”

This increasing desire to move for titles away from his traditional right-of-centre political power base is mirrored by a cooling toward Fox News Channel, according to Wolff.

“It’s life with Wendi versus life with Fox. (And, too, it’s the Wall Street Journal – and maybe the New York Times – versus Fox),” he wrote in Vanity Fair.

“Fox has been his alter ego. For a long time he was in love with the Fox chief, Roger Ailes, because he was even more Murdoch than Murdoch. And yet now the embarrassment can’t be missed – he mumbles even more than usual when called on to justify it; he barely pretends to hide the way he feels about [Fox presenter] Bill O’Reilly.

“And while it is not possible that he would give Fox up – because the money is the money; success trumps all – in the larger sense of who he is, he seems to want to hedge his bets.”

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Town Residents Protest Police Taser Abuse

KOMU | Aug 29, 2008

by Brandon Lewis

COLUMBIA – Dozens of Moberly residents protested the death of Stanley Harlan Firday night.

Moberly police Tased Harlan twice two nights ago after they say he resisted arrest. But protesters have a different story. They say Moberly officers used excessive force and do so frequently.

They call Harlan’s death the final straw and say some form of disciplinary action needs to be taken.

“I want the brutality, excessive force, the harassment, that the Moberly Police Department puts on these young people to come to an end,” said mother Anthena Bachteo.

“I just want him home, I just want him to go home,” said Bachteo.

In a phone interview tonight, Police Commander Kevin Palmatory says the excessive force accusations in the Harlan case are false.

The investigation is now in the hands of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Surveillance Society Sparks Psychosis

People think they are being watched…

Wired | Aug 29, 2008

By Kim Zetter

If you think someone is watching you, you’re probably right. But this doesn’t mean you’re not also crazy, according to psychiatrists who say that our surveillance and reality TV society is spawning a new kind of psychosis. They’re calling it the Truman Show delusion.

Psychiatrists in the U.S. and Britain say they’re seeing a growing number of psychotic patients who are paranoid that cameras are watching their every move.

Not sure why they might think this.

Others fear the World Wide Web is monitoring their lives or being used to transmit photographs or personal information.

The psychiatrists say such patients are often mirroring — albeit, to an extreme — what is occurring in the environment around them.

One way of looking at the delusions and hallucinations of the mentally ill is that they represent extreme cases of what the general population, or the merely neurotic, are worried about. Schizophrenics and other paranoid patients can take common fears – like identity theft because of information transmitted on the Internet, or the loss of privacy because of the prevalence of security cameras to fight crime – and magnify them, psychiatrists say.

Which would seem to suggest that these patients might not be so delusional after all.

‘Smart’ surveillance systems to be set up in Pennsylvania cities

Allegheny County Emergency Services chief Bob Full (back right) explains the Emergency Management Visualization System to Sen. Arlen Specter (second from right) Friday in the courtyard of the Allegheny County Courthouse, Downtown. James Knox/Tribune-Review

Beware: Allegheny County is planning to keep an electronic eye out for you.

“The cameras work best when everyone knows they are being watched.”

TRIBUNE-REVIEW | Aug 30, 2008

By Mark Houser


County Emergency Services Chief Bob Full said Friday that $750,000 in a pending federal appropriations bill would help pay for as many as 40 remote-controlled cameras to watch for crimes and monitor emergencies.

“We want to keep (criminals) guessing, but we want them to also know that we are watching them in critical areas,” he said.

Cameras could be moved as needed and would be monitored and controlled from the department’s Point Breeze headquarters, Full said. Images could be relayed to police officers responding to an incident and shown on their in-car computers, he said.

The planned system will include 64 cameras the county already has, as well as 64 sensors that sniff the air for traces of chemicals and radioactive materials.

The closed-circuit wireless surveillance network could include microphones that detect the sound of a gunshot and alert dispatchers, said Sen. Arlen Specter. He said images caught by cameras would be an aid in prosecuting crimes.

“A picture is worth a thousand lawyers,” Specter said.

In all, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved more than $2 million for police surveillance in Pennsylvania. Besides the county money, the funding bill includes $250,000 to put 53 cameras in Pittsburgh, and similar projects for cameras in Allentown, Williamsport and York.

The bill must pass the full Senate and be signed into law before any money is available. The county has budgeted $250,000 for the project, Full said, and he is seeking additional money to expand the system’s capabilities.

Philadelphia is building a $10 million surveillance network with 250 cameras that the city hopes to have operating by the end of the year.

A 2006 pilot project there led to a 13 percent reduction in crime overall in the areas under surveillance, according to a Temple University study.

The cameras work best when everyone knows they are being watched, said the study’s author, Jerry Ratcliffe.

“If you make (criminals) move to another location, it’s often a worse location for committing crime, so that’s a good thing,” Ratcliffe said.

Full said the planned surveillance system, to be built by August Systems of Morgantown, W.Va., eventually could include security cameras owned by universities, PennDOT and private companies.

“It is scalable, and it can grow. And this is what we need to do in the future: We need to use technology as our best defense,” Full said.

Deputies taser mentally ill inmate twice in court

Associated Press | Aug 30, 2008

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – Broward County deputies shocked a mentally ill inmate with Tasers in court after the man asked deputies for a few minutes to catch his breath before he was led from the courtroom.

Assistant Public Defender Anne LeMaster said deputies told 22-year-old inmate David Jones it was time to go Friday. When he resisted, they shocked him twice. Jones had just been found mentally incapable to stand trial and was ordered transferred to a state mental hospital.

The public defender’s office says the deputies used excessive force and filed a complaint with the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Jones was handcuffed and shackled.

The sheriff’s office says they will investigate

Clones’ offspring “may have” entered the US food supply

Reuters | Sep 2, 2008

By Christopher Doering

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Food and milk from the offspring of cloned animals may have entered the U.S. food supply, the U.S. government said on Tuesday, but it would be impossible to know because there is no difference between cloned and conventional products [according to the FDA].

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said in January meat and milk from cloned cattle, swine and goats and their offspring were as safe as products from traditional animals. Before then, farmers and ranchers had followed a voluntary moratorium on the sale of clones and their offspring.

While the FDA evaluated the safety of food from clones and their offspring, the U.S. Agriculture Department was in charge of managing the transition of these animals into the food supply.

“It is theoretically possible” offspring from clones are in the food supply, said Siobhan DeLancey, an FDA spokeswoman.

Cloning animals involves taking the nuclei of cells from adults and fusing them into egg cells that are implanted into a surrogate mother. There are an estimated 600 cloned animals in the United States.

Proponents, including the Biotechnology Industry Organization, say cloning is a way to create more disease-resistant animals that produce more milk and better meat. The cloning industry and the FDA say cloned animals and their offspring are as safe as their traditional counterparts.

Critics contend not enough is known about the technology to ensure it is safe, and they also say the FDA needs to address concerns over animal cruelty and ethical issues.

“It worries me that this technology is out of control in so many ways,” said Charles Margulis, a spokesman with the Center for Environmental Health. The possibility of offspring being in the food supply “is just another element of that,” he said.

Continued…

Thai government tries to shut down 400 websites

Guardian | Sep 3, 2008

By Oliver Luft
Thailand’s Information and Communications Technology Ministry sought court orders yesterday to shut down about 400 websites and advised internet service providers to block 1,200 sites it considers a danger to national security or disturbing social order.

ICT minister Mun Patanotai said the department had advised ISPs to immediately block these websites, which it claimed were detected between March and August this year, and had sought court actions against them under article 20 of Thailand’s Computer Crime Act.

The Bangkok Post reported yesterday that the ministry claimed the sites “disturbed the peaceful social order and morality of the people, and/or which were considered detrimental to national security”.

This move to shut down online dissent follows the Thai authorities’ declaration of a state of emergency yesterday as thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to demand the government’s resignation.

Thai prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, announced sweeping curbs to civil liberties to maintain calm, after which the ICT Ministry said it had detected more than 1,200 websites that violated the Computer Crime Act.

In addition, a Thai court issued three orders to shut down about 400 websites, 344 of which, it claimed, carried material that was contemptuous of the country’s royal family. The other blocked websites included two with religious content, one video sex game and five sites deemed to carry obscene content.

The ICT ministry, the Bangkok Post reported, also sought help from the police to “bring all the violators to trial”.

Samak gave the army power to restore order on the streets of Bangkok yesterday after fighting started between his supporters and those demanding he quit.

One demonstrator was killed and dozens were injured during the worst violence seen since anti-government campaigns began in May.

The present crisis started just over a week ago as members of the People’s Alliance for Democracy took over government buildings in an attempt to try to force the Thai government to stand down.

Australian faces 15 years for insulting Thai royal family

Australian arrested in Thailand for lese-majeste

Faces up to 15 years in prison

Reuters | Sep 3, 2008

BANGKOK (Reuters) – An Australian writer has been arrested in Thailand and faces a lese-majeste charge for publishing a novel deemed defamatory to the country’s royal family, police and the Australian embassy said on Wednesday.

An embassy official identified the man as a 41-year-old from Melbourne and police named him as Harry Nicolaides, who was unaware there was an arrest warrant out for him when he tried to fly out from Bangkok to Australia on Sunday.

“An arrest warrant was issued in March for a book he wrote in 2005 deemed defamatory to the crown prince,” Police Lieutenant-Colonel Boonlert Kalayanamit told Reuters.

He has been charged with lese-majeste, a crime that can carry a 15-year jail sentence in Thailand, and was being held at a remand prison pending further interviews, Boonlert said.

Nicolaides, a regular visitor to Thailand and briefly a resident, when he taught English and wrote for Australian newspapers, had not been granted bail, police said.

Police identified the novel in question as “Verisimilitude”, described in publicity dated June 2005 on the phuket-info.com website as a “trenchant commentary on the political and social life of contemporary Thailand”.

Thailand teeters on the brink under military rule

Asia Times | Sep 2, 2008

By Shawn W Crispin

BANGKOK – Thailand is once again effectively under military rule after Prime Minister and Defense Minister Samak Sundaravej declared a state of emergency for the capital Bangkok in response to pro- and anti-government group clashes early on Tuesday morning. At least one person was killed and dozens injured in the pre-dawn melee.

The emergency move came after a joint sitting of parliament over the weekend failed to arrive at a compromise solution to the escalating conflict. Samak has said the move towards martial law will be temporary and is aimed at preserving democracy and restoring order. He formally issued the order from a military facility rather than the Prime Minister’s Office, which is now besieged by protesters.

Army commander General Anupong Paochinda will lead an emergency committee that includes the national police chief and civilian members tasked with dispersing the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) from its encampment around Government House, where it has been positioned since August 26 after launching coordinated attacks on different state buildings in Bangkok. Anupong told Thai reporters on Tuesday afternoon that he would not use force, that he planned to negotiate with the PAD and that the emergency decree would not include a curfew.

Samak also vowed in his address to disperse a group of pro-government protesters, which coalesced over the weekend wearing red to confront the yellow-cloaked PAD. PAD supporters contend the pro-government group was organized by Samak, and not organically, as other officials have claimed. One of Samak’s “war room” advisors was seen with the pro-government group at Bangkok’s Sanam Luang park early on Monday evening, before they marched to confront the PAD.

News reports showed protesters armed with clubs, knifes and slingshots and images of bloodied bodies scattered in the streets on Tuesday. A PAD leader claimed that one of the group’s followers was shot by a pro-government protester during the chaotic clashes, according to news reports. At least two others were shot and the police allegedly allowed the pro-government group to encircle the PAD at government house without intervening .

More bloodshed and political confusion could come from a highly anticipated Election Commission ruling that could disband Samak’s ruling People’s Power Party (PPP)on electoral fraud charges. That politicized decision would potentially open the way for the opposition Democrat Party, which has tacitly backed the PAD protests, to form a new coalition government, but would also likely fuel the fires of the pro-government protest group which rampaged through Bangkok’s streets early on Tuesday morning.

Even with Samak’s announcement of the emergency decree, which legally bans public gatherings of over five people and allows authorities to censor media they perceive as inciting violence, the PAD has vowed to stay put and continue with its live broadcast protests over ASTV, a satellite station owned by PAD co-leader and media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul. He has announced plans to hold regular interviews with the foreign press to counteract the government’s interpretation of recent events.

PAD protesters have orchestrated massive economic disruption across the country, including strategic closures of major transport infrastructure. State employees sympathetic to PAD labor leader Somsak Kosaisuk have paralyzed railway services in the southern regions. Others blocked access to three southern airports in the beach tourism heartland, temporarily causing them to shut down services. Protesters had also threatened to cut off water and electricity to government offices in the capital city.

The economic cost of the chaos is expected to mount as foreign investors head for the exit. The head of research of one major investment bank told Asia Times Online that his foreign clients now perceived the country as “ungovernable” and were quickly moving to unwind their Thai positions. “Thailand’s politics were already viewed as chaotic and the latest events have pushed that perception over the edge. The country is now seen as a verifiable basket case.”

Full Story

British spy helped speed up USSR’s atomic bomb program

“The Bolshevik of Bexleyheath”, Melita Norwood was the longest lasting Soviet spy in British history and that country’s most important female operative Photo: PA

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MI5 cleared ‘KGB spy’ to work on UK’s nuke programme
British intelligence agency MI5 cleared a “KGB spy”, who leaked the country’s nuclear secrets to Moscow, to work on the strategic programme despite knowing about her “links” with the erstwhile Soviet Union, a new book has revealed.

Melita Norwood, the “granny spy” who passed Britain’s nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, helped speed up Stalin’s atomic bomb programme by five years, according to a controversial new biography.

Telegraph | Aug 31, 2008

By Chris Hastings, Public Affairs Editor

Norwood, a committed Communist who began spying for Moscow in the 1930s, handed over technical information which provided Russian scientists with a crucial breakthrough.

Her contribution allowed them to overcome problems, which blocked the development of their nuclear reactors and led directly to the USSR exploding its bomb in 1949 – years earlier than would otherwise have been the case.

The claims are made in a new book – The Spy Who Came in From the Co-op – written by David Burke, a friend of Norwood’s who interviewed her extensively in the years leading up to her death in 2005.

The author states her contribution to Russia’s nuclear bomb programme was at least as great as that made by Klaus Fuchs, a member of the Anglo-American nuclear research team who handed over plans to the Russians in the mid 1940s and is considered one of the Soviet Union’s most effective spies.

Mr Burke also claims that Norwood recruited a spy in 1967, codenamed “Hunt” who continued to work for Moscow until 1981.

The revelations will prove highly embarrassing for the Government, which sought to play down Norwood’s role in press briefings after she was unmasked as a spy in 1999. The briefings were used to justify the Government’s refusal to prosecute her.

Norwood was recruited by the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB, in 1934 by Andrew Rothstein, one of the founders of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and began actively working for the cause two years later.

In the mid-1940s, she was working as a secretary to the director of the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association, the body which was responsible for Britain’s secret atom bomb programme.

The breakthrough for her and the Russians came when she was given access to research work relating to a theory about the corrosive nature of uranium at high temperatures.

Mr Burke told The Sunday Telegraph: “The information provided by Melita was invaluable to the Russians and speeded up their nuclear bomb programme by five years. They had Fuchs’ designs but they didn’t have the uranium because they couldn’t control the uranium inside the reactor, as it was subject to creep and corrosions.

“Without the reactor you cannot enrich uranium or extract plutonium. The British team had been working successfully on the same issue since 1941 and this is the material Melita handed to the Russians.”

In his book, which will be published in October, Mr Burke says Norwood was “groomed” for a life in espionage by her highly political mother Gertrude, who also spied for Moscow. In the 1930s Gertrude set up a safe house for the Soviets’ network of radio operators in the UK.

The security services were suspicious of Melita’s Communist sympathies and seemed to have opened a file on her in the 1930s. However, officials failed to take any further action, even when her name was linked to the creation of a spy network at Woolwich Arsenal in 1938.

Contrary to official claims that Norwood was effectively rendered inoperable by the British security services in the early 1950s, when details of her work was uncovered, Mr Burke maintains that she carried on working successful for Moscow until her retirement in the early 1970s.

An historian who specialises in eastern European political emigres, Mr Burke first met Norwood in 1997, when he was researching the work of her father Alexander Sirnis, a Latvian.

He had no idea that Norwood, who lived in south London, was a spy until she was outed on the front pages of newspapers in 1999. She was nicknamed the Bolshevik of Bexleyheath.

He said: “I was travelling by coach to see her in 1999 and had to get off at Milton Keynes to change to another bus. I went into the shop to by a paper and there she was staring out from the front pages. I rang her and she said you better come next week I have been a rather a naughty girl and there are a lot of press at my front door.

“When I met her the following week she was still in a state of shock. She said: ‘I thought I’d gotten away with it.”

Mr Burke added: “Melita was not a hard line Stalinist. She was an emotional Communist and quite naive. She thought what she was doing was for the benefit of the entire world.

“She thought of Stalin in those early days as a sort of Clement Attlee figure. When she became (politically) active in the 1930s, Russia was seen by many people as the only nation capable of defeating the Nazis.
“She once said to me she didn’t agree with spying against one’s country. She said her purpose had been to keep Russia abreast.”

However, the book also reveals that Norwood herself recruited at least one spy to work for Russia. She declined to identify her recruit.

Mr Burke says Norwood had little time for the new generation of spies and their working methods which became Cold War lore.

“She didn’t like what she called the “playboy spies”. She also had no time for things like honeytraps. She believed in doing things the old-fashioned way.”

Professor Christopher Andrew, the official historian for MI5 who has written the forward to the new book said there was no doubt that the Russians thought she was a significant operator.

“Melita was the longest lasting Soviet spy in British history and that country’s most important female operative. How important particular pieces of information is often in the ears of the beholder. But the point is that the Russians thought what she was doing was very important and they told her so.”

The Spy Who Came In From the Co-op will be published by Boydell and Brewster on 17 October priced £18.99

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