Daily Archives: January 28, 2009

Don’t call us ‘dogs’: Indian ‘slum dwellers’ riot over Slumdog Millionaire film


Residents of a nearby slum demonstrate outside the office of Bollywood actor Anil Kapoor, one of the main casts of the movie Slumdog Millionaire, demanding that the name of the film be changed

Daily Mail | Jan 27, 2009

Slum dwellers objecting to the word ‘dog’ in the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ have attacked a cinema hall.

Protesters tore down posters and ransacked a movie theatre showing the rags-to- riches tale of a Mumbai slum dweller.

Hundreds of slum dwellers shouted slogans saying the film’s title was humiliating and must be changed for protests to end.

Tateshwar Vishwakarma, a social activist said: ‘Referring to people living in slums as dogs is a violation of human rights.’

‘We will burn Danny Boyle (the film’s director) effigies in 56 slums here’

Police said they have deployed armed police outside cinemas in the state to thwart any further attacks in eastern Indian state Bihar.

Last week, Vishwakarma filed a case against an actor, the music director and two other people associated with ‘Slumdog’ in a local court.

The case will be heard in a Patna court on February 5th, police said.

Simon Beaufoy, the screenwriter, said last week: ‘I just made up the word. I liked the idea. I didn’t mean to offend anyone.’

The hit film has been nominated for 10 Oscars and won top prize at the Screen Actors Guild over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the parents of actors Rubina Ali and Azharuddin Ismail have accused producers of exploiting and underpaying the child stars.

Boyle recently revealed that he has set up trust funds as well as paying for the education of the eight-year-olds.

But it has since emerged that the children, who play young couple Latika and Salim, were only paid a total of £2,100.

Ali was only given £500 while Ismail received £1,700 for their roles, which took a year to film, the Daily Telegraph has reported.

The pair currently live a few hundred yards from each other in makeshift shacks along Mumbai’s railway tracks.

But their parents hoped the film deal would be a way out of living in squalor.

Ismail’s father has claimed that they never received any details of the trust fund.

Mohamed Ismail told the Telegraph: ‘We feel that the kids have been left behind by the fill. They have told us there is a trust fund but we know nothing about it and have no guarantees.’

Ali’s father, Rafiq Ali Kureshi added: ‘I am very happy the movie is doing well but it is making so much money and so much fame and the money they paid us is nothing.

‘They should pay us more.’

Boyle  released a statement confirming he had carried out the agreed financial arrangements for the children.

He said: ‘The children had never attended school and in consultation with their parents we agreed that this would be our priority.’

‘Since June 2008 and at our expense, both kids have been attending school and they are flourishing under the tutelage if their dedicated and committed teachers.

‘Financial resources have been made available for their education until they are 18.’

Iraq Communists campaign with vigor

The Communist Party doesn’t have much of a chance in elections Saturday, but its candidates see an opportunity to woo voters unhappy with sectarian politics and wary of freewheeling capitalism.

LA Times | Jan 28, 2009

By Tina Susman and Raheem Salman

Reporting from Baghdad — “Comrade, come in,” the man said, ushering a visitor into the lobby of Iraqi Communist Party headquarters.

Across the busy intersection, a banner stretched across a newly renovated building promised the imminent opening of American fast-food restaurants, including “Kentacky Fried Chicken.” Throughout the capital, portraits of Imam Hussein were omnipresent, reminders of a Shiite Muslim pilgrimage commemorating his death in AD 680.

In a nation where religious parties dominate and many people dream of a wealthy life in the West, it’s not easy being a Communist. But that doesn’t seem to worry the enthusiastic comrades buzzing about the party’s sprawling four-story headquarters.

After decades on the sidelines or behind bars, they are banking on disenchantment with the religious parties now in power, and a wariness of freewheeling Western capitalism, to lift their fortunes in provincial elections Saturday.

“In the past five years, the people have begun to understand that these political parties failed to achieve what people were hoping for,” said Abdul Munim Jabber Hadi, wearing a blood-red tie and gray suit as he prepared to go out campaigning Sunday.

Hadi is one of 27 Communist Party candidates vying for seats on Baghdad’s 57-member provincial council. He is not expecting most of his fellow Communists to prove victorious.

The party won two seats on the council four years ago in the last provincial elections, and the 275-member national parliament has two Communists. So it will take time to build power, explained Hadi, an exuberant man with a thick gray mustache.

“We’re in the process of building the new Iraqi state,” he continued, as he sipped tea and waited for his volunteer pamphleteers to show up. Across the room, a white-haired man was discussing his years in the former Czechoslovakia and opining about President Obama’s plans for repairing the U.S. economy.

Conversations laced with reminiscences are common among party members, many of whom spent years in exile or prison under a succession of repressive Iraqi regimes.

Mohammed Jassim Labban, a member of the party’s Central Committee, was studying social sciences in Moscow when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. “It was very hurtful,” he said, grimacing at the memory of statues of Lenin being yanked down.

Hadi, once a professional soccer player, spent four years in prison on charges of trying to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime. He speaks proudly of his mother, who urged him to stick to his principles, even if it meant death by hanging. “That’s my mother,” he said with a chuckle. “She was a strong believer.”

Both blame the collapse of the Soviet empire on an overly rigid interpretation of socialist ideas.

“We believe that Marxist theories are not sacred. Nothing is sacred in politics,” said Labban, insisting that Iraq’s Communists would not force people into collective farming or impose state control over the economy.

Just what they would do if they gained power remains vague. Like most of the parties fielding candidates — about 14,500 people are running — the Communists speak of improving electrical service, creating jobs, ending corruption and wiping out sectarianism, without saying how they would accomplish their goals.

Labban pointed to the United States’ financial problems as proof that “wild capitalism,” as Hadi called it, is not the answer. “We’re not gloating, but we expected such a crisis, because the system was set up that way,” Labban said.

The Communists have their own economic woes. They depend on private contributions to fund their campaigns. They can’t afford TV ads, so they hit the streets to spread their message.

Hadi, who gives $20 a month to the party, goes out daily to bellow through a bullhorn that the Communists are the “party of the poor” and of “the hard-working people.”

On Sunday, he visited the Shorja market, a chaotic, mile-long strip lined by tall, crumbling apartment blocks dark with grime. As he marched down the street shouting hoarsely, volunteers wearing yellow jerseys with black lettering fluttered around like giant bumblebees. They thrust Communist Party literature at vendors and shoppers, dodging donkey-drawn carts and wooden wheelbarrows pushed by skinny young men moving tomatoes and space heaters.

To get here from the party office, Hadi hailed a taxi. His volunteers crammed into a minivan. There were no visible signs of security.

Two Communist Party politicians have been killed in the northern semiautonomous region of Kurdistan since Dec. 18. In the days before the January 2005 provincial elections, two Communist Party members in Baghdad were assassinated. But Hadi didn’t seem concerned for his safety and was brimming with energy as he barreled through the crowded market at midday. The working-class Iraqis operating the stalls are the people the Communists hope to lure away from the bigger parties.

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Whistleblower Says NSA Monitors Everybody, Targets Reporters and Dissidents

Massive dragnet sweeps up communications metadata, and financial records, while targets have all of their communications recorded

Daily Tech | Jan 27, 2009

by Steve Guilliot

small_all-seeing-eyeIn a scenario that sounds like the ramblings of a conspiracy theorist, former NSA analyst and now-whistleblower Russell Tice unveiled a massive NSA spying and wiretap program, which he claims vacuumed up an astonishing amount of communications and financial data on journalists and innocent Americans.

The program, which he claims is a remnant of the defunded 2003 “Total Information Awareness” initiative, swept up metadata (call length, envelope information, and so on) on nearly all forms of communications in the United States, as well as full communications logs for targets selected through analysis and other methods.

Tice, who previously helped shed light on the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping facilities at AT&T switching offices, said in a Wednesday interview with MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann that the NSA “had access to all Americans’ communications — faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications.”

“It didn’t matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications.”

While working for the NSA, Tice says he was tasked with looking at U.S. news, reporting, and journalist organizations, specifically for the purpose of excluding them from NSA analysis. According to Tice, however, that order was just a cover story for something completely opposite. The news organizations he targeted were instead monitored by the NSA “24/7 and 365 days a year.”

“I started to investigate that. That’s about the time when they came after me to fire me,” he said.

“This bait and switch idea, the ‘this is the discard pile, we’re not going to look at the media’ [where] it becomes apparent to you that the ‘discard’ pile is in fact the ‘save’ pile… how did that become apparent to you?” asked Olbermann.

“Well, as I was going for support for [a] particular organization, and it sort of was dropped to me that, you know, ‘this is done 24/7’,” replied Tice. “I would say, ‘I need collection at this time, at this point, for a window of time,’ and I would say, ‘will we have the capability at this particular point?’ in positioning assets.”

“I was ultimately told, ‘we don’t have to worry about that, because we’ve got it covered all the time.’ That’s when it clicked in my head that this was not being on a one-sy basis … this is something that’s happening all the time,” he said.

In a follow-up interview aired Thursday, Tice revealed that the communications data was then “married in” with financial records and credit card transactions.

“Throwing that information in too… your credit card records, where you spent your money … do you have any idea what this stuff was used for?” asked Olbermann.

“The obvious explanation would be, if you did have a potential terrorist, you’d want to know where they’re spending money, whether they purchased an airline ticket, that sort of thing,” Tice replied.

Using criteria designed for catching terrorist-like activity – at one point, Tice speculated that if terrorists make short, 1- to 2- minute calls, then this might be a red flag applied to all such calls, such as “ordering pizza” – tens of thousands of innocent Americans were snagged into the system.

“This is garnered from algorithms that have been put together to try to just dream up scenarios that might be … associated with how a terrorist could operate,” said Tice on Thursday. “If someone just talked about the daily news and mentioned something about the Middle East, they could easily be brought to the forefront of having that little flag put by their name that says potential terrorist.”

Drawn up from anyone with a red flag, the combined communications and financial data could sit with a person for years, digitized and warehoused away. “Then all the sudden it marries up with something else 10 years from now, and they get put on a no-fly list [without having] a clue why,” explained Tice.

In most cases, spied-upon Americans didn’t do anything overtly suspicious to trigger surveillance.

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Recession is the birth pangs of a New Global Order, says Brown

Britain Apprenticeship Awards

New World Order man. Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown gives a speech in front of a painting of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth I at 10 Downing Street in London, Monday, Jan. 26, 2009. AP Photo by Kirsty Wigglesworth

Daily Mail | Jan 27, 2009

By Kirsty Walker

Gordon Brown has insisted that the recession was just the ‘difficult birth pangs of a new global order’.

As a poll showed more voters are turning against him, the Prime Minister warned that countries must see the financial crisis as the chance to forge a new financial system.

Setting the scene for April’s G20 talks in London, Mr Brown said: ‘If what happens to a bank in one country can within minutes have devastating effects for banks on a different continent, then only a truly international response of policy and governance can be effective.’

He said current ‘threats and challenges’ to the world economy should be seen as ‘the difficult birth pangs of a new global order’.

‘Our task now is nothing less than making the transition to a new internationalism with the benefits of an expanding global economy, not muddling through as pessimists, but making the necessary adjustment to a better future and setting new rules for this new global order’, he said.

Mr Brown and Chancellor Alistair Darling are aware the G20 summit of developing countries and business leaders on April 4, could decide further stimulus measures that could alter the of this year’s Budget. The Prime Ministeris pinning his hopes on other countries, in particular the U.S., following Britain’s lead by pumping cash into their economies.

The Treasury rejected suggestions that Mr Darling is already working on a third economic rescue. Ministers want to give the Government time to see if its £410billion rescue plan has had any impact on the economy. But a poll last night found most voters believe Labour’s attempts to kick-start the economy are doomed to failure.

The Guardian/ICM poll found that two-thirds of voters believe that the banking bailout packages will achieve nothing or make things worse.

It also shows more signs that David Cameron has seen off the ‘Brown bounce’. The Conservatives have opened up a 12-point margin on 44 per cent, up six on last month, while Labour is on 32 and the Liberal Democrats are on 16.

The poll, carried out after last week’s bank bailouts and sharp falls in share values, found that public confidence in Labour’s economic team has plunged by 11 per cent since November, with the Conservatives seen as more trusted on the economy by a margin of two points.

There is support for the VAT cut (63 per cent) and a programme of public works (85 per cent). But only 43 per cent support the decision to buy large stakes in some banks and only 40 per cent back outright nationalisation. Voters are slightly more enthusiastic about Labour attempts to underwrite bank lending, backed by 52 per cent.

If the poll were replicated at a General Election, the Tories would win 360 seats – a majority of 70. The LibDems will be disturbed by their fall to the lowest level in any ICM poll since August.

Plan to reinvent Masonic oasis


Freemason Hall on Great Queen Street. The initiative, apparently based on old masonic plans to enhance their base, aims to encourage people to walk in the area.

Guardian | Jan 28, 2009

By Sam Jones

London’s attempts to increase its share of pleasant plazas will continue with the creation of a new, tree-fringed public square in the middle of the capital this summer.

Sitting at the junction with Drury Lane, near Covent Garden, Great Queen Street will be transformed into an “oasis” under new plans to improve the urban environment and get more people walking.

The thoroughfare was built in the 1600s as a private royal lane to allow Queen Anne, wife of James I, to pass secretly through to Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It became the headquarters of the freemasons in the 30s when Freemason Hall was built. The street and the building featured in Dan Brown’s bestseller, The Da Vinci Code.

The initiative, apparently based on old masonic plans to enhance their base, aims to encourage people to walk in the area.

The pavements will be widened and laid with Yorkstone, and step-free crossings built. Westminster councillor Danny Chalkley said the plans aimed to renew the West End ahead of 2012 and make walking around the centre of London easier and more enjoyable.

Obama’s Neocon


Obama listens as Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, speaks at the State Department in Washington January 22, 2009. Reuters

The Curious Case of Richard Holbrooke

ZMAG | Jan 24, 2009

By Joshua Frank

In wee morning hours on Friday, January 23, a U.S. spy plane killed at least 15 in Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. It was Barack Obama’s first blood and the U.S.’s first violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty under the new dministration. The attack was an early sign that the newly minted president may not be overhauling the War on Terror this week, or even next.

As the U.S. government fired upon alleged terrorists in the rugged outback of Pakistan, Obama was back in Washington appointing Richard Holbrooke as a special U.S. representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan. Unfortunately, like the remote control bombing that claimed human life, Obama’s vision for the region, in the embodiment of Holbrooke, may not be a drastic departure from the failed Bush doctrine. Or a departure at all.

“[Holbrooke] is one of the most talented diplomats of his generation,” Obama said during a January 22 press conference at the State Department. In his speech Obama declared that both Afghanistan and Pakistan will be the “central front” in the War on Terror. “There, as in the Middle East, we must understand that we cannot deal with our problems in isolation,” he said.

In 1975, during Gerald Ford’s administration, Indonesia invaded East Timor and slaughtered 200,000 indigenous Timorese. The Indonesian invasion of East Timor set the stage for a long and bloody occupation that recently ended after an international peacekeeping force was introduced in 1999.

Transcripts of meetings among Indonesian dictator Mohamed Suharto, Gerald Ford, and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger have shown conclusively that Kissinger and Ford authorized and encouraged Suhatro’s murderous actions. “We will understand and will not press you on the issue [of East Timor],” said President Ford in a meeting with Suharto and Kissinger in early December 1975, days before Suharto’s bloodbath. “We understand the problem and the intentions you have,” he added.

Henry Kissinger also stressed at the meeting that “the use of US-made arms could create problems,” but then added, “It depends on how we construe it; whether it is in self defense or is a foreign operation.” Thus, Kissinger’s concern was not about whether US arms would be used offensively, but whether the act could be interpreted as illegal. Kissinger went on: “It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.”

After Gerald Ford’s loss and Jimmy Carter’s ascendance into the White House in 1976, Indonesia requested additional arms to continue its brutal occupation, even though there was a supposed ban on arms trades to Suharto’s government. It was Carter’s appointee to the Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Richard Holbrooke, now a likely candidate to be nominated for Clinton’s Secretary of State, who authorized additional arms shipments to Indonesia during this supposed blockade. Many scholars have noted that this was the period when the Indonesian suppression of the Timorese reached genocidal levels.

During his testimony before Congress in February 1978, Professor Benedict Anderson cited a report that proved there was never an US arms ban, and that during the period of the alleged ban the US initiated new offers of military weaponry to the Indonesians:

“If we are curious as to why the Indonesians never felt the force of the U.S. government’s ‘anguish,’ the answer is quite simple. In flat contradiction to express statements by General Fish, Mr. Oakley and Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Richard Holbrooke, at least four separate offers of military equipment were made to the Indonesian government during the January-June 1976 ‘administrative suspension.’ This equipment consisted mainly of supplies and parts for OV-10 Broncos, Vietnam War era planes designed for counterinsurgency operations against adversaries without effective anti-aircraft weapons, and wholly useless for defending Indonesia from a foreign enemy. The policy of supplying the Indonesian regime with Broncos, as well as other counterinsurgency-related equipment has continued without substantial change from the Ford through the present Carter administrations.”

If we track Holbrooke’s recent statements, the disturbing symbiosis between him and figures like uberhawk Paul Wolfowitz is startling.

“In an unguarded moment just before the 2000 election, Richard Holbrooke opened a foreign policy speech with a fawning tribute to his host, Paul Wolfowitz, who was then the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington,” reported First of the Month following the terrorist attacks in 2001.

The article continued: “Holbrooke, a senior adviser to Al Gore, was acutely aware that either he or Wolfowitz would be playing important roles in next administration. Looking perhaps to assure the world of the continuity of US foreign policy, he told his audience that Wolfowitz’s ‘recent activities illustrate something that’s very important about American foreign policy in an election year, and that is the degree to which there are still common themes between the parties.’ The example he chose to illustrate his point was East Timor, which was invaded and occupied in 1975 by Indonesia with US weapons – a security policy backed and partly shaped by Holbrooke and Wolfowitz. ‘Paul and I,’ he said, ‘have been in frequent touch to make sure that we keep [East Timor] out of the presidential campaign, where it would do no good to American or Indonesian interests.”

In sum, Holbrooke has worked vigorously to keep his bloody campaign silent. The results of which appear to have paid off. In chilling words, Holbrooke describes the motivations behind support of Indonesia’s genocidal actions:

“The situation in East Timor is one of the number of very important concerns of the United States in Indonesia. Indonesia, with a population of 150 million people, is the fifth largest nation in the world, is a moderate member of the Non-Aligned Movement, is an important oil producer — which plays a moderate role within OPEC — and occupies a strategic position astride the sea lanes between the Pacific and Indian Oceans … We highly value our cooperative relationship with Indonesia.”

This January is 18th coldest in 139 years in Western New York

Buffalo News | Jan 27, 2009

By Gene Warner

Are you starting to feel that this is an historically cold January?

Well, you’re right, and now the National Weather Service has the numbers to prove it.

So far, with five days to go, this has been the 18th coldest January in the last 139 years.

For the record, the average daily January temperature, through Sunday, was 18.7 degrees.

And there’s nothing in this week’s forecast to change that finger-numbing pattern in the next few days. The National Weather Service is calling for overnight lows in the teens and daytime highs in the 20s through the rest of the week.

And here’s more good news: Forecasters are now predicting that the region could see an additional 6 inches of snow overnight tonight.

It’s all making for a memorably miserable month.

“We don’t see a big January thaw coming,” meteorologist Tom Niziol said. “Based on the forecast for the rest of the week, this almost guarantees that we’ll be in the top 20 for the coldest January.”

Niziol, working with National Weather Service statistical guru Dave Sage, used each day’s average daily temperature — the average of the day’s high and low temperatures — and then took the monthly average of those daily numbers.

The coldest January on record?

The blizzard year, 1977, when the average daily January temperature was a frigid 13.8 degrees. The warmest was 1932, when the average January temperature was 37.2 degrees.

The top five coldest Januarys in the Buffalo area all date back more than 30 years, and all but 1977 date back more than 60 years.

Does that say anything about global warming?

“Those few statistics are not enough to make an objective statement about whether this has anything to say about global warming,” Niziol said. “But those are fascinating statistics.”

While anyone who has ventured outside on a daily basis can testify to how cold it’s been, this hasn’t been an unusually cold winter season. December ranked as 74th coldest out of 139 years, or almost right in the middle.

But that changed this month.

“We got locked into a pattern across Eastern America that essentially opened the gates for several outbreaks of Arctic air from central Canada across the Great Lakes,” Niziol said.

Despite how cold it’s been, Niziol pointed out that this January has failed to see a record-breaking cold day. The coldest reported temperature this month was minus-3 degrees on the 21, but that was seven degrees warmer than the record low for that date, minus-10 degrees in 1985.

Some people might be surprised that the coldest January ever was during the Blizzard of ’77, an event perhaps better known for its high winds and ridiculous amounts of blowing snow.

Niziol, who has lectured on the subject, called that the “perfect storm” of nasty conditions, including a 38-inch snowpack before the blizzard, sustained winds of 30 mph, consistent single-digit temperatures and an unrelenting storm that lasted for four days.

“That’s what made it a life-threatening event and translated into 29 deaths,” he said.

Compared with that, this month is Miami Beach.