Daily Archives: February 2, 2009

Australian PM calls for New Economic Order

AFP | Jan 31, 2009

SYDNEY (AFP) — Australia’s prime minister has called for a “new world order” of government intervention and regulation, blaming capitalist greed for the global economic crisis.

Kevin Rudd’s administration came to power in November 2007, ending more than a decade of conservative, free-market rule, and has already launched a series of stimulus measures in response to the crisis.

“The time has come, off the back of the current crisis, to proclaim that the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years has failed; that the emperor has no clothes,” said Rudd in an essay previewed here Saturday.

“Neo-liberalism and the free-market fundamentalism it has produced has been revealed as little more than personal greed dressed up as an economic philosophy,” he wrote, in a 7,000-word essay to be published next week in The Monthly magazine.

Aligning his views with those of new US President Barack Obama, and drawing on the experiences of Depression-era US leader Franklin D Roosevelt, the centre-left leader called for a “new contract for the future that eschews the extremism of both the left and right.”

“Minor tweakings of long established orthodoxies will not do,” Rudd said, advocating instead a new era of “social capitalism” involving the regulation and intervention of an “activist state.”

But he urged his democratic colleagues not to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” by returning to a model of the all-providing state, and said there was a place for open competitive markets, both at home and abroad.

Rudd is expected next week to announce a second major stimulus package in response to the global economic crisis, which has already slashed thousands of jobs in Australia and eroded billions from government revenues.

Measures launched so far include a one-off 10.4 billion dollar cash injection aimed mainly at families and first-home buyers to boost consumer spending.

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Indonesian Islamic group calls Lions and Rotary Clubs infidels with ties to Freemasonry and Zionism

Radical Group: Lions, Rotarians Are ‘Infidels’

Jakarta Globe | Feb 1, 2009

By Nivell Rayda

rotary_club_smallAn ultra-conservative Islamic group called on Indonesian Muslims Sunday to quit two US-founded international business and social clubs, claiming they were linked to the Zionist and the Freemasonry movements and secretly supported Israel.

The leader of the Indonesian Forum of Ulema and Muslims, or FUUI, which has forcibly stopped Christian church services and called for a ban on the Ahamdiyah Islamic sect, said that Muslims who did not quit the Rotary Club and Lions Club, which have chapters worldwide including in Indonesia, would be labeled as infidels.

“The Rotary Club and the Lions Club are the Zionists’ accomplices,” Athian Ali Muhammad Da’i said in a telephone interview from his headquarters in Bandung, West Java Province, on Sunday. “They gather funds and give them to America and the Israeli Zionists. We urge all Muslims to renounce membership in the Rotary Club and the Lions Club. Otherwise, they can consider themselves infidels.”

Da’i, who in 2002 issued a death fatwa against an Indonesian Muslim scholar for writing a commentary against conservative views on Islam, has been preaching about alleged links between the clubs and Zionism since last year. On his blog, fuui.wordpress.com, Da’i elaborates on his charges against the two clubs.

“The Lions Club and the Rotary Club have introduced Jewish ideals to their Muslim members,” he writes.

“They also seek information from the members, which are prominent figures in Indonesia’s government and society, which can be used for the Zionists’ political and economic agenda.”

Dean Boulding, vice president of the Jakarta-Menteng Rotary Club, the oldest and largest Rotary club in Indonesia, called the allegations “laughable,” saying such claims has been circulating since the club’s formation in the US city of Chicago in 1905.

“One of our co-founders was a Mason and several of the original Rotarians were also Masons, and in the early days meetings were occasionally held in Masonic halls,” Boulding said on Sunday. “But that was more than a century ago.”

The Rotary Club has more than 32,000 branches and 1.2 million members worldwide, and is open to anyone regardless of their political or religious affiliation.

The Freemasons are a secular fraternal organization dating back to the late 16th century.

“We are two entirely separate organizations. I don’t know why people still talk about such things,” Boulding said. “We build schools and pay for hospital treatment of poor children.”

Freemasonry was introduced in Indonesia during the Dutch colonial period, but was banned by founding President Sukarno for its ties with the Dutch and remains so today.

All-encompassing surveillance to track humans with microchip implants and GPS

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Protest against microchip implants planned for Alzheimers patients in Florida. (AAP)

The worst scenario is the absolute loss of human rights

Nine MSN | Jan 30, 2009

Humans ‘will be implanted with microchips’

By Josephine Asher

All Australians could be implanted with microchips for tracking and identification within the next two or three generations, a prominent academic says.

Michael G Michael from the University of Wollongong’s School of Information Systems and Technology, has coined the term “uberveillance” to describe the emerging trend of all-encompassing surveillance.

“Uberveillance is not on the outside looking down, but on the inside looking out through a microchip that is embedded in our bodies,” Dr Michael told ninemsn.

Microchips are commonly implanted into animals to reveal identification details when scanned and similar devices have been used with Alzheimers patients.

US company VeriChip is already using implantable microchips, which store a 16-digit unique identification number, on humans for medical purposes.

“Our focus is on high-risk patients, and our product’s ability to identify them and their medical records in an emergency,” spokesperson Allison Tomek said.

“We do not know when or if someone will develop an implantable microchip with GPS technology, but it is not an application we are pursuing.”

Another form of uberveillance is the use of bracelets worn by dangerous prisoners which use global positioning systems to pinpoint their movements.

But Dr Michael said the technology behind uberveillance would eventually lead to a black box small enough to fit on a tiny microchip and implanted in our bodies.

This could also allow someone to be located in an emergency or for the identification of corpses after a large scale disaster or terrorist attack.

“This black box will then be a witness to our actual movements, words — perhaps even our thoughts —-and play a similar role to the black box placed in an aircraft,” he said.

He also predicted that microchip implants and their infrastructure could eliminate the need for e-passports, e-tags, and secure ID cards.

“Microchipping I think will eventually become compulsory in the context of identification within the frame of national security,” he said.

Although uberveillance was only in its early phases, Dr Michael’s wife, Katina Michael — a senior lecturer from UOW’s School of Information Systems and Technology — said the ability to track and identify any individual was already possible.

“Anyone with a mobile phone can be tracked to 15m now,” she said, pointing out that most mobile phone handsets now contained GPS receivers and radio frequency identification (RFID) readers.

“The worst scenario is the absolute loss of human rights,” she said.

Wisconsin, North Dakota and four other states in the US have already outlawed the use of enforced microchipping.

“Australia hasn’t got specific regulations addressing these applications,” she said.

“We need to address the potential for misuse by amending privacy laws to ensure personal data protection.”

Uberveillance has been nominated for Macquarie Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2008.

Barack Obama grants CIA permission to retain right to carry out renditions

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Forced removals: hundreds of terrorism suspects have been transferred by the US to prisons in countries with questionable human rights records.

The Times | Feb 2, 2009

By Tom Baldwin in Washington

The banner headlines greeting President Obama’s decision to close Guantánamo Bay and secret CIA prisons may have concealed how he has retained one of the most controversial weapons in the War on Terror.

Under executive orders signed on January 22, the CIA appears to have preserved its authority to carry out renditions – by which hundreds of terrorist suspects have been abducted and transferred to prisons in countries with questionable human rights records such as Egypt, Morocco or Jordan.

The measure, disclosed by the Los Angeles Times yesterday, gives some indication of how Mr Obama’s promise of change may be slower to be realised than once hoped, with the new Administration coming under concerted attack across a range of issues.

These include efforts to get bipartisan backing for a near-$900 billion (£620 billion) economic stimulus programme and the choice for Health Secretary of Tom Daschle, whose failure to pay back taxes has jarred with pledges to restore ethical government.

An Administration official was quoted yesterday defending rendition. “Obviously you need to preserve some tools. You still have to go after the bad guys,” said the official. “It is controversial in some circles. But if done within certain parameters, it is acceptable.”

The European Parliament has condemned renditions, some of which have involved flights with stopovers in British territory, as illegal under international law.

In the executive orders the President signed on January 22, he merely promised a review of rendition policy, with the aim of ensuring that suspects were not sent to other countries “to face torture”. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggested yesterday that suspects would be held only temporarily in foreign prisons, but added: “The finer points of it have to be fleshed out.”

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, the British human rights group, said: “Western liberals are totally deluded at the moment. Like George Bush, who declared ‘mission accomplished’ on Iraq six years ago, they need to realise that the job is far from done. I believe that Obama’s heart is in the right place but he is surrounded by people in the US intelligence and military who don’t want either themselves or their policies subjected to too much scrutiny.”

Claude Moraes, the Labour MEP who was part of the European committee investigating CIA renditions, said it was hard to criticise Mr Obama because he had “god-like status at the moment”, adding: “We should be pleased he has closed Guantánamo and acknowledged the existence of the secret CIA prisons. But if he’s going to complete the change, he must see that rendition is part of the package. I have heard testimony from people who have clearly been tortured in Egypt and Jordan. To deposit people in those prisons still speaks volumes about American foreign policy.”

Mr Obama, who has disappointed liberal activists by his reluctance to order investigations into alleged illegal acts carried out in the name of national security by the Bush Administration, also knows he must brace a war-weary public for a build-up of the battle against the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

His primary focus, however, remains domestic affairs, with the Senate preparing to debate the economic stimulus Bill today amid warnings that there is scant support from Republicans. Last night Mr Obama was hosting a party to watch the Super Bowl at the White House with senior congressmen from both sides of the aisle in the hope of restoring some bipartisan lustre. This week he is also expected to nominate the Republican Senator Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary.

Last week, however, he failed to win a single Republican vote for the stimulus package in the House of Representatives. And Senator Jon Kyl, a senior Republican, told Fox News yesterday that conservatives were becoming angry at the vast – and potentially wasteful – public spending proposed.

Mr Kyl was among a number of Republicans asking yesterday how Mr Daschle failed to inform Mr Obama’s team about a failure to pay $128,203 in back taxes until a few weeks ago, when the Health Secretary-designate had been aware of the mistake as far back as June 2008.

Mr Obama’s half-brother George has insisted that he is not a drug user, after being arrested but then released for alleged marijuana possession in a Kenyan slum. He spent two hours in a police cell before being set free on Saturday.

Illinois experiences colder-than-usual January

THE SOUTHERN | Jan 31, 2009

CHAMPAIGN – The January statewide average temperature was 20 degrees, 4.6 degrees below normal with some low temperatures approaching the state record on Jan. 16, according to State Climatologist Jim Angel of the Illinois State Water Survey.

Cold Arctic air pushed into Illinois on Jan. 15 and 16, causing temperatures to drop to levels not seen since 1999. Mt. Carroll and Elizabeth both reported official readings of minus 33 degrees on Jan. 16. Numerous locations in northern Illinois reported lows of minus 20 degrees or colder. The official state record low temperature of minus 36 degrees at Congerville on Jan. 5, 1999, still stands.

Statewide average precipitation for January was 1.0 inch, 0.9 inches below normal. Precipitation is a measure of both rainfall and the water content of snowfall.

Snowfall amounts were above normal across the state in January. Snowfall totals of 6 to 12 inches occurred throughout much of southern and central Illinois, while totals of 12 to 24 inches were common in northern Illinois. Joliet reported the largest official total of 25.3 inches.

The Illinois State Water Survey, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign under the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability, is the primary agency in Illinois concerned with water and atmospheric resources.

Adopt two-child policy to fight global warming, says green guru

Times | Feb 1, 2009

By Sarah-Kate Templeton

COUPLES who have more than two children are being “irresponsible” by creating an unbearable burden on the environment, the government’s green adviser has warned.

Jonathon Porritt, who chairs the government’s Sustainable Development Commission, says curbing population growth through contraception and abortion must be at the heart of policies to fight global warming. He says political leaders and green campaigners should stop dodging the issue of environmental harm caused by an expanding population.

A report by the commission, to be published next month, will say that governments must reduce population growth through better family planning.

“I am unapologetic about asking people to connect up their own responsibility for their total environmental footprint and how they decide to procreate and how many children they think are appropriate,” Porritt said.

“I think we will work our way towards a position that says that having more than two children is irresponsible. It is the ghost at the table. We have all these big issues that everybody is looking at and then you don’t really hear anyone say the “p” word.”

The Optimum Population Trust, a campaign group of which Porritt is a patron, says each baby born in Britain will, during his or her lifetime, burn carbon roughly equivalent to 21⁄2 acres of old-growth oak woodland – an area the size of Trafalgar Square.

The British population, now 61m, will pass 70m by 2028, the Office for National Statistics says. The fertility rate for women born outside Britain is estimated to be 2.5, compared with 1.7 for those born here. The global population of 6.7 billion is expected to rise to 9.2 billion by 2050.

Porritt, who has two children, intends to persuade environmental pressure groups to make population a focus of campaigning.

“Many organisations think it is not part of their business. My mission with the Friends of the Earth and the Greenpeaces of this world is to say: ‘You are betraying the interests of your members by refusing to address population issues and you are doing it for the wrong reasons because you think it is too controversial,” he said.

Porritt, a former chairman of the Green party, says the government must improve family planning, even if it means shifting money from curing illness to increasing contraception and abortion.

He said: “We still have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in Europe and we still have relatively high levels of pregnancies going to birth, often among women who are not convinced they want to become mothers.

Britain facing worst winter weather in 18 years

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Drivers face dangerous conditions on the M20 motorway near Ashford in Kent, as a cold snap hits Britain. (Gareth Fuller/PA)

Snow storms will be most widespread in 18 years, Met Office warns

Times Online | Feb 1, 2009

Britain is braced for the most widespread snow storms in 18 years after the Met Office classed tomorrow’s Arctic blast as an extreme weather event.

A snowfall of up to 10cm was forecast for most of eastern England tonight – with wind speeds of 30mph and temperature lows of minus 6C expected tomorrow.

Tom Defty, Head of Forecasting Operations at MetService, said: “The worst of the snow will arrive in Kent during Monday morning before spreading North and West to the rest of England during the afternoon.”

The Met Office said it is expecting the widest covering of snow seen since February 1991, when 51cm of snow fell in Yorkshire and 15cm in London. This winter is already recorded as the coldest in 13 years, with temperatures plunging to lows of minus 13C during a three-week freeze during January.

Tuesday is expected to bring a brief reprieve, with some sunny spells, before more snow later in the week.

Helen Chivers from the Met Office said: “Northerly winds will be maintaining the cold weather, so we can expect some more icy nights and snow showers. It is looking likely that the snow will be coming back on Thursday and Friday, probably hitting South East England again.”

The AA have warned motorists to keep warm clothes in the car after dealing with a spate of unprepared drivers at breakdowns during the last big freeze.

Andy Taylor, of the AA, said: “People often treat their car as an overcoat. But when you break down you are suddenly vulnerable to the weather. If you break down on a motorway, the safety advice is to get out of the car and wait behind the barrier. Unless you have extra clothes you really are flirting with hypothermia.”

Mervyn Kohler, a special adviser for Help The Aged, emphasised that the elderly in particular should be thinking about taking steps to prepare their homes now.

“There are public schemes and initiatives by energy companies – over-70s can have insulation installed for free by energy providers. Obviously it’s a bit late to do those things before tonight and tomorrow, but now is the time to start the process going because it’s going to be cold again and energy prices are never going to go down to the level they were at five years ago.”