Daily Archives: February 26, 2009

Warnings issued on environmental impact of nanotechnology

Nobel laureate cited environmental impacts as “the Darth Vader side of nanotechnology.”

Some say time’s right to assess its environmental impact

Houston Chronicle | Feb 25, 2009

By ELISE AMENDOLA AP

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may soon act to impose the first regulations specific to nanotechnology, a move that could have a significant impact in Houston.

Already, Canada has signaled its intent to require companies working with nanomaterials — designed at the molecular level to have special properties, such as enhanced strength — to report what materials they are working with and in what quantity.

And today, a congressional committee in Washington is scheduled to hold a hearing on the need to reform a decades-old environmental law that likely holds the key to new nano regulations, the Toxic Substances Control Act.

“I would expect to see something this year,” said David Hobson, chief scientific officer for NanoTox, an Austin-based company that assesses the risk of nanomaterials.

Nanotechnology holds immense promise in many areas, such as curing a host of diseases and reducing dependence on foreign oil by making solar cells commercially viable. But at the same time, environmentalists and some scientists worry that because of their tiny size, some nanomaterials may wreak havoc in the environment or inside human bodies.

It’s a concern that the late Nobel laureate, Rick Smalley, of Rice University, expressed a decade ago when he cited environmental impacts as “the Darth Vader side of nanotechnology.”

Fears of an overreaction

Partly because of Smalley, Houston-based researchers and small companies are playing a leading role in the discovery and application of new nanomaterials in fields such as medicine and energy.

“We’re forcing ourselves to consider the potential hazards of nanotechnology before these products get too far into the marketplace,” said Vicki Colvin, director of Rice’s Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology, during a recent conference in which coping with expected regulations was discussed.

A study published in Nature Nanotechnology last year found that carbon nanotubes — a particularly promising nanomaterial — induced in mice a cancer-like response similar to that caused by asbestos fibers.

Some nano supporters worry that this early work will provoke an overreaction among regulators that would squelch a promising area of research.

“New regulations will need to be both nurturing of that technology and mindful of the real-world impacts,” said Lynn Bergeson, managing director of the law firm Bergeson & Campbell, which represents chemical businesses.

Any new regulations will almost certainly involve modification of the Toxic Substances Control Act. Already there is a fight over whether nanomaterials should be considered “new” chemicals, which would subject them to more rigorous scrutiny, or “old” chemicals, which would leave them largely unregulated.

Pressure for regulation

This month, the EPA decided to classify carbon nanotubes as “new” chemicals. But even if all nanomaterials are classified as “new,” they’re unlikely to face a rigorous review because of weaknesses in the toxic substances act, said J. Clarence Davies, a senior advisor to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies.

Davies plans to be among those testifying at today’s hearing before the U.S. House subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. He and others are expected to urge lawmakers to pressure the EPA to adopt a more comprehensive approach to regulating chemicals, similar to that of a 2006 European Union law. That act requires companies to prove chemicals are safe, unlike TSCA, which puts the burden on the government to prove a harm.

The looming regulations have prompted something of a boon for consultants who seek to guide companies.

“Everyone in the country is laying off people,” said Harry Bushong, president of NanoTox. “Right now, I need to hire people.”

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How To Destroy the World with Nanotechnology

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Fight against terror must mean the end of ordinary people’s privacy, says ex-security chief

bigbrotherwatching_uk

Sir David Omand says the Government needs Big Brother powers

‘Moral rules’ would have to be broken.

Daily Mail | Feb 25, 2009

By Tamara Cohen

Personal data of innocent citizens must be made available to the Government to combat terrorism, according to an influential former security chief.

Sir David Omand, Whitehall’s former and security and intelligence coordinator, called for unprecedented Big Brother powers to allow access to private details – including phone records, emails and travel information – to be given to the intelligence services.

Setting out a hugely controversial blueprint for the future of national security he said ‘moral rules’ about individual privacy would have to be broken.

His 17-page report calls for the creation of a vast state database to gather information about terrorist groups which are increasingly recruiting and operating online.

But he argued that a citizen’s right to privacy would have to be sacrificed to allow ‘intrusive’ intelligence techniques.

‘Finding out other people’s secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules’, he wrote.

‘This is personal information about individuals that resides in databases, such as advance passenger information, airline bookings and other travel data, passport and biometric data, immigration, identity and border records, criminal records,and other governmental and private sector data, including financial and telephone and other communications records.’

‘Modern intelligence access will often involve intrusive methods of surveillance and investigation, accepting that, in some respects, this may have to be at the expense of some aspects of privacy rights.’
The paper ‘National Security Strategy and Implication for the UK Intelligence Community’ was published last week by the influential New Labour think tank, the Institute of Public Policy Research.

Sir Omand left the senior civil service in 2005 but his views still hold great sway in the corridors of power.

He added: ‘This is a hard choice and goes against current calls to curb the so-called surveillance society – but it is greatly preferable to tinkering with the rule of law, or derogating from fundamental human rights.

‘Being able to demonstrate proper legal authorisation and appropriate oversight of the use of such intrusive intelligence activity may become a major future issue for the intelligence community, if the public at large is to be convinced of the desirability of such intelligence capability’

Sir Omand said such information maybe held in national records,covered by Data Protection legislation, but it might also be held offshore by other nations or by global companies.

‘Access to such information…might well be the key to effective pre-emption in future terrorist cases.

‘Such sources have always been accessible to traditional law enforcement seeking evidence against a named suspect already justified by reasonable suspicion of having committed a crime.’

‘However, application of modern data mining and processing techniques does involve examination of the innocent as well as the suspect to identify patterns of interest for further investigation’.

India to replicate some US anti-terror strategies

Economic Times | Feb 26, 2009

NEW DELHI: Taking a cue from the US, which overhauled its counter-terror machinery post 9/11 to successfully avert another attack, India is set to replicate some of the strategies adopted by the Americans to improve its anti-terror preparedness and response.

Stating this during the question hour in the Rajya Sabha, home minister P Chidambaram said a team had visited the US recently to study anti-terror strategies it had prepared in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. “The team has come back and we are trying to replicate strategies studied there that suit our requirements,” he told the House.

While hinting that the US anti-terror strategies to be replicated here may involve more effective sharing of intelligence, Mr Chidambaram said the country, in any case, was more prepared now for handling terror strikes than three months ago. He said there would be better synergy between various security and intelligence agencies from March, with the multi-agency centre (MAC) functional 24×7.

“Our level of preparedness is much higher than it was three months ago and in the event of any attack, our response will be swift and deterring,” he said responding to members’ concern on internal security.

Mr Chidambaram will be presenting his third report on the level of preparedness on February 27, during his month-end press conference. “By March 31, there will be better co-ordination between MAC and its subsidiaries and also between MAC and special branches of state police and various data centres,” he said.

Oklahoma House passes sovereignty bill

Path set for other states seeking to reassert constitutional rights

WorldNetDaily | Feb 24, 2009

By Jerome R. Corsi

NEW YORK – Oklahoma’s House of Representatives is the first legislative body to pass a state sovereignty resolution this year under the terms of the Tenth Amendment.

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 1003 Feb. 18 by a wide margin, 83 to 13, resolving, “That the State of Oklahoma hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.”

The language of HJR 1003 further serves notice to the federal government “to cease and desist, effectively immediately, mandates that are beyond the scope of these constitutionally delegated powers.”

The sponsor of the resolution, state Rep. Charles Key, told WND the measure was a ‘big step toward addressing the biggest problem we have in this country – the federal government violating the supreme law of the land.”

“The Constitution either means what it says, or it doesn’t mean anything at all,” Key said. “The federal government must honor and obey the Constitution, just like the states and this citizens of this country are obligated to do, or our system of government begins to fall apart.”

The Ninth Amendment reads, “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” The Tenth Amendment specifically provides, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

As WND reported, eight states have introduced resolutions declaring state sovereignty under the Ninth and Tenth Amendments to the Constitution: Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Washington.

Analysts expect 12 additional states may see similar measures introduced this year, including Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nevada, Maine and Pennsylvania.

Key argued that whenever “we allow the federal government, or any other government entity, to violate the Constitution, we destroy the Constitution one piece at a time.”

“We have gone so far down that path that the Constitution is hanging by a thread right now,” he said.

Last year, the same resolution introduced by Key passed the Oklahoma House, but the floor leader in the Senate, Democrat Sen. Charles Lassiter, used his authority to block consideration of the measure on the Senate floor.

But state Sen. Randy Brogdon has sponsored comparable legislation, and he told WND the “chances are excellent” it “will be passed in the Senate this session.”

Brogdon said his bill, SJR 10, has made it out of committee and will be heard on the Senate floor in the next couple of weeks. The lawmaker said he will double-track HJR 1003 to increase the chances one of the sovereignty resolutions gets to the Senate floor.

“We going to work Rep. Charles Key’s bill through the committee,” Brogdon said, “and our goal in the Senate is to use HCR 1003 as the final bill.”

Brogdon told WND he feels confident Democrats in the Oklahoma Senate will not be able to block the sovereignty measure this year.

“Last year, the Democrats in the Senate were able to veto consideration of Rep. Key’s bill,” he said, “but this year the Republicans are in control of the Oklahoma House and the Oklahoma Senate, for the first time in Oklahoma’s history.”

Oklahoma was the only state in the 2008 election in which every county voted for the Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain.

“The Democratic leadership in the state legislature has been outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party for decades in Oklahoma,” Brogdon said. “We finally turned the corner in 2008, with Republican majorities in both House and Senate.

“We still have a Democratic governor in Oklahoma,” Brogdon said, “but we hope to change that in 2010.”

Brogdon is widely being mentioned as a Republican candidate for governor in 2010.

Key crafted his resolution so it takes effect once the Oklahoma Senate passes the measure, even without the governor’s signature.

Asked whether Oklahoma’s Democratic Gov. Brad Henry would sign a sovereignty resolution, Brogdon said he was confident the governor would do so.

“I believe the governor will have to sign the sovereignty resolution the state legislature passes,” he said. “How do you turn down states rights? If you are the governor, how are you going to stand before the people of Oklahoma and say, ‘I don’t want to support your state sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment?'”

Henry’s office did not immediately respond to WND’s request for comment.

Brogdon was not equally sure Henry would instruct Oklahoma’s attorney general to enforce the sovereignty resolution, in what might be interpreted as an act of defiance against the Obama administration.

“Phase Two will be to get a Republican governor in the state capital that understands the Constitution and respects the rule of law,” Brogdon said.

“We need an attorney general in Oklahoma that will enforce this sovereignty resolution once it is passed.”

Brogdon explained that Oklahoma is on track to receive about $900 million from the $787 billion economic stimulus deficit-spending bill Obama signed into law last week.

“Governor Henry has his hand out for the Obama stimulus money,” Brogdon said. “But there are a lot of us in the Oklahoma legislature that do not want the federal stimulus money because we fear the strings that are certainly going to be attached to the $900 million. We might end up in subsequent years with a $900 million entitlement program hole in our budget for years to come, just because we took the Obama economic stimulus money this time around.”

Hitler Salutes, Nazi Songs and Dreams of a New Reich

nazi_npd_party

A demonstrator at an NPD march.

SPIEGEL ONLINE | Feb 25, 2009

FORMER NPD OFFICIAL SPEAKS OUT

Uwe Luthardt was a senior member of the right-extremist NPD. But he quit after three months. In an interview, he describes the NPD as a deeply radical party where Hitler salutes and financial irregularities are common — and which is bent on restoring the German Reich.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You recently quit the right extremist party NPD. Aren’t you afraid?

Luthardt: The local party leader threatened me. He said a board member doesn’t quit the party, he’s either thrown out or disappears. I replied that I know more about him than he does about me. Since then it’s been quiet. Someone who just quits usually gets a lot of problems, and can find himself waking up in intensive care.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So people who leave are threatened?

Luthardt: It happens. Otherwise the party would have even fewer members. The mood isn’t good at the moment. It’s easy to see that the party is short of money.

Related

National Democratic Party of Germany – Wikipedia

Black Sun (occult symbol) – Wikipedia

The Black Sun and the Vril Society

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What didn’t you like about your fellow party members?

Luthardt: It wasn’t really my world. When you went along to evening meetings, you saw all the shaven heads — and a black sun or other Nazi symbols tattooed on arms. They usually just boozed or were abusive. If there’s no opponent around, they just fight among themselves.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The grassroots aren’t especially intellectual, in other words?

Luthardt: Many in the JN (Young National Socialists) and in the Kameradschaften (eds. note: loosely organized far-right groups) have an IQ close to my shoe size. Most of them are simply failures: failed pupils, people who dropped out of school or their apprenticeships, alcoholics that can’t find a foothold anywhere else, thugs. But every local organization has three to five men who don’t have criminal records. They’re the ones sent to face the press or man information stands.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What did you hope to get from the party when you joined?

Luthardt: I wanted to do something for Germany, I wasn’t interest in a Greater Germany. And suddenly everyone was saying we’ll take back Silesia and then we’ll give the communists a thrashing.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How does the party finance itself?

Luthardt: Through music events among other things, they get money from ticket sales. And then of course through the Festival of Peoples, that generated just under €17,000 in 2007.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But you have to subtract the money the bands get from that amount.

Luthardt: No. Usually one tells the authorities that the bands get paid. But in reality they just get their expenses back and a receipt for a supposedly paid fee. But that is donated back to the party. And the party can write the donation off their taxes.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why do the bands forego the money they are due?

Luthardt: Out of conviction. It happens in the party too. Whenever I went to Berlin on a training course, we got our transport costs paid but then handed the money back to the party in the form of donations. It’s the same pattern.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How are the donations laundered — apart from the falsified receipts?

Luthardt: Take the donations from South America…

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Donations from South America?

Luthardt: Yes, payments from nationalist Germans who haven’t been living in Germany for a while. They make donations to small companies, for example, which in turn redirect the money to the party. Voigt’s (eds. note: NPD chairman Udo Voigt) power base partly consists of money men from South America — and Jürgen Rieger (eds. note: Voigt’s deputy) has excellent contacts there.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: In the media, NPD officials portray themselves as right-wing democrats and try to avoid unconstitutional statements. How radical is the party really?

Luthardt: The aim is the restoration of the Reich in which a new SA (eds. note: the paramilitary arm of the Nazi party) takes revenge on anyone who disagrees with them.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does that also apply to the moderate wing?

Luthardt: There is no moderate wing. The few isolated moderates there are have no say. The media training courses at party headquarters are very effective. The members know how they must sell themselves. It starts with the instruction that any meeting with outsiders must be held in innocuous offices. That applies to everyone apart from the chairman. He deliberately poses behind a massive desk with party flags in the party headquarters. The Jena party headquarters deserves its name “Brown House.” No journalist has ever been in there.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What would they see?

Luthardt: A load of SS pictures in the cellar. And there’s a room with weapons.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the claim that the NPD isn’t interested in the “Third Reich” is just for self-protection.

Luthardt: It’s pure tactics. The idea is to atttract those who haven’t yet understood that the party isn’t right-wing radical, it’s much more radical than that. It’s about showing a respectable image in public. That’s why the party leadership prefers members who have totally normal haircuts and clothes. They can be sent to man the information stands.

‘People Greet Each Other With Their Arm Outstretched’

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Isn’t there a danger that the neo-Nazi activists will be put off if the party presents too harmless an image?

Luthardt: No, because everyone knows it’s just tactics. The leaflets, the placards, the opposition to Hartz IV (eds. note: unpopular low unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed) — there’s no substance behind that. No one knows what alternative there could be to Hartz IV. Let’s kick out all the foreigners, then the Germans will have jobs again, that’s the basic concept the NPD talks about. They only refer to freight trains when no one from outside is listening.

A demonstrator at an NPD march.
DDP

A demonstrator at an NPD march.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The freight trains of the Third Reich?

Luthardt: The ones in which they want to put political opponents, the Jews and the foreigners once they’ve taken over the country again. Internally there’s very plain speaking. And the singing of the Horst Wessel song (eds. note: the anthem of the Nazi party) is also very popular. No wonder that the Kameradschaften groups are willing to bite their tongues in public.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But relations with the Kameradschaften aren’t always easy.

Luthardt: Absolutely not. The Free Nationalists don’t like to be dictated to and are skeptical about parties. But most of them still let themselves be used by the NPD. They’re the useful idiots of the party, comparable to the role the SA had for the Nazis. I always tell them: just look at the history of the SA, that’s just what will happen to you when they’re in power.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: When did you notice that the internal communications of the party are so different from the way it shows itself to the outside world?

Luthardt: Very soon after I joined the board. It’s not hard if you see how people greet each other with their arm outstretched.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: How come the activists refrain from such unconstitutional activities in public?

Luthardt: The foot soldiers are under strict instructions never to talk to the press. And it’s pretty rare that any of them opens their mouths. If it does happens, they’re quickly summoned for a talking to. The officials have all been trained to deal with that.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: They get taught how to behave in public?

Luthardt: That’s one of the focuses. There are internal documents which clearly state how everyone should behave. Anything to do with the Third Reich is especially sensitive. So people are taught how to respond to questions such as ‘What do you say about the Holocaust?’ The first sentence has to suffice, otherwise there’s a danger of contradicting oneself if follow-up questions are asked.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Did you find the training courses convincing?

Luthardt: If you’re on the moderate side of the party, it’s a shock. It does make you think about whether you’re in the right party.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Who runs these courses?

Luthardt: Thomas Salomon. And he’s 100 percent convinced about what he says. He’s one of the leading thinkers, together with Jürgen Gansel and Holger Apfel from Saxony.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What kind of politics do these gentlemen dream of?

Luthardt: Of the German Reich. They’re totally convinced that they’ll win an election one day and that things will really get going. Everyone can imagine what would happen then.

Interview conducted by Christoph Ruf, author of a recently published book on the NPD.

Mexico vows more troops for drug war on U.S. border

Reuters | Feb 25, 2009

By Julian Cardona

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Mexico promised on Wednesday to pour more troops into a northern border city at the heart of the country’s drug war, where a meeting of federal officials was rattled by bomb scares earlier in the day.

Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, has become Mexico’s most violent city as security forces take on drug cartels warring for control of smuggling routes into the United States.

“We aren’t going to give up an inch of the city and we will expel them from Juarez,” Interior Minister Fernando Gomez Mont told reporters after a security cabinet meeting in Ciudad Juarez, which was heavily guarded by federal police.

“There will be a substantial increase in military and federal police presence in the coming weeks.”

Threats against public officials have been rising in the region. Last week suspected drug hitmen killed two city councilmen near Ciudad Juarez.

Gangs also have threatened to kill the mayor and last week forced out the police chief after killing his deputy and promising murders of police officers every 48 hours.

“They want to sow terror and the municipal and state police are totally overwhelmed,” Chihuahua state lawmaker Victor Quintana told Reuters.

A former soldier attacked a convoy carrying Chihuahua state Governor Jose Reyes late on Sunday in what Mexican media speculated was linked to the drug war.

During Gomez Mont’s visit to Ciudad Juarez, authorities received bomb threats and found traces of explosives in a vehicle parked at the airport, which was evacuated by soldiers and federal police but reopened by late afternoon.

“Anonymous calls to the police and army alerted us to the threats but they turned out to be false,” army spokesman Enrique Torres said.

Frightened travelers waited outside the airport and flights were diverted to the state capital, Chihuahua.

President Felipe Calderon has sent out about 45,000 troops across the country but clashes between rival gangs and security forces killed some 6,000 people last year.

Even with about 2,500 troops and federal police in Ciudad Juarez and surrounding areas, more than 250 people have died in drug violence this month in the city.

Drug trade experts say Mexico’s most-wanted man, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman, who leads a cartel from the Pacific state of Sinaloa, is vying to take Ciudad Juarez’s lucrative smuggling route from local cartel leader Vicente Carrillo Fuentes.

Law and order in the city has collapsed as Guzman’s hitmen seek to destroy the Juarez’s cartel’s entire operation, said Tony Payan of the University of Texas in El Paso.

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Money managers accused of $550 million swindle

Reuters | Feb 25, 2009

By Martha Graybow

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Two money managers who oversaw investments for Carnegie Mellon University and other institutions were arrested on Wednesday on charges of running an estimated $550 million, decade-long swindle, the latest in a wave of big financial fraud cases.

Paul Greenwood, 61, and Stephen Walsh, 64, managing general partners of broker-dealer WG Trading Co with main offices in Greenwich, Connecticut, were charged by U.S. prosecutors with conspiracy, securities fraud and wire fraud.

The pair, both former part-owners of the New York Islanders National Hockey League team, are accused of using client money as “their personal piggy-bank” to fund lavish lifestyles, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission brought civil charges against the men and their companies, which also include WG Trading Investors LP and investment adviser Westridge Capital Management Inc in Santa Barbara, California. The SEC obtained a court-imposed asset freeze against the men and their affiliated entities.

The two men appeared in U.S. Magistrate’s Court in Manhattan where a judge set bail at $7 million to be secured by $1 million in cash or property not from proceeds of the purported fraud. The judge imposed travel restrictions. They did not enter a plea and were freed, but were ordered to meet the bail conditions by March 11.

Their lawyers declined to comment.

The charges come amid a wave of fraud cases involving money managers. The biggest case involves former Nasdaq Chairman Bernard Madoff, arrested in December and charged with fraud after authorities said he confessed to running a Ponzi scheme with losses of up to $50 billion over many years.

Greenwood and Walsh were arrested by the FBI on Wednesday morning, two weeks after their suspension by the National Futures Association for not complying with an audit.

A woman who answered the phone at a WG Trading office in North Hills, New York, declined to comment. There was no answer at the firm’s main office in Greenwich.

Authorities contend the scheme began in 1996 and operated through this month. Of the $667 million that clients invested, Greenwood and Walsh misused as much as $554 million, the SEC said.

Greenwood, of North Salem, New York, was accused of using investor funds to buy items including horses and expensive collectibles, while Walsh, of Sands Point, New York, was accused of using client money for himself and to make large payments to his ex-wife.

The SEC complaint said other spending included multimillion-dollar homes and cars.

The purported scheme targeted institutional investors, including educational institutions and public pension plans, by promising to invest their money in an “enhanced equity index” strategy, the SEC said. Instead of investing the money as promised, they stole investor funds for their personal use, the commission said.

Greenwood and Walsh had been suspended by the National Futures Association on February 12 for not disclosing financial records and failing to answer questions about promissory notes “totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.”

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