Daily Archives: October 22, 2009

U.S. Spies Buy Stake in Firm That Monitors Blogs, Tweets

obama cia

America’s spy agencies want to read your blog posts, keep track of your Twitter updates — even check out your book reviews on Amazon.

Danger Room | Oct 19, 2009

By Noah Shachtman

In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA and the wider intelligence community, is putting cash into Visible Technologies, a software firm that specializes in monitoring social media. It’s part of a larger movement within the spy services to get better at using ”open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the flood of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports generated every day.

Visible crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. (It doesn’t touch closed social networks, like Facebook, at the moment.) Customers get customized, real-time feeds of what’s being said on these sites, based on a series of keywords.

“That’s kind of the basic step — get in and monitor,” says company senior vice president Blake Cahill.

CIA invests in firm that monitors Internet

“Who knows? The next commenter on your blog might be the CIA.”

Then Visible “scores” each post, labeling it as positive or negative, mixed or neutral. It examines how influential a conversation or an author is. (”Trying to determine who really matters,” as Cahill puts it.) Finally, Visible gives users a chance to tag posts, forward them to colleagues and allow them to response through a web interface.

In-Q-Tel says it wants Visible to keep track of foreign social media, and give spooks “early-warning detection on how issues are playing internationally,” spokesperson Donald Tighe tells Danger Room.

Of course, such a tool can also be pointed inward, at domestic bloggers or tweeters. Visible already keeps tabs on web 2.0 sites for Dell, AT&T and Verizon. For Microsoft, the company is monitoring the buzz on its Windows 7 rollout. For Spam-maker Hormel, Visible is tracking animal-right activists’ online campaigns against the company.

“Anything that is out in the open is fair game for collection,” says Steven Aftergood, who tracks intelligence issues at the Federation of American Scientists. But “even if information is openly gathered by intelligence agencies it would still be problematic if it were used for unauthorized domestic investigations or operations. Intelligence agencies or employees might be tempted to use the tools at their disposal to compile information on political figures, critics, journalists or others, and to exploit such information for political advantage. That is not permissible even if all of the information in question is technically ‘open source.’”

Leading bankers study Pope’s encyclical on social teaching in the City of London

Leading bankers study Pope’s encyclical on social teaching

indcatholicnews.com | Oct 21, 2009

city-of-london-armsA private seminar was held this morning at Schroders Bank to explore the relevance of the Pope’s encyclical on social teaching, Caritas in Veritate, for the financial sector.

The seminar was organised by Archbishop Vincent Nichols and brought together a number of leading figures in the City to look at issues of ethics and values in the light of the moral principles of Catholic social teaching, and the various challenges facing leaders of the financial sector in the UK.

A message  from Cardinal Bertone, Secretary of State  to Pope Benedict,  said: ‘The Holy Father was pleased to be informed of the meeting .. he sends his cordial greetings to all participants. He is gratified to learn that leading figures in the world of finance  are responding to the challenge to explore ways of building ‘authentically human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity.’ And he encourages them always to promote the integral human development that is rooted in a transcendent vision of the person. He assures all those taking part in the seminar of his blessing and prayers.’

Related

Inequality is good, says Goldman Sachs chief, Lord Griffiths

All participants attended in a personal capacity. They were (listed alphabetically): Marcus Agius, Chairman, Barclays Bank; Helen Alexander, President, CBI; Bishop John Arnold, Auxiliary Bishop in Westminster; Ben Andradi, Managing Partner, Syntel and Trustee of Catholic Trust for England and Wales; Sir Win Bischoff, Chairman, Lloyds TSB; Geoff Boisi, Chairman and CEO, Roundtable Investment Partners; Gavin Boyle, CEO, Tudor Capital UK; Robin Buchanan, Senior Adviser, Bain & Co; Mel Carvill, President, PPF Partners Ltd; Dominic Casserley, Managing Partner UK and Ireland, McKinsey & Co; Sr Catherine Cowley, Lecturer in Christian Ethics, Heythrop College, University of London; Michael Dobson, Chief Executive, Schroders; Stephen Green, Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings; Lord Brian Griffiths, Vice Chairman, Goldman Sachs International;  Field Marshal Lord Peter Inge, former Chief of the Defence Staff; Louis Jordan, Vice Chairman, Deloitte;  Rt  Hon John McFall, MP Chairman, Treasury Select Committee; George Mallinckcrodt, W KBE, President, Schroders; Philip Mallinckrodt, Group Head of Private Banking, Schroders;  Paul Marshall, Founder and Chairman, Marshall Wace; Archbishop Vincent Nichols, President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; Andrea Ponti, Global Head, Healthcare JP Morgan; Anthony Salz, Director, Rothschild’s; Archbishop Peter Smith, Vice-President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales; Keith Wade, Chief Economist, Schroders; Charles Wookey, Assistant General Secretary, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales;  and Professor Stefano Zamagni, Professor of Economics, University of Bologna, adviser to the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on Caritas in Veritate.

Vatican gives two thumbs up for Karl Marx after Darwin and Oscar Wilde

marxism

Karl Marx, who famously described religion as “the opium of the people”, has joined Galileo, Charles Darwin and Oscar Wilde on a growing list of historical figures to have undergone an unlikely reappraisal by the Roman Catholic Church.

Professor Sans’s article was first published in La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit paper, which is vetted in advance by the Vatican Secretariat of State. The decision to republish it in the Vatican newspaper gives it added papal endorsement.

London Times | Oct 22, 2009

Vatican thumbs up for Karl Marx after Galileo, Darwin and Oscar Wilde

by Richard Owen in Rome

Karl Marx, who famously described religion as “the opium of the people”, has joined Galileo, Charles Darwin and Oscar Wilde on a growing list of historical figures to have undergone an unlikely reappraisal by the Roman Catholic Church.

L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, said yesterday that Marx’s early critiques of capitalism had highlighted the “social alienation” felt by the “large part of humanity” that remained excluded, even now, from economic and political decision-making.

Georg Sans, a German-born professor of the history of contemporary philosophy at the pontifical Gregorian University, wrote in an article that Marx’s work remained especially relevant today as mankind was seeking “a new harmony” between its needs and the natural environment. He also said that Marx’s theories may help to explain the enduring issue of income inequality within capitalist societies.

“We have to ask ourselves, with Marx, whether the forms of alienation of which he spoke have their origin in the capitalist system,” Professor Sans wrote. “If money as such does not multiply on its own, how are we to explain the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few?”

With reassessments such as these it may be wondered which formerly unacceptable figure could be next. Last year the Vatican erected a statue of Galileo as a way of saying sorry for trying the astronomer in 1633 for his observation that the Earth moved around the Sun; in February a leading official declared Darwin’s theory of evolution compatible with the Christian faith, and in July L’Osservatore praised Oscar Wilde, the gay playwright, as “a man who behind a mask of amorality asked himself what was just and what was mistaken”.

Professor Sans argues that Marx’s intellectual legacy was marred by the misappropriation of his work by the communist regimes of the 20th century. “It is no exaggeration to say that nothing has damaged the interests of Marx the philosopher more than Marxism,” he said.

This overturns a century of Catholic hostility to his creed. Two years ago Benedict XVI singled out Marxism as one of the great scourges of the modern age. “The Marxist system, where it found its way into government, not only left a sad heritage of economic and ecological destruction, but also a painful destruction of the human spirit,” he told an audience in Brazil.

Then again the Pope has been busy reappraising modern capitalism. Benedict’s latest encyclical, Charity in Truth, offers a direct response to the recession, arguing that global capitalism has lost its way and that Church teachings can help to restore economic health by focusing on justice for the weak and closer regulation of the market.

His predecessor, John Paul II — who hated communism and as pontiff helped to bring it down in his native Poland — was keenly aware of the failings of the West and the effects of unbridled capitalism on post-communist societies.

Professor Sans’s view of Marx was not without criticism. He argued that Marx’s “materialist” view of history had wrongly reduced man to no more than a product of his material, economic and physical circumstances. He also said that after the fall of communism in 1989, few believed any more that private property was in itself wrong or unjust, and “given the experience of the past half century” no one believed that collectivisation of property was the answer.

Marx, who predicted that capitalism would be destroyed by its internal contradictions and be replaced by communism after a transitional period, was born in 1818 in Trier in Germany to Jewish parents. Although it was a majority Catholic town, his father, Heinrich, converted to Lutheran Protestantism to escape anti-Semitism.

Marx was baptised as a Christian, but he remained an atheist all his life. He once observed that “religion is the sign of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

Marx was expelled from several European countries for his radical espousal of a working-class revolution. He moved to London in May 1849 and lived there until his death in 1883.

Professor Sans’s article was first published in La Civiltà Cattolica, a Jesuit paper, which is vetted in advance by the Vatican Secretariat of State. The decision to republish it in the Vatican newspaper gives it added papal endorsement.

Blair to be appointed president over all of Europe in November

Blair-devil

Tony Blair ‘to be made EU president next month’

Daily Mail | Oct 22, 2009

By James Chapman

Tony Blair could be crowned first President of Europe at a special summit of EU leaders next month.

Diplomatic sources say French President Nicolas Sarkozy is pushing for an extraordinary meeting in Brussels to install the former prime minister in the new £275,000-a-year post.

Supporters of Mr Blair’s candidacy are racing to get a deal stitched up as doubts grow about whether the forthcoming inquiry into the Iraq war could prove a major stumbling block.

The Conservatives have told the French that making him EU president would be viewed by an incoming Tory government as a ‘declaration of war’.

They are warning other European leaders that if appointed, Mr Blair could find himself almost immediately at the centre of massive controversy as the formal inquiry into the Iraq war gets under way.

The former prime minister is expected to be the chief witness at the inquiry, being led by Whitehall mandarin Sir John Chilcot.

But diplomats say that as well as M Sarkozy, Barack Obama would also be happy to see Mr Blair installed as EU President.

The White House will make no public statement on the post, but the President is said to favour a candidate such as Mr Blair, who is both pro-American and pro-European.

Mr Blair was the first European leader to meet Mr Obama after he became President, and was lavished with praise.

The ex-PM insists he is not campaigning for the job – even though he is the officially approved candidate of the British government. Gordon Brown is understood to have no objections to a special summit being convened next month.

Sweden, which holds the current ‘ rotating’ EU presidency, also wants a permanent president nominated within weeks, even though the successful candidate would not take up the position until all the EU’s 27 member states have ratified the Lisbon Treaty.

‘The French are pushing for an extraordinary summit next month to crown Tony Blair as President of the EU,’ said one diplomatic source. ‘Blair is looking like the clear favourite and Sarkozy wants to get it settled quickly.’

There is also growing speculation that Foreign Secretary David Miliband could be offered another job being created by the Lisbon Treaty.

The post of high representative for foreign affairs is seen as potentially more important job than the presidency itself. However, Mr Miliband would have to quit the Cabinet to take it up, risking accusations that he had abandoned hope of Labour winning the next election.

Last night a handful of members of the European Parliament started a campaign to stop Mr Blair winning the presidency.

A Luxembourg socialist and four senior German politicians from across the political spectrum launched a petition in the assembly calling for him to be ruled out of consideration because Britain is not one of the 16 countries which use the euro, is not in the Schengen border-free area and has an exemption from the bloc’s charter of fundamental rights.

If he lands the job, Mr Blair can expect 20 staff, a chauffeur and generous entertainment expenses. But he will almost certainly be forced to ditch outside interests said to have earned him £12million since leaving Downing Street.

Sarkozy demands ex-PM Blair’s ‘coronation’ as first President over all of Europe

The Sun | Oct 22, 2009

By GRAEME WILSON

sarkozy_handsign_001FRENCH leader Nicolas Sarkozy is demanding a special EU summit next month to crown Tony Blair the first President of Europe.

Mr Sarkozy is urging other leaders to move quickly to give the former PM the powerful new role.

The news emerged as diplomatic sources revealed US President Barack Obama would be “happy” to see Mr Blair land the job.

Related

Berlusconi backs Tony Blair to be President of Europe

Plans to anoint him at an EU summit in Brussels next week have been scuppered by Czech president Vaclav Klaus, due to his refusal to sign the Lisbon Treaty. But EU leaders are confident Mr Klaus will finally approve it by early next month.

Mr Sarkozy says they should immediately organise a summit to unveil the new President – with Mr Blair the hot favourite to win the race.

One source said: “Sarkozy wants a quick decision on this and is demanding a one-off summit in the middle of next month to get the job done.”

Gordon Brown – who is backing Mr Blair’s bid – is understood to support the summit idea too.

The French fear if they wait until the next official EU meeting in December, the appointment will be overshadowed by the global climate change summit in Copenhagen.

The Tories warn the ex-PM could be hauled before the official Iraq War inquiry weeks after landing the role.

‘You are a terrorist’: protester lashes out at Tony Blair

blair terrorist

“You are a terrorist” … a security guard, left, scuffles with a Palestinian man during the visit of Middle East envoy Tony Blair to the Ibrahimi mosque in the West Bank city of Hebron. Photo: Reuters

SMH | Oct 21, 2009

Bodyguards subdued a Palestinian man on Tuesday as he approached Middle East envoy Tony Blair, shouting “You are a terrorist”.

The former British prime minister was verbally assailed while visiting an ancient mosque during an official trip to the West Bank city of Hebron.

The protester was backed into a corner by guards who tried to shut him up. “He is not welcome in the land of Palestine,” the struggling man shouted.

Blair, 56, is envoy for the “Quartet” of powers on the Middle East, comprising the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations.

He gave a tight-lipped smile and a pacifying wave in the general direction of the shouting man, and afterwards played down the incident as a “protest and that’s fair enough”, but not one that should be viewed as typical of local feelings.

Most Palestinians and Israelis want the conflict “resolved in a peaceful way”, he said. They understand “it’s not going to be resolved unless we find a way of creating two states, a state of Israel and a state of Palestine side by side in peace”.

“Frankly it’s not protests that will do that. It’s patient negotiation,” Blair told reporters.

A spokesman for the envoy said it was unclear why the protester launched his attack on Blair. “We’ve heard nothing on that,” he said.

Blair’s Hebron hosts were upset by the security breach. He remains unpopular with some Arabs for supporting the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq and for what they perceive as his bias in favour of Israel when he was Britain’s prime minister.

“You know, he made his protest and that’s fair enough,” Blair told reporters once the man was removed.

“I think it’s important for you guys as well to not always mistake the protest for the general view of the whole population,” he said.

Finnish Chefs Urge Ban on GM-Foods

YLE News | Oct 21, 2009

A group of Finnish chefs, including television celebrities, have signed a petition urging the government to ban the import and sale of genetically-manipulated foods. They feel that allowing GM-foods into the natural food chain destroys the safe and natural production of food.

Chefs Hans Välimäki, Kai Kallio, and Jaakko Nuutila delivered the petition to Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen on Wednesday.

This autumn, the government is set to debate a bill which would allow the import and production of GM foods and crops in Finland.

“It’s also important to guarantee that consumers can identify genetically modified foods and animal products that have used genetically modified feed,” says the petition.