Daily Archives: October 25, 2009

Atlanta to add 500 Big Brother surveillance cameras

Atlanta surveillance camera

A bicycle rider rides on Edgewood Avenue as a white surveillance camera is shown on top of a traffic light pole near Woodruff Park. Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com

Atlanta seeks to add 500 surveillance cameras

Atlanta Journal-Constitution | Oct 24, 2009

By Jeremy Redmon

Atlanta’s other reality show is taping today outside CNN Center, at Woodruff Park and in Midtown.

What you might call Real Pedestrians of Atlanta is a rather modest video surveillance: a few dozen cameras monitoring select locations in the city every second. But the city has applied for millions in federal stimulus funds so it can train about 500 more cameras on city streets.

The city may now engage in a debate that has roiled European capitals for years: Is closed-circuit surveillance a benign tool that helps the cops deter and even solve crimes, or is Big Brother coming to town to observe and record every move you make?

City officials are seeking $13.7 million in federal cash amid a series of high-profile crimes in recent months: a champion boxer shot dead in the street, a City Council member carjacked at gunpoint, a rash of armed robberies near Georgia Tech.

The system Atlanta plans to use could store images for up to 30 days and support software that reads license plate numbers and detects gunshots. Critics say the system conjures up images from George Orwell’s “1984,” a novel about a totalitarian state presided over by an all-seeing Big Brother. They wonder where the cameras will be pointed, who will have access to these images and sounds, how long will they be kept, and where will they be stored.

Atlanta surveillance cameras monitorAnjenette Williams, of the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, works at the zone 5 Atlanta police office, monitoring live video footage from surveillance cameras. Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com

“It’s kind of creepy,” said Marc Rotenberg executive director of the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center. “Mass surveillance is essentially directed toward everyone, so it doesn’t matter if you are someone planning a crime or if you are a resident or tourist or someone who is walking into an office building to go to work. Everyone gets swept into these big databases.”

City police, however, point to the spread of such cameras across the country and around the world. Community improvement districts already operate dozens across downtown and Midtown Atlanta. The city’s application says private and public organizations would be able to tie their cameras into the new network.

“Times have changed,” said Maj. Khirus Williams, commander the city’s downtown police zone. “We are no longer in the 1950s. The good of a camera certainly outweighs ‘Is Big Brother watching me?’ “

At Williams’ office on Spring Street, workers for the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District monitor a computer screen — at all hours — with live video streaming in from 13 cameras placed around downtown. With the cameras, they can pan wide areas and zoom in on people and objects. When they spot suspicious activity, they contact Williams’ officers and share video footage for evidence in solving crimes.

Williams said the cameras have helped police fight violent crime downtown, though he has not kept related statistics. He showed a reporter still images from one of the cameras of a man climbing into a downtown parking deck and stealing an automobile. Williams said the images helped police identify the man and arrest him in August.

North of Williams’ office, off-duty Atlanta police officers monitor footage from 41 cameras in the Midtown Improvement District. Purchased by property owners in the district, the cameras have assisted in more than 600 arrests for bank robberies, car thefts and other crimes since the summer of 2005, when the first camera was installed, said Col. Wayne Mock, the district’s public safety manager.

Popular elsewhere

Other cities have already installed thousands of these cameras. Baltimore has 480 and Chicago has 2,000, according to the Washington-based Urban Institute, which is studying their impact on crime.

Preliminary results from the study show crime has fallen in parts of both cities where the cameras are located. For example, violent crime and larcenies fell by 25 percent — or 30 incidents per month — in downtown Baltimore, starting in the fourth month after the cameras were installed in 2006, the study says. The cameras, according to the study, have helped identify suspects and getaway cars and find weapons used to commit crimes.

“It has helped solve literally thousands of crimes,” Chicago police spokesman Roderick Drew said. “In fact, our detectives have reviewed over 20,000 video segments this year alone.”

When the cameras tape activity in public areas, their images can be admitted in court, said Clifford Fishman, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches law at Catholic University of America in Washington.

“If the camera focuses on what you do in the living room of your apartment or something like that, then there is debate,” said Fishman, who wrote “Wiretapping and Eavesdropping.” “But if you are out on the street, if you are in the courtyard, if you are on the sidewalk, if you are in the park, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

The Urban Institute’s study, meanwhile, has found the cameras are not without their problems. When they automatically pan areas, they may capture only portions of a sequence of events. At night and during bad weather, they might not capture images strong enough for evidence. They are sometimes targeted by vandals. And their maintenance costs can be high. Atlanta has estimated its annual personnel and maintenance cost at $3.2 million for its proposed network.

69 new jobs

A major emphasis of the federal stimulus program is to create or save jobs. Atlanta officials estimate their plan would create up to 69 full-time and temporary positions in the city’s downtown 911 center, where the live video footage would be monitored.

The city is applying to the U.S. Commerce Department for a slice of $4.7 billion in federal stimulus funding available through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. That program is meant to help make broadband technology available to public safety workers, libraries, community colleges and “unserved and underserved areas.”

At least one government watchdog wonders whether Atlanta’s project is an appropriate way to spend federal stimulus dollars meant for the expansion of broadband technology.

“The descriptions don’t match except for that small reference to law enforcement. It is definitely worth questioning,” said Jayne Watson, assistant director of Common Cause Georgia, a member of the Georgia Stimulus Transparency and Accountability Coalition. “Let’s see how the process plays out and how the Commerce Department chooses to prioritize grant criteria.”

Atlanta officials envision their project spurring companies to expand broadband Internet services in certain parts of the city.

The city, meanwhile, is not the only applicant seeking federal funding for video surveillance, public records show. The Worcester Housing Authority in Massachusetts; the cities of Daveport, Iowa, and Union City, Calif.; and Dallas County Schools Inc. in Texas have all applied for the funding for surveillance and other purposes. In all, almost 2,200 applicants are seeking nearly $28 billion in federal stimulus funding for broadband projects in all 50 states.

Atlanta’s application did not make the list of 22 Georgia recommended to the Commerce Department on Oct. 14 for $129.2 million in grants and loans. But that doesn’t mean the city won’t get the money it wants.

An assistant U.S. commerce secretary will make the final funding decisions; his announcements will begin next month. State officials say they will help Atlanta apply during a second round of federal funding if the city doesn’t succeed this time. Plus, city police are considering seeking money from another source: the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services program.

“I would have liked to have been in those top 22 recommended projects from the” state, Deputy Atlanta Police Chief George Turner said. “But it is not a death blow.”

‘It doesn’t bother me’

Georgia Tech Student Body President Alina Staskevicius predicted the cameras could help deter armed robberies around the campus if they are placed in the right areas.

“There is only so much you can do with increased lighting, right?” she said. “Having cameras around could be beneficial to all the Atlanta-area universities.”

But there is disagreement among tourists and others who live and work in the city.

Just across the street from the CNN Center in downtown, where a sign declares “Area Under 24 Hours Video Surveillance,” Cheryl Semands was asking someone for directions to the High Museum of Art last week. A Houston resident, she was in town for a nephew’s wedding and wasn’t troubled by the cameras perched around downtown.

“They do it in London all day long,” she said of video surveillance. “It might bother the criminals. It doesn’t bother me in the least bit to have security cameras. Of course, I’m not doing anything wrong.”

A block away, Davis Petterson and his Zentropy band mates were packing up their instruments after an afternoon improvisational jazz performance in Centennial Olympic Park. Petterson said he would rather see the city hire more police officers instead of putting up cameras like the one that sat above him at Marietta Street and Andrew Young International Boulevard.

“It would get too Orwellian for me,” the Little Five Points resident said of the city’s plans to install hundreds of the cameras. “Cameras are weird.”

Insider reveals secrets of North American Union plot

Insider reveals secrets of North America plot

No ‘conspiracy theory,’ scheme hatched by CFR was sold to Bush, now Obama

WorldNetDaily | Oct 23, 2009

By Jerome R. Corsi

NEW YORK – The integration of the United States with Canada and Mexico, long deemed by many as little more than a fanciful “conspiracy theory,” was actually an idea promoted by the Council on Foreign Relations and sold to President Bush as a means of increasing commerce and business interests throughout North America, according to a top Canadian businessman.

Thomas d’Aquino, CEO and president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives – the Canadian counterpart to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce – confirmed in an interview recently published in Canada the accuracy of what WND first reported over three years ago: namely, that the Council on Foreign Relations was the prime mover in establishing the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or SPP.

Published by the Metropolitan Corporate Counsel Oct. 4, the d’Aquino interview verifies that the creation of the SPP was not a “conspiracy theory” but a well-thought-out North American integration plan launched by his organization, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, along with the Council on Foreign Relations in the United States.

According to d’Aquino, President Obama wants to continue North American integration under the renamed North American Leaders Summit, provided the North American Competitiveness Council can be recast to include more environmentalists and union leaders.

In the interview, d’Aquino traced the origin of SPP to his concerns, following the terrorist attacks on 9/11, that “there was a pressing need to keep the border open for commerce while simultaneously addressing the security needs of the United States and North America as a whole.”

With this goal in mind, d’Aquino explained that the CCCE by 2003 had “launched an agenda that we called the North American Security and Prosperity Initiative, or NASPI.”

As WND reported in July 2007, the term “Security and Prosperity” was first used by the Canadian Council of Chief Executives in a January 23, 2003, report titled “Security and Prosperity: Toward a New Canada-United States Partnership in North America.”

Then, in 2003, d’Aquino brought the idea to Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

“I helped convince Richard Haass at the Council on Foreign Relations that we should put together a trilateral task force to look at the future of North America,” d’Aquino said. “We recruited John Manley on Canada’s side, along with William Weld, former governor of Massachusetts, and Pedro Aspe, the former Mexican economy minister, who had been so influential in promoting NAFTA.”

The result was a CFR Task Force on the Future of North America created on Oct. 15, 2004, and chaired by Manley, Weld and Aspe, precisely as d’Aquino had recommended to Haass.

The CFR Task Force on the Future of North America issued an executive summary, titled “Creating a North American Community,” that was issued March 14, 2005, just days before the March 23, 2005, trilateral summit at Waco, Texas, in which President George W. Bush, then-Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and then-Mexican President Vicente Fox declared the Security and Prosperity Partnership on their own authority, without any approval from the U.S. Congress.

The final task force report, titled “Building a North American Community,” was issued in March 2005, immediately following the Waco summit. (Read highlights of the controversial 59-page CFR report – including calls for increased financial aid to Mexico, the creation of a security border perimeter around all of North America, a reduction in border security between the U.S. and Mexico, and the creation of a new North American tribunal to settle disputes.)

D’Aquino agrees that the Council on Foreign Relations task force was instrumental to the trilateral summit in Waco during which the SPP’s existence was declared, saying in the interview: “The result of all these efforts [by the CFR Task Force on the Future of North America] was that in 2005, Prime Minister Martin, President Bush and President Fox decided to sign what they called the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America – the SPP.”

WND has consistently reported that the two reports issued by the CFR Task Force on the Future of North America constituted the “blueprint” for the SPP unveiled at the Waco summit meeting.

The final CFR report included on page xvii a concise statement of purpose: “The Task Force’s central recommendation is establishment by 2010 of a North American economic and security community, the boundaries of which would be defined by a common external tariff and an outer security perimeter.”

D’Aquino also confirmed, as WND had previously reported, that the North American Competitiveness Council was hand-picked by the Chambers of Commerce in the three countries, without any legislative approval from any of the three nations.

“At their next summit meeting, in 2006, the three leaders invited leading members of the CEO communities in the three countries to provide private-sector input on issues related to competitiveness,” he continued. “From that idea, the North American Competitiveness Council (NACC) was born, to be composed of 10 frontline CEOs from each of Canada, the United States and Mexico.” That plan was implemented.

“We produced 10 of our most senior CEOs while the Americans established an executive committee of 15 representing a broad range of large companies with rotating memberships. The Mexicans produced some heavy-duty people – many names you know well.”

As WND reported at the time, the North American Competitiveness Council dominated the third annual SPP summit meeting held in Montebello, Quebec, in Aug. 2007, a fact confirmed by the interview with d’Aquino.

“The first meeting of the NACC with the three leaders took place in Montebello, Quebec, in 2007,” d’Aquino acknowledged. “Our Mexican and American counterparts graciously asked us to write the first NACC report. It was very well received, albeit heavily criticized by unions on the left and others as elitist: ‘Why did these people have access to the national leaders while everyone else was left out?'”

The NACC continued to advise SPP leaders behind closed doors at the fourth annual SPP summit meeting held in New Orleans, in April 2008, as WND reported and as d’Aquino now confirms: “The second meeting of the NACC with the three leaders took place at their summit in New Orleans in 2008 – we were in the room with the leaders for a full hour and a half.”

Whereas Bush was sold on the SPP initiative as a means of enhancing business and commerce in North America, d’Aquino explained, Obama would continue with the SPP only if more environmentalists and union leaders were included in the private advisory group that had consisted entirely of business leaders under the aegis of the NACC.

“When President Obama came to power, he faced a lot of pressure to shelve the SPP and not follow through with the NACC because his advisers were looking for an institution that would also involve environmentalists, union leaders, et al.”

D’Aquino argued that the NACC should continue, and, as WND has reported, the Obama administration is continuing the previous administration’s pursuit of North American integration.

“But at the North American Leaders Summit in Guadalajara this summer, President Calderon and Prime Minister Harper both told President Obama that the NACC was very useful,” d’Aquino said. “In fact, the Canadian NACC group met with our prime minister and his key ministers for an hour and a half on the eve of his departure for the Guadalajara summit. He said that, regardless of whether the NACC continues formally on a trilateral basis, he welcomes our advice on trilateral issues.”

Japan pushes for East Asia bloc, US role uncertain

Reuters | Oct 24, 2009

By Jason Szep and Yoko Nishikawa

HUA HIN, Thailand, Oct 24 (Reuters) – Japan’s prime minister backed a U.S. role for a proposed EU-style Asian community on Saturday, telling Southeast Asian leaders Tokyo’s alliance with Washington was at the heart of its diplomacy.

Making a case for an East Asian Community at a summit of Asian leaders in Thailand, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama said there should be some U.S. involvement in the bloc, which faces stiff obstacles including Japan’s historic rivalry with China.

It was unclear how a U.S. role would work. But the comment may help allay concern in some countries that such a body would ultimately fail by shutting out the world’s biggest economy.

Hatoyama may also be trying to defuse U.S.-Japan tension over the long-planned reorganisation of the American military presence in Japan, the first big test of ties between Washington and the new Japanese government.

“Japan places the U.S.-Japan alliance at the foundation of its diplomacy,” Hatoyama said at the meeting, according to a Japanese government spokesman.

“I would like to firmly promote regional cooperation in East Asia with a long-term vision of forming an East Asian Community.” Several Southeast Asian leaders expressed support for the bloc, but none spoke of a U.S. role at the meetings.

The talks are part of a three-day leaders’ summit which got off to a rancorous start on Friday, marred by a diplomatic spat between Thailand and neighbour Cambodia, a trade feud over Filipino rice and a few no-shows in the 10-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

China had a very different message at the meetings, signalling possible trouble ahead for Hatoyama. While he promoted a new community, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao focused on the current one, delivering what Chinese state media described as a six-point proposal for strengthening links with ASEAN.

This included developing a recently signed China-ASEAN free trade pact and accelerating regional infrastructure construction.

MYANMAR, NORTH KOREA

An ASEAN statement summing up talks within its own members urged its most recalcitrant state, Myanmar, to ensure elections next year are free and fair, though it stopped short of seeking the release of detained pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.

That came a day after ASEAN launched a human rights commission as part of a plan to build an economic and political community by 2015, and drew a scathing rebuke from rights activists who said it was toothless and lacked independence.

The region’s leaders also called on North Korea to return to six-way nuclear disarmament talks.

The summit in the resort town of Hua Hin gave Asia’s economic titans, China and Japan, a chance to jockey for influence in Southeast Asia, a region of 570 million people with a combined $1.1 trillion economy, as it pulls out of recession.

Japan’s new government sees its influence bound to the East Asian Community, an idea inspired by the European Union that would account for nearly a quarter of global economic output.

It would encompass Japan, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand, along with ASEAN countries.

After meetings with China, Japan and South Korea, ASEAN holds talks on Sunday with India, Australia and New Zealand.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on Sunday will push another idea for a new, separate forum of Asia-Pacific nations to respond to regional crises. His idea includes the United States.

Washington has stepped up Asian diplomacy under the Obama administration and fears missing out on such groupings, especially as Japan considers redefining its U.S. security alliance, and Beijing expands its diplomatic and trade presence.

Exactly how Washington would participate is uncertain.

Asked if Washington would be a member of the Community, a Japanese government official told reporters: “It remains unclear. We have to see how multilateral meetings will turn out today.”

The proposal wasn’t elaborated upon, said Mari Elka Pangestu, trade minister of Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. “How the U.S. participates — because the U.S. is one of our dialogue partners — we need to think through.”

China has been coy about the idea while rapidly expanding ties across Southeast Asia — from building sleek new government offices in Cambodia to working closely with reclusive Myanmar.

“China wants to establish healthy relations with the new government in Japan, so it is not going to object to discussing this idea,” said Shi Yinhong, a regional security professor at Beijing’s Renmin University.

“But everybody understands the idea of an East Asia Community is extremely far off,” he added.

Host Thailand deployed about 18,000 security personnel backed by military gunships, determined to avoid a rerun of mishaps at past summits.

Japanese Prime Minister pushes for Asian Union

Financial Times | Oct 24 2009

By Kevin Brown in Hua Hin, Thailand

Yukio Hatoyama, the Japanese prime minister, won wide backing from Asian leaders on Saturday for his vision of an East Asian Community modelled on the European Union, his official spokesman said.

“There is an overall expression of welcome to the prime minister’s initiative,” Kazuo Kodama said after Mr Hatoyama met 11 other heads of government, including Manmohan Singh, his Indian counterpart.

However, Mr Hatoyama failed to dispel confusion over the proposed role of the US in the EAC, saying only that the relationship with Washington was the “foundation” of Japanese security, and that Tokyo would consult closely with the Americans.

Mr Kodama said the proposed community would build on the existing relationship between the 10 member Association of South East Asian Nations, which held a two-day summit in Hua Hin on Friday and Saturday, and the six countries that will join it for the East Asian Summit on Sunday.

That would give membership to Japan, China, India, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, plus the Asean countries – Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Burma, Brunei, Cambodia and Laos.

In a statement, the Asean leaders welcomed the Japanese prime minister’s attempts to reinvigorate Japan’s relations with other Asian countries, including the long-term vision of an EAC.

However, the Japanese prime minister also said that the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping could be “complementary” to the EAC. Apec, whose leaders meet next month in Singapore, includes the US and other Pacific nations from North and South America.

Such a grouping would be closer to an alternative idea proposed by Kevin Rudd, prime minister of Australia, for an Asia Pacific community that would also include the US and other American countries with a Pacific coastline.

The South East Asian leaders met the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea in a summit known as the Asean + 3 meeting after wrapping up their own summit on Saturday morning with a statement urging Thailand and the Philippines to settle a rice dispute that could derail a regional trade agreement.

The annual series of summits provides an opportunity for Japan, China and India to compete for influence in South East Asia, which has a population of more than 500m and a combined economy bigger than India’s.

Mr Hatoyama’s attempts to build support for an EAC reflect the new Japanese government’s determination to adopt a more proactive approach than its predecessor to engagement with the rest of Asia.

The US has also increased diplomatic efforts in Asia. President Barack Obama will hold the first US summit with Asean leaders on the sidelines of the Apec summit in Singapore. China has said only that it is willing to discuss the idea of an EAC.

The 16 heads of government in Hua Hin are protected by a security clampdown by about 18,000 troops and police that has virtually isolated the seaside town on the Gulf of Thailand to prevent demonstrations by opponents of the Thai government.

The series of summits got under way in Pattaya, Thailand, in April, but had to be abandoned after protesters surged through security checks and invaded the conference hall. An earlier attempt to hold the summits was abandoned in December after protesters shut down Bangkok’s airports.

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Global events mark magic number on climate change

Climate Action

Kathleen Jordan, of New York, left, and others participate in an International Day of Climate Action rally Saturday, Oct. 24, 2009 in New York’s Times Square. The event, organized by 350.org, was one of thousands expected to take place around the world to draw attention to the number 350, representing what some scientists say is the most carbon dioxide in parts per million we can safely have in the atmosphere. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

AP | Oct 24, 2009

NEW YORK — Activists held events around the world Saturday to mark the number they say the world needs to reach to prevent disastrous climate change: 350.

The number represents 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere that some scientists say is the safe upper limit. The atmosphere currently reaches about 390 parts per million, according to research by NASA climate scientist James Hanse cited by 350.org.

Hundreds of events highlighted the number in different ways.

In what 350.org founder Bill McKibben called a global game of Scrabble, groups in Australia, Ecuador, India, the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Denmark each spelled out one of the numbers in 350. Hundreds gathered in New York City’s Times Square and watched slideshows of the other events on giant screens.

McKibben, an environmentalist and author of “The End of Nature,” said the day was unique because it emphasized the science behind a politically complicated topic.

“It was ordinary people rallying around a scientific data point,” McKibben said. “Nothing like that has ever happened before.”

In Venezuela, volunteers formed a human chain marking the number zero on the beach at Catia La Mar north of Caracas to mark the spot where they said the ocean would reach if global warming is not stopped.

McKibben said volunteers also sent in photos of separate groups forming the numbers 350 around the Dead Sea, in Jordan, Israel and Palestinian territory.

Many of the events referred to the Copenhagen conference scheduled in December that will seek to reach a new global climate change treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol on carbon dioxide emissions. It has been billed as a last chance to avoid the impact of catastrophic global that could be felt for generations.

McKibben said there are lessons to be learned from the Kyoto Protocol, which the U.S. did not join.

“We saw what happened,” he said. “Everybody walked away once it was done, and there was no real progress. We need to pick up the pace.”

American Propaganda: “War On Terror, LAPD Style”

“Through clever and constant application of propaganda, people can be made to see paradise as hell, and also the other way around, to consider the most wretched sort of life as paradise.”

“The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it.”

– Adolf Hitler

“iWATCH Public Service Announcement”