Daily Archives: March 3, 2011

Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin ‘was a real-life Manchurian Candidate’


Sen. Robert F. Kennedy lies mortally wounded on the floor of a pantry at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles Photo: Bill Eppridge and Boris Yaro of the Los Angeles Times

Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin was programmed to shoot the politician in a real life version of the film The Manchurian Candidate, according to his lawyer ahead of a parole hearing on Wednesday.

Telegraph | Mar 2, 2011

By Jon Swaine

In June 1968, Sirhan Sirhan shot Kennedy dead in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, moments after he had clinched victory in the California Democratic primary for that year’s presidential election.

Sirhan, a 24-year-old Palestinian, cried “I did it for my country” when arrested. He kept diaries detailing his hatred of Kennedy for promising military support for Israel, a year after the region’s Six-Day War.

Yet Sirhan’s lawyer claims he was programmed to shoot the politician while under hypnosis.

Bill Pepper, the New York attorney who will today lead Sirhan’s 14th attempt to be given parole, improbably alleges his client was “hypno-programmed”.

Related

Sirhan can’t remember shooting RFK, Parole Board won’t consider “conspiracy theories”

“Sirhan was put through a process involving hypnosis and chemicals,” claimed Mr Pepper, who is also a qualified barrister in England and Wales.

“Someone, some group or some agency did this,” he said. Asked if he meant that the US government was responsible, Mr Pepper said: “Perhaps”.

Despite the fact his client was watched and apprehended by numerous bystanders, Mr Pepper also believes the conspiracy theory that there was a “second gunman” in the hotel.

“We know Sirhan did not shoot the lethal bullets,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “Witnesses said he was standing in the wrong place. He was there only as a distraction.”

The lawyer may be prevented from making these arguments before the parole hearing, in Coalinga, California. At issue is whether his client, now 66, remains a threat and has accepted responsibility.

In addition to maintaining that he did not even kill Kennedy, both Sirhan and Mr Pepper also say that he has “no recollection” of the incident.

Mr Pepper, who was chairman of Kennedy’s “citizens’ committee” in 1964, said he was hopeful ahead of the hearing.

But David Dahle, an LA district attorney on the panel, suggested Sirhan would be disappointed again. “I am sceptical that I will see something that will cause me to not oppose the grant of parole,” he said.

Dictators and their sons: Col Gaddafi’s billionaire children


Saif al-Islam, the suave, western-educated second son of the Libyan dictator, was the best known of the sons Photo: JONATHAN LODGE

Even as their father proclaimed he was building a classless state built on socialist and Islamic principles, Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s and his children built vast fortunes in sectors from hostels to oil.

Telegraph | Mar 1, 2011

By Fiona Govan

Britain has announced that the assets of the dictator and his family have been frozen, and the Treasury has created a special unit to trace the multi-billion pound assets they are thought to have squirrelled away in investments in the city. For years, though, that fortune helped the Gaddafi family win friends and influence across the world.

Saif al-Islam, the suave, western-educated second son of the Libyan dictator, was the best known of the sons.

Seen as the natural successor to his father before the wave of protests across the north African nation, the 38 year old Saif al-Islam presented himself as a reformer. He was welcomed in the West as the acceptable face of the regime, and claims the Duke of York, Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair among his “good friends”.

In 1995, he received his degree in architecture and engineering at Tripoli’s al-Fateh University, and then went on to obtain a management degree from the International Business School in Vienna before gaining a doctorate at Britain’s London School of Economics (LSE).

Presenting himself as a humanitarian ambassador through the charitable body he set up in 1997, the young Gaddafi – whose name means the sword of Islam in Arabic – was at the heart of the complex negotiations over the Bulgarian nurses and Palestinian doctor freed by Libya in July 2007.

His foundation also negotiated the release of Western hostages held by a group of Islamist extremists in the Philippines in 2000 – who had earlier been funded by his father. He is said to have personally negotiated the financial compensation paid by Libya to the families of victims killed in the Lockerbie plane bombing in 1988 and the 1989 bombing of a French airliner.

The shaven headed bachelor, who keeps lions as pets, enjoys sea fishing and has a number of falcons with which he hunts, pledged a £1.5 million through his foundation to his alma mater, the LSE, a donation that in the light of recent events has caused no end of embarrassment to the university.

Saif al-Islam was a regular at London’s top night spots. He and his brothers reportedly paid over £600,000 a pop to get Mariah Carey, Beyoncé and Usher to sing at their birthday parties.

It is reported that Saif al-Islam owns an £10 million mansion in Hampstead, North London – complete with suede-lined cinema room and swimming pool. The house was bought in 2009 by a holding company registered in the British Virgin Islands.

According to US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, the Gaddafi children routinely benefited from the Libya’s wealth. One cable written by Chris Stevens, a US diplomat in Libya, said it had “become common practice” for government funds to be used to promote companies controlled by Gaddafi’s children. He also indicated that their companies have all benefited from “considerable government financing and political backing.”

Gaddafi’s fifth eldest son, Hannibal, also developed a reputation for things unconnected to his business acumen. In 2001, he attacked three Italian policemen with a fire extinguisher. In September 2004, he was briefly detained in Paris after driving a Porsche at high speed in the wrong direction and through red lights down the Champs-Elysees while intoxicated.

A year later his model wife, Aline Skaf, filed an assault suit against him. And on July 15, 2008, Hannibal and his wife were held for two days and charged with assaulting two maids in a hotel in Geneva, Switzerland. Gaddafi retaliated by arresting Swiss nationals in Libya and suspended oil deliveries to Switzerland.

Rumours have long abounded that state funds were used to further the career of Col Gaddafi’s footballing son, Saadi, who despite his limited talent once played for Perugia in the Italian football league. The 37-year old, third son of Gaddafi was planning a new city styled on Vegas in the west of Libya.

Tobacco smoking impacts teens’ brains, study shows

physorg.com | Mar 2, 2011

Tobacco smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S., with more than 400,000 deaths each year attributable to smoking or its consequences. And yet teens still smoke. Indeed, smoking usually begins in the teen years, and approximately 80 percent of adult smokers became hooked by the time they were 18. Meanwhile, teens who don’t take up smoking usually never do.

While studies have linked cigarette smoking to deficits in attention and memory in adults, UCLA researchers wanted to compare brain function in adolescent smokers and non-smokers, with a focus on the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that guides “executive functions” like decision-making and that is still developing structurally and functionally in adolescents.

They found a disturbing correlation: The greater a teen’s addiction to nicotine, the less active the prefrontal cortex was, suggesting that smoking can affect brain function.

The research appears in the current online edition of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology.

The finding is obviously not good news for smokers, said the study’s senior author, Edythe London, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

“As the prefrontal cortex continues to develop during the critical period of adolescence, smoking may influence the trajectory of brain development and affect the function of the prefrontal cortex,” London said.

In the study, 25 smokers and 25 non-smokers between the ages of 15 to 21 were asked to perform a test that activated the prefrontal cortex and required them to inhibit responding.

The test, called the Stop-Signal Task (SST), was done while the participants were undergoing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The Stop-Signal Task involves pressing a button as quickly as possible every time a lighted arrow appears — unless an auditory tone is played, in which case the participant must prevent himself from pressing the button. It is a test of a person’s ability to inhibit an action.

Prior to the fMRI test, the researchers used the Heaviness of Smoking Index (HSI) to measure the level of nicotine dependence in the smoking group. The HSI takes into account how many cigarettes a teen smokes in a day and how soon after waking he or she takes the first smoke.

The results of the tests, London said, were interesting — and surprising. Among smokers, the researchers found that the higher the HSI — that is, the more a teen smoked — the lesser the activity in the prefrontal cortex. And yet, despite these lower levels of activation, the smoking group and the non-smoking group performed roughly the same with respect to inhibition on the Stop-Signal Task.

“The finding that there was little difference on the Stop-Signal Task between smokers and non-smokers was a surprise,” said London, who is also a professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the UCLA Brain Research Institute. “That suggested to us that the motor response of smokers may be maintained through some kind of compensation from other brain areas.”

Protracted development of the prefrontal cortex has been implicated as a cause of poor decision-making in teens, London said, caused by immature cognitive control during adolescence.

“Such an effect can influence the ability of youth to make rational decisions regarding their well-being, and that includes the decision to stop smoking,” she said.

The key finding, London noted, is that “as the prefrontal cortex continues to develop during the critical period of adolescence, smoking may influence the trajectory of brain development, affecting the function of the prefrontal cortex. In turn, if the prefrontal cortex is negatively impacted, a teen may be more likely to start smoking and to keep smoking — instead of making the decision that would favor a healthier life.”

On the other hand, the fact that adolescent smokers and non-smokers performed equally well during a response-inhibition test suggests that early interventions during the teen years may prevent the transition from a teen smoking an occasional cigarette in response to peer pressure to addiction in later adolescence.

Michael Jackson ‘chemically castrated’ as child: doctor

physorg.com | Mar 2, 2011

Michael Jackson may have been more prince than king of pop, a French doctor says in a new book alleging his wide-ranging voice resulted from a childhood chemical castration to fight acne.

“When he died, I realised that he was an unusual phenomenon,” Alain Branchereau, an opera buff and professor of vascular surgery at Timone University Hospital in France’s Mediterranean port of Marseille, told AFP.

“I said, ‘That’s the voice of a castrato!’.”

After discussing the voice with his colleagues, including endocrinologists, Branchereau ended up with the theory of chemical castration through the synthetic anti-male hormone drug Cyproterone.

“When he was 12, Michael Jackson had acne. We know this, he spoke about it himself as a tragedy. What I think could have happened is that his people suggested this miracle treatment,” the doctor said.

Cyproterone “blocks puberty, the voice can’t mature,” he said, adding that he had read around 20 books on the subject, studied photographs and spoken to specialists in dermatology, voice physiology, plastic surgery, urology as well as to a former singer with the Petits Chanteurs de Sainte-Croix boys choir.

The drug stops bodily hair and the larynx from growing and affects the bones, leaving the body with a slight frame but a large chest.

Once the treatment is finished, the patient “keeps a child’s larynx all his life in a man’s body,” said Branchereau.

The doctor also noted that a male voice breaks during adolescence, becoming difficult to control. “But Michael Jackson never stopped singing,” he said.

“An important part of my theory is this voice’s exceptional character, which covers three octaves. But I haven’t found any grown men’s voices that cover three octaves.”

Branchereau admitted that he had not contacted Jackson’s family or friends for his book, “Michael Jackson, the secret of a voice,” due out on March 9.

“We will never have proof,” the doctor said. “Unless his entourage says something.”

Documents Reveal Secret TSA Plan To Body-Scan Pedestrians, Train Passengers


A sample streetside scan image from American Sciences & Engineering.

The projects range from what the DHS describes as “a walk through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events or other points of interest” to “covert inspection of moving subjects”.

Forbes | Mar 2, 2011

Giving Transportation Security Administration agents a peek under your clothes may soon be a practice that goes well beyond airport checkpoints. Newly uncovered documents show that as early as 2006, the Department of Homeland Security has been planning pilot programs to deploy mobile scanning units that can be set up at public events and in train stations, along with mobile x-ray vans capable of scanning pedestrians on city streets.

The non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) on Wednesday published documents it obtained from the Department of Homeland Security showing that from 2006 to 2008 the agency planned a study of of new anti-terrorism technologies that EPIC believes raise serious privacy concerns. The projects range from what the DHS describes as “a walk through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events or other points of interest” to “covert inspection of moving subjects” employing the same backscatter imaging technology currently used in American airports.

The 173-page collection of contracts and reports, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, includes contracts with Siemens Corporations, Northeastern University, and Rapiscan Systems. The study was expected to cost more than $3.5 million.

One project allocated to Northeastern University and Siemens would mount backscatter x-ray scanners and video cameras on roving vans, along with other cameras on buildings and utility poles, to monitor groups of pedestrians, assess what they carried, and even track their eye movements. In another program, the researchers were asked to develop a system of long range x-ray scanning to determine what metal objects an individual might have on his or her body at distances up to thirty feet.

“This would allow them to take these technologies out of the airport and into other contexts like public streets, special events and ground transit,” says Ginger McCall, an attorney with EPIC. “It’s a clear violation of the fourth amendment that’s very invasive, not necessarily effective, and poses all the same radiation risks as the airport scans.”

It’s not clear to what degree the technologies outlined in the DHS documents have been implemented. Multiple contacts at the DHS public affairs office didn’t respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon. A privacy assessment included in the documents for one aspect of the plans that focused on train security suggests that images wouldn’t be tied to any personally identifiable information such as a subject’s name. Any images shared outside the project or used for training purposes would have faces blurred, and employees using the system would be trained to avoid privacy violations, the document says. If the scanners were to adopt privacy enhancements deployed in new versions of the airport full body scanners currently being tested by the TSA, they would also use nondescript outlines of people rather than defined images, only showing items of interest on the subject’s body.

But EPIC’s McCall says that those safeguards are irrelevant: If scanners are deployed in public settings, it doesn’t matter if they show full naked images or merely the objects in a user’s pockets. “When you’re out walking on the street, it’s not acceptable for an officer to come up and search your bag without probable cause or consent.,” she says. “This is the digital equivalent.”

In August of last year, Joe Reiss, the vice president of marketing of security contractor American Sciences & Engineering told me in an interview that the company had sold more than 500 of its backscatter x-ray vans to governments around the world, including some deployed in the U.S. Those vans are capable of scanning people, the inside of cars and even  the internals of some buildings while rolling down public streets. The company claims that its systems’ “primary purpose is to image vehicles and their contents,” and that “the system cannot be used to identify an individual, or the race, sex or age of the person.” But Reiss admitted that the van scans do penetrate clothing, and EPIC president Marc Rotenberg called them “one of the most intrusive technologies conceivable.”

On top of exposing research into possible expansion of the scanner program, EPIC has also filed a lawsuit against the DHS that fights the use of the scanners in airports. The group is arguing its case in a D.C. appellate court next week, though some expect the scanners to be ruled constitutional.

Sirhan can’t remember shooting RFK, Parole Board won’t consider “conspiracy theories”


Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, seen in this 2009 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation photograph released to Reuters on March 2, 2011, is facing a parole board on Wednesday. Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Senator Robert Kennedy serving a life sentence for the 1968 murder, will face a parole board for the 14th time. Reuters

Sirhan was “hypno-programmed,” turning him into a virtual “Manchurian Candidate,” acting robot-like at the behest of evil forces who then wiped his memory clean. It’s the stuff of science fiction and Hollywood movies, but some believe it is the key.

Assassin maintains he can’t remember shooting RFK

AP | Mar 2, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than four decades after Sen. Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, his convicted murderer wants to go free for a crime he says he can’t remember.

It is not old age or some memory-snatching disease that has erased an act Sirhan Bishara Sirhan once said he committed “with 20 years of malice aforethought.” It’s been this way almost from the beginning. Hypnotists and psychologists, lawyers and investigators have tried to jog his memory with no useful result.

Now a new lawyer is on the case and he says his efforts have also failed.

“There is no doubt he does not remember the critical events,” said William F. Pepper, the attorney who will argue for Sirhan’s parole Wednesday. “He is not feigning it. It’s not an act. He does not remember it.”

Related

Sirhan may not remember much about the night of June 4, 1968, but the world remembers.

They have heard how Sirhan was grabbed as he emptied a pistol in the crowded kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel here where Kennedy stood moments after claiming victory in the California presidential primary. They heard how he kept firing even as his hand was pinned to a table. They heard how Kennedy, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, was shot and died, changing the course of American history.

Parole Board members are bound to review those facts, but they won’t consider the many conspiracy theories floated over the years.

Pepper, a New York-based lawyer who also is a British barrister, is the latest advocate of a second gunman theory. Believers claim 13 shots were fired while Sirhan’s gun held only eight bullets and that the fatal shot appeared to come from behind Kennedy while Sirhan faced him.

Pepper also suggests Sirhan was “hypno-programmed,” turning him into a virtual “Manchurian Candidate,” acting robot-like at the behest of evil forces who then wiped his memory clean. It’s the stuff of science fiction and Hollywood movies, but some believe it is the key.

How Pepper plans to use any of this to his client’s advantage remains to be seen because it will have little bearing on the decision of the panel that must determine if Sirhan is suitable for parole. The board is not being asked to retry the case and lawyers may not present evidence relating to guilt or innocence.

At issue is whether Sirhan, 66, remains a threat to others or to himself, whether he has accepted responsibility for the crime and expressed adequate remorse and whether he has an acceptable parole plan if he is released.

His lack of memory makes expressions of remorse and accepting responsibility difficult.

Sirhan could address that if he speaks at the hearing at Pleasant Valley men’s prison in Coalinga. Whether he’ll do that is uncertain. He has rarely commented during 13 past parole hearings and sometimes hasn’t shown up at all.

Pepper said in an interview with The Associated Press that he has had Sirhan examined several times by psychologist Daniel Brown of Harvard University, an expert in hypnosis of trauma victims. He will not disclose exactly what was accomplished in the sessions but said, “There have been substantial breakthroughs.”

Pepper said he may have more to say after the hearing.

“It was very clear to me that this guy did not kill Bob Kennedy,” said Pepper.

Asked who did kill the senator, he said, “I believe I have it but I’m not going to deal with it at this time.”

In one of many emotional outbursts during his trial, Sirhan blurted out that he had committed the crime “with 20 years of malice aforethought,” a statement that could now come back to haunt him. That and his declaration when arrested: “I did it for my country” were his only relevant comments before he said he didn’t remember shooting Kennedy.

Public opinion could be an invisible force in the board’s decision.

Sirhan, The Manchurian Candidate, & CIA Mind Control Experiments

“He says only that he cannot remember”

If Sirhan is released, he would be the first imprisoned political assassin to win parole in this country. James Earl Ray, convicted of killing the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Jack Ruby, convicted of killing John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, both died in prison.

Sirhan was originally sentenced to death over objections by Kennedy family members who said they wanted no more killing. The sentence was commuted to life in prison when the U.S. Supreme Court briefly outlawed the death penalty in 1972.

Kennedy’s son, Maxwell, who has spoken for the family previously, did not return phone calls from the AP regarding Sirhan.

The lawyer notes that he has a personal tie to Kennedy, having been chairman of his citizens’ committee when he ran for Senate in 1964.

Pepper also represented James Earl Ray, through 10 years of appeals and a civil trial which he said proved that Ray was not King’s killer. By then Ray was dead.

David Dahle, head Los Angeles deputy district attorney for parole candidates serving life sentences, said his remarks at the hearing will depend on what is presented by the defense.

“At this point, I am skeptical that I will see something that will cause me to not oppose the grant of parole,” he said.

Few high profile prisoners have been released in the California system. Charles Manson and his followers have been repeatedly turned down for parole. Manson follower Susan Atkins attended her final parole hearing on a gurney dying of cancer but was denied release and died in prison three weeks later.

Dahle said the board will review Sirhan’s behavior in prison and whether the explosive outbursts of the young man who stood trial in 1969 have continued as he aged. By all accounts, Sirhan has been a model prisoner. But he said there will also be discussions of how he might adjust to life on the outside.

His brother, Munir Sirhan, 64, will submit a statement and a plan for Sirhan to live with him in his Pasadena home if released. However, even Pepper says that is an unlikely prospect because Sirhan, who was a Palestinian immigrant from Jordan, will be considered an illegal alien and would be turned over to immigration officials for deportation.

Munir Sirhan told The Associated Press he has made arrangements with a family in Jordan to house Sirhan if he is deported there.

“I hope it comes out in his favor,” said Munir Sirhan. “As Christians we hold a lot of faith. I stand ready to help him in any way possible. If he is not deported our house is still here for him. We feel for the senator, God rest his soul. But 43 years is a long time. ”

Both Pepper and Dahle said Sirhan’s Middle Eastern connections have always provided a backdrop for considerations of parole.

“I don’t think there will ever be a disconnect between issues of Middle East politics and this case,” said Dahle.

Pepper said Sirhan is a victim of misperception because of his Palestinian Arab background. He said most assume Sirhan is a Muslim and some have referred to him as “the first terrorist.” In fact, he said, Sirhan is a Christian and had no ties to terrorist groups.

Among those attending the hearing will be one of the victims. William Weisel, who was an ABC-TV director, was shot in the stomach.

“There’s no doubt he was the shooter,” Weisel said. “Whether or not there was another one, I don’t know. If there were 13 shots, who was the other shooter?”

Having covered the White House through seven presidents, he said he does not ascribe to conspiracy theories because, “The government can’t keep a secret.”

However, Weisel said he will tell the parole board he has no objection to Sirhan’s release “if the district attorney and the parole board decide it’s to everyone’s advantage.”

Another surviving shooting victim, Paul Schrade, said he was not attending and would have no comment.