Friday, December 10, 2010
Daily Kos: State of the Nation
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has been holding a mock filibuster today (mock, because he's not actually blocking a measure scheduled for a vote on the floor), with welcome help from Sens. Sherrod Brown and Mary Landrieu. It might not be the real thing, but it's been powerful in laying out the progressive case against this tax deal. He's particularly strong when he's talking about income inequality, points he made in this video:
"Mr. President, in the year 2007, the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of all income," Sanders said. "The top 1 percent earned 23.5 percent of all income--more than the entire bottom 50 percent. That is apparently not enough. The percentage of income going to the top 1 percent has nearly tripled since the 1970s. In the mid-1970s, the top 1 percent earned about 8 percent of all income. In the 1980s, that figure jumped to 14 percent. In the late 1990s, that 1 percent earned about 19 percent."
PolitiFact got requests to fact-check Sander's claim. They did, and found it's true.
So, we're left with three studies that vary slightly but which all point in the same general direction -- showing the top 1 percent earning between 21.4 and 23.5 percent of the national income in 2007. The studies also show that this share exceeds what the entire bottom 50 percent of the United States earns. So we rate Sanders' statement True.
Whether it's 21.4 or 23.5 percent is of much less importance than the fact that the top one percent earns more than the entire bottom 50 percent. That's obscene, and Democrats should not be lining up to perpetuate that status quo.
U.S.-China Tensions Intensify Over Korean Crisis : NPR
- US-China Tensions Intensify Over Korean Crisis - NPR (news.google.com)
- News from The China Post Korean crisis serves as warning of our own risk (armwoodopinion.com)
- Korean Peninsula Tense After Shelling By North : NPR (armwoodnews.com)
- S. Korea Vows To Bomb The North If Attacked Again : NPR (armwoodnews.com)
- Analysis: WikiLeaks reveals China, N. Korea tensions (cnn.com)
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Protesters Attack Car Carrying Prince Charles and Camilla - NYTimes.com
LONDON — Britain’s coalition government survived the most serious challenge yet to its austerity plans on Thursday when Parliament narrowly approved a sharp increase in college fees. But violent student protests in central London, including an attack on a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, to the theater, provided a stark measure of growing public resistance.
The 62-year-old heir to the British throne and his 63-year-old wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, were said by palace officials to have been unharmed in the attack, which occurred when a group of about 50 protesters, some in full-face balaclavas and shouting “Tory scum!” and “It’s your government!” broke through a cordon of police officers on motorcycles while approaching London’s theater district in slow-speed traffic.
A photograph of the couple, in formal evening dress, showed them registering shock as protesters beat on the side of their armored, chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce with sticks and bottles, smashing a side window, denting a rear panel and splashing the car with white paint. A Jaguar tailing the car and carrying a palace security detail was so battered that the police ended up using its doors as shields.
Prime Minister David Cameron called the attack on the royal couple’s car “shocking and regrettable.”
Other violence across the city center continued into the night, with demonstrators trying to smash their way into the Treasury building at the heart of the Whitehall government district with makeshift rams made from steel crowd barriers, shouting “We want our money back!” The protesters set small fires and clashed with riot police officers and mounted units that formed cordons outside government buildings. BBC reporters at the scene wore helmets as the rioters threw shattered blocks of steel-reinforced concrete.
Scotland Yard said at mid-evening that at least 12 police officers were injured, six of them seriously, including one who was taken unconscious to the hospital after falling or being pulled off his horse. At that point, one large fire was still burning in front of the Palace of Westminster, seat of the House of Commons. At the height of the unrest, rioters threw snooker balls, lighted flares and fireworks at the police, and tried to topple statues in Westminster Square, across from the Commons. At least 43 were arrested.
The violence provided a disturbing backdrop to the day’s political events, which were themselves a watershed moment for the seven-month-old coalition government of Mr. Cameron. Ahead of the parliamentary vote on the college fee increase, the government confronted a difficult rupture as the Liberal Democrats, who are the coalition’s junior partners, split among themselves, raising questions over the coalition’s long-term survival.
- Student Protesters Attack Car Carrying Prince Charles and Camilla - New York Times (news.google.com)
- Fees protesters kick prince's car (bbc.co.uk)
Silencing WikiLeaks A Free Speech Challenge For U.S. : NPR
- WikiLeaks Persists Despite Massive, Multifaceted Attacks (pcworld.com)
- Operation Payback: WikiLeaks Avenged by Hacktivists (pcworld.com)
- The WikiLeaks Drama: A Timeline (pcworld.com)
- Arrested WikiLeaks chief denied bail in U.K. - U.S. news - WikiLeaks in Security - msnbc.com (armwoodnews.com)
Image via WikipediaWesley Snipes Reports to Prison - BV Black Spin
Action-adventure star Wesley Snipes is officially behind bars. He reportedly checked into a medium-security prison in Pennsylvania on Thursday shortly before noon to begin his three-year sentence for neglecting to file tax returns.
Snipes, who failed to file tax returns for at least a decade and owed $2.7 million in taxes on $13.8 million in income from 1999 to 2001, self-surrendered to the federal prison camp at the Federal Correctional Institution McKean in Bradford, Penn.
The prison facility reportedly houses 300 nonviolent male offenders. A typical day for Snipes at McKean would be a 6:35 a.m. wake up. Breakfast is announced soon thereafter, and he will be given 10 minutes to decide if he wants to go to the cafeteria. The menus consist of a well-balanced diet and there are also religious, heart-healthy and "no-flesh protein" alternative diets.
Work assignments for the day are handed out at 8 a.m. If a prisoner is late for work, he is subjected to a disciplinary action.
Snipes will don a uniform that consists of khaki pants, a khaki shirt, a belt, safety-toed work shoes, and an ID card. The star of 'White Men Can't Jump' and the 'Blade' series will be required to be in full uniform when at work, on a call-out, at a scheduled program or in the visiting room.
If Snipes wants to make a call to friends or family, phone usage is restricted to 15 minutes, and he will not be able to conduct any business whatsoever. If anyone comes to visit, contact in the prison's visitors room is limited to "a kiss," according to their handbook.
The 48-year-old actor may be able to catch himself in an old role since the prison does allow its convicts to watch double-feature movie showings Friday through Sunday, but the films cannot have a NC-17, R or X rating.
- Will you brighten Wesley Snipes' prison Christmas? [poll] (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- Wesley Snipes Is Going to Prison - BV Black Spin (armwoodnews.com)
- Wesley Snipes reports to federal prison in Pennsylvania (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
Senate Fails to Force Action on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' - NYTimes.com
Drew Angerer/The New York Times Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, center, announced shortly after the vote their intention to introduce a new bill to repeal “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Senator Mark Udall, Democrat of Colorado, joined them at the podium.
4:31 p.m. | Updated A Republican senator and an independent senator said today that they will jointly introduce a stand-alone bill to repeal the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy after a larger defense bill containing the repeal failed to advance in the Senate.
Senate Republicans blocked the attempt to move ahead with the bill that would have repealed the ban on gay troops serving openly in the military. The vote was 57-40, almost entirely along party lines, and three short of the 60 needed.
The vote was a setback to President Obama and the Democratic leadership, who have made repealing the Clinton-era policy a key priority. And it short-circuited the efforts of a handful of Republicans who said they supported a repeal but wanted more time to negotiate the process of debating and voting on the measure.
The lawmaker leading that effort, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, voted in favor of the motion but was not joined by any of her colleagues. Ms. Collins and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent, announced shortly after the vote their intention to introduce a new bill.
“I am convinced that there are 60 or even 61 or 62 votes to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’,” Ms. Collins told reporters. “I’m extremely disappointed that the Senate majority leader walked away from negotiations in which we were engaged and which were going well.”
A spokesman for Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, said Mr. Reid will co-sponsor the stand-alone legislation. “We do intend to take a free-standing bill to the floor,” said Jim Manley, a spokesman for Mr. Reid.
But a bill focused solely on repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy faces steep challenges, including the likelihood that supporters of the policy in the Senate could seek to offer numerous amendments during a debate over the legislation.
In a statement, President Obama said he was disappointed that “yet another filibuster” by Republicans had blocked the defense bill and the provisions to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“A minority of Senators were willing to block this important legislation largely because they oppose the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” Mr. Obama said. “While today’s vote was disappointing, it must not be the end of our efforts. I urge the Senate to revisit these important issues during the lame duck session.”
Mr. Reid had called for the procedural vote on the overall defense bill despite having failed to reach agreement with the Republicans on how to proceed. In a statement after the vote, Ms. Collins said those negotiations were “going well” and she accused Mr. Reid of walking away from the discussions.
Republicans had earlier indicated that without an agreement about the number of amendments and the timing of the debate, they would vote against moving forward to vote on the legislation.
Advocates of repealing the policy criticized the vote, saying the effort to allow gays to serve openly in the military had fallen victim to political squabbles in the Congress. One newly elected Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, also voted against the measure.
“Today leaders of both parties let down the U.S. military and the American people,” said Joe Solmonese, president of Human Rights Campaign. “Instead of doing what is right, ‘the world’s greatest deliberative body’ devolved into shameful schoolyard spats that put petty partisan politics above the needs of our women and men in uniform.”
Mr. Solmonese vowed that “this fight is too important to give up despite this setback and we will continue fighting in this lame duck session. It’s not over.”
A veterans group also expressed anger at the vote, which delays approval of the massive military spending bill to which the repeal was attached. The Congress has not failed to pass a military spending bill for decades.
“By voting to filibuster the Defense Authorization Act, today, a minority of Senators have betrayed our troops,” said Ashwin Madia, interim chairman of VoteVets.org. “Leaving aside ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ this bill is crucial to our military readiness, and funding our troops in harm’s way.”
Prior to the vote, Mr. Reid conceded that that the failure to reach an agreement could doom the effort to repeal the policy, which has been a key priority for President Obama and gay activists.
“Despite the critical importance for our troops, for our nation, and for justice that we get this bill done, we have not been able to reach an agreement,” Mr. Reid said this afternoon. “And I regret to say that it is our troops who will pay the price for our inability to overcome partisan political posturing.”
Mr. Reid’s decision to move forward in an attempt to force a vote caught senators off guard, including Ms. Collins, who had been negotiating with Mr. Reid about the terms of the debate.
- Nunn reverses opposition to gays in military (ajc.com)
- What Collins wants on #DADT (maddowblog.msnbc.msn.com)
- Senate Fails To Invoke Cloture On Defense Bill With DADT Repeal (outsidethebeltway.com)
President Lee Myung-bak and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday agreed to bolster bilateral cooperation in energy and defense industries, including the joint production of weapons during their summit talks on the Indonesian island of Bali.
Yudhoyono proposed joint manufacturing of tanks, submarines and trainer jets as part of stronger ties for national defense, Lee’s spokesperson Kim Hee-jung said.
The suggestion was made as Seoul seeks to export its T-50 “Golden Eagle” supersonic trainer jets to Jakarta.
Lee and Yudhoyono also agreed to make efforts to deepen collaboration in electric power, information technology, steel and biomass industries.
Richardson to make North Korea trip | Latest National Headlines | News from Fort Worth, ...
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will visit North Korea next week at the invitation of the Pyongyang regime, the governor's office said Wednesday.
Richardson will leave New Mexico on Tuesday and return Dec. 20, according to Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the governor.
The trip comes at a time of heightened tensions, two weeks after North Korea shelled a South Korean island.
"I am increasingly concerned with the recent actions by the North Koreans, which have raised tensions and are contributing to instability on the Korean Peninsula," Richardson said in a statement.
The Democratic governor, who leaves office Dec. 31, was invited to visit North Korea by Kim Gye Gwan, the country's chief nuclear negotiator, according to Gallegos.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Richardson will not carry any message from the U.S. government.
Richardson acknowledged that but said, "If I can contribute to the easing of tension on the peninsula, the trip will be well worth it."
Accompanying Richardson will be his senior adviser on Asian affairs, K.A. "Tony" Namkung.
Richardson has traveled to North Korea seven times, most recently in 2007 to recover the remains of American servicemen killed in the Korean War. He also has met in New Mexico with North Korean diplomats three times since 2003, when he became governor.
He was U.N. ambassador in the Clinton administration and for years has served as a roving diplomatic troubleshooter, including missions to Sudan, Cuba and Iraq.
- Bill Richardson Plans North Korea Visit For 'Easing Of Tension' (huffingtonpost.com)
- New Mexico's Richardson confirms North Korea trip (reuters.com)
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
No Negroes Allowed' Sign Marks Future Wisconsin Business - BV Black Spin
- 'No negroes allowed' in Wisconsin gentlemen's club (thegrio.com)
Image by New Media Days via FlickrJulian Assange extradition attempt an uphill struggle, says specialist | Media | The Guardian
A former extradition specialist for the Crown Prosecution Service today predicted it would be "very difficult" for Sweden to get the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, sent back to face sexual assault allegations.
Raj Joshi, a former head of the European and International Division at the CPS, said Sweden's lack of a formal criminal charge against Assange increased his lawyers' chances of success in blocking the extradition attempt.
Assange's lawyers are scheduled to visit him tomorrow in prison for the first time since he was jailed on remand yesterday after Sweden requested his extradition.
Swedish prosecutors say they want to interview Assange about allegations of sexual assault against two women. His lawyers say they fear the US will attempt to extradite him to face charges over the release of hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic cables though Washington has not so far taken any legal action against him.
Today, a British group campaigning for more rapists to be punished questioned the "unusual zeal" with which Assange, an Australian citizen, was being pursued over the allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.
In a letter to the Guardian, Katrin Axelsson from Women Against Rape said it was routine for people charged with rape in the UK to be granted bail. Assange is yet to be formally charged by the Swedes. Axelsson also said Sweden had a poor record bringing rapists to justice: "Many women in both Sweden and Britain will wonder at the unusual zeal with which Julian Assange is being pursued for rape allegations … There is a long tradition of the use of rape and sexual assault for political agendas that have nothing to do with women's safety."
Assange is due to appear before City of Westminster magistrates's court next Tuesday where his lawyers will attempt to secure his release on bail, a request the court rejected this week.
Assange was arrested by the Metropolitan police's extradition squad on a European arrest warrant issued at the request of Sweden. But Joshi, who headed the CPS's international division for five years, said Sweden faced an uphill battle.
"On what we know so far, it is going to be very difficult to extradite. The judge has to be satisfied that the conduct equals an extraditable offence and that there are no legal bars to extradition.
"Assange's team will argue, how can the conduct equal an extraditable offence if the [Swedish] prosecutor doesn't think there is enough evidence to charge, and still has not charged."
Joshi said other bars to extradition would be Assange's rights under the European human rights legislation.
Assange is being held in Wandsworth prison, south London, where he has limited communication with the outside world. He has no internet access and today was allowed one three minute telephone conversation with his solicitors.
WikiLeaks volunteers today sent him a parcel containing clothes, letters of support, toiletries and a selection of books including one by his barrister Geoffrey Robertson.
Amid suggestions that the US is examining ways to take legal action against Assange, one of his lawyers, Mark Stephens, repeated his claims that Sweden's actions were politically motivated, perhaps as a stalling tactic while the Americans bring a charge: "If there are talks between Sweden and the US for his rendition, we have every reason to be concerned."
- Julian Assange Denied Bail Following Arrest (online.wsj.com)
- Julian Assange refused bail over rape allegations - The Guardian (news.google.com)
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
In PISA Test, Top Scores From Shanghai Stun Experts - NYTimes.com
With China’s debut in international standardized testing, students in Shanghai have surprised experts by outscoring their counterparts in dozens of other countries, in reading as well as in math and science, according to the results of a respected exam.
American officials and Europeans involved in administering the test in about 65 countries acknowledged that the scores from Shanghai — an industrial powerhouse with some 20 million residents and scores of modern universities that is a magnet for the best students in the country — are by no means representative of all of China.
About 5,100 15-year-olds in Shanghai were chosen as a representative cross-section of students in that city. In the United States, a similar number of students from across the country were selected as a representative sample for the test.
Experts noted the obvious difficulty of using a standardized test to compare countries and cities of vastly different sizes. Even so, they said the stellar academic performance of students in Shanghai was noteworthy, and another sign of China’s rapid modernization.
The results also appeared to reflect the culture of education there, including greater emphasis on teacher training and more time spent on studying rather than extracurricular activities like sports.
“Wow, I’m kind of stunned, I’m thinking Sputnik,” said Chester E. Finn Jr., who served in President Ronald Reagan’s Department of Education, referring to the groundbreaking Soviet satellite launching. Mr. Finn, who has visited schools all across China, said, “I’ve seen how relentless the Chinese are at accomplishing goals, and if they can do this in Shanghai in 2009, they can do it in 10 cities in 2019, and in 50 cities by 2029.”
The test, the Program for International Student Assessment, known as PISA, was given to 15-year-old students by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a Paris-based group that includes the world’s major industrial powers.
The results are to be released officially on Tuesday, but advance copies were provided to the news media a day early.
“We have to see this as a wake-up call,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an interview on Monday.
“I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable, and we have to see them as a challenge to get better,” he added. “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.”
In math, the Shanghai students performed in a class by themselves, outperforming second-place Singapore, which has been seen as an educational superstar in recent years. The average math scores of American students put them below 30 other countries.
PISA scores are on a scale, with 500 as the average. Two-thirds of students in participating countries score between 400 and 600. On the math test last year, students in Shanghai scored 600, in Singapore 562, in Germany 513, and in the United States 487.
In reading, Shanghai students scored 556, ahead of second-place Korea with 539. The United States scored 500 and came in 17th, putting it on par with students in the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Germany, France, the United Kingdom and several other countries.
In science, Shanghai students scored 575. In second place was Finland, where the average score was 554. The United States scored 502 — in 23rd place — with a performance indistinguishable from Poland, Ireland, Norway, France and several other countries.
The testing in Shanghai was carried out by an international contractor, working with Chinese authorities, and overseen by the Australian Council for Educational Research, a nonprofit testing group, said Andreas Schleicher, who directs the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s international educational testing program.
Mark Schneider, a commissioner of the Department of Education’s research arm in the George W. Bush administration, who returned from an educational research visit to China on Friday, said he had been skeptical about some PISA results in the past. But Mr. Schneider said he considered the accuracy of these results to be unassailable.
“The technical side of this was well regulated, the sampling was O.K., and there was no evidence of cheating,” he said.
Mr. Schneider, however, noted some factors that may have influenced the outcome.
For one thing, Shanghai is a huge migration hub within China. Students are supposed to return to their home provinces to attend high school, but the Shanghai authorities could increase scores by allowing stellar students to stay in the city, he said. And Shanghai students apparently were told the test was important for China’s image and thus were more motivated to do well, he said.
“Can you imagine the reaction if we told the students of Chicago that the PISA was an important international test and that America’s reputation depended on them performing well?” Mr. Schneider said. “That said, China is taking education very seriously. The work ethic is amazingly strong.”
In a speech to a college audience in North Carolina, President Obama recalled how the Soviet Union’s 1957 launching of Sputnik provoked the United States to increase investment in math and science education, helping America win the space race.
“Fifty years later, our generation’s Sputnik moment is back,” Mr. Obama said. With billions of people in India and China “suddenly plugged into the world economy,” he said, nations with the most educated workers will prevail. “As it stands right now,” he said, “America is in danger of falling behind.”
If Shanghai is a showcase of Chinese educational progress, America’s showcase would be Massachusetts, which has routinely scored higher than all other states on America’s main federal math test in recent years.
But in a 2007 study that correlated the results of that test with the results of an international math exam, Massachusetts students scored behind Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Shanghai did not participate in the test.
A 259-page Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report on the latest Pisa results notes that throughout its history, China has been organized around competitive examinations. “Schools work their students long hours every day, and the work weeks extend into the weekends,” it said.
Chinese students spend less time than American students on athletics, music and other activities not geared toward success on exams in core subjects. Also, in recent years, teaching has rapidly climbed up the ladder of preferred occupations in China, and salaries have risen. In Shanghai, the authorities have undertaken important curricular reforms, and educators have been given more freedom to experiment.
Ever since his organization received the Shanghai test scores last year, Mr. Schleicher said, international testing experts have investigated them to vouch for their accuracy, expecting that they would produce astonishment in many Western countries.
“This is the first time that we have internationally comparable data on learning outcomes in China,” Mr. Schleicher said. “While that’s important, for me the real significance of these results is that they refute the commonly held hypothesis that China just produces rote learning.”
“Large fractions of these students demonstrate their ability to extrapolate from what they know and apply their knowledge very creatively in novel situations,” he said.
Image by New Media Days via Flickr'Sex by Surprise' at Heart of Julian Assange Criminal Probe
(Dec. 2) -- The international manhunt for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a sex-crime investigation in Sweden apparently stems from a condom malfunction.
Assange's London attorney, Mark Stephens, told AOL News today that Swedish prosecutors told him that Assange is wanted not for allegations of rape, as previously reported, but for something called "sex by surprise," which he said involves a fine of 5,000 kronor or about $715.
Assange is the subject of an international manhunt, as a result of Interpol issuing a "red notice," a warrant indicating the person should be arrested with a view to extradition.
'Sex by Surprise' at heart of Swedish criminal case against Julian Assange
Julian Assange, founder of the WikiLeaks website, is wanted in a sex-crime investigation in Sweden.
"We don't even know what 'sex by surprise' even means, and they haven't told us," Stephens said, just hours after Sweden's Supreme Court rejected Assange's bid to prevent an arrest order from being issued against him on allegations of sex crimes.
"Whatever 'sex by surprise' is, it's only a offense in Sweden -- not in the U.K. or the U.S. or even Ibiza," Stephens said. "I feel as if I'm in a surreal Swedish movie being threatened by bizarre trolls. The prosecutor has not asked to see Julian, never asked to interview him, and he hasn't been charged with anything. He's been told he's wanted for questioning, but he doesn't know the nature of the allegations against him."
The strange tale of Assange's brief flings with two Swedish women during a three-day period in mid-August -- and decisions by three different prosecutors to first dismiss rape allegations made by the women and then re-open the case -- has more twists, turns and conspiracy theories than any of Stieg Larsson's best-sellers.
True, one of Assange's accusers sounds tailor-made for those who think Assange is being set up in Sweden by dark CIA-backed operatives who want him smeared or silenced for his document dumping with WikiLeaks. She's a 31-year-old blond academic and member of the Social Democratic Party who's known for her radical feminist views, once wrote a treatise on how to take revenge against men and was once thrown out of Cuba for subversive activities.
But others say Assange, who denies any wrongdoing and says the sex was consensual, may have just run afoul of Sweden's unusual rape laws, which are considered pro-feminist because of the consideration given issues of consent when it comes to sexual activity -- including even the issue of whether a condom was used.
In fact, the current prosecutor, Marianne Ny, who re-opened the case against Assange, has been active in the proposed reforms of Swedish rape laws that would, if passed, involve an investigation of whether an imbalance in power between two people could void one person's insistence that the sex was consensual.
Swedish tabloids and the country's blogosphere have been rife since August with stories and speculation about Assange's accusers, the flip-flopping prosecutors and just what, if any, crime was committed by Assange during sex with the two women.
"He's innocent, that I can tell you," Bjorn Hurtig, Assange's Stockholm-based lawyer, told AOL News today. Hurtig later issued a statement saying the international arrest warrant for Assange is based on "exaggerated grounds."
Assange arrived in Sweden on Aug. 11 to speak at a weekend seminar sponsored by the Social Democratic Party and arranged to stay at a Stockholm apartment belonging to the event organizer, a member of the branch of the party who would become one of Assange's two accusers.
According to a police report obtained by the Daily Mail in August, she and Assange had sex, and at some point the condom broke. While she was apparently not happy about the condom breaking, the two were seen the next day at the seminar, and nothing appeared amiss.
Another woman at the seminar, a 27-year-old art photographer, said in her police statement that she'd come to hear Assange's lecture because of her fascination with him and his work. She can be seen in video footage on the Internet sitting in the front row during Assange's lecture, wearing a pink sweater and snapping pictures of him.
According to the police report, the woman managed to get an invitation to go out for lunch with Assange and his entourage after the seminar. They spent time together before he went back to stay at the event organizer's apartment.
Two days later, on Aug. 16, they reconnected by phone and the woman invited him to her apartment, more than 40 miles outside Stockholm. She paid for the ticket since Assange apparently had no cash and doesn't like to use credit cards because they could be traced.
She complained in her police statement that during the train ride to her hometown, "he paid more attention to his computer rather than me." She also said that by the time they arrived at her apartment, "the passion and excitement seemed to have disappeared."
The woman and Assange also reportedly had sex. According to the Daily Mail account, Assange did not use a condom at least one time during their sexual activity. The New York Times today quoted accounts given by the women to police and friends as saying Assange "did not comply with her appeals to stop when (the condom) was no longer in use."
According to the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, the photographer contacted the other woman two days after her assignation with Assange, and the two apparently had a conversation in which it became clear they had both had sex with Assange. The photographer was worried about having had unprotected sex and decided she wanted to go to the police.
The other woman accompanied her to the police station on Aug. 20 just to support her but then told the investigating officer on duty that she, too, had had sex with Assange, Aftonbladet reported.
Based on what was said to police, the on-call prosecutor, Marie Kjellstrand, decided to issue an arrest warrant on charges of rape and molestation, and the next day the story hit the Swedish paper Expressen and newspapers all over the world.
Kjellstrand's decision was overruled the following day by a higher-level prosecutor, Eva Finne, who withdrew the arrest warrant and said she did not see any evidence for rape allegations.
Then, on Sept. 1, a third prosecutor, Ny, re-opened the rape investigation, implying that she had new information in the case.
On Nov. 18, Swedish judicial officials approved a prosecutorial request that Assange be detained for questioning for alleged sex crimes, and on Nov. 30 Interpol issued a "red notice" against Assange for alleged sex crimes in Sweden. Despite what has happened, the woman who organized the event and had Assange stay at her apartment told Aftonbladet that she never intended that Assange be charged with rape.
"It is quite wrong that we were afraid of him. He is not violent, and I do not feel threatened by him," she told the newspaper in an interview that did not identify her by name. "The responsibility for what happened to me and the other girl lies with a man who had attitude problems with women."
When the second accuser was reached on her mobile phone today by AOL News, she said simply, "I have nothing to say on the matter."
Stephens, Assange's lawyer, said that even though British police know Assange's whereabouts -- reportedly in southeastern England -- they have not yet arrested him because of the inadequacy of the arrest warrants issued by Sweden.
"The Swedes couldn't even produce another warrant today that was valid," Stephens told AOL News. "The police here sent it back."
- Note To Media: Julian Assange Is Not Being Charged With Rape (huffingtonpost.com)
- Should Condomless Sex Be a Crime? (thegloss.com)
- Wikileaks Julian Assange Arrested in London (lezgetreal.com)
Image via WikipediaBBC News - Nigeria files bribery charges against Dick Cheney
Nigeria has filed charges against former US Vice-President Dick Cheney over a scandal involving a former subsidiary of Halliburton energy firm.
The case, brought by the country's anti-corruption agency, centres on engineering firm KBR, which admitted bribing officials.
Mr Cheney's lawyer has called the allegations "entirely baseless".
Mr Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive before becoming vice-president to George W Bush in 2001.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it had filed 16 charges against Mr Cheney, Halliburton Chief Executive David Lesar, and two other executives.
It also filed charges against Halliburton as a company and four associated businesses.
KBR last year pleaded guilty to paying $180m (£115m) in bribes to Nigerian officials prior to 2007, when it was a subsidiary of Halliburton. The firm agreed to pay $579m (£372m) in fines related to the case in the US.
But Nigeria, along with France and Switzerland, has conducted its own investigations into the case.
Mr Cheney's lawyer, Terence O'Donnell, said US investigators had "found no suggestion of any impropriety by Dick Cheney in his role of CEO of Halliburton".
"Any suggestion of misconduct on his part, made now, years later, is entirely baseless," Mr O'Donnell said.
The bribes concerned the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in southern Nigeria.
KBR and Halliburton have now split, and Halliburton says it is not connected with the case against KBR.
Halliburton denies involvement in the allegations.
It has complained that a raid on its office last month by EFCC officials was "an affront against justice".
Nigeria is a member of the oil cartel Opec and is one of the world's biggest oil exporters.
Wikileaks under attack: the definitive timeline | Media | guardian.co.uk
Since Wikileaks released the US embassy cables on 28 November it has come under pressure on several fronts, from DDoS attacks to frozen bank accounts. We list the companies, politicians and organisations making life difficult for Wikileaks and Julian Assange
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 7 December 2010 16.39 GMT
WikiLeaks' home page showing an image of Julian Assange after the move to a Swiss host. Photograph: Valentin Flauraud/REUTERS
On Sunday 28 November Wikileaks began releasing the first of its 250,000 leaked US embassy cables. Almost immediately, a hacking attack known as a "DDOS" – distributed denial of service – attack tried to knock it off the net. These are the attacks that have followed in the succeeding days.
Sunday 28 November
• TECH: DDoS attack hits WikiLeaks as first set of US diplomatic cables is published.
Wednesday 1 December
• TECH: Tableau Software, which offers free software for data visualisation, removes the public views of graphics built using information about the diplomatic cables. It is the first company to distance itself from Wikileaks, and admits that the reason was pressure from Senator Joe Lieberman, an independent senator with ties to the Democratic party.
• POLITICS: Lieberman, chairman of the Senate's committee on homeland security, calls for Wikileaks to be taken offline. "I call on any other company or organization that is hosting Wikileaks to immediately terminate its relationship with them. Wikileaks' illegal, outrageous, and reckless acts have compromised our national security and put lives at risk around the world. No responsible company - whether American or foreign - should assist Wikileaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials."
• TECH Amazon removes Wikileaks's content from its EC2 cloud service, but later insists it did so because the content could cause harm to people and did not belong to Wikileaks – and that it was not due to political pressure or the hacker attacks against the site.
Friday 3 December
• TECH: Wikileaks.org ceases to work for web users after everyDNS.com, which had provided a free routing service translating the human-readable address into a machine-readable form, ends support.
Wikileaks shifts to a backup domain registered in Switzerland but actually hosted in Sweden, at Wikileaks.ch, though the cables are hosted in part by OVH, an internet provider in the north of France.
EveryDNS claims that the DDOS attacks against Wikileaks were disrupting its service provided to thousands of other customers. The company says it is "following established policies so as not to put any one EveryDNS.net user's interests ahead of any others. Lastly, regardless of what people say about the actions of EveryDNS.net, we know this much is true - we believe in our New Hampshire state motto, Live Free or Die."
• POLITICS: French industry minister Eric Besson writes to internet companies warning them there will be "consequences" for any companies or organisations helping to keep WikiLeaks online in the country.
Saturday 4 December
• MONEY: PayPal, owned by US auction site eBay, permanently restricts account used by WikiLeaks due to a "violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy". A spokesman said the account was suspended because "[it] cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity."
You can still donate at Commerzbank Kassel in Germany or Landsbanki in Iceland or by post to a post office box at the University of Melbourne or at http://wikileaks.ch/support.html
• TECH: Switch, the Swiss registrar for Wikileaks.ch declines pressure from US and French authorities to remove the site or block access to it.
Sunday 3 December
• TECH: The Pirate Party in Sweden says that it has taken over the hosting of the Cablegate directory of Wikileaks after the server in France at OVH, which had been hosting the contents of the US diplomatic cables released so far, goes offline.
Monday 6 December
• MONEY: Credit card company Mastercard withdraws ability to make donations to Wikileaks. "MasterCard is taking action to ensure that WikiLeaks can no longer accept MasterCard-branded products," the credit card outfit says.
• TECH: Wikileaks' servers in Sweden attacked by distributed denial of service attack.
• MONEY: Postfinance, the Swiss postal system, strips WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of a key fundraising tool, accusing him of lying and immediately shutting down one of his bank accounts. The bank says that Assange had "provided false information regarding his place of residence during the account opening process."
Assange had told Postfinance he lived in Geneva but could offer no proof that he was a Swiss resident, a requirement of opening such an account. Postfinance spokesman Alex Josty told The Associated Press the account was closed Monday afternoon and there would be "no criminal consequences" for misleading authorities. "That's his money, he will get his money back," Josty said. "We just close the account and that's it."
Tuesday 7 December
• MONEY: Credit card company Visa withdraws ability to make donations or payments to Wikileaks. "Visa Europe has taken action to suspend Visa payment acceptance on WikiLeaks' website pending further investigation into the nature of its business and whether it contravenes Visa operating rules," said a spokesman.
- Operation Payback: WikiLeaks Avenged by Hacktivists (pcworld.com)
- Online activists fighting to keep WikiLeaks alive (news.cnet.com)
- WikiLeaks Vows to Never Say Die With 355 New Websites - PCWorld (armwoodlaw.com)
- WikiLeaks' Assange Arrested in London (pcworld.com)
Image by bbwbryant via FlickrArrested WikiLeaks chief denied bail in U.K. - U.S. news - WikiLeaks in Security - msnbc.com
LONDON — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was refused bail and jailed for a week by a British court Tuesday, pending an extradition hearing over alleged sex offenses in Sweden.
Assange surrendered to U.K. police earlier in the day in the latest blow to his WikiLeaks organization, which faces legal, financial and technological challenges after releasing hundreds of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.
Swedish prosecutors had issued an arrest warrant for the 39-year-old Australian, who is accused of rape and sexual molestation in one case and of sexual molestation and unlawful coercion in another.
Assange surrendered at 9:30 a.m. local time (4:30 a.m. ET) Tuesday. The U.K.'s Guardian newspaper reported that Assange later arrived at a London court accompanied by British lawyers Mark Stephens and Jennifer Robinson.
During his court appearance, Assange said he would fight extradition to Sweden and he provided the court with an Australian address. Britain's Sky News reported that Assange was receiving consular assistance from officials at the Australian High Commission.
The next court hearing is scheduled to take place December 14, and Assange will remain in custody until then because he was deemed to be a flight risk.
Judge Howard Riddle told Assange that he had "substantial grounds" to believe he wouldn't turn up for subsequent proceedings.
In response, WikiLeaks tweeted: "Let down by the UK justice system's bizarre decision to refuse bail to Julian Assange. But #cablegatereleases continue as planned."
Speaking after the hearing, Stephens said it had been difficult to mount an argument for bail because he had not been able to see any of the evidence against Assange.
He said "many people believe this prosecution is politically motivated," but added that he was "sure the British judicial system is robust enough not to be interfered with by politicians." He said he hoped he would be able to say the same for the Swedish system.
Stephens said the judge appeared to have made a "close call" on whether to release Assange on bail. He said the judge had asked to see the evidence, which Stephens described as “very thin indeed,” against Assange.
Several supporters gathered outside the court holding placards reading "Gagging the truth" and "Protect free speech," NBC News said.
"This is going to go viral," Stephens said. "Many people will come forward to stand as an asurety to Mr. Assange."
Britain Arrests WikiLeaks Founder on Sex Charges - NYTimes.com
LONDON — British police said on Tuesday they had arrested Julian Assange, the beleaguered founder of the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group, on a warrant issued in Sweden in connection with alleged sex offenses.
Mr. Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, was arrested by officers from Scotland Yard’s extradition unit when he went to a central London police station by prior agreement with the authorities, the police said. A court hearing was expected later.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman, quoted by Britain’s Press Association news agency, said: “Officers from the Metropolitan Police extradition unit have this morning arrested Julian Assange on behalf of the Swedish authorities on suspicion of rape.”
The widely anticipated arrest came after Mr. Assange, who denies the charges of sexual misconduct said to have been committed while he was in Sweden in August, threatened to release many more diplomatic cables if legal action is taken against him or his organization.
Mr. Assange’s threat of further disclosures poses a problem for the Obama administration as it explores ways to prosecute Mr. Assange or the group in relation to the archive of some 250,000 diplomatic cables it has obtained, reportedly from a low-ranking Army intelligence analyst.
A police spokesman said Mr. Assange was “accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in August 2010.”
Mark Stephens, Mr. Assange’s British lawyer, confirmed late Monday in a video statement to the BBC that the authorities in London had “received an extradition request from Sweden,” and he said that he and Mr. Assange were “in the process of making arrangements to meet with the police by consent.”
The charges involve sexual encounters that two women say began as consensual but became nonconsensual after Mr. Assange was no longer using a condom. Mr. Assange has denied any wrongdoing and suggested that the charges were trumped up in retaliation for his WikiLeaks work, though there is no public evidence to suggest a connection.
Mr. Assange’s arrest came amid growing challenges to his operations, as computer server companies, Amazon.com and PayPal.com, have cut off commercial cooperation with WikiLeaks.
On Monday, a Swiss bank froze an account held by Mr. Assange that had been used to collect donations for WikiLeaks. Marc Andrey, a spokesman for the bank, PostFinance, an arm of the Swiss postal service, said the account was closed because Mr. Assange “gave us false information when he opened the account,” asserting inaccurately that he lived in Switzerland.
In the United States on Monday, moreover, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said the Justice Department had “a very serious, active, ongoing investigation that is criminal in nature” into the WikiLeaks matter.
“I authorized just last week a number of things to be done so that we can hopefully get to the bottom of this and hold people accountable,” he said at a news conference, declining to elaborate.
Mr. Holder’s statement followed Mr. Assange’s assertion that “over 100,000 people” had been given the entire archive of 251,287 cables “in encrypted form.”
“If something happens to us, the key parts will be released automatically,” Mr. Assange said Friday in a question-and-answer session on the Web site of the British newspaper The Guardian.
His threat is not idle, because as of Monday night the group had released fewer than 1,000 of the quarter-million State Department cables it had obtained, reportedly from a low-ranking Army intelligence analyst.
So far, the group has moved cautiously. The whole archive was made available to five news organizations, including The New York Times. But WikiLeaks has posted only a few dozen cables on its own in addition to matching those made public by the news publications. According to the State Department’s count, 1,325 cables, or fewer than 1 percent of the total, have been made public by all parties to date.
There appears to be no way for American authorities to retrieve all copies of the cables archive. And legal experts say there are serious obstacles to any prosecution of Mr. Assange or his group.
But the disclosure of the confidential communications between the State Department and 270 American embassies and consulates has infuriated administration officials and prompted calls from Congress to pursue charges.
Mr. Holder repeated assertions by several Obama administration officials about the damage done by the cable disclosures, which began late last month.
“The national security of the United States has been put at risk; the lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk; the American people themselves have been put at risk by these actions that are, I believe, arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way,” Mr. Holder said.
Justice Department prosecutors have been struggling to find a way to indict Mr. Assange since July, when WikiLeaks made public documents on the war in Afghanistan. But while it is clearly illegal for a government official with a security clearance to give a classified document to WikiLeaks, it is far from clear that it is illegal for the organization to make it public.
The Justice Department has considered trying to indict Mr. Assange under the Espionage Act, which has never been successfully used to prosecute a third-party recipient of a leak. Some lawmakers have suggested accusing WikiLeaks of receiving stolen government property, but experts said Monday that would also pose difficulties.
Perhaps in a warning shot of sorts, WikiLeaks on Monday released a cable from early last year listing sites around the world — from hydroelectric dams in Canada to vaccine factories in Denmark — that are considered crucial to American national security.
Nearly all the facilities listed in the document, including undersea cables, oil pipelines and power plants, could be identified by Internet searches. But the disclosure prompted headlines in Europe and a new denunciation from the State Department, which said in a statement that “releasing such information amounts to giving a targeting list to groups like Al Qaeda.”
Asked later about the cable, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the continuing disclosures posed “real concerns, and even potential damage to our friends and partners around the world.”
“I won’t comment on any specific alleged cable, but I will underscore that this theft of U.S. government information and its publication without regard to the consequences is deeply distressing,” she said.
In recent months, WikiLeaks gave the entire collection of cables to four European publications — Der Spiegel in Germany, El País in Spain, Le Monde in France and The Guardian. The Guardian shared the cable collection with The New York Times.
Since Nov. 28, each publication has been publishing a series of articles about revelations in the cables, accompanied online by the texts of some of the documents. The publications have removed the names of some confidential sources of American diplomats, and WikiLeaks has generally posted the cables with the same redactions.
But with the initial series of articles and cable postings nearing an end, the fate of the roughly 250,000 cables that have not been placed online is uncertain. The five publications have announced no plans to make public all the documents. WikiLeaks’s intentions remain unclear.
Alan Cowell reported from London, and Scott Shane from Washington. Charlie Savage and Brian Knowlton contributed reporting from Washington, and Ravi Somaiya from London.
- British Police Prepare to Interview WikiLeaks Founder - New York Times (news.google.com)
- Lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Assange to talk to police about warrant (cnn.com)
- Julian Assange WikiLeaks - latest (guardian.co.uk)
Monday, December 06, 2010
Poll: More Afghans See Insurgent Attacks As Justified : NPR
More than a quarter of Afghans see insurgent attacks against American troops as justified, according to a poll released Monday, an increase that comes as the U.S.-led NATO coalition pushes to reduce civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
Twenty-seven percent of Afghans polled said the attacks can be justified. Last year, the number was just 8 percent as former NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal issued strict guidelines limiting the use of force in an effort to reduce civilian casualties.
This year's sharp increase brings the number back to levels seen earlier in the nine-year war.
The poll, which has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, was based on face-to-face interviews with a random sample of nearly 1,700 Afghan adults in all 34 of the country's provinces. It was conducted from Oct. 29-Nov. 13 by ABC News, the BBC, ARD German TV and The Washington Post.
The number of Afghan civilians killed or injured soared 31 percent in the first six months of the year, but they were largely caused by Taliban attacks, according to the United Nations.
Casualties from NATO and Afghan government forces dropped 30 percent, compared with the first half of 2009, mainly because of curbs on the use of airpower and heavy weapons, the U.N. said.
Monday's survey also showed Afghans are losing confidence in the United States and NATO to provide security in their country, and they are more willing to see a negotiated settlement with the Taliban than they were last year.
Just 36 percent of those polled expressed confidence in the U.S. and NATO to bring stability, down by 12 percentage points from last year and down by 31 percentage points since 2006. The survey also said 73 percent favor a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, up by 13 percentage points since 2007.
Also Monday, two NATO service members was killed in insurgent attacks in southern Afghanistan where Afghan and international troops are penetrating Taliban strongholds, the military coalition said.
NATO did not disclose the nationalities or any details on how the service members died.
The British Defense Ministry said a British soldier who died in southern Afghanistan on Sunday might have been killed by friendly fire. He was shot while on patrol in Nad Ali district of Helmand province.
So far this month, nine NATO troops have been killed in Afghanistan, including at least three Americans. Since the beginning of the year, 669 coalition service members, including at least 460 Americans, have died.
In the main southern city of Kandahar, meanwhile, a policeman was killed in a roadside bomb explosion, said Asadullah Khan, a doctor who saw the body of the deceased in Kandahar hospital.
The Afghan intelligence service, meanwhile, said it had arrested a number of militants in different parts of the country in the past 10 days, including a group of four would-be suicide bombers in Kabul who were planning a suicide attack in Baghlan province.
As violence continues, President Hamid Karzai is trying to get traction on a new peace and reconciliation program, which has two objectives: Reconcile with top Taliban leaders who agree to renounce violence, embrace the constitution and sever ties with terrorists, and lure foot soldiers off the battlefield to reintegrate into Afghan society. The plan, which is just starting to be developed across the nation, seeks to attract 25,000 to 35,000 fighters with promises of jobs, literacy and vocational training, and development aid for their villages.
On Monday, Former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, leader of the country's newly formed peace council, and Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, a top adviser to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, traveled to Kandahar to discuss Afghanistan's peace and reintegration program with provincial governors in the south.
NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz said Monday that more than 600 insurgents have laid down their weapons in recent months and joined the peace process with the Afghan government. The coalition is highlighting the program to demonstrate progress in the war, which will be the focus of President Obama's review of the war strategy to be released within days.
- Sharp rise in Afghans who say insurgent attacks on U.S. forces justified: poll (theglobeandmail.com)
- Poll: Afghans Lose Confidence In U.S., NATO (huffingtonpost.com)
- Poll: More Afghans say insurgents are justified - The Associated Press (news.google.com)