Hundreds Of US Security Clearance Records Are Falsified, Federal Cases Show

September 25, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors have documented at least 350  instances of faulty background investigations done by private contractors and  special agents for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in recent years,  illustrating what some lawmakers call systemic weaknesses in the granting of  federal security clearances.

 

Reuters calculated the total by reviewing court documents and press releases  from prosecutors for 21 cases resulting in convictions that involved the  making of false statements from December 2004 to March 2012.

These are the cases government officials have  cited to assert that action is taken against investigators who falsely claim to  have reviewed records or done interviews for  background checks submitted to OPM. Not all the cases identified a specific number of fabrications.

The 350 falsified reports represent only a small percentage of the number of background investigations conducted  each year, either by OPM’s own investigators or a handful of private contractors it uses for most of the  work.

The Government Accountability Office testified to a congressional committee  in June that OPM received over $1 billion to conduct more than 2 million  background investigations for government employees in fiscal 2011.

But the details of the cases show how cracks in  the system may allow employees to obtain clearances without proper vetting.

In one case, a private contractor investigator, who pleaded guilty to making  a false statement, reported interviewing a person who had died more than a  decade earlier. Another investigator was found guilty of making false statements in checks for applicants  seeking “top secret” clearances for jobs in the Air Force, Army, Navy and U.S.  Treasury.

The highest number of convictions, 11,  involved special agents for OPM. Another seven convictions were of employees  of USIS, a Virginia-based company that has come  under scrutiny for its role in vetting former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and  more recently, Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.

Two of those USIS investigators had the  highest number – more than four dozen each – of flawed background check reports sent to OPM, court documents showed.

USIS faces an ongoing investigation by OPM’s inspector general. The company  declined to comment for this story and OPM’s inspector general’s office would  not comment on its probe.

The most severe punishment was given to an investigator who did not take a  plea agreement and instead went to trial. This investigator was found guilty  of six counts of making false statements and sentenced to 27 months in prison.

Those who entered plea agreements generally received sentences of probation and community service, courts records show.

ALEXIS, SNOWDEN CLEARANCES

In a statement last week after 13 people died in shootings at the Navy Yard,  including shooter Alexis, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said, “In  light of recent events, we plan to step up our  efforts to investigate and prosecute the individuals and companies who risk our  security by cutting corners and falsifying  information in background checks.”

In pressing the cases, prosecutors have  required defendants to pay more than $1.5 million in restitution to theU.S.  government to recover the costs of redoing  improper background investigations.

The screening process for security clearances  has came under heightened scrutiny this year since Snowden, working as a  contract employee assigned to the National Security Agency, used his “top-secret” clearance to access  documents on the agency’s electronic eavesdropping that he later gave to the  news media.

The issue resurfaced last week with reports that Alexis held a “secret” security clearance despite violent episodes before and after he received it.

A secret clearance generally lasts 10 years.  Ongoing checks are needed because “in five to 10 years stuff happens and people  change,” a Senate aide said on condition of anonymity.

OPM contracts out for most of the background  check work. But the decision to grant security clearances rests with the government agency that intends to employ the  individual.

USIS conducts about 65 percent of the  background checks done by private contractors, and more than half of all the investigations conducted by the OPM, according to a statement issued  last week by the office of Senator Claire  McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat who is a co-sponsor of legislation aimed at boosting oversight of the security clearance process.

Investigators for other government contractors, including CACI International  Inc, were also convicted of making false  statements in reports for security clearance background checks. CACI did not immediately respond to a request for  comment.

A Senate aide said the USIS investigation by OPM’s inspector general revolves  around systemic problems in the company’s procedures and does not focus on  individual investigators.

The inspector general also is investigating the background check done for  Alexis before he received clearance to work for  the Navy.

In 2012, there were 3.5 million federal employees and 1.1 million contractors who held a “secret” or “top  secret” clearance and OPM’s security clearance and background investigations cost  about $1 billion, McCaskill’s office said.

The OPM inspector general’s office told Reuters it has 68 open cases related to OPM’s background investigations program. It did not say how many  of those involve report falsifications.

The inspector general’s office said it has referred 22 former background  investigators for debarment, but no decisions have been reached by OPM. A  debarment is usually for a specific time period and means the person cannot  contract with another federal agency.

The Senate Homeland Security Committee has scheduled an October 1  hearing on government clearances and background checks.

(Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Marilyn W. Thompson and Tim  Dobbyn)

Read more:  http://www.businessinsider.com/some-us-security-clearance-records-falsified-2013-9#ixzz2fw3ZcBQj

Banks find appalling new way to cheat homeowners

September 25, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:By David Dayen

A few months ago, Ceith and Louise Sinclair of Altadena, California, were told that their home had been sold. It was the first time they’d heard that it was for sale.

Their mortgage servicer, Nationstar, foreclosed on them without their knowledge, and sold the house to an investment company. If it wasn’t for the Sinclairs going to a local ABC affiliate and describing their horror story, they would have been thrown out on the street, despite never missing a mortgage payment. It’s impossible to know how many homeowners who didn’t get the media to pick up their tale have dealt with a similar catastrophe, and eventually lost their home.

As finance writer Barry Ritholtz has explained, home purchases involve a series of precise safeguards, designed to protect property rights and prevent situations where borrowers who are perfect on their payments get evicted. “In a nation of laws, contract and property rights, there is no room for errors,” Ritholtz writes. “The only way these errors could have occurred is if several people involved in the process committed criminal fraud.”

Any observer of the mortgage industry since 2009 is no stranger to foreclosure fraud, and the fact that virtually nobody has paid the price for this crime. But the case of the Sinclairs involves a new player in that rotten game: Nationstar. Unheralded just a few years ago, the firm, owned by a private equity behemoth, has been buying up the rights to service mortgages, accepting monthly payments and distributing the proceeds to the owners of the loan, taking a little off the top for itself.

Nationstar has racked up an impressively horrible customer service record in its short life, failing to honor prior agreements with borrowers and pursuing illegal foreclosures. The fact that Nationstar and other corrupt companies like it are beginning to corner the market for mortgage servicing should trouble not only homeowners, but the regulators tasked with looking out for them. It didn’t seem possible that a broken mortgage servicing industry could get worse, but it has

Nationstar is at the forefront of a massive shift in mortgage servicing. In the past few years, the largest servicers were arms of major banks, like JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citi and Ally Bank. Those were the “big five” servicers sanctioned for an array of fraudulent conduct in the National Mortgage Settlement, which mandated specific standards for servicers to follow, like providing a single point of contact for customers and an end to “dual tracking,” when a servicer offers a trial modification to a borrower and pursues foreclosure at the same time.

The banks realized that they could sell the servicing rights and evade these standards, along with the higher labor costs associated with implementing them. What’s more, they would avoid new, higher capital requirements associated with holding servicing assets, allowing them to give bigger dividends to shareholders and bigger bonuses to executives.

So the big banks started selling off their servicing rights, not to other banks, but to specialty financial services firms like Green Tree, Nationstar, Walter Investment Management and Ocwen, all of whom are in kind of an arms race to become the biggest servicer.

Last October, Ocwen purchased the entire servicing portfolio of Ally Bank, covering about $329 billion in loans. Ocwen has also purchased part of JPMorgan Chase’s servicing, as well as a slice from OneWest Bank; it is attempting to dominate the market.

Nationstar acquired business from Bank of America and Aurora Bank in 2012, and more in 2013. Wells Fargo is poised to sell some servicing rights as well, and Nationstar will surely bid for those rights. As of June 30 of this year, Nationstar has the right to collect on $318 billion worth of home loans—growing three-fold in under two years—and it will seek to add even more in the future. The company, majority owned by the private equity firm Fortress Investment Group, recently raised $1.1 billion in capital to buy up more servicing rights from banks around the country.

This means that homeowners victimized by big-bank servicers, who were supposed to get a commitment to honest treatment as part of the National Mortgage Settlement, instead got their servicing rights sold to companies no longer bound by the terms of that settlement. So homeowners lose all of their protections, and often have to start back at square one with their new servicer. For example, if a borrower was in process on a loan modification with their old servicer, the new servicer can choose to simply not recognize that modification, and demand the full monthly payment under threat of foreclosure. This is a very common practice.

What’s more, this new breed of non-bank servicers scooping up all these servicing rights has proven themselves as a bunch of cheats profiting off their customers. Green Tree Servicing has a terrible record of ripoffs. Ocwen has been sued in state court over its practices, including an innovative scam involving sending homeowners a check for $3.50, and claiming that cashing the check automatically enrolls the customer in an appliance insurance plan, which costs $54.95 a month.

Fitch, the credit rating agency, wrote in a research note in June that the growth of non-bank servicers “may pose challenges to a potential orderly transfer of servicing,” and that the involvement of private equity firms “raises questions” about the ultimate endgame for these servicers. In effect, servicing has shifted from big banks to private equity and hedge funds, and neither really have the customer’s needs in mind.

Nationstar is no different in the non-bank servicer space. While the company promised California that it would adhere to all settlement obligations on the servicing rights it purchases, the Sinclairs were subjected to familiar abuse. The family paid their mortgage on time since purchasing their home in 2003. Last year, they received a loan modification. But their servicer sold the rights to Nationstar, and Nationstar didn’t honor the modification. In June, the Sinclairs sent in their mortgage payment, and Nationstar sent it back in full. Then it sold the home. When questioned, Nationstar claimed the Sinclairs didn’t notarize one page of their modification, which turned out to be untrue.

It was a clear attempt to find an excuse to deny the modification and push the Sinclairs into foreclosure. Mortgage servicers actually make more money with foreclosures than with loan modifications, because of how their compensation structure works. Servicers load up various foreclosure fees on homeowners that they get to keep, and they get paid off first in a foreclosure sale. A loan modification simply cuts their percentage balance on the loan.

This is not Nationstar’s only scam. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which recently started examining non-bank servicers, put out a report this summer on the illicit practices of these firms. CFPB found that servicers like Nationstar often failed to inform homeowners about the change in servicing rights when they are transferred, meaning that the homeowner kept paying the wrong servicer. This is a clever way to facilitate late fees; just don’t tell the customer where to send their money.

Servicers also delayed property taxes paid out of escrow accounts, making borrowers late on those taxes and triggering more delinquency fees; failed to refund insurance premiums and other fees due back to borrowers; did not communicate properly with borrowers in need of a loan modification; lost documents solicited from borrowers for that process and made it impossible to complete the applications; failed to even properly file documents associated with the transfer of servicing rights; and charged customers default fees “without adequately documenting the reasons for and amounts of the fees,” and neglected to waive certain fees or interest charges.

CFPB also found that non-bank servicers like Nationstar had no comprehensive compliance management system in place to ensure that they followed all applicable consumer protection laws. Many didn’t even have formal, written policies or independent auditors. They hadn’t been subject to any examination prior to CFPB, so this stands to reason.

Nationstar is being sued in New York’s Supreme Court for auctioning off non-performing loans that it would rather not service at a severe discount, shortchanging investors in the process. The company’s auction sales, made with an online auction company that its private equity parent firm has a “business affiliation” with, end up allowing Nationstar to recoup its take, with all the losses falling on the underlying loan owners. So Nationstar has managed to infuriate both sides of the mortgage deal, the lenders and the borrowers, with its unscrupulous practices.

Getting examiners inside these “specialty” companies is a start, and new servicer rules coming from CFPB in January would cover non-bank servicers as well. But no regulator has the resources to deal with such flagrant abuses. Mortgage servicing is a sewer, and it needs to be completely overhauled from the ground up. If Nationstar represents the future, then until it faces real penalties or an expulsion from the industry for its conduct, private property rights in America will have to be seen as theoretical. Just ask the Sinclairs.

source:

Raphael Lemkin on the Jewish led Genocide of the Ukrainians known as the Holodomor

September 21, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:smashculturalmarxism

Raphael Lemkin was the jewish founder of the term genocide. Read this piece about how the Holodomor came about and why, and pay particular attention to the fourth step of how the Jewish communists set about destroying the Ukraine, then stop and think about your own nations and what is happening to them in relation to the fourth step detailed here, parallels can be seen in alot of it but particularly that fourth step.

Lemkin on the Genocide against the Ukrаіnians:

SOVIET GENOCIDE IN UKRAINE

(excerpts)

What I want to speak about is perhaps the classic example of Soviet genocide, its longest and broadest experiment in Russification  the destruction of the Ukrainian nation.

As long as Ukraine retains its national unity, as long as its people continue to think of themselves as Ukrainians and to seek independence, so long as Ukraine poses a serious threat to the very heart of Sovietism. It is no wonder that the Communist leaders have attached the greatest importance to the Russification of this independent[-minded] member of their “Union of Republics,” have determined to remake it to fit their pattern of one Russian nation. For the Ukrainian is not and has never been, a Russian. His culture, his temperament, his language, his religion – all are different.

Ukraine is highly susceptible to racial murder by select parts and so the Communist tactics there have not followed the pattern taken by the German attacks against the Jews. The nation is too populous to be exterminated completely with any efficiency. However, its leadership, religious, intellectual, political, its select and determining parts, are quite small and therefore easily eliminated, and so it is upon these groups particularly that the full force of the Soviet axe has fallen, with its familiar tools of mass murder, deportation and forced labor, exile and starvation.

The attack has manifested a systematic pattern, with the whole process repeated again and again to meet fresh outburst of national spirit. The first blow is aimed at the intelligentsia, the national brain, so as to paralyze the rest of the body.

Going along with this attack on the intelligentsia was an offensive against the churches, priests and hierarchy, the “soul” of Ukraine. Between 1926 and 1932, the Ukrainian Orthodox Autocephalous Church, its Metropolitan (Lypkivsky) and 10,000 clergy were liquidated.

The third prong of the Soviet plan was aimed at the farmers, the large mass of independent peasants who are the repository of the tradition, folk lore and music, the national language and literature, the national spirit, of Ukraine. The weapon used against this body is perhaps the most terrible of all – starvation. Between 1932 and 1933, 5,000,000 Ukrainians starved to death, an inhumanity which the 73 rd Congress decried on May 28, 1934. There has been an attempt to dismiss this highpoint of Soviet cruelty as an economic policy connected with the collectivization of the wheatlands, and the elimination of the kulaks, the independent farmers was therefore necessary. The fact is, however, that large-scale farmers in Ukraine were few and far-between. As a Soviet writer Kossior [error: Kosior was party boss of Ukraine – R.S.] declared in Izvestiia on December 2, 1933, “Ukrainian nationalism is our chief danger,” and it was to eliminate that nationalism, to establish the horrifying uniformity of the Soviet state that the Ukrainian peasantry was sacrificed. The method used in this part of the plan was not at all restricted to any particular group. All suffered – men, women, children. The crop that year was ample to feed the people and livestock of Ukraine, though it had fallen off somewhat from the previous year, a decrease probably due in large measure to the struggle over collectivization. But a famine was necessary for the Soviet[s] and so they got one to order, by plan, through an unusually high grain allotment to the state as taxes. To add to this, thousands of acres of wheat were never harvested, were left to rot in the fields. The rest was sent to government granaries to be stored there until the authorities had decided how to allocate it. Much of this crop, so vital to the lives of the Ukrainian people, ended up as exports for the creation of credits abroad.

In the face of famine on the farms, thousands abandoned the rural areas and moved into the towns to beg [for] food. Caught there and sent back to the country, they abandoned their children in the hope that they at least might survive. In this way, 18,000 children were abandoned in Kharkiv alone. Villages of a thousand had a surviving population of a hundred; in others, half the populace was gone, and deaths in these towns ranged from 20 to 30 per day. Cannibalism became commonplace.

The fourth step in the process consisted in the fragmentation of the Ukrainian people at once by the addition to the Ukraine of foreign peoples and by the dispersion of the Ukrainians throughout Eastern Europe. In this way, ethnic unity would be destroyed and nationalities mixed.

These have been the chief steps in the systematic destruction of the Ukrainian nation. Notably, there have been no attempts at complete annihilation, such as was the method of the German attack on the Jews. And yet, if the Soviet program succeeds completely, if the intelligentsia, the priests and the peasants can be eliminated, Ukraine will be as dead as if every Ukrainian were killed, for it will have lost that part of it which has kept and developed its culture, its beliefs, its common ideas, which have guided it and given it a soul, which, in short, made it a nation rather than a mass of people. The mass, indiscriminate murders have not, however, been lacking – they have simply not been integral parts of the plan, but only chance variations. Thousands have been executed, untold thousands have disappeared into the certain death of Siberian labor camps. […]

This is not simply a case of mass murder. It is a case of genocide, of destruction, not of individuals only, but of a culture and a nation. Soviet national unity is being created, not by any union of ideas and of cultures, but by the complete destruction of all cultures and of all ideas save one, the Soviet.

http://www.infoukes.com/lists/politics/2008/10/0012.htm

Are Bush and Obama Different from Hitler and Stalin?

August 24, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:lewrockwell.com

French scholar Jacques Ellul is said to have asked a similar question circa 1978: “Is anyone really unable to see the difference between the United States and Hitler or Stalin?” No modern president in 1978 had engaged in mass murder, but several could be charged with getting into unnecessary wars. There was a great difference in political systems, but unfortunately there was also a notable similarity in the claims of sovereignty, territoriality and law-making. There was also a notable tendency for the United States to be adopting fascist and socialist ideas and creating a convergence of the political and economic systems toward those of Hitler and Stalin.

Fast forward 35 years. Today, the question is not so easily brushed off. One can make a very substantial case that the difference between Bush/Obama and Hitler/Stalin has narrowed alarmingly. I am thinking of aggressive wars, torture, show trials, renditions, abasement of rights like due process, attacks on free speech, claims of executive privileges and powers, executive orders, propaganda machinery, claims of the power to assassinate, undeclared wars, excessive executive powers, holding prisoners without trial, favoritism to particular interests, multiplication of arbitrary agencies and bureaucracies, a rising climate of fear, encouraging people to spy on one another, massive surveillance, internal martial policing and searches, and multiplication of laws. This list is no doubt incomplete.

Nazism with its 1,000 year Reich is messianic and so is Communism. U.S. leaders increasingly have adopted messianic goals, another major point of convergence.

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Israel: The Killers of Peace

August 14, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:global research

The Israeli Jewish settlers of the Palestinian territory, which was occupied by Israel in 1967, are dictating unilaterally the demarcation of the borders with any future Palestinian state, thus rendering its creation impossible; holding the Israeli decision-making process hostage, they have become the real killers of peace, who brought the twenty –year old Palestinian – Israeli peace process to its current stalemate.

As early as the summer of 1995, the Iraqi born Israeli – British “new historian” Avi Shlaim wrote in the Journal of Palestine Studies: “The settlers now are the ones who determine Israel ’s internal political agenda.”
Their numbers then were in the tens of thousands; now there are three quarters of a million settlers. The Head of the “Samaria Regional Council” of the Israeli illegal settlements in the Israeli – occupied Palestinian West Bank (WB) of River Jordan, Gershon Mesika, on this August 6 boasted there will be one million settlers there “in just three years time,” telling “Arutz Sheva” online that “the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria (i.e. the Palestinian WB) has passed the point of no return.”
Writing in the “National Interest” on September 6, 2012, the President of the U.S./Middle East Project, Henry Siegman, agreed that “ Israel ’s colonial… settlement project has achieved its intended irreversibility, not only because of its breadth and depth but also because of the political clout of the settlers and their supporters within Israel.”
When Benjamin Netanyahu assumed his second term as prime minister, with the settler Avigdor Lieberman as his foreign minister, the German Süddeutsche Zeitung, quoted by Spiegel on March 17, 2009, wrote: “He and Lieberman are the gravediggers of the Middle East peace process. They want to maintain the occupation and expand the settlements.”
The electoral campaign of Netanyahu for his first term in 1995 was blamed by Israeli media for creating the right environment which led to the assassination of the “father’ of the first Oslo accord for peace with Palestinians in 1993; ever since the “peace process” has been deadlocked.
The incumbent government of Netanyahu’s third premiership is now described as the “settlers’ government” or “a settler –friendly government,” the survival of which is secured by a Knesset led by Speaker Yuli Edelstein, himself an illegal settler of the Neve Daniel colony in the WB, who called recently for the annexation of two thirds of the WB area.
This is a call that was also repeatedly voiced by the pro – settler Jewish Home party, a partner to Netanyahu’s ruling coalition, which holds three key ministries, including the housing ministry, and controls the parliamentary finance committee.
Netanyahu declared his backing for the Jewish Home’s plan. Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett was the chairman of the council of the illegal settlements in the WB and Gaza Strip and is still an advocate of imposing Israeli sovereignty unilaterally on “Area C” in the WB. Uzi Landau, of Lieberman’s Yisraeli Beiteinu party, has the tourism portfolio. Likud’s ardent supporter of settlements, Moshe Yaalon, has the ministry of defense. Foreign minister’s deputy, Zeev Elkin, is himself a settler.
The education minister, Shai Piron, of Yair Lapid’s so-called “centrist” Yesh Atid party, is a settler rabbi; Lapid himself who is the finance minister supports the “growth” of settlements even during peace talks and rejects any Palestinian sovereignty under any pact in eastern Jerusalem .
Deputy Minister of Defense, Danny Danon of Likud, was quoted by The Jewish Press on August 8 as saying that the “views” of Israel ’s chief negotiator, the Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, whose Hatnua party holds six seats only in the settler –dominated Knesset, “do not represent the majority of the current government.” Livni’s role in Netanyahu’s “government of settlers” seems a cosmetic one intended only to circumvent the U.S. pressure for the resumption of the peace talks.
In Israel ’s proportional system, the voting settlers and the pro – settler political parties and groups have over the years accumulated enough political clout that is far – in – excess of their numbers to determine the internal balance of power, decide the electoral outcome and dictate their own agenda. They are holding the system hostage. So far they have become the real killers of peace.
On July 28, 2013, Barak Ravid wrote in Haaretz that Netanyahu “is acting so weak … like a prisoner … a hostage” of his pro –settler coalition partners.
During the interval between the first and the second rounds of the recently resumed negotiations, Israel approved a “new” settlement and 1700 settlement units in eastern Jerusalem; the government included 90 settlements in a new list of “national priority development areas” eligible for special benefits; the list included also the three formerly dubbed by the Israeli government as “illegal outposts,” namely Bruchin, Rachelim and Sansana.
 
U.S. Lip Service
On August 11, 2013, the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reacted by reiterating from Bogota , Colombia his country’s “unchanged” position since 1967: The U.S. “views all of the settlements as illegitimate” and had “communicated that policy very clearly to Israel .”
Ironically, “Israel’s settlement project” has evolved “irreversible” nonetheless, mocking the U.S. repeatedly declared illegitimacy thereof as merely a lip service that has been all throughout a thinly veiled cover of the U.S. actual protection of the accelerating expansion ever since of “Israel’s colonial” project.
No surprise then Kerry from Colombia “expected” what Peter Beinart described in the Daily Beast on August 12 as the “Opening of settlement floodgates” just two days ahead of the second round of the U.S. – sponsored Palestinian – Israeli negotiations, which were resumed in Washington D.C. on July 29, 2013.
Worse still, Kerry pragmatically defended the new “opening of settlement floodgates” as an incentive which “underscores the importance of getting to the table … quickly,” ignoring insensitively the Palestinian reaction.
On May 18 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Netanyahu must choose between settlements and peace. Secretary General of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation organization (PLO), Yasser Abed Rabbo, and the PLO chief negotiator Saeb Erakat said they were considering not to participate in the second round of the talks, scheduled in Jerusalem on August 14. Member of the Executive Committee of the PLO, Hanan Ashrawi, condemned Israel ‘s latest settlement plans as “confidence-destruction measures.” Her co – member, Wasel Abu Yusuf, concluded that the PLO committed a “big mistake” by joining the Kerry – sponsored talks. Spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, Nabil Abu Rudeineh said that Israel ‘s latest plans “aim at obstructing the peace efforts.”
However, the PLO is too weak to translate its words into deeds and challenge kerry’s statement that the issue of settlements should not derail the resumed peace talks.
Israelis without Compass
Americans for Peace Now, in a report titled “Settlements & the Netanyahu Government: A Deliberate Policy of Undermining the Two-State Solution,” said that in “its policies and actions” this government “disclose a clear intention to use settlements to systematically undermine and render impossible a realistic, viable two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.”
In a roundtable on the sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on September 22, 2011, former U.S. President Bill Clinton blamed the “Netanyahu administration” and what he called a “demographic shift in Israel ,” which was an indirect reference to the settlement project, for the failure of the peace process.
In “A Message from a Longstanding Zionist to the Israeli People,” Robert K. Lifton, a former president of The American Jewish Congress, on this August 8 urged Israelis that they “must make clear the direction they want their country to pursue,” “separate Israel from the Palestinians,” and “avoid being ensnared in a bi – national state.”
However, Lifton’s appeal sounds like a cry in the settlers’ wilderness. Israelis have yet to liberate themselves from being hostage to these killers of peace. Until then, Israelis will continue to navigate without compass, rejecting the one – state solution, the two – state solution, the bi – national state solution and every other proposed solution for peace, except their peace – killing colonial settlement project, which Henry Siegman, referred to by The Forward  on October 5, 2012 as a “Jewish elder statesman,” believes is “suicidal.”
Most likely, the settlers are drawing on the fact that Israel itself is the product of a “colonial settlement project,” which so far has proved successful; they are expectedly betting also on the “unbreakable” support of the other successful colonial settlement project that has become the United States of America .
 Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist based in Birzeit, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. nassernicola@ymail.com
read more @http://www.globalresearch.ca

Scientists Finally Explain How Acupuncture Works… And It’s Related To Marijuana

July 17, 2013 by  
Filed under 420 news, General News

 

TruthOnPot.com – Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years and so has medical marijuana. But the two haven’t been connected until now, thanks to a group of outside-the-box thinkers at a university in China.

Their findings, published online by the National Institutes of Health, show how electroacupuncture – an electrified version of traditional acupuncture used to treat pain – works by increasing activity of natural painkillers in the body called cannabinoids.

Explaining the thought process behind their study, the authors point to existing knowledge on cannabinoids – a group of molecules found in both cannabis and all vertebrate animals (including humans) – and their ability to fight pain by acting on specific receptors of the body:

“Previous studies show that cannabinoid CB1 receptors are related to pain relief.”

But the researchers also say they weren’t the first to discover that acupuncture could cause an increase in the body’s cannabinoids:

“According to the latest reports in the American journal of Nature Neuroscience, acupuncture has been found to cause the human body to release some natural painkillers.”

The acupuncture points used in the rat study correspond with human acupoints

The acupuncture points used in the study correspond with human acupoints.

They were, however, the first to explain why. Using rat models of arthritis pain, the researchers found that repeated treatment with electroacupuncture resulted in an increase in cannabinoid receptors in a part of the brain called the striatum.

 

That’s where it gets complicated, because the striatum is also full of dopamine cells. Previous studies show that marijuana can increase dopamine as well and the current study seemed to confirm this. The researchers found that electroacupuncture also led to an increase in dopamine receptors, but whether dopamine played a part in pain relief was not clear.

Overall, the rats appeared to be in less pain after receiving acupuncture – a treatment that the authors say is endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) for over 40 disorders. And if cannabinoids are the reason why acupuncture works for pain, then perhaps it’s time the WHO endorsed marijuana as well.

The study was conducted by researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University and funded by grants from the National Basic Research Program of China, National Natural Science Foundation of China , Shanghai Leading Academic Discipline Project, Shanghai Municipal Natural Science Foundation, and Shanghai Famous TCM academic research project.

Fracking linked to well water methane

June 26, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:usatoday

Drinking water wells near natural gas “fracking” sites were six times more likely to be contaminated than others, finds a new study of New York and Pennsylvania homes.

A nationwide boom tied to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has revolutionized the picture for U.S. energy production in the past decade. Natural gas production is up about 30% since 2005. Concerns about environmental effects on air and water from the wells, which shatter layers of shale deep underground to release gas or oil, have also risen. An Environmental Protection Agency review of well safety is  underway and scheduled for release next year.

In a new study released Monday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a research team led by Robert Jackson of Duke University sampled 141 drinking water wells across northeastern Pennsylvania and southern New York. All of the fracking wells were in northeastern Pennsylvania. The results add to a 2011 study that first linked closeness to fracking wells to drinking water contamination with methane.

“it is looking like we are seeing a problem with well construction in some places and not others,” Jackson says. Along with finding methane more likely to be contaminating drinking water wells within about 1,000 feet of fracking sites, the study found propane in 10 nearby wells. Ethane gas was 23 times more likely to be seen in homes similarly close to fracking sites. The ethane and propane are signatures of fracking, Jackson says. The gases probably escaped from leaks in the steel or concrete casing lining the uppermost part of the natural gas wells, called the wellbore.

On the plus side, there was no sign in the well’s drinking water of industrial fluids used in the fracking process, such as diesel fuel. Fracking forces water and sand laced with these industrial fluids down deep and then sideways under high pressure to crack shale layers and liberate natural gas. There was no evidence of wide-scale leaks of methane far from the fracking sites beyond naturally occurring amounts seen in recent U.S. Geological Survey reports from the region.

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Occupiers Steal $300,000 from Hurricane Sandy Victims

June 25, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:frontpagemag.com

After the hurricane, I was telling people not to donate to Occupy Sandy, despite all the glowing press they were getting. Aside from the ideological issues, Occupiers are the least trustworthy people in the world.

And in shocking news, that proved to be the case.

As relief turns to long-term recovery, community activists have their eyes on a group they know has some money left unspent: Occupy Sandy.

After Superstorm Sandy hit New York last October, Occupy Wall Street—the global protest movement against economic inequality that started in downtown Manhattan—set up a new group, Occupy Sandy, and mobilized thousands of supporters to raise more than $1.37 million, according to finances made public on their website.

But here’s the thing: Roughly one out of every five dollars raised—nearly $300,000—remains unallocated. According to interviews with Occupy Sandy organizers, it’s been more than three months since the group began the process of giving this remaining money over to community groups in the hardest-hit areas. Only a fraction of the $150,000 that has already been allocated to the Rockaways has so far been disbursed.

Mind you, it’s already June. The hurricane hit in October 2012. A fifth of the cash is up in the air.

So far, there’s no clear picture of how nearly $240,000 of funds already allocated have been, or will be, spent. Bre Lembitz, an original Zuccotti park occupier, now Occupy Sandy’s bookkeeper, attributes the delay mostly to paperwork snags beyond the group’s control: “The documentation has fallen by the wayside,” she says. “It hasn’t been a priority for people.”

How much paperwork do you have when you claim to be an ad hoc organization?

Some Rockaway residents say that Occupy Sandy is keeping them in the dark about how they will dish out its remaining money, and that the group, which has no one central location in the city but operates from several hubs, isn’t including them in decision-making.

A secretive and controlling left wing group? I’m shocked.

Occupy Sandy has now convened a panel of nine people to serve the specific needs of the Rockaways, including 4 residents affiliated with Occupy Sandy, and to decide how their chunk of money gets spent. There is no timeline for this, but organizers say some grants might begin to flow in another month’s time. As for the nearly $300,000, Lembitz says Occupy Sandy is “in the process” of having open meetings “where the community can come together and decide how best to allocate the rest of the money.” But apart from one debrief session, the group’s public calendar is bare through the end of the year.

There’s a meeting. Totally. It’s just taking place in a basement somewhere in Canada… and you’re not invited.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” says Robyn Hillman-Harrigan, who runs Shore Soup Project, a group that provided more than 50,000 hot meals door-to-door in the aftermath of the storm. She goes out of her way to say she’s supportive of the bigger Occupy Sandy principles, and thinks its efforts have been largely commendable. But she can’t help but see the irony of a small group making decisions about money meant for the many. “It feels like a club,” she says.

Or a Soviet.

Terri Bennett defended the makeup of the new Rockaway panel. “There’s a really fine line between inviting enough people to participate, and inviting too many,” she says. She also says the group wants to avoid being overwhelmed by requests and repeating the mistakes of the past: “I also think that those [community] groups are kind of the same people over and over again that are already involved in these processes, but if we invite people who aren’t normally invited to the table, then it builds a bunch of peoples’ capacities.”

And apparently half those people have to belong to Occupy Sandy.

If Occupy Sandy doesn’t tell the Rockaways community how it plans to spend the rest of the money, “I personally believe they have outstayed their welcome,” Taylor  says.

Immigration bill soon to be revealed

April 9, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

A bill for immigration reform could be released as early as Thursday,  aides indicate that the process of debating the details in the bill in process will stretch an additional few weeks more than anticipated.

Leahy has agreed to hold a hearing as soon as possible after the legislation is introduced, and has promised to have unlimited debate and amendments during the committee mark-up,said a Senate aide. “Assuming Republican members push for as much time as possible, the committee debate will last through the next recess, giving plenty of time for public debate and review.”

The 535 tard pileup returns from recess next month

How will he pay for it? Fiscal realities put Obama agenda in question

February 11, 2013 by  
Filed under General News

source:NBC

Less than one month into his second term, President Barack Obama looks to complete the outlines of an ambitious agenda in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

In his inaugural speech, the president telegraphed several initiatives he wants Congress to pursue and pass this year: gun control legislation, a bill to create a legalization process for many of the nation’s illegal immigrants, subsidies for renewable energy technologies and legislation to respond to climate change.

Obama will likely return to those topics Tuesday night, but the White House has signaled that this speech will focus more on the themes that dominated the past four years — jobs and the economy — with new initiatives aimed at improving the prospects of growth for both, and a particular emphasis on the middle class.

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