TBR News April 9, 2013

Apr 09 2013

The Voice of the White House


          Washington, D.C. April 9, 2013: “A new book, ‘Christ the Essent’ is making its way into the marketplace. We have a copy of the Connally book in hand and have read it from beginning to end. Based entirely on an original Dead Sea scroll dating from approximately 65 CE that was written, on parchment (instead of the usual papyrus) by two different scribes, both of the Essene cult, this scroll is the only period reference to Jesus. The Josephus references to Jesus are second century fakes. This source clarifies many of the strange, contradictive and inaccurate information in the Gospels, most of which were written a hundred years later and often edited.


Jesus was not a Nazarene but an Alexandrian Jew. His family moved to Judea when Jesus and his two brothers were very young. Jesus’ elder brother was a member of the agricultural Essene cult and Jesus joined this group.


The Essenes, a Judean cult were a wealthy agricultural and religious community that had a communistic approach to their life style. There was a common purse and shared wealth and much, if not most, of the first expressed Christian dogma came directly from the Essenes.


Unfortunately for the Christian community, like the Spartans and Zulus who were essentially a military community cult, the agricultural Essenes were strictly male-oriented and strongly homosexual in nature.


The Essenes are discussed in detail by Josephus and Philo.


Christianity as we know it today evolved directly from this sect of Judaism, with which it shared many ideas and symbols


During the Procuratorship of Marcus Antonius Felix (52 to 58 CE) Jesus, a charismatic Essene leader,  amassed a mob of about 30,000 Palestinian Jewish dissidents, planning to attack Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives and drive out the Roman garrison. One of Jesus’ Essene associates, a man named Judas, informed Felix of the impending raid and it was stopped by Roman troops with a heavy loss of life for the rebels. Many were taken prisoner, tried and crucified for rebellion against the Roman government but the period records show, very clearly, that the leader, Jesus from Alexandria, escaped and vanished into the desert.



The scroll makes it very, very plain that Jesus was a dynamic Essene leader and had specific homosexual connections with both an older, and younger man. Mark 7:14-16 shows that Jesus approved of homosexual acts. The critical phrase reads: “There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him…” Jesus gave great emphasis to this teaching, directing it to everyone.


This ought to be a most interesting read but is not recommended for the Evangelical community in specific and the Catholic Church in general.”



The anti-drone hoodie that helps you beat Big Brother’s spy in the sky


Unmanned surveillance drones are a global concern, but designer Adam Harvey has concocted an outlandish solution


March 31, 2013

by Tom Meltzer

The Guardian 

            I am wearing a silver hoodie that stops just below the nipples. Or, if you prefer, a baggy crop-top with a hood. The piece – this is fashion, so it has to be a “piece” – is one of a kind, a prototype. It has wide square shoulders and an overzealous zip that does up right to the tip of my nose.

            It does not, it’s fair to say, make its wearer look especially cool. But that’s not really what this hoodie is about. It has been designed to hide me from the thermal imaging systems of unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles – drones. And, as far as I can tell, it’s working well.

“It’s what I call anti-drone,” explains designer Adam Harvey. “That’s the sentiment. The material in the anti-drone clothing is made of silver, which is reflective to heat and makes the wearer invisible to thermal imaging.”

The “anti-drone hoodie” was the central attraction of Harvey’s Stealth Wear exhibition, which opened in central London in January, billed as a showcase for “counter-surveillance fashions”. It is a field Harvey has been pioneering for three years now, making headlines in the tech community along the way.

It began in 2010 with Camoflash, an anti-paparazzi handbag that responds to the unwanted camera flashes with a counter-flash of its own, replacing the photograph’s intended subject with a fuzzy orb of bright white light.

Then came his thesis project CV Dazzle, a mix of bold makeup and hairstyling based on military camouflage techniques, designed to flummox computer face-recognition software. It worked, but also made you look like a cyberpunk with a face-painting addiction. Which was not exactly inconspicuous.

Once again, though, that wasn’t really the point. “These are primarily fashion items and art items,” Harvey tells me. “I’m not trying to make products for survivalists. I would like to introduce this idea to people: that surveillance is not bulletproof. That there are ways to interact with it and there are ways to aestheticise it.”

There is, I point out, no obvious target audience for anti-drone fashion. He’s unfazed. “The kind of person who would wear it really depends on what drones end up being used for. You can imagine everything, from general domestic spying by a government, or more commercial reconnaissance of individuals.” I suggest perhaps political protesters. “Yeah, sure. Maybe that’s the actual market.”

Harvey is well aware his work can seem a little before its time. “I wouldn’t say many people have a problem being imaged by drones yet,” he deadpans. “But it imagines that this is a problem and then presents a functional solution.”

Reality, to be fair, is not so far behind. Over the next 15 years the US Federal Aviation Administration anticipates more than 20,000 new drones will appear in American skies, owned not just by law enforcement agencies and the military, but also public health bodies and private companies.

In the UK, several police forces are already experimenting with drones, and not just for thermal imaging. “They can be equipped with things called IMSI-catchers that will work out the mobile phone numbers of any people in a certain area,” explains Richard Tynan, research officer at campaign group Privacy International.

“If police deploy these things for crowd control there’s no issue with them figuring out every single person who’s in there – and their mobile phone numbers. They can also intercept calls and send out false messages. It’s not just the police either. Cybercriminals can use these, or even business opponents. This technology already exists.”

Tynan is sceptical about the power of inventions such as the hoodie to protect us from such technology. “The growth in [civilian counter-surveillance] will be dependent on the kind of work we do here to uncover what surveillance is being used. They will always lag behind in the battle.”

Not least because many of the people making counter-surveillance equipment are keen to keep it out of civilian hands. “The only people who really don’t need to be seen,” says military camouflage designer Guy Cramer, “are the ones who are doing something wrong out there.”

Cramer is, in a sense, Harvey’s military equivalent: another pioneer in the art of vanishing. Last year, Cramer’s delightfully shady-sounding company HyperStealth Biotechnology Corp made headlines worldwide with its claim to have built a functioning “invisibility cloak”, using light-bending optical camouflage to make a soldier simply disappear. So far, only various members of military top brass have been permitted to see the cloak in action – for fear, he says, that the technology will fall into the wrong hands.

Cramer has also created an “intelligent textile” named Smartcamo, capable of changing colour to match its surroundings. Unlike with the cloak, Cramer plans to make the technology available to consumers. But hopes of becoming invisible to Big Brother won’t be drastically improved; when selling to the public he and many of his competitors deliberately leave civilian customers exposed.

“When we sell to the commercial market, we use special inks that actually don’t work under infrared conditions. It looks identical but you show up on the infrared as a big white target.” The motive is mistrust of the civilian buyer. “It would cost me pennies more to add the infrared but I wouldn’t want to give the bad guys that advantage.”

He, too, is sceptical about the real-world application of anti-drone fashionwear: “It doesn’t matter how good your clothing is, if you’re not masking every part of your body – your hands, your face, your eyes – it’s going to give away your position.” An anti-drone burqa, then? That, he admits, would do the trick. But it would really take the fashion out of counter-surveillance fashionwear.

New York’s Cardinal Dolan says gay people are ‘entitled to friendship’ only

Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Dolan says Catholic church needs to ‘do better’ to defend its view of marriage


March 31, 2013

by Dominic Rushe in New York



America’s most high-profile Catholic official, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, has warned that the church needs to “do better” to ensure its “defense of marriage is not reduced to an attack on gay people”. But he added that gay people were only entitled to “friendship” not “sexual love”.


Asked about gay marriage in a week when the US supreme court heard two cases regarding same sex marriage, the archbishop of New York told ABC’s This Week: “We want your happiness. You are entitled to friendship. But we also know that God has told us that the way to happiness, that – especially when it comes to sexual love – that is intended only for a man and woman in marriage, where children can come about naturally.”


Speaking on Easter Sunday, Dolan cautioned that the church had not done a good job of defending its views on marriage. “I admit, we haven’t been too good at that. We try our darndest to make sure we’re not anti-anybody. We’re in the defense of what God has taught us about – about marriage. And it’s one man, one woman, forever, to bring about new life,” he said. “We’ve got to better… to try to take that away from being anti-anybody.”


Dolan told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that sometime “by nature, the church has got to be out of touch with concerns, because we’re always supposed to be thinking of the beyond, the eternal, the changeless.” He added: “Our major challenge is to continue in a credible way to present the eternal concerns to people in a timeless attractive way. And sometimes there is a disconnect – between what they’re going through and what Jesus and his church is teaching. And that’s a challenge for us.”


His comments came after the supreme court heard arguments about the constitutionality of California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act (Doma), legislation brought in by president Bill Clinton that restricts federal marriage benefits to opposite sex couples.


Polls show a majority of voters now back same-sex marriage, and that shift is increasingly being reflected in Washington. Earlier this month Bill Clinton joined president Barack Obama in calling Doma unconstitutional. In an editorial in the Washington Post he wrote: “When I signed the bill, I included a statement with the admonition that “enactment of this legislation should not, despite the fierce and at times divisive rhetoric surrounding it, be understood to provide an excuse for discrimination.” Reading those words today, I know now that, even worse than providing an excuse for discrimination, the law is itself discriminatory. It should be overturned



US official warns drug traffickers will expand in Caribbean after Latin America cracks down


April 3, 2013

Associated Press

            SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A top U.S. State Department official says the Caribbean will likely see a surge in drug trafficking activity by 2015 as operations shift to the tropics due to a crackdown in much of Latin America.


William Brownfield says he believes drug traffickers squeezed out of Mexico, Central America and South America will target the Caribbean because it’s spacious and allows them to remain undercover and take advantage of weak law enforcement in certain countries.


Brownfield is assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement. He spoke to The Associated Press Wednesday during an official visit to Puerto Rico.


Brownfield also said Congress recently approved $40 million to help boost security in the Caribbean as part of a federal program. Officials haven’t decided how the money will be spent.



Making Disaster Pay: From the San Francisco Earthquake to Superstorm Sandy, How Capitalism Stacks the Deck on Disaster

April 4, 2013.

by Steve Fraser



In 2007, a financial firestorm ravaged Wall Street and the rest of the country.  In 2012, Hurricane Sandy obliterated a substantial chunk of the Atlantic seaboard.  We think of the first as a man-made calamity, the second as the malignant innocence of nature.  But neither the notion of a man-made nor natural disaster quite captures how the power of a few and the vulnerability of the many determine what is really going on at ground level.  Causes and consequences, who gets blamed and who leaves the scene permanently scarred, who goes down and who emerges better positioned than before: these are matters often predetermined by the structures of power and wealth, racial and ethnic hierarchies, and despised and favored forms of work, as well as moral and social prejudices in place before disaster strikes. 


When it comes to our recent financial implosion, this is easy enough to see, although great efforts have been expended trying to deny the self-evident.  “Man” did not bring the system to its knees; the country’s dominant financial institutions and a complicit government did that.  They’ve recovered, the rest of us haven’t.


Sandy seems a more ambiguous case.  On the one hand, it’s obvious enough that an economy resting on fossil fuels played a catalytic role in intensifying the storm.  Those corporate interests profiting from that form of energy production and doing all they can to defend it are certainly culpable, not the rest of mankind which has no other choice but to depend on the energy system we’re given. 


On the other hand, rich and poor, big businesses and neighborhood shops suffered; some, however, more than others.  Among them were working class communities; public-housing residents; outer borough homeowners; communities in Long Island, along the New Jersey shore, and inland as well; workers denied unemployment compensation; and the old, the sick, and the injured abandoned for days or weeks in dark and dangerous high-rises without medical help or access to fresh food or water.  Help, when it came to these “disadvantaged” worlds, often arrived late, or last, or not at all.


Cleaning up and rebuilding New York City and other places hit by the storm will provide a further road map of who gets served and whose ox gets gored.  It’s ominous, if hardly shocking, that Mayor Bloomberg has already appointed Mark Ricks of Goldman Sachs to the business-dominated team planning the city’s future.  Where would this billionaire mayor turn other than to his fraternity brothers, especially in this era when, against all the odds, we still worship at the altar of the deal-makers, no matter their malfeasances and fatal ineptitudes?


Still, it is early days and the verdict is not in on the post-Sandy future.  However, an incisive analysis by sociologists Kevin Fox Gotham and Miriam Greenberg of what happened after the 9/11 attacks in New York and in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina offers some concrete forebodings.  Everyone knows that, as soon as Katrina made landfall, the racial divisions of New Orleans became the scandal of the month when it came to which communities were drowned and which got helped, who got arrested (and shot), and who left town forever.  To be poor in New Orleans during and after Katrina was a curse.  To be poor and black amounted to excommunication. 


Gotham and Greenberg prove that, post-9/11 and post-Katrina, reconstruction and rehabilitation was also skewed heavily in favor of the business community and the wealthier.  In both cities, big business controlled the redevelopment process — and so where the money landed and where it didn’t. 


Tax breaks and private sector subsidies became channels for federal aid.  “Public benefit” standards, which once accompanied federal grants and tax exemptions to insure that projects served some public purpose, especially to “benefit persons of low and moderate income,” were eliminated, leaving poorer people out in the cold, while exacerbating existing inequalities.  Governments scurried around inventing ways to auction off reconstruction projects to private interests by issuing tax exempt “Private Activity Bonds.”  These were soon gloriously renamed “Liberty Bonds,” though the unasked question was: Whose liberty?


The lion’s share of grants and exemptions went, of course, to the biggest corporations.  In New York, more than 40% of all bonds, or $2.4 billion, went to a single developer, Larry Silverstein.  Second to Silverstein was — don’t be shocked — Goldman Sachs.  Yet these institutions and their inhabitants represented at best a mere 15% of those affected, most of whom were low-wage workers who, in some cases, ended up getting evicted from their homes thanks to those business-oriented tax breaks.  Federal aid, hypothetically tied to building affordable housing and the creation of living-wage jobs ended up as just that: hypothetical.


Naturally, these mechanisms proved lucrative.  More than that they are the means by which elites use disasters as opportunities to turn wrecked cities or regions into money-making centers and playlands for what in the nineteenth century was called “the upper tendom” and what we now call “the 1%.”


Indeed, the original “upper tendom” faced its own “natural” disasters during the Gilded Age.  Then, too, such catastrophes exposed the class and racial anatomy of America to public view.  Then, too, one man’s disaster was another’s main chance.  Whether you focus on the cause of the calamity, the way people reacted to it, or the means and purposes that drove the reclamation afterwards, disasters and capitalism metabolized together long before “disaster capitalism” became the nom de jour




Mrs. O’Leary’s infamously rambunctious cow did not kick a lantern into a batch of hay and start the Chicago fire of 1871. To this day, however, many probably still believe the story, even though the journalist who first reported it admitted a mere 20 years later that he’d made it up. 


It was a story that stuck because it meshed with the ethnic and social fears and prejudices of bourgeois Chicago.  Irish and German immigrants then filled up the congested warrens of that Midwestern center of industry and commerce.  Their customs, religions, languages, political beliefs, and proletarian status were alien and alarming — especially because that was the year of the Paris Commune, when proletarians took over the French national capital for two months.  It was an event that scared the daylights out of the “upper tendom” and broad stretches of the middle classes as well in cities and towns throughout the U.S.


Chicago’s papers were full of stories about “petroleuses,” “amazon-like women” with “long flaming hair” coursing through the streets of Paris hurling the equivalent of Molotov cocktails at the French National Guard.   Could it happen here?  That was the question.  Impoverished immigrant workers were already raising a ruckus in mines and on railroads.  Perhaps as in France, so in Chicago they would become conspirators and incendiaries.  Perhaps the great fire that gutted the city was no accident.  Even if it was, weren’t there those prepared to make malevolent use of it?


Rumors of secret societies, revolutionary arsonists, and mass assaults on property circulated widely by word of mouth and through the Chicago media.  So Mrs. O’Leary proved an especially apt scapegoat for the conflagration, fitting perfectly the temper of the time.  She was, after all, “low class” Irish at a moment when her immigrant countrymen were still despised as rustic potato eaters, bestial and good for nothing but back-breaking labor.  It was also known that they were all too Catholic, notoriously fond of alcohol, and quite capable of terrorizing British landlords back home. 


Less talked about was the likelier cause of the fire: namely, the unimaginably congested neighborhoods of the poor, made entirely out of wood — houses, signs, and sidewalks, too.  These had for years been the sites of frequent fires (two a day in 1870).  Such frail structures became kindling for the flames that would in 1871 end up leveling downtown banks, businesses, and the homes of the rich.


These fears leaped with the flames that were burning up the city, killing 3,000 and leaving 100,000 homeless, and in the days and weeks that followed they hardly subsided.  Immigrant, poor, and proletarian, Chicago’s working class was held in deep moral suspicion.  Believing is often seeing, so when an upper-class eyewitness looked here’s what he saw: “Vice and crime had got the first scorching.  The district where the fire got firm foothold was the Alsatia of Chicago. Fleeing before it was a crowd of blear-eyed, drunken and diseased wretches, male and female, half naked, ghastly with painted cheeks cursing, uttering ribald jests.” 


Relief agencies, mainly privately run, were charged with aiding only the “worthy,” and they were “deserving” of help only after close inspection of their work habits, family arrangements, home economics, drinking customs, and so on.  Civil War General Phillip Sheridan established martial law and was quick to fire on suspected looters, while enforcing a curfew to keep the “twilight population” in check. 


At the same time, Chicago’s business elite, its civic leaders, and a remarkable roster of first-rate architects went about reshaping downtown Chicago into a modern hub of commerce and culture that they hoped would rival New York.  Real-estate speculators made a fortune, although none were known to have been shot for looting.  For some, in other words, the fire functioned as a fortuitous slum clearance/urban renewal program on speed.


Angry working people marched against new restrictions on cheaper building materials, seeing them as discriminatory against labor and immigrants, as attempts to force them out of their city.  They paraded to the Common Council, where they threw bricks through the windows while it dutifully passed the ordinances.  For their efforts, the protesters were denounced as the “scum of the community,” “mongrel firebugs,” and likened to the Parisian communards, intent on establishing a “reign of terror.” 


The fire was out but only for the time being. The fires of social insurrection were still smoldering and would flame up again and again in the streets of Chicago throughout the rest of the century.




An unnatural disaster!  With a “roar like thunder,” a wall of water 60 feet high from Lake Conemaugh, believed then to be the largest artificial body of water in the world, came racing down a canyon near Johnstown, Pennsylvania, at 40 miles an hour.  Everything in its path was swept away, starting with Woodvale, a company town run by the Cambria Iron Works.  Johnstown itself was next as the tidal wave rushed on relentlessly drowning and destroying bridges, oil tankers, and factories.  It tossed locomotives, railroad cars, and even houses into the air.  It ended the lives of more than 2,200 people.  Seven hundred and seventy-seven were never identified and are buried in the “Plot of the Unknown.”  Johnstown has been memorialized ever since in song and story.


Was it fate as well as an especially rainy spring that did the trick in 1889?  At the top of the canyon, members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, men like iron and steel magnates Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Mellon, as well as the crème de la crème of Pittsburgh high society (the city was only 60 miles away) had long enjoyed the pleasures of that man-made lake.  They had gone fishing, paddle boating, and sailing there for years.  And for years, engineers kept informing the iron and steel barons that the earthen dam holding back its waters was defective.  The spillway was both too small and clogged with fencing materials meant to keep the expensive sports fish stocked in the lake from escaping into a nearby river.  Auxiliary discharge pipes had decayed and leaks had been routinely noticed at the base of the dam even when the weather was especially dry. 


The club’s sportsmen did nothing.  In fact, they ordered several feet shaved off the top of the dam to make way for a road so members could get to their “cottages” faster from the nearby railroad station.  After the horror, there were lawsuits aplenty, but no one was ever held responsible for what quickly became a legendary tragedy.  In 1989, on the centennial of the disaster, an article in the Journal of Civil Engineering confirmed that the actions of the South Fork Club were the proximate cause of this “natural disaster.” 


All was not lost, however.  Some years after Johnstown was rebuilt, Andrew Carnegie donated one of his libraries for which he would become so widely celebrated.




Bubonic plague returned to San Francisco when the earthquake of 1906 sent hordes of rats racing through the rubble, chasing through the raw sewage spilling into the streets as the city’s sewer pipes crumpled.  Anyone was potentially susceptible.  In one way the earthquake had been an equal-opportunity destroyer.  Chinatown, with its masses of poor living in squalid wooden shacks, was razed to the ground by the quake and subsequent fire.  Other working class precincts were similarly leveled and burnt.  But so, too, was Nob Hill, where the city’s gilded elite lived.


A mythic memory of communal suffering, self-sacrifice, and mutual aid emerged in the immediate aftermath of the San Francisco disaster, as it still does in the wake of many similar collective traumas.  After 9/11, as after Superstorm Sandy, stories of how people from all walks of life banded together to help one another were commonplace.  This was even true in Chicago after the fire, notwithstanding the white-hot hostilities between the classes and the masses.  These are not fables, but moving accounts drawn from real life.  They offer a kind of hope in disaster and, consoling as they are meant to be, linger on, sometimes forever.  Meanwhile, interred and resting in peace are often the disaster’s darker doings.


Looking back on earthquake-ravaged San Francisco, a well-off refugee remembered that the calamity “did not discriminate between tavern and tabernacle, bank and brothel.”  Yet the wife of the president of Levi-Strauss and Co. drove up to one of the relief centers in her limousine (in those early days cars were still mainly luxury machines and she owned one of the handful of limos in the city).  She was, of course, ushered right to the head of its endless line. 


Even in these immediate post-quake reports, one could detect other motivations at work.  So, for example, while San Francisco was ravaged, the death toll was calculated at only about 375 people.  For a savage firestorm coursing through the most densely packed of neighborhoods, that low figure surprised people and left some wondering.  The answer turned out to be this: the city fathers were determined to cite a low number so as not to discourage San Francisco’s rebuilding and the outside investments that would require.  For many years, the figure was nonetheless accepted as accurate.  Recently, however, through the diligent efforts of researchers, we know that the numbers of dead were probably 10 times higher.  News of the bubonic plague was suppressed for similar reasons.


Calculations of that kind informed many aspects of the tragedy.  While sitting atop the San Andreas Fault is not ideal, should the underlying tectonic plates move a bit, not much was said about other contributory causes.  Minor earthquakes had erupted for decades and these had been set off, at least in part, due to the hydraulic mining that accompanied the California gold rush in its later years. 


The operation to relieve the distress of hundreds of thousands of homeless people after the quake was tainted by class and ethnic biases not unlike those in Chicago.  Relief camps segregated refugees by class as well as race and gender.  Firefighters pooled water and equipment to save the homes of the wealthy first.  In working class districts, fire-fighting focused on commercial properties like a Folger’s Coffee warehouse and freight sheds, not on saving homes.  Seventeen hundred troops under General Frederick Funston guarded richer precincts because, as he explained, “San Francisco had its class of people no doubt who would take advantage of any opportunity to plunder the banks and rich jewelry…”  Chinatown did not die an entirely natural death either.  It was dynamited to create firebreaks and so prevent the fires already raging there from spreading to tonier neighborhoods.


Two years after the event, poor people were still living in “relief cottages,” tents, and other makeshift accommodations which, at rental rates of six dollars a month, many couldn’t afford.  To get relief required a letter from a clergyman testifying to one’s moral worthiness.  Working class women took to the streets to protest.


Meanwhile, former residents of Nob Hill had moved into equally luxurious digs elsewhere in the city.  However, they did have a problem in those early months.  There was a crying lack of domestic help.  As the San Francisco Chronicle reported, “Everyone had wondered where the cooks had gone.  They had been lost since the fire.”  So working women, who were bending all their efforts to restoring their devastated families by making use of what relief was available, were chastised for not returning to the kitchens of the elect.  One paper claimed that the women “were loafing… when families needed help,” or as a Red Cross matron observed, “Women [domestics] prefer to live… in relief camps.” 


Help was, however, on the way.  Special rehabilitation funds were reserved for single women so they could resume their lives of domestic service. 


Being solicitous about the needs of the rich could reach heights of absurdity.  It was recommended, for instance, that special philanthropic pawn shops be established for the upper classes where “people who saved their jewels could be rehabilitated by having such a place to go where they would not have to pay too much interest.”


If rehabilitation and recovery was on the civic mind, certain minds counted more than others.  Everybody knew that the city’s wood-frame buildings could not stand up to the pressures of another earthquake, which — they also knew — was a reasonable future possibility.  So new building codes were adopted calling for the use of reinforced concrete and steel in structures over six stories high.  They lasted a year.  Pressures from the business community and builders caused the city to relax those rules, except in the new downtown which was urgently readying itself for the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915, where the city’s boosters hoped to eradicate the last pungent odors of the calamity.


A $500 “bonus plan” to help rebuild homes favored the native-born and two-parent households.  Housing rehabilitation began with the wealthy and worked its way very slowly to the poor.  There were lots of jobs for “earthquake mechanics,” but at wages that could never keep up with escalating rents driven by real-estate speculators. 


Insurance companies had by then rewritten their home-owner policies to exempt earthquakes from coverage.  Fire was covered, however, and it’s clear that people deliberately set fire to their own homes, already ruined by the tremors, since without insurance money there was no way they could recover and rebuild.  Not surprisingly, pay-offs were highest for the wealthy.  The insurance companies worked at delaying payments to the hardest hit, the poor.  This fit with the mood of the moment — that those working class shacks were “no loss to the city.”    


Neither was Chinatown.  San Francisco’s upper crust, as well as large portions of its white middle and working classes, had never been fond of the Chinese in their midst, even though they depended on their labors.  The quake struck the city’s burghers as an opportunity to funnel them out of the center of the city — the old Chinatown had largely been destroyed — to some enclave on its outskirts.  (“Fire has reclaimed civilization and cleanliness from the Chinese ghetto.”) Their plans were, however, successfully thwarted by the concerted resistance of the Chinese community.


Resistance notwithstanding, Chicago and San Francisco emerged from their trials by fire as bustling centers of capitalist enterprise.  Disaster capitalism has a long history.  One of the last remaining “relief cottages” built by Funston’s army at the cost of $100 and rented for $2 was just recently sold for $600,000.


Recently, when the Republican majority in Congress temporarily blocked funds for Sandy relief and rehabilitation efforts, it was a chilling reminder that no matter how universal a calamity is, we live in times when the commonwealth regularly takes a backseat to wealth.  Appeals to fellowship, to mutual assistance and shared sacrifice seem to give way with scandalous speed to the commanding imperatives of a warped economy and political plutocracy.


More Sandys are surely headed our way, more climate-driven disasters of all sorts than we can now fully imagine. And rest assured, they will be no more “natural” than the Chicago fire, the Johnstown flood, or the San Francisco earthquake.  More than fire itself what we need to deal with now is the power of the finance, insurance, and real estate — or FIRE — sector whose leading corporations now effectively run our economy.  Without doing that, the “nature” these interests have helped create will punish us all while providing a ghoulish boondoggle for a few. 


Steve Fraser is editor-at-large of New Labor Forum, a co-founder of the American Empire Project, and author most recently of Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace.  A version of this piece will appear in the spring issue of New Labor Forum.


As Europe Gets Sicker, Its Austerity Poison Is Still Our Prescription

April 2, 2013

by Richard Eskow

Campaign for America’s Future Blog


How much sicker does the patient have to get before the doctors stop prescribing poison?


Here are some of the news stories out of Europe:


New York Times:  Unemployment in Euro Zone Reaches a Record High
            WSJ: Sixth Quarter of Contraction Looms for Euro Zone
            Der Spiegel: Shredded Social Safety Net: European Austerity Costing Lives
            WSJ: Spain Says Budget Gap Is Wider Than Reported
            New York Times: European Car Sales Point to Continuing Slump
            WSJ: Italy Unable to Form Government
            New York Times: Debt Rising in Europe


Paul Krugman’s right: This isn’t a recession. It’s Europe’s Second Depression, and it’s on track to last even longer than the first one. Austerity economics has been imposed across most of the Eurozone, to a greater or lesser degree, with devastating economic results:  This is Europe’s sixth consecutive quarter of economic contraction.


Europe’s Austerity Recession (or Depression) has now lasted longer than the one brought on by the financial crisis of 2008.


The first downturn was brought on by private greed and public negligence. This one’s been brought on by public insanity fueled by private interests.


And the austerity poison is literally deadly: The Lancet, a respected medical journal, reports a sharp increase in suicides and epidemics as the rest of European austerity measures.


There’s at least one heartwarming story to come out of all this misery. Greek and Cypriot entertainers held a concert on Cyprus– a “mini-Live Aid,” if you will – and instead of charging admission, organizers asked people to bring food for Cypriot families who can’t afford food.


“We came to help those who have problems,” said a dentist who attended the concert. “Now we can help – but we don’t know if we will be able to help tomorrow.”


It’s nice to know that somebody’s thinking about the victims of austerity on Cyprus – especially since even more severe austerity measures will soon be imposed there.


Meanwhile, manufacturing output is plunging across the Eurozone. Spain saw the worst decline in employment since 2009.  Unemployment hasn’t been this high in the Eurozone since record-keeping began in 1995. And Europe’s infrastructure has a dimming future.


“Europe’s carefully maintained autobahns, high-speed TGV trains and vast network of modern airports have long been the envy of the world,” writes Reuters. “But thanks to austerity budgets that are slashing infrastructure spending …, that may not be true for much longer.”


No wonder last month’s European Union summit was marked by protests and Italy’s leaders still can’t form a government.


What can we learn from Europe’s misery? For our political leaders the answer seems to be: Nothing. In fact, Washington seems determined to follow in Washington’s footsteps. We’ve already had a couple of rounds of austerity ourselves – in the last deficit deal, and now in the “sequester” cuts.  The President and the Republicans both employ pro-austerity rhetoric which argues that deficits are our biggest problem. They just disagree about where and how it should be imposed.


The President occasionally offers half-hearted stimulus programs, but he never actually fights for them.  The Republican platform has become increasing extremist, emphasizing the radical dismantling of our social contract and a deregulated environment in which citizens would become the hapless prey of corporate predators.


President Obama may challenge the GOP verbally on a couple of points, but he continues to propose pre-“conservatized” ideas, which the GOP promptly and predictably pushes further to the right.  (His new budget is likely to be the next example of this.) And by endlessly repeating the false idea that deficits are our most urgent economic problem, he has performed an invaluable service to the cause of harmful austerity economics.


In other words, The Republicans want to place the country on an express train to hell, and the President usually suggests we take the local instead.


Our economic problems aren’t as severe as the Europeans’ – yet. Maybe that’s why we haven’t seen very many Americans in the streets protesting lately.  But if that doesn’t happen soon, Europe’s miserable present is very probably a glimpse into our future.


Not that things would have to be all bad. Someday they might hold “mini-Live Aids” for us, too, with lots of free music and cans of dried food for families like yours and mine. As we watch the “deficit debate” unfold, we’re learning that the Live Aid folks were right about one thing:


We really are the world.


Bird flu threat leads to closure of poultry markets in Shanghai


Chinese officials shut down all live fowl markets in city and order cull as deaths from H7N9 virus jumps to six


April 6, 2013

by Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing and agencies



Chinese officials have shut down all live poultry markets in Shanghai and ordered a cull of birds in a bid to halt the spread of an infection that has killed six people.


Shanghai’s government reported two more cases of human infection of the H7N9 virus on Saturday, a 74-year-old and a 66-year-old.


Health officials believe people are contracting the H7N9 virus through direct contact with infected fowl and say there is no evidence it is spreading easily between people.


Shanghai has been ordered by the agriculture ministry to halt its live poultry trade and slaughter all fowl in two markets where the virus has been found. Xinhua news agency said authorities also planned to cull birds at the live poultry market in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province, where the H7N9 virus was also detected.


Over 20,000 birds have been culled in the Huhuai market, where traces of the virus were found earlier this week.


Officials in Shanghai ordered all live poultry markets in the city closed on Saturday, leaving the food stalls empty and signs stating that the market had been closed until further notice.


The new strain of bird flu has infected 16 people in China, all in the east of the country. Six people have died, and the outbreak has spread concern overseas and sparked a sell-off in airline shares in Europe and Hong Kong.


Chinese health authorities are actively monitoring 400 people who have been in contact with H7N9 patients, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which says the virus cannot be transmitted from person to person.


Scientists are particularly concerned about two of the virus’s traits. H7N9 does not show symptoms in infected birds, allowing it to spread rapidly without detection. It also seems to be mutating quickly, meaning it could become contagious among humans.


The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was developing a vaccine for the virus. The commercial production of a H7N9 vaccine commercially has become a subject of hot debate among public health experts, according to Reuters.


“There is a possibility now that flu researchers will all rush to work on H7N9 and grants will be awarded for intensive research to develop vaccines … and that could be pouring money down a drain because it could be that the barriers for this virus are high enough that we don’t need to worry about it,” said Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist at Imperial College, London.


On Friday, H7N9 was the most-discussed topic on the social network Sina Weibo. Most threads concerned ways to prevent the disease but suspicions of a coverup were also widely voiced. Many users wondered why the Shanghai authorities waited weeks to announce the first two cases in March.


Earlier this week, a self-identified hospital administrator in Nanjing leaked a bird flu diagnosis on to Weibo. Although the post was initially censored, health officials later confirmed the case.


“If there is anything that Sars has taught China and its government, it’s that one cannot be too careful or too honest when it comes to deadly pandemics,” the Xinhua news agency reported on Wednesday. “The last 10 years have taught the government a lot, but it is far from enough.”


Vietnam and Hong Kong have temporarily banned Chinese poultry imports, and airports in Japan have put up notices warning passengers from China to report any flu-like symptoms to medical professionals.


News Corp threatens to take Fox off the air if Aereo service is allowed to operate

‘Aereo is stealing our signal’, says News Corp’s Chase Carey as broadcasters fight technology that streams TV on mobile devices


April 9, 2013

by Dominic Rushe in New York


News Corporation has threatened to restrict its top-rated Fox TV channel to subscribers if an internet startup wins a battle for the right to stream US broadcast networks online.

Hits including American Idol, The Following, Glee and X Factor have made Fox the number-one network for the last eight years. But speaking at the National Association of Broadcasters event in Las Vegas, its president, Chase Carey warned he would consider scrapping its open broadcast if a New York-based startup is allowed to retransmit its shows without paying a license fee.

Aereo, backed by media turned internet mogul Barry Diller, is at loggerheads with major media firms including News Corp, CBS, Disney and others over its service which delivers TV over the web. Subscribers pay $12 month to stream live broadcasts of TV channels on mobile devices. Aereo does not pay fees to the media companies whose programmes it redistributes.

Earlier this month the company won an appeal against its critics attempts to block the service, which is so far limited to New York. It was Aereo’s second victory against the major media groups. Subscribers are allocated their own antennae, a move that the majority of appeal judges ruled meant the service was legal. One dissenting judge, however, called the service a “sham” and was abusing a loophole in the law. The media firms are planning further action.

“Aereo is stealing our signal,” Carey said in his keynote conversation at the NAB. “We believe in our legal rights. We’re going to pursue those legal rights fully and completely, and we believe we’ll prevail. But we want to be clear. If we can’t have our rights properly protected through legal and political avenues, we will pursue business solutions. One such business solution would be to take the network and turn it into a subscription service.”

In a statement issued after the NAB speech, Carey said Fox would not “just sit idle and allow our content to be actively stolen”.

“We simply cannot provide the type of quality sports, news, and entertainment content that we do from an ad supported only business model. We have no choice but to develop business solutions that ensure we continue to remain in the driver’s seat of our own destiny. One option could be converting the Fox broadcast network to a pay channel, which we would do in collaboration with both our content partners and affiliates,” he said.

Virginia Lam as a spokesperson for Aereo, said: “Aereo has invented a simple, convenient way for consumers to utilize an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television, bringing television access into the modern era for millions of consumers. It’s disappointing to hear that Fox believes that consumers should not be permitted to use an antenna to access free-to-air broadcast television.

“Over 50 million Americans today access television via an antenna. When broadcasters asked Congress for a free license to digitally broadcast on the public’s airwaves, they did so with the promise that they would broadcast in the public interest and convenience, and that they would remain free-to-air. Having a television antenna is every American’s right.”

Cheney’s Halliburton Made $39.5 Billion on Iraq War


April 7, 2013

by Angelo Young

International Business Times

            The accounting of the financial cost of the nearly decade-long Iraq War will go on for years, but a recent analysis has shed light on the companies that made money off the war by providing support services as the privatization of what were former U.S. military operations rose to unprecedented levels.

Private or publicly listed firms received at least $138 billion of U.S. taxpayer money for government contracts for services that included providing private security, building infrastructure and feeding the troops.

Ten contractors received 52 percent of the funds, according to an analysis by the Financial Times that was published Tuesday.

The No. 1 recipient?

Houston-based energy-focused engineering and construction firm KBR, Inc. (NYSE:KBR), which was spun off from its parent, oilfield services provider Halliburton Co. (NYSE:HAL), in 2007.

The company was given $39.5 billion in Iraq-related contracts over the past decade, with many of the deals given without any bidding from competing firms, such as a $568-million contract renewal in 2010 to provide housing, meals, water and bathroom services to soldiers, a deal that led to a Justice Department lawsuit over alleged kickbacks, as reported by Bloomberg.

Who were Nos. 2 and 3?

Agility Logistics (KSE:AGLTY) of Kuwait and the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corp. Together, these firms garnered $13.5 billion of U.S. contracts.

As private enterprise entered the war zone at unprecedented levels, the amount of corruption ballooned, even if most contractors performed their duties as expected.

According to the bipartisan Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the level of corruption by defense contractors may be as high as $60 billion. Disciplined soldiers that would traditionally do many of the tasks are commissioned by private and publicly listed companies.

Even without the graft, the costs of paying for these services are higher than paying governement employees or soldiers to do them because of the profit motive involved. No-bid contracting – when companies get to name their price with no competing bid – didn’t lower legitimate expenses. (Despite promises by President Barack Obama to reel in this habit, the trend toward granting favored companies federal contracts without considering competing bids continued to grow, by 9 percent last year, according to the Washington Post.)

Even though the military has largely pulled out of Iraq, private contractors remain on the ground and continue to reap U.S. government contracts. For example, the U.S. State Department estimates that taxpayers will dole out $3 billion to private guards for the government’s sprawling embassy in Baghdad.

The costs of paying private and publicly listed war profiteers seem miniscule in light of the total bill for the war.

Last week, the Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University said the war in Iraq cost $1.7 trillion dollars, not including the $490 billion in immediate benefits owed to veterans of the war and the lifetime benefits that will be owed to them or their next of kin.

North Korea has warned foreigners in South Korea to take evacuation measures in case of war

April 9 2013

BBC News


This comes amid growing concern that the North may be about to launch a missile test.


Pyongyang has been making bellicose threats against South Korea, Japan and US bases in the region.


Japan has deployed defensive anti-missile batteries at three locations in Tokyo, to protect the capital’s 30 million residents.


US-made Patriot anti-missile systems have been deployed at the defence ministry and at two other military bases.


“The government is making utmost efforts to protect our people’s lives and ensure their safety,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.


“As North Korea keeps making provocative comments, Japan, co-operating with relevant countries, will do what we have to do,” he added.


            At the end of last week Japan sent two of its most modern warships to the Sea of Japan with orders to shoot down any missiles fired by North Korea towards the Japanese islands.

BBC Tokyo correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes say no-one in Japan thinks Pyongyang is really preparing to attack.

But it may try to fire a missile over the top of Japan in to the Pacific Ocean. If it does Tokyo has made it clear it will shoot the missile down.

This is not the first time that Japan has taken such measures.

Also on Tuesday, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that North Korea has completed preparations for a mid-range missile launch from its east coast

Yonhap quoted an unnamed senior military official as saying: “According to intelligence analysis of North Korea’s missile movements, it is believed to have completed preparations for a launch. Technically, it can fire off tomorrow.”

Stark warning

A statement attributed to Pyongyang’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said on Tuesday: “The situation on the Korean peninsula is heading for a thermo-nuclear war.

“In the event of war, we don’t want foreigners living in South Korea to get hurt.”

The statement urged “all foreign organisations, companies and tourists to work out measures for evacuation”.

Last Friday, Pyongyang warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of embassy staff in the event of a war.

No foreign embassies immediately announced plans to evacuate, and the UK and Russian embassies have said they have no immediate plans to shut their embassies.

The United States, which has also been threatened by Pyongyang, has said there were no imminent signs of threats to American citizens.

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth advice on travel to South Korea was that there was “no immediate increased risk or danger to those living in or travelling to South Korea” as a result of the North Korean warning last Friday.

Tuesday’s warning to foreigners in South Korea is the latest step in the escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula.

North Korean employees on Tuesday did not report for work at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, suspending one of the few points of co-operation between North and South Korea.

The United Nations imposed tough sanctions on North Korea last month following its third nuclear test.

Pyongyang has responded to this and to joint military exercises between South Korea and the US with escalating rhetoric. It has threatened to use nuclear weapons and said it would restart a nuclear reactor.

The North has also shut down an emergency military hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang.




UN chief Ban: Korea crisis could become ‘uncontrollable’

April 9,2013

BBC News


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned the crisis on the Korean peninsula may become “uncontrollable”.

He once again urged North Korea to tone down its “provocative rhetoric” and to keep open a joint North-South Korean industrial complex.

Also on Tuesday, North Korea warned foreigners in South Korea to take evacuation measures in case of war.

Pyongyang has been making bellicose threats against South Korea, Japan and US bases in the region.

Speaking to reporters in Rome, Mr Ban said: “If any small incident is caused by miscalculation or misjudgement, it may create an uncontrollable situation.”

He also called for the Kaesong Industrial Complex to be kept open, calling it “one of the most successful cooperative projects between the South and North”.

“This should not be affected by political considerations. This is a purely economic place,” he went on.

            North Korean employees did not report for work at the complex on Tuesday, suspending one of the few points of co-operation between North and South Korea.

Warning to foreigners

Meanwhile, a statement attributed to Pyongyang’s Asia-Pacific Peace Committee on Tuesday said: “The situation on the Korean peninsula is heading for a thermo-nuclear war.

“In the event of war, we don’t want foreigners living in South Korea to get hurt.”

The statement urged “all foreign organisations, companies and tourists to work out measures for evacuation”.

Last Friday, Pyongyang warned it would not be able to guarantee the safety of embassy staff in the event of a war.

No foreign embassies immediately announced plans to evacuate, and the UK and Russian embassies have said they have no plans to shut their embassies.

The United States, which has also been threatened by Pyongyang, has said there were no imminent signs of threats to American citizens.

Fiery rhetoric

Tuesday’s warning from Pyongyang to foreigners in South Korea came amid growing concern that the North may be about to launch a missile test.

Japan has deployed defensive anti-missile batteries at three locations in Tokyo, to protect the capital’s 30 million residents.

US-made Patriot anti-missile systems have been deployed at the defence ministry and at two other military bases.

At the end of last week Japan sent two of its most modern warships to the Sea of Japan with orders to shoot down any missiles fired by North Korea towards the Japanese islands.

BBC Tokyo correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes say no-one in Japan thinks Pyongyang is really preparing to attack.

But it may try to fire a missile over the top of Japan in to the Pacific Ocean. If it does Tokyo has made it clear it will shoot the missile down.

This is not the first time that Japan has taken such measures.

Also on Tuesday, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that North Korea has completed preparations for a mid-range missile launch from its east coast.

The United Nations imposed tough sanctions on North Korea last month following its third nuclear test.

Pyongyang has responded to this, and to joint military exercises between South Korea and the US, with escalating rhetoric. It has threatened to use nuclear weapons and said it would restart a nuclear reactor.

The North has also shut down an emergency military hotline between Seoul and Pyongyang.


by Jonathan Marcus BBC Defence & Diplomatic Correspondent

North Korea fired a Taepodong-1 ballistic missile over Japanese territory in August 1998, an event that prompted the Tokyo government’s growing interest in missile defences.

Japan has a number of Aegis-radar equipped ships that can engage ballistic missiles and two land-based Patriot batteries have been deployed to protect Tokyo itself.

The hope must be that any North Korean missile test lands harmlessly in the sea but Japan is clearly ready to try to shoot down any missile if necessary.

The US also has a number of Aegis-equipped warships in the region. Their radar coverage can be enhanced by similarly-equipped south Korean vessels.

But mindful of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s warning that the current level of tension is so dangerous, that “a small incident may create an uncontrollable situation”, their preference may be not to engage any North Korean missile unless it is heading for South Korea or Japan

Admiral says North Korea is direct threat to US

April 9 2013

by Richard Lardner 


WASHINGTON (AP) — The top U.S. military commander in the Pacific says North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles represents a clear and direct threat to the United States and its allies in the region.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, tells a Senate committee Tuesday that Kim Jong Un, the country’s young and still relatively untested new leader, has used the past year to consolidate his power.

Locklear says North Korea is keeping a large percentage of its combat forces along the demilitarized zone with South Korea, a position that allows North Korea to threaten U.S. and South Korean civilian and military personnel. Locker also tells the committee that this situation creates an environment marked by the potential for miscalculation.



Climate Change to Bring ‘Superstorm Sandys’ to Europe

Hurricanes and extratropical storms will bring ‘far reaching consequences’

April 8, 2013 

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Common Dreams


            Hurricane Sandy may have been a harbinger of storms to come to Europe, new research shows, as more details about the destructive climate impact greenhouse gases are bringing the planet come to light.

            Global warming brings a warmer Atlantic Ocean, and will create “more frequent and intense hurricanes following pathways directed towards Europe,” according to a new paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

            Climatologist Dr. Jeff Masters explains that the researchers’

model predicts that the breeding ground for Atlantic hurricanes will shift approximately 700 miles eastwards as the oceans warm this century. Hurricanes which form farther to the east can spend more time over warm tropical waters before turning north and northeast towards Europe, increasing the odds that these storms will have hurricane-force winds upon arrival in Europe. The model showed that wind shear will change little in the region over the coming decades, resulting in a large increase in storms with hurricane-force winds affecting Western Europe. Most of the these storms will not be tropical hurricanes upon arrival in Europe, but will be former hurricanes that have transitioned to extratropical storms. However, as we saw with Hurricane Sandy of 2012, these hybrid storms can be extremely dangerous. Summed over Norway, the North Sea, and the Gulf of Biscay, the model found that the number of hurricane-force storms in August – October increased from 2 to 13 over the 21st century, with almost all future West European hurricane-force storms predicted to originate as hurricanes or tropical storms in the tropics by 2100. The researchers conclude that “tropical cyclones will increase the probability of present-day extreme events over the North Sea and the Gulf of Biscay with a factor of 5 and 25 respectively, with far reaching consequences especially for coastal safety.

            As Climate Nexus‘ Marlene Cimons recently wrote, six months after Hurricane Sandy

residents of the New York area are still struggling to recover from a climate-fueled monster storm that surged up and over retaining walls last fall, and destroyed countless homes. So, it’s worth remembering a simple fact: Global warming is increasing the intensity of hurricanes, and Sandy is a prime example of that. […]

            While the new paper focuses on the hurricanes that will likely hit Europe, previous research has that the continent is not alone in being on the receiving end of more intense hurricanes.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” said Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, and a longtime participant in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “Hurricanes could become more intense as the Earth warms. They are frightening, destructive and extremely costly, and we expect future hurricanes to leave an even greater trail of damage in their wake.”

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