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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 01:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Canadian trade policy expert calls TPP a "threat to democracy"

Gus Van Harten is a law professor at York University's Osgoode Hall and a well-respected expert on trade law; he's published a damning report on the Trans Pacific Partnership deal.

Van Harten focuses on the TPP's "Investor State Dispute Settlement" (ISDS, previously) provisions, which allow corporations to sue governments in closed, secret proceedings to repeal environmental, labor and safety regulations that undermine their expected profits.

Defenders of ISDSes say that they help the "little guy" who might be clobbered by foreign governments with regulations that are just disguised protectionism. But Van Harten's look at the track-record of actual ISDS proceedings paints a very different picture. The primary users of ISDSes are giant corporations (>$1B/year in turnover) or the super rich (>$100M net worth), and they prevail 71% of the time. By contrast, small companies that try to use ISDSes only succeed 42% of the time. ISDSes aren't about leveling the playing field: they're about tilting it in the favour of the rich and powerful.

This leads Van Harten to call TPP a "threat to democracy and to regulation."



MR. Fish Toon- Red State Expansion

Thursday TOON Roundup 3- The Rest




Thursday TOON Roundup 2 - Trump and the Boyz

Thursday Toon Roundup 1- Gun Worship

This Kansas CEO rips into conservative policies as his company heads to Missouri

By Silvia Ascarelli

When Pathfinder Health Innovations decided to flee Kansas for neighboring Missouri, CEO Jeff Blackwood minced no words in assigning blame.

“It’s not so much that I’m moving the company to Missouri as I’m moving it away from Kansas,” CEO Jeff Blackwood wrote on his company’s blog this week.

Pathfinder, a privately held software company whose customers are autism therapy centers, is tiny — it employs just 23 people — so Blackwood, a self-described political independent, can afford to be vocal, unlike critics at larger companies. But even by those standards, the lengthy open letter stands out.

He described the policies of Gov. Sam Brownback as a test case for trickle-down economics. And “nowhere has there been as dramatic a failure of government,” he added.


FBI has 411 million photos in its facial recognition system, and a federal watchdog isn't happy

By Zack Whittaker

The FBI has amassed more than 411 million photos as part of its vast facial recognition database, according to a government watchdog -- which in a new report criticized the system for its lack of safeguards and protections.

That includes millions of individuals' driving license photos, as well as photos of foreigners applying for visas, and criminal mugshots.

But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) criticized the FBI in a new report, published Wednesday, saying that the agency had not properly tested the system or balanced civil liberties and privacy.

The system kicked into operations in early-2015 after what appeared to be a relatively successful pilot. Agents would feed in a photo and the database would spring back between two and no more than 50 images of suspects, leaving the agent to make the final call on who the suspect might be.


CIA medical staff gave specifications on how to torture post-9/11 detainees

Source: Guardian

CIA medical personnel acknowledged that placing detainees in small boxes barely large enough to fit their bodies inside was not “particularly effective”, but they still provided guidance permitting interrogators to continue using the so-called “confinement boxes” for hours on end.

Sensitive agency documents, declassified on Tuesday, provide a new level of detail on the intimate involvement of its medical staff during its post-9/11 torture program. Officials assigned to the Office of Medical Staff (OMS) provided precise specifications for enforcing sleep deprivation, limiting the caloric intake of detainees’ food, and the proper positions for waterboarding, as outlined in a 2004 document providing “guidelines on medical and psychological support” for torture.

In the event that a detainee stopped eating inside the agency’s unacknowledged prisons overseas, known as “black sites”, OMS advised that the preferred method to forcibly feed a detainee was rectally – a procedure that human-rights advocates have equated to sexual assault.

Since a 2014 Senate report criticized the CIA for running what it characterized as an ineffective, brutal regimen of incommunicado confinement, the agency has pointed to the involvement of OMS staff to claim it performed its torture within doctor-mandated safeguards. Yet human-rights-minded physicians say OMS staff violated a fundamental obligation of medical ethics – to do no harm – and instead provided agency torturers with a physiologically informed blueprint for inflicting pain.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jun/15/cia-torture-program-september-11-medical-staff-instructions-details

'Spam King' sentenced to two years in prison

Source: BBC

A US man who sent more than 27 million spam emails to Facebook users has been sentenced to two and a half years in prison.

Sanford Wallace, 47, is nicknamed the "Spam King" and last year pleaded guilty to federal charges

including fraud and criminal contempt in connection with using electronic mail.

Wallace, who is from Las Vegas, also faces a fine of $310,000 (£218,500).
The messages were sent to Facebook users in 2008 and 2009.

Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36538541

Atlanta man threatens to make two local gay bars ‘the next Orlando’

Patrick Saunders

June 15, 2016 12:00 am Atlanta, Georgia,

Today in Gay Atlanta

The Atlanta Police Department confirmed they are investigating a gay Atlanta man who tweeted that he would make two local gay bars “the next Orlando.” The incident follows the early Sunday morning shooting at Orlando LGBT nightclub Pulse that left 50 dead and 53 injured.

Brett Edgerton, going by the handle @BrettTEdgerton, tweeted the following: “TEN or Blake’s could be the next Orlando. You think I am the type to be the next ‘shooter’? Keep hating me then…”

The previous tweet from that account read “You are all dead to me” and the headline of his Twitter profile reads “I will be your the last person you will see.” That Twitter account has since been taken down.

Edgerton’s Twitter activity was shared on social media hundreds of times by people throughout Atlanta’s LGBT community on Tuesday, with many notifying Atlanta police as well.

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