MonthSeptember 2009

Top 25 Censored Stories for 2010

1. US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street
2. US Schools are More Segregated Today than in the 1950s
3. Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates
4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina
5. Europe Blocks US Toxic Products
6. Lobbyists Buy Congress
7. Obama’s Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past
8. Bailed out Banks and America’s Wealthiest Cheat IRS Out of Billions
9. US Arms Used for War Crimes in Gaza
10. Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate
11. Private Corporations Profit from the Occupation of Palestine
12. Mysterious Death of Mike Connell—Karl Rove’s Election Thief
13. Katrina’s Hidden Race War
14. Congress Invested in Defense Contracts
15. World Bank’s Carbon Trade Fiasco
16. US Repression of Haiti Continues
17. The ICC Facilitates US Covert War in Sudan
18. Ecuador’s Constitutional Rights of Nature
19. Bank Bailout Recipients Spent to Defeat Labor
20. Secret Control of the Presidential Debates
21. Recession Causes States to Cut Welfare
22. Obama’s Trilateral Commission Team
23. Activists Slam World Water Forum as a Corporate-Driven Fraud
24. Dollar Glut Finances US Military Expansion
25. Fast Track Oil Exploitation in Western Amazon

Project Censored: Top 25 Censored Stories for 2010

Top 20 Contributors to Barack Obama

University of California
Goldman Sachs
Harvard University
Microsoft Corp
Google Inc
Citigroup Inc
JPMorgan Chase & Co
Time Warner
Sidley Austin LLP
Stanford University
National Amusements Inc
UBS AG
Wilmerhale Llp
Skadden, Arps
IBM Corp
Columbia University
Morgan Stanley
General Electric
US Government
Latham & Watkins

Open Secrets: Top Contributors to Barack Obama

(via Black Sun Gazette)

Fake Video Can Convince Witnesses to Give False Testimony

People believe what they see, and they’re willing to punish each other for it — apparently even when what they’re seeing is a fake video that doesn’t jibe with real-life experience.

Psychologists have long known that our memories of past events can be influenced by misleading information, but now they’ve proven that doctored video evidence can convince people to offer false eyewitness testimony. In a study of 60 college students performing a computerized gambling task, nearly half were willing to testify that they saw their partner cheat in real life after watching fabricated video evidence. Of students who were told that video evidence existed but didn’t watch the footage themselves, only 10 percent gave false testimony. […]

In the study, each student was paired with a member of the research team disguised as another participant. The pair sat side-by-side and played a computerized gambling game, which involved betting fake money based on the likelihood of answering a multiple choice question correctly. Each person was in charge of keeping track of their own wins; when a subject correctly answered a question, they got to take money from a shared “bank,” and when they incorrectly answered a question, they had to put money back. Participants were told that at the end of the game, the person who made the most money would win a prize.

After the gambling concluded, the researchers used Final Cut Pro to alter a video recording of the game and make it look like the partner had cheated. Five to seven hours after the first task, students were called back to the lab and told that their absent partner was suspected of cheating. One-third of the students were also told that the researchers had video evidence of the cheating, and another one-third got to watch the doctored video themselves.

Before asking participants to sign an eyewitness testimony, the researchers emphasized that no one should testify unless they were 100 percent sure they had seen their partner cheat, and they emphasized that the cheater would be punished. Students who watched the fake video were far more likely to give false testimony than students who heard about the video or were simply told that their partner was suspected of cheating.

Wired: Fake Video Can Convince Witnesses to Give False Testimony

(via The Agitator)

Patriot Act used mostly for drug war, very little for war on terror

In the debate over the PATRIOT Act, the Bush White House insisted it needed the authority to search people’s homes without their permission or knowledge so that terrorists wouldn’t be tipped off that they’re under investigation.

Now that the authority is law, how has the Department of Justice used the new power? To go after drug dealers.

Only three of the 763 “sneak-and-peek” requests in fiscal year 2008 involved terrorism cases, according to a July 2009 report from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. Sixty-five percent were drug cases.

Huffington Post: DoJ Official Blows Cover Off PATRIOT Act

ACORN Opponents: Where is the Defund Blackwater Act?

Republican Congressional leaders are continuing their witch-hunt against ACORN, the grassroots community group dedicated to helping poor and working class people. This campaign now unfortunately has gained bi-partisan legislative support in the form of the Defund ACORN Act of 2009 which has now passed the House and Senate. As Ryan Grim at Huffington Post has pointed out, the legislation “could plausibly defund the entire military-industrial complex:”

The congressional legislation intended to defund ACORN, passed with broad bipartisan support, is written so broadly that it applies to “any organization” that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

According to the Project on Oversight and Government Reform, this legislation could potentially eliminate a virtual Who’s Who of war contractors including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and KBR to other corporations such as AT&T, FedEx and Dell.

Perhaps one of the most jarring comparisons here is the fact that ACORN is now being attacked while the Obama administration continues to contract with Blackwater, the favorite mercenary company of the Bush administration, which is headed by Erik Prince, who was a major donor to Republican causes and campaigns, including those of some of the Defund ACORN bill’s sponsors, including Indiana Republican Mike Pence, one of the key figures in hunting down Van Jones. Prince, of course, was recently described by a former employee as a man who “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

Jeremy Scahill: Where is the Defund Blackwater Act?

Public apology

In an incident here on this site I’d rather not revisit, but must, I lost my temper with Danny during an argument about various rights to EsoZone and hurled some personal insults at him that were unfair, hypocritical, had no place in a public conversation.

The EsoZone rights questions were eventually resolved, and in fact Danny is once again doing design work for EsoZone (some volunteer, some paid), but I feel this apology is long overdue and necessary. I can’t take back the things that I said, but I can apologize for them.

Danny – I’m sorry.

Sears gets warning for hacking customers computers

Between April 2007 and January 2008, visitors to the Kmart and Sears web sites were invited to join an “online community” for which they would be paid $10 with the idea they would be helping the company learn more about their customers. It turned out they learned a lot more than participants realized or that the feds thought was reasonable.

To join the “My SHC Community,” users downloaded software that ended up grabbing some members’ prescription information, emails, bank account data and purchases on other sites. Sears called the group that participated “small” and said the data captured by the program was at all times secure and was then destroyed. […]

The feds just officially resolved the case after commissioners accepted the proposed settlement and the penalty for Sears’ alleged overzealous, privacy invading behavior wasn’t even a slap on the wrist. It was a gentle touch. The harshest part of whole situation was the FTC actually letting people know the situation even happened.

The penalty: if Sears offers such a software program again it should be more honest about the implications. Sears has to destroy all the data — which was already done. And, Sears needs to help those who want to uninstall the software.

Sears gets mere wrist slap for allegedly spying on customers

(via Schneier on Security)

If an individual had used a virus to collect sensitive data? David L. Smith was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison and fined $5,000 for writing the Melissa virus. Under the Patriot Act, he could conceivably have been sentence to 10 years in prison (Smith committed the crime in 1999, before the Patriot Act was passed).

Plurality of Republicans are birthers

The poll found that only 59% of voters believe that President Obama was born in the United States, with 23% saying he was not, and 18% undecided. Among Republicans only, a 42% Birther plurality say he was not born here, 37% say he was, and 22% are undecided.

As for the left, check out this question: “Do you think President Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place because he wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East?” The top-line response is 14% yes, 78% no, and 8% undecided. But among Democrats, it’s a somewhat larger Truther contingent, at 25%-63%-12%.

The poll also extends this poll of conservative New Jersey voters on whether they believe Obama is the Antichrist to all voters. The interesting result here is that 25% of Democrats either believe Bush is the Antichrist or are unsure. Crikey.

TPMDC: Poll Begs Question: Is Extremism Mainstream?

(via Jay Rosen)

At least religion is on the decline.

Future journalism business models: research and explanation services

Two interesting idea-bombs via Jay Rosen:

To my eye, one of the more interesting new-model ideas popped up at this summer’s meeting of investigative reporting nonprofits outside New York. The idea, mentioned by two participants, was to set up a separate unit that would do contract or customized research for paying clients. Revenue generated would supply one piece of the business-model formula that would pay for the core investigative reporting business.

The concept seemed both promising and potentially ethically tricky, but in any case it seemed like a fresh approach. Fresh, anyway, till I discovered that the owners of the Economist have been doing this since 1946 through the Economist Intelligent Unit. These days the EIU, with more than 40 offices worldwide, sells country analyses in 200 markets, provides custom research and presentations for executives, convenes conferences on both government and business topics, and more. It calls itself the “world’s pre-eminent global research and advisory firm.” If that’s true, it’s obviously a business that’s bringing in tens of millions of dollars annually in revenue.

Online Journalism Review: Research for hire: A revenue model for the news?

And:

Common Craft, a professional “explainer” service:

Common Craft is a small company owned by Lee and Sachi LeFever in Seattle, Washington, USA. The company was founded by Lee in 2003 as an online community consulting company. We started making videos in 2007 with our first video: RSS in Plain English. Since then, we’ve published two kinds of videos:

1. Educational Videos – Videos we create to sell on this website (our current focus)
2. Custom Videos – Videos we were hired to create by companies like Google, Ford and LinkedIn.

Combined, we’ve created over 30 videos that have been viewed over 10 million times online. Our current focus is building a library of educational videos that help educators save time. If you’re in need of a custom video, please contact us or visit our Explainer Network to find talented producers.

Rosen indicates they are very busy.

“Fraud of the Century” Church Coming to Portland

kanye

The Church of the SubGenius will present a public “Devival” at Portland’s Ash Street Saloon on October 10, 2009. SubGenius is a meta-parody religion that promotes the all-important concept of slack while satirizing religion, conspiracy theories, UFOs, and popular culture. The church’s founder, J.R. “Bob” Dobbs, was named by Time magazine as the “Fraud of the Century” in its January 1, 2000 issue.

Headlining the show will be Rev. Ivan Stang, High Epopt of the church. As a stand-up preacher, Stang is a regular at various large annual festivals such as Burning Man, Starwood, X-Day, Winterstar, and DragonCon. He is a veteran of over 150 nightclub appearances, some of which have drawn upwards of 750 people. Since 1985, Stang has produced “The Hour of Slack” weekly radio show, which is syndicated on 25 stations nationwide.

Along with Rev. Stang, the show will feature other SubGenius legends such as Dr. Philo Drummond, Dr. Howland Owl, and Rev. Dr. Onan Canobite. They will be joined by local SubGenius performers and several local bands.

The Church has over 40,000 ordained ministers, including David Byrne, Robert Crumb, Bruce Campbell, Jonathan Demme, and the late Dr. Timothy Leary. There are five SubGenius books in print, having collectively sold over 100,000 copies. The first, The Book of the SubGenius, is in its 20th printing.

The show will be at the Ash Street Saloon, 225 SW Ash Street, on Saturday, October 10, 2009. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the show begins promptly at 9 p.m.

Featuring Portland musicians:
?Cult of Zir – http://cultofzir.com/
?Nequaquam Vacuum – http://www.myspace.com/nequaquamvacuum
?Power Circus – http://www.myspace.com/powercircusmusic

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