Friday, November 30, 2012

34 Signs That America Is In Decline

By Michael, on November 29th, 2012

The United States is clearly in an advanced state of decline. Many people around the world (and even inside America) rejoice at this, but not me. I mourn for the country that I was born in and that I still love. Yes, the United States has never been perfect, but the Republic that our Founding Fathers started truly has been a light to the rest of the world in a lot of ways over the centuries. 
Unfortunately, our foundations are badly rotting and our nation is collapsing all around us. Many Americans like to think that the United States is greater today than it has ever been before, but the truth is that America is like a patient that has stage 4 cancer that has spread to almost every area of the body. Our nation is being destroyed in thousands of different ways, and more distressing news emerges with each passing day. 
This article will mainly focus on the economic decline of America, but much could also be said about our social, political, moral and spiritual decline as well. We are simply not the same country that we used to be. Americans are proud, selfish, greedy, arrogant, ungrateful, treacherous and completely addicted to entertainment and pleasure. 
Our country is literally falling apart all around us, but most Americans are so plugged into entertainment that they can't even be bothered to notice what is happening. Most Americans seem to assume that we will always have endless prosperity just because of who we are, but unfortunately that simply is not true. We inherited the greatest economic machine the world has ever seen and we have wrecked it, and now a very painful day of reckoning is approaching. But most people will not understand until it is too late.

The following are 34 signs that America is in decline

#1 According to the World Bank, U.S. GDP accounted for 31.8 percent of all global economic activity in 2001. That number dropped to 21.6 percent in 2011. That is not just a decline - that is a freefall. Just check out the chart in this article.

#2 According to The Economist, the United States was the best place in the world to be born into back in 1988. Today, the United States is only tied for 16th place.

#3 The United States has fallen in the global economic competitiveness rankings compiled by the World Economic Forum for four years in a row.

#4 According to the Wall Street Journal, of the 40 biggest publicly traded corporate spenders, half of them plan to reduce capital expenditures in coming months.

#5 More than three times as many new homes were sold in the United States in 2005 as will be sold in 2012.

#6 America once had the greatest manufacturing cities on the face of the earth. Now many of our formerly great manufacturing cities have degenerated into festering hellholes. For example, the city of Detroit is on the verge of financial collapse, and one state lawmaker is now saying that "dissolving Detroit" should be looked at as an option.

#7 In 2007, the unemployment rate for the 20 to 29 age bracket was about 6.5 percent. Today, the unemployment rate for that same age group is about 13 percent.

#8 Back in 1950, more than 80 percent of all men in the United States had jobs. Today, less than 65 percent of all men in the United States have jobs.

#9 If you can believe it, approximately one out of every four American workers makes 10 dollars an hour or less.

#10 Sadly, 60 percent of the jobs lost during the last recession were mid-wage jobs, but 58 percent of the jobs created since then have been low wage jobs.

#11 Median household income in America has fallen for four consecutive years. Overall, it has declined by over $4000 during that time span.

#12 The U.S. trade deficit with China during 2011 was 28 times larger than it was back in 1990.

#13 Incredibly, more than 56,000 manufacturing facilities in the United States have been shut down since 2001. During 2010, manufacturing facilities were shutting down at the rate of 23 per day. How can anyone say that "things are getting better" when our economic infrastructure is being absolutely gutted?

#14 Back in early 2005, the average price of a gallon of gasoline was less than 2 dollars a gallon. During 2012, the average price of a gallon of gasoline has been $3.63.

#15 In 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance. Today, only 55.1 percent are covered by employment-based health insurance.

#16 As I have written about previously, 61 percent of all Americans were "middle income" back in 1971 according to the Pew Research Center. Today, only 51 percent of all Americans are "middle income".

#17 There are now 20.2 million Americans that spend more than half of their incomes on housing. That represents a 46 percent increase from 2001.

#18 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the poverty rate for children living in the United States is about 22 percent.

#19 Back in 1983, the bottom 95 percent of all income earners in the United States had 62 cents of debt for every dollar that they earned. By 2007, that figure had soared to $1.48.

#20 Total home mortgage debt in the United States is now about 5 times larger than it was just 20 years ago.

#21 Total credit card debt in the United States is now more than 8 times larger than it was just 30 years ago.

#22 The value of the U.S. dollar has declined by more than 96 percent since the Federal Reserve was first created.

#23 According to one survey, 29 percent of all Americans in the 25 to 34 year old age bracket are still living with their parents.

#24 Back in 1950, 78 percent of all households in the United States contained a married couple. Today, that number has declined to 48 percent.

#25 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 49 percent of all Americans live in a home that receives direct monetary benefits from the federal government. Back in 1983, less than a third of all Americans lived in a home that received direct monetary benefits from the federal government.

#26 In 1980, government transfer payments accounted for just 11.7 percent of all income. Today, government transfer payments account for more than 18 percent of all income.

#27 In November 2008, 30.8 million Americans were on food stamps. Today, 47.1 million Americans are on food stamps.

#28 Right now, one out of every four American children is on food stamps.

#29 As I wrote about the other day, according to one calculation the number of Americans on food stamps now exceeds the combined populations of "Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming."

#30 Back in 1965, only one out of every 50 Americans was on Medicaid. Today, one out of every 6 Americans is on Medicaid, and things are about to get a whole lot worse. It is being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.

#31 In 2001, the U.S. national debt was less than 6 trillion dollars. Today, it is over 16 trillion dollars and it is increasing by more than 100 million dollars every single hour.

#32 The U.S. national debt is now more than 23 times larger than it was when Jimmy Carter became president.

#33 According to a PBS report from earlier this year, U.S. households that make $13,000 or less per year spend 9 percent of their incomes on lottery tickets. Could that possibly be accurate? Are people really that foolish?

#34 As the U.S. economy has declined, the American people have been downing more antidepressants and other prescription drugs than ever before. In fact, the American people spent 60 billion dollars more on prescription drugs in 2010 than they did in 2005.

So what are our "leaders" doing about all of this?

Not much.

They just continue to insist that everything is "just fine".

Sadly, the truth is that they live in a world that is very different from most of the rest of us.

Barack Obama is getting ready to take a 20 day vacation to Hawaii.

When was the last time you got to take a 20 day vacation?

And most of our "leaders" have no idea what it is like to struggle from month to month on a paycheck.

Overall, more than half of the members of Congress are millionaires. We are led by wealthy men who are serving the interests of other wealthy men.

But the problem with our system is not limited to the president and the members of Congress. The truth is that the political system in America has become a colossal beast that just continues to grow no matter who is in power. The political establishment of both parties is totally dependent on this beast, and they will continue to feed it and serve it because it has been very good to them. The following is from an outstanding article by Steve McCann...

The Republican and Democratic political establishments are made up of the following:

1) many current and nearly all retired national office holders whose livelihood and narcissistic demands depends upon fealty to Party and access to government largesse;

2) the majority of the media elite, including pundits, editors, writers and television news personalities based in Washington and New York whose proximity to power and access is vital to their continued standard of living;

3) academia, numerous think-tanks, so-called non-government organizations, and lobbyists who fasten onto those in the administration and Congress for employment, grants, favorable legislation and ego-gratification;

4) the reliable deep pocket political contributors and political consultants whose future is irrevocably tied to the political machinery of the Party; and

5) the crony capitalists, i.e. leaders of the corporate and financial community as well as unions whose entities are dependent on or subject to government oversight and/or benevolence .

Do you think that there is any chance that this insidious system will be uprooted any time soon?

Of course not.

We will continue on the same path that we are on right now and America will continue to decline.

Many will rejoice as America falls, but I will not.

I will mourn for a mighty Republic that has fallen and for a dream that has been lost.

Self-taught African 15-year Old Teen Wows M.I.T.

15-Year-Old Kelvin Doe is an engineering whiz living in Sierra Leone who scours the trash bins for spare parts, which he uses to build batteries, generators and transmitters. Completely self-taught, Kelvin has created his own radio station where he broadcasts news and plays music under the moniker, DJ Focus.

Kelvin became the youngest person in history to be invited to the “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” at MIT. THNKR had exclusive access to Kelvin and his life-changing journey – experiencing the US for the first time, exploring incredible opportunities, contending with homesickness, and mapping out his future.
Here is a link to the Bobby Fala track in the video on SoundCloud:
Check-out David’s Crowdrise page:
Photos courtesy of Adam Cohn ( and Paula Aguilera

Assange: Entire nations intercepted online, key turned to totalitarian rule

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says all the necessary physical infrastructure for absolute totalitarianism through the internet is ready. He told RT that the question now is whether the turnkey process that already started will go all the way

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Invisible Empire

For the first time ever, the secret agenda of the planet’s ruthless Super-class is exposed in stark detail. This documentary film chronicles how men of power and influence have worked in stealth for centuries to establish an oppressive world government. Learn how this global oligarchy controls the populace through drug trafficking, money laundering, staged terror attacks, media propaganda and debt.
The criminal controllers have successfully dominated the globe and are now in the final phase of consolidating power. Invisible Empire is a damning indictment of the globalists through their own words and documents. Worldwide tyranny isn’t coming, it’s here.
This isn’t conspiracy theory, it’s conspiracy fact. The New World Order is out in the open— all documented in stunning living color. Unelected bureaucrats are establishing regional unions under one superstation. Witness their plan for a global tax and a cashless surveillance society in which every man, woman and child is micro-chipped at birth.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gaza shows impact of Arab revolts

Revolutions make every regime tremble—Arab ones as well as Israeli, writes Alex Callinicos

Frederick Engels wrote in 1854, “We must not forget that there is a sixth power in Europe, which at given moments asserts its supremacy over the whole of the five so-called ‘Great Powers’ and makes them tremble, every one of them. That power is the Revolution.”

The same is true in the Middle East today. If you only focused on the military balance of forces, you would conclude that nothing much had changed since Israel’s latest war on Gaza.

Hamas now has longer-range Fajr-5 missiles that can hit Tel Aviv. But the Israel Defence Force (IDF) retains overwhelming physical superiority. But simply looking at the hardware and troops would be superficial. In reality everything has changed.

The liberal Israeli daily Haaretz carried a fascinating piece on deliberations last week among leading government figures—prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, defence minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman—over the ceasefire proposed by Egyptian president, Mohamed Mursi:

“At Tuesday’s meeting, just before US secretary of state Hillary Clinton arrived, it became clear to Israel that the principles for a ceasefire being proposed by Egypt were much closer to Hamas’ positions than to its own.
“The assumption voiced by intelligence officials at the triumvirate meeting was that, contrary to the situation during Mubarak’s era, the Egyptians are aligning with Hamas and trying to provide it with achievements.”


Barak wanted to accept the ceasefire on the basis that the IDF had taught Hamas a lesson. Lieberman argued for a ground offensive and Netanyahu sat on the fence.

The three Israeli ministers asked Clinton to “pressure Egypt to present a more balanced ceasefire agreement”. Instead, backed up by phone calls from Barack Obama, she pushed them to accept Egypt’s terms.

And they did. Even the ultra-rightist Lieberman caved in, telling a broader group of ministers, “The decision is simple. Rabin [the Israeli prime minister assassinated for starting the ‘peace process’] said that if they fire from Gaza, we will reoccupy, but this is obviously difficult.”

Behind Mursi’s role in delivering a ceasefire that Hamas could claim as a victory lies the Arab revolutions. The latest Gaza war has shown how they are beginning to transform the geopolitics of the region.

Netanyahu has used Israel’s military superiority to regain the initiative. His demands for a war on Iran—technically very difficult to mount without the support of the US—were his first ploy. But he found himself blocked by a combination of his own security establishment and Obama.

Assassinating Hamas’s military commander Ahmad al-Jaabri at a time when a new Gaza ceasefire was being discussed was Netanyahu’s next stratagem.


Netanyahu backed Mitt Romney in the recent US elections. The Palestinian American journalist Ramzy Baroud speculates that the aim of the war was “to push the subject of Israel’s security on the top of the new administration’s agenda”.

But American eyes have turned eastwards. This was symbolised by the fact Obama visited Burma in an effort to draw it away from China during Israel’s assault on Gaza. So the last thing the US wants is another war in the Middle East.

And, inside the region, Netanyahu has lost some very powerful friends. Turkey, which had a military pact with Israel, has turned against it. Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced Israel as a “terrorist state” last week.

But Mursi and Erdogan have a problem. They may want to damage Israel symbolically and diplomatically, but they have no intention of resuming a military struggle against Israel.

Mursi in particular presides over a population for whom rhetorical denunciations and cabinet manoeuvres aren’t enough.

As he discovered last weekend, the Arab revolution is a dynamic force that can’t just be harnessed for the purposes of party intrigues. In Engels’s words, it makes every regime tremble, Arab as well as Israeli, even those who claim to be the product of the revolution.

The battle that Israel thought it would win

The Arab Spring has changed the dynamics of the conflict in Palestine, explains Simon Assaf

Last week Israel was forced to accept a ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza. Israel had not suffered any serious casualties, but neither had its Operation Pillar of Cloud had achieved the ends it wanted.
The situation Israel finds itself in can only be understood in the context of the popular rebellions that have sprung up across the region.
The Arab Spring has changed the whole situation. For the eight days that Israel bombed Gaza you could see the old world bumping up against the new.
The first sign of this shifting situation came when Egypt was still under the rule of dictator Hosni Mubarak. Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, its previous murderous bombing attack on Gaza, at the beginning of 2009.
Then Egyptian trade unionists and opposition activists tried to take medical supplies across the border. It was the Egyptian military that blocked them. Last week thousands of Egyptian activists rushed to the border at Rafah and the blockade disappeared.
Second was the changed international reaction to Israeli aggression. Turkey has long been a close ally of Israel and presented itself to the West as a moderate force.
But last week its prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that “Israel is a terror state”. He condemned the West for its hypocrisy. This is an extraordinary break which has added to the international pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire.
Third is the anger of the “Arab street”. In 2006 Israel invaded Lebanon and was eventually defeated by Hizbollah. Then solidarity from the Arab street was a threat to Israel.


But today that anger is not just a threat—Israel and the US have seen what it can mean. Two years ago six million Egyptians actively took part in a revolution and won. They overthrew Mubarak’s dictatorship and, along with Tunisia, unleashed uprisings across the region.
The US is now in a panic about what to do next. It no longer has the dictatorships of the region to rely on. The Egyptian, Tunisian and even Qatari governments have all sent delegations of senior political figures to Gaza. This has crippled Israel’s strong arm.

The new reality in Egypt means that the revolution broke the siege on Gaza and that Israel can no longer impose that siege by itself.

Israel intended this operation to isolate Hamas—to destroy its leadership. Palestinians were to be forced into abandoning their support for resistance to Israel’s daily abuse of the Palestinian people. Instead the operation has exposed an ever more jumpy imperialism.

Where were Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in all of this? Rather than cheering Israel on they were moving desperately behind the scenes to make it back off.

They need the support of Turkey and others more than ever if they are going to shore up a “moderate” mood in the region. But this is going to be difficult.
Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi gained some credibility in the country by publicly offering solidarity to the Palestinians in Gaza. He also gained respect in the West by negotiating a ceasefire.

But as pressure builds on Mursi inside Egypt, it will be harder for US imperialism to have its way in the country and the region as a whole.
The Qatari and Tunisian ruling parties are watching closely to see how the situation Mursi faces in Egypt and internationally develops.

Essentially Israel got told to stop, and it did. But we know that this is not the end of the conflict. On the day after the ceasefire was announced Israeli troops piled into the occupied West Bank and arrested 55 people they accuse of being militants.
They did this as a show of strength because the operation in Gaza did not end in defeat for Hamas. Israel’s belief in its own military invincibility has been undermined.
In 2006 its invasion of Lebanon was defeated. It overplayed its hand in 2008-9 with Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,400 Palestinians but kickstarted a new wave of global solidarity for Gaza.

Israel is no longer dealing with a compliant Arab world. And there is a further radicalisation taking place in Egypt. In the middle of the Gaza crisis there were battles between revolutionaries and the state in the capital Cairo.
On 19 November thousands of protesters marked the first anniversary of the killing of 43 protesters in a street battle in Mohamed Mahmoud Street in the city centre.

They had been demanding that the military hand power to the people. A year later the military regime is gone, but protesters chanted the same slogan: “The people demand the fall of the regime.” Police attacked them with tear gas and protesters replied with rocks.


This proved that while Mursi gained temporary popular support from his handling of Israel, it is far from stable. Pressure from below, such as a call for a mass march to the border with Gaza, would put him in a difficult situation.
The Palestinians are not alone. Alongside huge international solidarity the Palestinians have other, more practical help.

Many of the rockets that Hamas has fired at Israel came from Libya. Rebels raided the regime’s arms dumps when they overthrew the dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Israel provoked Hamas into firing off all its homemade rockets, only to find the Palestinians had significant, Libyan-made back up.

In 2006, Lebanon’s Hizbollah militia fired rockets right up until the moment when the ceasefire began. It sent a message that “We have not been defeated, we can still respond.” Hamas did the same thing last week and Israel understands what that means.

Israel’s Operation Pillar of Cloud shows beyond doubt that the world has changed. The key to the liberation of Palestine—the Arab masses, particularly in Egypt—are aware of their strength and power.

The battle that Israel was so sure it would win has in fact exposed its weaknesses. It has put increasing pressure on US imperialism which relies on Israel to represent its interests more than ever.

The US can no longer look to its old friends in the Arab dictatorships who have been overthrown by movements from below.

How can Palestine get its freedom?

The Arab revolutions have shown the power of ordinary people. They have not only challenged their dictators, but rejected their role as tools of imperialism. But they also offer a solution to the problem of Israel.
The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) led the resistance to Israeli occupation for decades. But it got caught up in a long “peace process” pushed by the US.

Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the main PLO group Fatah, has kept talking while Israel occupies more Palestinian land and proves its promises are empty.
The PLO is now committed to a two state solution. It accepts the idea that the best Palestine can hope for is to exist as a statelet overshadowed by a militarised Israel.

Hamas, the radical Islamist movement, was elected in Gaza in 2006 as a popular rejection of the PLO’s cronyism. Hamas too believes in a two state solution.

It demands that Israel retreats to the borders before it expanded further into Palestinian territory in 1967. That would still leave Palestine as a tiny dominated state.

But Israel only exists because it operates as a tool of Western imperialism. That is why it is always defended by the West.

Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi won popularity by calling on Israel to stop the bombing. But he also proved his worth to the West in leading negotiations with Israel. Barack Obama phoned to thank him personally.
Israel feels endangered so it will constantly threaten war with any state that is not submissive to imperialism.

But the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt show the possibility of another kind of Middle East, one that is not dominated by war and imperialism. Muslims fought alongside Christian Copts to overthrow dictatorships.

The revolutions offer a path to states where people of all religions can live side by side. They have the power to defeat Israel and imperialism.
Siân Ruddick

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why Israel Didn’t Win

The ceasefire agreed by Israel and Hamas in Cairo after eight days of fighting is merely a pause in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It promises to ease movement at all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, but will not lift the blockade. It requires Israel to end its assault on the Strip, and Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets at southern Israel, but it leaves Gaza as miserable as ever: according to a recent UN report, the Strip will be ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020. And this is to speak only of Gaza. How easily one is made to forget that Gaza is only a part – a very brutalised part – of the ‘future Palestinian state’ that once seemed inevitable, and which now seems to exist mainly in the lullabies of Western peace processors. None of the core issues of the Israel-Palestine conflict – the Occupation, borders, water rights, repatriation and compensation of refugees – is addressed by this agreement.

The fighting will erupt again, because Hamas will come under continued pressure from its members and from other militant factions, and because Israel has never needed much pretext to go to war. In 1982, it broke its ceasefire with Arafat’s PLO and invaded Lebanon, citing the attempted assassination of its ambassador to London, even though the attack was the work of Arafat’s sworn enemy, the Iraqi agent Abu Nidal. In 1996, during a period of relative calm, it assassinated Hamas’s bomb-maker Yahya Ayyash, the ‘Engineer’, leading Hamas to strike back with a wave of suicide attacks in Israeli cities. When, a year later, Hamas proposed a thirty-year hudna, or truce, Binyamin Netanyahu dispatched a team of Mossad agents to poison the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Amman; under pressure from Jordan and the US, Israel was forced to provide the antidote, and Meshaal is now the head of Hamas’s political bureau – and an ally of Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi.
Operation Pillar of Defence, Israel’s latest war, began just as Hamas was cobbling together an agreement for a long-term ceasefire. Its military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari, was assassinated only hours after he reviewed the draft proposal. Netanyahu and his defence minister, Ehud Barak, could have had a ceasefire – probably on more favourable terms – without the deaths of more than 160 Palestinians and five Israelis, but then they would have missed a chance to test their new missile defence shield, Iron Dome, whose performance was Israel’s main success in the war. They would also have missed a chance to remind the people of Gaza of their weakness in the face of Israeli military might. The destruction in Gaza was less extensive than it had been in Operation Cast Lead, but on this occasion too the aim, as Gilad Sharon, Ariel’s son, put it in the Jerusalem Post, was to send out ‘a Tarzan-like cry that lets the entire jungle know in no uncertain terms just who won, and just who was defeated’.
Victory in war is not measured solely in terms of body counts, however. And the ‘jungle’ – the Israeli word not just for the Palestinians but for the Arabs as a whole – may have the last laugh. Not only did Hamas put up a better fight than it had in the last war, it averted an Israeli ground offensive, won implicit recognition as a legitimate actor from the United States (which helped to broker the talks in Cairo), and achieved concrete gains, above all an end to targeted assassinations and the easing of restrictions on the movement of people and the transfer of goods at the crossings. There was no talk in Cairo, either, of the Quartet Principles requiring Hamas to renounce violence, recognise Israel and adhere to past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority: a symbolic victory for Hamas, but not a small one. And the Palestinians were not the only Arabs who could claim victory in Cairo. In diplomatic terms, the end of fighting under Egyptian mediation marked the dawn of a new Egypt, keen to reclaim the role that it lost when Sadat signed a separate peace with Israel. ‘Egypt is different from yesterday,’ Morsi warned Israel on the first day of the war. ‘We assure them that the price will be high for continued aggression.’ He underscored this point by sending his prime minister, Hesham Kandil, to Gaza the following day. While refraining from incendiary rhetoric, Morsi made it plain that Israel could not depend on Egyptian support for its attack on Gaza, as it had when Mubarak was in power, and would only have itself to blame if the peace treaty were jeopardised. After all, he has to answer to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent organisation, and to the Egyptian people, who are overwhelmingly hostile to Israel. The Obama administration, keen to preserve relations with Egypt, got the message, and so apparently did Israel. Morsi proved that he could negotiate with Israel without ‘selling out the resistance’, in Meshaal’s words. Internationally, it was his finest hour, though Egyptians may remember it as the prelude to his move a day after the ceasefire to award himself far-reaching executive powers that place him above any law.
That Netanyahu stopped short of a ground war, and gave in to key demands at the Cairo talks, is an indication not only of Egypt’s growing stature, but of Israel’s weakened position. Its relations with Turkey, once its closest ally in the region and the pillar of its ‘doctrine of the periphery’ (a strategy based on alliances with non-Arab states) have deteriorated with the rise of Erdogan and the AKP. The Jordanian monarchy, the second Arab government to sign a peace treaty with Israel, is facing increasingly radical protests. And though Israel may welcome the fall of Assad, an ally of Hizbullah and Iran, it is worried that a post-Assad government, dominated by the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brothers, may be no less hostile to the occupying power in the Golan: the occasional rocket fire from inside Syria in recent days has been a reminder for Israel of how quiet that border was under the Assad family. Israeli leaders lamented for years that theirs was the only democracy in the region. What this season of revolts has revealed is that Israel had a very deep investment in Arab authoritarianism. The unravelling of the old Arab order, when Israel could count on the quiet complicity of Arab big men who satisfied their subjects with flamboyant denunciations of Israeli misdeeds but did little to block them, has been painful for Israel, leaving it feeling lonelier than ever. It is this acute sense of vulnerability, even more than Netanyahu’s desire to bolster his martial credentials before the January elections, that led Israel into war.
Hamas, meanwhile, has been buoyed by the same regional shifts, particularly the triumph of Islamist movements in Tunisia and Egypt: Hamas, not Israel, has been ‘normalised’ by the Arab uprisings. Since the flotilla affair, it has developed a close relationship with Turkey, which is keen to use the Palestinian question to project its influence in the Arab world. It also took the risk of breaking with its patrons in Syria: earlier this year, Khaled Meshaal left Damascus for Doha, while his number two, Mousa Abu Marzook, set himself up in Cairo. Since then, Hamas has thrown in its lot with the Syrian uprising, distanced itself from Iran, and found new sources of financial and political support in Qatar, Egypt and Tunisia. It has circumvented the difficulties of the blockade by turning the tunnels into a lucrative source of revenue and worked, with erratic success, to impose discipline on Islamic Jihad and other militant factions in the Strip. The result has been growing regional prestige, and a procession of high-profile visitors, including the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who came to Gaza three weeks before the war and promised $400 million dollars to build housing and repair roads. The emir did not make a similar trip to Ramallah.
Hamas’s growing clout has not gone unnoticed in Tel Aviv: cutting Hamas down to size was surely one of its war aims. If Israel were truly interested in achieving a peaceful settlement on the basis of the 1967 borders – parameters which Hamas has accepted – it might have tried to strengthen Abbas by ending settlement activity, and by supporting, or at least not opposing, his bid for non-member observer status for Palestine at the UN. Instead it has done its utmost to sabotage his UN initiative (with the robust collaboration of the Obama administration), threatening to build more settlements if he persists: such, Hamas has been only too happy to point out, are the rewards for non-violent Palestinian resistance. Operation Pillar of Defence will further undermine Abbas’s already fragile standing in the West Bank, where support for Hamas has never been higher.
Hardly had the ceasefire come into effect than Israel raided the West Bank to round up more than fifty Hamas supporters, while Netanyahu warned that Israel ‘might be compelled to embark’ on ‘a much harsher military operation’. (Avigdor Lieberman, his foreign minister, is said to have pushed for a ground war.) After all, Israel has a right to defend itself. This is what the Israelis say and what the Israel lobby says, along with much of the Western press, including the New York Times. In an editorial headed ‘Hamas’s Illegitimacy’ – a curious phrase, since Hamas only seized power in Gaza after winning a majority in the 2006 parliamentary elections – the Times accused Hamas of attacking Israel because it is ‘consumed with hatred for Israel’. The Times didn’t mention that Hamas’s hatred might have been stoked by a punishing economic blockade. It didn’t mention that between the start of the year and the outbreak of this war, 78 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed by Israeli fire, as against a single Israeli in all of Hamas’s notorious rocket fire. Or – until the war started – that this had been a relatively peaceful year for the miserable Strip, where nearly three thousand Palestinians have been killed by Israel since 2006, as against 47 Israelis by Palestinian fire.
Those who invoke Israel’s right to defend itself are not troubled by this disparity in casualties, because the unspoken corollary is that Palestinians do not have the same right. If they dare to exercise this non-right, they must be taught a lesson. ‘We need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza,’ Gilad Sharon wrote in the Jerusalem Post. ‘Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki too.’ Israel shouldn’t worry about innocent civilians in Gaza, he said, because there are no innocent civilians in Gaza: ‘They elected Hamas … they chose this freely, and must live with the consequences.’ Such language would be shocking were it not so familiar: in Israel the rhetoric of righteous victimhood has merged with the belligerent rhetoric – and the racism – of the conqueror. Sharon’s Tarzan allusion is merely a variation on Barak’s description of Israel as a villa in the jungle; his invocation of nuclear war reminds us that in 2008, the deputy defence minister Matan Vilnai proposed ‘a bigger holocaust’ if Gaza continued to resist.
But the price of war is higher for Israel than it was during Cast Lead, and its room for manoeuvre more limited, because the Jewish state’s only real ally, the American government, has to maintain good relations with Egypt and other democratically elected Islamist governments. During the eight days of Pillar of Defence, Israel put on an impressive and deadly fireworks show, as it always does, lighting up the skies of Gaza and putting out menacing tweets straight from The Sopranos. But the killing of entire families and the destruction of government buildings and police stations, far from encouraging Palestinians to submit, will only fortify their resistance, something Israel might have learned by consulting the pages of recent Jewish history. The Palestinians understand that they are no longer facing Israel on their own: Israel, not Hamas, is the region’s pariah. The Arab world is changing, but Israel is not. Instead, it has retreated further behind Jabotinsky’s ‘iron wall’, deepening its hold on the Occupied Territories, thumbing its nose at a region that is at last acquiring a taste of its own power, exploding in spasms of high-tech violence that fail to conceal its lack of a political strategy to end the conflict. Iron Dome may shield Israel from Qassam rockets, but it won’t shield it from the future.
23 November

War in Gaza = War Over Natural Gas?

We extensively documented that the wars in the Middle East and North Africa are largely about oil and gas. (Update: Iran has just started building its gas pipeline to Syria.)

As Professor Michel Chossudovsky noted in 2009, gas may be a central reason for the war over Gaza as well:
This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline.

British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) owned by Lebanon’s Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority. 

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21, 2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).

The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas.

The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger.
gazagasmap War in Gaza = War Over Natural Gas?
Map 1
gazagasmap2 War in Gaza = War Over Natural Gas?
Map 2
Who Owns the Gas Fields

The issue of sovereignty over Gaza’s gas fields is crucial. From a legal standpoint, the gas reserves belong to Palestine.

The death of Yasser Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority have enabled Israel to establish de facto control over Gaza’s offshore gas reserves.

British Gas (BG Group) has been dealing with the Tel Aviv government. In turn, the Hamas government has been bypassed in regards to exploration and development rights over the gas fields.

The election of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 was a major turning point. Palestine’s sovereignty over the offshore gas fields was challenged in the Israeli Supreme Court. Sharon stated unequivocally that “Israel would never buy gas from Palestine” intimating that Gaza’s offshore gas reserves belong to Israel.

In 2003, Ariel Sharon, vetoed an initial deal, which would allow British Gas to supply Israel with natural gas from Gaza’s offshore wells. (The Independent, August 19, 2003)

The election victory of Hamas in 2006 was conducive to the demise of the Palestinian Authority, which became confined to the West Bank, under the proxy regime of Mahmoud Abbas.

In 2006, British Gas “was close to signing a deal to pump the gas to Egypt.” (Times, May, 23, 2007). According to reports, British Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened on behalf of Israel with a view to shunting the agreement with Egypt.

The following year, in May 2007, the Israeli Cabinet approved a proposal by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert “to buy gas from the Palestinian Authority.” The proposed contract was for $4 billion, with profits of the order of $2 billion of which one billion was to go the Palestinians.

Tel Aviv, however, had no intention on sharing the revenues with Palestine. An Israeli team of negotiators was set up by the Israeli Cabinet to thrash out a deal with the BG Group, bypassing both the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority:

“Israeli defence authorities want the Palestinians to be paid in goods and services and insist that no money go to the Hamas-controlled Government.” (Ibid, emphasis added)

The objective was essentially to nullify the contract signed in 1999 between the BG Group and the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat.

Under the proposed 2007 agreement with BG, Palestinian gas from Gaza’s offshore wells was to be channeled by an undersea pipeline to the Israeli seaport of Ashkelon, thereby transferring control over the sale of the natural gas to Israel.

The deal fell through. The negotiations were suspended:

Mossad Chief Meir Dagan opposed the transaction on security grounds, that the proceeds would fund terror”. (Member of Knesset Gilad Erdan, Address to the Knesset on “The Intention of Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to Purchase Gas from the Palestinians When Payment Will Serve Hamas,” March 1, 2006, quoted in Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe Yaalon, Does the Prospective Purchase of British Gas from Gaza’s Coastal Waters Threaten Israel’s National Security? Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, October 2007)

Israel’s intent was to foreclose the possibility that royalties be paid to the Palestinians. In December 2007, The BG Group withdrew from the negotiations with Israel and in January 2008 they closed their office in Israel.(BG website).

Invasion Plan on The Drawing Board

The invasion plan of the Gaza Strip under “Operation Cast Lead” was set in motion in June 2008, according to Israeli military sources:

“Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago [June or before June] , even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas.”(Barak Ravid, Operation “Cast Lead”: Israeli Air For

ce strike followed months of planning, Haaretz, December 27, 2008)

That very same month, the Israeli authorities contacted British Gas, with a view to resuming crucial negotiations pertaining to the purchase of Gaza’s natural gas:

“Both Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler agreed to inform BG of Israel’s wish to renew the talks.

The sources added that BG has not yet officially responded to Israel’s request, but that company executives would probably come to Israel in a few weeks to hold talks with government officials.” (Globes online- Israel’s Business Arena, June 23, 2008)

The decision to speed up negotiations with British Gas (BG Group) coincided, chronologically, with the planning of the invasion of Gaza initiated in June. It would appear that Israel was anxious to reach an agreement with the BG Group prior to the invasion, which was already in an advanced planning stage.

Moreover, these negotiations with British Gas were conducted by the Ehud Olmert government with the knowledge that a military invasion was on the drawing board. In all likelihood, a new “post war” political-territorial arrangement for the Gaza strip was also being contemplated by the Israeli government.

In fact, negotiations between British Gas and Israeli officials were ongoing in October 2008, 2-3 months prior to the commencement of the bombings on December 27th.

In November 2008, the Israeli Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of National Infrastructures instructed Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) to enter into negotiations with British Gas, on the purchase of natural gas from the BG’s offshore concession in Gaza. (Globes, November 13, 2008)

“Ministry of Finance director general Yarom Ariav and Ministry of National Infrastructures director general Hezi Kugler wrote to IEC CEO Amos Lasker recently, informing him of the government’s decision to allow negotiations to go forward, in line with the framework proposal it approved earlier this year.

The IEC board, headed by chairman Moti Friedman, approved the principles of the framework proposal a few weeks ago. The talks with BG Group will begin once the board approves the exemption from a tender.” (Globes Nov. 13, 2008)

Gaza and Energy Geopolitics

The military occupation of Gaza is intent upon transferring the sovereignty of the gas fields to Israel in violation of international law.


These various offshore installations are also linked up to Israel’s energy transport corridor, extending from the port of Eilat, which is an oil pipeline terminal, on the Red Sea to the seaport – pipeline terminal at Ashkelon, and northwards to Haifa, and eventually linking up through a proposed Israeli-Turkish pipeline with the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

Ceyhan is the terminal of the Baku, Tblisi Ceyhan Trans Caspian pipeline. “What is envisaged is to link the BTC pipeline to the Trans-Israel Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline, also known as Israel’s Tipline.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, The War on Lebanon and the Battle for Oil, Global Research, July 23, 2006)
LevantineEnergyCorridor War in Gaza = War Over Natural Gas?
Map 3
Is Middle Eastern politics boiling down – yet again – to oil and gas?
Bonus: Hamas Shouldn’t Fire Rockets … But Israel Has Violated HUNDREDS of UN Resolutions

And WELCOME to these commenters (this is real, not satire):

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Luxury Life of Dubai

Dubai ruler announces new mega city project

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced on Saturday plans to build a new multi-billion dollar project called Mohammad Bin Rashid City.
The new city project will be built by Dubai Holding and Emaar Properties in what is being described as the biggest real estate joint venture in the region.
No value has been given for the project but plans include building the world's biggest shopping mall, a Universal family theme park and a park that is a third bigger than Hyde Park in London.
The project will comprise four key components and will feature "world class leisure facilities and provide an integrated environment for the development of entrepreneurship and innovation", a statement said. It is not clear how this project will impact the much-delayed Dubailand project.

Are Religious People Happier?

File:Religious syms.svg

Does religion help people cope with everyday worries?
In religious countries, including the U.S., religious people describe themselves as happier (1). In relatively godless countries, such as the Netherlands, or Denmark, religious people are not happier (2).

This striking inconsistency between the U.S. and godless countries may have a fairly simple explanation. Religious people are in the majority in the U.S., but in a minority in Denmark and the Netherlands. Feeling part of the mainstream may be comforting whereas being in the minority is stressful.
Even within the U.S. there are curious inconsistencies. The most religious states are the least happy based on Gallup data. This mirrors the pattern amongst countries.

Countries with the highest average self-reported happiness are the least religious (3). The happiest nations are, in order, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and the Netherlands (4). Sweden, Denmark and Norway are the second, third, and fourth least religious countries, being exceeded only by formerly-communist Estonia in their atheism.

Why are the happiest countries also the least religious ones? Both happiness and religiosity are affected by the highly developed character of these countries. All score close to the top on the UN’s human development index that measures the overall quality of life in terms of health, wealth, and education.

Residents of highly developed countries are happy because their quality of life is better. The key factor may be an expectation of living to old age without fear of extreme poverty. Because they are confident in their own welfare, they have less need of religion as a salve for the difficulties of their lives.

Such confidence increases in societies where there is a well-developed welfare state that redistributes income from the wealthy to the less fortunate (3). This could help explain why the U.S. – with significant gaps in its government safety nets - is more religious than Europe despite having a similar level of economic development (1).

Religion as security blanket

In widely read earlier posts, I argued that the basic function of religion is coping with anxiety. More specifically, it helps people to deal with the stress of uncertainty from third-world living conditions. In countries with a better standard of living, basic anxieties about food supply and illness recede and religion fades along with them.

If this is true then, religion has a primary soothing function rather like the security blanket from which a small child derives comfort. We now have good scientific evidence that religious rituals and prayer work in just this way. Each produces a slowing of heart rate and other signs of physiological calming (5).

This implies that the psychological effects of religious rituals are analogous to those of anti-anxiety drugs like tranquillizers or alcohol (5). Religion is a downer in terms of effects on the brain.
So how does this help us to understand why religious people in the same community are happier than their less religious counterparts?

In very religious places, there is a great deal of misery because the quality of life is abysmal. Think of Afghanistan, or Somalia. Within that environment, the security blanket of religion may be the only effective anti-anxiety agent around. As a result, people who are deeply religious can achieve a level of calm that eludes their less religious neighbors.

In developed countries, there are two key difference. First, the quality of life is so much better that large numbers of people (even the majority) can turn their backs on religion. Second, there are many other avenues for anxiety reduction that range from anti-anxiety drugs to endless entertainment.

In the grand scheme of global differences, religious people are actually quite miserable. Yet, thanks to religious beliefs and practices they are less miserable than they would otherwise be. If you want to be happier, the last thing you should do would be to move to a religious country. You might consider living in a country like Sweden instead where most people are happy atheists.

1. Koenig, H. G. (2008). Medicine, religion and health: Where science and spirituality meet. West Conshohocken, PA: Templeton Foundation Press.
2. Snoep, L. (2008). Religiousness and happiness in three nations. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 207-211.
3. Barber, N. (2012). Why atheism will replace religion: The triumph of earthly pleasures over pie in the sky. E-book, available at:
4. Gallup (2010). Religiosity highest in world’s poorest nations. Accessed at: in July 2011.
5. Paul-Labrador, M. D. et al. (2006). Effects of a randomized controlled trial of transcendental meditation on components of the metabolic syndrome in subjects with coronary heart disease. Archives of Internal Medicine, 166, 1218-1224.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Only in Israel: Female Bomber gets Pregnant, turns into a Man in 24 hours!

Only Possible in Tel Aviv: ‘Bombing’ Girl gets Pregnant during Arrest and turns into a Man in 24 hours!

Gazing on twitter noticing this:

Immediately noticing Leibovitch mentions: “HE”?
So i tweet they should upgrade the surveillance wall observing the highly recorded and monitored area of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv when all of a sudden some troll gives a response no one said it was a girl.

Oh yes they did!
Fase 1: A GIRL DID IT!

FASE 2! A Female did it! NOTICE: ARRESTED!


Fase 4 The News HQ tweets A FEMALE ( we’re btw still waiting on a claim of resistance that never came fyi)

FASE 5 HASBARA MOTHER OF A SOLDIER now even states she was pregnant….

I guess Steven Spielberg was on a leave for the script, or it was not escalated into the trolling troopers of zionist hasbara forces for these kind of evolution only happen in Tel Aviv. Where a fly not can shit unseen by undercovers or cameras and especially not at the specific location.

Nothing filmed right. No footage. So who are you fooling?

First there flies a Hezbollah drone unseen for hours over the whole of Israel. Now a bomber walks allegedly aside the Defense building and no video nor footage produced by the Tzahal. I smell some serious holes in security or maybe… it’s just one of Israel’s false flags. I bet my shekel on the latter.
Maybe I am too impatient and need to wait a little while until they doctor some evidence again.

Yet the following is quite miraculous!

Less than 2 hours, and within 24 hours the girl turns into a female “terrorist” bomber who is arrested. Get’s pregnant in the process to undergo within the same limited time a gender change.

Seriously Israel…. Who do you think is going to believe this crappy hasbara?
For the record:
Although on Nov 21, 2012 CloudPillarWar seems to have had psychic capabilities for he incited before: it was not Hamas, It has been Fatah.

Will be continued…. by more hasbara … or another false flag!

But to be very sure I borrowed a glass ball in the meanwhile and had a good gaze as well… oh wait where did I see the face before…..

Seems the Israeli undercover rats have a ‘thing’ with sex changes. The info is confirmed my glass ball shows the attacker was wearing the same dress. Case solved.

Yes, the FBI and CIA can read your email. Here's how

Summary: "Petraeus-gate," some U.S. pundits are calling it. How significant is it that even the head of the CIA can have his emails read by an albeit friendly domestic intelligence agency, which can lead to his resignation and global, and very public humiliation? Here's how.

The U.S. government -- and likely your own government, for that matter -- is either watching your online activity every minute of the day through automated methods and non-human eavesdropping techniques, or has the ability to dip in as and when it deems necessary -- sometimes with a warrant, sometimes without.

Gen. David Petraeus, the former head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, resigned over the weekend after he was found to have engaged in an extra-marital affair. What caught Petraeus out was, of all things, his usage of Google's online email service, Gmail.

This has not only landed the former CIA chief in hot water but has ignited the debate over how, when, and why governments and law enforcement agencies are able to access ordinary citizens' email accounts, even if they are the head of the most powerful intelligence agency in the world.

If it makes you feel any better, the chances are small that your own or a foreign government will snoop on you. The odds are much greater -- at least for the ordinary person (terrorists, hijackers et al: take note) -- that your email account will be broken into by a stranger exploiting your weak password, or an ex-lover with a grudge (see "Fatal Attraction").

Forget ECHELON, or signals intelligence, or the interception of communications by black boxes installed covertly in data centers. Intelligence agencies and law enforcement bodies can access -- thanks to the shift towards Web-based email services in the cloud -- but it's not as exciting or as Jack Bauer-esque as one may think or hope for.
The easiest way to access almost anybody's email nowadays is still through the courts. (Sorry to burst your bubble, but it's true.)

The 'save as draft' trick

Petraeus set up a private account under a pseudonym and composed email messages but never sent them. Instead, they were saved in draft. His lover, Paula Broadwell, would log in under the same account, read the email and reply, all without sending anything. The traffic would not be sent across the networks through Google's data centers, making it nigh on impossible for the National Security Agency or any other electronic signals eavesdropping agency (such as Britain's elusive GCHQ) to 'read' the traffic while it is in transit.
Saving an email as a draft almost entirely eliminates network traffic, making it nigh on impossible for intelligence agencies to 'traffic sniff.'
And yes, terrorists and pedophiles have been known to use this 'trick', but also sophisticated criminals also use this technique. It eliminates a network trail to a greater or lesser extent, and makes it more difficult to trace.

But surely IP addresses are logged and noted? When emails are sent and received, yes. But the emails were saved in draft and therefore were not sent. However, Google may still have a record of the IP addresses of those who logged into the account.

However, most Internet or broadband providers offer dynamic IP addresses that change over time, and an IP address does not always point to the same computer, let alone the same region or state every time it is assigned to a user. Even then, recent U.S. court cases have found that IP addresses do not specifically point to a computer, meaning even if the authorities were sure that it was Petraeus, for instance -- though IP addresses very rarely give the exact house number and street address -- it would not stick in court.

As is often the case, human error can land someone in the legal spotlight. 37-year-old Florida resident Jill Kelley, a family friend to the Petraeus', allegedly received emails from an anonymous account warning Kelley to stay away from the CIA chief.

But when Broadwell sent these messages, it left behind little fragments of data attached to the email -- every email you send has this data attached -- which first led the FBI on a path that led up to the very door of Petraeus' office door in Langley, Virginia.

Get a warrant, serve it to Google?

There's no such thing as a truly 'anonymous' email account, and no matter how much you try to encrypt the contents of the email you are sending, little fragments of data are attached by email servers and messaging companies. It's how email works and it's entirely unavoidable.

Every email sent and received comes with 'communications data,' otherwise known as "metadata" -- little fragments of information that carries the recipient and the sender's address, and routing data such as the IP addresses of the sender and the servers or data center that it's passed through. Extracting this metadata is not a mystery or difficult, in fact anyone can do it, but if you have the legal tools and law enforcement power to determine where the email was passed through -- such as an IP address of one of Google's data center in the United States.
Email is surprisingly similar to the postal system, especially when it comes to the communication "metadata."
The system is remarkably similar to the postal system. You can seal the envelope and hide what's inside, but it contains a postmark of where it came from and where it's going. It may even have your fingerprints on it. All of this information outside the contents is "metadata."

That said, even if you use a disposable Gmail account -- such as, for instance -- it's clearly a Gmail account, and Gmail is operated by Google. Sometimes it just takes a smidgen of common knowledge.

Ultimately, only Google had access to the emails. Because it's a private company, it does not fall under the scope of the Fourth Amendment. If the U.S. government or one of its law enforcement agencies wanted to access the private Petraeus email account, it would have to serve up a warrant.

In this case, however, the Foreign Intelligence Services Act (FISA) would not apply. Even the Patriot Act would not necessarily apply in this case, even though it does allow the FBI and other authorized agencies to search email. However, in this case, above all else, the Stored Communications Act does apply -- part of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

The act allows for any electronic data to be read if it has been stored for less than 180 days. In this case, the law was specifically designed -- albeit quite some time before email became a mainstream communications medium -- to allow server- or computer-stored data to be accessed by law enforcement.
However, a court order must be issued before the 180 day limit, and in this case it was. Reporting from London, the BBC News' Mark Ward summed it up in a single sentence:
Once it knew Ms. Broadwell was the sender of the threatening messages, the FBI got a warrant that gave it covert access to the anonymous email account.
And that's how they do it. No matter which way you look at it, no matter how much the government or its law enforcement agencies want the data or the proof of wrongdoing, they must almost always get a court order.

And Petraeus is no different from any other U.S. citizen, U.K. citizen, or European citizen -- and further afield for that matter. What it always boils down to is a court order, and it's as simple as that. It's not ECHELON or an episode of "24" using hacking or cracking techniques; it's an afternoon in a fusty courtroom with a semi-switched on (and preferably sober) judge.

That said, it doesn't grant unfettered or unrestricted access to a user's inbox or email account, but when an alleged crime has been committed or law enforcement starts digging around, it allows a fairly wide berth of powers to request access to electronically stored data.

Former assistant secretary to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Stewart Baker told the Associated Press:
The government can't just wander through your emails just because they'd like to know what you're thinking or doing. But if the government is investigating a crime, it has a lot of authority to review people’s emails.
So there it is. A court order is all you need to access a person's inbox, but sufficient evidence is often required in order to do this -- particularly through the Stored Communications Act, or the Electronic Communications Privacy Act.

It sounds obvious, of course, that's because it is.

That said, if there is reasonable suspicion albeit lacking evidence, or a U.S. law enforcement agency is dealing with a foreign national outside of the United States, that normally requires a secret FISA court order to be granted in order to proceed with the interception of data or warranted access to an email account, for example.

Outside the U.S.: Is it still 'just' a court order?
A simple court order is all it takes and it can apply to anyone in public office or the man on the street holding a sign warning that "the end is nigh."
But it's OK; you're in Europe, or Australia, or Asia. The U.S. can't use their laws against you in a foreign country because, well, you're outside of its jurisdiction. Again, sorry to burst your privacy bubble but that excuse didn't wash with the European Parliament, it shouldn't with you either.

If you're a European citizen with a Microsoft, Google, Yahoo or Apple account -- or any email offered in the cloud by a U.S. company -- which is most consumer email services nowadays -- it is accessible to the U.S. courts and other nations through various acts of law, such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) or the PATRIOT Act, in which the latter amended much of what the former had implemented in the first place.

("Oh great, he's talking about the Patriot Act again," says everybody.)

It's worth noting a common few misconceptions. Since first reporting this some years ago (and subsequently sparking a trans-Atlantic diplomatic row, whoops) analysts and experts alike, some who are under the thumb of the cloud companies themselves, claim that the Patriot Act -- to use the umbrella, common term -- does not allow the U.S. government or its law enforcement agencies the powers that others (*cough* including me) claim.

Let's just run through a few examples of false claims on top of false claims:

The Patriot Act is the magic wand that allows the U.S. government unrestricted access to any data, anywhere, anytime. Untrue.
The Patriot Act gives the U.S. government unprecedented access to data hosted by U.S. companies anywhere in the world.Untrue.
All countries have similar legislation that gives the authorities a means to requisition data on cloud services, to investigate and prevent acts of terrorism.Unt... actually, quite true.
It doesn't give "unrestricted" or "unprecedented" access to date outside the U.S., because for the most part these warrants must go through a special FISA court. The trouble is even though there is some level of accountability via the FISA courts, these sessions are held in secret and there are no public minutes or record to go from, so swings and roundabouts.
Only in exceptional cases where warrants are not issued is when there is an immediate threat to life. But because these courts are secret, there's no definitive and ultimate way to know for an absolute fact that the U.S. authorities don't just bypass the FISA courts and skip ahead with their investigations anyway. (You only really have my word -- and my sources in the U.S. government, such as legal counsels and spokespeople, to go on.)
Pretty much every country around the world has 'Patriot Act'-like legislation. It's just where to look for it.
On the third point, other countries do have similar laws and this should be noted. (I personally thought it was relatively common knowledge, forgive my naivety.) The U.K., for instance, has the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act that can be used to acquire data from a third-country via a U.K.-based firm, just as the Patriot Act can be used on a U.S. firm to access data in a third-country via a local subsidiary.
But in terms of where the major email and cloud providers are based -- the United States, notably on the West Coast -- it means that U.S. law must apply, in spite of foreign laws that attempt to or successfully counteract the provisions offered in U.S. law. Not many major cloud providers operate solely in the U.K., whereas Microsoft, Google, Apple and Amazon are all U.S. headquartered with a subsidiary in the U.K. and other countries.

The lesson here? We're all as bad as each other and no legally or financially reasonable place is safe to store data if you're a massive criminal or looking to stash a bunch of secret or uncouth documents away from the authorities.

As for Petraeus, he may have been careful but in spite of his counter-terrorism knowledge and clever tricks in going under the radar, ultimately there was a weak link in the security chain -- and no matter how far you go to try and cover your tracks, often it always falls down to two things: human error, or sex.

Sharia police state? Saudi husbands can track wives’ travels electronically

AFP Photo / Amer Hilabi
AFP Photo / Amer Hilabi

Saudi Arabia introduced an electronic tracking system that alerts men by text message when their wife is leaving the country, even if they are traveling together. The system was swiftly condemned by activists and Twitter users.

Saudi women – banned in the country from driving, denied the right to travel without their husband’s consent and required to wear a veil from head to toe – are now to be monitored by a new electronic system that tracks cross-border movement, AFP reported.

Woman in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to leave the ultraconservative kingdom without the permission of their male ‘guardian,’ or husband, who must give his consent by signing a register known as the ‘yellow sheet’ at the border or airport. Now, husbands will receive a text message to remind them even if they’re traveling outside the country alongside their wife.

The move was quickly condemned and ridiculed on Twitter, which has remained an island of free speech in the repressive Islamic nation:

“Hello Taliban, herewith some tips from the Saudi e-government,” one user wrote.
“If I need an SMS to let me know my wife is leaving Saudi Arabia, then I’m either married to the wrong woman or need a psychiatrist,” user Hisham wrote.
“Why don’t you cuff your women with ankle bracelets too?” user Israa joked.
User Raza Ahmad quipped, “Good going Saudi Arabia, what’s next chastity belts?”
“The authorities are using technology to monitor women, it would be better for the government to busy itself with finding a solution for women subjected to domestic violence,” columnist Badriya al-Bishr said, criticizing what she called the “state of slavery under which women are held.”

Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. In June 2011, female activists lead by Manal al-Sheif launched a campaign to defy the ban. But many were arrested and forced to sign a pledge that they would never drive again. In a similar incident in November 1990, 47 women were arrested after staging a demonstration in their cars.

King Abdullah, seen by the West as a cautious reformer, granted women the right to vote and run in municipal election beginning in 2015. Also, the newly appointed chief of the religious police commission – which enforces Saudi Arabia’s severe version of Sharia law – Sheikh Abdullatif Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, banned members of the commission from harassing Saudi women over their dress and behavior.
But these signs of a more lenient attitude towards women have done little to dent a widely repressive and patriarchal culture. The kingdom enforces strict rules governing interactions between the sexes, and the many restrictions placed on Saudi women have led to high levels of female unemployment, estimated to around 30 percent.

Suicide rates among young Saudi women are also some of the highest in the world, with many attempting to take their lives “when they realize that their right to choose with their own free will is denied,” an anonymous female doctor in the Saudi city of Riyadh said in a 2011 interview.

“Saudi women are treated as minors throughout their lives, even if they hold high positions, there can never be reform in the Kingdom without changing the status of women as equals to men,” liberal activist Suad Shemmari told AFP.
Muslim women walk in the rain (AFP Photo / Awad Awad)
Muslim women walk in the rain (AFP Photo / Awad Awad)

Pregnant baby girl born in Saudi Arabia


An outstanding incident took place in the medical practice of Saudi doctors. A year-old girl turned out to be pregnant. Doctors said that it was the first incident in the history of modern medicine. Arab media outlets discuss whether the removal of the fetus from the baby girl is going to be considered a murder.
It turned out that the mother of the pregnant baby originally had two embryos during her pregnancy. One of the embryos began to develop in the uterus of the other child. In spite of the fact that doctors describe the incident as unique, there can be other similar examples found in history.

A 36-year-old farmer had the embryo of his twin brother removed in the town of Nagpur, India, in 2006. The man asked for medical help only after his swollen belly hampered his breathing.

Doctors were certain that the man had a gigantic tumor in his belly. However, they found fragments of human genitalia, hairs, limbs and jaws in the patient and finally removed a weird underdeveloped creature having legs and arms with long nails.

In 2002, Indian doctors found a fetus in the body of a six-month-old boy. The dead fetus, which surgeons removed from the boy, weighed one kilo, whereas the boy himself weighed 6.5 kilos.

The anomalous phenomenon is known as fetus in fetu. Such incidents are extremely rare: an embryo inside an embryo may appear once in 500,000 pregnancies. The phenomenon always occurs at an early stage of pregnancy. As a rule, the fetuses die in mother’s womb.

It may also happen that a child with a fetus inside survives the entire pregnancy. In this case the embryo continues to live inside its owner’s body like a trapped parasite. 

A fetus in fetu can be considered alive, but only in the sense that its component tissues have not yet died or been eliminated. Thus, the life of a fetus in fetu is inherently limited to that of an invasive tumor. In principle, its cells must have some degree of normal metabolic activity to have remained viable. 

However, without the gestational conditions attainable (so far) only in utero with the amnion and placenta, a fetus in fetu can develop into, at best, an especially well-differentiated teratoma; or, at worst, a high-grade metastatic teratocarcinoma. In terms of physical maturation, its organs have a working blood supply from the host, but all cases of fetus in fetu present critical defects, such as no functional brain, heart, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, or urinary tract. Accordingly, while a fetus in fetu can share select morphological features with a normal fetus, it has no prospect of any life outside of the host twin. Moreover, it poses clear threats to the life of the host twin on whom its own life depends.