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Thursday
Apr102008

NAFTA Superhighway: Progress on the Trans Texas Corridor Continues

An article carried by Reuters, March 10, 2008, datelined Madrid reports that the Spanish company Cintra said it had closed financing to build segments 5 and 6 of its SH-130 toll road between San Antonio and Austin, Texas in the U.S. It plans to invest $1.36 billion in this leg of the project.

In a statement to Spain's stock market, Cintra said $197 million of the investment came from consortium partners and the rest from a bank loan and debt from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The newly financed segment is part of the Trans Texas Corridor, a 4,000 mile plan of super toll ways. The Corridor plan calls for a superhighway with 12 passenger vehicle lanes, 4 truck lanes, 2 passenger train tracks, 2 commuter train tracks, 2 freight train tracks, underground lines for water, natural gas, petroleum, telecommunication fiber optics, and overhead high-voltage electric transmission lines and towers.

Plans also include gas stations, garages, restaurants, hotels, stores, billboards, warehouses, freight interchanges, inter-modal transfer areas, bus stations, passenger train stations, parking facilities, dispatch control centers, maintenance facilities, pipeline pumping stations, and toll booths.

The Trans Texas Corridor is the largest engineering project ever undertaken in Texas, costing over $180 billion dollars.

A consortium led by the Cintra Concesiones Infraestruturas SA, known as Cintra, announced the contract to build the Trans Texas Corridor in December, 2004, and said it expected to develop 6 billion U.S. dollars of motorway projects during the following five years as part of the project.

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Thursday
Apr102008

Met Police officers to Be Microchipped

Every single Metropolitan police officer will be 'microchipped' so top brass can monitor their movements on a Big Brother style tracking scheme, it can be revealed today.

According to respected industry magazine Police Review, the plan - which affects all 31,000 serving officers in the Met, including Sir Ian Blair - is set to replace the unreliable Airwave radio system currently used to help monitor officer's movements.

The new electronic tracking device - called the Automated Personal Location System (APLS) - means that officers will never be out of range of supervising officers.

But many serving officers fear being turned into "Robocops" - controlled by bosses who have not been out on the beat in years.

According to service providers Telent, the new technology 'will enable operators in the Service's operations centres to identify the location of each police officer' at any time they are on duty - whether overground or underground.

Although police chiefs say the new technology is about 'improving officer safety' and reacting to incidents more quickly, many rank and file believe it is just a Big Brother style system to keep tabs on them and make sure they don't 'doze off on duty'.

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Thursday
Apr102008

Structural Engineers Now Publicly Challenge Government's Explanation for Destruction of the World Trade Center

A prominent engineer with 55 years experience, in charge of the design of hundreds of major building projects including high rise offices, former member of the California Seismic Safety Commission and former member of the National Institute of Sciences Building Safety Council (Marx Ayres) believes that the World Trade Centers were brought down by controlled demolition (see also this)

Two professors of structural engineering at a prestigious Swiss university (Dr. Joerg Schneider and Dr. Hugo Bachmann) said that, on 9/11, World Trade Center 7 was brought down by controlled demolition (translation here)

Kamal S. Obeid, structural engineer, with a masters degree in Engineering from UC Berkeley, of Fremont, California, says:
"Photos of the steel, evidence about how the buildings collapsed, the unexplainable collapse of WTC 7, evidence of thermite in the debris as well as several other red flags, are quite troubling indications of well planned and controlled demolition"
Ronald H. Brookman, structural engineer, with a masters degree in Engineering from UC Davis, of Novato California, writes:
"Why would all 110 stories drop straight down to the ground in about 10 seconds, pulverizing the contents into dust and ash - twice. Why would all 47 stories of WTC 7 fall straight down to the ground in about seven seconds the same day? It was not struck by any aircraft or engulfed in any fire. An independent investigation is justified for all three collapses including the surviving steel samples and the composition of the dust."

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Thursday
Apr102008

Sources: Top Bush Advisors Approved 'Enhanced Interrogation'

In dozens of top-secret talks and meetings in the White House, the most senior Bush administration officials discussed and approved specific details of how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, sources tell ABC News.

The so-called Principals who participated in the meetings also approved the use of "combined" interrogation techniques -- using different techniques during interrogations, instead of using one method at a time -- on terrorist suspects who proved difficult to break, sources said.

Highly placed sources said a handful of top advisers signed off on how the CIA would interrogate top al Qaeda suspects -- whether they would be slapped, pushed, deprived of sleep or subjected to simulated drowning, called waterboarding.

The high-level discussions about these "enhanced interrogation techniques" were so detailed, these sources said, some of the interrogation sessions were almost choreographed -- down to the number of times CIA agents could use a specific tactic.

The advisers were members of the National Security Council's Principals Committee, a select group of senior officials who met frequently to advise President Bush on issues of national security policy.

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Thursday
Apr102008

D.C. Government Plans to Begin Centralized Monitoring of Citizens

By Mary Beth Sheridan / Washington Post

The D.C. government plans to begin centralized monitoring of about 5,000 security cameras it maintains throughout the city, giving emergency-management officials a broad look into schools, public housing and other sites.

The city says the system will save money and provide 24-hour monitoring, rather than the sporadic attention in the current patchwork of camera systems. But civil liberties advocates expressed alarm.

"Having it all together in one place brings us one step closer to the kind of scary movie scenario where they can track somebody moving across the city," said Art Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union for the Washington area.

D.C. police will continue to watch their 73 surveillance cameras in high-crime neighborhoods, Darrell Darnell, head of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, said yesterday. But his agency will set up a center to monitor an array of other closed-circuit TV cameras, including nearly 3,500 inside D.C. public schools, 131 used by the Department of Transportation and 720 used by the D.C. Housing Authority.

City Administrator Dan Tangherlini said yesterday that the concept of the single network was developed in meetings in which officials determined that the city could save money through consolidation.

Not including the police department, the city is spending an estimated $1.7 million to operate and monitor its cameras this year, but that could be cut in half beginning next year, city officials said.

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Thursday
Apr102008

Stolen NIH Laptop Held Social Security Numbers

Social Security numbers for more than 1,200 participants in a National Institutes of Health study were stored on a stolen laptop containing their medical records, putting those patients at risk of identity theft, agency officials said yesterday.

NIH officials had initially assured the more than 3,000 patients whose records were on the laptop that the computer's contents -- unencrypted, in violation of federal policy -- did not contain any information that could put their identity or finances at risk.

But an ongoing review of the computer's last-known contents, performed on data backed up from the laptop before it was stolen, has found a file that, unbeknownst to the lead researcher, had been loaded onto the laptop by a research associate.

That file included Social Security numbers for at least 1,281 of the 3,078 patients enrolled in the multi-year study, which is sponsored by the NIH's National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

NIH spokesman John Burklow said yesterday that letters are being sent to all those affected, informing them of the risk and offering them free registration for a service that will allow them to monitor their credit reports. The NIH is also insuring each participant for up to $20,000 in losses from identity theft.

The cost to taxpayers for those services is estimated to be $18,400.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Apr102008

U.N. Official Urges New Investigation To Study Neocon Role in 9/11

By Eli Lake / nysun.com

A new U.N. Human Rights Council official assigned to monitor Israel is calling for an official commission to study the role neoconservatives may have played in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

On March 26, Richard Falk, Milbank professor of international law emeritus at Princeton University, was named by unanimous vote to a newly created position to report on human rights in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. While Mr. Falk’s specialty is human rights and international law, since the attacks in 2001, he has devoted some of his time to challenging what he calls the “9-11 official version.”

On March 24 in an interview with a radio host and former University of Wisconsin instructor, Kevin Barrett, Mr. Falk said, “It is possibly true that especially the neoconservatives thought there was a situation in the country and in the world where something had to happen to wake up the American people. Whether they are innocent about the contention that they made that something happen or not, I don’t think we can answer definitively at this point. All we can say is there is a lot of grounds for suspicion, there should be an official investigation of the sort the 9/11 commission did not engage in and that the failure to do these things is cheating the American people and in some sense the people of the world of a greater confidence in what really happened than they presently possess.”

Mr. Barrett, who is the co-founder of the Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth, said in an interview yesterday of Mr. Falk, “I would put him on a list of scholars who are sympathetic to the 9/11 truth movement.”

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Wednesday
Apr092008

How U.S. Strategy Is Hastening Iraq's Demise

By Steven Simon / ForeignAffairs.org

In January 2007, President George W. Bush announced a new approach to the war in Iraq. At the time, sectarian and insurgent violence appeared to be spiraling out of control, and Democrats in Washington -- newly in control of both houses of Congress -- were demanding that the administration start winding down the war.

Bush knew he needed to change course, but he refused to, as he put it, "give up the goal of winning." So rather than acquiesce to calls for withdrawal, he decided to ramp up U.S. efforts. With a "surge" in troops, a new emphasis on counterinsurgency strategy, and new commanders overseeing that strategy, Bush declared, the deteriorating situation could be turned around. More than a year on, a growing conventional wisdom holds that the surge has paid off handsomely. U.S. casualties are down significantly from their peak in mid-2007, the level of violence in Iraq is lower than at any point since 2005, and Baghdad seems the safest it has been since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime five years ago.

Some backers of the surge even argue that the Iraqi civil war is over and that victory on Washington's terms is in sight -- so long as the United States has the will to see its current efforts through to their conclusion. Unfortunately, such claims misconstrue the causes of the recent fall in violence and, more important, ignore a fatal flaw in the strategy. The surge has changed the situation not by itself but only in conjunction with several other developments: the grim successes of ethnic cleansing, the tactical quiescence of the Shiite militias, and a series of deals between U.S. forces and Sunni tribes that constitute a new bottom-up approach to pacifying Iraq.

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Wednesday
Apr092008

Undisputed Facts Point to the Controlled Demolition of WTC 7

Richard Gage, AIA – Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth


I'm Richard Gage, AIA, a licensed architect of 20 years. I represent Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, a fast-growing body of more than 300 architects and engineers dedicated solely to bringing out the truth about all three high-rise building collapses on 9/11.

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Wednesday
Apr092008

Oil Rises, Gasoline Climbs to a Record, on U.S. Supply Decline

By Mark Shenk / Bloomberg

Crude oil rose above $111 a barrel in New York and gasoline surged to a record after a government report showed that U.S. supplies unexpectedly dropped.

Crude oil inventories fell 3.15 million barrels to 316 million last week, the Energy Department said. A 2.3-million- barrel gain was forecast, according to a Bloomberg News survey. Metals futures also rose as the dollar fell against the euro, and gasoline pump prices reached a record average $3.343 a gallon.

``It looks like this move will accelerate and prices will move toward $115,'' said Tom Bentz, a broker at BNP Paribas in New York. ``This is all part of the big uptrend, and where it stops nobody knows.''

Crude oil for May delivery rose $2.37, or 2.2 percent, to $110.87 a barrel at 11:15 a.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures reached $111.43, the highest since March 17, when prices touched a record $111.80 a barrel. Oil is up 80 percent from a year ago.

Gasoline for May delivery climbed 3.9 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $2.7894 a gallon. Futures reached $2.8228, an intraday record for gasoline to be blended with ethanol, known as RBOB, which began trading in October 2005.

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Wednesday
Apr092008

House Staffers Livid Over Web Site (legistorm.com)

Working from a cramped loft apartment a mile from the Capitol, a small Internet company has sparked a privacy rights battle with hundreds of angry top House staffers upset that the Web site has begun posting details about their personal finances.

In an unusual conflict over constitutional rights, the aides argue that the recent disclosures leave them highly vulnerable to identity theft. But the Web site, LegiStorm, contends that it has a First Amendment right to publish already public information about some of the Capitol's most powerful players -- the high-level staffers -- and is creating a new check against potential corruption.

"Congressional staffers are among the most powerful people in Washington, and in the past they have received very little scrutiny. It's about time there was a little more scrutiny given to what they're doing," said Jock Friedly, president and founder of LegiStorm, which has six employees.

For several years, LegiStorm has published salary and expenditure reports that are released regularly by the House and Senate. The reports, released quarterly by the House and semiannually by the Senate, provide detailed information on how much each lawmaker spends, along with the names, titles and salaries of every employee.

In late February, however, LegiStorm expanded the data it provides by putting the staffers' personal financial disclosure forms online.

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Tuesday
Apr082008

U.S. To Pitch 'Phase One' of Net Monitoring Plan at RSA

That question draws some 15,000 security professionals and IT bigwigs to San Francisco each year for the RSA Conference, taking place this week. There they learn about the newest threat to corporate networks, and are wooed by the makers of the newest flavor of corporate firewalls, intrusion detection devices and biometric doo-dads.

The answer they always get, not surprisingly, is that the online world is pretty darn dangerous, unless you use our products and services. What's new this year is that the U.S. government is joining the party with much the same pitch.  The nation's intelligence and anti-terror agencies are newly determined to take a more active role in protecting the United States from cyberattack, and they're seeking new authority to monitor the internet in order to save it.

Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff is traveling Tuesday to the conference to pitch a program the Bush administration calls the Cyber Initiative. Slated for $154 million in funding this year, the plan would put the National Security Agency and DHS in charge of cybersecurity for all federal government agencies.

That would mean that the nation's spies -- who began secretly targeting Americans since shortly after 9/11 -- will be monitoring when Americans visit the IRS or the Social Security Administration online.

This would mark a significant change in the NSA's defensive responsibilities, which have historically been limited to locking down military and classified networks and providing encryption technologies to soldiers and statesmen.

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Tuesday
Apr082008

Unconstitutional DNA Bill Passes in Maryland

"What gives government the right to take people's DNA? Frankly, it should be unconstitutional,” says Peter Neufeld, a New York criminal defense lawyer who co-founded with Barry Scheck the Innocence Project, and who helped set state and federal standards for use of DNA testing."

In its final hours before adjournment, the Maryland General Assembly passed a bill yesterday expanding the collection of DNA from crime suspects but balked at authorizing speed cameras in school zones and neighborhoods, capping a session in which the state's continuing fiscal challenges greatly shaped what was attempted and what occurred.

Bills with sizable price tags were largely shelved during the 90-day session in favor of those that tightened regulations at little cost to the state, including sweeping reforms of mortgage-lending practices and further restrictions on shoreline development, both priorities of Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).

"This has been a session of very real and steady progress, even in these difficult times," O'Malley told reporters, acknowledging that the sour economy "undermines our ability to do as many things as quickly as we'd like to do them."

Not everything O'Malley sought passed by the scheduled midnight adjournment. A House panel voted down an ambitious bill intended to curb greenhouse gases, and a compromise speed-camera bill died in the Senate amid a filibuster threat.

But lawmakers did overcome a disagreement to approve a bill implementing a settlement to provide $2 billion in rate relief to customers of the state's largest electricity provider. And they approved a bill to phase out video bingo machines that have sprung up in Southern Maryland.

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