Jul 16, 2011

‪Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead Extended Trailer‬‏ - YouTube

Inspirational... Monte

100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross is at the end of his rope and the end of his hope.

In the mirror he saw a 310lb man whose gut was bigger than a beach ball and a path laid out before him that wouldn't end well- with one foot already in the grave, the other wasn't far behind. FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD is an inspiring film that chronicles Joe's personal mission to regain his health.

With doctors and conventional medicines unable to help long-term, Joe turns to the only option left, the body's ability to heal itself. He trades in the junk food and hits the road with juicer and generator in tow, vowing only to drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for the next 60 days.

Across 3,000 miles Joe has one goal in mind: To get off his pills and achieve a balanced lifestyle. While talking to more than 500 Americans about food, health and longevity, it's at a truck stop in Arizona where Joe meets a truck driver who suffers from the same rare condition.

Phil Staples is morbidly obese weighing in at 429 lbs; a cheeseburger away from a heart-attack. As Joe is recovering his health, Phil begins his own epic journey to get well.

What emerges is nothing short of amazing - an inspiring tale of healing and human connection. Part road trip, part self-help manifesto, FAT, SICK & NEARLY DEAD defies the traditional documentary format to present an unconventional and uplifting story of two men from different worlds who each realize that the only person who can save them is themselves.

Related Links:
Joe Cross on the "Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead" USA Tour -- SEATTLE, WA

How Murdoch Reporters’ Bribes to British Cops Violate US Law | Truthout

Saturday 16 July 2011
by: Jake Bernstein, ProPublica | News Analysis

Rupert Murdoch. (Photo: David Shankbone / Flickr)

Imagine you're a Fleet Street reporter at a British tabloid with a pocketful of cash. You meet a trusted source at a pub, a police officer who tells you about the royal family's confidential schedule in exchange for a small gratuity. You hand over a few quid and rush off with a photographer to stake out a health club where Camilla Parker-Bowles is toning her abs.

Guess what: If you work for Rupert Murdoch, you may have violated U.S. law. What the government nails you for could depend on how you and your bosses account for the sketchy deal with the cop.

If you're entirely honest in the company's internal books and enter the payment as a "bribe," you've just created an irrefutable piece of evidence that can be used against you and your company in a prosecution by the Justice Department for violating U.S. statutes against overseas bribery. If, as is more likely, you file an expense account which refers to the cash payment as "taxis” or "office supplies," you stand a chance of being pursued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for keeping fake records.

News International Limited, the British arm of the Murdoch empire, is a subsidiary of News Corp., a publicly traded American company which also owns the Wall Street Journal and Fox News (not to mention the Sunday Times of London, the Times of London, and the British tabloid the Sun). Because of this, experts say, News Corp. and all of its subsidiaries come under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a Watergate-era law which makes it a crime for U.S. companies to participate in bribery abroad.

The scope and number of payments remains unclear. British press reports say more than $160,000 was paid by News of the World reporters to police officers. The issue came to light last week after News International turned over a trove of internal emails to authorities.

"A small number of officers may have taken illegal payments. That is fundamentally corrupt," Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson told the BBC. "If true, I will be determined to root them out, find them and put them in front of the criminal court."

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After years of relative quiet, the United States has substantially stepped up the resources to prosecute companies for violating the bribery law. There are 150 open investigations of American companies, according to the law firm Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. In 2005, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice combined for a total of just 12 FCPA enforcement actions. By 2010 that number had jumped to 54, the law firm reports. We've written previously on this subject when it involved payments byAlbert Jack Stanley, a former executive at KBR.

Unless information emerges that News Corp. executives in the United States were aware of and condoned illegal behavior, it is doubtful whether the company or individual executives would face criminal prosecution in the United States, several defense lawyers said.

A prominent academic, Michael Koehler, who tracks prosecutions on his blog the FCPA Professor, is not as sure the global news giant will escape criminal prosecution.

"Look at the 2011 enforcement actions on my blog," he says. "None of these involved high level officers or board members."

But lack of evidence of executive complicity in bribery doesn't protect the parent company from civil actions. Where News Corp. may be most vulnerable is under the "Books and Records" and "Internal Controls" provisions of the FCPA, according to lawyers who practice in this field.

Even if News Corp. subsidiaries recorded the bribes accurately in their books, it could land the company in difficulty with the SEC. Since the bribery was permitted in the first place, the charges would also open up the company to questions about its internal controls.

Fines for these violations can be steep. In 2009 and 2010 combined the Justice Department charged over 50 individuals and collected nearly $2 billion in criminal fines, said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer in a recent speech. In 2010, the SEC brought in almost $530 million in corporate FCPA settlements, according to Koehler's blog. Part of what makes it so lucrative for the government is that the SEC often requires the companies "disgorge" the gains they made from illicit activities and pay interest on them.

How the SEC would calculate the value of a scoop or a racy headline that resulted from a police bribe is an open question. Does one include a bump in weekly circulation? The long-time loyalty of readers? Until it was abruptly closed last week, the News of the World, the Sunday paper most closely linked to phone hacking, had Britain's largest daily circulation, with 2.7 million readers.

"What was the increased revenue because of this sensational headline is more art than science,” says Koehler. "You could come up with some ballpark number.”

Another cost to News Corp. would be the company-wide review the SEC or DOJ would likely demand. The company would have to satisfy the Feds that similar payments weren't made to government officials in other countries. These company reviews are part of the reason why FCPA inquiries can last for years, according to Koehler.

The statute of limitations on civil FCPA charges is five years. Reports about the illegal bribes seem to date back to 2006 so regulators would likely be mindful of the calendar. Companies are often rewarded for cooperating with the inquiries. "Raising a statute of limitations defense is not exactly cooperation mode,” says Koehler.

News Corp also depends on the government for its broadcast licenses. Fox Television Stations Inc. has 269 active licenses with the Federal Communications Commission, according to the agency's website. An agency spokesman would not comment on whether FCPA violations might put those licenses in jeopardy as well.

Fox on the run..., the truth is coming out..., the beginning of the end... Monte

You Can't Kill a Planet and Live on It, Too | Truthout

Saturday 16 July 2011
by: Frank Joseph Smecker and Derrick Jensen, Truthout | Op-Ed

(Image: LP / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Bruce Irving, Paul Bratcher)

Let's expose the structure of violence that keeps the world economy running.

With an entire planet being slaughtered before our eyes, it's terrifying to watch the very culture responsible for this - the culture of industrial civilization, fueled by a finite source of fossil fuels, primarily a dwindling supply of oil - thrust forward wantonly to fuel its insatiable appetite for "growth."

Deluded by myths of progress and suffering from the psychosis of technomania complicated by addiction to depleting oil reserves, industrial society leaves a crescendo of atrocities in its wake.

A very partial list would include the Bhopal chemical disaster, numerous oil spills, the illegal depleted uranium-spewing occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, mountaintop removal, the nuclear meltdown of Fukushima, the permanent removal of 95 percent of the large fish from the oceans (not to mention full-on systemic collapse of those oceans), indigenous communities replacement by oil wells, the mining of coltan for cell phones and Playstations along the Democratic Republic of the Congo/Rwanda border - resulting in tribal warfare and the near-extinction of the Eastern Lowland gorilla.

As though 200 species going extinct each day were not enough, climate change, a direct result of burning fossil fuels, has proved not only to be as unpredictable as it is real, but as destructive as it is unpredictable. The erratic and lethal characteristics of a changing planet and its shifting atmosphere are becoming the norm of the 21st century, their impact accelerating at an alarming pace, bringing this planet closer, sooner than later, to a point of uninhabitable ghastliness. And yet, collective apathy, ignorance and self-imposed denial in the face of all this sadistic exploitation and violence marches this culture closer to self-annihilation.

Lost in the eerily comforting fantasy of limitless growth, production and consumption, many people cling to things like Facebook, Twitter, "Jersey Shore" and soulless pop music as if their lives depended on it, identifying with a reality that's artificial and constructed, that panders to desire rather than necessity, that delicately conceals the violence at the other end of this economy, a violence so widespread that we're all not only complicit in it to a degree (e.g., if you're a taxpayer, you help subsidize the manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction), but victims of it as well. As Chris Hedges admonished in his books, "Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy" and the "Triumph of Spectacle," any culture that cannot distinguish reality from illusion will kill itself.

Moreover, any culture that cannot distinguish reality from illusion will kill everything and everyone else in its path as well as itself.

As the world burns, as species die off, as mothers breastfeed their children with dioxin-tainted breast milk, as nuclear reactors melt down into the Pacific while the aerial deployment of depleted uranium damages innocent lives, it is perplexing that so few people fight back against a system that has horror as a reality for most living on the planet. And those who fight back, who stand in opposition to the culture behind such wholesale abuse and call it what it is - a genocidal mega-state (especially if you believe that the lives of nonhumans are as important to them as yours is to you and mine is to me) - are met with hostility and hatred, scoffed at, harassed, even tortured. With so much at stake, why aren't more people deafening their ears to the nutcases who preach a future of infinite-growth economies? And why do so many people continue to put "the economy" first, to take industrial capitalism as we know it as a given and not fight back, defend what's left of the natural world?

"One of the reasons there aren't more people working to take down the system that's killing the planet is because their lives depend on the system," author and environmental activist Derrick Jensen told me from his home in California when I interviewed him on the phone recently. "If your experience is that your food comes from the grocery store and your water comes from the tap, then you are going to defend to the death the system that brings those to you because your life depends on them," Jensen explained. "If your experience, however, is that your food comes from a land base and that your water comes from a stream, well, then you will defend to the death that land base and that stream. So part of the problem is that we have become so dependent upon this system that is killing and exploiting us, it has become almost impossible for us to imagine living outside of it and it's very difficult physically for us to live outside of it.

"The other problem is that fear is the belief we have something left to lose. What I mean by this is that I really like my life right now, as do a lot of people. We have a lot to lose if this culture is to go down. A primary reason so many of us do not want to win this war - or even acknowledge that it's going on - is that we materially benefit from this war's plunder. I'm really unsure how many of us would be willing to give up our automobiles and cell phones, hot showers and electric lights, our grocery and clothing stores. But the truth is, the system that leads to these things, that leads to technological advancement and our identity as civilized beings, are killing us and, more importantly, killing the planet."

Even in the absence of global warming, this culture would still be murdering the planet, bumping off pods of whales and flocks of birds; detonating mountaintops to access strata of coal and bauxite, eliminating entire ecosystems. All this violence inflicted upon an entire planet to run an economy based on the foolish and immoral notion that we can sustain industrial societies, all while trashing the planet's land bases, ecosystems and life. And the fantastic rhetoric those who insist on adapting to these changes promulgate - that technology will find a fix, that we can adapt, that the planet can and will conform to fixes in the market - is dangerous.

"Another part of the problem," Jensen told me, "is the narratives behind this culture's way of living. The premises of these narratives grant us the exclusive rights and privileges of dominion over this planet. Whether you subscribe to the religion of Science or of Christianity, these narratives tell us that our intelligence and abilities permit us exclusive rights and privileges to work our will on the world that is here for us to use. The problem with these stories, whether you believe in them or not, is that they have real effects on the physical world. The stories we're told about the world shape the way we perceive the world and the way we perceive the world shapes the way we behave in the world. The stories of industrial capitalism - that we can sustain infinite-growth economies - shapes the way this culture behaves in the world. And this behavior is killing the planet. Whether the stories we are told are fantasies or not doesn't matter, what matters is that these narratives are physical: the stories of Christianity may be fantasy - let's pretend for a moment that God doesn't exist - well, the Crusades still happened; the notion of race or gender may be up for debate, but obviously, race and gender does matter and this postmodern attitude drives me crazy because, yeah, race and gender is not an actual thing, but it all has real-world effects - African Americans comprise 58 percent of the prison population and one-third of all black men between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine are under some sort of criminal justice supervision; as for gender, well real males rape females.

"Another example [of how things that truly aren't real still have real-world effects]," Jensen continued, "is there was this serial killer a while back who was killing women in Santa Cruz. Voices in his head were telling him that if he didn't kill these women, then California would slide off into the ocean. It's apparent this guy was delusional, a total nut job and sick in the head, but his delusions still resulted in real-world effects. Hitler too had the delusion that Jews were poisoning the race. That delusion had real-world effects. And we can sit around and discuss whether Weyerhaeuser truly exists, but forests still get deforested. Or better yet, it's pretty clear that it's silly to really believe that the world won't run out of oil ... and then it's suddenly clear that it's not so silly - there is a physical reality. In the real world, you can't have a nature/culture split, but in this culture you do and it has real effects on the physical world. You can't live on a planet and kill it at the same time."

You find the problem with an industrial production economy when you unpack the word "production." As Jensen makes clear in his book "The Culture of Make Believe," production is essentially the conversion of the living to the dead: animals into cold cuts, mountains and rivers into aluminum beer cans, trees into toilet paper, oil into plastics and computers (one computer uses ten times its own mass in fossil fuels). To go paperless is not to go green, or maybe it is, depending on what shade of Green we're talking about here. Basically, every commodity one comes in contact with is soaked in oil, made from resources, marked by, as Jensen puts it, the turning of the living to the dead: Industrial production.

And with conflicts and wars that are waged or instigated by this culture to access (steal) the resources needed to fuel this economy's colossal machines, this culture winds up butchering entire non-industrialized communities of people ... the elderly, children who cling to their mothers as drones hawk over staggered onlookers ... the innocent and vulnerable written off as "collateral damage." Himmler used a similar epithet for Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Serbs, Belarusians, and other Slavic peoples in a pamphlet he edited and had distributed by the SS Race and Settlement Head Office: "Untermenschen."

This is an acceptable price we must pay it, so we are told.

In the US, more lives are lost weekly from preventable cancers and other illnesses than are lost in ten years from terrorist attacks. And the corporations this culture fights for overseas are the very organizations culpable for these domestic deaths every week.

The list of victims whose lives are subject to violent assault and extinction to feed this culture's "production" is as long and as diverse as you want to make it.

"An infinite-growth economy is not only insane and impossible," remarked Jensen, "it's also abusive, by which I mean that it's based on the same conceit as more personal forms of abuse. It is, in fact, the macroeconomic enshrinement of abusive behavior. The guiding principle of abusive behavior is that the abuser refuses to respect or abide by limits or boundaries put up by the victim. Growth economies are essentially unchecked and will push past any boundaries set up by anyone other than the perpetrators. And a successful abuser will always ensure that there are some 'benefits' for the victim, in this case, e.g., we can watch TV, we can have computer access and play games online - we get 'benefits' that essentially keep us in line.

"Furthermore, according to the stories of industrial capitalism, this economic system must constantly increase production to grow and what, after all, is production? It is indeed the conversion of the living to the dead, the conversion of living forests into two-by-fours, living rivers into stagnant pools for generating hydroelectricity, living fish into fish sticks and ultimately all of these into money. And really, what is gross national product? It's a measure of this conversion of the living to the dead. The more quickly the living world is converted into dead products, the higher the GNP. And these simple equations are complicated by the fact that when GNP goes down, people often lose jobs. No wonder the world is getting killed.

"And if we take global warming into consideration here - oh and I believe the latest study on global warming mentioned something along the lines of the planet now being on track to heat up by 29 degrees in the next eighty years ... if that isn't curtailed immediately, no one will survive that ... And so all the so-called solutions to global warming take industrial capitalism as a given. And here we see the same old abusive behavior: the narratives are not only created around the perceptions of the perpetrators, i.e. those in power, but are forced upon us by them as well, so we come to believe the narratives and accept them as a given. And, essentially, to take industrial capitalism as a given when it comes to solutions to global warming is absolutely absurd and insane. It's out of touch with physical reality. Yet it has disastrous effects on the real physical world. If you force a planet to conform to ideology you get what you get.

"A while back I had a conversation with an anarchist who was complaining that I was 'too ideological,' and that my ideology was 'the health of the earth.' Well, actually, the earth is not and cannot ever be an ideology. The earth is physical. It is real. And it is primary. Without soil, you don't have a healthy land base and without a healthy land base you don't eat, you die. Without drinkable clean water you die."

And this is one of the problems with our culture: its lack of ability to separate ideology - the kind that accommodates maximizing pleasure and domination - from the needs of the natural world. And, so, if solutions to global warming do not immediately address the basic needs of the planet, well ... we're fucked.

"One has to ask," pressed Jensen, "if hammerhead sharks could provide solutions, if the indigenous could give solutions and if we would listen to the solutions they are already giving, would these solutions take industrial capitalism as a given? The bottom line is that capitalist solutions to global warming are coming from the capitalist boosters, from those in power who are responsible for exploiting and destroying us and more importantly, the planet."

By the 1940s, in Germany, Arthur Nebe's gassing van was in wide use. Those who drove Nebe's death vans never thought of themselves as murderers, just as another somebody getting paid to drive a van, to do a job. Today, those who work for Boeing, Raytheon, Weyerhaeuser, Exxon Mobil, BP, the Pentagon ... will always see themselves as employees, not murderers. They will always see themselves as working a job that needs to be done.

Those members of this culture who blindly go along without interrogating the culture's narratives, who identify with the pathology of this culture, will always see themselves as just other members of society. For these people, the murder of a planet feels like economics; it feels normal after having been pushed out of consciousness by careers, styles and fashions; it may not even feel like anything at all after being psychically numbed by pop radio, sitcoms, smart phones, video games ... But at the other end of all these glittery distractions is an unremitting array of violence, poverty, extinction, environmental degradation.

"I saw this right-wing bumper sticker the other day that read, 'You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers,' but it's not just guns: we're going to have to pry rigid claws off steering wheels, cans of hair spray, TV remote controls and two-liter bottles of Jolt Cola," cautioned Jensen. "Each of these individually and all of these collectively are more important to many people than are lampreys, salmon, spotted owls, sturgeons, tigers, our own lives. And that is a huge part of the problem. So of course we don't want to win. We'd lose our cable TV. But I want to win. With the world being killed, I want to win and will do whatever it takes to win."

When Adolph Eichmann stood before the Jerusalem District Court and was asked why he agreed to the task of deporting Jews to the ghettos and concentration camps, his response was, No one ever told me what I was doing was wrong. Today, 200 species have become extinct; another indigenous community will disappear from this planet forever; an entire forest will be removed; and millions of human lives will be forced to endure the agonies of famine, war, disease, thirst, the loss of their land, their community, their way of life. Not enough people have stepped forward to say that what this culture is doing to the planet is wrong.

Well, here it is folks: What this culture is doing to our very selves, what it's doing to the planet, is wrong. So damn wrong. And the sooner we replace this economy, the sooner we can dissolve these toxic illusions and their formative narratives. Only then, can we begin to live the free lives we were born to live and win the fight.


A great article...

Is it not time for all of us to say what we are doing to the planet is wrong??? !!! ... and do what we can to change it...

"If your experience is that your food comes from a land base and that your water comes from a stream, well, then you will defend to the death that land base and that stream."  - that is my experience and I will try to defend it my death... 


The Real Reason Big Macs Are Cheaper Than More Nutritious Alternatives | Food | AlterNet

July 15, 2011

No, we can't blame this on Whole Foods. Healthy food is not inherently more expensive -- it all comes down to government subsidies.

This story first appeared on Salon.com.

The easiest way to explain Gallup's discovery that millions of Americans are eating fewer fruits and vegetables than they ate last year is to simply crack a snarky joke about Whole Foods really being "Whole Paycheck." Rooted in the old limousine liberal iconography, the quip conjures the notion that only Birkenstock-wearing trust-funders can afford to eat right in tough times.

It seems a tidy explanation for a disturbing trend, implying that healthy food is inherently more expensive, and thus can only be for wealthy Endive Elitists when the economy falters. But if the talking point's carefully crafted mix of faux populism and oversimplification seems a bit facile -- if the glib explanation seems almost too perfectly sculpted for your local right-wing radio blowhard -- that's because it dishonestly omits the most important part of the story. The part about how healthy food could easily be more affordable for everyone right now, if not for those ultimate elitists: agribusiness CEOs, their lobbyists and the politicians they own.

As with most issues in this new Gilded Age, the tale of the American diet is a story of the worst form of corporatism -- the kind whereby the government uses public monies to protect private profit.

In this chapter of that larger tragicomedy, lawmakers whose campaigns are underwritten by agribusinesses have used billions of taxpayer dollars to subsidize those agribusinesses' specific commodities (corn, soybeans, wheat, etc.) that are the key ingredients of unhealthy food. Not surprisingly, the subsidies have manufactured a price inequality that helps junk food undersell nutritious-but-unsubsidized foodstuffs like fruits and vegetables. The end result is that recession-battered consumers are increasingly forced by economic circumstance to "choose" the lower-priced junk food that their taxes support.

Corn -- which is processed into the junk-food staple corn syrup and which feeds the livestock that produce meat -- exemplifies the scheme.

"Over the past decade, the federal government has poured more than $50 billion into the corn industry, keeping prices for the crop ... artificially low," reports Time magazine. "That's why McDonald's can sell you a Big Mac, fries and a Coke for around $5 -- a bargain."

Yes, it is a bargain, but one created by deliberate government policy that serves the corn industry titans, not by any genetic advantage that makes corn derivatives automatically more affordable for the budget-strapped commoner.

The aggregate effect of such market manipulation across the agriculture industry, notes Time, is "that a dollar [can] buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda but just 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit."

So while it may be amusing to use Americans' worsening recession-era diet as another excuse to promote cultural stereotypes, the nutrition crisis costing us billions in unnecessary healthcare costs is more about public policy and powerful special interests than it is about epicurean snobs and affluent tastes. Indeed, this is a problem not of individual proclivities or of agricultural biology that supposedly makes nutrition naturally unaffordable -- it is a problem of rigged economics and corrupt policymaking.

Solving the crisis, then, requires everything from recalibrating our subsidies to halting the low-income school lunch program's support for the pizza and French fry lobby (yes, they have a powerful lobby). It requires, in other words, a new level of maturity, a better appreciation for the nuanced politics of food and a commitment to changing those politics for the future.

Impossible? Hardly. A country that can engineer the seemingly unattainable economics of a $5 McDonald's feast certainly has the capacity to produce a healthy meal for the same price. It's just a matter of will -- or won't.

© 2011 Salon.com

David Sirota is a best-selling author whose new book "Back to Our Future" is now available. He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and is a contributing writer at Salon.com. E-mail him at ds@davidsirota.com, follow him on Twitter @davidsirota or visit his website at www.davidsirota.com.

David Sirota pinpoints the problem: The part about how healthy food could easily be more affordable for everyone right now, if not for those ultimate elitists: agribusiness CEOs, their lobbyists and the politicians they own...  Monte

Jul 15, 2011

‪Rabbit Bartholomew on BioChar‬‏

3 time world champion surfer and environmental ambassador Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew is on dry land to educate the general public about 'BioChar' , the new buzz word amongst scientists, researchers, farmers and environmentalists. Since his retirement as president of the ASP "Bugs" has been busy scouring the world for smarter, sophisticated, solutions to everyday environmental problems and it has given him great pleasure to learn what positive impact BioChar will have on the planet we call home. Rabbit now leads the pack as CEO of EcoReps Pty Ltd a dynamic environmental sustainability company focused on emerging technologies in the ever expanding green sector.

Nice video explanation of Biochar properties... Monte

Is Cutting Benefits For Public Workers Actually Wage Theft? Reframing the Right's Attacks On Unions | | AlterNet

I am sick of funding tax cuts for rich and being ripped off by Wall Street and the bankers. STOP STEALING FROM OUR PENSIONS!!! ... Monte

July 13, 2011

"Wage theft" has been a helpful frame for labor unions to fight for their workers' rights. Could it be applied to attacks on public workers' pensions--or Social Security?

Compensation for work performed is not guaranteed in the United States, even with significant worker protections in place, thanks to the actions of unscrupulous employers. Employers may withhold overtime pay owed, pay less than minimum wage, renege on benefits contracts, and engage in other activities that labor activists label as wage theft; in all of these cases, an employee works as agreed, and does not receive payment or other forms of compensation in return.

"Wage theft" sounds more aggressive, and flashy, than terms like "withholding compensation," which is exactly why organizers started popularizing the term in pushes like the Retail Action Project's attempt to recover unpaid overtime for workers at clothing retailer Mystique and advocacy work on behalf of vulnerable immigrant laborers.

The wage theft meme spearheaded by private sector unions represents a significant rhetorical victory on the part of the left to capture public attention. Paired with hard action in the form of pushes for regulatory compliance with overtime, minimum wage and other laws pertaining to employee compensation, it has also created positive changes for workers. Justin Molito, an organizer with the Writer's Guild of America East (WGAE), a private sector union that has worked extensively on this issue, says “It's important to call it what it is, which is wage theft. When somebody robs a bank, they call it theft.”

There are direct tie-ins with this meme and the current pensions crisis for beseiged public employees, if union organizers, workers and the public are ready to go there. By reframing the debate on the pensions crisis to emphasize that proposals to cut pensions amount to wage theft, the tone of the debate changes, as does the approach to resolving the situation.

The attack on public employees in the United States ramped into high gear in Wisconsin earlier this year, but the underpinnings were laid in an endless series of features, mainly in the conservative media, fingering public employees for everything that is wrong with America. Public employees have been public enemy number one for well over a decade, as ample newspaper archives attest.

Many of these stories twisted facts or outright lied but it didn't matter; readers still absorbed and repeated the erroneous information, and conservatives rode the rising ride of public sentiment against public employees all the way through a series of unionbusting attempts across the nation. The protest upsurge in Wisconsin notwithstanding, popular sentiments repeat myths about public employees living high on the fat of the land, sucking up tax dollars and taking advantage of unreasonably generous benefits like paid vacation time and pensions.

The public sector is one of the few places where such benefits are still routine. Rather than expressing outrage about the fact that people like teachers, firefighters and social workers receive such profligate benefits as time off from work, members of the general public should be asking why benefits in the private sector are dwindling (with the exception of those at a few large corporations).

The growing pensions crisis highlights the role of anti-public employee rhetoric in public sentiment and resulting policy. In numerous states, pension funds are running dangerously low, with some set to run out as soon as 2017. The pensions crisis has dominated the news in states like California, where the media is eager to blame public employees, and their unions, for the problem; if only those pesky public employees would take their licks with the rest of us, the state could be solvent!

The pensions crisis was created by the states, which clearly anticipated their looming unfunded liabilities and failed to act, perhaps under the assumption that by the time the crisis became a serious problem, the public could be successfully turned against public employees, and wouldn't protest proposals to cut pensions and increase employee contributions to pension funds. The recent decision on the part of the US Postal Service to stop paying into its pension fund to meet budget shortfalls was received with hardly a ripple, for instance. The federal government made the problem even worse by borrowing against its pension funds, and many of the states did the same, but this is rarely reported in scaremongering stories about how public employee pensions are driving the nation into insolvency.

Federal pensions are retirement benefits provided to public employees as part of the terms of employment. They are funded jointly through government and employee contributions, which means that, yes, public employees are paying into pension funds and receive benefits statements informing them about the kinds of benefits they can expect during retirement. Public employees work with the expectation that they will receive retirement benefits, and plan accordingly. Manydon't receive Social Security benefits and rely on their pensions as a source of retirement income.

Living on a federal pension is far from glamorous. In California, California Public Employees Retirement System members receive, on average, 50 percent or less of their peak pay in retirement. Former public employees are not out buying yachts and luxury homes on their benefits payments. In two-income households where one employee was in the private sector with no retirement benefits and the other was a public employee, the pension may barely stretch to cover the needs of both partners.

The media is fond of reporting and exaggerating exceptions like unusually high retirement pensions for the very small minority of public employees who made substantial salaries during their time in government service and sometimes benefited from flukes in pension structure. These exceptions become the rule in the eyes of the public, who assume that the retired mail carrier down the street must be hiding a fortune in the bank.

The media frames public employees as greedy, selfish monsters more interested in raking in money than in supporting America. Some news reports include outright lies that bely basic facts, like that public employees actually make less than private sector workers. The media sets up an oppositional relationship between average citizens and federal workers and encourages members of the general public to join the war on public employees.

This has set the stage for a series of proposals to address the pensions crisis, including suggestions to increase employee contributions as well as cut pension benefits, a practice that turns out to be entirely legal. States are already cutting pension payments and proposals for more cuts to pensions and benefits are springing up like mushrooms after a spring rain.

Discussions about benefits cuts do not label them as what they really are: Wage theft. Public employees pay contributions out of their salaries into pension funds. They earned that money, they have documentation to prove they earned it, and their employers took it from them as part of the terms of an employment agreement that included pension benefits at retirement. When that money is not made available at the time of retirement, it is not simply a betrayal of a "promise." It is an active renege on a contractual agreement, and it is an example of wage theft.

What appears to be working for the private sector in terms of organizing to combat wage theft may not be as effective for public employee unions, however. Tim Tharp, also with WGAE, discussed the heavy reliance on traditional organizing techniques as part of the wage theft campaign, particularly reliance on regulatory frameworks to enforce worker rights. Pension cuts are technically legal, which makes them much harder to fight.

One option for public sector unions, says Tharp, may be turning to lawyers prepared to drill down through regulations and union contracts to determine whether it's possible to take the matter to court, an option that such unions are no doubt considering. That would be much easier to do with public support, which requires changing the way members of the public think about public sector unions, pensions, and benefits.

Media reporting on the pensions crisis discusses “broken promises” to public employees, but a pension is not a promise, it is a legal obligation. Failing to accurately define public employee pensions, and what cuts really mean, results in a lack of understanding among the general public about what pensions are and how they work. This creates a situation where sentiment against public employees generates support, or at least acceptance, of pension cuts, because people do not understand what is actually happening. Wage theft is something that has the potential to affect all employees, and tolerating it creates a slippery slope and makes it that much easier for the next step. Social Security cuts, for example, are also on the table.

Attacks on public employees are centered on the unions that advocate for them. Unionbusting measures are in the works in a number of states, at a time when public employees need unions more than ever. Union organizing is the only way to effectively combat issues like systemic pension cuts, because public employees do not have enough clout on their own to challenge losses to their benefits. Members of the public teeming with outrage as a result of poor media reporting might not see much to worry about here, but they should be concerned about what it means for them, even if they don't care about public employees.

Assaults on public employee unions are dangerous for all workers. These unions are a keystone of the labor movement and play a critical role in fighting for worker protections. The same protections accorded to public employees were once available to many more employees, before anti-union sentiment weakened private sector unions and made it more difficult for them to advocate for their members, and companies took advantage of the lack of union protections for other workers to flagrantly violate the law. The general public should be concerned about the implications for all workers, but the media narrative has effectively assured members of the public that they have nothing to worry about with the slew of attacks on public employees.

Justin Molito points out that the net effect of pension cuts is that “state workers are subsidizing corporate tax breaks...that's the most sinister part about it.” As states run out of money because they fail to collect corporate taxes, they turn to their own employees to make up the shortfall. Raids on state employee pension funds are not going to be the end of the line when it comes to desperate attempts to address looming budget problems.

Jul 14, 2011

The Fall of the House of Murdoch | Truthout

Wednesday 13 July 2011
by: Jonathan Schell, Project Syndicate | Op-Ed

Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. (Photo: World Economic Forum)

New York - During the four decades since the Watergate affair engulfed US President Richard Nixon, politicians have repeatedly ignored the scandal’s main lesson: the cover-up is worse than the crime. Like Nixon, they have paid a higher price for concealing their misdeeds than they would have for the misdeeds alone.

Now, for once, comes a scandal that breaks that rule: the United Kingdom’s phone-hacking affair, which has shaken British politics to its foundations. Over the past decade, the tabloid newspaper The News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, targeted 4,000 people’s voicemail. The list includes not only royalty, celebrities, and other VIPs, but also the families of servicemen killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and those of victims of the July 2005 terrorist attack in London.

It all unraveled when The Guardian reported that the tabloid had hacked into the voicemail of missing 13-year-old Milly Dowler, apparently in the hope of obtaining some private expressions of family members’ grief or desperation that it could splash on its front page. When the girl’s murdered body was found six months later, the family and the police thought she might still be alive, because The News of the World’s operatives were deleting messages when her phone’s mailbox became full. (According to Scotland Yard, Murdoch hacks reportedly bribed mid-level police officers to supply information as well.)

In the extensive annals of eavesdropping, all of this is something new. Not even Stalin wiretapped the dead.

A cover-up ensued. James Murdoch, Rupert’s son and Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation’s European and Asian operations, authorized a secret payment of £1 million ($1.6 million) to buy the silence of hacking victims. Millions of in-house emails reportedly have been destroyed. Still, it seems safe to say that the peculiarly repellant inhumanity of the original deeds will remain more shocking than the details of this or any other cover-up.

Even so, the political consequences of the phone-hacking scandal will depend on far more than the outcome of the official investigations now underway in Britain. Above all, the scandal’s impact will depend on how governments and citizens assess what News Corporation really is.

The Murdochs call News Corporation a journalistic enterprise. In fact, it is, first, an entertainment company, with the bulk of its revenue coming from its film and television holdings. Second, and more importantly, it is a propaganda machine for right-wing causes and political figures.

This is News Corporation’s main face in the US, in the form of Fox News, whose hallmark has been relentless propagation of right-wing ideology. Whereas political propaganda had once been the domain of governments and political parties, Fox News is formally independent of both – though it overwhelmingly serves the interests of America’s Republican Party.

In Britain, News Corporation has been creating a sort of state unto itself by corrupting the police, assuming police powers of surveillance, and intimidating politicians into looking the other way. In the US, it has behaved similarly, using corporate media power to breathe life into a stand-alone political organization, the Tea Party.

All of this is far removed from what a journalistic organization is supposed to do. Journalism’s essential role in a democracy is to enable people to fulfill their roles as citizens by providing information about government, other powerful institutions, civil movements, international events, and so on. But News Corporation replaces such journalism with titillation and gossip, as it did when it took over the 168-year-old News of the World and turned it into a tabloid in 1984, and with partisan campaigns, as it did when it created Fox News in 1996.

Not surprisingly, at Fox News, as at many other News Corporation outlets, editorial independence is sacrificed to iron-fisted centralized control. News and commentary are mingled in an uninterrupted stream of political campaigning. Ideology trumps factuality. And major Republican figures, including possible contenders for the party’s presidential nomination, are hired as “commentators.” Indeed, its specific genius has been to turn propaganda into a popular and financial success.

Given The News of the World’s profitability, no one should be surprised if the Murdochs have been replicating their sunken British flagship’s reprehensible behavior elsewhere. But, whatever else is revealed, the UK phone-hacking scandal is of a piece with the Murdochs’ transformation of news into propaganda: both reflect an assault on democracy’s essential walls of separation between media, the state, and political parties. The Murdochs are fusing these entities into a single unaccountable power that, as we see in Britain today, lacks any restraint or scruple.

That effort should compel us to confront an uncomfortable reality underlying both the British phone-hacking scandal, with its penumbra of appalling cruelty and wanton corruption, and Fox News, America’s most popular news channel: too many people want what the News Corporation has been offering. And what too many people want can be dangerous to a civilized, law-based society.

To glimpse just how dangerous, consider Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s MediaSet conglomerate has seduced broad swathes of the electorate since the 1980’s with a Murdoch-like combination of insipid variety shows and partisan political theater. When Italy’s postwar party system collapsed in the early 1990’s, Berlusconi was able to establish his own political party, win power, and, over the course of three governments, bend laws and government institutions to serve his business and personal interests.

The News Corporation seems determined to take Britain and the US down a similar path. But now, at least in Britain, the political class is in revolt. Prime Minister David Cameron – who previously cultivated close ties with News Corporation leaders, even employing as his press secretary The News of the World’s former editor, who was recently arrested for his role in the scandal – called the phone hacking “disgusting.” Meanwhile, Labour leaders, who had also sought the Murdochs’ favor, have vowed to block News Corporation’s bid for full ownership of Britain’s largest pay-television broadcaster. Whether the rebellion will jump across the Atlantic remains to be seen.

Read more from Jonathan Schell.

FOX on the run, the truth is coming out, "the beginning of the end"!!! ... Monte

Jul 12, 2011

Reflections from the seat of a tractor

An Old Farmer's Advice
  • “Your fences need to be horse-high, pig-tight and bull-strong.” 
  • “Keep skunks and bankers at a distance.” 
  • “Life is simpler when you plow around the stump.” 
  • “A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.”
  • “Words that soak into your ears are whispered…....not yelled.” 
  • “Meanness don't just happen overnight.” 
  • “Forgive your enemies; it messes up their heads.” 
  • “Do not corner something that you know is meaner than you.” 
  • “It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge.” 
  • “You cannot unsay a cruel word.” 
  • “Every path has a few puddles.” 
  • “When you wallow with pigs, expect to get dirty.” 
  • “The best sermons are lived, not preached.”
  • “Most of the stuff people worry about, ain't never gonna happen anyway.” 
  • “Don't judge folks by their relatives. 
  • “Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.” 
  • “Live a good and honorable life, then when you get older and think back, you'll enjoy it a second time.” 
  • “Don 't interfere with somethin' that ain't bothering you none.” 
  • “Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.” 
  • “If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop diggin'.” 
  • “Sometimes you get, and sometimes you get got. 
  • “The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with, watches you from the mirror every mornin'.” 
  • “Always drink upstream from the herd.” 
  • “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lotta that comes from bad judgment.” 
  • “Lettin' the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier than puttin' it back in.” 
  • “If you get to thinkin' you're a person of some influence, try orderin' somebody else's dog around.” 
  • “Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, ...
  • “Don't pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he'll just kill you.”
Thanks to Jim Reinsager for these wise reflections ...!!! Monte

Jul 11, 2011

Phone-hacking scandal: is this the tipping point for Murdoch's empire? | Media | The Observer

For decades the US mogul has held sway over British media and political life – but last week all that seemed to change

Jamie Doward, Toby Helm, James Robinson, Richard Wachman, Vanessa Thorpe and Paul Harris in New York
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 9 July 2011 23.11 BST

Rupert Murdoch in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Thursday – the day the News of the World was axed. Photograph: Julie Jacobson/AP

Shortly before nine o'clock on a Saturday evening last month an elderly man wearing a woollen jumper and slacks escorted a flame-haired woman to the back of a dining room in a Cotswolds pub. The sun was emerging after a day of rain and the jolly mood in the Oxfordshire gastropub was shared by the couple. Laughing, they settled side by side behind a stripped pine table and examined their menus.

Fellow diners scrutinising the couple attentively could have been forgiven for mistaking them for father and daughter, such was their age gap and the way they seemed to be extremely comfortable in each other's company. Whatever their relationship, clearly they were close. At one stage the woman could be seen wiping fluff off her companion's jumper.

They were still at their table, chatting casually to locals, two hours later. If they had pressing matters on their minds, they did not betray them. Only the chauffeur-driven car waiting outside the honey-stoned pub might have given a clue that they were a little out of the ordinary.

That Rupert Murdoch had chosen to spend a rare evening in the UK outside London with Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of his News International UK subsidiary, says much about the relationship between the two.

While many of their friends and colleagues, including Brooks's racehorse-training husband, Charlie, were attending George Osborne's 40th birthday party, Murdoch had chosen to spend his evening with his most loyal lieutenant, who lives close to the Kingham Plough pub, near Chipping Norton. Murdoch, who can expect presidents and prime ministers to fly all the way round the world to court him, was dropping in on his employee. The mountain was coming to Muhammad.

Although, only two days earlier, Brooks had been at Murdoch's annual summer party in London, where she had rubbed shoulders with David Cameron and the Labour leader Ed Miliband, the two would still have had much to talk about.

That party was notable for the fact that several Tory ministers, including culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, had opted not to attend, concerned about being seen to be too close to Murdoch at a time when his holding company, News Corp, was seeking a full takeover of satellite broadcaster BSkyB, a deal that rival media companies warned would cripple competition.

The putative takeover was framed by the backdrop of never-ending allegations of phone hacking at Murdoch's News of the World newspaper, which had given the media mogul's enemies plenty of ammunition to use against his BSkyB bid. How could the government endorse such a deal when one of the jewels in the crown of the Murdoch empire had been engaged in such criminality, critics asked. How could Brooks apparently have not known what was going on?

The same questions were repeated vociferously last week as evidence emerged that the phone of murdered teenager Milly Dowler had been hacked, as well as those belonging to the families of the 7/7 victims.

But Murdoch would not give his critics what they wanted: Brooks's head. For a man often labelled ruthless, it was an extraordinary defence of an employee. It was also costly. News Corp's share price dropped as analysts warned the Sky deal might be delayed.

The saga was spiralling out of control, threatening not only the Sky deal but also long-term damage to Murdoch's US interests such as Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. According to one insider, the crisis has dismayed Prince Alwaleed bin Talal whose Saudi-based Kingdom Holdings sovereign fund owns 7% of News Corp.

In a belated attempt to show how seriously it was taking the allegations, News Corp revealed that Brooks has been replaced as the head of a team investigating the phone hacking. Instead, two experienced lawyers, Joel Klein and Viet Dinh, who both sit on News Corp's board in New York, will lead the inquiry.

But it was not nearly enough. Murdoch, who was attending a conference of media bigwigs in Sun Valley, Idaho, found himself surrounded by reporters last Thursday, baying for answers. Flanked by his wife, Wendi, the ageing mogul cut a diminished figure, battling through the throng and belligerently saying he had nothing to add to a statement he made earlier in the week.

With shareholders and politicians vying to express their fury, it was left to Murdoch's son, James, News Corp's chief operating officer, to deliver the coup de grâce.

But, astonishingly, it was not to be Brooks's head on a plate. Instead it was the newspaper she edited between 2000 and 2003. The News of the World, Britain's bestselling Sunday paper, was to be axed after 168 years, Murdoch Junior revealed in an email sent to all News International staff. A fleeting visit from Brooks to the paper's newsroom, in which – soft-voiced, dry-eyed and rambling – she spoke of her affection for the paper, confirmed its demise to the few shell-shocked staff who were there to hear her.

As a damage limitation exercise, it was as brutal as it was unprecedented. But in sacrificing its massively profitable Sunday title, the Murdoch empire has triggered more questions than answers. Questions that will now dismantle what became an unholy alliance of politics, press and police.

Talk to former News of the World journalists and ask where it all went wrong and they are likely to start with Phil Hall. The combative hack, who now runs his own PR company, started his career on the Dagenham Post and became the News of the Worldeditor in 1995. Hall inherited a paper with a circulation above four million that enjoyed a formidable reputation as a gutsy breaker of big stories. Some were famously salacious, but many involved exposés of the great and the not-so-good, big league criminals, dodgy politicians and corrupt officials.

"It was a proper paper 20 years ago," one former employee told the Observer. "We turned over drug dealers, immigration rackets, things like that. Really good, hard-hitting stories. It also made people laugh; there was lots of fun stuff in it. Sure, there was a touch of spin to it all, but the stories were genuine. We were not saints. We bent things, but it was only to get the guys who deserved to be got."

Part of the paper's success lay in the near symbiotic relationship it enjoyed with the police, the two institutions swapping tip-offs and working together on major stories that ensured a win-win for all involved: the cops got the glory; the paper the headline.

But after Hall came in things went in a different direction. Journalists were under increasing pressure to bring in stories. "The focus became celebrity and then all the other papers followed and so it became even more competitive," the former hack said.

Andy Coulson, who took over as editor in 2003, was cut from the same cloth. The man who would go on to become Cameron's spin doctor, and was arrested on Friday in relation to allegations of phone hacking and corruption, appeared to be a firm believer in the macho politics of the newsroom. A 2008 industrial tribunal found he had presided over a culture of bullying at the paper that forced one his reporters to go on long-term sick leave because of stress-related depression.

Coulson had cut his teeth on the Sun's Bizarre column, another high-octane environment. "People were having nervous breakdowns left, right and centre," recalls one former employee. "There were people crying in the toilets. Every day you put your body on the line."

Little changed when Coulson arrived at the News of the World. "Everyone felt that pressure from the executives down," said one News International employee. "Conference could be incredibly tense sometimes and maybe that pushed some people to do stupid things, but it was never overt. It was never something that people talked about it. If it was happening, and I suppose it clearly was, then people were going off to do it somewhere on their own. Andy was a really good editor and wanted good stories. He was passionate. It was tough."

Some of the staff may have felt uncomfortable, but the culture reaped dividends with the News of the World bringing in scoop after scoop that left rivals trailing in its wake well into the new millennium, when Brooks took over, editing the paper for three years before moving to the Sun.

Even if, in common with other papers, its circulation was declining, the sensational stories ensured about 7.5 million people continued to read the paper, of whom 2.7 million were the wealthy ABC1s beloved of advertisers. The News of the World was a cash cow for Murdoch, who used its profits to help shore up his other newspaper interests such as the Times and the Sunday Times, which gave him huge political leverage.

What has now become clear is that the provenance of a large number of those stories can be traced to private investigators employed by News International, several on six-figure contracts.

At the outset, in the 1980s, much of their work – such as obtaining ex-directory numbers or helping find addresses – was relatively routine. Sometimes it involved covert surveillance, even though it was not always for reasons that could be justified in the public interest. An outside agency was employed to establish that Freddie Mercury had HIV. One former journalist told how the bar belonging to the brother of a television personality was bugged. "Half the dressing rooms on [the television soap] Eldorado were also done," he said.

But the arrival of the mobile phone added a new dimension. "It used to be much easier to listen to live phone calls when it was the old analogue cell system," one former journalist said. "In the early 1990s there used to be an advert in the Exchange and Martfrom a mobile shop in Bridgend which offered for sale an old Motorola carphone-type phone which had been doctored with a serial cable that could be connected to your PC. With the software provided you could use it as a live scanner showing people's numbers and listen in to calls via the PC."

Soon journalists across Fleet Street were well versed in how to listen in to the new phones and to access their voicemails. "It became more of a question of journalists listening in to other journalists' phones from rival papers," the ex-journalist said. "One journalist would deliberately leave false messages to throw people off the track of where he was and what he was doing."

Some private detectives on contract to the paper were like Glenn Mulcaire, the former footballer at the centre of the hacking scandal and a newcomer to Fleet Street. "Working for the News of the World was never easy," Mulcaire said last week. "There was relentless pressure. There was a constant demand for results. I knew what we did pushed the limits ethically, but at the time, I didn't understand that I had broken the law."

Many others were like Sid Fillery, a former member of Scotland Yard's flying squad, who worked for a private detective firm, Southern Investigations, run by his friend Jonathan Rees. The two men were accused of being involved in the unsolved murder of Rees's business partner, Daniel Morgan, but walked free after the case against them collapsed earlier this year, with the police accused of misconduct by the judge.

It is this type of complicated relationship between the police, the papers and private investigators that is likely to yield further scandal as the three sides turn on each other.

Fillery, who now runs a pub in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, confirmed to the Observer that the agency had worked with the News of the World on a string of legitimate stories while he was in the Met. But, in a development that promises to throw more fuel on the fire, he said he intends to sue his former force. A spokesman for his solicitors, Pannone, said: "We can confirm that a partner at the firm is advising Mr Fillery on an action against the Metropolitan police for malicious prosecution."

The Met, meanwhile, is scouring all the evidence it has accumulated on Rees to establish if his firm was also involved in carrying out illegal activities on behalf of newspapers. There are said to be at least 11,000 pages of material relating to Rees in the Met's possession, none of which has yet been disclosed and some of which is thought to relate to key public figures who so far have been mentioned only on the periphery of the scandal.

Significantly, while it is confirmed that Rees was paid by the News of the World, theObserver understands other newspaper groups used his services far more extensively.

The names of other investigation agencies are likely to emerge soon as Operation Weeting, the Met's investigation into phone hacking, continues. "There were lots of other agencies working for the papers; I know of at least three more," one private investigator said.

So far the arrests have been confined to reporters and editors, but how did the investigators obtain the mobile phone numbers to hack into in the first place? One obvious line of inquiry is the illegal accessing of the police national computer, suggesting corrupt officers were involved. The paper has already confirmed that several Met officers were paid for information.

But there will be others outside the force. "I should imagine there are some ex-BT engineers that have done extremely well over the years performing dark arts via third parties," said one former News of the World employee.

A News International insider said that claims an estimated 4,000 phones may have been targeted could tell only part of the story. There are suggestions that the paper was interested in as many as 80,000 phone numbers over the past decade. How many were hacked or bugged is a subject for the police investigation, but by the mid-1990s it appears hacking had become endemic and no one was considered out of bounds. From the families of 7/7 victims to Milly Dowler, all were targets. John Cooper, a barrister who represents the families of soldiers killed in the Nimrod disaster in Afghanistan and the RAF Hercules explosion in Iraq, as well as those who died at Deepcut barracks, confirmed on Saturday night that his clients were concerned that they may have been the victims of telephone hacking.

Even the nearly dead were apparently fair game. In the winter of 2004, when his most famous client, George Best, was dying of liver failure, agent Phil Hughes could not understand how the press appeared to be outside the right hospitals at the right time.

"Somehow the News of the World always seemed to understand who was visiting and would always have photographers there," said Gerald Shamash, Hughes's solicitor, who has asked the Met to hand over any information it has relating to his client.

"Phil is convinced his phone was substantively hacked by the News of the World. The situation became very difficult, particularly in the latter months of George's life. It was very upsetting for both of them."

As the story switched last week from hacked celebrities to vulnerable members of the public, the mood noticeably shifted. In the City, BSkyB's shares took a pounding as Ofcom, the media regulator, said it would consider whether News Corporation would make a "fit and proper" owner of BSkyB. By the end of the week the shares were down nearly 12%, wiping £1.8bn off BSkyB's market value as hedge funds bet the deal would be bogged down for months to come.

The fit and proper person test applies to any owner of a TV station in the UK. The regulator indicated it would invoke the test only if a director of BSkyB were to be charged with criminal offences, such as phone hacking.

But other legal concerns are brewing. There is speculation that illegal acts by company executives in London could potentially be prosecuted in America under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act which is aimed at stopping US firms from engaging in bribery abroad.

At the same time, the idea has been floated that News of the World journalists, or those working at News Corp organisations in the US, might have broken the law in pursuit of stories across the Atlantic. The US has extremely strict laws on phone hacking and many ambitious prosecutors might like to make a name for themselves by pursuing such a case.

In the face of massive public opprobrium and a City backlash, James Murdoch's decision to kill off the title was portrayed as a kneejerk reaction, an emergency amputation to keep the News International patient alive. But this may not be true. One well-placed source has suggested Murdoch has had a team working on plans to replace the News of the World with a Sunday Sun for at least three months. This belief is shared by former journalists on the paper. "What happened on Thursday was a cynical exercise to save Murdoch money, sack staff and turn the Sun into a seven-day operation," said one. "Thirty years ago this would have been a trade union issue, but Murdoch did for that."

Analysts were quick to pronounce that closing the News of the World was a small price for Murdoch to pay. True, the paper is highly profitable, making an estimated £12m of profit in 2010 and generating almost £50m in advertising revenue. But Sky, in which News Corp owns a 39% stake, is forecast to make more than £1bn profit in 2011-12.

On Wall Street, Richard Greenfield of US broker BTIG said Murdoch's other media interests in cable television – Fox News and his numerous other operations – were far more valuable in the eyes of investors than print.

Greenfield spoke for his fellow analysts when he said: "Many of us believe newspapers are a sunset industry and wouldn't give a damn if Murdoch decided to get rid of them."

Murdoch's audacious overnight transfer of his newspapers to Wapping, east London, in 1986 proved he hated the trade unions, but what he likes is more difficult to pinpoint. In an interview with the Village Voice newspaper in 1976, seven years after he bought theNews of the World, he gave a rare insight into his psychology. He painted himself as an outsider, someone who rubbed up against the grain.

"I just wasn't prepared to join the system," he said. "Maybe I just have an inferiority complex about being an Australian … you join the old school-tie system and you're going to be dragged into the so-called social establishment somehow. I never was."

His status as an outsider was confirmed shortly after he acquired the News of the Worldwhen it published the diaries of Christine Keeler at a time the shamed minister, John Profumo, was trying to put the scandal behind him. However, it was Murdoch's purchase of the Times, waved through by Margaret Thatcher in 1981, and the paper's subsequent move to Wapping that saw him become a member of the establishment he professed to loathe.

Murdoch and Thatcher were ideological soulmates who espoused free markets, loathed Europe and were impatient to dismantle the UK's creaking old institutions. For once, Murdoch seemed to have genuine affection for a politician, usually seeing them as useful allies in his quest to expand his interests.

This political pragmatism plays to Murdoch's advantage, allowing him to back winners – and oppose losers. It was only in 1992, when John Major won a surprise election victory over Neil Kinnock's Labour party, that the full extent of Murdoch's influence became evident. Kinnock had looked on course for victory but the Murdoch press led a strident campaign against him in the final days.

On the morning of election day the Sun front-page requested that, "If Kinnock wins today will the last person to leave Britain please turn out the lights". As he licked his wounds amid the wreckage of a fourth consecutive general election defeat for Labour, Kinnock blamed the media and the Murdoch stable in particular for turning the tide against him. "It's The Sun Wot Won It" ran the paper's triumphant headline.

From that moment, Labour's modernisers – Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Gordon Brown, Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell – knew that if the party was to break the Tory stranglehold on power there no more important task than to get Murdoch and his papers onside.

Lance Price, a journalist and ex-spin doctor who worked at No 10 as Campbell's deputy, recounts how Blair and Campbell took to heart the advice of the Australian prime minister, Paul Keating, on how to deal with Murdoch.

"He's a big bad bastard and the only way you can deal with him is to make sure he thinks you can be a big bad bastard too," he said. "You can do deals with him, without ever saying a deal is done. But the only thing he cares about is his business and the only language he respects is strength."

Throughout his years in power, Blair had regular secret meetings with Murdoch, many abroad, and was in regular telephone contact. Price has gone as far as to claim that Murdoch "seemed like the 24th member of the cabinet".

Blair insisted no record was ever kept of the meetings or calls, so they were totally deniable. Cherie Blair has said that her husband's decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003 was a "close call". So it was – and there is evidence that the final decision was taken only after Murdoch's encouragement was received and his blessing given. Blair talked to the media tycoon three times on the telephone in the 10 days before the US-led invasion. Details obtained under freedom of information show Blair called Murdoch on 11 March, 13 March and 19 March 2003. British and US troops began the invasion on 20 March, with the Times and Sun voicing total support.

The Murdoch penetration into the heart of political life has accelerated under Cameron. His links to the Murdoch empire are arguably even closer than those of Blair or Gordon Brown, whose wife, Sarah, helped to arrange Brooks's 40th birthday party.

The contact between the Tory leader and the likes of Michael Gove, the education secretary and an ex-Times journalist, are not merely professional but also social. They mix in the Oxfordshire political and media set. Cameron, who has been a guest at Brooks's Cotswolds home, made his own visit to see Murdoch in August 2008 on his yacht off the coast of Greece.

But after last week's momentous events some are questioning whether the umbilical cord between Murdoch and Britain's politicians has been snapped. Some commentators wonder whether, in an era of declining sales, the hegemony of the press, and in particular that of Murdoch, has been overstated. The rise of new media is allowing politicians to convey their message without needing newspapers as an intermediary. Advertisers are shifting their spending from conventional media brands to social networking sites.

MPs, who last year were accused by Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes of being "too scared" of Murdoch's News International to testify in court that their phones had been hacked, are lining up to denounce the mogul. "We are in a totally new world now," said one shadow minister. "This is unbelievable. The Murdoch empire, in a matter of hours, has gone from being one which politicians wanted to do everything they could to please, to one they were desperate to disown and condemn. Murdoch has turned from asset to liability."

The replacement of the Press Complaints Commission with an independent regulator, after the watchdog was roundly criticised for failing to get to grips with the scandal, will further curtail the power of newspapers.

Two official inquiries, one into phone hacking, the other, with a wider remit into press ethics, promise uncomfortable headlines for Fleet Street over the coming months. So too does Scotland Yard's continuing investigation, the results of which will extend far beyond the News of the World and phone hacking to other newspapers and criminal acts like bugging and email interception.

Brooks herself hinted there was much more bad news to come, telling staff they would only understand why the plug had to be pulled on their newspaper a year down the line – presumably when criminal investigations have concluded.

Last Thursday evening, stunned News of the World staff made their way to the Cape bar in Wapping where they watched constant updates of their demise flash up on large television screens. It must have been a strange feeling. Used to making the news, theywere the news.

A ripple of applause from the table occupied by staff on the paper's Fabulous magazine greeted an announcement on Sky News that subeditors at the Sun had briefly walked off the job in protest at their sister paper's closure. Most of the anger was saved for a solitary figure – Brooks. Picture editors vied with subs and young reporters to say the same thing: they had been sold down the river by the Murdoch family to save her skin."There are young people with families," one said. "What are they going to do?"

Their mood is unlikely to be helped by the disclosure, presumably made by a disgruntled, recently unemployed member of staff, that Brooks regularly enjoys the services of a helicopter to fly her from Battersea heliport to her Cotswolds home. Her use of a private jet for a breakfast meeting in Venice is also the subject of discussion by Wapping veterans.

"This is about what happened under the old regime," volunteered a senior reporter gesturing to the pub's television screens. "Look at most of these people. They weren't even around when all this happened. Colin Myler [the paper's editor] might have his faults but he was trying to turn it round. We've all been sacrificed to save Rebekah Brooks."

Their anger raises an important question. How will reporters and editors of other Murdoch titles such as the Sun and the Times feel about continuing to work under Brooks, especially after Cameron in effect called on her to stand down, saying: "It's been reported that she had offered her resignation in this situation, and I would have taken it." His comment again threw into question Murdoch's increasingly quixotic desire to protect Brooks. As the seasoned media commentator Raymond Snoddy observed on the MediaTel Newsline Bulletin: "Her famed political access will be no more. You can hear the doors already slamming in her face."

But her weakened stature will mean little to the 250 staff on the paper now out of work at a time when none of its rivals is hiring.

In an email to staff yesterday, Myler said: "You have made enormous sacrifices for this company and I want you to know that your brilliant, creative talents have been the real foundation for making the News of the World the greatest newspaper in the world."

On Saturday night, as Murdoch prepared to fly in to Wapping to tackle a crisis that refuses to die, the News of the World was doubling its print run to five million, anticipating a surge in demand from readers keen to buy a piece of history. Whatever plans he has for its replacement, it was a curtain coming down. Not just for the News of the World but for all of Fleet Street.

FOX on the run, the truth is coming out, "the beginning of the end"!!! ... Monte

Why Rupert Murdoch Love$ God: World's Biggest Sleaze Mogul Also Getting Rich from Christian Moralizers | Belief | AlterNet

In addition to being a phone-hacking Darth Vader, Rupert Murdoch is also one of the leading religion publishers in the world.

July 10, 2011 |

Here's what you might not know about Rupert Murdoch: he’s one of the leading religion publishers in the world.

Maybe one day soon Murdoch will go to jail as might his son, as will several of their UK editors if many alleged and disgusting and illegal acts of pirate “journalism” are proved true, ranging from bribing the police to hacking the phones of bereaved family members of killed service men and women and child murder victims. Make no mistake: when it comes to the Murdoch media “empire” we're talking about the lowest form of “journalism” as detailed by the Guardian newspaper.

So are religious moralizers and others writing about religious and/or “moral” themes prepared to enrich the Murdoch “ media juggernaut” forever while Rupert Murdoch further corrupts UK, American and Australian politics while his companies trade in human misery for profit by hacking murder victim's phones, paying off the police, elevating smut to a national sport and even hacking the phones of killed soldiers’ families?

You bet!

Rupert Murdoch is one of America’s number one publishers of evangelical and other religious books, including the 33-million sellerPurpose Driven Life by mega pastor and anti-gay activist Rick Warren. Murdoch is also publisher of "progressive" Rob Bell’s Love Wins.

Rick Warren, Rob Bell and company helped Murdoch fund his tabloid-topless-women-on-page-3 empire, phone hacking of murdered teens and Fox News' spreading "birther" and "death panel" lies about the president. They helped Murdoch by enriching him. And these weren’t unknown authors just lucky to get published anywhere, they could have picked anybody to sell their books.

Do the religious authors making their fortunes off Murdoch wear gloves when they cash their royalty checks? Do they ever dare look in the mirror?

The authors publishing with Murdoch serve a religious market so fine-tuned to grandstanding hypocrisy and moralizing, that, for instance, my novels about growing up religious (Portofino, Zermatt and Saving Grandma) will never be sold in the thousands of CBA member (Christian Bookseller’s Association) bookstores because – horrors! – my books have profanity and sex in them!

But those same CBA stores gladly sell tens of millions of books -- annually -- published by Murdoch, a man with the moral rectitude of the herpes virus, a man who runs the companies that gave Glenn Beck a megaphone, that hacked a dead girl's phone, that lied about Iraq's involvement in 9/11, and thus contributed to the war-of-choice needless killing of almost 5000 American soldiers by George W Bush.

You see, Murdoch has bought into and now owns a huge chunk of American religion and is suckling from the profitable God-teat along with the likes of Rick Warren and Rob Bell et al.

Murdoch bought the venerable evangelical Zondervan publishing house. I knew the founding Zondervan family, a clan of strict Bible-believing Calvinists who’d have bathed for a week in the Jordan River to purify themselves if they’d ever even brushed up against Murdoch and his minions! Later generations sold out.

Murdoch also bought the all purpose all-religion-is-great-if-it-sells-something “religion” site “Beliefnet” and "Inspirio" - religious “gift production,” specialists making tawdry religion-junk of the one-more-pair-of-praying-hands made of pressed muck kind.

And Murdoch publishes Rob Bell and other so-called progressives evangelical “stars” as well as run of the mill evangelical right winger’s books though Harper One, the "religious" division of Harper Collins, another Murdoch company.

Murdoch knows something I found out way back in the 1970s and 80s, when I was still my founder-of-the-religious-right Dad’s sidekick and a right wing evangelical leader/shill myself: There’s gold in them-thar God hills! James Dobson alone once gave away 150,000 copies of one of my evangelical screeds that sold more than a million copies. (I describe why I got out of the evangelical netherworld – fled -- in my book Sex, mom and God.)

So here’s my question to Rob Bell of the God-loves-everybody school of touchy-feely theology and/or to the right wing "family values" crowd who worry about gay marriage between responsible loving adults while they perform financial fellatio on the mightiest and most depraved/pagan media baron to ever walk the earth:

What serious, let alone decent religiously conscious person – left or right, conservative or liberal -- would knowingly work to enrich this dreadful man who will go down in history as the epitome of everything that all religion says its against: lies, greed, criminality, and sheer disgusting exploitation of the defenseless that would shame a sewer rat?

Secular “un-saved” and "godless" and "liberal" authors like Jeff Jarvis have pulled books from Harper Collins because it’s owned by Murdoch as he writes: “[my] next book, Public Parts, was to be published, like my last one, by News Corp.'s HarperCollins. But I pulled the book because in it, I am very critical of the parent company for being so closed. It's now being published by Simon and Schuster.”

Where are the big time religion writers like the "I-give-all-my-royalties-to-the-poor" Rick Warren to be found refusing to publish with Zondervan, Harper One or write another word for Beliefnet? What’s mildly lefty Rob Bell’s defense for enriching Murdoch and helping to finance Fox “News” via publishing with Harper One when he could publish with anyone?

For that matter where are the evangelical/Roman Catholic/Muslim—or just minimally decent -- people, religious or irreligious guests and commentators now refusing to be interviewed by Fox News even if it will help sell their books?

Knowing what we know about the union-busting, slime-spreading Murdoch empire and it's disgusting and criminal actions can a moral person work for or use the products of this all-encompassing web of profit, far right politics and corruption?

I don't think so.

But of course the religion writers have plenty of company.

What about journalists working for Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal?

What about Deepak Chopra?

He publishes with Harper One. Thus Chopra is helping finance Fox News. And so is Desmond Tutu. He’s also a Harper One author.

And what about all the “progressive” stars, producers and writers doing deals with the Fox movie empire? Such Hollywood moralists used to boycott working in the old apartheid South Africa, but will work for/with Murdoch today as he empowers the far religious racist right through Fox News! Desmond Tutu used to call for boycotts of far right religious nuts in South Africa oppressing blacks in the name of God, and now he’s a Murdoch contributor!

Go figure!

Why should the people – religious leaders, writers, actors, agents, producers et al -- who help Murdoch wreck America and the UK -- remain respectable in our countries?

Okay, they deserve a second chance.

Mea Culpa!

I published two books with Harper Collins some years ago after Murdoch had taken over. I had a deal with the Smithsonian that was tied into Harper Collins for distribution, then the Smithsonian backed out but my books stayed at Harpers. After they were published I thought about – and regretted -- helping Murdoch. I've never published with them again.

I only have one excuse, I didn’t know much about Murdoch then. But who would willingly publish anything with any Murdoch paper, magazine or book publisher now, knowing what we all know?

Post UK meltdown, will Tutu, Bell, Chopra et al – big time authors with a choice of publishers -- still publish yet more books with Harper One, and/or with Zondervan?

Will liberals in Hollywood still underwrite Murdoch with their lives and continue to work for Fox TV and Fox Films?

It’s time to hold all Murdoch's collaborator’s feet to the fire, especially the big and famous sell outs who can go anywhere with their books or scripts. And why would any decent paper or blog review any book, film or TV show that enriches Murdoch? He should be blacked out before he takes us all down with him.

No more excuses. We all know about Murdoch now.

From here on out it’s time to out those who choose to stay in bed with the sleazy man from down under who elbowed his way into America and the UK, damaged our political systems, perhaps fatally, all the while insulting our intelligence and aiding and abetting our war machine.

We can’t boycott every dubious corporation on earth. But with Murdoch’s sleaze-infested ambition to control the politics of so much of the world a reality a line’s been crossed. It is time to pull an “Arab Spring” on the whole Murdoch empire and overthrow it. And we of the outraged “street” can do it at last because so many political and media leaders, who have sucked up to Murdoch for decades, are running for cover.

I know it’s not considered polite to be judgmental but I’ll say it: to work for any part of News Corp, Murdoch, Fox and/or any or all of his companies, let alone to publish books with him makes you an accomplice to a very bad person.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer his new book is Sex, Mom, and God: How the Bible's Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics--and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway

FOX on the run, the truth is coming out, "the beginning of the end"!!! ...  Monte

Jul 10, 2011

The Vicksburg Queen - by William @ LumberJocks.com ~ woodworking community

The spiral staircases rising from the front main deck. The safety rails that were constructed with 170 tiny posts that I cut and drilled holes on to hold the 60 feet of metal wire that I painted red and run through it. The paddle wheel that can be turned by hand. I wanted this feature because I knew that anyone coming near it would try to. So far I’ve been right. Every single person who has visited my shop while I have been working on it, the first thing they done was reach up and turn the paddle wheel. And of course the fact that, with the many hours I spent on this project, that it is not at all just a fancy show piece. It is in fact a functional bird house that is now mounted in my front yard. There has already been two birds checking it out. I mounted it near the road for a reason too. There has already been several cars come to a stop in front of my house to get a good look at it. I am also proud of this one for a different reason. I build most of the time from plans. This project was not one of them. I just made this one up as I went along. I wrote a blog series on it if you’d like to read about the build. You can find the twelve part blog series here. Thank you for looking. And if you like it, I would much appreciate your vote in the contest.

The Vicksburg Queen
I swore long ago that I’d never build another birdhouse. Then the Birds Of A Feather contest here at Lumberjocks came along. I decided to build something. This is what I came up with. The inspiration behind this bird house is the Mississippi Queen).  
I was fascinated by the Mississippi Queen as a small child when it used to dock weekly in my hometown of Vicksburg, Mississippi. My mother used to carry my brother and I down to see it. I knew I couldn’t build a boat that matched the beauty in my memories of the Mississippi Queen. So, in the end, I wound up naming my creation The Vicksburg Queen. My birdhouse is meant for purple martins. It contains sixteen different individual compartments inside. There are eight holes on each side for the birds to access them. It is 12” wide, 14” tall, not counting the smoke stacks. It is 54” long. A few things I wanted to note.