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Longwood Gardens, February, 2012, Photo credit: joanneleon
In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.

    -- John Steinbeck  


Stratfor: Inside the World of a Private CIA
The Strategic Forecasting Inc., commonly known as Stratfor, is a private firm dealing in the lucrative business of intelligence gathering and assessment.

Founded in 1996, the company gained global prominence during the NATO bombing of Kosovo in 1999 when its seemingly cutting-edge analysis was publicized by various news agencies. But it was the events of 9/11 and the subsequent “war on terrorism” that elevated the stature of the firm, turning it into a highly sought after informant for major Western media organizations like Bloomberg, Associated Press, Reuters, The New York Times, and the BBC.

[ ... ]

Stratfor was founded over a decade ago in Austin, Texas by George Friedman, a former political science professor. [ ... ] A self-proclaimed disciple of neo-conservative icons like Leo Strauss, Friedman has routinely emphasizes the 'jihadist threat' of al-Qaeda. [ ... ] Fred Burton, Stratfor's vice-president for Counter-terrorism and Corporate Security, makes up the final component in leadership of the think-tank. He was a special agent with the US Diplomatic Security Service [ ... ] Burton has clear pro-Israeli sentiments with links to the Israeli military and intelligence sectors.

Wikileaks Pairs with Anonymous to Publish Intelligence Firm’s Dirty Laundry
In an unprecedented collaboration between Anonymous and WikiLeaks, the secret spilling site began leaking Sunday night portions of a massive trove of e-mails from the private intelligence firm Stratfor that Anonymous obtained by hacking the company in December.

WikiLeaks did not mention the source of the reported five gigabytes of e-mails in its press release, but did say it has been working for months with 25 media outlets from around the world to analyze the documents.

[ ... ]

Stratfor, somewhat akin to a privatized CIA, sells its analyses of global politics to major corporations and government agencies.

[ ... ]

Anons also told Wired that future collaborations with WikiLeaks could involve a series of hacks that will be announced, one after another, every Friday for the foreseeable future. If that happens, the Stratfor e-mail release could be the first sign of a new, powerful alliance between the two groups, each of which has vexed and angered the world’s most powerful governments and corporations.

Excerpt from a press release by the Yes Men who were targeted/being monitored by Stratfor:
   Many of the Bhopal-related emails, addressed from Stratfor to Dow and Union Carbide public relations directors, reveal concern that, in the lead-up to the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, the Bhopal issue might be expanded into an effective systemic critique of corporate rule, and speculate at length about why this hasn’t yet happened—providing a fascinating window onto what at least some corporate types fear most from activists…

    …Just as Wall Street has at times let slip their fear of the Occupy Wall Street movement, these leaks seem to show that corporate power is most afraid of whatever reveals “the larger whole” and “broader issues,” i.e. whatever brings systemic criminal behavior to light. “Systemic critique could lead to policy changes that would challenge corporate power and profits in a really major way,” noted Joseph Huff-Hannon, recently-promoted Director of Policy Analysis for the Yes Lab…

At Oscars, Director of “A Separation” Slams War Talk
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, whose film “A Separation,” won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film this year, had this to say in his acceptance speech:
“At this time, many Iranians all over the world are watching us and I imagine them to be very happy. They are happy not just because of an important award or a film or a filmmaker. But because at a time when talk of war, intimidation and aggression is exchanged between politicians, the name of their country, Iran, is spoken here through her glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics. I proudly offer this award to the people of my country, a people who respect all cultures and civilizations and despise hostility and resentment.”
BP oil spill trial postponed as settlement talks continue
ATLANTA — The massive civil lawsuit stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, originally scheduled to go to trial Monday in New Orleans, has been postponed for one week to allow more time for settlement talks between oil giant BP and lawyers for more than 120,000 plaintiffs.

[ ... ]

ATLANTA — The massive civil lawsuit stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, originally scheduled to go to trial Monday in New Orleans, has been postponed for one week to allow more time for settlement talks between oil giant BP and lawyers for more than 120,000 plaintiffs.

The trial is now set to begin March 5. The announcement came in a joint statement Sunday from BP, which was in charge of the drilling project, and the group of plaintiffs' attorneys known as the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, or PSC.

The true fathers of computing
Once upon a time, a "computer" was a human being, usually female, who did calculations set for her by men in suits. Then, in the 1940s, something happened: computers became machines based on electronics. The switch had awesome implications; in the end, it spawned a technology that became inextricably woven into the fabric of late-20th- and early 21st-century life and is now indispensable. If the billions of (mostly unseen) computers that now run our industrialised support systems were suddenly to stop working, then our societies would very rapidly grind to a halt.

[ ... ]

In a remarkable new book, Turing's Cathedral, intellectual historian George Dyson sets out to give this creation myth a revisionist makeover. He focuses on a small group of mathematicians and engineers working on the hydrogen bomb, led by John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton, New Jersey (but not at Princeton University), who not only built one of the first computers to realise Turing's vision of a universal machine, but – more importantly – defined the architectural principles of a general-purpose "stored program computer" on which all succeeding computers were based. Dyson's argument, crudely summarised, is that the IAS machine should be regarded as the fons et origo of the modern world rather than the ENIAC or Colossus machines that preceded it.

Out of the public eye, China cracks down on another protesting village

The men, who'd been talking about officials stealing their land in Panhe, fell quiet. They knew what a visit would mean — threats, beatings and then getting dragged off by the police.

In December, a high-profile standoff between residents and Communist Party bosses in a fishing village named Wukan, about 450 miles southwest of Panhe, ended peacefully. That case had some observers wondering if Chinese officials had changed the way they dealt with the intertwined problems of land rights and corruption.

What happened here suggests otherwise.

Two arrested over 'plot to kill Putin'
Russia's secret service has arrested two men in connection with a plot to assassinate Vladimir Putin, the prime minister, after the March 4 presidential elections, Channel One state television said.

According to the AFP news agency, the station showed two men on Monday who said they were acting on the orders of Chechen warlord Doku Umarov.

The men said they prepared the attack in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa and were planning to carry it out in Moscow.

Blast rocks eastern Afghan city
At least nine people have been killed and 12 others injured in a large explosion at the entrance of the airport in the city of Jalalabad in eastern Afghanistan, police say.

Provincial police spokesman Hazrad Mohammad said "a very strong'' blast hit the airport in Nangarhar province on Monday morning.

According to Reuters news agency, Afghan Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack saying it was "revenge" for the burning of copies of the Quran which sparked off deadly protests almost a week ago.

Syria counts vote of controversial referendum
Vote counting after Syria's referendum on a new constitution is under way with the results expected on Monday, but Western nations and some of the opposition, which boycotted the exercise, have labelled the vote a sham.

More than 14 million people over the age of 18 were eligible to vote at 13,835 polling stations on Sunday in a ballot that could theoretically end five decades of one-party rule.

But with many parts of the country reeling from weeks of military assault, and army defectors engaged in a guerrilla campaign against loyalist troops, it was unclear how the ballot could prove to be convincing.

New evidence casts doubt in Lockerbie case
Fresh scientific evidence unearthed by a Scottish legal review undermines the case against the man convicted of being responsible for the Lockerbie aircraft bombing, an investigation for Al Jazeera has found.

The Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) report details evidence that would probably have resulted in the verdict against Abdel Baset al-Meghrahi, a Libyan man convicted of carrying out the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 in 1988, being overturned.

'Lockerbie: Case Closed', an hour-long documentary to be aired on Al Jazeera on Monday, examines the evidence uncovered by the SCCRC as well as revealing fresh scientific evidence which is unknown to the commission but which comprehensively undermines a crucial part of the case against the man known as the Lockerbie bomber.

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