NSA surveillance critics to testify before Congress

Source:Democrat congressman Alan Grayson says hearing will help to stop ‘constant misleading information’ from intelligence chiefs.

Congress will hear testimony from critics of the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices for the first time since the whistleblower Edward Snowden’s explosive leaks were made public.

Democrat congressman Alan Grayson, who is leading a bipartisan group of congressman organising the hearing, told the Guardian it would serve to counter the “constant misleading information” from the intelligence community.

The hearing, which will take place on Wednesday, comes amid evidence of a growing congressional rebellion NSA data collection methods.

On Wednesday, a vote in the House of Representatives that would have tried to curb the NSA’s practice of mass collection of phone records of millions of Americans was narrowly defeated.

However, it exposed broader-than-expected concern among members of Congress over US surveillance tactics. A majority of Democrat members voted in support of the amendment.

Grayson, who was instrumental in fostering support among Democrats for the the amendment, said Wednesday’s hearing would mark the first time critics of NSA surveillance methods have testified before Congress since Snowden’s leaks were published by the Guardian and Washington Post.

“I have been concerned about the fact that we have heard incessantly in recent weeks from General Keith Alexander [director of the NSA] and Mr James Clapper [director of National Intelligence] about their side of the story,” he said. “We have barely heard anything in Congress from critics of the program.

“We have put together an ad hoc, bipartisan hearing on domestic surveillance in on the Capitol. We plan to have critics of the program come in and give their view – from the left and the right.”

Grayson said the hearing had bipartisan support, and was backed by the Republican congressman Justin Amash, whose draft the amendment that was narrowly defeated.

“Mr Amash has declared an interest in the hearing. There are several others who have a libertarian bent – largely the same people who represented the minority of Republicans who decided to vote in favour of the Amash amendment.”

The hearing will take place at the same time as a Senate hearing into the NSA’s activities. That will feature Gen Alexander and possibly his deputy, Chris Inglis, as well as senior officials from the Department of Justice and FBI.

The simultaneous timing of the hearings will lead to a notable juxtaposition between opponents and defenders of the government’s surveillance activities.

“Both Congress and the American people deserve to hear both sides of the story,” Grayson said. “There has been constant misleading information – and worse than that, the occasional outright lie – from the so-called intelligence community in their extreme, almost hysterical efforts, to defend these programmes.”

Although not a formal committee hearing, Grayson’s event will take place on Capitol Hill, and composed of a panel of around a dozen members of Congress from both parties.

Grayson said those testifying would include the American Civil Liberties Union as well as representatives from the right-leaning Cato Institute.

“They are both going to come in and make it clear that this programme is not authorised by existing law – and if it were authorised by existing law, that law would be unconstitutional,” Grayson said.

The congressman added that Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who first revealed details of the surveillance programmes leaked by Snowden, had also been invited to testify via video-link from his base in Rio.

“Even today, most people in America are unaware of the fact the government is receiving a record of every call that they make, even to the local pizzeria,” Grayson said.

“I think that most people simply don’t understand that, despite the news coverage, which my view has been extremely unfocused. There has been far too much discussion of the leaker, and not enough discussion of the leak.”

Glenn Greenwald: U.S. wants to destroy privacy worldwide

The journalist who broke the news that the government is monitoring vast quantities of American phone records is claiming the U.S. is building a “massive” snooping apparatus committed to destroying privacy worldwide.

“There is a massive apparatus within the United States government that with complete secrecy has been building this enormous structure that has only one goal, and that is to destroy privacy and anonymity, not just in the United States but around the world,” charged Glenn Greenwald, a reporter for the British newspaper “The Guardian,” speaking on CNN. “That is not hyperbole. That is their objective.”

Greenwald, speaking with CNN’s Piers Morgan, appeared during a week in which Americans learned that according to reports, the National Security Agency and other parts of the government have been monitoring the phone records of Verizon users and accessing Internet information as part of intelligence-gathering procedures. Some Republicans and Democrats have defended the phone records strategy, including the highest-ranking members of the Senate Intelligence Committee — Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). But Greenwald dismissed those arguments.

So whatever the Justice Department wants to do, they can beat their chests all they want,” he said. “People like Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss can have press conferences threatening people for bringing … light to what it is they’re doing, but the only people who are going to be investigated are them. It’s well past time that these threats start to be treated with the contempt that they deserve. That’s certainly how I intend to treat them moving forward, with more investigation and disclosures.”

He also bashed the Obama administration for issuing “threats.”

“The Obama administration has been very aggressive about bullying and threatening anybody who thinks about exposing it or writing it or even doing journalism about it, and it’s well past time that come to an end,” he said.

Greenwald also told CNN’s Jake Tapper that the administration has taken a “warped and distorted” view of the PATRIOT Act, the legislation that authorized certain kinds of surveillance for security reasons in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“What the Obama administration is doing in interpreting the PATRIOT Act is so warped and distorted and it vests themselves with such extremist surveillance powers over the United States and American citizens that Americans, in their words, would be stunned to learn what the Obama administration is doing,” he said on CNN’s “The Lead.”

Speaking with MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, Greenwald dared lawmakers to investigate how information about the Verizon phone records leaked, as Feinstein has said should happen.

“Let them go and investigate,” Greenwald said.

He added, “There is this massive surveillance state that the United States government has built up that has extraordinary implications for how we live as human beings on the earth and as Americans in our country, and we have the right to know what it is that that government and that agency is doing. I intend to continue to shine light on that, and Dianne Feinstein can beat her chest all she wants and call for investigations, and none of that is going to stop and none of it is going to change.”

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Mexico protests Monsanto with a Carnival of Corn

On May 25, an estimated two million people across 50 countries participated in the global March Against Monsanto. Organizers estimate that these protests against the U.S.-based transnational biotech corporation were one of the largest days of coordinated action in history. Yet, despite the high level of coordination, the local actions were not all orchestrated by professional organizers — and nor were the resulting actions all traditional marches.

On Saturday, about 2,000 participants gathered in Mexico City for the Carnaval del Maíz, a “Carnival of Corn” to celebrate Mexico’s rich diversity of native corn, threatened by Monsanto’s plans to introduce a genetically modified variety of the crop. The fact that Mexico’s manifestation of the global March Against Monsanto took the form of a carnival is no coincidence. The current generation of Mexican activists is looking for new strategies to fight for social justice, and the March Against Monsanto provided an opportunity to fuse tradition and innovation into the building blocks for a global food revolution.

Throughout the day, artists used performance and creativity to inform the carnival’s estimated 2,000 participants about Monsanto. A theater troupe from nearby San Miguel de Allende performed a show illustrating the dangers of Monsanto’s genetically modified crops and the corporation’s business practices. As performer Diana Hoogesteger explained, “Theater is a way to get people to notice you. Once they see you, they listen, and then they can be informed in an entertaining way of the things that are happening in the world.”

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Monsanto Video Revolt: Global anti-GMO online rally launches

A new initiative to bypass the corporate media blackout on GMO foods and bring the issue to world attention has been launched. Monsanto Video Revolt is to hit the net in the upcoming weeks, editor of Naturalsociety.com Anthony Gucciardi tells RT.

Anyone can become a part of the Monsanto Video Revolt announced by the Global Healing Center, Natural News and Natural Society, which have united to counter genetically modified Monsanto-produced crops and the overwhelming amount of poisonous herbicides and pesticides being dumped all over the world.

The campaigners want to fill the mailboxes of lawmakers and the folks responsible so full that they will have no choice but to listen to Monsanto opposition.

According to the initiative, participants are to record a video of explaining why they stand against Monsanto and GMO’s at large. Then on July 24, videos are to be uploaded to a major video website such as Vimeo or YouTube – with Monsanto Video Revolt in the title – and shared through Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.

“The Monsanto Video Revolt is a natural extension of the protests and the opposition against Monsanto and GMOs at large,” Gucciardi told RT’s The Truthseeker.

Having succeeded with the March Against Monsanto in May, anti-Monsanto activists believe they must continue the momentum and join forces to slay the giant that is Monsanto. The March Against Monsanto was very successful, but “there’s no reason for the mainstream media to cover it,” he explained.

With the Video Revolt “we’re blasting this information over the gates of the mainstream media right into the central nervous system of society as a whole,” Gucciardi said, because “media could choose to ignore – and they do every single time in the mainstream media.” We’re going to flood search engines, YouTube, video websites with Monsanto Video Revolt to the point where everyone is going to see it even if he is not looking for it specifically,” he said, dubbing the initiative “a display of power of the alternative news community.”

“This movement as a whole, this video campaign and others, this initiative ultimately will turn into real action, legislation change, because we’ve had enough of the Monsanto pollution of our food supply, and it is going to change very soon. This is ultimately either the beginning of the end or the end of the end from Monsanto,” Gucciardi concluded.

Monsanto Video Revolt is called to abolish the US Monsanto Protection Act, signed by President Barack Obama In March 2013. Monsanto legislation was hidden inside of the Continuing Resolution spending bill, and it enabled protection of Monsanto and its genetically modified creations from federal courts.

In 2007, during his election campaign, Barack Obama promised to ‘immediately’ label GMOs upon his election. Having become president he never bothered to stop Monsanto’s increasing monopoly on the food supply. Instead, he pushed the pro-Monsanto bill into law.

The Monsanto Video Revolt protesters also intend to make GMO food labeling mandatory, as people have the right to know what they are eating.

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Spain and Portugal protesters don’t share governments’ optimism on economy

Protests against austerity measures and high unemployment were held in several European capitals on Saturday.

In Madrid around 7,000 people took to the streets, a relatively modest number compared to previous rallies. The target of protesters’ anger was the same, as some illustrated with masks depicting the European Commission president and others.

The demonstrators condemned international lenders for the harsh measures imposed on struggling nations.

The Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said on Saturday that he expected new jobless figures due out next week to be encouraging.

People demonstrating in Madrid were less optimistic: “People are being evicted from their homes, and we have the highest jobless rate in Europe,” said Sarah, a 57-year-old who has been out of work for two years. “The government’s labour reforms make it easier to sack people at no cost, instead of encouraging job creation.”

In Portugal thousands marched in Lisbon and other cities against the “troika”: the IMF, the European Commission and Central Bank.

The protesters also turned on their own centre-right government. Tax rises and spending cuts have been imposed to meet bailout terms.

“We want the government out and our president is the one to blame. He should sack them because they are doing a bad job, spending our money, they are leading us to misery,” said Conceicao, a pensioner.

The Portuguese government has played down an OECD forecast that the country is unlikely to meet its deficit goals because of the recession.

More anti-austerity protests are planned in Portugal this month.

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Radical Remaking of the Economy is Taking Root

It is time for the economy to work for the people, not the elites; it is time for economic democracy.

As the school year ends, college students are coming home to a paucity of summer jobs and young adults are graduating into an economy with 27% underemployment and unemployment for them.This generation has inherited a failed economy. Not only do they graduate to lousy job prospects, but they also graduate with record high debts.

There are solutions to the economic crisis they face – and it is a crisis. In fact, a coalition of students and the Roosevelt Institute developed a “New Deal” for youth to address the student debt crisis. We support free college or trade school education for high school grads, but, as Stiglitz says, we should at least be giving students very low cost loans.

The slightly older Generation X is not doing well either. Members of GenX suffered losses amounting to 45% of median net worth between 2007 and 2010. As a result, they are facing a genuine chance of downward mobility and
may never be able to retireThe older generations may have dodged a bullet, thanks to the fraud of austerity being exposed. Once again Obama’s constant attempts at a “Grand Bargain” that would cut Social Security and Medicare seem unlikely – for now. But, people need to remain vigilant because these cuts are really about privatization of both programs and a massive wealth transfer to Wall Street – an agenda of both parties, albeit using different rhetoric.

The young graduates and those still of working age will be suffering with significantly increased costs of health care, with much less coverage. The average cost for a family of four is already over $22,000 annually. Obama’s attack on the kind of health care all Americans should have, falsely labeling decent healthcare “Cadillac Plans,” is causing them to disappear and resulting in increased premiums, increased co-pays and less coverage. U.S. health care is now in a race to the bottom with new “bare bones” plans that will put many more Americans at risk for serious health problems as well as health-related bankruptcy.
And, while Americans earn low wages and work without adequate health care, they also live in the only wealthy country in the world that does not guarantee paid vacation. According to a report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, even the average vacation time given in private employment – a total of 16 days – does not meet the minimum requirement in Europe, 19 days. On top of that Europeans get 5 to 13 paid national holidays, while there are none in the U.S.

Why is the United States so abusive to its people? At the root, it is because of deeply embedded corruption. Both the government and the economy are corrupted by the power of big business money. This was on display in the week’s news. United Republic published an excellent infographic that shows the pay-off for investing in “buying” the government. The Return on Investment is an extraordinary 77,500 percent for pharmaceutical companies. Oil companies had a return on investment of 5,900 percent, and multinational companies, 22,000 percent.
Mother Jones exposed how Citigroup was able to write a law that allowed tax-payer funded banks to engage in risky trading practices. The law passed the House with the exact words drafted by Citi. And, the banks’ constant pressure on the Commodities Futures Trading Commission resulted in weak regulation of the derivatives market that puts the economy at risk.

At the Department of Justice, it has become evident that the decision that banks were too big to jail was based on no research, no evidence, nothing except a corrupt agency headed by a former corporate lawyer, Eric Holder, with the chief of enforcement, Lanny Breuer, leaving the DoJ in March and now earning $4 million a year at the same law firm where Holder was a partner before becoming attorney general.

If big business can’t get what they want through Congress or the regulatory agencies, they fight on another playing field: trade policy and globalization. It is becoming evident that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a forum for transnational corporations to do an end run around governments. And as Joseph Stiglitz points out, globalization is also about hiding profits through manipulation of tax laws and hiding money in tax havens.
One other major protest is the worldwide protests against Monsanto. Two million people participated in protests in 436 cities in 52 countries. People are learning how to avoid Monsanto and their genetically modified products – essentially by buying organic and non-processed foods.

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Protesters March Against Monsanto in 250 Cities

Protests against seed giant Monsanto are getting under way across the U.S. and in dozens of other countries.ProNat

“March Against Monsanto” organizers say they’re calling attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and the companies that produce it. Protests are planned in more than 250 cities Saturday.

http://saccsivdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/challenging-monsanto-200000-in-40-countries-to-rally-against-gmo/

Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits and improve crop yields.

Some believe they can lead to health problems and harm the environment. Opponents have pushed for mandatory labeling, though the federal government and many scientists say the technology is safe.

Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis, said Saturday that it respects people’s rights to express their opinion, but believes its seeds help farmers produce more food, while conserving water and energy.

source:http://abcnews.go.com/Health/wireStory/protesters-march-monsanto-250-cities-19256536