“The Honest Liar”, Jamy Ian Swiss punctures the pretense of homeopathy. How much is too much to pay for a remedy with nothing in it?
On a more peaceful note, the device would also be used to turn the Arctic and Antarctic poles into verdant gardens. Via io9:
In 1945, Life magazine revealed how “U.S. Army technical experts came up with the astonishing fact that German scientists had seriously planned to build a ‘sun gun’…a gigantic orbital mirror that would “focus the sun’s rays to a scorching point on the earth’s surface.” The German army, readers were told, “hoped to use such a mirror to burn an enemy city or to boil part of an ocean.”
The idea had been originally proposed by the seminal rocket scientist Hermann Oberth in 1923. Oberth thought it might take ten to fifteen years to assemble a complete mirror at a cost of $3 billion. The pressure of sunlight on the vast surface would be used to maneuver it in orbit, with steering accomplished by adjusting the angles of the individual mirrors. As late as 1957, he was still convinced that his space mirror would become a reality.
The nearly 5000-square-mile mirror, he said, would create a bright, heated “spot” on the earth’s surface about 2000 square miles in area. This heat and light, he admitted, would be “no stronger than that normal at the equator.” But, he went on to say, if “the mirror were double the size mentioned…the irradiation would be four times as strong…The temperature on the surface…would be 392°F.”
The Associated Press gets credit for actually breaking the recent “underwear bomber” news, but the information that the plot was an inside job by an intelligence operative actually appears to have come accidentally from a White House attempt at damage control.
What makes Reuters’ Mark Hosenball‘s story’s fascinating is how it so clearly shows the fine line intelligence and law enforcement agencies have to walk when they deal with the press. It can’t be easy showing they’re doing their job while assuring people they’re safe while not revealing sensitive information. In this case, while explaining why the public had no cause to worry, an insider apparently tipped his hand.
You know those expert commentators who once held high-level counter-terrorism jobs and now work as talking heads for news shows? Well, they’re called “experts” because they get access to people like current counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, who held a conference call to brief some of them on the plot earlier this month. And while explaining why they shouldn’t tell people the United States was in danger from a would-be bomber, Brennan apparently let the secret slip, reports’ Hosenball:
According to five people familiar with the call, Brennan stressed that the plot was never a threat to the U.S. public or air safety because Washington had “inside control” over it.
Brennan’s comment appears unintentionally to have helped lead to disclosure of the secret at the heart of a joint U.S.-British-Saudi undercover counter-terrorism operation.
The next step was for Richard Clarke, a former Clinton counter-terrorism adviser who was on the call, to say on ABC News that “The U.S. government is saying it never came close because they had insider information, insider control, which implies that they had somebody on the inside who wasn’t going to let it happen.” The transcript from that broadcast is available if you want to read it. The White House says Brennan never leaked the information, and “places the blame squarely on AP,” which probably suits the AP just fine.
Declassified tapes of President Lyndon Johnson’s telephone calls provide a fresh insight into his world. Among the revelations – he planned a dramatic entry into the 1968 Democratic Convention to re-join the presidential race. And he caught Richard Nixon sabotaging the Vietnam peace talks… but said nothing.
After the Watergate scandal taught Richard Nixon the consequences of recording White House conversations none of his successors has dared to do it. But Nixon wasn’t the first.
He got the idea from his predecessor Lyndon Johnson, who felt there was an obligation to allow historians to eventually eavesdrop on his presidency.
“They will provide history with the bark off,” Johnson told his wife, Lady Bird.
The final batch of tapes released by the LBJ library covers 1968, and allows us to hear Johnson’s private conversations as his Democratic Party tore itself apart over the question of Vietnam.
The 1968 convention, held in Chicago, was a complete shambles.
Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters clashed with Mayor Richard Daley’s police, determined to force the party to reject Johnson’s Vietnam war strategy.
As they taunted the police with cries of “The whole world is watching!” one man in particular was watching very closely.
Lyndon Baines Johnson was at his ranch in Texas, having announced five months earlier that he wouldn’t seek a second term.
The president was appalled at the violence and although many of his staff sided with the students, and told the president the police were responsible for “disgusting abuse of police power,” Johnson picked up the phone, ordered the dictabelt machine to start recording and congratulated Mayor Daley for his handling of the protest.
The president feared the convention delegates were about to reject his war policy and his chosen successor, Hubert Humphrey.
So he placed a series of calls to his staff at the convention to outline an astonishing plan. He planned to leave Texas and fly into Chicago.
He would then enter the convention and announce he was putting his name forward as a candidate for a second term.
It would have transformed the 1968 election. His advisers were sworn to secrecy and even Lady Bird did not know what her husband was considering.
On the White House tapes we learn that Johnson wanted to know from Daley how many delegates would support his candidacy. LBJ only wanted to get back into the race if Daley could guarantee the party would fall in line behind him.
They also discussed whether the president’s helicopter, Marine One, could land on top of the Hilton Hotel to avoid the anti-war protesters.
Daley assured him enough delegates would support his nomination but the plan was shelved after the Secret Service warned the president they could not guarantee his safety.
The idea that Johnson might have been the candidate, and not Hubert Humphrey, is just one of the many secrets contained on the White House tapes.
By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks – or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had “blood on his hands”.
The BBC’s former Washington correspondent Charles Wheeler learned of this in 1994 and conducted a series of interviews with key Johnson staff, such as defence secretary Clark Clifford, and national security adviser Walt Rostow.
But by the time the tapes were declassified in 2008 all the main protagonists had died, including Wheeler.
Now, for the first time, the whole story can be told.
It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign.
He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser.
At a July meeting in Nixon’s New York apartment, the South Vietnamese ambassador was told Chennault represented Nixon and spoke for the campaign. If any message needed to be passed to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, it would come via Chennault.
In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.
Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.
So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out.
He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador’s phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault’s calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to “just hang on through election”.
Johnson was told by Defence Secretary Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace.
In a series of remarkable White House recordings we can hear Johnson’s reaction to the news.
In one call to Senator Richard Russell he says: “We have found that our friend, the Republican nominee, our California friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends both, he has been doing it through rather subterranean sources. Mrs Chennault is warning the South Vietnamese not to get pulled into this Johnson move.”
He orders the Nixon campaign to be placed under FBI surveillance and demands to know if Nixon is personally involved.
When he became convinced it was being orchestrated by the Republican candidate, the president called Senator Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader in the Senate to get a message to Nixon.
The president knew what was going on, Nixon should back off and the subterfuge amounted to treason.
Johnson felt it was the ultimate expression of political hypocrisy but in calls recorded with Clifford they express the fear that going public would require revealing the FBI were bugging the ambassador’s phone and the National Security Agency (NSA) was intercepting his communications with Saigon.
So they decided to say nothing.
The president did let Humphrey know and gave him enough information to sink his opponent. But by then, a few days from the election, Humphrey had been told he had closed the gap with Nixon and would win the presidency. So Humphrey decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason, if the Democrats were going to win anyway.
Nixon ended his campaign by suggesting the administration war policy was in shambles. They couldn’t even get the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table.
He won by less than 1% of the popular vote.
Once in office he escalated the war into Laos and Cambodia, with the loss of an additional 22,000 American lives – quite apart from the lives of the Laotians, Cambodians and Vietnamese caught up in the new offensives – before finally settling for a peace agreement in 1973 that was within grasp in 1968.
The White House tapes, combined with Wheeler’s interviews with key White House personnel, provide an unprecedented insight into how Johnson handled a series of crises that rocked his presidency. Sadly, we will never have that sort of insight again.
Continue reading story at BBC
In the 1960s, the Central Intelligence Agency recruited an unusual field agent: a cat. In an hour-long procedure, a veterinary surgeon transformed the furry feline into an elite spy, implanting a microphone in her ear canal and a small radio transmitter at the base of her skull, and weaving a thin wire antenna into her long gray-and-white fur. This was Operation Acoustic Kitty, a top-secret plan to turn a cat into a living, walking surveillance machine. The leaders of the project hoped that by training the feline to go sit near foreign officials, they could eavesdrop on private conversations.
The problem was that cats are not especially trainable—they don’t have the same deep-seated desire to please a human master that dogs do—and the agency’s robo-cat didn’t seem terribly interested in national security. For its first official test, CIA staffers drove
Acoustic Kitty to the park and tasked it with capturing the conversation of two men sitting on a bench. Instead, the cat wandered into the street, where it was promptly squashed by a taxi. The program was abandoned; as a heavily redacted CIA memo from the time delicately phrased it, “Our final examination of trained cats . . . convinced us that the program would not lend itself in a practical sense to our highly specialized needs.” (Those specialized needs, one assumes, include a decidedly unflattened feline.)
Operation Acoustic Kitty, misadventure though it was, was a visionary idea just fifty years before its time. Today, once again, the U.S. government is looking to animal- machine hybrids to safeguard the country and its citizens. In 2006, for example, DARPA zeroed in on insects, asking the nation’s scientists to submit “innovative proposals to develop technology to create insect-cyborgs.”
It was not your everyday government request, but it was an utterly serious one. For years, the U.S. military has been hoping to develop “micro air vehicles”—ultrasmall flying robots capable of performing surveillance in dangerous territory. Building these machines is not easy. The dynamics of flight change at very small sizes, and the vehicles need to be lightweight enough to fly, yet strong enough to carry cameras and other equipment. Most formidably, they need a source of power, and batteries light enough for microfliers just don’t have enough juice to keep the craft s aloft for very long. Consider two of the tiny, completely synthetic drones that engineers have managed to create: The Nano Hummingbird, a flying robot modeled after the bird, with a 6.5- inch wingspan, maxes out at an eleven-minute flight, while the DelFly Micro, which measures less than four inches from wingtip to wingtip, can stay airborne for just three minutes.
DARPA officials knew there had to be something better out there. “Proof-of-existence of small-scale flying machines . . . is abundant in nature in the form of insects,” Amit Lal, a DARPA program manager and Cornell engineer, wrote in a pamphlet the agency issued to the prospective researchers. So far, nature’s creations far outshine our own. Insects are aerodynamic, engineered for flight, and naturally skilled at maneuvering around obstacles. And they can power themselves; a common fly can cruise the skies for hours at a time. So perhaps, DARPA officials realized, the military didn’t need to start from scratch; if they began with live insects, they’d already be halfway to their dream flying machines. All they’d have to do was figure out how to hack into insects’ bodies and control their movements. If scientists could manage to do that, the DARPA pamphlet said, “it might be possible to transform [insects] into predictable devices that can be used for . . . missions requiring unobtrusive entry into areas inaccessible or hostile to humans.” Read more »
Despite a strict ban on recordings and transcripts at the secretive proceedings, the Freedom of Press Foundation has gotten a hold of a covertly-made tape of Manning’s full speech to the court explaining his motivation for leaking classified government materials. He remarks:
“I am the type of person who likes to know how things work. And, as an analyst, this means I always want to figure out the truth. Unlike other analysts within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, I was not satisfied with just scratching the surface and producing canned or cookie cutter assessments. I wanted to know why something was the way it was, and what we could to correct or mitigate a situation.”
“I began to become depressed with the situation that we [the U.S. military] found ourselves increasingly mired in year after year…we became obsessed with capturing and killing human targets on lists…[I wanted] society to reevaluate the need or even the desire to even to engage in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations that ignore the complex dynamics of the people living in the effected environment everyday.”
“I knew that if I continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time – if ever.”
“I read more of the diplomatic cables published on the Department of State Net Centric Diplomacy. The more I read, the more I was fascinated with the way that we dealt with other nations and organizations. I also began to think the documented backdoor deals and seemingly criminal activity that didn’t seem characteristic of the de facto leader of the free world.”
Full audio follows: - PFC Bradley Manning Testimony
“Searching for Hitler’s DNA in Antarctica.” This is the bizarre headline that made the news a few months ago, launched by Russian news agency Ria Novosti and picked up by the world media after scientists were able to successfully drill into Antarctica’s Lake Vostok. The lake, a massive liquid reservoir cut off from daylight for fourteen million years and buried beneath two miles of ice, is the object of a years-long project to study its waters, which may house life-forms new to science. But what immediately caught the imagination was what seemed to be a revamping of the long-held myth that Adolf Hitler did not commit suicide in his Berlin bunker in May 1945 but was able to escape via submarine to a secret base at the South Pole.
Such an idea started circulating immediately after the end of the war. In 1952, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “We have been unable to unearth one bit of tangible evidence of Hitler’s death. Many people believe that Hitler escaped from Berlin.” Stalin’s top army officer, Marshall Gregory Zhukov, whose troops were the first to enter Berlin, flatly stated after a long thorough investigation in 1945: “We have found no corpse that could be Hitler’s.” The chief of the U.S. trial counsel at Nuremberg, Thomas J. Dodd, said: “No one can say he is dead.” Former Secretary of State Jimmy Byrnes in his book Frankly Speakingstated that, after the war, at the Potsdam Conference of the Big Four, he met Stalin, who “left his chair, came over, and clinked his liquor glass with mine in a very friendly manner. I said to him: ‘Marshal Stalin, what is your theory about the death of Hitler?’ Stalin replied: ‘He is not dead. He escaped either to Spain or Argentina.’ ”
If so many Nazi officers and criminals, like Adolf Eichmann or Joseph Mengele, were able to escape undisturbed from defeated Germany, who’s to say that a diabolical mind like Hitler’s could not have set up a plan in order to simulate his own death? After all, it was known that, like many dictators, he used doubles in order to disorient his enemies. What if he had left the body of one such double in Berlin while he was fleeing to the South Pole?
It appears that in the early 1930s, the imaginations of Nazi hierarchs and maybe Hitler’s as well was captured by theories that the Earth was hollow inside and inhabited by a superior race. In particular, Madame Blavatsky’s esoteric theories had inspired the notorious Thule Society, the extremist right-wing German secret group that later reorganized and became the Nazi Party. Anxious to demonstrate the superiority of the Aryan race, theorists accepted legends of advanced civilizations living inside the Earth: such a superior breed had to be the Reich’s progenitor.
Nazis on Ice
Proof is lacking, but some claim that Hitler had ordered an expedition aiming to find the entrance to the inside of the Earth and that this had been located at the South Pole. Admiral Karl Doenitz referred to this during the Nuremberg trial when he stated: “The German submarine fleet has even now established an earthly paradise, an impregnable fortress, for the Fuhrer, in whatever part of the world.” Although he did not specify where the exact location was, many believed it was Antarctica.
After the war, Nazi sympathizer Ernst Zundel claimed that Hitler and a trusted group of men had been able to escape aboard a ship in which they entered the Earth through a hole at the South Pole. Inside the Earth, Nazi scientists worked to build a new army with which to take over the world. An army that could count on revolutionary round, flying vehicles: UFOs.
Daring fantasies that, only fifty-five years after the end of the conflict, were dissolved after documents from the Russian secret service came out. The dictator had taken his life; Eva Braun and trusted propagandist Joseph Goebbels had as well. Following Hitler’s orders, the bodies had been burned. When the soviet army arrived they found the charred remains and could not recognize who they belonged to. Stolen by soldiers, the remains were subsequently examined with forensics, and their true identities were ascertained. The corpses were then buried and in 1970 Breznev ordered them exhumed, incinerated, and dispersed in the waters of the Ehle, in order to prevent fanatics’ pilgrimages.
Legends Never Die
If all of this is clear, then why is it that the claim of a possible escape by Hitler can still make front-page news? Because urban legends never really die, and with the new findings at Lake Vostok, someone unearthed a forgotten story. Some claim that according to German marine records, months after the Nazis surrendered to the Allies in 1945, a U-530 submarine reached Antarctica from Keil. There, the members of the crew did not build a fortress for the Fuhrer, but inside an ice cave they may have hidden some crates containing Third Reich relics and, even, DNA samples of Hitler and Eva Braun for cloning purposes. With their mission accomplished, the sailors reached Argentina and surrendered to Mar del Plata authorities.
However, notwithstanding sensational headlines in some newspapers, it appears highly unlikely that we will soon read about the finding in Lake Vostok of such a cave and its crates. And this silence, without a doubt, will represent further proof that the relics really exist, at least to those who love to see conspiracies everywhere.
A southwestern Ohio judge yesterday ordered a halt to a speeding-ticket blitz in a village that installed traffic cameras, saying it’s “a scam” against motorists.
Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Ruehlman blasted the cameras and the thousands of $105 citations that resulted. He ruled that they violate motorists’ constitutional rights to due process and said the village’s enforcement was stacked against drivers.
“Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-Card Monty,” Ruehlman wrote, referring to a card game used by con artists. “It is a scam that motorists can’t win.”
The village began using the cameras in September, resulting in 6,600 speeding citations in the first month, triple the number of village residents. Revenue that is shared with the company that operates the cameras quickly topped $1 million.
Such cameras are used in municipalities across the country, and have been upheld in other courts.
But business owners and motorists charged in their lawsuit here against the village that the cameras were hurting Elmwood Place’s image and businesses, and said they were put into use without following Ohio law for public notice on new ordinances. They also said it’s unconstitutionally difficult to challenge the citations, and Ruehlman agreed in granting a permanent injunction against enforcement of the village ordinance that created an “automated speed enforcement program.”
Village Police Chief William Peskin said Elmwood Place will appeal the ruling. But in the meantime, it is halting use of the cameras.
“It’s a minor setback,” he said. “We will be back in appeals court.”
Police say up to 18,000 vehicles a day drive through the village, which links some big employers with I-75. Peskin said there were four cameras total, although only two were in use at a time. One was at village limits where speed drops from 35 mph to 25 mph; another was in a school zone. He said speeding had dropped “drastically” in the village.
“It’s unfortunate that the judge doesn’t see it as a safety issue,” Peskin said.
The village argued that camera enforcement by other municipalities has been upheld in other state courts, including in Ohio’s Supreme Court.
The Lanham-Md.-based company Optotraffic installed the Elmwood Place cameras and administered their use, in return for 40 percent of ticket revenue. The company is one of several U.S. firms in the camera business. Optotraffic has said several other southwestern Ohio municipalities have been awaiting the outcome of the Elmwood Place case before deciding on cameras.
An Optotraffic spokesman said he hadn’t seen the decision.
“It would be inappropriate to comment on the judge’s ruling, except to say that certainly has not been the opinion of courts around the country,” spokesman Tim Ayers said.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Mike Allen, called the ruling “a victory for the common people.” He said people who were unemployed, working poor and single mothers were hit with $105 citations they couldn’t afford. He said Ruehlman’s decision could spur more legal challenges and state legislation against traffic cameras.
“This is the first time that a judge has said, ‘Enough is enough,’ ” Allen said. “I think this nationally is a turning point.”
Source: Columbus Dispatch