Snow & Zuck

There’s a WebCam
Hidden in the Toilet

Edward Snowden and Mark Zuckerberg shared a week in the headlines. The whistleblower who exposed the National Security Agency’s dirty secrets has a memoir out. And the Facebook’s inventor was caught on tape expressing fears of a future of greater scrutiny and accountability.
Apart from that, their notoriety, and the fact they were born within a year of each other, they’ve got little in common. One, whose daring act cost him his freedom, is an example of moral clarity, while the other embodies the very disregard for principles driving the ownership class.
The fate of their parallel lives, however, is an imperfect but still fitting metaphor for these times: follow your conscience and face exile and the hounds of the establishment. Use your privilege to generate wealth and soon you’ll get to rub elbows with the rich and the powerful.
Snowden‘s ‘Permanent Record,’ rather than boasting his ‘good guy’ image, as a slayer of sinister state-surveillance agencies, zeroes in on the fractured and the personal. It’s a humble account of surviving the pushback while still honoring ethical and private choices.
The leaked audio of Zuckerberg‘s raging about presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, throws a glare on his shrewd political calculations. As in the 2016 elections, he’s prepping his social media mammoth to play again the role of king’s maker.

TWO WHO REWROTE OUR TIMES
Six years ago this November, they were the focus of a Colltales’ Curtain Raiser, an excerpt of which is adapted and reposted below. To many, Snowden’s woes have somehow anticipated our current reality, where a U.S. president uses the government to go after his political enemies.
Or that Facebook, which Zuck started in 2004 – a decade before the NSA scandal broke – would go on to become more powerful than many nations. After all, free, non-regulated access to private citizen’s data is now as common as using cellphones to track people down.
As in 2014, they’re still frozen together in amber: Snowden in the White House’s hit list, unlikely to receive a fair trial if he ever comes back from Russia to fight for his rights; and Zuckerberg, who along the top 0.01% of the population, controls 80% of all the planet’s resources.

CHANGE THE WORLD OR MAKE A BUCK
‘The Big Brother age has produced its first titans whose duality mirrors the ambiguity and radical change of the way we live now. Born within a year of each other, Snow and Zuck have perhaps unwittingly, defined the times: a reboot of government accountability, or our downgrade to a totalitarian society.
They made their choices and so will we. Zuck’s created FB with one thought on his mind, besides getting dates: get rich. He achieved that by eliminating early collaborators and potential competitors, and swiftly establishing his wraparound, impenetrable hold of a niche market.
He succeeded beyond his most outlandish visions of power by conceiving and enforcing the tenet of his business model: the complete eradication of any notion of personal privacy, except his, and (more)
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Read Also:
* Memberships
* Call Upon You
* Middle Brother

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Sugar Blues

Woman Goes Nuts At Baker
For Running Out of Cupcakes

It turns out that one of the worst eating addictions of Americans has also a hold on people across the pond (and we say this looking anxiously over our shoulders; unlike women issues or politics, this is bound to attract a lot of passionate reader Continue reading

Egypt Reborn

As Ruler Exits the Stage,
People Dream of a New Day

Congratulations, people of Egypt.
This is your moment, don’t let anyone
take it away from you.

Circus Fired

China Bans Acts
With Wild Animals

Perhaps the announcement was made to coincide with Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to the U.S. Knowing the topic of human rights violations by his country would be on the table, for example, it wouldn’t be too farfetched to imagine some political wrangling over how to divert the pressure, at least for now.
But be it as it may, the recent ban on circuses’ use of wild animals by the Chinese government does represent a step closer to a new attitude in our relationship with wild animals. In fact there’s a growing movement advocating an end for all instances of captivity of great beasts, regardless if it’s for educational or entertainment purposes.
China’s ban on all wild animal shows in some 300 state-owned Continue reading

Whale Blood

Iceland Disregards Ban,
Steps Up Illegal Whaling

Word by word, you could have read this headline in the 1970s and the 1980s: Commercial Whaling Will Drive Whales to Extinction. Thirty years have passed and the story hasn’t changed much. Despite an official, global, U.N.-sanctioned ban on whaling first established in 1986, the practice of hunting, killing and profiting from the slaughtering of whales continues as bloody and senseless as ever.
Iceland now, as then, leads the nations breaking the law (yes, Continue reading

He Shot the Sheriff

New Mexico Won’t
Pardon Billy the Kid

JUST IN: Facing a firestorm of controversy with the prospect of settling a 130-year case by pardoning Billy the Kid, departing New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson backed down. The pressure from history buffs, including from descendants of Billy’s killer, Sheriff Pat Garrett, was way too much and, in the end, Richardson concluded that there wasn’t enough evidence to justify a governor’s pardon just yet.
Legend has it that Billy killed anywhere from eight to 22 people before he was captured and shot in 1881 by Garrett. While in jail, he was offered a deal by then Governor Lew Wallace to go free in exchange for testifying in court. He kept his side of the bargain until the moment it became clear the state wouldn’t hold its end. Billy, then escaped and shot dead two law enforcement deputies, the crime that, once again, prevented a final reconciliation between his legendary status as a folk hero and a clean name in the court books.

Pat Garrett Family

Celebrates Decision

Almost 130 years after the Sheriff of Lincoln County killed The Kid, descendants of the iconic figures of the Old West are still battling to protect their legacies. Garrett’s family, along with those related to Sheriff William Brady, who was shot by the outlawed in 1878, invoke his reputation as a cop killer and a thief to fight any attempt to officially pardon him.
For those on The Kid’s side, there are historical documents showing that then Governor Lew Wallace promised him clemency in exchange Continue reading

Eye on the Year

RECORDS BROKEN &
VERY LITTLE CHANGE

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The Earth Shook & Burn But
The World Only Moved Sideways
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A year of extremes but no breakthroughs. Records of the wrong kind (U.S.’s longest armed conflict in Afghanistan and worst environmental disaster ever, highest temperature indexes in several regions of the world, increased infection diseases mortality rates in the Caribbean and Africa, and staggering drug trafficking casualties in Latin America) plagued the world, with the additional bonus of a certified freak: a snowstorm in the middle of the Australian summer.
But there was no progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; no curbs on Iranian and North Korean authoritarian antics or scary nuclear ambitions; no meaningful proposals to solve political impasses in the Ivory Coast, Sudan, Rwanda, Nigeria or Zimbabwe.
Disturbing tactics did get deployed, though, by the world’s superpowers but with the only intention of curbing whistle blowers and freedom of information acts such as WikiLeaks. It gave civil rights activists of every stripe a chilling pause to see Continue reading

Mystery Solved

Impostor Pretending
to Be Obama Is Caught

Breaking news coming from Washington, DC: the FBI’s just arrested Ilham Anas, a Java-based photographer of Kenyan and American descent, who’s been impersonating President Barack Obama for the past few months. Apparently, no one noticed exactly when Anas, who indeed exhibits an uncanny resemblance with Obama, took his place and began acting as an ultra-conservative Republican, but many of his supporters had suspected that the man they enthusiastically campaigned for in 2008 was not the same one who was residing at the White House.
Anas, who up to a few months ago had been making a living as a doppelganger of the president, in politically-correct advertising campaigns for Greenpeace and other progressive institutions, seems to have had a change of heart and decided he could do a better job leading the country than our first black president.
No word yet on how he kept Obama away from the public eye or whether First Lady Michelle and daughters were somehow part of the plot. What’s evident, according to supporters who’d grown discouraged by the president’s recent political decisions, is that he definitely took a right turn and all but abandoned issues he once championed.
President Obama, the real one, is expected to make a historical announcement “anytime now,” according to his press office. That may include a new economic stimulus package, the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, termination of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, end of the so-called Bush tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans, as well as fundamental changes in his cabinet, and other measures.
Earlier today, cheering crowds began to assemble in front of the White House, in a spontaneous show of support to the “new” Obama. The GOP leadership in Congress, who’s reportedly gathered in an undisclosed location, will issue an official statement about this stunning turn of events in Washington, which most likely will include a new threat of a governemnt lockdown.

Torture 101

Less Protesters at the Gates of
School That Trained Dictators

In the 1960s and 1970s, no South or Central American military dictator worth his boots lacked a diploma from the School of the Americas, a U.S. Department of Defense center that, human rights activists say, provided training for military leaders who went on to become infamous tyrants, led regimes of terror and indiscriminately ordered abductions, torture and killings of political enemies to achieve their goals.
Among the school’s alumni, there were scores of uniformed officers who sat and learned their illegal craft on its benches and went on to help stage violent coups all over the continent, provide the muscle to subjugate and crush millions of frightened Continue reading

Up, Up and Away

Space Station Reaches
10 Years of Earth Watch

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” Nothing like the sage of America’s formerly favorite pastime, Yogi Berra, to convey in a few words, a world of meaning. The International Space Station that is completing its first 10 years in orbit (11/02/2000), for example, never became the home away from home its creators once envisioned. Ever since its first crew spent a few uncomfortable days in it, it got much better, but never quite the easy ride of the sci-fi stories. And, let’s face it, it never will.
Then again, perhaps we’re all better off knowing that the envisioned world of The Jetsons and even of Blade Runner was not meant to be. Imagine texting and driving a hyperspeed-flying car? Or sending an ultra intelligent robot to the past, to kill somebody else’s grandfather? And don’t even let us start with all those promised wonderful foods in a Continue reading

A-Bomb Like No Other

A Global Vigil for Peace
65 Years After Hiroshima

At 8.15am on August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb exploded above Hiroshima, Japan, killing instantly 140,000 people. About 80 thousand more died in a second explosion in Nagasaki three days later, effectively ending the World War II.
As all the clocks in Hiroshima stopped at that infamous glimpse of hell on earth, so should we today, 65 years after. Let’s take a moment of silence to remember the sacrifice of those souls, along with their descendants and survivors.
Let’s reaffirm our faith on mankind’s ability to learn from its mistakes and renew our vows and commitment to peace on this planet. Let’s once again swear that never again we’ll take that road, no matter how many times we failed to make it good on our word.
Let’s join the fight to retire all nuclear weapons, even if that’d be such a small gesture compared to what so many already went through. War and cruelty rage on everywhere you look but there’s also plenty of kindness and forgiveness left.
The sun, the wind, the human ingenuity shall always provide to us and never threat our own existence once unleashed, the way powers we can’t control may and will if given a chance.
Let’s never forget the monsters that thrive within our hearts. Let’s keep an eye on them but also nurture and shelter whatever else of good is there so we can share our strength with each other.
Dragons may visit and haunt you at night but only the aim at making it right this time will get you out of bed in the morning. Heaven knows those hundreds of thousands stepped into that burning light as if life was as good as it had always been. As it may always be, if it’s up to you and me.

EVENTS & NEWS
* Universal Day of Peace in New York City.
* UN Secretary’s Message, Visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
* U.S.’s first-time presence at ceremony in Japan.
* New York calendar marking 65th anniversary.

Drowning Nations

Global Warming May Claim
Its First Micronesian Nation

The 29 low-lying coral atolls in the Pacific Ocean that make up the Republic of the Marshall Islands have a history that goes back four thousand years. This Micronesian nation was named after an English captain, hosted U.S. WWII battles against the Japanese and nuclear tests, and was ruled by a succession of European powers. It finally became a self-governing country in 1979.
It’s now the first one risking to disappear for good, under the threat of rising sea levels. Its 60 thousand plus inhabitants are running against the clock so it can also be declared the first Continue reading

Better Late…

The World Prepares to
Celebrate End of WWI

Ok, you can breathe freely now.
After 92 years, and almost 40 million lives lost, World War I will be officially over Sunday. Once Germany pays up the last $94 million installment of war reparations imposed by the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, champagne and cake will be served and thank you notes sent to all involved. Or rather, to their surviving kin.
It could’ve happened much earlier, of course, if it hadn’t been for that nagging Adolf’s objections over the merit of the Allies’ monetary demands. His successful bid to Germany’s Chancellery four years later was built in great part on Continue reading

Unbelievable

Battle for Your Heart (and
Wallet) Reaches Fever Pitch

JUST IN: The Fort Worth Transportation Authority banned religious or atheist advertisements on city buses, which means the latter group won this battle. While the atheists will have to take down their ads from the buses, the religious van will go on.
It may be the season. It may be the times. It may be that those who don’t care far outnumber those who do. It may be a number of things but one thing it is not: a meaningful fight.
It used to be a factor only for lands laying beyond the Hudson River. Armies of increasingly belligerent believers fighting growing hordes of dismissive rationalists over who should own a stake on that trivial but potentially explosive question: what’s your religion? A quiz that has been fading from pretty much any Continue reading

Fading HIV

Good News May Point
to World Without Aids

The Obama administration’s formulation of a new Aids/HIV policy in the past weeks coincided with a cluster of good news that may be pointing to another turning point in the fight to control and eradicate this epidemic worldwide. At the same time, social factors continue to represent the most serious obstacle to achieve such lofty goals.

With about 37 million people living with the infection in the world today, one million of them in the U.S., plus the over 24 million who already died of the disease since 1981, including half-million Americans, Aids has definitely not gone away, despite the appearances that the worst is over. Continue reading

Out on Bail

WikiLeaks’s Julian Assange
Walks Free, With Conditions

JUST IN: The High Court in London granted bail on Thursday to Julian Assange, the founder of the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks, while he fights extradition to Sweden on a warrant connected with alleged sex offenses.

About $370 thousand. That’s how much money was posted by a group of supporters for WikiLeaks’s founder Julian Assange’s release in London. City of Westminster Magistrates Court Judge Howard Riddle ordered him to come back to court on Jan. 11 and, until then, to reside at Ellingham Hall, a Georgian mansion in Bungay, eastern England.
He must spend every night there, wear electronic tags and stay under curfew from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. He’s also to report daily to the police from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Additionally, while waiting for a possible extradition to Sweden for questioning on the rape allegations case moved against him by two women, his passport will be held and he’s not permitted to travel abroad. The Swedish government said it would appeal against Assange’s release, but one of this lawyers said he probably would not be released until Wednesday morning.
WE SAY
Despite technically unrelated to the charges of sexual assault, by which Assange’s faces possible jail time in Sweden, most Continue reading

Thirsty Future

Water Supplies and Access
To Define Mankind Survival

Human Rights Now Include Access to Clean Water
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The U.N. General Assembly has declared access to clean water and sanitation a human right last month, in a Bolivia-drafted resolution approved by 124 nations. The vote was considered unanimous, even though 41 countries, including Canada, abstained from voting. The fact that there even were abstentions at all is nothing short of surprising. For within or very near the Canadian borders, for example, sit some of the world’s greatest glaciers, but never mind about that for now.
It is an unrestricted victory for an increasing number of scientists who for years have been calling attention to the serious issue water, or its lack thereof, may represent to the future of this planet. In fact, it’s one of those threats that’s grave enough to end civilization, and it’s safe to say, it’s way more likely to happen than the catastrophic collision with an asteroid we all rightfully fear.
According to the UN, more than one billion people lack access to safe drinking water and 2.6 billion are without basic sanitation. Every eight seconds a child dies of a waterborne disease, in every case preventable if their parents had money to pay for water. In fact, more lives have been lost after World War II due to contaminated water than from all forms of violence and war. And a World Bank report says that by 2030, global demand for water will exceed supply by more than 40%.
But let’s not get too wrapped up Continue reading

Why Bring the U.S. Troops Home and Soon

Do You Know

Where Our Troops Are?

What was supposed to be a series, somehow became a static, or rather, a stunted realization: counting the days and weeks makes it all even more painful. So we’ll leave at that, with the few reasons we had in the beginning of 2011 to bring the U.S. troops home once and for all.  In the end, now more than ever, the American people have understood that we need them here, while most are still alive and ready to contribute in our own nation building. At the end of the year, those in Iraq will return. Let’s hope those in Afghanistan and everywhere else on earth are also on their way home. As John Lennon once said, war is over if you want it. And now, the majority really want it. Please feel free to come up with your own reasons why that is so.

1) 1448 U.S. soldiers have died in Afghanistan as of 1/6/11.

2) Our troops are still in badly need for state of the art battle tolls, while American taxpayers have funded at least $3 billion in ill-conceived projects.

3) Suicide bombings became a way of life, even without the support of the general population. Eight innocent civilians died today and if anything, the tragedy just fuels anti-American sentiments.

4) Because Iraq and Afghanistan are the two countries with the most grievances against the U.S.,  and with all that’s happening in Egypt, it won’t be long before fingers will be pointed yet again to us.

5) More than 230,000 American women have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan so far and at least 120 have died doing so. But despite this fact, returning female veterans face unemployment, hunger, homelessness and physical and mental traumas sustained during their service.

6) 11 UN workers have just been killed in Afghanistan, two of them beheaded, and although blame should be place at the doorstep of that nut pastor in Florida, who burned some Korans but less than ten people pay attention to in the U.S. these days, such killings are still a terrible way to lose a child.

7) Taliban is still determine to revenge bin-Laden’s death and strikes over the weekend have killed four and injured at least 29 in ‘stable’ Herat, following the assassination of a police chief and a bombing that hurt a NATO.

8) An airstrike that killed 14 people — all women and children — and wounded six in the volatile southwest Helmand province, last week, despite being a NATO’s mistake, will be surely blamed on the U.S. and paid for with American lives.

9) Use of improvised explosive devices (IED) is causing a surge in double amputees among the troops, with injuries often so close to soldiers’ hips that it is difficult to fit prosthetic legs. Young men who lose their genitals in such explosions became severely depressed and unable to function within the context of relationship.

10) In the end, it may be the war’s price tag the determining factor to end the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan. The $113 billion it’s spending this year, plus the $107 billion it aims to spend in 2012, may become the tipping point to turn the tide towards a complete troop withdrawal.

Walk Backwards

Republicans Foreclose on Democrats
& Vow to Go After Obama’s Policies

So the expected happened and the Democrats lost the majority in the House. A red-faced John Boehner, poised to be the next Speaker, celebrated the Republicans’ biggest achievement of the night: to temporarily erase the recent past from the voters’ minds, and win on a message of change in Washington, stolen from candidate Barack Obama.
Also expected is a two-year battle to preserve the tax cuts for Continue reading