Saturday, December 20, 2014

CIA’s queen of torture was used to create Zero Dark Thirty character

CIA’s queen of torture was used to create Zero Dark Thirty character

Recently released Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA torture featured a key character in the agency’s string of horrific misdeeds. Alfreda Frances Bikowsky is a career CIA officer, who remains in a senior position at the agency, having headed the Bin Laden Issue Station (also known as its code name, Alec Station) and the Global Jihad unit. She is a former Soviet analyst, who has worked in the CIA's Counterterrorist Center and in the Al Qaeda unit since the mid-1990s.

While the agency refuses to publicly name Bikowsky, her name was deduced by Salon reporters Rory O'connor and Ray Nowosielski, as well as a contemporary historian Kevin Fenton, in 2011. Bikowsky had been referenced in Jane Mayer’s book “The Dark Side,” by her middle name, Frances. As a supervisor and an analyst in the pre-911 world, Bikowsky dropped the ball when the CIA was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks.

In the wake of the Sony hack, Russia buddies up to North Korea

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin has invited North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to visit Moscow in 2015, the Kremlin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Dec. 19, 2014. North Korea’s reclusive leader would be celebrating the anniversary of the former Soviet Union's World War Two victory on May 9, 2015. Last month, Kim Jong Un sent his personal envoy to Moscow to further deepening ties between Russia and North Korea. If Kim accepts Putin’s offer, this will be his first public foreign visit since coming to power in December 2011.

Russia’s Gazprom wants to build a gas pipeline through North Korea, to provide natural gas exports to South Korea. Russia also seeks leverage in dealing with the West, by offering help in resuming stalled international talks on North Korea’s nuclear program. The talks were suspended after Pyongyang tested nuclear devices in 2006 and 2009. Russia’s leading mad-hatter ideologue Alexander Dugin advocated that Russia should be providing nuclear weaponry to North Korea, as the last refuge of communism. Russia’s politicians and talking heads see North Korea as a partner in the grandstanding between post-Soviet holdouts and the West. North Korea is also providing free workers for the labor camps in Siberiain exchange for the payments from Russia to the government of North Korea. Laborers live and work in deplorable conditions, with terms ranging from three to ten years.

Metropolitan Opera undeterred by Anna Netrebko fraternizing with terrorists




On December 16, 2014, President Obama signaled his intent to sign newly passed legislation that will expand sanctions against Russia and provide $350 million in arms and military equipment to Ukraine, as it continues to battle terrorist elements armed and empowered by Russia in eastern regions of Ukraine. “The president does intend to sign the piece of legislation that was passed by Congress,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary.” Analysts opined that President Obama had little choice but to sign the legislation, in light of Putin’s outright aggression. Russia has continued to violate the terms of a Minsk agreement by providing military and material support to the terrorists/separatists in Ukraine. Obama is expected to sign the new legislation by the end of this week.

On November 17, 2014, the Metropolitan Opera finally responded to an inquiry about their upcoming opera performances starring Anna Netrebko - opera singer who landed herself in hot water, when she held up the flag of nonexistent “Novorossiya” and posed with terrorist leader, Oleg Tsarov, after handing him a check for 1 million rubles. Netrebko attempted to downplay the event, by claiming that she didn’t realize what the flag symbolized or who Tsarov was. He is the self-appointed leader of the nonexistent terrorist republic “Novorossiya,” the would-be country that Russia-armed insurgents intend to carve out of Ukrainian land. Tsarov is wanted by the Ukrainian government on charges of separatism and is also on the list of individuals sanctioned by the EU for their role in events in Eastern Ukraine. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko stated: "Those armed in Eastern Ukraine should not be referred to as "separatists." There are no separatists there. They are terrorists."

Minority Report in real life: how social media posts impact your threat rating


Whether you’re a young, proactive blogger, a prolific Facebook poster, an occasional Twitter user or a compulsive promulgator of cat photos, someone you don’t know is watching you. Social media activities are being meticulously recorded, scanned and organized to determine your “threat level” that is then transmitted to various law enforcement agencies.

For example, your local police department is likely using numerous tools and applications that might determine how you get treated during a routine traffic stop, or in response to your neighbor’s call about loud music. One such application, Beware, has been sold to police departments since 2012. It can be accessed on any Internet-enabled device, including tablets, smartphones, laptop and desktop computers, while responders are en route to, or at the location of a call.

This app explores billions of records in social media postings, commercial and public databases for law enforcement needs, churning out “risk profiles” in real time. ‘Beware’ algorithm assigns a score and “threat rating” to a person — green, yellow or red – and sends that rating to a requesting officer. Worst of all, this information is not made available to the very person whose “threat rating” is being appraised. You have no ability to dispute being wrongly designated a high-risk potential offender.

Jury awards $900,000 to man punched by sheriff's deputy over tinted windows

Jury awards $900,000 to man punched by sheriff's deputy over tinted windows

On December 11, 2014, a federal jury awarded $900,000 to Eduardo Cervantes for physical and emotional pain and suffering. Cervantes was punched in the face by a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy in a Maywood parking lot in 2010. He was sitting in his parked car outside a billiards hall, when two sheriff’s deputies approached him. Sheriff’s deputies Paul Cruz and Victor Cisneros wanted to cite Cervantes because his car windows were tinted.

According to the lawsuit, Deputy Paul Cruz ordered him to get out of the car. Both deputies became angry when Cervantes asked why he is being told to step out of the vehicle. Cervantes, who wears a prosthesis on his right leg, got out and complied with commands to face his vehicle and put his hands behind him. In spite of his cooperation and non-resistance, Deputy Victor Cisneros punched him, and both deputies then knocked him backward.

Man pleads guilty to mailing 21 fake Anthrax/Ricin letters to public officials

Man pleads guilty to mailing 21 fake Anthrax/Ricin Letters to public officials

On December 12, 2014, the Department of Justice announced that Brian Daniel Norton, age 59, of Cicero, New York, entered a guilty plea to two federal felony counts of conveying false information and hoaxes. He faces a maximum possible sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

During court proceedings, Norton admitted to mailing 21 death threat letters between 1997 and 2012. Most of the letters contained a white powder that he claimed to be either anthrax or ricin. One of the death threats, which was mailed in 1997, didn’t contain any powder and threatened the recipient with death by the AIDS virus.

Norton mailed his death threats to various government agencies, public officials, schools and television personalities.

Former Border Patrol Agent sentenced to life in prison for murder, torture

Former Border Patrol Agent sentenced to life in prison for murder, torture

On December 12, 2014, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced that retired border patrol agent Nerio Celaya, 44, of Calexico, California has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in the killing and torture of his cousin’s 29-year-old girlfriend, Lupe Fernandez, in 2010.

Celaya was found guilty of one count each of first degree murder and torture. Special circumstance allegation of torture was specifically investigated by the jury and found to be true. Celaya’s cousin, Louie Alex Mendoza, 38, of Sylmar, was also found guilty of murder and torture and sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

Psychologist who devised CIA interrogation tactics resigned as Mormon bishop



Bruce Jessen (pictured on the left), one of the chief architects of the CIA's torture program, bemoaned the exposure that caused him to resign from his position as the bishop of his Mormon church in Spokane, Washington. On December 11, 2014, Jessen told Reuters that he had to quit after civil liberties and human rights activists criticized his past activities in the local newspaper. “This was due to concerns expressed about his past work related to interrogation techniques,” said Eric Hawkins, a national spokesman in Salt Lake City for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Local leaders met with Jessen and together determined that it would be difficult for him to serve as an effective leader in that position,” Hawkins added.

Former Air Force psychologists, Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, ran a company that received compensation of a whopping $81.1 million from the CIA, according to a U.S. Senate report released on December 9, 2014. Neither one of them had any experience in interrogation or counter-terrorism. According to the report, the pair recommended waterboarding, slapping, humiliation, the use of insects and mock burials for detainees in the agency’s secret prisons. The American Psychological Association called for Jessen and Mitchell to be held accountable, although neither one of them belong to the organization and therefore cannot be disciplined.

Russia Digest: ruble plummets, prostitutes and condom makers hike their prices


December of 2014 is proving to be a very interesting month for Russia-watchers. Western sanctions are taking their toll, devastating the country’s already weak economy. Russia’s Hamas-style activities in Ukraine carry an expensive price tag, as oil prices continue to fall and the ruble is close to turning into rubble. Russia’s central bank has used $100 billion worth of its $400 billion foreign reserves since July, 2014. These desperate attempts to prop up the country’s currency are failing, as the ruble continues to plummet. The ruble has lost more than 40% of its value against the dollar and 60% against the euro since the start of this year. On December 11, 2014 the central bank implemented the fifth rate hike this year, which raised interest rates to 10.5%.

So far, Russia’s central bank has refused corporate requests for subsidies to the private sector. Corporate leaders are warning that their companies may become insolvent without state support. Investors are expected to pull out a total of $240 billion from Russia by the end of 2015. Russians dumped $20 billion worth of their own currency this year. The central bank doesn't expect economic growth to return until 2017. Plunging global oil prices are crushing the Russian economy, because of its dependence upon the country’s massive energy sector. About half of the Russian government's revenue comes from oil and gas exports.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Los Angeles County’s unclaimed dead buried in a mass grave

Los Angeles County’s unclaimed dead buried in a mass grave

Los Angeles County’s 1,416 unclaimed bodies were buried in a mass grave on December 10, 2014. They were cremated in 2011, but held by the county for three years, in hopes that the relatives would pick up the remains of their loved ones. LA County maintains an online database of unclaimed dead people, but it includes only the cases that went through the Office of the Coroner. That represents only about a third of all unclaimed deceased in Los Angeles.

The only complete list in existence is a handwritten ledger at the county cemetery in Boyle Heights. The county eventually plans to put the complete list online. The numbers of the unclaimed dead in Los Angeles County are staggering. The latest data reveals that for the year 2011 there were 843 unclaimed deceased men, as well as 431 women, 137 babies and two children. This includes at least 16 homicide victims.

Los Angeles actor Dimitri Diatchenko boils roommate's pet rabbit, finds himself in hot water

Los Angeles actor boils roommate's pet rabbit, finds himself in hot water

Hollywood actor Dimitri Diatchenko portrayed Russian villains and tough guys in “G.I. Jane,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” “2 Broke Girls,” “Bones,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “General Hospital” and many other film and TV productions. He recently decided to play the bad guy in real life. On December 9, 2014, Diatchenko was criminally charged with killing his female roommate’s pet rabbit and threatening to do the same to her.

In a scene reminiscent of “Fatal Instinct,” Dimitri Diatchenko skinned the bunny, Ella, whom he previously described as his roommate and “the chillest rabbit” ever. Last Sunday, bunny Ella became the innocent victim in the falling out between Diatchenko and his former girlfriend, Amie. After the pair stopped dating, they continued to live together. However, when Amie wanted Diatchenko to move out, he took it out on her pet.