Sunday, December 30, 2007

Are You Wanting Some Fresh, Insightful Reading?

Winners of the 2007 Utne Independent Press Awards
by the Editors of Utne Reader

The process of picking the 2007 Utne Independent Press Award winners was technologically advanced and methodologically incontrovertible. The 111 magazines, journals, newsletters, alternative weeklies, and zines that were nominated by the Utne Reader staff two months ago were fed into a gigantic and infallible computer (Intel inside!) that performed sophisticated informational and qualitative meta-analyses and, with an authority befitting the great Oz or the great Google, spat out a list of the 15 winners within minutes. With the exception of a High Country News issue that got stuck in an intake chute (along with an intern’s hand) and a zine that the computer initially rejected as “unidentifiable media,” it all went as smoothly as our IT guys said it would.

And if you believe that, we’ve got a domain name we’d like to sell you. The fact is, computers can do many incredible things, but when it comes to sorting through the independent press in search of stories that surprise and delight us, good old human judgment—preferably the informed and enlightened kind—is still our best analytic tool. So the unglamorous truth is that we chose the winners in a blatantly old-school way, by reading the nominees extensively, then getting together to champion our favorite titles and challenge one another to examine our opinions. We’re a feisty bunch—hypocrisy was exposed, favoritism suspected, and personal tastes called into question—but at the end of the day we emerged with a roster of winners that we’re proud to present here.

The following pages tease out the juicy stuff that keeps us coming back to these publications, but we couldn’t fit everything we wanted into this section. So we’re relying on that newfangled Internet: For detailed profiles of the winners and a full list of nominees, visit the links below.

—The Editors

General Excellence: Magazines

ColorLines, the 2007 general excellence winner, bills itself as “the national newsmagazine on race and politics,” but its scope is vastly broader. From economics, education, and the environment to immigration, queer issues, fine arts, and pop culture, ColorLines examines the myriad ways race—and our ideas about race—intersect with everyday life.

The Rants & Raves department showcases that mission in a nutshell, providing quick-hit analysis of the day’s top stories and “reading between the headlines” to commend and critique issues of race and class. These angles often go underreported, but ColorLines puts them front and center, as was the case when they wrote about a Dallas public elementary school where “for years, it was an open secret that white parents could get their children into all-white classes.”

The cover stories, though, are where ColorLines settles in, demonstrating essential perspective and sharp criticism. The May-June 2007 cover story, “For Sale: What New Orleans’ housing crisis reveals about race in American cities,” examines black communities struggling to resettle New Orleans and memorably calls for an “overdue debate on urban inequality.” In March-April 2007, we discovered “What Your Doctor Won’t See . . . If conservatives make healthcare ‘colorblind.’ ”

In addition to political and social reporting, ColorLines excels as a source for arts coverage. “The Rise of Krip-Hop,” a write-up on disabled rap artists in the May-June 2007 issue, introduced us to a genre we’d simply not seen covered elsewhere. And the “Fiction Issue” (Nov.-Dec. 2006) makes the case that creative writers are political figures, and that fiction, in the words of managing editor Daisy Hernández, “creates for us the story of what people actually experience.”

The 10-year-old publication entered 2007 with a fresh redesign and a new bimonthly format (formerly quarterly). We couldn’t be happier to celebrate its success, and we’re looking forward to 2008.

General Excellence: Zines

A tall, slim, uncluttered zine that arrives four or five times a year, Macaroni takes on whatever its publisher, John Toren, feels like writing about—philosophy, travel, film, food—and it’s a surprisingly successful formula. In large part, this is due to Toren’s exquisite knack for writing and storytelling, which makes a page-turner out of practically anything. Even his reflections on working at a (now-defunct) book warehouse, which occupied the whole of a recent issue, proved a fascinating read. It helps, too, that he clearly still delights in making Macaroni, 20 years after he rolled out the first issue. His writing is amiable and his mind clear; his thoughts move seamlessly from, say, a book he’s been reading by French intellectual Alain Finkielkraut to a review of happy hour specials at local restaurants. The 20-some pages of Macaroni are, quite simply, as much a joy to read as they must be to write.

Best New Publication

Heavy intellectual hitters in the world of politics, including Dennis Ross, Joseph Nye, Jr., and Anne-Marie Slaughter, have their say in the pages of Democracy. From the first issue, when Kathryn Roth-Douquet called on progressives to enlist in the military, this quarterly “journal of ideas” has consistently presented fresh perspectives on American foreign policy and politics. Democracy fills a void in today’s media landscape: It’s an intelligent, wide-ranging political magazine committed to “grooming the next generation of progressive thought-leaders.” Conservatives have magazines like the National Review, Commentary, and National Interest to arm their troops for battle. Editors Kenneth Baer and Andrei Cherny conceived their journal as a way for the left to do the same. Contributors often contradict each other, with every issue devoting space to responses to the previous issue’s points of view. Ultimately, the editors hope these disagreements, polemics, and discussions will strengthen the progressive movement in the United States.

Best Design

There’s an undeniable appeal to the theme-issue magazine, which is why even regular old publications occasionally drop the “music” issue or the “food” issue into the mix. But the real-deal, not-messing-around theme-issue magazines do it every time, presenting their subject area through myriad lenses, refracting their beat into one dazzling angle after the next. Theme (as you’d never guess from its title) does just that, and does it with serious style. The guiding subject is global Asian culture; each issue’s theme is whimsically specific (transplants, journals, nerds!); and the visual elements are always refined. Theme also excels at presenting all types of artwork in interesting, beautiful, and accessible ways. The “nerds” issue (Spring 2007) playfully showcases photography by Jing Cheng Quek, while the “journals” issue (Summer 2007) strikes just the right, albeit odd, tone for the disarming animal art of Lee Hyungkoo. Sometimes, Theme runs pieces that are all art, no text at all, save a headline. Like any best-design winner, Theme is consistent in its use of clean typefaces and ample white space, but it’s the way each issue’s distinct visual personality compliments its motif that pushed Theme to the top in 2007.

Best Writing
The Sun

Think of the Sun as an intimate forum where some of the finest contemporary writers share their most polished, provocative prose, and then everyone else is invited to join in. The magazine’s founder, Sy Safransky, has made it a priority to create an open environment for storytelling and exchanging ideas. “We’re all in the same boat—mysterious flesh-and-blood creatures, radiant and broken—and of course the boat is sinking, but there’s still time to share a story or two as the night comes on,” he writes in the January 2007 issue. The modestly-sized editorial staff consistently honors the art of writing while dabbling in interviews, memoirs, essays, fiction, and poetry. In “Reader’s Write,” one of our favorite sections of the magazine, readers are invited to contribute short pieces on a broad range of topics, such as “Airports” or “Nine to Five,” resulting in a lively, nationwide dialogue.

Arts Coverage
Film Comment

Smartly occupying a spot somewhere between vapid Hollywood celeb mags and austere film-scholar journals, Film Comment is for people who love movies and crave intelligent writing about them, without footnotes. Published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, Film Comment regularly publishes some of the best film writers in the world, and they probe and parse cinema in ways that deepen our experience of it and provide far more satisfaction than the average thumbs-up-thumbs-down review. In recent issues, Stuart Klawans of the Nation analyzed Michael Moore’s calculatedly polemic style, Barcelona-based film critic Manuel Yanez Murillo heralded Spanish director Carlos Saura, and Jonathan Romney plumbed the meaning of the dystopian Children of Men. Generously sized photos and a clean look make Film Comment a feast for the eyes, much like the movies it covers. After the lights come up, crack it open and enjoy.

In-Depth/Investigative Reporting
Intelligence Report

In a time when media reflection on the country’s race issues comes down to parsing the latest celebrity gaffe, Intelligence Report reminds us that organized, violent racism—often written-off as a troubling relic of a bygone era—endures. Published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the venerable Montgomery, Alabama-based civil rights organization, the magazine tracks extremist movements and their ideological ripples throughout society. In the Spring 2007 issue, for instance, it was reported that the number of hate groups in the United States has swelled along with the nation’s rising tide of populist anti-immigration sentiments, climbing 40 percent to 844 in a six-year period (2000 to 2006). The Winter 2006 cover story took aim at Latino gangs targeting African Americans in Los Angeles. In Fall 2007, the magazine exposed the “Watchmen on the Walls,” a virulent anti-gay group fomenting hatred among fellow Slavic immigrants in Sacramento. Managing their wide-ranging mission by carrying on the fine but increasingly rare tradition of old-school investigative journalism, the writers and editors weed through mountains of paper, work the phones, hit the pavement, and connect the dots.

Environmental Coverage
Earth Island Journal

Lots of magazines are covering the environment these days—is there one that hasn’t done a “green” issue?—but among those that make it their beat, Earth Island Journal stands out. The quarterly publication of the David Brower-founded Earth Island Institute, the Journal impresses us with its global perspective on environmental news, its clear presentation of complex issues, and an editorial gutsiness in its well-researched features and hard-hitting commentaries. In recent issues the magazine has written about the “killer spinach” of industrial agriculture, the risks presented by genetically modified trees, and, on the silver-lining tip, how to survive the transition to the post-oil economy. And we liked last fall’s story about the greenwashing of the nuclear industry so much that we reprinted it in the Jan.-Feb. 2008 issue of Utne Reader. The environment is surely the biggest news story of our day, and we’re glad Earth Island Journal is on it.

Health/Wellness Coverage

POZ serves one of the most diverse audiences out there: people living with HIV/AIDS. In the past year alone, this engaging magazine has covered rising infection rates in the Southern United States, homophobia and HIV stigma in Jamaica, new infections among senior citizens, the struggles of HIV-positive undocumented immigrants, and many other stories that we don’t see anywhere else. Each issue balances this brand of serious reporting with lighter, more upbeat pursuits, including profiles of AIDS activists, short first-person narratives, pop-culture snapshots, legislative and medical news, and health tips. It’s a vital resource on a subject that’s constantly skipped over by the mainstream media, and required reading for anyone interested in a more complete picture of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Political Coverage
The Chronicle of Higher Education

The premier source for all things scholarly, this weekly reader combines grade-A reportage with sharp, smart (dare we say, non­-academic?) prose­, to make a seemingly specialized beat both accessible and relevant to the broadest of audiences. The state of higher education is a political concern of deep import both domestically and around the globe. For that reason alone, this comprehensive, cleanly designed newspaper deserves recognition for its international scope. What raises its political coverage to elite status, though, is “The Chronicle Review,” a fearless, free-thinking section where academia’s best and brightest can take their gloves off and swing with abandon at both sides of the increasingly predictable political divide. Some of our favorite storylines from 2007: “Most everyone has a theory about why the poor stay poor. Most everyone is wrong”; “Sure, we should respond to terrorism with calm, tactical rationality. We should also call its perpetrators what they are: scum”; “Hats off to conservatives’ literary skills—but it’s easy to be entertaining when your ideas are simplistic and illogical.” Politically correct? Hardly. Ahead of the curve? Always.

Social/Cultural Coverage

In a word: sumptuous. Perfect-bound, pages ever-so-slightly-glossy, Gastronomica feels heavier in your hand than 140-odd pages should. It’s clean and elegant, from its covers (a simple image, no text) to its content (blissfully free of advertising). It’s a perennial pleasure to devour, as satisfying intellectually as it is visually. For a journal with academic ties—it’s published by the University of California Press, and editor in chief Darra Goldstein and managing editor Jane Canova are from Williams College—Gastronomica is roundly accessible. The Summer 2007 issue, for instance, includes an interview with the developer of “vertical farming”; a photo essay shot in Tequila, Mexico, heavy on the agave plants; a critique of the cult of Michael Pollan (reprinted in Utne Reader’s Jan.-Feb. 2008 issue); a history of “food advice” in America; and a photograph of a “Happier Meal,” a tiny, adorable, felt reproduction of that edible cultural archetype.

International Coverage
Foreign Policy

If psychologists tried to analyze Foreign Policy, they’d probably diagnose the bimonthly with an acute case of Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Whatever the rest of the world currently believes about global politics, Foreign Policy will find someone who disagrees. And, much to the consternation of political candidates and world leaders, the contrarian views espoused are often dead on. Founded by Samuel Huntington and Warren Demian Manshel and now published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the magazine seems to have hit its stride lately, winning a number of prestigious magazine awards in the last year. Editor Mosés Naím’s column “Missing Links” has become a must for anyone interested in global politics. Even the letters to the editor read like the faculty notes of a prestigious university, with professors, organization presidents, ambassadors, and congressional representatives writing in to make their opinions heard. Agree or disagree, every issue offers new and challenging perspectives on the ever-shrinking world in which we live.

Local/Regional Coverage
Alberta Views

The Canadian province of Alberta has a booming oil economy that has wrought environmental havoc, led to an immigration influx, and fueled a diverse and vibrant arts scene. The regional magazine Alberta Views navigates this far-ranging terrain with grace and intelligence, and although it calls itself “the magazine about Alberta for Albertans,” we respectfully disagree, since we find ourselves repeatedly drawn to its vivid writing. Sure, some of the political coverage is best left to the locals, but the “Eye on Alberta” section never fails to remind us of a north-of-the-border version of Harper’s “Readings,” and the feature reports and essays often touch on issues that resonate far beyond the province’s borders. We loved “Doing the Dirty Work,” in which a writer worked on oil rigs for two months, and “Mean Streets,” which reported on the province’s homeless population, the largest per capita in the country. Add savvy arts coverage of Alberta’s considerable creative output, and the result is a magazine we never want to miss.

Science/Tech Coverage
Science News

When a magazine lands in your mailbox at the relentless pace of once a week, it can seem more like a recycling burden than an intellectual treat. (Hell, sometimes even a bimonthly, no matter how great, can get lost in the informational onslaught.) That’s why we were all a bit surprised when the weekly Science News emerged as a clear favorite among a staff already buried under mountains of magazines-to-read. What’s their trick? One word: essential. Science News boils down the latest trends and findings in the ever-expanding world of science into must-know information. Clocking in at a slim 16 pages, Science News is packed with short, easy-to read round-ups from the week and quick blurbs on notable books. But there is depth here, too. Features this year have examined the long reach of urban air pollution, troubling schizophrenia rates among Pacific islanders, and the Arctic’s melting permafrost. Even if you’re not in touch with your inner science geek, you’ll find something to enjoy in this smart but accessible publication. Just make sure that, before you toss its recycled pages into the recycling bin, you’ve spent some quality time with it.

Spiritual Coverage
Shambhala Sun

The stated goal of the Canadian-based Shambhala Sun Foundation, which publishes this year’s winner, is to “promote the growth and development of genuine buddhadharma as Buddhism takes root in the West” and to “work with and support all those who share the values of wisdom, sacredness, and compassion.” Shambhala Sun, while clearly aligned with the nonprofit’s specific take on this brand of spirituality, stands out not so much as a doctrinaire instructional manual (there are other publications better geared for that task) as it does a user-friendly guide for culturally curious, searching souls. With a focus on health and wellness, and a decidedly gentle approach to the lifelong trial that is personal transformation, the editors tap a surprisingly diverse cast of philosophers, psychologists, educators, and storytellers to breathe life into its lessons, which ultimately boil down to a clearer vision of ourselves, our neighbors, and the world’s beauty and fragility.

For more on the winners of the Utne Independent Press Awards, read this PDF from the January/February 2008 issue.

To see all of the nominees, click here.

To view the winners press release, click here.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Gotta Get Back on the Love Train in 2008

Help I'm a Rock...........

Intrusive Brain Reading Surveillance Technology: Hacking the Mind

By Carole Smith

Global Research, December 13, 2007
Dissent Magazine, Australia, Summer 2007/2008

"We need a program of psychosurgery for political control of our society. The purpose is physical control of the mind. Everyone who deviates from the given norm can be surgically mutilated.

The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective. Man does not have the right to develop his own mind. This kind of liberal orientation has great appeal. We must electronically control the brain. Someday armies and generals will be controlled by electric stimulation of the brain."

-Dr José Delgado. Director of Neuropsychiatry, Yale University Medical School Congressional Record, No. 26, Vol. 118 February 24, 1974.

The Guardian newspaper, that defender of truth in the United Kingdom, published an article by the Science Correspondent, Ian Sample, on 9 February 2007 entitled:

‘The Brain Scan that can read people’s intentions’, with the sub-heading: ‘Call for ethical debate over possible use of new technology in interrogation".

"Using the scanner, we could look around the brain for this information and read out something that from the outside there's no way you could possibly tell is in there. It's like shining a torch around, looking for writing on a wall", the scientists were reported as saying.

At the same time, London’s Science Museum was holding an exhibition entitled ‘Neurobotics: The Future of Thinking’. This venue had been chosen for the launch in October 2006 of the news that human thoughts could be read using a scanner. Dr Geraint Rees’ smiling face could be seen in a photograph at the Neurobotics website, under the heading "The Mind Reader". Dr Rees is one of the scientists who have apparently cracked the problem which has preoccupied philosophers and scientists since before Plato: they had made entry into the conscious mind. Such a reversal of human historical evolution, announced in such a pedestrian fashion, makes one wonder what factors have been in play, and what omissions made, in getting together this show, at once banal and extraordinary. The announcement arrives as if out of a vacuum. The neuroscientist - modern-style hunter-gatherer of information and darling of the "Need to Know" policies of modern government - does little to explain how he achieved this goal of entering the conscious mind, nor does he put his work into any historical context. Instead, we are asked in the Science Museum’s programme notes:

How would you feel if someone could read your innermost thoughts? Geraint Rees of UCL says he can. By using brain-imaging technology he's beginning to decode thought and explore the difference between the conscious and unconscious mind. But how far will it go? And shouldn’t your thoughts remain your personal business?

If Dr Rees has decoded the mind sufficiently for such an announcement to be made in an exhibition devoted to it, presumably somewhere is the mind which has been, and is continuing to be, decoded. He is not merely continuing his experiments using functional magnetic resolution scanning (fMRI) in the way neuroscientists have been observing their subjects under scanning devices for years, asking them to explain what they feel or think while the scientists watch to see which area lights up, and what the cerebral flow in the brain indicates for various brain areas. Dr Rees is decoding the mind in terms of conscious and unconscious processes. For that, one must have accessed consciousness itself. Whose consciousness? Where is the owner of that consciousness – and unconsciousness? How did he/she feel? Why not ask them to tell us how it feels, instead of asking us.

The Neurobotics Exhibition was clearly set up to make these exciting new discoveries an occasion for family fun, and there were lots of games for visitors to play. One gets the distinct impression that we are being softened up for the introduction of radical new technology which will, perhaps, make the mind a communal pool rather than an individual possession. Information technology seeks to connect us all to each other in as many ways as possible, but also, presumably, to those vast data banks which allow government control not only to access all information about our lives, but now also to our thoughts, even to our unconscious processing. Does anyone care?

One of the most popular exhibits was the ‘Mindball’ game, which required two players to go literally head-to-head in a battle for brainpower, and used ‘brainpower’ alone. Strapped up with headbands which pick up brain waves, the game uses neurofeedback, but the person who is calm and relaxed wins the game. One received the impression that this calmness was the spirit that the organisers wished to reinforce, to deflect any undue public panic that might arise from the news that private thoughts could now be read with a scanner. The ingress into the mind as a private place was primarily an event to be enjoyed with the family on an afternoon out:

Imagine being able to control a computer with only the power of your mind. Or read people’s thoughts and know if they’re lying. And what if a magnetic shock to the brain could make you more creative…but should we be able to engineer our minds?

Think your thoughts are private? Ever told a lie and been caught red-handed? Using brain-scanning technology, scientists are beginning to probe our minds and tell if we’re lying. Other scientists are decoding our desires and exploring the difference between our conscious and unconscious mind. But can you really trust the technology?

Other searching questions are raised in the program notes, and more games:

Find out if you’ve got what it takes to be a modern-day spy in this new interactive family exhibition. After being recruited as a trainee spy, explore the skills and abilities required by real agents and use some of the latest technologies that help spies gather and analyse information. Later go on and discover what it’s like to be spied upon. Uncover a secret store of prototype gadgets that give you a glimpse into the future of spy technologies and finally use everything you’ve learnt to escape before qualifying as a fully-fledged agent!

There were also demonstrations of grateful paraplegics and quadriplegics showing how the gods of science have so unselfishly liberated them from their prisons: this was the serious Nobel Prize side of the show. But there was no-one representing Her Majesty’s government to demonstrate how these very same devices can be used quite freely, and with relative ease, in our wireless age, to conduct experiments on free-ranging civilians tracked anywhere in the world, and using an infinitely extendable form of electrode which doesn’t require visible contact with the scalp at all. Electrodes, like electricity, can also take an invisible form – an electrode is a terminal of an electric source through which electrical energy or current may flow in or out. The brain itself is an electrical circuit. Every brain has its own unique resonating frequency. The brain is an infinitely more sensitive receiver and transmitter than the computer, and even in the wireless age, the comprehension of how wireless networks operate appears not to extend to the workings of the brain. The monotonous demonstration of scalps with electrodes attached to them, in order to demonstrate the contained conduction of electrical charges, is a scientific fatuity, in so far as it is intended to demonstrate comprehensively the capability of conveying charges to the brain, or for that matter, to any nerve in the body, as a form of invisible torture.

As Neurobotics claims: ‘Your brain is amazing’, but the power and control over brains and nervous systems achieved by targeting brain frequencies with radiowaves must have been secretly amazing government scientists for many years. The problem that now arises, at the point of readiness when so much has been achieved, is how to put the technology into action in such a way, as it will be acceptable in the public domain. This requires getting it through wider government and legal bodies, and for that, it must be seen to spring from the unbiased scientific investigations into the workings of the brain, in the best tradition of the leading universities. It is given over to Dr Rees and his colleague, Professor Haynes, endowed with the disclosure for weightier Guardian readers, to carry the torch for the government. Those involved may also have noted the need to show the neuroscientist in a more responsible light, following US neuroengineer for government sponsored Lockheed Martin, John Norseen’s, ingenuous comment, in 2000, about his belief about the consequences of his work in fMRI:

‘If this research pans out’, said Norseen, ‘you can begin to manipulate what someone is thinking even before they know it.’ And added: "The ethics don’t concern me, but they should concern someone else."

While the neuroscientists report their discovery (without even so much as the specific frequency of the light employed by this scanner/torch), issuing ethical warnings while incongruously continuing with their mind-blowing work, the government which sponsors them, remains absolutely mute. The present probing of people’s intentions, minds, background thoughts, hopes and emotions is being expanded into the more complex and subtle aspects of thinking and feeling. We have, however, next to no technical information about their methods. The description of ‘shining a torch around the brain’ is as absurd a report as one could read of a scientific endeavour, especially one that carries such enormous implications for the future of mankind. What is this announcement, with its technical obfuscation, preparing us for?

Writing in Wired contributing editor Steve Silberman points out that the lie-detection capability of fMRI is ‘poised to transform the security system, the judicial system, and our fundamental notions of privacy’. He quotes Cephos founder, Steven Laken, whose company plans to market the new technology for lie detection. Laken cites detainees held without charge at Guantanamo Bay as a potential example. ‘If these detainees have information we haven’t been able to extract that could prevent another 9/11, I think most Americans would agree that we should be doing whatever it takes to extract it’. Silberman also quotes Paul Root Wolpe, a senior fellow at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, who describes the accelerated advances in fMRI as ‘ a textbook example of how something can be pushed forward by the convergence of basic science, the government directing research through funding, and special interests who desire a particular technology’. Are we to believe that with the implied capability to scan jurors’ brains, the judiciary, the accused and the defendant alike, influencing one at the expense of the other, that the legal implications alone of mind-accessing scanners on university campuses, would not rouse the Minister for Justice from his bench to say a few words about these potential mind weapons?

So what of the ethical debate called for by the busy scientists and the Guardian’s science reporter? Can this technology- more powerful in subverting thought itself than anything in prior history – really be confined to deciding whether the ubiquitously invoked terrorist has had the serious intention of blowing up the train, or whether it was perhaps a foolish prank to make a bomb out of chapatti flour? We can assume that the government would certainly not give the go-ahead to the Science Museum Exhibition, linked to Imperial College, a major government-sponsored institution in laser-physics, if it was detrimental to surveillance programs. It is salutary to bear in mind that government intelligence research is at least ten years ahead of any public disclosure. It is implicit from history that whatever affords the undetectable entry by the gatekeepers of society into the brain and mind, will not only be sanctioned, but funded and employed by the State, more specifically by trained operatives in the security forces, given powers over defenceless citizens, and unaccountable to them.

The actual technology which is now said to be honing the technique ‘to distinguish between passing thoughts and genuine intentions’ is described by Professor John-Dylan Haynes in the Guardian in the most disarmingly untechnical language which must surely not have been intended to enlighten.

The Guardian piece ran as follows:

A team of world-leading neuroscientists has developed a powerful technique that allows them to look deep inside a person’s brain and read their intentions before they act.

The research breaks controversial new ground in scientists’ ability to probe people’s minds and eavesdrop on their thoughts, and raises serious ethical issues over how brain-reading technology may be used in the future.

‘Using the scanner, we could look around the brain for this information and read out something that from the outside there's no way you could possibly tell is in there. It's like shining a torch around, looking for writing on a wall,’ said John-Dylan Haynes at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Germany, who led the study with colleagues at University College London and Oxford University.

We know therefore that they are using light, but fMRI has been used for many years to attempt the unravelling of neuronal activity, and while there have been many efforts to record conscious and unconscious processes, with particular emphasis on the visual cortex, there has been no progress into consciousness itself. We can be sure that we are not being told the real story.

Just as rats and chimpanzees have been used to demonstrate findings from remote experiments on humans, electrode implants used on cockroaches to remotely control them, lasers used to steer fruit-flies , and worms engineered so that their nerves and muscles can be controlled with pinpricks of light, the information and techniques that have been ruthlessly forged using opportunistic onslaughts on defenceless humans as guinea pigs - used for myriad purposes from creating 3D haptic gloves in computer games to creating artificial intelligence to send visual processing into outer space - require appropriate replication for peer group approval and to meet ethical demands for scientific and public probity.

The use of light to peer into the brain is almost certainly that of terahertz, which occurs in the wavelengths which lie between 30mm and 1mm of the electromagnetic spectrum. Terahertz has the ability to penetrate deep into organic materials, without (it is said) the damage associated with ionising radiation such as x-rays. It can distinguish between materials with varying water content – for example fat versus lean meat. These properties lend themselves to applications in process and quality control as well as biomedical imaging. Terahertz can penetrate bricks, and also human skulls. Other applications can be learnt from the major developer of terahertz in the UK, Teraview, which is in Cambridge, and partially owned by Toshiba.

Efforts to alert human rights’ groups about the loss of the mind as a place to call your own, have met with little discernible reaction, in spite of reports about over decades of the dangers of remote manipulation using technology to access the mind, Dr Nick Begich’s book, Controlling the human mind, being an important recent contribution. A different approach did in fact, elicit a response. When informed of the use of terahertz at Heathrow and Luton airports in the UK to scan passengers, the news that passengers would be revealed naked by a machine which looked directly through their clothes produced a small, but highly indignant, article in the spring 2007 edition of the leading human rights organisation, Liberty. If the reading of the mind met with no protest, seeing through one’s clothes certainly did. It seems humans’ assumption of the mind as a private place has been so secured by evolution that it will take a sustained battle to convince the public that, through events of which we are not yet fully informed, such former innocence has been lost.

Trained light, targeted atomic spectroscopy, the use of powerful magnets to absorb moisture from human tissues, the transfer of radiative energy – these have replaced the microwave harassment which was used to transmit auditory messages directly into the hearing. With the discovery of light to disentangle thousands of neurons and encode signals from the complex circuitry of the brain, present programs will not even present the symptoms which simulated schizoid states. Medically, even if terahertz does not ionise, we do not yet know how the sustained application of intense light will affect the delicate workings of the brain and how cells might be damaged, dehydrated, stretched, obliterated.

This year, 2007, has also brought the news that terahertz lasers small enough to incorporate into portable devices had been developed.

Sandia National Laboratories in the US in collaboration with MIT have produced a transmitter-receiver (transceiver) that enables a number of applications. In addition to scanning for explosives, we may also assume their integration into hand-held communication systems. ‘These semiconductor devices have output powers which previously could only be obtained by molecular gas lasers occupying cubic meters and weighing more than 100kg, or free electron lasers weighing tons and occupying buildings.’ As far back as 1996 the US Air Force Scientific Advisory Board predicted that the development of electromagnetic energy sources would ‘open the door for the development of some novel capabilities that can be used in armed conflict, in terrorist/hostage situations, and in training’ and ‘new weapons that offer the opportunity of control of an adversary … can be developed around this concept’.

The surveillance technology of today is the surveillance of the human mind and, through access to the brain and nervous system, the control of behaviour and the body’s functions. The messaging of auditory hallucinations has given way to silent techniques of influencing and implanting thoughts. The development of the terahertz technologies has illuminated the workings of the brain, facilitated the capture of emitted photons which are derived from the visual cortex which processes picture formation in the brain, and enabled the microelectronic receiver which has, in turn, been developed by growing unique semi-conductor crystals. In this way, the technology is now in place for the detection and reading of spectral ‘signatures’ of gases. All humans emit gases. Humans, like explosives, emit their own spectral signature in the form of a gas. With the reading of the brain’s electrical frequency, and of the spectral gas signature, the systems have been established for the control of populations – and with the necessary technology integrated into a cell-phone.

‘We are very optimistic about working in the terahertz electromagnetic spectrum,’ says the principal investigator of the Terahertz Microelectronics Transceiver at Sandia: ‘This is an unexplored area, and a lot of science can come out of it. We are just beginning to scratch the surface of what THz can do to improve national security’.


Carole Smith was born and educated in Australia, where she gained a Bachelor of Arts degree at Sydney University. She trained as a psychoanalyst in London where she has had a private practice. In recent years she has been a researcher into the invasive methods of accessing minds using technological means, and has published papers on the subject.

She has written the first draft of a book entitled: "The Controlled Society".The ethical implications of building machines to read people's minds, DISSENT, Issue 25,

From Carole Smith Dec 12/07.

The Canberra-based magazine DISSENT is sold at selected bookshops and by subscription.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Unto you is born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord

Mary the Mother
Commentary on the Gospel of Saint Mathew–4—by Swami Nirmalananda Giri

The Virgin Mary

Now we pass from Saint Joseph to the Virgin Mother, Mary, “out from Whom was born Jesus, He Who is called Christ.”

Mary is the manifestation of the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit, the evolving power. This power does not come from us, ever; it comes only from God. It is not something we can rouse in ourselves, although we have capacities latent within us that must be awakened and developed. Through meditation we will be able to awaken that which lies within–the true kingdom of God. “For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”1 And meditation is the means by which we can answer our own petition: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”2

The Virgin conception and birth

Why was Jesus born only of Mary–not of Joseph and Mary? On the external level, the purpose of the virgin birth was to demonstrate to the low consciousness of the people of Israel the supernatural character of Jesus. Throughout Her life the Virgin was living physical proof that Jesus had been neither conceived nor born in the manner of human beings. That is, She was ever a virgin, as physical examination could reveal.

Krishna, Buddha, and Sri Ramakrishna did not have human fathers, but their mothers had other children before them in the “normal” manner. Since the prevailing consciousness in India was of a much higher level than in Israel, there was no need for their mothers to be virgin as signs of their divinity.

Saint Catherine Emmerich says that when Jesus was in India, the people loved Him and flocked to Him, and there was nothing He could say that they did not fully understand.3 But when He returned to Israel nobody comprehended a word–often not even His disciples–for their consciousness was undeveloped and they had no background. She remarked that Jesus was always moving as an alien in Israel. He was only in His true element in India.

We see how His own Apostles could not even understand the simplest parables or the simplest symbols. Not only that, when He was going to ascend, they asked: “Now will you establish the kingdom of God?” Three years with Jesus, and they did not yet know the nature of the kingdom of God.

The Christ is born of Mary

It is crucial to realize that Christ is born of Mary–the dynamic, living principle of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit Mother alone that any birth takes place. She has given birth to the universe by manifesting as the universe. Mahashakti is both Jagata Janani and Jagata Palani–She gives birth to the cosmos, and then nourishes, sustains, and guides its growth. It is the Holy Spirit, the Mother Aspect of God, which brings forth the Christ. She is the sole creative principle in relativity and the well-spring of all creativity.

The culture of the various parts of India is incredibly rich and wondrous, yet in Bengal we find the summit in both secular and spiritual life. The greatest musicians, writers, poets, sculptors, painters, scientists, and spiritual leaders of India are Bengalis. Within just the last hundred years Bengal has produced Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Aurobindo Ghosh, Paramhansa Yogananda, and Anandamayi Ma. Why is this? The worship of the Mother. All of India believes in the feminine forms of God, and worship them, but in Bengal Mother worship is literally a consuming passion. The whole month of October is given over to continual worship of the Mother in Her forms as Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi, and Kali. Throughout that month, wherever you go the thought of everyone is fixed on the Mother. And since She is the Divine Creative Power, through their continual thought of Her they become creative like Her. (It is interesting that in the Roman Catholic Church October is also devoted to the Virgin–particularly the recitation of Her rosary.)

Mary gave birth to Jesus in the outer world, and the Holy Spirit gives birth to Christ in the inner world of our soul. Through Her our own Christhood is conceived in us, is born, and comes to “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ,”4 thereby transforming us into Christs, as well. Before we could ever be held in the arms of our father we first grew within the womb of our mother; and she brought us forth. Then we were sons of our father. But before that we were fully our mother’s.

Without the Mother we cannot know the Father. I remember Dr. Haridas Chowdary, a disciple of Sri Aurobindo, telling some students: “Remember, you have to get a passport before you can go to another country. In the same way when you want to go from this country of darkness to the country of light, you also have to get a passport. And Mother is the only one who issues passports in this scheme of things.” Since he was a Bengali, he understood that well.

Wherever we find true mystics and the flowering of spiritual consciousness, there we will find the worship of the Mother.

The Lord Jesus Himself told Nicodemus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”5 To truly be spirit, we must be born of the Spirit, the Mother. So like Saint Joseph we must prepare the house of our body and mind so the Mother will live there and in time bring forth “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”6 All of this is accomplished through meditation which itself is accomplished through the Holy Spirit.

The Virgin soul

There is a further symbolism to the virgin birth of Jesus from Mary. Christ is conceived and born only in the virgin soul. Like Saint Joseph we must guard that virginity. It is written in one of the ancient esoteric Christian books that the soul came into the earth plane and immediately went around committing fornication with everyone it met. That is, the soul entered into union with external objects and became absorbed in external consciousness to such a degree that it lost all awareness of itself and God. Even worse, it identified with those things and took on their characteristics of materiality, change, decay, and death. And in ignorant religion it is taught that those are the inherent qualities of the soul rather than the truth that they are mere shadows, only delusions, and that we can awaken from their spell and know ourselves as part of the perfect life of God. For this reason Jesus said: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”7 His resurrection prefigured our resurrection into God.

We need to ponder on this some more. Our consciousness is like a mirror; whatever is set it front of it seems to be “in” it. If a painting is set in front of a mirror it will look like a painting. If it is set in front of a window, it will appear to be a window itself. But it is never anything but a mirror, only reflecting what is presented to it. This tells us two very important truths. First, that no matter what actions we may commit or thoughts we may think, they are never “us” and never really change our fundamental nature as sons of God. We may commit sins, but we never become “sinners.” Yet we identify with our sins and say we are sinners and make excuse for our spiritual strayings by saying: “I am…”and filling in the blank with whatever kind of action or attitude dominates us. But that is an illusion, an illusion rather like a gear that, when engaged, moves us in a certain way. If we simply disengage ourselves from it the movement will stop. So we need not be discouraged and think that we are bad people who need reforming. Rather, we simply need disengagement! We need to turn our mirror-mind away from those things and stop our identification with them. And since this identification is rooted in our subconscious, positive or religious thinking will accomplish nothing. Rather, meditation must be practiced to release the inner consciousness and enable it to become objective and see that it is none of the outer reflections which have enthralled it for lifetimes.

Another important truth is that we can identify with our true self, and with God the Self of our self, by fixing our awareness on God. That it is our inherent nature to do so. Fixing the awareness is not mere intellectual juggling of “good thoughts.” Rather, it is the complete polarization of our consciousness toward God. And that is done through meditation–the invocation of Divine Consciousness. Real meditation is an entering into the true state of things, not a creation or manipulation. For that reason Buddha spoke of Right Meditation, for most meditation is as delusive as our present state of mind. Meditation is not becoming something, but the cessation of all “becoming” and a return into what we truly are. This is because nothing really touches or changes us. On the movie screen we can see a hundred people killed, but we do not die. We may see a hundred people drowned, but we do not even get wet. That is why the Virgin Mary said to Gabriel: “I know not a man.”8 Our consciousness is always virgin, and it is only in the depths of our consciousness that Christ is born.

We also need to keep our minds virgin by not letting them be caught by the things of the world, even those that seem harmless. We have to live in this world and must know about what goes on here. But we must not get drawn into it. There is nothing wrong with enjoying ourselves, but behind it all we must know that in God alone is there real fulfillment. How will we manage this? Through meditation.

We leave a mark on whatever we touch, which is why a dog can track us by smell. Conversely, whatever we touch leaves a mark on us. We must learn to prevent that. Saint James, the spiritual head of the first Christian community, tells us that pure religion is to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world.”9 If the world touches us we will be spotted, just as anyone with fingers covered with soot will blacken us by the slightest touch. We may be touched and then back away, but we will have been sooted. Our inner Joseph must therefore make sure that its espoused wife is truly an untouched virgin, otherwise it will not bring forth the son of God consciousness in us.

The non-dual Christ

The Lord Jesus’ virgin birth from a single physical parent was to symbolize the principle that Christ Consciousness can arise only in the state of non-duality, that the Christ can be conceived in us only when we experience the One. As long as we remain in the realm of “God is one and I am another” along with the delusion that we are completely different and separate from God, just so long will Christhood elude us. But when through correct meditation we enter into the unity of our own essential being we will perceive our eternal unity with God. And in that state of true oneness we shall hear the divine words: “Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.”10

Further, we can understand from the virgin birth that Christhood proceeds from the One alone; and to seek another source is futile. Only from Spirit does the consciousness of spirit come. So we must look to God alone for the fulfillment of our destiny as sons of God. No external material situation, person, object, or place can give rise to the Christ in us. Nor can any act of body, thought, or will produce the Christ. “And that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”11 The ways of true religion, especially meditation, are necessary to enter into the non-dual state, but from then on God takes over and does everything. As Saint Paul says, “we are labourers together with God;” yet at the same time we “are God’s husbandry, God’s building.”12

The inner Christ

The turning from duality is the turning toward the Christ within. For another lesson from the virgin birth is the understanding that the conception and birth of Christ are exclusively interior matters. We must become what one Western writer called “interior souls”–that is, our consciousness must ever be polarized within. And this is accomplished only through meditation. Just by being introverted we can become psychological, but only through meditation can we become spiritual. For it is not thought but non-thought that touches the hem of Christ’s garment and heals us.13

“But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”14

Mary gives birth to Jesus Who is the Savior

Jesus was born of Mary, Saint Matthew tells us. In Aramaic His Name was Yeshua, the equivalent of the Hebrew Yahoshua (Joshua) which means “the Lord shall save.” This is the nature of Christ: Savior. Of Mary (the Holy Spirit) is born That which will save us. The angel told the watching shepherds: “Unto you is born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.”15

Christ does not come to comfort us, to make us feel happy, to make us feel loved, and such stuff which are totally egocentric low emotional states. Christ comes to save us in the sense of deliverance. He delivers us from sin and ignorance. Especially He delivers us from the root of sin and ignorance: the ego, the anti-Christ. Moreover, deliverance has the connotation of change. Christ the Savior does not make us feel good or tell us how good we are. He makes us good.

“I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.”16 Re-creation is the key word here. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”17

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”18 Our saving Mother, the Holy Spirit, produces in us the Savior Who changes us and sets us free. And He does this from within, from the depths of our being, through meditation in which all the levels of our being, our “bodies,” are merged with His consciousness, His “blood.” “Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you,Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.”19 This wonderful truth cannot be intellectually comprehended, but it can be experienced and made ours.

1) Luke 17:21

2) Matthew 6:10

3) Tapovan Maharaj, a spiritual Master of twentieth century India wrote that in his wanderings in the Himalayas he observed that thousands of completely illiterate Hindus, men and women, could discourse intelligently and insightfully on the profoundest and subtlest points of Vedantic philosophy, employing the Sanskrit terms correctly and citing relevant Sanskrit texts which they knew by memory. I, too, found this to be the case among all classes in India. Some of the most exalted ideas were spoken to me by simple people in both city and countryside. This is the real glory of India: the pervasive consciousness of God and Truth.

4) Ephesians 4:13

5) John 3:5,6

6) Colossians 1:27

7) John 10:10

8) Luke 1:34

9) James 1:27

10) Psalms 2:7; Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5, 5:5

11) Ephesians 2:8

12) I Corinthians 3:9

13) “When the men of that place had knowledge of him, they sent out into all that country round about, and brought unto him all that were diseased; and besought him that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole.” (Matthew 14:35,36)

14) Matthew 6:6

15) Luke 2:11

16) Revelation 21:317

17) II Corinthians 5:17 [Go back]

18) John 8:36 [Go back]

19) John 6:53,54,56,57 [Go back]

Copyright Atma Jyoti Ashram ©2004

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Last Minute Gift Suggestions......

Ralph Nader’s Holiday Reading Recommendations
by Ralph Nader

Published on Tuesday, December 18, 2007 by

‘Tis the Holiday Season and a time congenial for reading books. Here are my recommendations of recent books that relate to the quest for understanding today’s events:

1. Jeno: The Power of the Peddler, (Paulucci International) is the biography of 89-year-old multiple entrepreneur, Jeno Paulucci, of Duluth, Minnesota and Sanford, Florida. One of a kind, this human dynamo, starting from the raw poverty of the Iron Range, built company after company and sold them when they became successful. Along the way, he championed labor unions for his large companies, workers rights, sued even bigger companies, heralded the need to use the courts, defended prisoners unlawfully imprisoned and launched many other counter-intuitive initiatives. He just started another company before his 90th birthday. If you want to absorb human energy, read this book!

2. The Man Who Hated Work and Loved Labor: The Life and Times of Tony Mazzocchi by Les Leopold, (Chelsea Green) is the story of whom I consider to be the greatest labor leader of our generation. It was Mazzocchi who connected the labor movement with environmental group and scientists specializing in occupational diseases, with a broad humane agenda for working people so that they had a decent living standard and plenty of time for other pursuits. This World War II combat veteran probably traveled more miles, spoke with more blue collar workers and championed “just health care” more than any other American before his passing from cancer in 2002.

3. Corpocracy by Robert A.G. Monks (Wiley Publishers) summarizes its main theme on the book’s cover-”How CEOs and the Business Roundtable Hijacked the World’s Greatest Wealth Machine-and How to Get it Back.” Corporate lawyer, venture capitalist and bold shareholder activist, Monks gives us his inside knowledge about how corporations seized control from any adequate government regulations and especially from their owners, their shareholders, and institutional shareholders like mutual funds and pension trusts. This is a very readable journey through the pits and peaks of corporate greed and power that shows the light at the end of the tunnel.

4. Building the Green Economy: Success Stories from the Grass Roots, by Kevin Danaher, Shannon Biggs and Jason Mark (PoliPoint Press.) This is a practical book about on-the-ground, successful green businesses and neighborhood initiatives that live sustainability, not just talk it. There are also pages of crisp interviews with practitioners and thinkers including Rocky Anderson, Mayor of Salt Lake City and Lois Gibbs, the extraordinary organizer against toxics regarding this emerging sub-economy that challenges greed, concentrated power and destruction.

5. You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression (paperback, The New Press) by Matthew Rothschild. This book by the editor of The Progressive magazine aggregates accurate stories of the post-9/11 violations of the civil liberties and and civil right of the American people, including veterans, by the dictacrats in Washington, DC. Ordinary people exercising their rights of free speech and assembly found harassment, arrest, expulsion from public meetings, surveillance and malicious prosecution to be their rewards. Rothschild end on a hopeful note, describing the resistance by freedom advocates and the various individual and community ways that people are fighting back to defend their Bill of Rights.

6. The Bank Teller and Other Essays on the Politics of Meaning, by Peter Gabel (Acada Books.) Law Professor, Law Dean and college President, Peter Gabel gets down to fundamentals about the “politics of meaning.” This is not a muckraking expose but rather a relentless push on readers to examine their isolation and alienation from one another, their neighborhood, workplace, and community without which a functioning democracy cannot evolve.

7. The Four Freedoms Under Siege, by Marcus Raskin and Robert Spero (Praeger/Publishers.) Raskin and Spero take off from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proclamation of the Four Freedoms in his annual message to Congress, January 6, 1941 and apply them to present day America. These four freedoms are the freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. It is not a pretty picture. It can be changed, and this book contains wise words for such liberations.

8. Medicare; Facts, Myths, Problems & Promise (in Canada!), edited by Bruce Campbell and Greg Marchildon (James Lorimer & Company Ltd.) At last an authoritative answer by authorities on health care in Canada and the U.S. to the distortions, prevarications, smears and putdowns of the Canadian health care system by the Wall Street Journal, Rush Limbaugh and other servers of their corporate paymasters. In 39 concise chapters, 39 specialists cover the achievements of Canada’s way of guaranteeing everyone health care, how it happened, the pressure by the corporatist lobbies and their thoughtless think tanks to undermine Medicare piece by piece, and the future development of Medicare toward prevention and sustainability. A tour de force for anybody fed up with the “pay or die,” wasteful, profiteering corporate morass that blocks comparable progress in the United States.

9. Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of The New Global Economy by John Bowe (Random House.) This book is an eye witness gripper of the conditions of the workers who harvest our fruits and vegetables and make our garments from Florida to Oklahoma to Saipan. Laws are weak, unenforced, and raw power takes over these defenseless workers’ lives. You’ll soon ask: where are the police, the prosecutors, the politicians? The real question is: “Where are the people to make the required changes on behalf of humanity?”

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is The Seventeen Traditions.

Article printed from
URL to article:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Simple Way to Thank Our Troops

This winter, thousands of U.S. servicemen and women are spending the holidays far away from their families, and calling home can cost them a large part of their paycheck. Troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the globe actually have to pay for phone calls to the U.S.—and many of them just don't have a lot of money to spare. Imagine being stuck in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Korea and being unable to afford a call to your spouse or kids on Christmas or New Year's Eve.

That's why we're helping the USO to provide thousands of phone cards to troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world to let them call their friends, family and loved ones this holiday season.

These phone cards don't cost a lot—only $15 each, but they are incredibly valuable, providing about 45 minutes of talk-time and holiday wishes for service members.

Can you give $15 to buy a phone card for troops stationed overseas? Click here to chip in:

MoveOn members are committed to seeing our troops come home as quickly as possible, and we'll keep working to make that happen. But right now, supporting the USO is a simple way to make a genuine difference in the lives of brave men and women who've sacrificed a lot for our country.

Can you chip in to buy phone cards for troops stationed overseas this holiday season? Click here to contribute:

Happy holidays from all of us and thanks for all you do.

–Nita, Adam G., Karin, Marika, Noah, Laura, Joan, Wes, Justin, Jennifer, Anna, Eli, Matt, Ilyse, Daniel, Adam R., Carrie, Tanya, and the Civic Action Team

P.S. To learn more about the USO, a non-governmental, non-partisan organization, please visit

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Who Stole Our Democracy?????

Gore Vidal on the Democratic Debate Debacle
Posted on Dec 18, 2007
By Gore Vidal

I don’t know how many of you were as appalled as I was at the way that the presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich was totally erased from the last Democratic debate held in Iowa. This was a decision that was made, I can tell, jointly by the one-time voice of AIPAC, Mr. Wolf Blitzer, and, at the same time, The Des Moines Register—or whatever it is called—a paper of no consequence for the United States of America.

Elements of right-wingism are keeping his voice from being heard, even though there are many millions of us (Kucinich is ahead of both Biden and Dodd in the national polls) out here who like to hear his voice. He is in the great tradition of the original People’s Party of the 1880s; he is in the tradition of George Washington and of Thomas Jefferson, and to silence him with a bunch of political hacks who have made such a mess of our political system, pretending these were the only voices who could talk as presidential candidates ... is it because of their campaign budgets?

Now, I know, as all of you know, that people can come in with millions of dollars, like Romney and so on, and can buy time in Iowa and in the North Pole or wherever it is they are running. They can buy it, but to get an honest member of Congress speaking out for the people of the country is a great and rare thing.

I have listened to many political debates in my lifetime, if I may pull rank because I have been around longer than anybody else, and here is a voice not only against the war but the entire course leading us to it. I haven’t heard anybody who has ever listened to Kucinich who didn’t say, “Oh yes, yes, what he says is true, but nobody will ever take him seriously.”

Well, of course nobody will ever take him seriously, because they won’t let him on TV to stand side by side with the other candidates—some of them attractive candidates but whose roots are not as deep as his in what we may call “American life.” Dennis Kucinich was brought up in poverty, something the other candidates talk about but he actually lived through. He has known poverty in the richest country on Earth, a country that is constantly boasting, that seems to be out of control with self-love. Well, I say let’s have less self-love and pay some attention to our serious critics—and he is one—and his is a voice that’s showing us how to get to the exit from the box that we are all in.

It is so typical for CNN, a lousy network, and whatever that awful newspaper is called. Do we want to listen to them at the close of a primary campaign in a key state? They have nothing to say of any interest, and so they eliminate any voice that might say something intelligent. I have never felt more ashamed being an American than when I saw how this debate was handled.


A Progressive Journal of News and Opinion. Editor, Robert Scheer. Publisher, Zuade Kaufman.
Copyright © 2007 Truthdig, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Saw The Northern Lights From Ohio When I Was A Kid....

Energy source of northern lights found
Tue Dec 11, 6:21 PM ET

Scientists think they have discovered the energy source of the spectacular color displays seen in the northern lights. New data from NASA's Themis mission, a quintet of satellites launched this winter, found the energy comes from a stream of charged particles from the sun flowing like a current through twisted bundles of magnetic fields connecting Earth's upper atmosphere to the sun.

The energy is then abruptly released in the form of a shimmering display of lights visible in the upper latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, said principal investigator Vassilis Angelopoulos of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Results were presented Tuesday at the American Geophysical Union meeting.

In March, the satellites detected a burst of northern lights, or auroras borealis, over Alaska and Canada. During the two-hour light show, the satellites measured particle flow and magnetic fields from space.

To scientists' surprise, the geomagnetic storm powering the auroras raced 400 miles in a minute across the sky. Angelopoulos estimated the storm's power was equal to the energy released by a magnitude 5.5 earthquake.

"Nature was very kind to us," Angelopoulos said.

Although researchers have suspected the existence of wound-up bundles of magnetic fields that provide energy for the auroras, the phenomenon was not confirmed until May, when the satellites became the first to map their structure some 40,000 miles above the Earth's surface.

Scientists hope the satellites will record a geomagnetic storm next year that's now in the making, and end the debate about when the storms are triggered.


On the Net:

American Geophysical Union:

Themis mission:

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Doctor, Doctor Give Me The News.....

(Thanks to Char for sharing these at The Hippie Museum yahoo group)

John Lennon

Born: October 9, 1940

Assassinated: December 8, 1980

Mind Games

John Lennon

We're playing those mind games together
Pushing the barriers, planting seeds
Playing the mind guerrilla
Chanting the mantra, peace on earth
We all been playing those mind games forever
Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil
Doing the mind guerrilla
Some call it magic, the search for the grail

Love is the answer and you know that for sure
Love is a flower, you got to let it, you got to let it grow

So keep on playing those mind games together
Faith in the future, outta the now
You just can't beat on those mind guerrillas
Absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind
Yeah we're playing those mind games forever
Projecting our images in space and in time

Yes is the answer and you know that for sure
Yes is surrender, you got to let it, you got to let it go

So keep on playing those mind games together
Doing the ritual dance in the sun
Millions of mind guerrillas
Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel
Keep on playing those mind games forever
Raising the spirit of peace and love

(I want you to make love, not war, I know you've heard it before)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Are Legitimate Elections a Thing of the Past??

Americans Announce They're Dropping Out Of Presidential Race
November 14, 2007 Issue 43•46 of the Onion

WASHINGTON—Citing exhaustion, an overcrowded field of candidates, and little hope of making a difference in 2008, roughly 300 million Americans announced Tuesday that they will be leaving the presidential race behind.

The U.S. populace, which has participated in every national election since 1789, said that while the decision to abandon next year's race was difficult, recent events, such as disappointing victories by both Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani in regional straw polls, left them with no real choice.

"We gave it our best shot, and for a while it seemed like the American people actually had a chance of coming out on top," Weare, NH resident Mark Simmons said at a press conference in front of his suburban home. "Unfortunately, as much as we'd like to remain optimistic, it's become clear that this just isn't our year."

Added Simmons: "Maybe you'll see us again in 2012."

Though initially excited about making universal health care a reality and putting an end to the Iraq war, the American people appeared visibly worn down after only three months of campaigning. According to Beltway observers, idealism among Americans began to fade after the first series of major televised debates in August, during which every citizen in every state realized they would have to compromise their core values in order to remain in the race.

Factors including intense media coverage of seemingly trivial issues, destructive partisan bickering, and the relentless exploitation of 9/11 only seemed to further discourage Americans from making it to Election Day.

"As the obvious underdogs, we knew that the chance of Americans winning in 2008 was slim to none," said Seattle native Paul Waverchuck, who claimed he was looking forward to spending more time with his family after giving up politics. "I guess there's just no room at the table for the vast majority of this country's citizens."

Some pundits predicted months ago that U.S. citizens would lose steam before the first round of primaries in January. Unable to endure the breakneck pace of morning talk-show interviews and the constant coverage and scrutiny of Hillary Clinton's laugh, Americans reportedly began to lose focus as early as mid-September.

A strong October surge in several states by Republican candidate and Mormon Mitt Romney made it clear to thousands that it was time to throw in the towel.

"Once Law & Order star Fred Thompson declared his candidacy and Barack Obama started using religion to win votes, you could tell America's heart wasn't in it anymore," Washington Post correspondent Dan Balz said. "They knew it was over for them."

While not necessarily shocked by the news, some political observers have lamented the recent departure of the nation's citizens from the 2008 elections.

"American men and women were the only real opposition to frontrunners like Clinton and Giuliani," New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd said. "They were the only ones who seemed to have the public's best interest truly in mind. Without them, it's not going to be much of a contest."

While admitting to being disappointed by the results, Americans said they would continue to pursue lasting social change, whether by working overtime shifts in order to make education more affordable for their children, or by selling some of their belongings in order to provide medical coverage for aging family members.

"Politics are all well and good, but sometimes you have to look for solutions outside of Washington if you want to get things done," said Henrietta Tanner, a single mother of three from Boise, ID. "Like standing in line at the food bank down on Cavendish Avenue, for instance."

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

(un)Fair and Biased

(article from )

Fox News has refused to air an ad produced by the Center for Constitutional Rights that criticizes the Bush administration for "destroying the Constitution" by the use of renditions, torture, and other tactics. The ad, "Rescue the Constitution," which is narrated by actor Danny Glover, can be viewed here:

In an email provided to Media Matters for America by the Center, Fox News account executive Erin Kelly told Owen Henkel, the Center's e-communications manager, that Fox would not run the ad:

Hi Owen --

We cannot approve the spot with it being Danny Glover's opinion that the Bush Administration is destroying the Constitution. If you have documentation that it is indeed being destroyed, we can look at that.

Sorry about that,


In 2005, Fox refused to run an ad critical of then-Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito Jr., who had been nominated by President Bush to succeed retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Kid's Go To Jail For Doing It.............

Government-sponsored cyberattacks on the rise, McAfee says

Jon Brodkin, Network World

Governments and allied groups worldwide are using the Internet to spy and launch cyberattacks on their enemies, targeting critical systems including electricity, air traffic control, financial markets and government computer networks, according to McAfee's annual report examining global cybersecurity.

This year, China has been accused of launching attacks against the United States, India, Germany and Australia, but the Chinese are not alone: 120 countries including the United States are said to be launching Web espionage operations, according to McAfee's Virtual Criminology Report, issued today and developed with input from NATO, the FBI, the United Kingdom's Serious Organized Crime Agency, and various groups and universities.

"Cyber assaults have become more sophisticated in their nature, designed to specifically slip under the radar of government cyber defenses," McAfee states. "Attacks have progressed from initial curiosity probes to well-funded and well-organized operations for political, military, economic and technical espionage."

One attack against Estonia, allegedly carried out by Russia, disrupted government, news and bank servers for several weeks in April, McAfee notes. In the United States, a Pentagon computer network allegedly was hacked by China-based perpetrators in June, the McAfee report states.

The Internet is simply a great tool for gathering intelligence, both for world powers like the United States and China and small countries with limited resources, says David Marcus, security research and communications manager at McAfee Avert Labs.

He doesn't think cyberattacks will replace conventional warfare, but says they are becoming an important augmentation, with countries using technology to spread disinformation and disrupt communications. He also predicts it will be common for governments to license cybercriminals to attack enemies in a sort of privatized model. "We're already starting to see that with state-sponsored malware," he says. "I only think you're going to start seeing more than that because it's easier to attack government X's database than it is to nuke their troops."

McAfee said its research also found an increasing threat to banking and other online services, and "the emergence of a complex and sophisticated market for malware." Malware today is more complex than ever before, capable of acting as if it were genetically modified. "These 'super-strength' threats are more resilient, are modified over and over again like recombinant DNA," McAfee writes. "Nuwar ('Storm Worm') was the first example, and experts say there will be more examples in 2008."

VoIP is a new target of cybercriminals, and such social-networking applications as MySpace and Facebook are sure to be exploited more often, going forward, McAfee says. NATO insiders say many governments are unaware of the Web espionage threats and have left themselves open to cyberattack.

One aspect that might be overlooked is the economy that distributes the tools of cybercrime. Software flaws are sold for as much as US$75,000, and criminals can buy custom-written Trojans designed to steal credit card data. Additionally, McAfee says an "underground economy already includes specialized auction sites, product advertising and even support services, but now competition is so fierce that 'customer service' has become a specific selling point."

Copyright ©2007Computerworld, Inc.