The Richard Nixon school of ballet and the arts / I've finally found a new screensaver for work's computers« on: April 10, 2015, 08:10:51 pm »
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The investigation that followed lifted the lid off a bizarre underworld that few Florentines knew existed in the lovely hills surrounding their city. In Italy, most young people live at home with their parents until they marry, and most marry late. As a result, having sex in parked cars is a national pastime. It has been said that one out of every three Florentines alive today was conceived in a car. On any given weekend night the hills surrounding Florence were filled with young couples parked in shadowy lanes and dirt turnouts, in olive groves and farmers’ fields.
The investigators discovered that dozens of voyeurs prowled the countryside spying on these couples. Locally, these voyeurs were known as Indiani, or Indians, because they crept around in the dark. Some carried sophisticated electronic equipment, including parabolic and suction-cup microphones, tape recorders, and night vision cameras . The Indiani had divided the hills into zones of operation, each managed by a group or “tribe” who controlled the best posts for vicarious sex-watching . Some posts were highly sought after, either because they allowed for very close observation or because they were where the “good cars” were most commonly found. (A “good car” is exactly what you might imagine.) A good car could also be a source of money, and sometimes good cars were bought and sold on the spot, in a kind of depraved bourse, in which one Indiano would retire with a fistful of cash, ceding his post to another to watch the finish. Wealthy Indiani often paid for a guide to take them to the best spots and minimize the risk.
Then there were the intrepid people who preyed on the Indiani themselves, a subculture within a subculture. These men crept into the hills at night not to watch lovers but to spy on Indiani, taking careful note of their cars, license plate numbers, and other telling details— and then they would blackmail the Indiani, threatening to expose their nocturnal activities to their wives, families , and employers. It sometimes happened that an Indiano would have his voyeuristic bliss interrupted by the flash of a nearby camera; the next day he would receive a call: “Remember that flash in the woods last night? The photo came out beautifully, you look simply marvelous , a likeness that even your second cousin would recognize! By the way, the negative is for sale . . .”
One day he learned from a beat cop that investigators had questioned and released an odd character who had been passing himself off as a medical examiner. Spezi found the story charming and pursued it for the paper . The man was “Dr.” Carlo Santangelo, a thirty-six-year-old Florentine, of pleasing appearance, a lover of solitude, separated from his wife, who went about dressed in black wearing eyeglasses with smoked lenses, gripping a doctor’s bag in his left hand.
In the ever-present doctor’s bag were the tools of his profession, a number of perfectly honed and glistening scalpels. Instead of maintaining an established residence, Dr. Santangelo preferred to pass his days in various hotels or residences in small towns near Florence. And when he chose a hotel, he made sure it was near a small cemetery. If there was a room with a view of the tombstones, so much the better.
Dr. Santangelo’s face, eyes covered with thick dark lenses, had become familiar to the staff of OFISA, the most prominent funeral establishment in Florence, where he often passed his hours as if on important business. The doctor with the dark lenses doled out prescriptions, saw patients, and even ran a psychoanalysis business on the side.
The only problem was, Dr. Santangelo wasn’t a medical examiner or pathologist. He wasn’t even a physician, although he seems to have taken it upon himself to operate on live people, at least according to one witness. Santangelo was unmasked when a serious car accident took place on the autostrada south of Florence, and somebody remembered that in a hotel nearby there lived a doctor. Dr. Santangelo was fetched to provide first aid, and all were amazed to hear that he was none other than the medical examiner who had performed the autopsies on the bodies of Susanna Cambi and Stefano Baldi, the Monster’s latest victims. At least that was what several employees of the hotel said they had heard directly from Dr. Santangelo himself, when he had proudly opened his bag and showed them the tools of his profession.
Santangelo’s peculiar claim got back to the carabinieri, and it didn’t take them long to find out that he was no doctor. They learned of his predilection for small cemeteries and pathology rooms, and, even more alarming, his penchant for scalpels. The carabinieri promptly hauled Santangelo in for questioning. The phony medical examiner freely admitted to being a liar and spinner of tall tales, although he wasn’t able to explain his love for cemeteries at night.
He hotly denied as libel, however, the story his girlfriend told of how he had broken off a night of passionate lovemaking by taking a dose of sleeping pills, saying this was the only way he could resist the temptation to leave his bed of love to take a turn around the tombstones.
Police detectives also took the Savonarola theory seriously, and quietly began looking into certain priests known to have odd or unusual habits. Several Florentine prostitutes told police that from time to time they entertained a priest with rather eccentric tastes. He paid them generously, not for normal sex, but for the privilege of shaving off their pubic hair.
The police were interested, reasoning that here was a man who enjoyed working with a razor in that particular area. The girls were able to give the police his name and address. One crisp Sunday morning , a small group of police and carabinieri in plainclothes, led by a pair of magistrates, entered an ancient country church perched among cypresses in the lovely hills southwest of Florence. The committee was received in the sacristy, where the priest was in the act of dressing in his robes, taking up the sacred vestments with which he was about to say Mass. They showed him a warrant and told him the reason for their visit, stating their intention to search the church, grounds, confessionals, altars, reliquaries, and tabernacle.
The priest staggered and almost fell to the floor in a faint. He didn’t try even for a moment to deny his nocturnal avocation as a barber for ladies, but he swore in the strongest terms that he wasn’t the Monster. He said he understood why they had to search the premises, but he begged them to keep the reason for their visit secret and delay the search until after he had said Mass.
The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.
The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.
Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:
Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
Shackling for prolonged periods.
Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.
At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.
A digital leak to Al Jazeera of hundreds of secret intelligence documents from the world's spy agencies has offered an unprecedented insight into operational dealings of the shadowy and highly politicised realm of global espionage.
Over the coming days, Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit is publishing The Spy Cables, in collaboration with The Guardian newspaper.
Spanning a period from 2006 until December 2014, they include detailed briefings and internal analyses written by operatives of South Africa's State Security Agency (SSA). They also reveal the South Africans' secret correspondence with the US intelligence agency, the CIA, Britain's MI6, Israel's Mossad, Russia's FSB and Iran's operatives, as well as dozens of other services from Asia to the Middle East and Africa.
Among the revelations, the Spy Cables disclose how:
Israel's Mossad told its allies that Iran was not working to produce nuclear weapons just a month after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned it was barely a year from being able to do so;
The CIA made attempts to contact Hamas directly despite the US government listing the Palestinian group as a "terrorist organisation";
Britain's MI6 sought South African help in an operation to recruit a North Korean official who had previously refused their cash; and
South African and Ethiopian spies struggled to "neutralise" an assassination plot targeting a leading African diplomat.
The files unveil details of how, as the post-apartheid South African state grappled with the challenges of forging new security services, the country became vulnerable to foreign espionage and inundated with warnings related to the US "War on Terror".
Following the 9/11 attacks, South African spies were flooded with requests related to al-Qaeda, despite their own intelligence gathering and analysis telling them that they faced minimal direct threats from such groups, and that the main threat of violence on South African soil came from domestic far-right groups.
Roberta Jacobson, the assistant secretary of state in charge of the western hemisphere, who has previously served as the State Department’s coordinator for Cuban affairs, will be leading the US delegation. The meetings she will lead, which begin on Wednesday, will be the first steps toward normalising diplomatic relations between the two countries.
A senior State Department official said on Monday that the US was “looking forward to the Cubans lifting travel restrictions and caps on personnel”, and that the next step, the upgrading of the US mission to full embassy status, could happen “quickly” following this week’s talks.
Obama's State of the Union, you see, will call for $320 billion of new taxes on rentiers, their heirs, and the big banks to pay for $175 billion of tax credits that will reward work. In other words, it's fighting a two-front war against a Piketty-style oligarchy where today's hedge funders become tomorrow's trust funders. First, it's trying to slow the seemingly endless accumulation of wealth among the top 1, and really the top 0.1, no actually the top 0.001, percent by raising capital gains taxes on them while they're living and raising them on their heirs when they're dead. And second, it's trying to help the middle help itself by subsidizing work, child care, and education.
But now that the FCC is moving toward issuing a tough net neutrality order that would subject broadband to utility-style regulation — an approach endorsed by President Barack Obama — top Republicans in both chambers are making plans to legislate their own rules to ensure the agency doesn’t go too far.
“Times have changed,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the House telecom subcommittee, said when asked about the evolving GOP position on net neutrality. “The administration has latched onto this [utility-style regulation], and the FCC’s independence is nominal at best.”
The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is not the only Salafi-Jihadist threat emanating from Syria. Its prominence in U.S. policy has overshadowed a threat of similar magnitude from Jabhat al-Nusra (JN), the official al-Qaeda (AQ) affiliate in Syria. JN rivals ISIS as a sophisticated, intelligent, strategic actor in the region and continues to enjoy a dangerous freedom to operate in Syria. The two groups share common goals, including a revived Islamic Caliphate. JN, however, is pursuing its aims through a distinct, more patient methodology that is highly threatening despite its low signature. Whereas ISIS has announced its state and tried to legitimize it by conquest, JN is following AQ leader Ayman al-Zawahiri’s method of fomenting a religious and social revolution by embedding itself within an indigenous insurgency. The Syrian war has provided JN a nearly ideal environment within which to implement this strategy on behalf of al-Qaeda, and JN has enjoyed worrying success to date.
GEOPOLITICS IS BACK. AS 2015 BEGINS, POLITICAL CONFLICT AMONG THE WORLD’S GREAT POWERS IS IN PLAY MORE THAN AT ANY TIME SINCE THE END OF THE COLD WAR.
US relations with Russia are fully broken. China is charting its own course.The ties that bind Europe are fraying on multiple fronts. Others—Gulf Arabs, Brazil, India—are hedging their plans and alliances in reaction to increasing geopolitical uncertainty. Ultimately these realignments will reshape the world order, but for now their impacts, while noteworthy, are more regional than global. China’s rise still matters less than the headlines imply. Yes, it’s the leading trade partner for more than 100 nations, but China’s political, security, and economic influence remains underdeveloped.
It will grow quickly, but we’re not there yet. Crises in the Middle East have produced a world with more refugees than at any time since the Second World War, though with muted implications elsewhere, especially given the newly limited relationship between Middle East turmoil and energy markets. Russian revisionism is a direct threat to swathes of Europe, much less so farther afield. And most of Europe has far too much keeping them busy at home.
Or at least, it’s a likely candidate for three of the consulting firm’s forecast trends to intersect: European political instability, Russian intransigence, and the weaponization of finance.
With Europe’s economy still stagnant after the financial crisis, there are already fears that populist political movements will create uncertainty in the EU. Meanwhile, Russia isn’t letting up on its aggressive anti-Western policy, despite a currency crisis and recession. President Vladimir Putin will continue to put economic pressure on Europeans, even as the US pushes for—or refuses to relax—existing financial sanctions that are hurting Russia, but also making life difficult in Europe.
And all of that could come into sharp focus in Moldova, a post-Soviet republic that is expected to continue moving toward integration with the European Union after pro-EU politicians there won a December election. Of course, those are the same sorts of agreements that precipitated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. And Russia already has a break-away province in Moldova—Transnistria, a Russian enclave protected by some 2,000 troops.
Best known for its financial allure, symbolized by Dubai’s skyscrapers, the U.A.E. is starting to flex its military and diplomatic muscles too. In the past year it has helped consolidate an army-installed government in Egypt and is said to have sent planes to bomb Islamists in Libya, as well as joining the U.S. campaign against militants in Syria.
With traditional Arab powers mired in war or political turmoil, and U.S. attention drifting elsewhere, there’s room for oil-rich Gulf states to exert more influence over the Middle East. The U.A.E. promotes itself as a template of economic success built on a liberal social model, though oil wealth and a small population may limit its relevance as a regional model, while rights groups question the extent of its tolerance.
“The role the U.A.E. wants to play is to be a leader of ideas,” said Mishaal Al Gergawi, managing director of the Delma Institute, a research center in Abu Dhabi. “You look at the U.A.E. and it breaks the taboo that Arabs can attempt something and not mess it up.”
Transnational Crime affects peace and stability operations– whether smuggling, such as drugs, arms, and natural resources or human trafficking – all of it undermines any state – most of which can ill afford to deal with it (or may be in the thick of it to support its corrupt leaders). Transnational crime further affects the ability of foreign intervention be successful. As the author observes, “Tackling corruption, neutralizing spoilers, and increasing the societies’ culture of lawfulness are necessary steps to save West Africa.” Guinea Bissau is contributing to regional and
global instability. When looking at known transnational crime smuggling routes – Guinea Bissau is front and center and the U.S. has identified as Africa’s first narco-state. The author argues that the U.S. must deal with Guinea Bissau or lose West Africa – a region currently plagued by a public health disaster. And, the author provides recommendations that built upon existing cultural values to strengthen Guinea Bissau and “shed the burden of drug smuggling.” It is our pleasure to bring to you this monograph.
Yogi Berra, the legendary American baseball player known for his pithy quotes, once remarked: “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice there is.” India’s recent pitch for an Indian Ocean Zone of Peace (IOZOP) at the Galle dialogue in Sri Lanka is a classic example of theoretical propositions not always meeting the test of practical utility. In principle, the proposal to declare the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) as a zone of peace is strikingly apposite. Increasing Chinese presence and the threat of PLA-N bases in the IOR, the growing interests of other major powers (U.S., U.K., Russia, France and Japan) in the region, and the many Chinese infrastructure projects in the region, create an imperative for India to actively limit the military maritime activity of external powers in the region. But attempting to do so through the IOZOP route will ensure that while no military activity is ever practically curtailed, Indian influence and credibility in the region will be severely eroded.
The Army plans to send a brigade of tanks and fighting vehicles into Europe by the end of this year, according to the top Army commander in the region.
“We must love all nations as we love our own,” writes Russian philosopher Vladimir Sergeevich Solovyov in his 1897 book The Justification of the Good. The “greatness and value” of nationality, he claims, lies “not in itself taken in the abstract, but in something universal, supernational … Nations live and act not for their own sake … but for the sake … of what can be of service to all.” - See more at: http://cips.uottawa.ca/the-putin-book-club/#sthash.uf8hBGnr.dpuf
IR has long been regarded as an Anglo-American social science. Recently, the discipline has started to look beyond America and England, to China (Theory Talk #51, Theory Talk #45), India (Theory Talk #63, Theory Talk #42), Africa (Theory Talk #57, Theory Talk #10) and elsewhere for non-Western perspectives on international affairs and IR theory. However, IR theorists have paid little attention to Russian perspectives on the discipline and practice of international relations. We offer an exciting peek into Russian geopolitical theory through an interview with the controversial Russian geopolitical thinker Alexander Dugin, founder of the International Eurasian Movement and allegedly an important influence on Putin’s foreign policy. In this Talk, Dugin—among others—discusses his Theory of a Multipolar World, offers a staunch critique of western and liberal IR, and lays out Russia’s unique contribution to the landscape of IR theory.
Transnistria (Transdniester Moldovan Republic/TDMR or in Russian, Pridnestrovskaya Moldovskaya Respublika/PMR) – popularly referred to as a Soviet open air museum, is a strip of land holding de facto independence sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine in Eastern Europe. Not recognised by any sovereign state, it has split from the Republic of Moldova and operates with its own government, police, and military forces. Transnistrian citizens even hold their own passports, albeit only being able to use them internally. However, Transnistria would not be able to maintain its political bargaining power without heavy support from Big Bear Russia. In light of recent events in Crimea, and in Ukraine, Transnistria becomes an interesting historical case to explore how Russia’s strategic interests are injected into vulnerable territories.
There must be something particularly trustworthy about the Jordanian journalist Fouad Hussein. After all, he has managed to get some of the the most sought after terrorists to open up to him. Maybe it helped that they spent time together in prison many years ago -- when Hussein was a political prisoner he successfully negotiated for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to be released from solitary confinement. Or is it because of the honest and direct way in which he puts his ideas onto paper? Whatever the reason, the result is that a film which Hussein made about al-Zarqawi has even been shown on al-Qaida affiliated Web sites. "That showed me that they at least felt understood," the journalist says.
PARIS — The bloody denouement on Friday of two hostage crises at different ends of a traumatized Paris means attention will now shift to the gaping question facing the French government: How did several jihadists — and possibly a larger cell of co-conspirators — manage to evade surveillance and execute a bold attack despite being well known to the country’s police and intelligence services?
On its own, the Wednesday morning slaughter that left 12 people dead at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo represented a major breakdown for French security and intelligence forces, especially after the authorities confirmed that the two suspects, the brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, had known links to the militant group Al Qaeda in Yemen