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  October
19, 2013
Crisis: Snowden, top prosecutor, drones, Democrats, sleep
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
   -- Benjamin Franklin [1]
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone.











Sections
Introduction
  1. Snowden: NSA Is Most Dangerous Because No Oversight
       Exists

  2. UK's top prosecutor defends journalists who break law
       in public interest

  3. Borderless US Drone War an Affront to Intl Law: UN
       Expert

  4. The Democrats Can’t Defend the Country from the
       Retrograde GOP

  5. Do We Sleep to Clean Our Brains?
About ME/CFS

Introduction

There wasn't very much on the crisis today, but I did find four files, and I added a brief fifth one on a discovery about sleep, that I've had very serious problems with, in three periods that each lasted at least a year, and collectively about eight years.

Also, this happens to be the 300th
crisis file I wrote since September 1, 2008. (That file is in Dutch, as were the first 81 in the series: by the end of 2010 I wrote in English.)

1.  Snowden: NSA Is Most Dangerous Because No Oversight Exists  

Actually, this first file is somewhat of a repeat of yesterday, but this is by a different source - Jon Queally on Common Dreams - and the main difficulty, for me, is that since I do not pay to get the NYT, I can't read the original:

I merely quote the following quotation:

Again, from the Times:

Mr. Snowden added that inside the spy agency “there’s a lot of dissent — palpable with some, even.” But he said that people were kept in line through “fear and a false image of patriotism,” which he described as “obedience to authority.”

He said he believed that if he tried to question the N.S.A.’s surveillance operations as an insider, his efforts “would have been buried forever,” and he would “have been discredited and ruined.” He said that “the system does not work,” adding that “you have to report wrongdoing to those most responsible for it.”

Indeed - and of course Obama knows that.

2.  UK's top prosecutor defends journalists who break law in public interest

Next, an interview with the outgoing (!) top prosecutor in the UK, Keir Starmer, by Zoe Williams and Nick Hopkins in the Guardian:
This starts as follows:

Britain's most senior prosecutor has launched a robust defence of journalists who break the law pursuing investigations that have a genuine public interest. Legal guidelines had been drafted, he said, to protect reporters.

Keir Starmer, the director of public prosecutions (DPP), insisted it "would be very unhealthy if you had a situation where a journalist felt that they needed to go to their lawyer before they pursued any lead or asked any question".

In an interview with the Guardian, Starmer said: "We've got to recognise that in the course of journalism, journalists will rub up against the criminal law and that is why, in our guidelines, we took the approach that we would assess where there was evidence of a criminal offence, whether the public interest in what the journalist was trying to achieve outweighed the overall criminality."

Starmer spoke at the end of another week in which the furore over the leaks from the whistleblower Edward Snowden has reverberated around Westminster.
This is pleasant, since it shows Snowden is being taken seriously, although I should also note that (1) the DPP is going out (quite regularly) (2) was named "Keir" after Labour Party politician Keir Hardie, and (3) he wrote some books (which I list because that is quite rare).

And I am not being snide or critical: I like this news, and I also like some other things he said, that you can find yourself via the last dotted link, but quite a lot more needs to be done, indeed mostly not by the DPP.

3. Borderless US Drone War an Affront to Intl Law: UN Expert

Next, an article on Common Dreams by its staff
This starts as follows:
Missile attacks carried out by U.S. drones—that have killed countless civilians and remain hidden behind an 'unacceptable' veil of secrecy—may be in violation of international law, UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emmerson declared in a damning 24-page report released Friday.

Emmerson's statements add to a chorus of international voices expressing concern about the rising use of weaponized drones, including a report released Thursday by Christof Heyns, the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, citing far-reaching harm to civilians with no accountability.

Emmerson's report offers a chilling account of drone strikes in Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Pakistan and Gaza, documenting numerous incidents of civilian deaths at the hands of U.S. attacks and other world powers.

Having just returned from Islamabad, Pakistan, he explains that the Pakistan ministry of foreign affairs has documented over 330 drone strikes since 2002 that have killed 2,200 people, 400 of them civilians.

Indeed, if you are really serious about this, you download the 24-page report - but, whether you do or do not, my own position is that it is clearly "in violation of international law", to send unmanned planes to other nations, that one is not at war with, to spy and/or to blow up some of their people.

Also, while I welcome this report, I think the main problem is with the US administration, who basically just don't care, and who can persist in droning others because they want to and can do so, and no other nation has the effective power to stop them.

There is more under the link, including an interesting quotation, but the main problem seems to me to be that, however much others may agree that the US is breaking the law, no one is capable of enforcing the law in their case.

4. The Democrats Can’t Defend the Country from the Retrograde GOP

As the last crisis-related item, here is a bit by Ralph Nader:
This starts as follows:

The Congress, that polls show the American people would like to replace in its entirety, has “kicked the can down the road” again, putting off the government shutdown until January 15th and another debt ceiling showdown until February 7th.

The polls also show, convincingly, that people blame the stubborn Republicans more than the Democrats for the adverse effects of the impasse on workers, public health, safety, consumer spending, recreational parks and government corporate contracts.

There is another story about how all this gridlock came to be, fronted by the question: “Why didn’t the Democrats landslide the cruelest, most ignorant, big-business-indentured Republican Party in its history during the 2010 and 2012 Congressional elections? (See The Do Nothing Congress: A Record of Extremism and Partisanship)

Nader gives his own answer, that starts with
First and most obvious is that the Democrats are dialing for the same commercial campaign dollars (..)
and while I agree with this and other things he says, he does not discuss one of the factors that do seem quite relevant - and I formulate it politely: The lack of intelligence of most of the US electorate.

But I do agree with his title - which is sad enough.


5. 
Do We Sleep to Clean Our Brains?

Finally, an item that is not part of my
crisis-reporting (of which the present file is the 300th, since September 1, 2008), but that I found rather interesting, precisely because I have had quite serious problems with sleeping:
The article is not long, and starts thus:
American scientists think they’ve discovered the function of sleep: to clear molecular buildup in the brain in what Guardian science reporter Ian Sample calls a “rubbish disposal service.”
There also is a quotation from a Guardian article:

Maiken Nedergaard, who led the study at the University of Rochester, said the discovery might explain why sleep is crucial for all living organisms. “I think we have discovered why we sleep,” Nedergaard said. “We sleep to clean our brains.”

Writing in the journal Science, Nedergaard describes how brain cells in mice shrank when they slept, making the space between them on average 60% greater. This made the cerebral spinal fluid in the animals’ brains flow ten times faster than when the mice were awake.

The scientists then checked how well mice cleared toxins from their brains by injecting traces of proteins that are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. These amyloid beta proteins were removed faster from the brains of sleeping mice, they found.

Then again, there are several warnings to the effect that mice are not men, and that this is a first study, which is all true, but I like the explanation, also because I know of no reasons to assume that the differences between mice and men are relevant, while both kinds of animals do need to sleep.

Also, as to my interest in sleep:

I had no sleeping problems until I fell ill with ME/CFS, since when I always did have some problems, because I am usually in some pain, which makes falling asleep considerably more difficult, and waking up easier, and I got serious problems during three periods:

First, in the early 80ies, when I had accepted a house in Amsterdam, and had as my neighbour a truly completely mad person, who soon tried to keep my ex and me awake, by playing opera in the night, which kept me out of sleep for more than two years; second, in the late eighties, when I lived in a house with four terraces of cafés and of the drugsdealer below me, within 10-15 meters of my house, that kept me awake till after 2 o'clock, after which I usually was woken up around 8 by traffic and by the unloading of new metal beerkegs for one of the cafés; and third, the period from June 2012 till the end of Agust 2013, when I slept between 4 and 6 1/2 hours, on average, because of keratoconjunctivitis sicca  (plus ME/CFS).

So for me that is, collectively, around 8 years of chronically too little sleep, though I should also say that from May 1993 till May 2012, although I was ill all of that time, I did sleep mostly well, with pills to be sure, that are needed to get through the pain, simply because I live in a fairly pleasant and quite quiet place and street, at long last, and I am also not bothered by my neighbors.

Finally, the reason to write this out is that, at least in the first two periods of far too little sleep, it is quite clear who was responsible: the city of Amsterdam, and its mayor and aldermen and bureaucrats, that did absolutely nothing, even though they also knew that forcing a person to be chronically without sleep is a form of torture, and they also know, since 1991, that my whole situation has become considerably worse, ever since the second period of some four years of too little sleep.

And that worsening, which was quite considerable, lasted over 20 years now.

---------------------------------

Note


[1] Here it is necessary to insist, with Aristotle, thay the governors do not rule, or at least, should not rule: The laws rule, and the government, if good, is part of its executive power. Here I quote Aristotle from my More on stupidity, the rule of law, and Glenn Greenwald:
It is more proper that law should govern than any of the citizens: upon the same principle, if it is advantageous to place supreme power in some particular persons, they should be appointed to be only guardians, and the servant of laws.
(And I note the whole file I quote from is quite pertinent.)

About ME/CFS (that I prefer to call M.E.: The "/CFS" is added to
facilitate search machine) which is a disease that I have since 1.1. 1979:

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS(pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why  (currently not available)

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2003)
5. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf - version 2011)
6. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

7. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)
9.
Maarten Maartensz
Resources about ME/CFS
(more resources, by many)



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