Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Bin Laden’s ‘bodyguard’ is collecting welfare in Germany

Bin Laden’s ‘bodyguard’ is collecting welfare in Germany

A Tunisian man believed to have been Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard is hiding out in Germany and collecting over $1,400 a month in welfare, according to a report.
The man, who has only been identified by German media as Sami A for privacy reasons, lives in the city of Bochum with his German wife and four children and earns roughly $1,426 a month in welfare payments, BBC News reported. 
Sami A was investigated for his alleged ties to al Qaeda in 2006 but never criminally charged. He must report daily to a police station.
In 2005, a witness at a German anti-terror trial said Sami A worked as one of bin Laden’s bodyguards in Afghanistan for several months in 2000.
Sami A has denied the link to bin Laden, but judges in Dusseldorf believed the witness.
Sami obtained temporary residence in Germany in 1999. Eight years later, his application for asylum was rejected because authorities listed him as a security risk. Sami A moved to Bochum in 2005 after taking several technology courses.
Deportation to Tunisia was out of the question since the country is among those where suspected terrorists are tortured.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Here's what the media left out of the story about the Fresno U. professor Barbara Bush rant...It's astonishing

A professor's long record of promoting violence and hate unearthed. 

“Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal. F*** outta here with your nice words.”
Those were the first lines most people had read from Fresno State University professor Randa Jarrar, who turns 40 this year. In a video posted last week, the professor made it clear these were not new themes. 
Around Fresno, she said, “a lot of the farmers now are Trump supporters and just fucking stupid.” As she told the students, “I’m inspired by several things, usually my hatred for the man.” As she explained, “I can’t fucking stand the white hetero-patriarchy.” And she has also boned up on into history.
“The resistance fighters in the 60s and 70s. They didn’t kill anyone but they scared the shit out of people. They would hijack the plane and say ‘we are not going to hurt anyone on this plane but we are going to fucking hijack this plane.’” In the present, she wonders, “Why is Spencer’s (?) house still standing. I don’t understand. It needs to be like, fucking broken into. People need to fucking throw grenades into it. I don’t give a fuck.”  
The very pale professor told the crowd “Ha ha, fuck you. Empire, I mean you know. It counts on brown and black bodies to keep going. This is actually my shit. The reason you have nice stuff is because you stole my stuff. You stole my resources, you stole my land, you raped me,” and so forth.
On the literary side, Jarrar said, “a person hones their writer’s voice by telling people to shut the fuck up when they annoy them. You know, call them out for their inappropriate and spilling out masculinity. Make fun of them in front of other people, that were at an event.” The jovial professor also had some advice for her comrades. 
“The other side is doing some stupid shit. I’m going to do some stupid shit. I’m tired of being the bigger person – literally am, usually.” Jarrar was “tired of the left being, like fucking stupid and being like ‘No, we have to, like, be gentle.” In her view, “No, don’t be fucking gentle.” And for her part, “I don’t give a fuck. I’m buying guns.”
Some students may have known that, as Daniel Greenfield notes, Jarrar is a notorious BDS activist, a supporter of groups like Hamas that call for the mass murder of Jews. But that’s not all she is about. 
According to a January 2017 interview with one-time Fresno State colleague Alex Espinosa, Randa Jarrar was born in Chicago to an Egyptian-Greek mother and Palestinian father. Jarrar was raised in Kuwait and Egypt and returned to the United States at 13 after the Gulf War. 
As Espinosa noted, Bitch Magazine described her this way: “A queer, Muslim, Palestinian-American and proud fat femme, Jarrar lives the complexities of intersectionality.” She followed her successful debut novel A Map ofHome with Him, Me, Muhammad Ali. Her collection of stories The Millions, was “recognized as one of the most anticipated books of 2016.” 
Jarrar admitted she gets photoshopped as Jabba the Hut in a belly dancing outfit. “Get it? Because I’m fat?” In the interview, she was indeed on a roll. 
“Fuck white supremacy,” Jarrar said. “Fuck white people who think they can steal from us with impunity. Lionel Shriver has a right to write what she wants, but at the end of the day, I have the right to tell her that she’s a racist; that a white writer’s ‘freedom’ isn’t freedom if it’s at the cost of a person of color’s oppression; and that her books suck.” 
Shriver is the author of So Much for That, a National Book Award finalist and the bestseller We Need to Talk About Kevin. Espinosa didn’t delve into those books but did ask Jarrar what cultural value she attached to her own work. “My writing is drag,” she said, “comedy, cinema, a weed flower, glittery bras, Miss Piggy’s nose, a plate of mulokhiyya, a sheeska packed with apple-flavored tobacco.” 
Randa Jarrar also thinks Barbara Bush was an “amazing racist.” The Kuwait-raised Muslim loves to dish it out, so students, parents and taxpayers should use their First Amendment rights to see how much she can take. After all, this queer Muslim proud fat femme is certainly fair game.
As the soi disant exploited person of color explained in the video, “sometimes I’m sucking a white dick.” And the tenured professor and literary critic admits, “I am going to do some stupid shit.” So have some fun with that. I mean you know, call her on it.  
Comedian Jay Mohr has called for Jarrar to be fired but dismissal is unlikely. Even so, students, parents and taxpayers might make a case through the California Civil Rights Initiative. That measure, passed by voters in 1996, forbids the use of racial and ethnic preferences in state education, employment and contracting. 
Some diversity drone may have thought FSU needed more white women raised in Kuwait and Egypt. Some politically correct bureaucrat may have broken state law by rejecting a better qualified candidate in favor of vacuous bigot Randa Jarrar. 

'The largest foreign bribery case in history'

'The largest foreign bribery case in history'

HQ of Odebrecht in Sao Paulo

The US Department of Justice called it "the largest foreign bribery case in history".
After Brazilian multinational Odebrecht admitted guilt in a cash-for-contracts corruption scandal in 12 nations, it vowed to change its ways. 
But Brazil's authorities are still wrestling with an encrypted computer system used to run the firm's illicit payment system. 
The federal police building in Curitiba, in the southern state of Parana, has hardly been out of the news. In June 2015, the now-convicted former chief executive, Marcelo Odebrecht, was brought here. 
More recently, the HQ received former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, jailed for corruption on charges related to the wider Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation based here.
Along one of the airy, tiled corridors, opposite a regular computer laboratory, there is a sealed room with a complex entry mechanism. It is insulated with concrete, like a bunker. 
"This room is totally isolated from external communication - internet, phones. And entrance is restricted. Even me, as the manager, I'm not allowed to enter," says Fabio Salvador, the technical supervisor. 
Inside, eight specialised police officers and a technical assistant from Odebrecht have worked since September to crack one of the company's computer systems, Mywebday.

Prosecutors 'speechless'

In the case brought by the US Department of Justice, with Brazil and Switzerland in December 2016, Odebrecht and its petrochemical subsidiary, Braskem, admitted bribery to the tune of $788m (£553m) and agreed a record-breaking fine of at least $3.5bn. 
The construction giant paid off politicians, political parties, officials of state-owned enterprises, lawyers, bankers and fixers to secure lucrative contracts in Brazil and abroad.

Marcelo Odebrecht during a hearing of the parliamentary committee of the Petrobras investigation in Curitiba, Brazil, Sept 2015Image copyrightAFP
Image captionMarcelo Odebrecht is serving out his jail term at home

Apart from being the largest international bribery case ever, the Odebrecht story has one component that makes it exceptional: this was a corporation that created a bespoke department to manage its crooked deals - something prosecutors in Brazil and the US had never seen before. 
"In the Odebrecht case, there are many reasons for you to become speechless," says Deltan Dallagnol, lead prosecutor in Curitiba. 
"How a company created a whole system only to pay bribes, and how many public agents were involved. This case implicated almost one-third of Brazil's senators and almost half of all Brazil's governors.
"One sole company paid bribes in favour of 415 politicians and 26 political parties in Brazil. It makes the Watergate scandal look like a couple of kids playing in a sandbox." 
And the web of corruption had tentacles reaching to Africa and across the region. 
The president of Peru was forced to resign last month in allegations related to Odebrecht. The vice-president of Ecuador is in prison. 
Politicians and officials from 10 Latin American nations continue to fall under the Odebrecht bus. 

Shadow budget

Odebrecht was not the original focus of prosecutors in Curitiba. Lava Jato, the corruption case that's enveloped Brazil - putting some of the rich and powerful, including ex-president Lula, behind bars - began in 2014 as a money-laundering investigation. 

Demonstrators in Panama protest against corruption in connection with the scandal involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, in front of Panama's Congress in Panama CityImage copyrightAFP
Image captionOther countries across Latin America have their own investigations into Odebrecht

Focus shifted to Petrobras, Brazil's state oil company, where top managers were appointed by political parties in power. Investigators uncovered evidence that a "cartel" of engineering corporations - including Odebrecht - was rigging bids and paying bribes to secure contracts at inflated prices. 
Petrobras had become a colossal piggy bank for its executives, politicians and political parties to raid. It's estimated more than $2bn was paid in kickbacks, while Petrobras lost about $14bn through over-pricing while the scheme existed. 
So in 2014, prosecutors began to investigate the most influential member of that cartel, Odebrecht. 
The company's bribery department, known by the rather prosaic name of Division of Structured Operations, managed its own shadow budget. 
In plea-bargain testimony, Marcelo Odebrecht told prosecutors that everyone at the top of the company knew that 0.5% to 2% of the corporation's income was moved off-the-books.
"We're talking about a company that billed 100bn reais a year. If we're talking about 2%, that's about 2bn reais," he said. 
In other words, up to about $600m was committed to undeclared payments. Structured Operations paid bribes through a complex and often multi-layered network of shell companies and offshore finance. 
In Brazil, cash was delivered by doleiros - black market dealers. Or by "mules", who travelled with shrink-wrapped bricks of banknotes concealed beneath their clothing. Brazilian politicians were usually paid in cash. Others had secret bank accounts.

Sleaze machine

This was organised crime - highly organised crime. All financial activity was systematised using two parallel, bespoke computer systems. 

Operation Car Wash sign
Image captionOperation Car Wash is fighting corruption in Brazil, the slogan says

The first allowed internal communication within Odebrecht and also with outside financial operators. The second - the one the Federal Police in Curitiba still cannot access completely - was used to make and process payment requests. 
But none of this was known to the authorities in the early stages of the investigation. A breakthrough would seal the fate of the well-oiled sleaze machine at Odebrecht. 
By 2015, there was enough evidence against the company to arrest the unco-operative chief executive, Marcelo Odebrecht. In early 2016, the Federal Police gained access to the Hotmail account of one of the Structured Operations executives. 
They found emails related to financial transactions and a spreadsheet created by a secretary in the division, Maria Lucia Tavares. Her home was raided. 
Stashed in a wardrobe were printouts from the Mywebday system itemising illicit payments. Tavares had made hard copies for her boss to look at, and then hidden them as the noose tightened at Odebrecht. Within the division, she was responsible for making payments. 
"I didn't know who the recipients were. We used codenames, but I was never told who those people actually were, and I was never curious to find out," Tavares told prosecutors. 
So Tavares was never interested in knowing the identities of Dracula, Sauerkraut and Viagra. 

Evidence destroyed

Many of the politicians and officials given a nickname have been identified. But not all of them, says the police chief of Parana, Mauricio Valeixo.
"We're hoping to identify those we don't know. And for others we have to get more information, because, for example, it's not enough just to have a nickname," he says. "We have to understand the reason why somebody might've been given $200,000."

Odebrecht logo at company HQ in Sao PauloImage copyrightREUTERS

The police chief is anticipating more arrests in the Odebrecht case, especially once technicians have cracked Mywebday. So why is that so complicated? 
"On Marcelo Odebrecht's cellphone, we found information that there were orders to destroy evidence, to clean up devices," says prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol. 
"It seems the devices that contained the files that could open the system were destroyed. We tried to rebuild the system in different ways. 
"We asked the FBI for help. It turned out we'd need a lot of computers doing only this for more than 100 years in order for us to have a lucky strike." 
But Fabio Salvador, the technical manager for the federal police, is optimistic. His team had a breakthrough in late February. 
"This is a great fight for criminal expertise in Brazil," he says. "And we're going to win."

Presentational grey line

Basic income trial falls flat in Finland...It must have been really bad too cut short!

Basic income trial falls flat in Finland

Euro notes, file picImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

The Finnish government has decided not to expand a limited trial in paying people a basic income, which has drawn much international interest.
Currently 2,000 unemployed Finns are receiving a flat monthly payment of €560 (£490; $685) as basic income.
"The eagerness of the government is evaporating. They rejected extra funding [for it]," said Olli Kangas, one of the experiment's designers.
Some see basic income as a way to get unemployed people into temporary jobs.
The argument is that, if paid universally, basic income would provide a guaranteed safety net. That would help to address insecurities associated with the "gig" economy, where workers do not have staff contracts. 
Supporters say basic income would boost mobility in the labour market as people would still have an income between jobs.
Finland's two-year pilot scheme started in January 2017, making it the first European country to test an unconditional basic income. The 2,000 participants - all unemployed - were chosen randomly.
But it will not be extended after this year, as the government is now examining other schemes for reforming the Finnish social security system.
"I'm a little disappointed that the government decided not to expand it," said Prof Kangas, a researcher at the Social Insurance Institution (Kela), a Finnish government agency.
Speaking to the BBC from Turku, he said the government had turned down Kela's request for €40-70m extra to fund basic income for a group of employed Finns, instead of limiting the experiment to 2,000 unemployed people.Another Kela researcher, Miska Simanainen, said "reforming the social security system is on the political agenda, but the politicians are also discussing many other models of social security, rather than just basic income". 

Olli Kangas, head of society relations at Kela
Image captionOlli Kangas wanted the two-year trial to be expanded to people in work

When Finland launched the experiment its unemployment rate was 9.2% - higher than among its Nordic neighbours. 
That, and the complexity of the Finnish social benefits system, fuelled the calls for ambitious social security reforms, including the basic income pilot.
The pilot's full results will not be released until late 2019.
In February this year the influential OECD think tank said a universal credit system, like that being introduced in the UK, would work better than a basic income in Finland.
The study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said income tax would have to increase by nearly 30% to fund a basic income. It also argued that basic income would increase income inequality and raise Finland's poverty rate from 11.4% to 14.1%.
In contrast, the OECD said, universal credit would cut the poverty rate to 9.7%, as well as reduce complexity in the benefits system. 

Moral vapidity at Cannes.

Cannes' decision to welcome the "banished" filmmaker back is emblematic of the contradictions at the heart of the festival — especially when it comes to gender.

In the immortal words of Dolly Parton, “Here you come again.”
At least that’s what I imagine Thierry Fremaux, the artistic director of the Cannes Film Festival, singing to himself (“All you gotta do is smile that smile/And there go all my defenses/Just leave it up to you and in a little while/You're messin' up my mind and fillin' up my senses,”) as he picked up the phone to invite Lars von Trier back to the Croisette to unveil his latest feature, The House That Jack Built.
Back in 2011 — before the rise of Trump, the fall of Weinstein and the emergence of #MeToo — the Danish filmmaker and provocateur was supposedly banned from the festival after rambling, during the press conference for Melancholia, about having sympathy for Hitler. That banishment struck some observers as odd, a token gesture to reprimand dumb off-the-cuff remarks that in years gone by would have just been seen as a tasteless joke. Of course, by 2011, political correctness was no longer just an American thing — and in France, where Nazi atrocities are still within living memory, Hitler punchlines have a particularly stinging resonance.
What’s hard to wrap your head around is where exactly the festival, a celebration of independent thought and artistic risk-taking, draws the line between acceptable and offensive; who’s in and who’s out; private behavior and public statements; bad politics that are frowned upon and bad sexual politics that are perfectly fine.
For Cannes, gender issues are a particularly fuzzy grey zone. In a recent interview for The Hollywood Reporter, Fremaux defended the fact that only three films in competition this year are directed by women, insisting that the selection committee bases their decisions on merit alone. That said, he conceded that if faced with a choice between two films of equal merit, one directed by a man and one by a woman, they would choose the woman-directed one in the interest of balancing the representational scales.
That sort of tricky intellectual high-wire positioning permeates the festival as a whole. This is an event that celebrates international diversity on screen, but has been known to hold such fascistic fashion attitudes as the requirement that women attending red-carpet screenings must wear heeled shoes, not flats.
Perhaps that rule shouldn’t have been surprising given that Cannes is, after all, in France, where the debate around the #MeToo movement has taken on an odd tone. Expressions of dissent have emanated from the likes of superstar Catherine Deneuve, who worried that modern feminism was destroying flirtation, and director Catherine Breillat (Fat Girl), who defended Harvey Weinstein, called Asia Argento “a mercenary and a traitor” and dismissed Jessica Chastain’s criticism of Last Tango in Paris. Let’s not forget that many filmmakers and critics in France were educated in an era, from the 1960s up to the 1990s, that celebrated transgression and the challenging of convention — an intellectual tradition that revered radical literary figures like the Marquis de Sade and Georges Bataille and philosophers such as Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes and Julia Kristeva, who deconstructed notions of “normalcy,” “common sense” and sexual identity.
It’s precisely that cultural tradition that has informed the festival’s programming, its embrace of arthouse provocateurs and experimentalists, along with its almost antithetical mandate to make sure there are also pretty ladies in skimpy dresses on the red carpet for each film. Such is the frustrating paradox at the heart of the Cannes Film Festival.
Which brings us back to von Trier, who for many years represented both parts of the equation in one neat package. On the one hand, he is an aesthetic innovator par excellence, who delights in finding new approaches — from the self-restrictive tenets of the Dogma 95 movement to testing the limits of digital photography as it evolved to even using, in 2006’s The Boss of It All, a computer to randomly assign the location of the camera. In part it was this adventurousness — and von Trier’s also not-inconsiderable gift for self-promotion — that attracted the likes of Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Bryce Dallas Howard, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chloe Sevigny and Deneuve herself to work with him, thus ensuring the red-carpet eye candy that festivals, especially Cannes, also like.
The real-world von Trier appears to be a neurotic, phobia-ridden fellow of whom most collaborators speak very highly, except for Bjork, who accused him of making life hell for her on the set of Dancer in the Dark. Apart from those allegations, there’s indeed been little dirt thrown von Trier’s way in terms of his behavior. That marks a rather striking contrast to, say, Roman Polanski, whom the festival has continuously embraced, programming his films for many years (The Pianist won the Palme d’Or in 2002, and his latest, Based on a True Story, played last year), even though in 1977 he was arrested for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl (and plea-bargained the charges down to unlawful sex with a minor). The case concerning Woody Allen is more complicated: He’s never been charged, and the accounts from his family about his alleged sexual abuse of his daughter, Dylan, is a morass of conflicting views and judgments. But the shadow of those accusations didn’t seem to trouble Fremaux and company as recently as 2016, when the fest opened with Allen’s Café Society.
What’s undeniable is that von Trier has spent much of his career stirring la merde, as if he can’t stop himself from doing six shocking things every day before breakfast. For years, Cannes has happily welcomed his controversial, headline-generating work, films that have featured rape (Dogville), brutal humiliations of women (Breaking the WavesDancer in the Dark), arguably sadistic wallowing in female suffering (Antichrist) and just outright leering voyeurism (all of the above, but especially the last one, Nymphomaniac, which had to premiere at Berlin instead of Cannes after the scandal of the Nazi remarks).
Ironically, Melancholia, the film he was having a press conference for at the time, was his mildest work in years, and one that won a Best Actress prize at the fest for Kirsten Dunst, as Antichrist did for Charlotte Gainsbourg a couple of years before. Von Trier is often invoked in the never-ending debate over whether depicting misogyny onscreen makes a film itself or a filmmaker himself misogynistic. His latest is said to feature Matt Dillon as a serial killer who murders women over many years, and inevitably the announcement that it will premiere at Cannes has generated stumped expressions of bafflement and indignation.
Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the film, as von Trier is one of those fascinating, infuriating, ineffable talents that always challenges me as a critic, a woman and a feminist. (I’m also a Jew, but that seems immaterial since the Hitler comment struck me more as a joke gone wrong than a genuine expression of anti-Semitism.) Like the festival itself, I imagine, I have a love-hate relationship with his work and see it as the product of an artist who definitely has dark and sometimes repellent thoughts about women and men, and the world in general, a place he imaginatively destroyed in Melancholia.
As long as he remains innocent of acting on those dark impulses in so-called real life, I’m fine with his films screening in Cannes, where we will — as we have in years gone by — debate and decry and delight as is our wont whatever latest wackitude he has to offer.

No guns laws will account for cultural rot: Mexico murder rate soars with 7,667 killed in 3 months