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    Results from Our First Annual DHS Creative Writing Contest

    Earlier this summer we announced our first Department of Homeland Security Creative Writing Contest, and we’re long overdue for publishing the results. They’re finally here! But before showcasing the awesome writing submissions, we should say a few words about the current state of big government surveillance.

    The big news of the day: CISPA is dead! The Cybersecurity Act of 2012 (S.3414; the senate version of CISPA) was defeated by filibuster in the Senate. That’s a big victory over government cyber-surveillance, at least for now.

    On the downside, NSA dragnet surveillance continues under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). According to the Office of the Directory of National Intelligence (ODNI, the overseer of intelligence agencies), "it is not reasonably possible to identify the number of people whose communications have been reviewed" by the government. Remember that our writing contest dealt with the DHS — a different agency than the NSA. How many three-letter government agencies does it take to spy on an American?

    Finally, Kudos to twitter for following in Google’s footsteps, and issuing a transparency report. In the first six months of 2012, twitter received 849 government requests for user information. Of those, 80% (679 of 849) came from the united states. Twitter turned over information for 75% of the US requests. Perhaps Google could take a lesson from twitter (Google satisfied 93% of US government information requests, according to their latest transparency report).

    The Contest Submissions

    Time for the good stuff. The challenge was to take the list of keywords from the DHS’s social media monitoring program (see pdf, pages 20–23), then write a short piece that has nothing to do with national security, but uses as many keywords as possible. Here’s what people sent in. Can you pick out the keywords?

    From Jo of Winchester:

    Damn! I am in quarantine because I got infected with norvo virus drinking mudslides in Tijuana

    Southwest Airlines sucks. Stuck in San Diego and all I want is to get to Tucson to see la familia

    I love that I live Salem and we have homegrown pirates. I wonder if they are recruiting!

    Reading an amazing book about public health and multi drug resistant TB in Somalia, so glad we have smart people with the WHO, training homegrown providers to combat this pandemic!

    I wonder if the DHS has informed the CDC about this new infection caused by something called norvo virus

    Jo also quips about the term “norvo virus”, which appears on the DHS keyword list:

    I do love the fact that there is actually no such thing as “norvo virus” there is Norwalk Virus aka norovirus but definitely no norvo virus.

    I suppose that’s a DHS oops :)

    From Terra:

    at dress rehearsal at the theater today, the explosion of boos from the audience in the facility was toxic. people running from the theater had to control themselves and be civil as they burst out. in our opinion, the plot is a bomb and mayhem and riots on opening night are expected as audience members scramble to get their money back. we believe that the lead actor will be the latest casualty in this disaster of a performance. due to the expected unrest in the case, we would have thought that the strategy would be to retain more security personnel, in anticipation of the death of the run of this disaster of a theater piece, because we anticipate that people will by dying to leave and would perhaps “kill” for a cab in an attempt to flee. in total, the entire effort is a waste of theater infrastructure. and i recommend greater policing of public arts funding to ensure that we force better quality. use of public funding in this manner is a crime. even though the media came to shoot, that was not an indication that the initiative in this worthless exercise has any value. the entire thing is a threat to our civilization. if we don’t stop this kind of waste, it will breach not only public trust, but will incite civil unrest. i expect that this will blow up into a huge incident, as smaller arts collectives complain of their destruction because of lack of funding. when a small art house can have a huge hit, with home grown resources, and a large funded facility like what i saw today crashed and burned, it makes you wonder why we get any traffic at this huge facility. whether arts authorities are listening or not, they should take this as a warning. arts funding is in crisis. and the emergency is magnified when disasters like this are allowed to open. they should all be blacked out and blow to smithereens.

    From M.L. Browne, Winchester, MA:

    I was riding my bike when a dog came from nowhere on a side street and attacked my right leg. I crashed and he ran off. I felt the burn up my bloodied leg. Since bacteria and infection from bites are so nasty, I called the CDC. They said treat it, wrap it, ice it for relief, and report the incident to the police. I did what they said, but I wish the damned dog had at least barked a warning before he bit me.

    Finally, from Monica (aka femmevox):

    What kind of nutcase names her pet Pekineses Ricin, Sarin, Anthrax and Salmonella? Someone in love with the plague, or with a sick sense of humor. And I had to walk them.

    Teaching The Tempest to my ESL students is a disaster. Or a riot! Google translates it The Storm, half the students mistake Caliban for Taliban, while the smart kids burst out laughing.

    Help! His Trojan burst, this flood might be a disaster! Or a warning. I’ve got to find my power, get out before I’m stranded in some brownout of a life.

    Big twinkles to everyone who sent in submissions.

    WBZ Misrepresents Fare Strike Action

    http://boston.cbslocal.com/2012/07/13/group-protests-mbta-fare-hikes-with-fare-free-fridays/

    This story starts out on point, but rapidly goes downhill. By the end, reporter Jim Armstrong is flat out lying.

    As someone who was witness to this creative and principled action by the Boston Fare Strike Coalition on Friday (7/13/12), I can say that it is absolutely NOT true that all (or even most or many) of T riders “still paid their fares” even though they didn’t have to. And it is also false to assert or to suggest (as Armstrong does) that most T riders were opposed to the Fare Strikers actions. While you can find vocal antagonists to any bold action in a large crowd (and Jim Armstrong clearly did), I witnessed a wide range of responses from fellow T riders, including much support. About a thousand people took leaflets from BFSC explaining the logic behind the day’s action, and most seemed to be reading them with interest. Many were verbally supportive, and some signed up to join with the next action. A large number of people thanked the activists for the free ride home. (After all, since the MBTA jacked up fares by 23%, it’s only fair that people ride one day a week for free….The Banks get a Free Ride–continuing to profit off interest on the MBTA debt–Why can’t We? Public Transit Should be Free!)

    Also, it should be pointed out that the fare strikers, while perhaps mostly under 35, also include many individuals quite a bit older than that. Quite a few appeared to be in their fifties, sixties, or even seventies. It is a multi-generational coalition. Not just a bunch of “kids.”

    Jim Armstrong: putting the BS in CBS.

    Check out the  story in The Boston Occupier for more accurate and informed coverage of the Boston Fare Strike Coalition’s “Free Friday” action::   http://bostonoccupier.com/2012/07/15/boston-fare-strike-coalition-declares-fare-free-friday/

    See footage of the action:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JuFCgia3JI

    All are welcome to the next public meeting of the Fare Strike Coalition:  Thursday, July 19 at 6:00 PM,  by the Boston Common gazebo.  (Rain location: City Place food court, off the Alley.)

     

    Submitted by Joseph Ramsay

    Speak out: What the Occupy Movement Demands of Each of Us

    by Joseph G. Ramsey
    That we work to defeat and to overthrow the rule of the 1% (and the 0.1%) over our lives, our society, and our world;

    That we devote our lives to ending the oppression, domination, and exploitation of people both near and far;

    That we defend what remains of public space and the public sector against neoliberal attempts to privatize or destroy it;

    That we stand up for the freedom of speech and assembly, of dissent and public protest, as rights which no law-maker can revoke;

    That we work for social equality: the radical redistribution of wealth, the transformation and/or abolition of oppressive institutions, the dismantling of unaccountable hierarchies, and the thorough democratization of society;

    That we aspire towards egalitarianism in our own movement and in our own lives, seeking to build others up as equals, not to subordinate them as tools or inferiors;

    That we seek to unite the many against the few, behind an inspiring vision of global human emancipation;

    That we work to expose, to challenge, and to shut down wars abroad and militarism at home, along with the imperial and fascistic apparatus that makes them possible;

    That we devote ourselves to exposing, and to resisting the ravages of a toxic ecocidal  capitalism before it poisons the climate to the point of rendering wide swaths of our planet unlivable;

    That we work to expose, oppose, and defeat racism, homophobia, sexism and other reactionary and oppressive ideologies and practices wherever they rear their ugly heads;

    That we seek to give voice to the voiceless and hope to the hopeless across our world;

    That we help to inspire courage, trust, and solidarity amongst those who have been beaten down by the current system, to turn our collective weakness into strength;

    That we work to expose the farcical nature of our 1%-dominated, so-called “democracy,” even as we may utilize what is left of this state apparatus to tactically leverage the needs of our movement;

    That we hold accountable those individuals and institutions that have produced and profited from the current crisis, at the expense of the people.

    That we reject all 1%-er attempts to scapegoat the vulnerable and to blame the victims for their oppression;

    That we approach with suspicion and skepticism those representatives of existing 1% power structures that seek to co-opt our movement, even as we are constantly on the lookout for friends and allies in unexpected places;

    That we put the greater good of the people and the movement ahead of our personal interests, even as we recognize that only through such a movement can our individual talents be fully realized, and vice versa;

    That we keep our commitments and promises to one another;

    That we are honest and accountable in our interactions whenever we are representing the movement;

    That we work each day to help raise consciousness (inside and outside the movement) about the world situation?for this is a global struggle;

    That we inform ourselves about the current dangers and crises facing our society and our planet, and that we seek to understand not only the news and the facts, but the fundamental forces driving the situation forward, and the future trajectories these forces imply;

    That we seek to cultivate a tactical flexibility and creativity that can adapt to the shifting situation;

    That we develop a long-term, nationally coordinated strategy for actually building the movement that we want to create, for actually achieving the changes we want to see;

    That we cultivate an honest and humble self-critical attitude in evaluating the successes and failures, the strengths and weaknesses of our movement, its theories and its practices; that we are willing to alter our theories and practices in light of evidence and reflections we gather;

    That we seek to become citizens of the world, not just of any single city or nation;

    That we sink roots in our local communities, in our workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, families, and other institutions, becoming attentive students of others? lives, as well as supportive allies, and where appropriate, leaders of local struggles;

    That we are kind and patient with one another in the movement, working to understand deeply even those with whom we disagree, knowing that those who may be wrong on nine issues may teach us something valuable concerning the tenth;

    That we demonstrate courage as well as wisdom in the face of threats we face;

    That we seek to cultivate the fullest humanity in ourselves and in others alike;

    That we work creatively and tirelessly to bring into being a society that is worthy of human beings;

    That we commit to the long haul, as the fight ahead is sure to be as extended as its outcome remains uncertain.

    That we sustain one another in this great collective endeavor, cherishing each thinking, fighting spirit in these dark times.

    Joseph G. Ramsey is an writer, educator, and activist involved in the Occupy movement, and residing in the Boston area.  He writes for The Boston Occupier,  and editsCultural Logic  a journal of marxist theory and practice.  He can be reached at jgramsey@gmail.com .

    Why Not Trust Monsanto Co?

    © 2012 Josh Sager – www.SarcasticLiberal.blogspot.com

    Open to publishing/distribution with attribution, but no alterations allowed

    The Monsanto Corporation is among the largest pesticide and bio-technical corporations in the world today; their products are used in most sectors of agriculture, public land upkeep, landscaping/gardening and can be found in most markets across the United States.  Monsanto is a multi-billion dollar company with a diverse product base and is among the largest producers of genetically engineered crops. As a company, Monsanto promises to be the creator of new, safer, pesticides as well as stronger bio-engineered crops. Unfortunately, the reality of what Monsanto will deliver to the world is likely very different from what they promise, or what we, as a society, desire.

    Monsanto has produced many products, from new types of pesticide to genetically engineered crops, and has been the center of several severe controversies. In numerous cases, the Monsanto Corporation produced and marketed products which they knew to be potentially toxic, yet they still sold them in order to reap a profit. While not illegal, largely due to Monsanto’s massive lobbying efforts aimed at reducing safety standards (Monsanto Spent $6.3 million dollars in lobbying during the 2011 fiscal year alone – Follow this link for more information on Monsanto’s lobbying), the sale of toxic chemicals for a corporate profit is both highly immoral and very relevant to those in society who wish to assess the use of Monsanto products. Put plainly: Monsanto’s history of selling poison, labeled as a useful product, casts doubt on whether any product that they sell should be trusted (even if they claim it to be entirely safe, they have lied before).

    During its early years, Monsanto was a major producer of PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyl) to be used in various industrial applications. Monsanto was the primary North American supplier of PCBs from the 1930 to the late 1970s, when these chemicals were banned for their highly toxic nature. PCBs, while very stable and good at acting as a liquid insulator, are extremely toxic to virtually all forms of life – they are carcinogenic, highly toxic, and corrosive upon contact with skin or mucus membranes. Even with the mounting evidence of the toxicity of PCBs, Monsanto continued to produce them until they were forced to stop by the government banning all domestic production of PCBs in 1977.

    The Monsanto Corporation has a long and sometimes unfortunate history of creating new and powerful pesticides. The infamous “Agent Orange”, used in Vietnam to destroy jungles, and the powerful pesticide DDT were two of the primary pesticides produced by Monsanto during its early years. While Agent Orange and DDT are now outlawed due to the massive damage they cause human life as well as the environment, Monsanto continued producing them for as long as the law allowed. The gigantic costs to human health and to the environment caused by the sale of Monsanto pesticides, even once they were deemed dangerous to use, resulted in many ruined lives and destroyed ecosystems for society but huge profits for Monsanto.

    Currently, Monsanto is the producer of “Roundup”, a powerful and supposedly safe agricultural pesticide that has been the most common wide-spectrum herbicide for the past several decades. The major active ingredient in Roundup is a glyphosate salt, which makes it highly toxic for most common types of weeds. For added effectiveness, Monsanto has marketed a brand of “Roundup Ready” genetically engineered plants, which are immune to glyphosate salt poisoning, and allow for the use of pesticides during the growing process..

    While not as dangerous as “agent orange” or DDT, there are several serious problems associated with glyphosate pesticide use. Glyphosate pesticides have the potential to breed “super-weeds”, in the same way that antibiotics breed “super-germs”. The pesticide kills all but the strongest pests, leaving the hardiest members of the population to repopulate the area. Eventually, once the weaker pests are culled from the gene pool, “super-weeds” are all that remain; at this point, modern pesticides will become nearly useless and far stronger (and more toxic) ones will need to be employed.

    In addition to their potential to create super-weeds, some studies link glyphosate pesticides to damage to human cells, particularly in fetuses. Glyphosate is considered relatively safe by the FDA (Toxic Class III), but studies have shown that it can be damaging to embryonic and placental cells even if very dilute formulations. The potential danger glyphosate poses to fetuses is particularly worrying when one considers the wide use of the pesticide and the low concentrations necessary to cause harm. In addition to harming certain types of cells in the human body, glyphosate pesticide additives (Ex. the “inactive” ingredients of Roundup) have been shown to accumulate and cause genetic damage on lab rats. While the pesticide additive must be applied in large dosages for it to cause such damage, this raises questions about whether such damage is possible in other mammals (such as humans).

    A large portion of Monsanto’s business is currently in the field of “genetically modified organisms” (otherwise known as GMOs); this simply means that they alter the genetic structures of crops in order to (hopefully) make them more resistant to disease, easier to grow, higher yield, or less susceptible to predation by pests. Unfortunately, GMOs are often plagued by unintended consequences and side effects of genetic modification which make them risky for human consumption. Monsanto has been embroiled in several serious controversies surrounding the safety of their GMO products – namely GE corn and recombinant bovine growth hormone – yet they have consistently continued to sell their goods.

    Just recently, a study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences seems to indicate a link between the consumption of Monsanto genetically engineered corn and organ damage (primarily in the liver and kidneys). This damage is consistent with the genetically engineered pesticide utilized by the corn, and seems to refute Monsanto’s claim that the pesticide will degrade long before it is consumed. Despite evidence that Monsanto’s GM corn may cause organ damage in its consumers, they have refused to recall their products. The refusal to recall their potentially toxic corn, in combination with their history of damaging their consumers for a profit, shed considerable doubt upon their care for the health of those who consume their goods.

    The doubts surrounding the safety of Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn are particularly important considering the fact that high fructose corn syrup is a staple ingredient in most processed foods. Monsanto GE “roundup Ready” corn is a primary source for most American high fructose corn syrup, thus any potential harm caused by this corn would likely be enormous.

    Monsanto’s corporate behavior, both historically and currently, demonstrates a prioritization of profits over the safety of their consumers. It is evident that Monsanto will sell products, regardless of whether they may be toxic, for as long as they are legally able to sell them.

    Not only does Monsanto have a pattern of selling toxic goods, but they lobby to prevent these goods from becoming illegal (even after determining their toxicity), thus compounding the harm that they cause society. Monsanto spends millions of dollars a year in lobbying and is a very prolific user of the Washington DC “revolving door” (industry professionals becoming regulators and vice versa).

    Some Monsanto goods may be exactly what they are marketed as – clean and safe agricultural goods – but, given their history of selling dangerous goods, there is little reason for the public to trust in their products. The Monsanto Corporation has proven numerous times that it will sell poison for a personal profit, regardless of the harm which their products inflict upon society; in the absence of regulators sanctioning Monsanto for its negligence, it is up to the public to stand up to Monsanto and call them out for their bad acts.

    The next time you hear the name Monsanto in relation to a good which you are thinking of buying, please reconsider your purchase. It is entirely possible that the food is safe, or even of higher quality than other food, but there is also the very real likelihood that this food will damage your body. Why gamble with your or your family’s, health when there are so many other alternatives to the potentially toxic goods of Monsanto?

    For more information about Monsanto or pesticide damage, please go to one of the following links:

    www.LeahCollective.org

    http://occupy-monsanto.com/

    Contact us

    Occupy Boston Media <Media@occupyboston.org> • <Info@occupyboston.org> • @Occupy_Boston