For those of you who don’t know, all email messages, international phone calls, and cell phone communications from around the world are monitored by a supposedly top secret supercomputer system called Echelon. The system searches for keywords like “terrorist” or “bin laden.” Enough hits and your phone call or email is funneled into a CIA database.
This may sound like Orwellian paranoia, but it is a fact. Although the US government still refuses to acknowledge such a system exists, everyone seems to know about it but them. The European Union has openly debated what to do about the fact that they are being spied on. Last spring, the Australian government–which helps run the system along with New Zealand, Canada, Great Britain, and the US– confirmed that Echelon does indeed exist.
Tired of being watched, a group of subscribers to a mailing list called Hacktivism have set up a webpage declaring Oct. 21 as “Jam Echelon Day”. The site implores “netizens around the globe to send out at least one email with at least 50 keyword words.” The idea is to jam Echelon up with harmless messages full of “suspicious” words. For good coverage of the event, including a list of keywords with which to clog the beast, check out the WIRED story linked below.
Gays pin Ted Turner for WCW gay-bashing theme
Nobody would ever accuse Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling of being P.C. Six months ago, reports the WASHINGTON POST, the wrestling/melodrama spectacle introduced a new character called Lenny. Prancing around in sequins and playing a campy girly-man, Lenny obviously represented the token gay whipping boy in the WCW arena.
The audiences loved it, chanting “Faggot! Faggot! Faggot!” at the wrestler in unison and cheering wildly when his macho colleagues seemingly beat him to a pulp. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), however, was less amused by the regular gay-bashing parties in the ring. GLAAD entertainment media director Scott Seomin wrote to Turner Network Television (TNT), “The character of Lenny is presented with the intention to incite the crowd to the most base homophobic behavior,” and urged the WCW to stop inciting anti-gay violence. In response, TNT has announced that Lenny and his gay buddy Lodi would be discontinued completely from WCW events.
Turner removed WCW president Eric Bischoff from his position, reportedly over the Lenny and Lodi situation. Apparently the Ted doesn’t revel in homophobia like his network’s audience — but he does know how to profit from it.
The roots of the KPFA/Pacifica debacle
The Pacifica radio network and the Berkeley radio station KPFA briefly grabbed headlines this summer when the politically progressive, public, noncommercial network spent half a million dollars locking its own programmers and on-air talent out of the station amidst fervent demonstrations over alleged mismanagement.
Tensions at Pacifica and KPFA had been simmering for years, though, and the fiasco seems almost predictable in retrospect. SALON paints a complex portrait of Mary Frances Berry, the controversial Pacifica Foundation chair, and illuminates recent changes at Pacifica.
Berry was a civil-rights pioneer and federal official with a terrible management track record. Pacifica was a radio network trying to balance the demands of right-wing politicians and free-wheeling programmers and listeners. Through a series of bizarre decisions, Berry seems to have shot herself in the foot and dragged Pacifica down with her. Given her history of brash ideology (SALON deems it “divisive racial politics”), many say Berry did it for personal political gain. Check out the article and decide for yourself.
Conservatives spin population mark
It’s been more than three decades since Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote his book “The Population Bomb,” but the doom he foretold therein, according to much of the media today, has yet to pass. Meanwhile, the UN has officially declared that today in Sarajevo, the six billionth human arrived here on Earth.
In his ground-breaking 1968 book, Ehrlich warned of a number of dire consequences of global overpopulation: mass extinctions, poverty and famine, ecological degradation, and more. Yet if you read the WASHINGTON TIMES, the DETROIT NEWS, or listen to NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO today, you’ll hear that Ehrlich was wrong, and that overpopulation is actually good for you. That’s partially because the right-wing think-tank the CATO Institute and other globalization cheerleaders engineered the spin. A CATO press release calls the 6-billion mark “something to celebrate” because “there are fewer women dying during pregnancy … fewer people dying of childhood disease … fewer people starving to death … fewer people going without medical attention.” Tell that to HMO victims, or pretty much anyone living in a underdeveloped nation.
One of the “good signs” some media (the DETROIT NEWS among them) are reporting is that fertility rates are down drastically over the past 20 years. Infertility, of course, can be caused by a number of things, including chemical pollution, which are caused by … overpopulation. When nature sends a strong warning indicating that it is out of balance, the press manages to turn it into a rallying cry for technology and expansion. Says the DETROIT NEWS: “The notion that there is a natural limit to the Earth’s ‘carrying capacity’ is as primitive as it is wrong.” And yet nature is slowing us down anyway.
Meanwhile, as the group ZERO POPULATION GROWTH points out well, the rainforests continue to be chopped down at an alarming rate, fewer people have health insurance than previously thought, entire species are being wiped out daily as their habitat is bulldozed for subdivisions to house more people or farms to feed more people, Third World countries cannot provide clean water and so thousands die of otherwise controllable diseases ….
Get the real story.
The flying car in your future
Imagine a flying car that clocks 350 mph, gets 20 miles per gallon, parks in your garage, and can be driven by a klutz. Now imagine that you could have one for $40,000 a pop. Although that price tag would limit the market to America’s more affluent households, it still sounds too good to be true. But it may very well be reality in a decade or so.
THE VILLAGE VOICE reports that Canada-born engineer Paul Moller has spent 40 years developing his creation, the Skycar, with breathtaking results. A stellar safety record and elegant design have earned it the blessing of environmentalists, industry engineers, and investors. The Skycar’s fuel efficiency may not be revolutionary, but the potential to reduce highway sprawl certainly is.
Of course, computer-navigated flying cars need a little infrastructure to keep a healthy distance from each other, so NASA is busy creating a network of highways-in-the-sky and tweaking its satellite-positioning and communication system. Until then, Moller hopes to test the Skycar’s viability in the military, in the postal service, and in developing countries, mass-producing his invention at home in as few as 10 years.
Auto manufacturers may not have much to say about his flying cars, but after raising $125 million on his own for research and development, Moller hardly needs them. He has his own theory about corporations like Ford and Chrysler: “Big companies don’t create new technology,” he says. “They don’t change the paradigm, they maintain it.”