The Mysterious Death Of A UN Secretary General

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld

Not quite up there with the Kennedy assassination conspiracy, but still a mystery, is the death of UN General Secretary Dag Hammarskjold who was killed in an airplane crash – some say assassinated – on September 17, 1961.

On that fateful day, a Douglas DC-6 transport aircraft with Hammarskjöld on board crashed in the British-administered territory of Northern Rhodesia (now called Zambia). Not only Hammarskjold, but everyone on board was killed in the crash.

Three investigations into the crash were held, conducted by the Rhodesian Board of Investigation, the Rhodesian Commission of Inquiry, and the United Nations Commission of Investigation.

Dag Hammarskjöld plane shot down

As usual in these non-investigation investigations, “pilot error” was noted as the most likely cause of the tragedy.

But the UN Commission of Investigation held in 1962 said that deliberate sabotage could not be ruled out as a likely cause of the tragedy, which of course set the conspiracy theorists on over drive.

Since then many academics and independent investigators, such as Swedish development expert Göran Björkdahl and British academic Susan Williams, have raised the possibility that the plane carrying Secretary General Hammarskjöld may have been “shot down by an unidentified second plane”.

Just after the tragedy the eagerness shown by British colonial administrators in Northern Rhodesia to obscure the details of the incident has also been highlighted and has provided further impetus for those pointing to foul play.

Like many others who have met similar fates, Hammarskjöld probably contributed to his own downfall because he was an independent thinker, not content to remain in the pockets of the powers that be. He was, for example, a fierce supporter of anti-colonial movements that were sweeping the African continent, many of which were not in the interests of their colonial masters at the time.

Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba

This is borne out by the fact that on the day of his death, Hammarskjöld was flying to the Congo’s mineral-rich Katanga region to meet European-supported chieftains who in 1960 had seceded from the Marxist government of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.

Lumumba had been assassinated in a Western-backed coup exactly eight months before Hammarskjöld’s own death. The person said to have arranged his assassination was Daphne Park, one of MI6’s top female intelligence agents and known by some as the “Queen of Spies”.

Moving on in time to three years ago, in 2012, the independently funded Hammarskjöld Inquiry Trust appointed an international team of jurists, called the Hammarskjöld Commission, to study all available evidence on the plane crash. The team was composed of a diplomat and three judges from the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Sweden.

The Commission reported in 2013 that “significant new evidence” had emerged, which suggested that American intelligence agencies, notably the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, had “crucial evidence” that could help clarify the causes of the crash.

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon

This led to the current UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, appointing a UN-sponsored panel of experts to examine the new evidence and present it before the UN General Assembly. The three-member panel traveled to several countries, including Zambia, the US, Britain and Belgium, to access government, as well as private archives.

That ‘new evidence’ is said to include written testimony by a Belgian pilot who says he shot down the plane carrying Hammarskjöld by error while trying to divert it on orders by a government entity, and a statement by a former intelligence officer with the US National Security Agency, admitting he listened to a recording of a pilot who said he shot down the UN Secretary General’s plane.

Damning stuff – if true.

Is it really possible that more than half a century later the truth about  “one of the enduring mysteries of the 20th century” is finally going to be heard?

Don’t hold your breath on that one. It all depends if those who ordered the assassination think they can get away with it after all these years.

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So who really did kill JKF, more importantly, why, and how long are we going to have to wait to find out?

JFK assassination headline

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Education About Education

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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education

Today a little education about education.

First I’ll crunch some numbers, as I like to do.

4,726 = the number of colleges and universities United States.

$589 billion =  the amount spent by students annually.

Of that figure,

$393 billion = tuition fees, and

$196 billion = expenses like travel and housing.

538% = the percentage increase of the cost of a college education over the past three decades.

4.5 = the number times more expensive it is to go to college today than it was back in 1985, even allowing for inflation.

So is the cost worth it?

Does the education system make sense?

The vast majority of Americans never even consider these important questions. They are fixated on their kids going to college – end of debate.

Whether they have the ability or not, or whether it is the right career path for them or not, if the parents can afford it and/or the kids can get a student loan (which they usually can) then they go to college.

But there is a heavy cost to pay, as we have just seen above. By the time they graduate 70% of students are lumbered with a loan balance averaging $28,400. Nationwide in the US, student loan debt now sits at a staggering $1.2 trillion, which is nearly 50% higher than all the outstanding auto-loan debt, and almost double credit card debt.

student loan debt

While it is true that college graduates have more opportunities to earn more than those without a degree, the number of those good paying jobs is limited. Most college graduates have to settle for a lot less that they were planning for when they started that expensive college education.

What is often forgotten is that there are many other opportunities out there in the workplace for someone who spends their time and money learning a trade or a skill. A friend of mine who is a plumber earns many times more than many of his contemporaries with college degrees and office jobs.

In fact, since more and more young Americans are turning their noses up at manual type jobs and opting for expensive colleges, there will soon be a shortage of essential trades such as plumbers, electricians and so forth, making those jobs even more lucrative than they are now.

Food for thought for the future perhaps.

FoodForThought

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Sacre Bleu! – Er, Make That Red White And Bleu!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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sacre bleu cartoon

There has been a lot of activity in France lately concerning the United States government spying on three French Presidents.

The current President of France even called an emergency meeting of the Conseil de la Défense, the country’s highest national security forum to discuss the emergence of documents that appear to implicate the US National Security Agency (NSA) – now who’da guessed that? –  spying on Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, who ruled France from 1995 to 2012.

The documents further indicate that the NSA may have also targeted the personal communications of Francois Hollande, France’s current head of state.

The files were published by WikiLeaks, which described them as “top secret intelligence reports and technical documents”, detailing NSA spying operations against the French presidency, as well as espionage directed at several French government ministers and at France’s ambassador to the US.

French President Francois Hollande at meeting to discuss Wikileaks revelations

The documents include intelligence briefs, which detail the thoughts and diplomatic maneuvers by French presidents and other senior officials, on subjects such as the Greek economic crisis, the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and the United Nations.

This is further evidence of more disgraceful and arrogant behavior by US spy agencies.

The thing is, however, no one is surprised any more.

Since Edward Snowden’s revelations the world has come to expect illegal and bad behavior from Americans. It is as simple as that. And for the reputations of Americans it is as bad as that. Which is a great pity because these activities do not represent in any way the vast majority of the American people.

So, if they aren’t a surprise to anyone, will the latest revelations cause trouble between America and France? I think the undoubted answer is “Oui”, but only a “petit oui”.

As befits normal protocol in these kinds of things, the American ambassador to France was summoned for what was called ‘an official protest’, but little or nothing more happened apart from President Obama getting on the phone with the French President, groveling and apologizing and assuring him in no uncertain terms “that the US is no longer spying on France”.

No, I don’t believe him either, but there it is.

President Obama on phone

There was no need for America’s snooping. As with Germany, French and American intelligence agencies cooperate with each other regularly. They jointly monitor international issues of mutual concern, such as what is happening in Syria, Iraq, the Ukraine, Libya, and even the financial catastrophe that is Greece.

For now that will continue, but the road ahead looks bumpy.

Wikileaks has already made good on its promise that its “French readers can expect more timely and important revelations in the near future”.

The latest release from the whistleblower website contains more documents that indicate that the National Security Agency (NSA), under orders from Washington, were tasked with collecting secret information not only about the economic policies of the French government and the country’s financial sector, but on export contracts by French companies.

In fact every French-registered company involved in negotiations for international projects or other sales contracts valued at over $200 million, like car makers Peugeot and Renault and financial institutions like BNP Paribas and the agricultural credit union, were also subjected to US government secret snooping.

Washington’s pathetic statements that none of this information is ever used to benefit American companies competing for international contracts rings mighty hollow with the French, and the rest of the world come to that.

This latest information is a lot more damning and may necessitate a much stronger response from the French – even if it is just to save face.

Like their attitude over the invasion of Iraq, I think any further reaction would include little or no cooperation in any future American interventions in the Middle East and maybe the use of a veto or two in the United Nations.

We might be at the start of a new meaning to the term “non” cooperation?

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non merci button

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The Greeks Can’t Afford To Bear Gifts These Days

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Greek financial crisis

I used to love listening to George W Bush when he talked about the ‘Grecians’. He was an idiot, but unlike some holders of his post I think he secretly knew it.

But, enough of that, let’s concentrate on the Grecians.

Their financial crisis is deepening and they’ve shut down all their banks. They’ve also imposed what are called ‘capital controls’, in other words what you can and cannot do with your own money –  assuming you could get to it in the first place.

Several Western countries, including the US and Britain, have issued travel warnings for Greece. Not a warning about the place being very dangerous, just a warning to have enough cash to be able to pay for things now that the banks are shut and presumably their ATMs as well.

queue at Greek ATM

This recent activity by the Greek government is because of the breakdown of talks between Athens and the European Union concerning the Grecians’ enormous debt that they clearly can’t afford to pay back. EU finance ministers rejected Athens’ request to prolong a financial assistance program.

It is also about a bit of timely government blackmail.

The Greek government has so far been unable to formulate any meaningful plans to curtail their spending significantly. The Greek people likewise have become used to living beyond their means and are reluctant to tighten their belts. The people are blaming the government and the government is blaming the people and nothing is really getting resolved.

So Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, shut the banks and said they would stay shut until July 6, conveniently the day after a nationwide referendum on whether to accept the bailout terms proposed to Greece by its creditors.

Some commentators also think that the banks may have been shut because they don’t have enough cash left. The Greek people think the same and are panicking to get their money out of the banks. Runs on banks inevitably lead to disaster.

As Greece is part of the Euro zone it does not have control of its own monetary system. In other words, unlike America which can simply print more money if and when it needs it, the Grecians have to rely on the European Central Bank giving them cash. and it has refused to give them any more Euros.

That decision could prompt Greece to default which would probably lead to it being kicked out of the Euro zone and possibly out of the EU itself, which would be an historic first and something that would be done very reluctantly.

Greek financial crisis cartoon

The rulers of the EU are in what is known as a ‘tight spot’. If they don’t take a tough line on the Grecians they can be sure other poor countries in the EU will follow suit. If they do take a tough line, then the upheaval will undoubted have an impact on the Euro currency.

A Greek default would also be another kick in the greedy teeth of the big financial institutions who own a good part of the massive €300 billion debt – you see there are positives in every situation if you look hard enough.

So it looks like emergency meetings and frantic discussions all over the place in Europe.

Despite the fact that Dubya is long gone from the political scene, I don’t think we’ve heard the last about the Grecians just yet.

By the way, Happy Independence Day to all my American visitors, bet you’re glad you’re not part of Europe these days.

Happy 4th July USA

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Traitor Or Patriot?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Snowden Traitor or Patriot

A lot has been written about Edward Snowden, the NSA employee who leaked files of secret documents to the public. Some of the reaction has been in praise of him as a patriot and some of it castigating him as an enemy of the people and a traitor.

So who is right?

I guess that depends on your point of view.

If you think the government did the right thing snooping illegally on its own people and on its allies, then you are probably in the camp that wants to see Snowden shot as a traitor.

If you think Snowden did the right thing to expose the deceit and crimes of government agencies so that the general public became better informed about what was being undertaken in its name, then you are probably in the camp that wants Snowden left alone.

There is no ambiguity in which camp the government resides. It wants to see Snowden repatriated to the US to face numerous charges that would result in him – perhaps not being shot – but certainly spending a long, long time in prison. It’s not about punishing Snowden, it’s about sending a message to other like-minded government employees.

To back up their claim to have Snowden punished, the press is continually being leaked stories of how Snowden put lives at risk because of his revelations.

Sunday Times Snowden smear

For example, take the latest claims leaked to a British newspaper is that Russian and Chinese intelligence analysts have decrypted some of his Snowden’s stolen files and have been able to identify US and British secret agents as a result. Apparently personnel has had to be withdrawn from overseas operations in hostile countries because their identities have been “blown”. It’s an unlikely scenario because the vast majority of ‘spies’ hold diplomatic posts in embassies and as such have the benefit of diplomatic immunity if exposed.

And there have also been counter claims denouncing stories like these as ‘smear tactics’ used by the government without any evidence to support them. The counter claimers also point to the fact that the latest newspaper to carry the government’s leaked story is Rupert Murdock’s ‘Sunday Times’, the very same source that carried the government’s leaked dossier on Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, every single “fact” in which proved to be a lie.

Cynics also point out that this latest anti-Snowden non-story in the British press has been timed precisely to coincide with the British government’s new Snooper’s Charter act, which enables the security services to access all internet activity. Convenient to say the least!

As for Snowden himself, he says that when fled the US he took four copies of a cache of top secret documents lifted from the NSA’s intranet but handed these over to carefully selected journalists and no longer has them in his possession.

Naturally NSA sources dispute this, arguing that when Snowden defected to Russia he took the files with him.

Once again who you believe depends on which camp you are in.

It is possible that Snowden is lying, but it is also possible that he is telling the truth.

If it is the latter it is a reasonable assumption that any leaks of his documents after he left Hong Kong have been the result of the files being hacked or stolen from the journalists he passed them on to.

When you think about it, journalists are not intelligence or computer experts and probably were an easy mark for the hackers. Even the more security conscious ones invariably use encryption programs such as PGP, TruCrypt and Tor, which are all vulnerable to the kind of hacking available to the US and other governments.

For what it’s worth, my money is on the government’s latest leak being more bullshit. When you’ve clearly done something wrong, and want to keep on doing it, it’s always cool to be able to distract the crowd by blaming someone else.

So it’s not my fault.

it's not my fault

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The ‘F’ Word And More – It’s Fasab Fact Day!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Don’t be offended by the title.

An ‘F’ word here or there never hurt anyone.

So get stuck into the facts (that’s an ‘F’ word too!)

Enjoy.

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who is afraid of the 'F' word

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In 2011 approximately one third

of divorce filings in the US

contained the ‘F’ word,

yes, that’s the one

“facebook”.

(See, it wasn’t nearly

as bad as you thought.)

facebook divorce evidence

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HOT fact:

The temperature of the Earth’s core is

5500 degrees celsius (9900 degrees fahrenheit).

That is the same temperature as the surface of the sun.

temperature of the Earth's core

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Getting a silver medal in the Olympics

will make you feel worse than getting a bronze

(because you just missed the gold)

silver medal in the Olympics London 2012

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There is actually a beer brewed

from bananas in some countries

beer brewed from bananas

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Out of 44 Presidents of the United States,

32 have served in the military.

15 Presidents served in the Army/Army Reserve,

9 served in state militias,

6 served in the Navy/Naval Reserve

and 2 served in the Continental Army.

President Reagan Military Service

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Croatian Josip Belušic invented the speedometer.

(How about that for a fast fact?)

Josip Belušic

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Answering the call of nature is something

Europeans usually associate with the utmost privacy,

which is why American toilets,

with huge bottom and side gaps,

seem so weird to some foreigners.

American toilets

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The first webcam was actually created

to monitor a coffee pot at

the University of Cambridge.

first webcam

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Russian spies used to use hollow coins

to pass messages to each other in the US

and one of these coins made it into circulation.

One day a paperboy dropped the coin

and it split open revealing its coded contents.

The code baffled the FBI and CIA

until a Russian spy defected to the US

and interpreted the note.

It was a welcome message from Moscow

…and it was intended for him.

hollow coins to pass messages

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In Australia there is a river

called the ‘Never Never River’.

Never Never River

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The toaster in your kitchen

contains a more powerful computer

than the one used by NASA

to send astronauts to the moon.

It only had 64Kbyte of memory

and operated at 0.043MHz.

toaster

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After the release of the Top Gun movie in 1986,

the US Navy stated that the number of

young men who wanted to become Naval Aviators

went up by 500 percent.

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A Right Old Mess!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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political hypocrisy

It seems there is no end to the political hypocrisy that has taken over our well surveilled world.

I wrote a post a few days ago about the Belgian government wanting Skype to hand over confidential customer data. I called it ‘Taking A Swipe At Skype’ (if you want to read it click here )

In a previous post called, ‘What Is The German Word For Hypocrite?’ (if you want to read that one click here) I had a bit of rant against the hypocrisy of Germen Chancellor Angela Merkel who professed great anxiety publicly about the Americans snooping in on her phone calls while she and her intelligence agencies were in cahoots with the US to spy on other European countries.

Now a week or so later the two stories have merged with yet another piece of hypocrisy, this time by the Belgians who have announced that they are starting an official investigation into allegations that Belgium’s telecommunications networks were spied on by a consortium of German and American intelligence agencies.

telecommunications network

In other words, it is okay for the Belgians to snoop on Skype users, but not okay when someone else wants to snoop on the Belgians.

If that’s not another good example of hypocrisy I don’t know what is.

Specifically the targets in Belgian sights are the United States National Security Agency and Germany’s Bundesnach-richtendienst (BND) and an operation that they referred to as ‘EIKONAL’.

The Belgians found out about the snooping when Austrian politician Peter Pilz blew his whistle at a press conference in Bern, Switzerland, saying that EIKONAL had targeted European telecommunications carriers for at least four years, from 2005 to 2008.

Spokesmen for the Belgian government have said that if the alleged espionage is confirmed, it would have “not only legal implications, but will also affect relations between Belgium, Germany and the US”. It also threatened to “take appropriate action” but didn’t specify what that would be – they probably don’t know yet.

Switzerland and the Netherlands flags

Needless to say, the governments of Switzerland and the Netherlands were not amused by the revelations either and immediately launched their own investigations into this thing called ‘EIKONAL’.

It’s all turning into what they call “a right old mess”.

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