Teen Rapper Arrested on Terrorism Charges for Rap on Boston Marathon Bombing #WTFnews #FOE #FOS


The suburban teenager is being held on $1 million bail, and faces possibly 20 years.

May 2, 2013  |

A Massachusetts high school student faces felony charges for allegedly posting on social media rap lyrics that police say amount to terrorist threats, the Valley Patriot reports.

“He posted a threat in the form of rap where he mentioned the White House, the Boston Marathon bombing, and said ‘everybody you will see what I am going to do, kill people,” said Joe Solomon, who is police chief of Methuen, a city in north Massachusetts.

According to a press release from the Methuen Police Department, 18-year-old Cameron D’Ambrosio posted the alleged threatening rap on Facebook. Police investigated the teenager after one of D’Ambrosio’s classmates reported to Methuen High School authorities the “disturbing verbiage” on his Facebook page. The press release notes that the alleged threats “were in general and not directed towards another person or the school.”

According to the Eagle Tribune, D’Ambrosio was charged with communicating a terrorist threat and faces up to 20 years in jail. He is being held on $1 million bail. All this, for writing some scary rap lyrics on Facebook.

In addition to arresting D’Amrbosio, police searched the teenager’s home and confiscated a computer and Xbox. They searched the Facebook page for additional clues to the amateur rapper’s activities. The Valley Patriot has their findigs:

D’Ambrosio also had disturbing photos and posts on his Facebook page including  “Fuck politics, Fuck Obama and Fuck the government!!”

He also had a “disturbing satanic photo posted as well as a photo of himself on a “Wanted Poster” that reads “Wanted Dead or Alive” a quick perusal of his Facebook page shows D’Ambrosio’s unusual interest in gangs, violence and a criminal lifestyle.

The 18-year-old alleged “terrorist,” whose only crime in this case appears to be posting rap lyrics on Facebook, will be arraigned Thursday.

 

 

Meet the GOPer Who Worked With Monsanto to Sneak the “Monsanto Protection Act” into Law


Roy Blunt, member of the United States House o...

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Salon / By Natasha Lennard

Big Ag friend Sen. Roy Blunt has said he introduced the biotech rider and “worked with” Monsanto to do it.
April 5, 2013 |
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Anger at the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act” — a biotech rider which protects genetically modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks — has been directed at numerous parties in Congress and the White House for allowing the provision to be voted and signed into law. But the party responsible for anonymously introducing the rider into the broad, unrelated spending bill had not been identified until now.

As Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott notes, the Senator responsible is Missouri Republican Roy Blunt — famed friend of Big Agrigulture on Capitol Hill. Blunt even told Politico’s David Rogers that he “worked with” Monsanto to craft the rider (rendering the moniker “Monsanto Protection Act” all the more appropriate). Philpott notes:

The admission shines a light on Blunt’s ties to Monsanto, whose office is located in the senator’s home state. According to OpenSecrets, Monsanto first started contributing to Blunt back in 2008, when it handed him $10,000. At that point, Blunt was serving in the House of Representatives. In 2010, when Blunt successfully ran for the Senate, Monsanto upped its contribution to $44,250. And in 2012, the GMO seed/pesticide giant enriched Blunt’s campaign war chest by $64,250.

… The senator’s blunt, so to speak, admission that he stuck a rider into an unrelated bill at the behest of a major campaign donor is consistent with the tenor of his political career. While serving as House whip under the famously lobbyist-friendly former House Majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) during the Bush II administration, Blunt built a formidable political machine by transforming lobbying cash into industry-accomodating legislation. In a blistering 2006 report, Public Citizen declared Blunt “a legislative leader who not only has surrendered his office to the imperative of moneyed interests, but who has also done so with disturbing zeal and efficiency.”

#India-Auto driver’s girl topsCA exams: 24-year-old proves money is no object for a good education #goodnews


By MAIL TODAY REPORTER PUBLISHED: 21:58 GMT, 22 January 2013 | Financial obstacles cannot stop you from fulfiling your dreams, as 24-year-old Prema Jayakumar, the daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver, proved when she secured the first rank in the All India Chartered Accountancy examination. Prema became a role model for lakhs of girls her age when she conquered all odds to achieve her goal. For Prema, education was not just another chore but a way to change her life for better. Her father, Jayakumar Perumal, is double thrilled with the CA results, declared on Monday, as his 22-year-old son Dhanraj has also cleared the exam with flying colours.

Prema Jayakumar (second right) and her brother Dhanraj with their parentsPrema Jayakumar (second right) and her brother Dhanraj with their parents

Prema’s feat has made her a mini-celebrity in her chawl in Mumbai. Her family resides in a small one-room tenement in suburban Malad. Jayakumar migrated from his village Periyakolliyur in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu in 1992. His wife, Lingam, worked in a private company earlier but has now become a homemaker. A graduate in commerce from Nagindas Kandwala College at Malad, Prema secured the second rank in Mumbai University and completed her M.Com while preparing for CA.

She said: “I have always been a topper and knew that hard work would make me excel in the CA exams but topping it has surprised me.” Prema secured an impressive 607 out of 800 marks in the challenging examination. Dhanraj, who worked for some time at a call centre while completing his degree course to fund his education, said: “My sister is my hero, the source of my inspiration.” Both Prema and Dhanraj, who went to a Tamil medium municipal school, overcame difficult circumstances to achieve success. Prema said her parents never pressurised her to excel academically. “We never faced any pressure from our parents to study. However, we knew that education is our only means to change the lives we have lived. Now that my brother and I have reached this stage, we would like to make the most of it and give our parents a good life,” she said. Prema said she was grateful to her parents for giving her a good education despite their poor financial status. “Though my father was an auto-rickshaw driver, he ensured that I was never deprived of education because of lack of money… Now I want my father, who has worked so hard so that can I realise my dreams, to take some rest,” she said. An elated Jayakumar nodded in approval. “Umra bhi ho gayi. Ab kuch aram karoonga, bahut achcha lag raha hai. (I have grown old. Now I will take some rest, it feels so good),” he said as he prepared to wind down after the day’s hard work on Mumbai’s noisy streets. Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2266606/Auto-drivers-girl-tops-Accountancy-exams-24-year-old-proves-money-object-good-education.html#ixzz2IluviHEL

 

India’s Cash Transfers for the Poor Face Early Hurdles #UID #Aadhaar


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200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

By AMOL SHARMA

 

DOHAKATU, India—Officials in this impoverished eastern Indian village have a message for local residents: the government wants to give you a bank account and plop money in it—now.

 

India is embarking on a dramatic shift in how it delivers welfare benefits to its hundreds of millions of poor citizens. The program, which officially begins in January and will be rolled out nationally by the end of next year, will transfer up to $58 billion in cash into the bank accounts of some 90 million households. Beneficiaries will withdraw the money using a high-tech system that verifies their identities using fingerprint scans.

 

Indians who now must get welfare payments at post offices—enduring waits of days or weeks and sometimes paying bribes to get entitlements—will get direct deposits in their personal bank accounts for everything from old-age pension to scholarships to salaries for public works projects.

 

Poor households will also get cash deposits to buy basic commodities like kerosene and cooking gas at market rates. That would replace subsidies that currently go to distributors, who are supposed to offer discounts—a system that critics say is plagued by waste and fraud.

 

The new payment approach doesn’t create any new entitlement programs for the poor. But the ruling Congress party has trumpeted it as a signature anti-poverty initiative, hoping it will prove a masterstroke ahead of national elections in 2014. Party leaders say direct deposits will ensure entitlements get to beneficiaries instead of being siphoned off by middlemen, and are touting the slogan “Your Money in Your Hands.”

 

Dohakatu is a village of subsistence potato and rice farmers in Jharkhand state. Its residents largely depend on government handouts to survive and it is among the handful of regions that participated in early trials of cash transfers and have a head-start in the rollout. People here are already getting direct cash deposits for a range of benefits.

 

“We are quite confident the cash transfer scheme will create magic in the next election,” said Shahzada Anwar, a Congress party official in Jharkhand who was in Dohakatu village recently to watch locals withdraw cash.

 

India’s huge amount of welfare spending is a major contributor to its shaky public finances. The nation’s budget deficit was 5.8% of gross domestic product in the year ended March 31. The government says the new cash deposit program can generate much-needed budget savings by eliminating corruption such as people using fake identification documents to get the same benefit twice.

 

To withdraw money under the program, beneficiaries must present a 12-digit unique identification number that every Indian is gradually being issued—220 million people have them so far. Then, they must scan their finger on a portable device known as a micro-ATM, which validates their identity in a national biometric database.

 

“No one can falsify their identity and get away with it,” Finance Minister P. Chidambaram told reporters recently. He said the efficiency gains are “incalculable.”

 

But at least in the early going, the cash transfer project will actually be a financial drag, with $1.2 billion in estimated net losses for the exchequer through March 2015, according to a recent study by the government-funded National Institute of Public Finance and Policy. The expected savings will come in the following six years and will total about $14.5 billion, or 15% of the budget deficit in the latest fiscal year, the report says.

 

Transferring cash for 29 government welfare programs will be a massive administrative undertaking. The first challenge is to open bank accounts quickly in places like Dohakatu: only 40% of India’s 1.2 billion people have bank accounts, and only 36,000 of India’s 600,000 villages even have a bank branch. There are plans to open 73,000 new “ultra small” bank branches of about 100 to 200 square feet apiece and hire one million banking employees in rural areas, according to minutes from a government committee overseeing cash transfers.

 

The micro-ATM machines depend on creaky wireless connectivity with speeds on par with the standard a decade ago in the U.S. Getting the system to work requires the intricate syncing of databases by managers of the national unique ID program, government agencies dispensing benefits, and banks. Banks have to be equipped to process a flood of new transactions in their networks. Cooking gas-related transactions alone could number 1.7 billion per year.

 

“The magnitude is just staggering,” said R.S. Sharma, director general of the Unique Identification Authority of India that runs the national “Aadhaar” identification program. “If you start transferring money into people’s accounts and don’t create a distribution network, then you are in for big trouble,” he said.

 

India took inspiration for its new approach from other big emerging economies, including Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and South Africa, which have started cash transfer programs to combat poverty and social inequality. India is targeting a far larger number of households than those countries. But its program is different because it isn’t linking benefits to specific social goals. Brazil’s program, for instance, gives 12 million low-income households about $30 a month on the condition that they show their children have an 85% school attendance rate and have received medical checkups and vaccinations.

 

About 2,000 people are participating in the Jharkhand cash transfer program now. In Dohakatu, part of Ramgarh District, locals were streaming into a ramshackle community center on a recent afternoon to withdraw cash. Among them was Riman Devi, a 51-year-old widow.

 

Her salary for digging wells and ponds as part of the government rural jobs program was deposited directly into her first-ever bank account that was created last month. Rather than go to a distant bank branch to access it, Ms. Devi approached an official and uncertainly handed over a card with her 12-digit ID number printed on it. He keyed the number into a micro-ATM. She scanned her finger to check her balance, and then again to withdraw her week’s salary: 400 rupees, or $7. Everything checked out. The official reached into his pocket, pulled out a wad of bills and paid her. (He, in turn, gets reimbursed by the government.)

 

Ms. Devi said the new system beats the old approach of getting government payments from the local post office, which often wasn’t open or would run out of money. “Sometimes it took two to three days to get the money. It was very difficult. It’s faster here,” she said. She spent some of the cash that afternoon on edible oil, spices and vegetables at a local bazaar.

 

The new way of paying has hardly solved Ms. Devi’s problems. Her only income comes from occasionally selling homemade bamboo baskets for 50 cents apiece. She doesn’t qualify for a widow’s pension because the government doesn’t classify her as below the poverty line. A local official says that is a mistake that will be corrected when the central government does a new poverty survey. Ms. Devi lives with her son in a mud-walled house with a bedroom that doubles as a rice-storage area. “Winter is coming and we don’t have warm clothes,” she said.

 

Sitting nearby in the village center was Vasudev Pahan, an 80-year-old whose family lives mainly on subsistence wheat and potato farming. Collecting his $7 monthly pension—which goes to low-income senior citizens—used to be an ordeal. He’d squeeze into a car with 14 people to go to a government office in a nearby town. Then he would wait in a line of as many as 400 people. Sometimes the office would run out of money or close before he could get his cash, so he’d have to return a few days in a row.

 

Now Mr. Pahan walks 20 minutes to the micro-ATM in the village center and withdraws cash in minutes from an account where the government has deposited his pension. “People who are getting it this way are happy,” he said.

 

A few local Congress party officials arrived at the Dohakatu center to take stock of the action and take credit for what they already proclaim as a signature achievement. Mr. Anwar, an affable, mustachioed man with a thick shag of black hair, shook hands with some villagers before plopping into a plastic chair. “This is the strongest weapon for us,” he said of the political benefits of the new program. “No one can give opposition to this.”

 

Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Congress’s main opposition in New Delhi, have criticized the Congress party for over-politicizing the initiative, but haven’t attacked the idea of the new direct payments.

 

Glitches in technology were on display in Tigra, a group of farming villages 12 miles west of Ranchi, Jharkhand’s capital. Some 39 people signed up to participate in the new program in October, but 30 of them weren’t able to take out cash from the mini-ATM despite trying several times. The main problem, authorities said, was that their new bank accounts at state-owned Bank of India weren’t “seeded” with unique ID information for beneficiaries—so it was impossible to verify people’s identities.

 

On a recent afternoon, Mahmood Alam, the local banking representative in Tigra who handles micro-ATM transactions—known as a “business correspondent”—believed the problem had been solved and was setting up to give out cash to a few dozen locals. He set up his micro-ATM machine not far from men and women threshing rice crop and goats wandering in the fields.

 

He tapped with his stylus to enter the details of Teju Gope, a 71-year-old pensioner who has a new account with Bank of India. “Place your finger for processing,” a message on the screen said. Mr. Gope swiped his finger. After a few seconds came a disappointing reply: “UID (unique ID) blocked/inactive/wrong.”

 

Mr. Alam shook his head. “It’s still not working,” he said. He said he’s optimistic about the new program but acknowledged the government’s rushed approach has resulted in some errors. “It looks to me like everything wasn’t totally ready,” he said.

 

A.K. Pathak, assistant general manager of Bank of India, said the Tigra payments snafu is an isolated incident that has been resolved. He said the Jharkhand trials overall have gone well.

 

The Jharkhand government is racing to expand the program. About 19 million of the state’s 32 million people still haven’t gone through the sign-up process to get biometric ID numbers. In Ramgarh district about 60% of the 950,000 residents don’t have unique IDs. The government is trying to prioritize people who will be getting cash transfers.

 

“This is a huge task for us—a technological leap forward is happening,” said Amitabh Kaushal, Ramgarh’s deputy commissioner, the top local bureaucrat.

 

Local officials say the use of biometric identification will weed out people who used aliases or fraudulent documents to get the same benefit twice. In one block of villages in Ramgarh, the government used to have 43,801 claimants in the rural job program as of the last official figure in 2006. But after a recent sign-up drive with biometrics, there were nearly 9,000 fewer people on the rolls. Mr. Kaushal said it isn’t clear yet whether that discrepancy is a result of fraud removal or the normal transition of some people off welfare.

 

New Delhi officials are counting on the biggest savings to come from countering fraud in the subsidy programs for commodities like kerosene and cooking gas. Critics say the current system is rife with corruption. Dealers siphon off goods and sell them on the black market. People fake their way into getting benefits they don’t deserve.

 

Food subsidies are the government’s biggest welfare expense, accounting for $13.3 billion in spending in the year ended March 31. But the government left food out of the cash transfer program, wary that it is too complex and too sensitive to do now. A survey of 1,200 households last year by the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi found that two-thirds of respondents were strongly in favor of keeping the status quo of picking up food grains at government ration shops rather than going to stores to pay market rates.

 

The biggest limitation of the cash transfer project, critics say, is that it won’t solve the most fundamental problems in India’s targeting of welfare subsidies. Biometric screening ensures that people trying to get benefits are who they say they are—and eliminates duplicate subsidies. But if a person is being excluded from benefits now because they aren’t classified as below the poverty line, or is wrongly classified as eligible for benefits, nothing in the cash transfer program will detect that or change it.

 

Meanwhile, there are limits to the program’s ability to stamp out corruption. There is no reason a micro-ATM operator can’t ask for a kickback when giving people their money, just as a postal worker might, the critics say. “If you’re getting arm-twisted today, you’ll get arm-twisted tomorrow,” said Reetika Khera, a development specialist at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi.

 

From a political standpoint, putting cash into the bank accounts of the poor would seem like “manna from heaven” for the Congress-led government, says Ravi Srivastava, a development economist who has studied cash transfers. But he said it would be “incredible folly” for the government to underestimate the challenges of executing the project, especially in such a quick time frame.

 

“This whole thing has raised expectations to an unrealistic level, both within government and within the Congress party,” he said.

 

—Rajesh Roy and Krishna Pokharel contributed to this article.
Write to Amol Sharma at amol.sharma@wsj.com

 

A version of this article appeared December 27, 2012, on page A9 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Tapping Benefits GetsEasier for India’s Poor.

 

 

 

Combatting Sexual Assault on Campus: There’s an App for That


 

May 3, 2012 , NEW YORK CITY — Appropriately enough, Circle of 6 was born on Twitter.

Nancy Schwartzman, a longtime advocate against sexual violence, first heard about it when her friends and followers started pinging her about a challenge issued by the White House to create an “App Against Abuse.” She called reproductive rights advocate Deb Levine of Internet Sexuality Information Services (ISIS), and over the course of a few phone calls, they dreamed up Circle of 6, an award-winning iPhone app that helps prevent sexual violence and dating abuse and has been downloaded 28,000 times to date. It’s targeted at students, one in five of whom have reported experiencing sexual assault or attempted sexual assault during their time at college, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Circle of 6 works by leveraging the close circles of friends maintained by college students to create a safety net for girls who find themselves in unsafe or undesirable situations. After a user downloads the app, she’ll choose six close friends to be in her circle.

“The circle concept mirrors the tight circles that college students have, where your friends are your family,” said Ms. Schwartzman.

Having six friends on call also serves a practical purpose, said Ms. Levine, if you need immediate assistance. For example, a woman’s date is starting to make her feel uncomfortable at dinner. She can press a button asking her friends to call and interrupt the date, giving her an excuse to leave.

“Nowadays, everyone’s really busy, so if you put together a circle of six close friends, likely one or two will be free to get you out of that situation,” she said.

Ms. Schwartzman noted that the process of selecting and adding friends opens up important conversations about sexual violence and abuse prevention. A friend who is selected will receive an SMS text message alerting her or him that she’s been chosen to be in the circle.

“For example, my friends would get a text that says ‘You’ve been chosen to be in Nancy’s circle with a link to the site,” said Ms. Schwartzman. “So they’ve already had these conversations, and we provide resources for them about sexual assault and dating abuse prevention.”

The pair knew each other from their long experience in advocacy around similar issues. An independent filmmaker and the founder and Executive Director of The Line Campaign, Ms. Schwartzman uses an approach she calls “transmedia,” which engages multiple channels: storytelling, video, social media, and now mobile. Ms. Levine’s group ISIS promotes sexual and reproductive health by reaching underserved communities through online and mobile outreach. They teamed up with developer Christine Corbett Moran and graphic designer Thomas Cabus, working remotely to create the app over the course of a few weeks.

From their experience working with young people, the group came up with common scenarios that their audience would likely face.

“We brainstormed different commands that we thought would be useful, that really came from stories I’ve heard from students. What they could have used, what did they need?” said Ms. Schwartzman. “The philosophy was to prevent it before it happens. Say you stay out late at a party, and then all of a sudden it’s 3 am and there are hard choices about how to get home. Do I walk home by myself at night? Do I stay here with people I don’t really know? Or do I let someone bring me home who I also don’t know that well? None of those are particularly good options.”

While rape, sexual assault and dating abuse are fraught topics, Ms. Schwartzman is particularly proud that unlike some of the other submissions to the contest, Circle of 6 isn’t motivated by fear or paranoia.

“Using your phone to prevent rape could be very fear-based,” she said. “We didn’t want to base the app on fear, but rather on harnessing what’s really positive in young peoples’ lives, which are these tight knit friendships and connectivity. It should be easy for people to access people they know and trust.”

The app’s focus on violence prevention also represents an evolution in thinking about the issue, said Ms. Levine.

“With the passage and renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, there was a lot of focus on setting up shelters, crisis centers and crisis hotline,” said Ms. Levine. What’s different now, in 2012, is that we’re focusing on prevention. I think everyone at this point recognizes there’s a problem, and we’re taking care of those who are affected, but now it’s time, culturally and societally, for this to stop.”

Ms. Schwartzman, who has lectured on over 80 college campuses about sexuality and consent, said the response from students has been overwhelming.

“It’s really hard to talk about sexual assault all the time. People get really bugged out about it,” she said. “But when I show the video about this app, it gets a full round of applause. The students are so excited that people cared enough to think this through, and create something that prevents violence.”

Anna Louie Sussman is a writer and editor for the Women in the World Foundation website, and a frequent contributor to major U.S. magazines and newspapers.