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Election protection, electronic voting & the future of America democracy

by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
January 23, 2013

The re-election of Barack Obama was made possible in part by the triumph of a new social movement—a great grassroots upheaval aimed at election protection and meaningful universal suffrage, that must include a transparent and reliable vote count.

The Republican Party’s concerted effort to steal the presidency again failed in 2012, but only because of major breakthroughs that have been forcing their way into the mainstream since Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004.

Throughout these past dozen years, the GOP “suppress and shift” election theft strategy has focused on two main tactics:massive disenfranchisement of citizens (mostly non-white, poor and young) suspected of voting Democratic; and the manipulation of electronic voting machines and tabulating devices with software capable of flipping thousands of votes with a few late night keystrokes.

This year the Republicans’ blatant, barely concealed disenfranchisement efforts evoked a major national outcry, and a significant backlash that carried all the way to the op ed page of the New York Times. Because activists have focused on the issue since Florida 2000, there was in place a fast-growing awareness that millions of legitimate voters were being stripped from the registration rolls, especially in key swing states.

Less widely accepted has been the vulnerability of electronic voting machines. Manipulated tallies were used in Volusia County, Florida in 2000, and throughout Ohio in 2004 to elect and re-elect George W. Bush. In 2008 and 2012, Obama’s popular vote margins were sufficient to overwhelm the potential theft in key swing states. But the possibilities of electronic vote theft are stronger than ever. In the long run, if the US is to ever have a meaningful democracy, electronic voting and tabulating machines must be eliminated in favor of universal hand counted paper ballots.

SYSTEMATIC DISENFRANCHISEMENT:

Preventing unwanted voters from casting their ballots in key elections is a long-standing national tradition. It dates back at least to the Jim Crow days in the post-Civil War south, when the Democratic party and its terrorist wing, the Ku Klux Klan, systematically prevented African-Americans from voting in the eleven states of the former Confederacy , and elsewhere.

In Florida 2000 the Republicans used an old Jim Crow law disenfranchising former felons as a pretext for stripping the voter rolls of at least 90,000 voters. Most were African-American and Hispanic, and the vast majority weren’t ex-felons at all, but people with same or similar names or the same date of birth to other citizens who may or may not have been ex-felons, and may or may not have been residents of Florida.

In Ohio 2004, more than 300,000 voters were stripped from registration rolls in heavily Democratic urban areas throughout state. In the city of Cleveland, nearly 25% of all voters were eliminated from the voting rolls. Also, Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell deployed a wide range of deceptive tactics aimed at misleading voters and suppressing turnout. Democratic areas were shortchanged on voting machines and denied paper ballots. Tens of thousands of voters were forced to use provisional ballots which were then discarded.

Federal Judge Algernon Marbley in the King-Lincoln-Bronzeville suit, in which we are attorney and plaintiff, ordered Ohio’s 88 county election boards to preserve their voter records for a statewide recount. But 56 of the counties illegally destroyed all or some of their election records. No prosecutions have resulted and no recount has ever been done.

After losing in 2008, even after purging 1.2 million voters from the rolls, the Republicans came into 2012 with a massively escalated campaign to suppress the vote. The 2012 purge of the registration rolls in Ohio topped 1.1 million voters. Led by Indiana and Georgia, GOP-controlled legislatures began passing laws demanding state-issued photo identification cards. New York University’s Brennan Center estimated such laws could disenfranchise more than ten million voters.

Republican secretaries of state, especially in Ohio and Florida, worked hard to trim early voting opportunities for suspected Democrats. Once again inner city polling places were plagued with long lines and extended waits. But the worst happened during early voting in cities like Cincinnati and Cleveland, where Ohioans—mostly African-Americans—waited up to five hours to vote. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted revived many of the tactics used by Blackwell, which were also adopted by GOP operatives in other states. Among other things, Husted would only allow one early voting center in the major urban areas, predictably creating long lines.

Tens of thousands of voters were also forced to vote with provisional ballots. A disproportionate number were African-American. Many were tripped up by detailed demands imposed by Husted apparently designed to nullify as many votes as possible.

But this year the activist community was prepared. Heavily challenged in court, the photo ID laws were largely overturned. As in 2008, thousands of volunteers worked in key states to make sure people came out to the polls and to protect their rights once they did. Angered by the GOP tactics, thousands of nearly disenfranchised voters made a point of waiting through hours of contrived delays to cast their ballots. Many were still standing in line to vote even as Barack Obama was proclaiming victory.

The Obama campaign and various voting rights groups challenged Husted in court over early voting hours, provisional ballot directives, and voter ID rules.

Overall, the response of the election protection movement was powerful and effective. Obama’s re-election was essentially secured by a movement that prevented the Republicans from disenfranchising enough voters to guarantee their victory.

ELECTRONIC VOTE THEFT

But no turnout for Barack Obama or any other candidate could have withstood a full-scale electronic vote shift. Unlike the widely accepted understanding that massive disenfranchisement can swing an election, assertions focussing on electronic vote theft continue to arouse divisive passion.

Yet there remains a simple bottom line: there is absolutely no secure means of monitoring, confirming, recounting or legally challenging a vote count that has been registered and tabulated electronically. In reality, our entire electoral system is sitting duck, and is far more vulnerable to electronic manipulation that it was in 2000.

Back then, at a critical moment on election night, 16,000 electronic votes from Volusia County, Florida, were deleted from Al Gore and 4,000 added to George W. Bush. Though the count was later reversed, Fox News commentator John Ellis—Bush’s first cousin—used the shift to reverse pronouncements that Gore had won the election.

In Ohio 2004, which would decide the presidency, CNN reported shortly after 11pm that John Kerry had defeated Bush by more than 200,000 votes. But at 11:14 pm the electronic tally was shifted to a computer bank in SChattanooga, Tennessee. Soon thereafter the lead definitively shifted to Bush, who officially won the state–and thus the presidency—by some 118,000 votes. The exit polls clearly showed Kerry winning.

Secretary of State Blackwell’s no-bid contract for the Ohio 2004 electronic vote count had been awarded to the Akron-based GovTech Corporation. Its founder, Michael Connell, was a long-standing associate of the Bush Family. Connell ran the GOP’s lead IT company, New Media. New Media processed Ohio’s votes through a server farm in Chattanooga, which also housed the email of the Republican National Committee, and of Karl Rove. The owner of the server farm was born-again political activist Jeff Averbeck of Smartech.

On November 3, 2008, Connell was deposed in Cleveland by attorneys Fitrakis and Cliff Arnebeck as part of the King-Lincoln federal lawsuit. Questioning focused on his possible role in electronically flipping the 2004 Ohio vote count. On December 19, while facing a follow-up deposition, Connell died in a mysterious private plane crash.

By then it had become clear that no recount of the Ohio 2004 election would be possible. Judge Marbley had issued a decision requiring that all 88 county election boards preserve all balloting records from Ohio 2004. But when Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner went to collect them, she discovered that 56 of the 88 counties had violated Marbley’s ruling. Accompanied by a series of widely varying excuses, the boards of election had made it impossible to track the true presidential vote count in the deciding state in one of America’s most bitterly contested elections.

In 2012, the GOP was prepared to repeat history. For a decade the Help America Vote Act had been spreading electronic voting machines throughout the US. More than half the nation’s votes were cast and/or counted this year on electronic devices. Yet the courts have ruled that the software on these machines is proprietary, meaning the public has no access to how they are coded, or how the votes are counted.

In Ohio, nearly all 2012 votes were cast and counted electronically. The Free Press reported that in Cincinnati, the notoriously insecure and unreliable Hart InterCivic voting machines were deployed by a company, HIG Capital, controlled by major Romney campaign associates who are investment partners with Romney family members.

The widespread belief that Ohio could decide the presidential outcome helped make that FreePress story go viral.

Just prior to election day, documents leaked to the Free Press from the Ohio Secretary of State’s office confirmed that an uncertified and untested software patch had been appended to ES&S machines on which 80% of the state’s votes would be cast and transmitted. The software had no safeguards to prevent an inside party from altering the vote count.

Further Free Press research uncovered the operations of Scytyl, a Spanish-owned company hired by a number of states to manage the overseas electronic vote count. But Scytyl’s software was also capable of manipulating the vote count in entire states, again without meaningful public access or recourse.

As Election Day approached, Democrats complained that touch screen machines had them pushing the button for Barack Obama while seeing Mitt Romney light up. In Colorado, Republicans claimed they were pushing Mitt Romney’s name while Barack Obama lit up. The complaints resembled those in Youngstown, Ohio 2004, where voters complained they were attempting to vote for John Kerry while George W. Bush’s name lit up. Mahoning County election officials in Youngstown, Ohio explained that the vote flipping was “only” happening on 31 machines.

This year, amidst saturation election night coverage, Karl Rove urged Fox reporters to refrain from calling Ohio for Barack Obama. Rove’s confused, angry outburst mentioned crashing websites run by the Ohio Secretary of State, and seemed to mirror the fateful Foxist backtracking of Bush cousin John Ellis in Florida 2000.

As in 2008, Barack Obama’s wide margin put the 2012 election out of reach of electronic vote theft. He could have lost Florida, Ohio and Virginia and still won in the Electoral College.

But the outcome in a close election might well have been different. Both Ohio and Florida were vulnerable to electronic flipping by the Republican governors and secretaries of state that controlled the electoral apparatus in both states. In a close election, they could easily have put Mitt Romney in the White House.

The electorate and much of the media reacted this year with great anger to the GOP’s national disenfranchisement campaign. Many people who came out to vote and stayed in long lines voiced angry defiance of the Republican attempt to deny them the right to do so.

But the reaction to the possibility of electronic vote theft has been muted and even hostile. The official lie propagated by the Democratic Party and their apologists is that there has not been a single case of vote tampering. In fact there have been hundreds of such cases (once case in point comes in a 17-page Free Press report (at freepress.org) documenting phantom electronic votes in Miami County, Ohio). Some Democrats worried openly that talk of the possibility of electronic vote theft might discourage people from voting at all.

Clearly this didn’t happen in 2008 or 2012. But it’s also clear that the vulnerability of electronic voting continues to put our democracy at profound risk. Until it is done away with altogether, and replaced with universal hand-counted paper balloting, the sanctity and reliability of our vote counts is moot.

The grassroots election protection movement that has arisen to deal with these issues has attained significant nationwide status. Given its popular momentum and gravity of the cause, it seems destined to take a place among the great political campaigns of our time.

It has already won some tangible victories. US Attorney-General Eric Holder has now endorsed automatic universal voter registration. The palpable anger over GOP attempts at mass disenfranchisement will not soon be forgotten. There is much new talk—nowhere near powerful enough—about abolishing the Electoral College. And the potential for electronic vote theft is at least being discussed as never before. Hard hitting reports by Forbes.com among others was accurate and admirable throughout the 2012 election cycle.

But there are also disturbing developments on the horizon. The courts continue to rule that software on electronic voting machines is proprietary, and thus beyond the control of scrutiny of the public. Thus we are still prey to having our public elections controlled by private corporations.

And in response to another round of long lines and voter disenfranchisement, there is talk of “convenience voting” by internet and cellphone. These are terrible ideas, as they can never be secured and are even more vulnerable to hacking than the touchscreen machines now in place.

So the public has no access, no guarantees, no recourse. The veracity of our electoral vote counts remain a blind item. Though Barack Obama won this election, other down-ticket races—past, present and future—may well have been manipulated.

For example, California’s bitterly contested referendum on GMO food labeling is still being subjected to a detailed recount. Mathematicians and social scientists are now reporting unexplained patterns of vote shifting that appear to be based on the size of precincts. The larger the precinct, the more the vote differs from the predicted norm.

Over the coming years, this new grassroots election protection movement will battle it out over the life-and-death issue of the integrity of our voting process. Banning money from politics, abolishing the Electoral College, automatic universal voter registration, universal hand-counted paper ballots, easier access to voting, the removal of partisan private for-profit companies and more will be at its core.

But even at this young age, the movement has played a critical role in electing and re-electing a president, and in preserving the integrity of countless elections, with an eye toward a vastly reformed system.

Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Japan and Canada all use universal hand-counted paper ballots. Ireland has just pitched its electronic machines to do the same.

That and a few other key democratic reforms would be a dream come true for this new movement. As election protection activists, we will be proud to watch that happen here in the United States as well.

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Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman have co-authored five books on election protection.

original article posted here:
https://freepress.org/departments/display/19/2013/4885

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Podcast: The Ohio Rights Group to legalize cannabis for therapeutic and industrial use

The Other Side of the News – Jan 21, 2013 – The Ohio Rights Group to legalize cannabis for therapeutic and industrial use

Bob Fitrakis and Mary Jane Borden discuss the new initiative to amend the Ohio Constitution so that people may use cannabis for medical illnesses and use hemp for food, fuel, paper, and other uses.

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No 4th Tues Movie, Bring back Columbus Public Access

Attention Free Press activists: There will be NO Fourth Tuesday Free Movie at the Drexel this month.
Help restore free speech forum in Columbus: Please see below for an action you can take to support the city of Columbus to bring back public access TV:
Action Alert:
City Council will be finalizing its budget over the coming days … please send a note evidencing your support for public access to the following member at your earliest opportunity. Also, please ask others in your circle to do the same. Troy Miller chairs the Technology Committee, which is where we presented our testimony and where we sent our follow up letter/written request:
ajginther@columbus.gov
mmmills@columbus.gov
atmiller@columbus.gov
eypaley@columbus.gov
prtyson@columbus.gov
hfcraig@columbus.gov
zmklein@columbus.gov
Dear Neighborhood Leaders:
I am writing on behalf of the Ad Hoc Committee for Public Access Television, and requesting you to contact Columbus City Council and voice your support for city funding for the return of public access television to the residents of Columbus. Our proposal seems to have been received favorably by council member Troy Miller and Technology Director Gary Cavin, and additional public support could tip the scales toward funding as council makes final budget decisions over the next several days.
The Ad Hoc Committee for Public Access Television (CPAT) is comprised of Central Ohioans who believe that the public interest would greatly benefit from a more diverse local media. In December budget hearing testimony and follow up correspondence, we have asked Columbus City Council to allocate $55,000 in the City’s 2013 budget as seed funding for returning public access television to Central Ohio. The community has been without this important communications medium since 2003, when funding for it was ended because of budget constraints. With the City’s budget vastly improved such that millions of dollars are being placed in the Rainy Day Fund, the CPAT believe that now is the time to restore funding for public-access TV. We ask for your support in this effort.
The City wisely kept the infrastructure in place for a return of public access TV. Local channel 21, which was previously the public access channel, is a community bulletin board that could easily again accommodate public access programming. Moreover, advances in technology have drastically lowered the costs of operating a public access station. As a result, running the station on the relatively modest budget that has been proposed is entirely feasible.
Many of us remember the controversial content of dubious-to-questionable merit that was at issue on public access a decade ago. Our committee has proposed a membership-based organization of content producers who agree to adopt community standards similar to the public broadcast standards, and within that umbrella of decency fully supporting the expression of diverse views consistent with our first amendment rights.
We believe that public access TV offers many benefits to Columbus. Among the major ones are the following.
Increasing civic participation
In his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Robert Putman of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government describes Americans’ decreasing community involvement. He cites lower rates of voting, attendance at public meetings, membership in civic associations, service on committees, and work with political parties. He believes that these trends weaken the means by which Americans have traditionally worked together for the good of the entire community.
Our understanding is that at least some Area Commissions are trying to increase the public’s civic participation by compiling lists of organizations in their areas and helping the organizations connect with one another and the local government. Public access TV would facilitate the achievement of those goals.
Public access TV enables nonprofit groups to inform a mass audience in Central Ohio about who they are, which issues they are working on, and what opportunities for volunteer work they offer. This information motivates citizens to connect with one another and with their local government to work on important issues. It is a means of reversing the lack of civic engagement that scholars such as Putman bemoan as undermining democracy.
Improving Central Ohio’s economy
Employment has become harder to find in recent years, with millions of manufacturing and service jobs having been outsourced to other countries. In Franklin County, thousands of manufacturing jobs were lost in the last decade. Even some white-collar jobs have been outsourced or are in danger of being eliminated.
In response to these problems, many scholars are advocating that the U.S. promote employment in the creative sectors of the economy. Public access TV would give local music and video artists widespread exposure of their ideas and works. At present, they need to go to other cities for such exposure on television. The exposure spurs economic activity by increasing demand for their artistic creations and opening up more venues where they can display their talents.
In the long term, the increased knowledge and skills the public would develop by learning about and using the public access station’s technology would likely translate into many new jobs in the private sector.
Enhancing cultural enrichment
In 2006 researchers at the Urban Institute found that Columbus has the most festivals per capita in the nation. This shows that Columbus residents love exposure to new ideas, music, products, cultures, and ways of enriching their lives.
Public access TV would enable citizens to display their creativity and cultural diversity to a mass television audience in ways similar to how they do it at the community’s many festivals. Television viewers who enjoy the festivals would surely enjoy these offerings too. Similar to the festivals, the programs would be a source of education, growth, relaxation, and rejuvenation.
And for viewers having disabilities that prevent them from attending the festivals, they would be able to obtain some of the same types of information and entertainment on TV.
Counteracting local media consolidation
In recent decades the national trend has been for large media companies to acquire local news outlets. It has gotten to the point where a few gigantic conglomerates dominate the news industry and determine the views that Americans are exposed to in the mass media. Many scholars and journalists have pointed out that this consolidation has harmed democracy by crippling the media’s willingness and ability to inform the public.
Media consolidation in Columbus has gotten as bad as anywhere in the U.S., and is far worse than in many other American communities. In 2011 The Dispatch Printing Company purchased virtually all the print publications in Central Ohio, including the main alternative newspaper, The Other Paper. That’s in addition to its ownership of local TV and radio media. Recently the company announced that it is closing The Other Paper. Some have described the current Columbus media situation using terms such as “propaganda” and “mind control.” And they have quoted Carter G. Woodson’s famous statement: “If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions.”
Public access TV could help counteract these problems by allowing a diversity of voices to reach a mass audience in Central Ohio. Unlike other voices currently heard on TV, the voices of the public would not be funded by big-money interests, which have gotten even more powerful on TV after the U.S. Supreme Court’s widely criticized 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.
Additionally, the voices of the public would help keep the local news media honest. Media executives would be less likely to operate in a one-sided and biased manner if they knew that members of the public had the ability to correct any propaganda and misinformation in front of a mass television audience.
Conclusion
Many more reasons could be given for supporting public access TV. But the CPAT believes that these four major ones are more than sufficient justification for it.
Because of the important benefits of public access TV, hundreds of U.S. cities offer it. Columbus’ failure to do so can put the city in an unfavorable light when compared to those other cities. For example, some in the local Somali community have expressed disappointment and bewilderment that Columbus does not have public access TV whereas Minneapolis, with its large Somali community, does.
In fact, the law appears to require NOColumbus City Officials to strive to provide public access TV to the community. Section 595.01(E)(4) of Title 5 of the Columbus Code states that the City’s policy regarding cable communications systems includes “the promotion of increased public . . . access and programming, in terms of quality and amount.” The law’s drafters and enactors obviously understood the significance of this subject.
Public access TV is an extremely important communications medium and would greatly benefit Central Ohio. We therefore ask you to urge City Council to approve the requested funding for it.
Jonathan C. Beard
President and CEO
Columbus Compact Corporation
1051 E. Main Street
Columbus, OH 43205
Phone: (614) 251-0926 ext. 301
Fax: (614) 251-2243
www.colscompact.com

Happy New Year Salon – Saturday, January 12, 2013

Happy New Year Salon – Saturday, January 12, 2013
6:30-11pm

Join your progressive friends for food, fun, music, art, and political networking or just socializing! Presentation from Green Party City Council candidate Steve Johnson. Music by Connie Harris. Let us know your plans for the new year.

1021 E. Broad St., parking in front or rear, east side door.
truth@freepress.org
614-253-2571

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Call it by its real name “Chemtrails”: Harvard prof calls for spraying to re-freeze the Arctic

Bob Fitrakis
January 3, 2013

It was inevitable. Those of you who have been wondering about so-called “chemtrails” need to read the December 11, 2012 article in Britain’s Daily Mail. The headline screams “Could we re-freeze the Arctic? Scientists suggest radical solution to global warming.”

This miraculous feat of geo-engineering comes to us courtesy of Harvard Professor of Applied Physics David Keith, who has authored papers proposing the massive spraying of reflective particles over the Arctic Circle in the journals Nature Climate Change and Environmental Research Letters.

They call it “spraying,” the street name is “chemtrails.” They have been doing it for years. It is the use of chemicals sprayed from planes to alter the environment, create military antennas in the sky, to build fake clouds and a toxic reflective sunscreen for the planet. You have probably seen it happen with a long-lasting white trail streaking high in the sky behind one or more planes, sometimes making a criss-cross checkerboard design. And when you call your local news station to ask what’s going on, usually they send out the jolly local weatherman to tell you not to believe your lying eyes.

There’s nothing new about the idea of weather modification. It’s been in vogue among certain advocates of “better living through chemistry” and high-ranking militarists since the mid-50s.

In an anthology published by CICJ Books, Star Wars, Weather Mods, and Full Spectrum Dominance, I have documented the long history of weather modification and the corporate and military implications behind it.

Throughout the Cold War, both the U.S. and the former Soviet Union actively investigated military applications of weather modification. In 1958, Captain Howard T. Orville, then serving as the White House’s Chief Advisor on weather modification, publicly announced that the Defense Department was studying “ways to manipulate the charges of the earth and sky and so affect the weather through electronic beams to ionize and de-ionize the atmosphere.”

In the 1990s, Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, emerged as a major proponent of weather modification. The April 24, 2001 New York Times reported that Teller “had promoted the idea of manipulating the Earth’s atmosphere to counteract global warming.” Scientist Ken Calderia from the Lawrence Livermore Weapons Laboratory where Teller served as Director Emeritus prior to his death, admitted to the Free Press that they were modeling computer simulations on the use of aluminum oxide to counter global warming.

Calderia told me “We originally did this study to show that this program [massive spraying for weather modification] shouldn’t be done. Calderia felt such large scale weather modification was doomed because of the possibility of negative health effects. The chemicals used for the spraying the atmosphere come to earth as toxic particles that could cause respiratory and other health problems when ingested.

What’s new here is that this is being reported in British tabloids and repeated in the Columbus Dispatch’s EarthWeek section. What did not appear in the Dispatch’s briefer version was the last quote paragraph in the Daily Mail article. “Such drastic geoengineering could have disastrous unintended effects but could be a viable response to a ‘climate emergency’ such as the sudden collapse of ice sheets or a killing drought,” Professor Keith suggested.

The Mail also mentioned Professor Keith’s belief that such “open-air and large-scale geoengineering” violates the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity. Also a 1977 United Nations treaty, the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of the Environmental Modification Techniques, specifically prohibited “the use of techniques that would have widespread, long-lasting or severe effects through deliberate manipulation of natural processes and cause such phenomena as earthquakes, tidal waves, in climate and weather patterns.”

Just like you can’t separate Teller’s chemical geo-engineering from his nuclear bomb – nor can you separate weather modification from the United States military.

In 2001, U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) introduced the Space Preservation Act of 2001. The bill not only sought a “permanent ban on basing of weapons in space,” but also specifically banned “chemtrails.”

With these recent revelations in the Daily Mail, readers should recall that Dr. Bernard Eastlund who developed HAARP, the High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, admitted to Wired magazine that the existing version controlled by the U.S. military in Alaska has weather modification capabilities.

Climate change is real and we need with it through sustainability, not by spewing a toxic band-aid in the sky. All people should demand environmental impact testing before any chemtrail spraying is done and we should demand that the U.S. government open its files on weather modification whether it be for geo-engineering or military purposes.

Remember that back in the 70s, former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski predicted that “Technology will make available, to the leaders of major nations, techniques for conducting secret warfare of which only a bare minimum of the security forces need to be appraised. . . techniques of weather modification could be employed to produce prolonged periods of drought or storm.” What the world needs now, is full transparency.

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Bob Fitrakis is the author of the anthology Star Wars, Weather Mods, and Full Spectrum Dominance published by CICJ Books and for sale at Free Press.