Indefinite Detentions, Trial Today

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Today, a jury trial of 14 anti-torture activists is scheduled to begin in Washington, D.C. as anti-torture and indefinite detention protests escalate.

AllGov.com reports today: “He waited until New Year’s Eve to do it … but he did it. While expressing ‘serious reservations’ about the bill, President Barack Obama on New Year’s Eve signed legislation that cements into law two highly controversial tenets of the war on terror: indefinite detention of terrorism suspects without charge, and the jailing of American citizens without trial. It also takes terrorism-related cases out of the hands of the FBI and the civilian court system and hands them over to the military.”

FRIDA BERRIGAN, frida.berrigan at gmail.com,

MALACHY KILBRIDE, malachykilbride at yahoo.com

HELEN SCHIETINGER, h.schietinger at verizon.net

JEREMY VARON, jvaron at aol.com

Berrigan, Kilbride, Schietinger and Varon are with the group Witness Against Torture, which has just begun ten days of protests, fasting and lobbying in Washington, D.C.

Varon, who is also a professor of history at the New School, said today: “Despite his campaign pledge to shut down Guantanamo, President Obama has continued the Bush administration’s practice of indefinite military detention there and at Bagram [U.S. base in Afghanistan].” Varon adds that Obama signing the National Defense Authorization Act “extends this abusive regime by allowing the president to order U.S. citizens, as well, to be held indefinitely without due process on American soil. Not one more year — not one more day — of such policies is acceptable. Witness Against Torture is here in Washington to add our message to the ‘Occupy’ movement’s call for a return to a just political and economic system by demanding an end to the national disgrace that is Guantanamo.”

Some of the group’s actions this month — exactly ten years after the first detainees arrived at the U.S.-controlled detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — in D.C. include:

“Jan. 3: The jury trial of 14 anti-torture activists is scheduled to begin in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, Moultrie Courthouse, 500 Indiana Ave., N.W. In June 2011, the 14 stood one by one in the Gallery of the House of Representatives to petition lawmakers to uphold the Constitution by not making funding for Guantanamo permanent. WAT will stand with the 14 in the courtroom, outside the courthouse, and around the city as their trial proceeds.

“Jan. 11: A dramatic human chain from the White House to the Capitol Building marks the tenth anniversary of detention at Guantanamo. WAT joins a broad coalition of human rights groups in sponsoring this vigil, which will begin after a noontime rally in Lafayette Park. During the rally and vigil, activists will be wearing orange jumpsuits and holding signs and other visuals demanding that the detention center be closed.”

Occupy Iowa Caucuses

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DAVID GOODNER, david at iowacci.org
Goodner is with Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and has been active with the Occupy Iowa movement. He said today: “Occupy Des Moines started the Occupy Iowa Caucus campaign largely to address the problem of big money in politics — the presidential candidates and their SuperPACs have spent $200 for every vote expected in tonight’s Caucus. Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are largely representing the interests of the major corporations. We’ve occupied all the offices of the candidates — the Republican candidates as well as the state and national Democratic Party. Both establishment parties are getting corporate money by the most corrupt financial institutions, corporations like Goldman Sachs, for example.

“We’ve organized hundreds of people, brought occupiers in from all over the country, ‘mic checked’ candidates like Mitt Romeny and Newt Gingrich, and generated 62 arrests in the last seven days. The campaigns have all ducked us. The Obama campaign even closed their office rather than deal with us. The people at the Democratic Party office called the police on us. Many people outside of Iowa think there’s meaningful interaction going on here, but there isn’t. It’s massive TV ads, 20-minute stump speeches and five-second handshakes. The only meaningful democratic process happening here is in the streets, and we’ve made a big impact. The model we created in Iowa – taking on Wall Street greed and corruption by going after the political parties and politicians that serve the corporate agenda – is one path forward for the Occupy Wall Street movement as the eyes of the nation now turn to New Hampshire, South Carolina, Nevada, and the Super Tuesday primary states. The political system in this country must put communities before corporations and people before profits or prepare to be occupied.”

Santorum on Iran: Ignorance or Lies?

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Virtually all Republican candidates — with the notable exception of Ron Paul — have sounded a belligerent note on Iran at one point or another. However, Rick Santorum has apparently taken this to a higher level, analysts note. AP reports: “Republican Rick Santorum says that if he’s elected president, he would bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities unless they were opened for international arms inspectors.” But analysts note that inspectors have been working in Iran for years.

ROBERT NAIMAN, naiman at justforeignpolicy.org,
Policy director of Just Foreign Policy, Naiman said today: “Rick Santorum told NBC’s David Gregory on ‘Meet the Press’ that, unlike President Obama, he would ‘be saying to the Iranians, you either open up those [nuclear] facilities, you begin to dismantle them and, and make them available to inspectors, or we will degrade those facilities through airstrikes and make it very public that we are doing that.’ Mr. Gregory did not challenge this statement. Surely Mr. Gregory knows that Iran’s nuclear facilities are already under the inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Politicians will say whatever they can get away with but journalists have an obligation to correct serious misstatements of fact.'”

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com
Porter is an investigative journalist and historian specializing in U.S. national security policy. He said today: “Rick Santorum’s comment about Iran not letting inspectors in reveals his abysmal ignorance of the reality of the Iranian nuclear program and the role of the IAEA in monitoring every element of the program involving nuclear materials. Regrettably, that ignorance is often reflected in news media coverage of the IAEA, which has systematically ignored reporting by that agency over the years, showing the degree to which Iran has cooperated fully in allowing monitoring of its nuclear facilities.” Porter has written extensively about the IAEA and Iran, including his recent piece “IAEA’s ‘Soviet Nuclear Scientist’ Never Worked on Weapons.”

Romney, Santorum and Separation of Church and State

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FREDERICK CLARKSON, frederick.clarkson at gmail.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Clarkson is author of the book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy and editor of the Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America.  He is founder of the interactive group blog “Talk to Action.”

He said today: “The question of separation of church and state has been a defining issue for Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Both have given speeches in Texas to echo and answer John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 campaign speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association that has been the model for how pols balance religion and public life for a generation. Both embraced the rhetoric of the religious right.

“Rick Santorum has made denunciation of Kennedy’s statement ‘I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute’ — a centerpiece of his campaign.

“When Santorum came to the Boston area last year, he denounced Kennedy before a Catholic audience. He blamed Kennedy for the alleged secularization of public life, calling Kennedy’s statement “radical” and that it has done ‘great damage.’

“Romney as a Mormon faced a similar obstacle to his candidacy that Kennedy faced in 1960. In his Texas speech in 2007 he sought to turn secularism into a bogeyman: ‘In recent years,’ he declared, ‘the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. … It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism.'”

Is the Military Budget Really Being Cut?

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CATHERINE LUTZ, Catherine_Lutz at brown.edu
Editor of the book The Bases of Empire: The Struggle Against U.S. Military Posts.  Lutz said today: “Despite alarms sent up by politicians looking only at Pentagon press releases or their military industry backers’ interests, the new proposal for Department of Defense base budget reductions over the next five years represents only a 4 percent decline in real, or inflation-adjusted, terms, according to the Project on Defense Alternatives. And the Pentagon’s budget will remain far larger than it was ten years ago. On top of this, all of these calculations exclude, as they should not, billions in funding for the current wars.” Lutz is a department chair at Brown University and co-director of the “Costs of War” study done there.

BEAU GROSSCUP, bgrosscup at csuchico.edu
Grosscup is author of several books on terrorism including Strategic Terror: The Politics and Ethics of Aerial Bombardment. He is professor of international relations at California State University in Chico. He said today: “This ‘slimmed down’ plan continues the trend to rely increasingly on fighting the two wars with technology (drones) and ‘precision’ strategic bombing. The budget reductions are also aimed at reductions in the budget increases, not actual reductions in military spending.”

ALICE SLATER, aslater at rcn.com
Slater is the New York Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and is on the coordinating committee of Abolition 2000, a disarmament coalition. She said today: “It seems that we are moving to a more mechanized war-fighting posture cutting out military forces below the previously planned cuts from 570,000 to 520,000 to an Army of 490,000 troops. However we will be increasing our reliance on drone attacks, that have now been used by Obama in several countries — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. A New America Foundation study on U.S. drone strikes from 2004 to 2011 in northern Pakistan concluded the strikes killed between 1,680 and 2,634 alleged militants and civilians in targeted assassinations without benefit of evidence, trial or knowledge of the charges. Even the Nazis were given a trial at Nuremberg by the United States.

“Interestingly, Obama refused to go along with Panetta’s proposal to cut the American carrier fleet in the Pacific, no doubt because of our newly announced policy by Clinton of gunboat diplomacy in the Pacific, building a new military alliance ‘as durable and as consistent with American interests and values as the web we have built across the Atlantic.’ On a recent trip to Australia, Obama opened a new military base there that will grow to 2,500 troops and promised that ‘we will allocate the resources necessary to maintain our strong military presence in this region.’ A Pentagon report warned Congress that China was increasing its naval power and investing in high-tech weaponry to extend its reach in the Pacific and beyond. What did we expect? And now having provoked China to beef up its military assets the warmongers in the U.S. can frighten the public into supporting the next wild burgeoning arms race in the Pacific and what appears to be the threat of endless war.”

Money in Politics: Citizens United Setback in Montana; Gingrich Hoisted on Own Petard

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Truth-out reports: “In a rebuke to the United States Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Montana has held that Citizens United does not apply to Montana campaign finance law.

“Last Friday, the Montana Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of a 1912 voter initiative – the Corrupt Practices Act – that prohibits corporations from making contributions to or expenditures on behalf of state political candidates and political parties. In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that a similar federal prohibition was unconstitutional, prompting a wave of bills and court rulings that erased prohibitions on corporate and union political expenditures around the country.”

JEFF MILCHEN,  Jeff at amiba.net
Milchen is a co-founder of the American Independent Business Alliance, a network of 80 community organizations supporting local independent businesses based in Bozeman, Montana.

Writing for AMIBA, which joined Free Speech for People in an amicus brief to the Montana Supreme Court, Milchen said “Observing oral arguments in the Montana Supreme Court chamber last September, I could see conflict in the faces of several Justices as they probed whether Montana’s ban on direct corporate electioneering could withstand the pending challenge in Western Tradition Partnership (WTP) v Montana. The terse tone of many questions belied the Justice’s frustration with the U.S. Supreme Court’s rationale in Citizens United v FEC, which inspired WTP’s lawsuit by striking down a federal law similar to Montana’s.

The law in question, the Corrupt Practices Act, had stood for 99 years since Montana citizens passed an initiative in response to some of the most overt corporate corruption in American history.

“Five of the seven Justices found the State’s defense compelling. In a December 30 ruling with national implications, the Court overturned a lower court ruling and rejected arguments that Citizens United rendered the Corrupt Practices Act unconstitutional.

“Key distinctions in Montana’s circumstances included the State presenting extensive evidence of actual corruption, which the U.S. Supreme Court found lacking in Citizens United. And while Citizens United did not address non-partisan and judicial elections, Montana’s law protects the very Justices who decided the case from being intimidated or corrupted. Montana’s ruling quoted the U.S. Supreme Court’s own opinion in Caperton v Massey Coal (2009), stating, ‘Judicial integrity [is] a state interest of the highest order.’

“The Citizens United ruling also birthed ‘super PACs’ which can accept unlimited donations to support a candidate and attack his or her opponents. Newt Gingrich, who previously hailed Citizens United as a ‘great victory for free speech,’ was stung by an outpouring of TV ads funded by super PACS supporting his opponents. He went from frontrunner to fourth-place finisher in just weeks.”

Milchen added: “Despite the Montana Justices’ efforts to differentiate WTP v Montana from Citizens United, an appeal is likely. If granted, the case may create a true focal point to unite the energy of Occupiers fed up with corporate corruption, Tea Partiers who advocate for states’ rights, and the nearly 80 percent of Americans who support amending the Constitution to explicitly state what is obvious to most of us, but not to five men sitting on the U.S. Supreme Court: the Bill of Rights was enacted to protect the rights of actual human beings.”

AMIBA was party to briefs in both CU v FEC and WTP v Montana. See: “Granting Corporations Bill of Rights Protections Is Not ‘Pro-business.'”

Crude Tragedy: Nigeria Repression and Austerity Lead to General Strike

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BBC reports: “A general strike in Nigeria over the elimination of a fuel subsidy has brought the country to a standstill. Shops, offices, schools and petrol stations around the country closed on the first day of an indefinite strike.

“In Lagos and other cities, thousands marched against the removal of the subsidy, which has doubled fuel costs. Police fired on protesters in Kano in the north, reportedly killing two and wounding many. Another demonstrator died in a clash with police in Lagos.”

Solidarity protests are also being held outside the World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C. today.

NNIMMO BASSEY, nnimmo at eraction.org
Bassey is board chair of Friends of the Earth International and 2010 Right Livelihood Award winner. He just wrote a piece titled “Oil Subsidy: Fight Corruption, Not the People,” which states: “The entire subsidy saga is based on the importation of refined petroleum products. [T]he ultimate winner is the cabal the government fingers as robbing the public coffers. Since the government still embarks on buying imported petrol rather than refining the product at home.”

OMOYELE SOWORE,  sowore at gmail.com
Sowore is from Nigeria and is reporting for Sahara Reports. He said today: “This fuel price hike comes at a most unwelcome time. The country is in crisis due to the state of emergency declared by the President in the conflict with Boko Haram, the Islamic militant group based in the Northern part of Nigeria. In addition, we are still uncertain as to the severity of the recent oil spills — there appear to have been several — and what Shell Oil is doing to clean up its mess.”

ANIEDI OKURE, director at afjn.org
Okure is executive director of Africa Faith and Justice Network, a community of advocates for responsible U.S. relations with Africa. He said today: “The current government claims that raising the price of gasoline is necessary to raise funds, but the fact is that the oil companies are the ones who should be paying first. Gas flaring is technically illegal but very commonly done by oil companies in Nigeria. If the law were properly applied, the government could raise significant money from fees associated with this illegal flaring for much needed investment in health care, education and infrastructure. Instead the government has chosen to go after poor consumers – the 99% – instead of the top 1% who continue to game the system.”

EMIRA WOODS,  emira at ips-dc.org, also via Lacy MacAuley, lacy at ips-dc.org
Woods is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. She said today: “The IMF and World Bank continue to preach their market fundamentalism despite the obvious failure of the religion. As Europe reaps bitter rewards for its commitment to austerity, countries like Nigeria continue to face pressure to move towards a deregulated market-based development strategy. The decision of what economic path to take in Nigeria is best left to Nigerians. And Nigerians, including the current government, would do well to consider the failure of the market fundamentalist preachers and consider an alternative course.”

Hot Spots: Strait of Hormuz, South China Sea and Caspian Basin

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MICHAEL KLARE, mklare at hampshire.edu

Klare is author of the forthcoming book The Race for What’s Left and just wrote the piece “Danger Waters: The Three Top Hot Spots of Potential Conflict in the Geo-Energy Era,” which states: “Welcome to an edgy world where a single incident at an energy ‘chokepoint’ could set a region aflame, provoking bloody encounters, boosting oil prices, and putting the global economy at risk. With energy demand on the rise and sources of supply dwindling, we are, in fact, entering a new epoch — the Geo-Energy Era — in which disputes over vital resources will dominate world affairs. In 2012 and beyond, energy and conflict will be bound ever more tightly together, lending increasing importance to the key geographical flashpoints in our resource-constrained world.

“Take the Strait of Hormuz, already making headlines and shaking energy markets as 2012 begins. Connecting the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, it lacks imposing geographical features like the Rock of Gibraltar or the Golden Gate Bridge. In an energy-conscious world, however, it may possess greater strategic significance than any passageway on the planet. Every day, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, tankers carrying some 17 million barrels of oil — representing 20 percent of the world’s daily supply — pass through this vital artery.

“So last month, when a senior Iranian official threatened to block the strait in response to Washington’s tough new economic sanctions, oil prices instantly soared. While the U.S. military has vowed to keep the strait open, doubts about the safety of future oil shipments and worries about a potentially unending, nerve-jangling crisis involving Washington, Tehran, and Tel Aviv have energy experts predicting high oil prices for months to come, meaning further woes for a slowing global economy.

“The Strait of Hormuz is, however, only one of several hot spots where energy, politics, and geography are likely to mix in dangerous ways in 2012 and beyond. Keep your eye as well on the East and South China Seas, the Caspian Sea basin, and an energy-rich Arctic that is losing its sea ice. In all of these places, countries are disputing control over the production and transportation of energy, and arguing about national boundaries and/or rights of passage.”

Klare is professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College. His past books include Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet and Resource Wars.

Two Years after Haiti Earthquake: UN Cholera Epidemic Rages as Situation in Camps Deteriorates

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Thursday marks two years since a devastating earthquake hit Haiti.

MICHELE MITCHELL, michele.mitchell at filmat11.tv; also via Jennie Walker, jennie.walker at filmat11.tv
Mitchell is the producer of “Haiti: Where Did the Money Go?” premiering this month on PBS stations nationwide. Mitchell said, “Half of all U.S. households donated $1.4 billion to major charities specifically for relief. But after hundreds of millions have been spent, there are still over half a million people living in squalid conditions. There are fewer working latrines today — not to mention fewer latrines. No water delivery. Malnutrition is on the rise. And the Haitians living in these tent cities are in a kind of purgatory — they have no idea when they are getting out, or even if things will ever get better.”

MARK WEISBROT, mweisbrot at cepr.net; also via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and co-author of a chapter in the new book, Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake.  He said today: “The budget for UN troops in Haiti is eight times the amount of the UN’s cholera appeal. It was UN troops who brought cholera to Haiti. The UN should use some of its money, designated for keeping the Haitian people safe, to fight cholera. Keeping people safe should include keeping them safe from disease and death, but the ongoing epidemic — made worse by an appalling lack of sanitation and drinking water – threatens the lives of thousands more people.” For more see: Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake

BRIAN CONCANNON, JR., Brian at ijdh.org; also via Nicole Phillips, Nicole at ijdh.org
Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, which filed a lawsuit against the UN in November on behalf of over 5,000 victims of cholera, said today: “The United Nations’ own report establishes that UN peacekeepers introduced cholera to Haiti. The UN should respond justly to these facts by providing the clean water and sanitation infrastructure necessary to control the cholera epidemic. Instead, the UN has denied and delayed while Haitians sicken and die. The MINUSTAH [UN] cholera epidemic is the world’s worst cholera epidemic, killing an average of 200 Haitians per month and sickening over 25,000. The UN’s defense — that the weakness of Haiti’s health and water infrastructure relieves it of responsibility — would be laughed out of court if the UN ever let itself be brought before an independent tribunal.”

NICOLE LEE,  nlee at transafrica.org also via Joia Nuri, jnuri at transafrica.org,
Lee is the president of TransAfrica. She said today: “We must learn from the mistakes of the first two years of this recovery effort. Without the active participation of Haitians themselves, no amount of money can bring the kind of changes Haiti needs to resolve the problems that have plagued the most marginalized populations since even before the earthquake. It is disturbing to see the same status quo being reinforced by the various humanitarian actors on the ground today, despite the vibrant network of Haitian community and grassroots groups that exist without the support they need to have more long-reaching success. We join our Haitian partners in calling for oversight of NGOs and government funds, including investigations into where the money donated in their names has gone.”

MELINDA MILES, melinda at lethaitilive.org,
Miles is the founder and director of Let Haiti Live, and a contributor to the new book, Tectonic Shifts: Haiti Since the Earthquake.  She said today: “Decisions made in the earliest days of the recovery haunt Haiti’s internally displaced to this day. Fundamental and internationally accepted minimum standards for disaster victims were never adhered to, and now two years after the quake the humanitarian community has spent billions of dollars without meeting some of the most critical goals they set. Despite planning 125,000 transitional shelters for the end of the first year, 100,000 still have not been built two years later. While Haitians have been excluded from decision making and haven’t had access to basic information about donations and recovery plans, efforts led by Haitian organizations continue to be the most successful.”

Ten Years of Guantanamo, Threat of More Indefinite Detentions

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A host of human rights and other groups today are forming a human chain from the White House to the Capitol Building marking ten years of detentions at Guantanamo.

ANDY WORTHINGTON, currently in D.C.:  andy at andyworthington.co.uk
Available for a limited number of interviews, Worthington is one of the founders of the just-launched webpage www.closeguantanamo.org

The group’s mission statement is signed by numerous legal and military notables including Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor for the Military Commissions at Guantanamo. It states: “January 11, 2012 marks the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Bush administration’s ‘war on terror’ prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“On his second day in office, President Obama pledged to close Guantanamo within a year. Yet it remains open, undermining America’s values and national security. Over half of the remaining 171 prisoners — 89 men in total — were cleared for release or transfer more than two years ago by an interagency Task Force established by President Obama, which was made up of the top intelligence and law enforcement officials in the nation. Many of these men were previously cleared by the Bush administration — some as long ago as 2004.

“It is unacceptable that the U.S. government continues to hold men that its own national security experts have recommended for release or transfer, and that Congress has intervened to maintain this deplorable state of affairs.

“We call for the immediate closure of Guantanamo. Guantanamo harms our nation every day it stays open, and it continues to serve as a potent symbol for terrorist recruitment. As President Obama explained in a speech in early 2009, ‘instead of serving as a tool to counter terrorism, Guantanamo became a symbol that helped al-Qaeda recruit terrorists to its cause. Indeed, the existence of Guantanamo likely created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained.’ That remains true today.” Worthington is author of The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.

FRIDA BERRIGAN, frida.berrigan at gmail.com
MALACHY KILBRIDE, malachykilbride at yahoo.com
HELEN SCHIETINGER, h.schietinger at verizon.net
JEREMY VARON, cell: jvaron at aol.com
Berrigan, Kilbride, Schietinger and Varon are with the group Witness Against Torture, which has been protesting, fasting and lobbying in Washington, D.C. against torture and indefinite detention since the beginning of the year.

Varon, who is also a professor of history at the New School, said: “Despite his campaign pledge to shut down Guantanamo, President Obama has continued the Bush administration’s practice of indefinite military detention there and at Bagram [U.S. base in Afghanistan].” Varon adds that Obama recently signing the National Defense Authorization Act “extends this abusive regime by allowing the president to order U.S. citizens, as well, to be held indefinitely without due process on American soil. Not one more year — not one more day — of such policies is acceptable. Witness Against Torture is here in Washington to add our message to the ‘Occupy’ movement’s call for a return to a just political and economic system by demanding an end to the national disgrace that is Guantanamo.”

Target Iran: Will Assassinations Lead to Overt War?

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Iran has accused Israel and the United States of being behind the Wednesday morning assassination of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan. See various reports.

MUHAMMAD SAHIMI, moe at usc.edu
Sahimi is a professor at the University of Southern California and lead political columnist for the website PBS/Frontline/Tehran Bureau. He said today: “The latest assassination is part of the covert war that the U.S. and Israel have been waging on Iran for quite some time. The covert war may eventually lead to an overt war, because state-sponsored assassinations of Iranian scientists may provoke Iran to retaliate, which will spark a war that, if started, may engulf the entire region.”

“Show Trial”: Military Refers All Charges Against Bradley Manning to Court Martial

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AP reports: “An Army officer recommended a general court-martial Thursday for a low-ranking intelligence analyst charged with causing the biggest leak of classified information in U.S. history. Lt. Col. Paul Almanza’s recommendation to try Pfc. Bradley Manning on all 22 counts, including aiding the enemy, now goes up the chain of command for a final determination.”

JEFF PATERSON, via Zack Pesavento, press at bradleymanning.org
Paterson is a veteran and co-founder of the Bradley Manning Support Network. He said today: “We’re disappointed but by no means surprised. The investigating officer showed no concern for the conflict of interest caused by his dual employment with the Justice Department, or the taint of bias arising from his commander-in-chief, President Obama, who publicly declared Manning to be guilty long before he ever had his day in court.” See updates about the court proceeding at: http://www.bradleymanning.org

KEVIN ZEESE, kbzeese at gmail.com
Zeese is a lawyer on the steering committee for the Bradley Manning Support Network. He said today: “These charges contradict the administration’s own impact assessments which showed that these WikiLeaks revelations posed no threat to our national security. But since the Obama administration appears dead set on railroading Bradley Manning through their show trial, we can’t expect them to allow such critical evidence or testimony to be considered. This evidence could have shown that these materials were improperly classified.”

The group also notes: “Lt. Col. Paul Alamanza, the investigating officer who referred the charges to court martial, refused to recuse himself on the grounds that his employer — the Justice Department — is pursuing a separate investigation into WikiLeaks. He was also criticized for allowing all of the military’s witnesses and evidence to be presented, while prohibiting all but two of the defense’s witnesses from testifying, as well as evidence that could exonerate the accused WikiLeaks whistle-blower.

“The recommendations, which now go before the Special Court Martial Convening Authority, include the most serious charge of ‘aiding the enemy.’ Legal observers who followed the Article 32 proceedings noted that military prosecutors never provided evidence of how these materials supposedly harmed national security.”

For critical background, see:

Daniel Ellsberg, source for the Pentagon Papers, recently defended Manning in an interview: “My trial was ended because of gross governmental misconduct against me under President Nixon. This court-martial should be ended now for exactly the same reason. There has been gross, illegal conduct against Bradley Manning in the form of his incarceration for these many months without trial. And that’s one of several reasons why this trial is a travesty.”

“Bradley Manning Heads For Trial; No One Charged For Murdered Civilians,” which focuses on the “Collateral Murder” video, which Manning is accused of making public:

“Iraq refuses to extend U.S. military diplomatic immunity after WikiLeaks exposed crimes”

“The First WikiLeaks Revolution?” about how Manning’s leak to WikiLeaks helped spark the Tunisian uprising, leading to uprisings in other countries:

Note to producers: possible musical intro is David Rovics’ “Song for Bradley Manning”

South Carolina, MLK, Black America’s Invisibility

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KEVIN GRAY, kevinagray57 at gmail.com
Based in South Carolina, Gray is an activist and author of “The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama.” Gray said today: “There has been an incredible silence about the state of black people in America, just as there had been an incredible silence on economic disparities. Part of this stems from the silence in the black community around the re-election of Obama. Black voices seem irrelevant and invisible at this crucial time.

“As the South Carolina primary comes up, we see some jockeying among some of the Republicans over rhetoric regarding vulture capitalism, but whether it’s vulture capitalism or crony capitalism or the corporate capitalism that the establishments of both the Republicans and Democrats openly embrace, it’s all been a disaster for many poor and working people in and outside the U.S. None of these prominent politicians, with the occasional exception of Ron Paul, touch on these issues in anything approaching a serious way. It’s virtually all geared for the 1%.

“And what politics are being pursued? More wars, threats toward Iran, the National Defense Authorization Act that paves the way for more indefinite detentions and further eroding civil liberties under a Democratic president.

“In terms of the Occupy movement, I certainly support the idea of people challenging the corporatism that is out of control, but you have to face the issues of what people who are delivering that message are doing: How do you help organize people door-to-door, how do you organize around things that are tangible to people?

“Almost everybody — and certainly the current establishment politicians — fall so woefully short of what King was saying. How do we build a community of cooperation? The current political system is not doing that.”

Gray will be speaking at a Martin Luther King scholarship award dinner in Virginia this weekend.

King in his own words: Here are excerpts from King’s sermon “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated:

“There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. …

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind.”
Full text and audio.

After King was attacked for his remarks at Riverside, including by media such as the New York Times and Time magazine, he spoke out more passionately, including later that month:

“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. … There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward [segregationist Selma, Ala. sheriff] Jim Clark!’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!’ There is something wrong with that press! …

“I’m convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. … When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. … True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation.”
– From Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967; audio and text.
Excerpts of audio on YouTube.

Tavis Smiley in a special program, reported last year that by the end of his life, “King had almost three-quarters … of the American people turned against him, 55 percent of his own people [African Americans] turned against him.” See: “Obama vs. Martin Luther King?

King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was addressed to clergy who stated they were pro-reform, but were advocating a slower approach than King, calling his actions “unwise and untimely.”

Indefinite Detention and “Why I’m Suing Barack Obama”

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At last night’s GOP debate, moderator Kelly Evans asked: “Governor Romney, when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, he enacted a provision allowing him to indefinitely detain American citizens in U.S. military custody, many, including Congressman Paul, have called it unconstitutional. At the same time the bill did provide money to continue funding U.S. troops. Governor Romney, as president, would you have signed the National Defense Act as written?”

Governor Romney: “Yes, I would have. And I do believe that it is appropriate to have in our nation the capacity to detain people who are threats to this country…”

Rick Santorum took issue with Romney’s statement: “…If you are a citizen and you are being held indefinitely, then you have the right to go to a federal court … That is a standard that should be maintained and I would maintain that standard as president…”

Ron Paul added: “Now with the military appropriations defense act, this — this is — this is major. This says that the military can arrest an American citizen for [being] under suspicion, and he can be held indefinitely, without habeas corpus, and be denied a lawyer indefinitely even in a prison here.” Transcript:  and video at 1:31:

CHRIS HEDGES,  hedgesscoop at aol.com,
Available for a limited number of interviews, Hedges recently wrote the piece “Why I’m Suing Barack Obama,” which states: “Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.

“The act authorizes the military in Title X, Subtitle D, entitled ‘Counter-Terrorism,’ for the first time in more than 200 years, to carry out domestic policing. With this bill, which will take effect March 3, the military can indefinitely detain without trial any U.S. citizen deemed to be a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism. And suspects can be shipped by the military to our offshore penal colony in Guantanamo Bay and kept there until ‘the end of hostilities.’ It is a catastrophic blow to civil liberties.

“I spent many years in countries where the military had the power to arrest and detain citizens without charge. I have been in some of these jails. I have friends and colleagues who have ‘disappeared’ into military gulags. I know the consequences of granting sweeping and unrestricted policing power to the armed forces of any nation.”

Hedges was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism in 2002.  His books include Death of the Liberal Class and Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

Democracy: “Why Not Jordan?”

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AP reports that President Obama today will be “hosting King Abdullah II of Jordan at the White House.”

PETE MOORE,  pwm10 at case.edu,
Professor of political science at Case Western Reserve University, Moore is author of Doing Business in the Middle East: Politics and Economic Crisis in Jordan and Kuwait. He said today: “An obvious question given what has happened in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Syria is: Why not Jordan? The socioeconomic grievances in the other countries are there in spades. We’ve certainly seen some protests in 2011 — and some that go back further — but why haven’t we seen that level of protests?

“Part of the reason is that the Saudis and Gulf Emirates — as well as the Israelis, U.S. and Europeans — have supported the Hashemite throne and are keenly interested in making sure that domino doesn’t fall. Jordan is a small country and the organized opposition is small, so money and cooptation can go a long way.”

Note: At a news conference today at the National Press Club, various Jordanian groups criticized the regime.

The Facts About Food Stamps

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TIMOTHY CASEY,  tcasey at legalmomentum.org,
Casey is senior staff attorney with Legal Momentum, “the nation’s oldest legal defense and education fund dedicated to advancing the rights of all women and girls.” He said today: “When it comes to programs to aid the poor, some of the leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are rushing to the bottom. Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum have played the race card, implying that Food Stamps and other programs for those in need are programs for Blacks. But the facts are to the contrary — only one quarter of Food Stamp recipients are African-American. Gingrich has also said that poor children have no one around them who works. In fact, the majority of poor children have working parents. Comments like these cheapen public and political discourse as they distort the facts.

“Due to its official renaming as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Food Stamps program is now known as SNAP. Gingrich and Santorum have also criticized the growth in SNAP participation in recent years. However, that growth was due to recession and a slow recovery. SNAP and other programs for the needy are designed to expand when economic times are hard. This counter-cyclical increase in spending both aids the poor and helps fuel job growth.

“The truth is that the SNAP program provides vitally important food aid to help the needy achieve a nutritionally adequate diet. The program currently serves 22 million low income households with 46 million household members. Three quarters of participants are in households that include children and one quarter are in households that include elderly or disabled individuals. Only low income households are eligible — the vast majority of participants have net incomes lower than the official poverty standard, currently $18,530 a year for a family of three. Benefits can be used only to purchase food and are meager in amount, averaging $135 per person a month. Even with these benefits, about half of Food Stamp households report that they are still having difficulty in obtaining enough food and about one fifth report that they have had to reduce their food intake due to insufficient funds.

“Mitt Romney, as well as Gingrich and Santorum, are urging SNAP ‘reforms’ based on the ‘welfare reforms’ enacted by a Republican-controlled Congress and President Clinton in 1996. Those reforms ‘block granted’ cash assistance, placing an arbitrary cap on federal spending and repealing national protective standards. Block granting cash welfare assistance reduced benefit receipt from 60 percent of poor families pre-reform to only about 20 percent of poor families today, and from over 80 percent of eligible families pre-reform to less than 40 percent today. Block granting cash aid also led to sharply reduced benefits that in every state are now less than half the poverty standard.

“Because of the cuts in cash assistance, the SNAP program now aids several times more poor children than cash assistance does. In an average month in 2010, Food Stamps aided 8.9 million families with children while cash assistance aided only 1.9 million.

“Block granting SNAP would threaten the same result that block granting welfare cash assistance has had: far fewer needy households aided by SNAP and sharply reduced SNAP benefit amounts.

“A contraction of SNAP assistance would pose an especially grave threat to poor families headed by single mothers, as the cuts in cash assistance have made SNAP increasingly indispensable to these families. In 2010, about 40 percent of single mothers were poor and about 40 percent received SNAP. Only 10 percent received cash welfare assistance.

“Poverty rates are already exceptionally high in the United States compared to other high income countries. A SNAP retrenchment would raise poverty rates even higher. In 2010, SNAP brought combined income over the poverty line for four million individuals whose cash income was below the poverty line.”

Mormonism: * Bigotry * President Romney’s Bishophood a Threat to the First Amendment?

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JOANNA BROOKS, jmbrooks at mail.sdsu.edu
Brooks is author of The Book of Mormon Girl. She writes regularly for ReligionDispatches.org and her recent pieces include “The New York Times Sunday Review has a Mormon Problem” and “How (Not) to React to Anti-Mormon Sentiment in the South.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at law.uiuc.edu
Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Tackling America’s Toughest Questions. He said today: “Romney’s official positions in the hierarchy of the Mormon Church raise serious questions under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Do the American people want the functional equivalent to the Mormon Pope and his College of Cardinals sitting in their Salt Lake Vatican City ordering the President of the United States what to do? Romney must come clean and fully explain his official positions in the Mormon Church hierarchy and the extent to which he takes orders from their Prophet and Apostles. So far the mainstream news media have all given Romney a pass on this threat to the First Amendment because big business supports Romney and the mainstream media is part of big business. But the mainstream media are protected by that same First Amendment that Romney threatens. The media have a First Amendment obligation to nail down Romney on these serious First Amendment issues.”

“Romney is/was a Mormon Bishop and Archbishop. They take orders from the Mormon Prophet, roughly the Mormon equivalent of the Roman Catholic Pope. Constitutionally speaking under the First Amendment, Romney is not equivalent to either John Kennedy (a lay Catholic) or Joe Lieiberman (a lay orthodox Jew) or Jimmy Carter (a lay Baptist Sunday school teacher).”

“Critically, Kennedy said he would resign if there was a conflict and Romney conspicuously did not.”

Boyle is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Harvard Law School where he was section-mates with Willard Mitt Romney, now known as Mitt, as first year law students (1Ls) during the 1971-1972 academic year. They took all their first-year law courses together. He teaches courses on the Constitutional Law of U.S. Foreign Affairs, and Jurisprudence, among others.

Kennedy’s address from 1960.

Romney addressed the issue of religion and public office in 2007.

From Mormon.org, see “Who is the Mormon Prophet Today?

Greek and Eurozone Crises: Proposal Threatening Modern Europe?

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COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, [in NYC] cpanayotakis at gmail.com,
Panayotakis is associate professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology at CUNY and author of the new book Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy. He said today: “As global financial markets and the world are anxiously watching to see if the negotiations to restructure the Greek debt held by private investors come to fruition in the coming hours, it is important to remember that even if these negotiations do bear fruit, the Greek and eurozone crises, with all the risks these pose for the global economy, will not abate. The voluntary haircut that these negotiations are after will not make the Greek debt sustainable and, even under the most optimistic (and highly unrealistic) projections, will only lead to the reduction by 2020 of the Greek debt to 120 percent of GDP, or what it was before the first rescue loan and austerity package were adopted almost two years ago. This lack of progress on the fiscal front will have been bought with a brutal restructuring of Greek society that has led to skyrocketing unemployment and poverty as well as a liquidation of labor rights and the social safety net. Not surprisingly, these developments are fueling both a sense of despair that is leading many educated young Greeks to seek a better future abroad and a growing disapproval by Greek citizens of the austerity policies behind these developments. Meanwhile, the generalization of these failed policies across Europe is putting into question the very future of the eurozone and the European project itself. In this context continuing and escalating anti-austerity struggles across the continent are the only way that the new year will turn out better for ordinary European citizens and workers than the disastrous last one.”

See Panayotakis’ pieces: “The Eurozone Fiasco”

“Debunking the Greek (and European) Crisis Narrative”

“Open Marriage”?

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SARAH TAUB, sarah at sarahtaub.com
MICHAEL RIOS, michael at rios.org
Taub and Rios teach workshops on relationships including on open relationships and polyamory and are frequent presenters at polyamory conferences such as those put on by Loving More, a national polyamory organization, which just released a statement on Gingrich.

Taub said today: “Successful open relationships are consensual and based on trust, mutual respect and lots of communication. It’s very difficult (though not impossible) for a cheater to ‘come clean’ and create an open marriage with his or her spouse, because the initial situation is inherently non-consensual and trust has already been broken. Some extraordinary people can make it work, but the cheater must have a huge amount of humility, patience and respect for the other partner, including respecting his or her right to say ‘no.’ This is not how Marianne Gingrich described Newt Gingrich’s approach.”

Rios said today: “Open marriages are consensual, honest and based in love. Saying ‘let me have an affair or I’m going to divorce you’ is not consensual — it’s coercive. Being married and then waiting to come clean until after you’ve started an affair is is not open or honest. If Gingrich had approached his wife with his feelings beforehand, perhaps she would have said, ‘yes, well, actually I’ve been thinking about that possibility myself,’ and then they could have honestly had a healthy, open marriage. But what we’re hearing about is an affair that started in deception and ended in coercion — and that’s neither loving, nor honest, nor consensual. It’s not an open marriage or polyamory by any stretch of the imagination.”

Gingrich Gets Another $5 Million Via Pro-Israeli Casino Mogul Adelson

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iWatchNews is reporting: “The Israeli-born wife of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is matching her husband and placing her own $5 million bet on a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich in the upcoming Florida primary.

“The gift came from Miriam Adelson, according to sources familiar with husband Sheldon’s previous $5 million donation to the super PAC ‘Winning Our Future.’ The funds, in the form of a wire transfer, are expected to be received by the PAC on Tuesday.”

MAX BLUMENTHAL, maxjblumenthal at gmail.com
Blumenthal is writing fellow at The Nation Institute who recently wrote an investigation on Gingrich and his relationship to Sheldon Adelson. He said today: “After Newt Gingrich befriended Las Vegas casino baron Sheldon Adelson in the late 1990’s, Gingrich’s politics on the Middle East suddenly developed a hawkish, neoconservative edge. Adelson, who is America’s 8th wealthiest man, is a vocal supporter of the Greater Israel project of Jewish settlements and a military strike on Iran. In Israel, Adelson is the key financial benefactor of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Adelson funds Netanyahu’s political campaigns, bankrolls pro-Netanyahu think tanks, and owns a newspaper, Israel Hayom, that is considered Netanyahu’s house organ. Back in the U.S., Adelson pumped millions into rehabilitating Gingrich’s career after the former House Speaker’s ignominious political demise and descent into personal scandal. Thanks to Adelson, Gingrich was able to found a think tank that allowed him to build the infrastructure for his coming presidential bid.

“On the presidential trail, Gingrich injected an ugly tinge of Islamophobia and anti-Arab bigotry into the campaign. His remark to a right-wing Jewish news outlet that the Palestinians were ‘an invented people’ was met with widespread criticism — and a vigorous defense by Adelson. Days later, Adelson funneled $5 million into a pro-Gingrich Super PAC, turning the key to Gingrich’s stunning upset of Mitt Romney in South Carolina. Now, with Gingrich polling ahead of Romney in Florida, Adelson has pledged another $5 million, virtually guaranteeing that Gingrich will be competitive — and that more nasty attacks on Palestinians, Muslims, and Obama’s foreign policy lay on the horizon.

Adelson’s relationship with Netanyahu, and his motives for funding Gingrich, were outlined in detail in Blumenthal’s investigative report for the new Lebanese-based Al-Akhbar English, “The Bibi Connection,” earlier this month. Blumenthal wrote that Netanyahu is waging a “shadow campaign … intended to be a factor in defeating Obama and electing a Republican in his place.”

“The Bibi Connection” can be read here.

Egypt One Year After the Uprising, Protests Continue Against Junta

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The British Guardian is reporting: “The head of Egypt’s military junta has promised to partially lift the country’s three-decade-old state of emergency, in a last-ditch effort to bolster public support ahead of what are expected to be widespread anti-government demonstrations on Wednesday.”

PHILIP RIZK, rizkphilip at googlemail.com
Rizk is an independent blogger and filmmaker based in Cairo. He said today: “The official lifting of the state of emergency means nothing until it is ba cked up by actions. The fact that for example over 15,000 civilians have been tried before military tribunals since the military took de facto power January 28, 2011 reveals that the military junta now in power are above the law. Along with removing emergency law, they pardoned around 1,500 civilians illegitimately imprisoned following such military courts. The key matter to pay attention to here is the fact that the generals pardoned them, they did not condemn the practice of military trials. Officially lifting the emergency law is another form of the same logic.”

Rizk recently wrote: “The year 2011 in Egypt has proven to be an unprecedented year of protest and revolutionary vitality. It is tempting to hope that the struggle for revolutionary change will find a new life in the ongoing electoral process and in the institutions it will generate. Yet it is belief in this hope that is the biggest threat to Egypt’s revolution. The type of limited, hollow “democracy” that the SCAF and its allies want for the country is largely aimed at undermining Egypt’s protest movement after it has proven its potential to make meaningful strides toward the demands that drove millions of Egyptians out to streets on 25 January: bread, freedom, and social justice.”

SOTU Analysis: * Empire * Energy * Economy

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GLEN FORD, glen.ford at blackagendareport.com
Obama stated that fighting in Iraq “made the United States safer and more respected around the world.” Ford, who is executive editor of BlackAgendaReport.com, took issue with this in an interview with The Real News last night: “Obama Pledges to Maintain the Empire.”

WENONAH HAUTER, via Darcey Rakestraw, drakestraw at fwwatch.org
Executive director of Food & Water Watch, Hauter said today: “The president’s energy vision is troubling for our water resources. His speech touted the development of so-called ‘clean energy,’ but it may as well have been written by the oil and gas industry. His plan to open up more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources and to support shale gas development trades clean water for energy.

“President Obama should not confuse offshore oil and onshore shale gas development for clean energy. Although gas companies should absolutely be made to disclose the chemicals they use, simply disclosing chemicals does not prevent shale gas development from harming our essential water resources. To keep water safe and rural communities strong, we should ban fracking.

“Furthermore, the oil and gas industry’s job claims for shale gas development are grossly overestimated due to methodological flaws and reliance on economic modeling, rather than looking at the actual number of jobs created in communities with fracking. The only certainty about the expansion of the destructive oil and gas fracking is that it will bring profits to the multinational oil and gas companies. President Obama should look at the facts on how many jobs the oil and gas industry creates rather than writing federal energy policy based on the claims of the industry.

“When it comes to food, the President claimed he will not back down from making sure that our food is safe. But recent actions by his administration make that claim hard to believe. Just last week, the USDA announced its plan to deregulate the poultry industry by eliminating government inspectors and shifting to privatized inspection in many poultry plants. This is the opposite of making sure consumers are protected from unsafe food.”

MARK McLEOD, via Bob Keener, bobkeener at businessforsharedprosperity.org,
McLeod is executive director of the Sustainable Business Alliance of Oakland/Berkeley and steering committee member of the American Sustainable Business Council. He said today: “I welcome the President’s effort to have wealthier Americans pay higher taxes. The last time in our nation’s history when there was such extreme disparity between the income and wealth of the 1% and the 99% was in 1928, just prior to the beginning of the Great Depression. That such wealth concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of the population is not taxed more highly is both obscene and self-destructive. Our nation needs more revenue to invest in education, healthcare, renewable energy and other infrastructure in order to succeed in the very tough world we live in.”

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute. He said today: “Some of the President’s proposals are intriguing, but without details they are hard to assess — the mortgage refinancing program above all. What is clear is only sometimes reassuring. It is fine to talk exports and jobs, but the heart of those programs are mostly special subsidies to businesses. It would be far better for all of us if the president abandoned his fixation on the deficit for the next few years and focused on sustaining total demand in the economy instead of myriads of special subsidies. Nor do I see any reason why the Attorney General needs to be assisted by state attorneys general in investigating mortgage fraud. The latter have spearheaded all serious efforts to rein in the banks; this new federal/state initiative looks like an effort by the Feds to curb the more vigorous state efforts. The proposals on political money are weak indeed; the President is really punting on that issue, especially the role of secret funds. And there is a deep contradiction between the President’s emphasis on education and the actual conditions of the states. Most education funding from the federal government gets channeled through states and localities. But they are broke. And while it’s fine to cut interest rates on student loans, the real problem is that students are assuming way too much debt. A useful federal government initiative on public higher education has to address that as well as promoting accountability in the colleges and universities.”

Ferguson just appeared on The Real News: “On Obama SOTU: New Financial Fraud Commission Could Actually Slow Down Investigations.”

Ferguson’s “The Devil and Rick Santorum: Dilemmas of a Holy Owned Subsidiary,” appeared recently on Alternet.

His recent studies of Congress and money have appeared in the Financial Times and the Washington Spectator.

Somali Piracy: Beyond the Caricatures

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SADIA ALI ADEN, sadiaaden at gmail.com
Aden is a human rights advocate, freelance writer and author of the recent piece “‘SSC’ is the Last Hope to Bridge Somalia Back Together.”

VIJAY PRASHAD, vijay.prashad at trincoll.edu
Author of The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, Prashad is chair of South Asian history and director of international studies at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut. He said today: “The disruption of the Indian Ocean includes the overfishing in its waters, the devastation by dumping of toxic waste, the problem of its militarization. When Vasco Da Gama came into the waters in 1498, he entered a world of demilitarized trade that linked China to Africa. The Portuguese ships inaugurated an era of violence that is now taken up not only by the warships of the U.S. and India, but also by the large trawlers and toxic waste ships. The Indian Ocean needs a long-term solution. In 1971, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution, making the Indian Ocean a ‘Zone of Peace.’ That resolution was renewed in 2007, but vetoed by the U.S. and France.”

See: “Blowback in Somalia” by Jeremy Scahill.

Note to producers: The schoolhouse rock-style song and video “Pirates and Emperors” — based on the Noam Chomsky book by the same title — may make a good musical lead-in: http://www.piratesandemperors.com

Corporate Accountability: Is There an App for That?

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The New York Times has a piece today titled “In China, Human Costs Are Built Into an iPad.”

Corporate accountability is being discussed at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland, which features business, government and other elite officials. Protests have been held outside the meetings. Meanwhile, the World Social Forum, billed as a counter to the Davos meetings, is now happening in Brazil.

RADHIKA BALAKRISHNAN, rbalakra at rci.rutgers.edu
Executive director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and professor of women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University, Balakrishnan said today: “With something like an iPad, it’s not just creating the finished product — we need to look at the value added that is happening at each step in the supply chain. There are issues of secrecy in the supply chain, what each level is being given to make that part of the product. It’s possible that some of the suppliers who are being blamed simply cannot produce their components at the rate set by Apple without treating workers horribly.

“We basically have a system of self-monitoring by corporations. There used to be an agency at the UN that did monitoring — The United Nations Center on Transnational Corporations — but that was basically ended in the 1990s. The International Labor Organization is important but can’t hold companies accountable, only governments — and governments frequently plead that they are fundamentally at the mercy of corporations that would leave if they were made to pay and treat workers better.

“We need a global perspective in how to make corporations accountable, what kind of trading system we have and who benefits and who bears the costs.”

Balakrishnan is editor of The Hidden Assembly Line: Gender Dynamics of Subcontracted Work in a Global Economy and co-editor of the recent book Economic Policy and Human Rights: Holding Governments to Account.

Panetta’s Pentagon: “Austerity”?

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CARL CONETTA, cconetta at comw.org
CHARLES KNIGHT, cknight at comw.org
Conetta and Knight are co-directors of the Project on Defense Alternatives, which just released a chart titled “Panetta Releases DoD ‘Austerity’ Budget; Pentagon Retains Most of post-1998 Increase” showing the Pentagon base budget, particularly highlighting that Panetta’s proposal would keep the budget almost level, while sequestration, under the Budget Control Act, would mean a cut in the real budget, but still keep it above Cold War levels.

The group states: “The future-years Pentagon base budget plan released by Secretary Panetta foresees rolling spending back to the level of 2008, corrected for inflation. Spending on the non-war part of the budget during the next five years (2013-2017) will be about 4 percent lower than during the past five (2008-2012) in real terms. The real (that is, ‘inflation corrected’) change from 2012 will be a reduction of 3.2 percent.

“The chart below corrects for inflation by rendering all sums in 2012 dollars. It shows that base-budget spending had jumped 55 percent after inflation between 1998 and 2010. The new budget plan sets 2013 spending at $525 billion, which is 46 percent above the 1998 level.

“The new budget plan — represented by the green trend line — stands in stark contrast to the reductions mandated by the Budget Control Act under the provisions for sequestration (represented by the red trend line). Sequestration would roll Pentagon base-budget spending back to the level of 2004, which would still be 31 percent above the 1998 level (corrected for inflation). The new budget plan and sequestration do have one thing in common: both would keep Pentagon spending above the inflation-adjusted average for the Cold War years (represented by the horizontal dash line).”

See: “Panetta Releases DoD ‘Austerity’ Budget; Pentagon Retains Most of post-1998 Increase.”

Honduras: Murder Capital of World, “Made in the USA”

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DANA FRANK, danafrank at ucsc.edu
Currently in Washington, D.C. and available for a very limited number of interviews, Frank just wrote the New York Times oped “In Honduras, a Mess Made in the U.S.,” which states: “It’s time to acknowledge the foreign policy disaster that American support for the Porfirio Lobo administration in Honduras has become. Ever since the June 28, 2009, coup that deposed Honduras’s democratically elected president, José Manuel Zelaya, the country has been descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss. That abyss is in good part the State Department’s making.

“The headlines have been full of horror stories about Honduras. According to the United Nations, it now has the world’s highest murder rate, and San Pedro Sula, its second city, is more dangerous than Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a center for drug cartel violence.

“Much of the press in the United States has attributed this violence solely to drug trafficking and gangs. But the coup was what threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and it unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression.

“The current government of President Lobo won power in a November 2009 election managed by the same figures who had initiated the coup. Most opposition candidates withdrew in protest, and all major international observers boycotted the election, except for the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which are financed by the United States.

“President Obama quickly recognized Mr. Lobo’s victory, even when most of Latin America would not. Mr. Lobo’s government is, in fact, a child of the coup. It retains most of the military figures who perpetrated the coup, and no one has gone to jail for starting it.

“This chain of events — a coup that the United States didn’t stop, a fraudulent election that it accepted — has now allowed corruption to mushroom. The judicial system hardly functions. Impunity reigns. At least 34 members of the opposition have disappeared or been killed, and more than 300 people have been killed by state security forces since the coup, according to the leading human rights organization Cofadeh. At least 13 journalists have been killed since Mr. Lobo took office, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. …

“And yet, in early October, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Lobo at the White House for leadership in a “restoration of democratic practices.” Since the coup the United States has maintained and in some areas increased military and police financing for Honduras and has been enlarging its military bases there, according to an analysis by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Congress, though, has finally begun to push back. Last May, 87 members signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling for a suspension of military and police aid to Honduras.” Frank is a professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is at work on a book about the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s cold-war intervention in the Honduran labor movement.

ALEX MAIN, Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Main is senior associate for international policy with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which released “Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers on Honduras,” which states: “Both the New York Times and Washington Post’s fact-checks on the GOP presidential debate Thursday night missed the mark regarding former Senator Rick Santorum’s (R-PA) comments about Honduras.”

Senior associate for International Policy with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main said today: “The U.S. bears a large part of responsibility for the institutional breakdown and soaring murder rate in Honduras. The administration’s decision to unilaterally support flawed elections in Honduras and the pro-coup government of Porfirio Lobo further empowered the anti-democratic and criminal sectors that backed the June 2009 coup d’Etat that unseated the democratic government of Manuel Zelaya. Today, the U.S. continues to channel millions of dollars to Honduran security forces responsible for innumerable killings and human rights abuses despite calls from both the human rights community and many members of Congress to terminate this assistance. Tragically for Honduras, the Obama administration has chosen to shore up a corrupt and increasingly militarized regime in an attempt to forestall the rise of a progressive political movement that is sympathetic to the ‘pink tide’ governments of South America.”

See Washington Post: “Peace Corps withdraws from Honduras amid surging violence, claims of rights abuses.”

Congressional Insider Trading Ban Exempts Lobbyists

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The Washington Post reports today: “Congress’ low approval ratings have sparked a rare instance of bipartisanship, as both parties are rushing to pass a bill that would make it clear that insider trading laws apply to lawmakers. The Senate voted 93-2 Monday to clear the way for consideration of amendments and — sponsors hope — final passage later this week.”

LISA GILBERT, CRAIG HOLMAN, cholman at citizen.org also via Barbara Holzer, bholzer at citizen.org,
Public Citizen said in a statement today: “The ‘Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act’ (STOCK Act), would make members of Congress and their staffs subject to the same laws against insider trading that apply to the rest of America. The STOCK Act also creates an important system of real-time transparency of stock trading activity by members and staff.

“These steps alone make the legislation worthwhile. However, the measure being considered has been narrowed. It should include lobbyists and others.”

Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen, said: “There exists a shady cottage industry of lobbyists and trade dealers who are taking advantage of the fact that the insider trading law has not been applied to Congress. These political intelligence consultants roam the halls of Congress and tap into their networks for non-public information that they then use to enrich themselves or their clients in the stock market. Unfortunately, political intelligence consultants have been exempted from the Senate version of the STOCK Act.”

Public Citizen added in their statement: “The ‘political intelligence’ provision in the original bills does not prevent lobbyists and traders from keeping abreast of legislative trends on Capitol Hill. It merely requires that they disclose their clients and trading activity, so that the law against using non-public material information for illegal insider trading can be properly enforced. This provision needs to be reinstated.”

Gilbert, deputy director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, said today: “The American people will remain outraged at the prospect of congressional insider trading until members of Congress make clear that insider trading is illegal for themselves and everyone who conducts business with Congress. Some are suggesting that so-called ‘blind trusts’ for members of Congress would suffice. But those trusts often don’t work the way they should, and they can easily be managed by political intelligence consultants, enriching their congressional clients by trading on non-public material information.”

Read Public Citizen’s letter to the Senate supporting passage of a strong and effective STOCK Act.

Note: On Monday, Public Citizen “will host a discussion with Jack Abramoff, the disgraced former lobbyist who was convicted in 2006 on charges of fraud, corruption and conspiracy, most notably bilking millions of dollars from Native American tribes who hired him to help obtain gambling rights. Since his release from prison in 2010, Abramoff has been speaking out against his former occupation, now characterizing the lucrative lobbying industry as a euphemism for legalized bribery.” More information on the event.

Syria: Internal Repression, External Manipulation

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ELAINE HAGOPIAN, echagop at verizon.net
Hagopian is a Syrian-American sociologist, a professor emeritus of sociology at Simmons College in Boston and political interviewer for Arabic Hour TV. She said today: “The Syrian regime is brutal and was known to be brutal before the current uprising. But the Free Syrian Army endorsed by the Syrian National Council along with other opposition forces are also violent. The Syrian National Council is a group formed by overseas Syrians and supported by external forces. It is calling for international intervention, while the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change inside Syria rejects intervention. The tragedy of what is happening is that the original authentic opposition, which called for reform through peaceful demonstrations, is overrun by the violence.” Hagopian wrote the piece “Bashar Assad’s Missed Opportunity: Syria’s Pandoran Box.”

HAMID DABASHI, hd14 at columbia.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Dabashi holds a chair in comparative literature at Columbia University. His books include Post-Orientalism: Knowledge and Power in Time of Terror, Iran: A People Interrupted and The Green Movement and the USA: The Fox and the Paradox. His book on the Arab uprisings is forthcoming.

In a new interview with The Real News, he states: “You’re dealing, on one hand, with grassroots revolutionary uprisings, and on the other, with the fact that the United States, the European Union, and their regional allies (which include some Arab countries, such as United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia, etc.) want to micromanage these revolutionary uprisings in a manner that suits their benefit. And then, like in Libya … people are confronted with this dilemma, what to do when you have severe crackdown, militant violent crackdown, on the part of Gaddafi or on the part of Bashar Assad. These forces, such as Saudi Arabia or United States, European Union, appear as an angel of mercy to help the people, whereas the fact of the matter is that they are after their own economic interest.”

Dabashi also states that the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League are “really manipulated and controlled primarily by Saudi Arabia” and that in the Security Council, Russia and China are likely withholding support for assurances of their own economic benefit in a post-Assad Syria.

See Dabashi’s interviews with The Real News including the recent “The U.S./Saudi Agenda and the Syrian Rebellion” and “A Short History of Modern Syria.”

Nobel Peace Prize Jury Under Investigation

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AP is reporting this afternoon in “Nobel Peace Prize Jury Under Investigation” that: “Stockholm’s County Administrative Board — the authority that supervises foundations and trusts in the city — has formally asked the Nobel Foundation to respond to allegations that the peace prize no longer reflects the will of Nobel, a Swedish industrialist who died in 1896.

“The move comes after persistent complaints by Norwegian peace researcher Fredrik Heffermehl, who claims the original purpose of the prize was to diminish the role of military power in international relations.

“‘Nobel called it a prize for the champions of peace,’ Heffermehl told The Associated Press on Wednesday. ‘And it’s indisputable that he had in mind the peace movement, the movement which is actively pursuing a new global order … where nations safely can drop national armaments.’

“Since World War II, especially, the prize committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, has widened the scope of the prize to include environmental, humanitarian and other efforts.

“For example, in 2007 the prize went to climate campaigner Al Gore and the U.N.’s panel on climate change, and in 2009 the committee cited President Barack Obama for ‘extraordinary efforts’ to boost international diplomacy.

“‘Do you see Obama as a promoter of abolishing the military as a tool of international affairs?'” Heffermehl asked rhetorically.

Also see from Reuters: “Sweden Questions Nobel Peace Prize Selection Basis.”

FREDRIK HEFFERMEHL, fredpax at online.no
Author of the books Nobel’s Will and The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted, Heffermehl, a Norwegian lawyer and author, argues that the Nobel committee has violated the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will, which established the prize. He states that for decades, the parties in the Norwegian parliament have misused the Nobel committee seats to reward party veterans lacking insight in the peace ideas that Nobel wished to support. Heffermehl writes that over half of the awards since 1946 have not conformed with the intention of Nobel, who wished to change the international system in order to end wars and armaments.

Heffermehl said today: “The Swedish inquiry responds to a complaint against mismanagement that I lodged last month. The Nobel Foundation has been asked to comment in particular on the secret private diaries of former committee chair Gunnar Jahn which indicate that no attention is paid to the directives in Nobel´s will. These diaries, [which were published for the first time by Heffermehl] show that Jahn repeatedly protested in vain against awards that ignored the intentions of Nobel. The diaries clearly demonstrate that the Norwegian awarding Committee already 50 years ago ceased to pay any regard to Nobel and what he wanted.

“The Norwegian Parliament had already then taken over the Nobel award and started using it as their own. I have now struggled for four years to have the committee respect the rights of the intended recipients, but I’ve found that in Norway there is no interest in Alfred Nobel and what he wanted.

“The Swedish inquiry also encourages the Board of the Nobel Foundation to comment on an article by a member of the Nobel family, Michael Nobel, who in an article last month in Aftenposten said that Norway may be deprived of control over the prize if the mismanagement continues.”

Afghanistan: Drawdown Is Not Withdrawal

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ROBERT NAIMAN, naiman at justforeignpolicy.org
Policy director of Just Foreign Policy, Naiman said today: “Panetta’s statement is a welcome admission that there is nothing to be gained by further extending the war. This admission is consistent with the accelerated drawdown of forces that the majority of Americans want. But it is important for the public to know that there is still no schedule for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan, and much of the media is still falsely reporting that there is such a schedule, such as the New York Times article that reported on Panetta’s statement.”

The New York Times wrote in its report on Panetta’s statement: “In a major milestone toward ending a decade of war in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Wednesday that American forces would step back from a combat role there as early as mid-2013, more than a year before all American troops are scheduled to come home. … The United States has some 90,000 troops in Afghanistan, but 22,000 of them are due home by this fall. There has been no schedule set for the pace of the withdrawal of the 68,000 American troops who will remain, only that all are to be out by the end of 2014.”

Naiman noted: “There is currently no year by which all American troops are scheduled to come home. Indeed, the first text above has a web link that points to this article: ‘Obama Will Speed Pullout From War in Afghanistan’

“The only reference to 2014 in that article is this paragraph: ‘Mr. Obama announced plans to withdraw 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. The remaining 20,000 troops from the 2009 “surge” of forces would leave by next summer, amounting to about a third of the 100,000 troops now in the country. He said the drawdown would continue “at a steady pace” until the United States handed over security to the Afghan authorities in 2014.’

“Note that there is nothing here about withdrawing all U.S. troops by 2014, only about ‘handing over security.’ …

“The notion that 2014 is a deadline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces stems from a NATO summit in which these words were never said; U.S. and NATO officials have said repeatedly that there is no such deadline.

“Indeed, the lack of existence of a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces is a major cause of the continuation of the war, since in the past the Afghan Taliban have demanded that the U.S. agree to a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces as a condition of peace, a demand that the U.S. has so far refused.”

NYPD: Targeting Muslims, More Revelations of Wrongdoing

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This afternoon the AP revealed: “The New York Police Department recommended increasing surveillance of thousands of Shiite Muslims and their mosques, based solely on their religion, as a way to sweep the Northeast for signs of Iranian terrorists, according to interviews and a newly obtained secret police document. …

“The secret document stands in contrast to statements by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said the NYPD never considers religion in its policing. [Police Commissioner Raymond] Kelly has said police go only where investigative leads take them, but the document described no leads to justify expanded surveillance at Shiite mosques.”

MOHAMMAD ALI NAQUVI, alinaquvi at yahoo.com
Naquvi is a lawyer and community activist who helped draft a statement signed by over 40 groups including the Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Arab Muslim American Federation. The statement reads in part: “Through excessive stop and frisk practices, overzealous surveillance measures, and a complete lack of transparency, the NYPD has blatantly violated civil rights and destroyed the trust necessary for effective policing. Such acts of surveillance undermine trust between the Muslim community and the NYPD. These measures are merely the latest in the well-documented history of NYPD’s targeting of communities of color through discriminatory policing practices. … The NYPD should be focused on tracking down actual threats, not targeting innocent Americans for invasive investigations and surveillance.”

SHAHID BUTTAR, media at bordc.org,
Buttar is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He said today: “The NYPD is one of the world’s largest paramilitary organizations, and potentially the single largest lacking any civilian oversight. The Department has established a sordid history of violating the rights of New Yorkers from all walks of life, and sunlight to correct its ongoing abuses is long overdue.”

Buttar adds: “The NYPD’s assault on civil rights has been broad-based, impacting not only Muslims and other residents perceived to be Muslim, but also Latinos and African-Americans targeted by NYPD stop and frisks, for instance, at a rate nine times that of other New Yorkers. Accordingly, civilian oversight of the NYPD could address each of the seemingly separate civil rights issues impacting these various communities.”

“Occupy Super Bowl”

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ROBERT LIPSYTE, rolipsyte at aol.com
“Jock Culture” correspondent for Tomdispatch.com, Lipsyte is author of several books on sports; most recently An Accidental Sportswriter. He just wrote: “Four Reasons to Watch the Super Bowl: Joe Hill, Joe Pa, Tebow, Wee Brains,” which states: “Where else will be you be able to watch more than 100 young men, most of them African-American, working for high wages in a totally unionized shop? … Even with a progressive attitude, watching the Super Bowl, which seems to float on rivers of oil — think car ads — and beer, is not exactly like holding a OWS-style general assembly in the red zone. Nevertheless, it’s a terrific visual of the American class divide. In their skyboxes, usually in jacket and tie, eating, drinking, and high-fiving — or scowling — are the one-percenters who own the team, which is usually not their only source of income.

“Below them, on the field, are their employees (many of them temporary one-percenters, given the median league salary of at least $560,000), using up the capital of their bodies. If you want to root for the Patriots or the Giants, fine. I’ll be rooting for the working class.”

TITHI BHATTACHARYA, tbhattac at gmail.com
AP reports that Indiana “Gov. Mitch Daniels on Wednesday signed a bill passed by the Legislature that makes Indiana the 23rd state to ban labor contracts that require workers to pay union representation fees.” AP also notes that “Protesters upset … showed up with signs during NBC’s ‘Today’ show broadcast from downtown Indianapolis’ Super Bowl village.”

Tithi Bhattacharya is an associate professor at Purdue University and is active with Occupy Purdue. She said today: “Occupy Purdue in co-ordination with several union members and Occupy Bloomington is calling for a demonstration at noon on Sunday at the South Lawn of the state legislature. We stand in solidarity with the union members who came pouring into the statehouse all through last week to protest this union-busting legislation. We stand in solidarity with the NFL Players Union who have come out so strongly against this bill. We want the corporate-backed politicians and the 1% to know that they cannot showcase our state at the Super Bowl while attacking ordinary people and their livelihoods. Lucas Oil Stadium was built with 100% union labor, and as we protest in its shadow we want to honor and fight for that tradition of collective work, and collective power.” Bhattacharya appeared this morning on the program “Democracy Now!

Komen: Boobs’ Best Friend?

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LUCINDA MARSHALL, lucindamarshall at feministpeacenetwork.org
Marshall is director of the Feminist Peace Network and just wrote the piece “Curing The Pink Stink,” which states: “After several days of unrelenting fury (much of it from long-time loyal supporters) that has severely damaged their credibility as our boobs’ best friend, Komen for the Cure has reconsidered its decision regarding funding Planned Parenthood (albeit with a statement that definitely leaves significant wiggle room). In the wake of what may well be the worst case of accidental re-branding ever by the organization that pinkified the world and took cause branding to epic proportions, we need to take a hard look at Komen’s very unhealthy advocacy and re-examine what if any role they should play in supporting women’s health. …

“Over the years, Komen has accepted massive support from corporations that make all manner of products that have been linked to cancer and hawked all manner of pink stuff with cancer-related ingredients. They have hammered about the need to be aware and get annual mammograms even while study after study has questioned this recommendation (and oh yeah, they have accepted contributions from the companies that make mammography equipment).”

See also: “Komen Statement on Planned Parenthood is a PR Move, Not A Policy Reversal

AP reports today: “The Susan G. Komen Foundation is teaming up with Seattle gun distributor Discount Gun Sales, LLC, to sell a pink handgun to help raise money for the breast cancer organization.”

Police Clear Occupy D.C. Encampment Near White House

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PETE TUCKER, pete10506 at yahoo.com
Tucker reports at TheFightBack.org, a website which covers Washington, D.C. He said today: “There have been around a half dozen arrests today. A small army of U.S. Park Police came into McPherson Square, near the White House, with horses, trucks and humvees. They set up barriers around and throughout the park, took away people’s tents. At least one reporter was assaulted by police.

“All this comes in the context of Rep. Darrell Issa pushing the Park Service to clamp down on D.C.’s two occupations. Issa, who’s the wealthiest member of congress, has a checkered history, as noted in a New Yorker article last year.

“Since McPherson Square is federal land (as is Freedom Plaza, D.C.’s other, now only, occupation), it was U.S. Park Police which made the arrests and used force today, not Metropolitan Police Department. MPD, for the most part, stayed arm’s length away from today’s skirmishes, and continued to demonstrate a more tolerant approach in dealing with Occupy.”

See: “Don’t Look Back: Darrell Issa, the congressman about to make life more difficult for President Obama, has had some troubles of his own

JASON McGAUGHEY, journeymanj1 at gmail.com
McGaughey said today: “I’ve been living at McPherson Square since Jan. 9. I consider the Occupy movement the resurrection of Resurrection City — Martin Luther King in the last year of his life focused on the Poor People’s Campaign, what King called the next stage of the civil rights movement. After King’s assassination, the Poor People’s Campaign encamped in D.C., setting up Resurrection City, which was shut down by the government and pushed out of the history books. I spent over four years supporting adults with developmental disabilities in Illinois and every year the budget would get cut and I’d have to explain as best I could to them why that was happening. Finally I couldn’t do that anymore. I got active with Occupy Wall Street in New York from the start and then came to Washington. We have to radically change how our society works so that it’s not primarily set up to benefit a few rich individuals.”

A Dangerous Game on Iran

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GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com
Porter is an investigative journalist and historian specializing in U.S. national security policy. He just wrote the piece: “A Dangerous Game on Iran“, which states: “When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius this week that he believes Israel was likely to attack Iran between April and June, it was ostensibly yet another expression of alarm at the Israeli government’s threats of military action.

“But even though the administration is undoubtedly concerned about that Israeli threat, the Panetta leak had a different objective. The White House was taking advantage of the current crisis atmosphere over that Israeli threat and even seeking to make it more urgent in order to put pressure on Iran to make diplomatic concessions to the United States and its allies on its nuclear program in the coming months.

“The real aim of the leak brings into sharper focus a contradiction in the Barack Obama administration’s Iran policy between its effort to reduce the likelihood of being drawn into a war with Iran and its desire to exploit the Israeli threat of war to gain diplomatic leverage on Iran.”

Syrian Repression, The Chinese-Russian Veto and U.S. Hypocrisy

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STEPHEN ZUNES, zunes at usfca.edu
Zunes is professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and a contributor to Foreign Policy in Focus. He just wrote the piece “Syrian Repression, The Chinese-Russian Veto and U.S. Hypocrisy,” which states: “As unarmed civilians continue to be slaughtered by the Syrian regime, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council continue to put their narrow geo-political agenda ahead of international humanitarian law. Just as France continues to shield Morocco from accountability for its ongoing occupation and repression in Western Sahara and the United States shields Israel from having to live up to its obligations under international humanitarian law, Russia and China have used their permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council to protect the Syrian regime from accountability for its savage repression against its own citizens. …

“Since 1970, China has used its veto power eight times, Russia (and the former Soviet Union) has used its veto power thirteen times, and the United States has used its veto power 83 times, primarily in defense of allies accused of violating international humanitarian law. Forty-two of these U.S. vetoes were to protect Israel from criticism for illegal activities, including suspected war crimes. … Yet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insists that it is the Russians and Chinese who have ‘neutered’ the Security Council in its ability to defend basic human rights.

“U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice expressed the feelings of many human rights advocates around the world in saying that she was ‘disgusted’ by the Russian-Chinese veto. Ironically, Rice herself disgusted many human rights advocates around the world last year when she vetoed an otherwise-unanimous UN Security Council resolution which simply reiterated a longstanding principle of international humanitarian law — codified in the Fourth Geneva Convention, four previous UNSC resolutions, and a landmark World Court decision — that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal and there should be a freeze on further construction.

“By contrast, the call in Saturday’s resolution for an internationally-recognized government to effectively hand over power to the opposition — while justifiable in light of the extraordinary repression — is a virtually unprecedented move by the UN Security Council. While territories under foreign military occupation, like those occupied by Israel, are clearly under the purview of the United Nations, the willingness of the UN to challenge human rights abuses within a country’s internationally-recognized borders is relatively new.

“Obama’s veto last year, then, was on far weaker ground legally than last weekend’s veto by China and Russia. So were most of the other UN Security Council resolutions vetoed by previous U.S. administrations. …

“Another factor which may have helped prompt the Russian and Chinese veto was their willingness to allow passage last year of UNSC 1973 on Libya, which called for the establishment of a no-fly zone and other defensive measures to protect the civilian population from attacks by Gadhafi’s forces. Unfortunately, NATO went well beyond its UNSC mandate to protect civilian lives and effectively became the air force for the rebels — and even ended up being responsible for scores of civilian casualties themselves. …

“In a further irony, the primary sponsor of last weekend’s resolution on Syria was the government of  Morocco, a non-permanent member of UN Security Council, which is currently in violation of a series of UN Security Council resolutions regarding their illegal occupation of Western Sahara. …

“The Syria Accountability Act demanded that the UN remove Syria from its non-permanent seat in the Security Council because of its violation of UNSC resolution 520. No such demand has been made by the United States regarding Morocco’s seat on the Security Council, however, despite its far more numerous and egregious violations of UNSC resolutions.”

Background: “The Military Staff Committee: A Possible Future Role in UN Peace Operations?

Patrick Seale, author of Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East was on Democracy Now this morning — he also just wrote “The Syrian Crisis and the New Cold War.”

Santorum: “Holy Owned Subsidiary”

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THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute. He said today: “Now it’s Missouri, Colorado, and Minnesota in the holy trinity. Rick Santorum’s victories there last night are a warning that Mitt Romney’s leveraged buyout of the Republican Party is still in deep trouble. When he faces just one major conservative challenger, Romney loses; nowhere has the ‘Massachusetts Moderate’ managed to claim the allegiance of more than half of the tiny electorates that show up for GOP primaries or caucuses. Probably his Super PAC can bring him through Super Tuesday, but conservatives who know the story of the Golden Calf are unlikely to quit. For a generation the party establishment encouraged religious conservatives to flock to its standard. Now that is coming apart, as the GOP establishment reaps what it has sown.” Ferguson recently wrote the piece “The Devil and Rick Santorum: Dilemmas of a Holy Owned Subsidiary.”

FREDERICK CLARKSON, frederick.clarkson at gmail.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Clarkson is author of the book “Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy” and editor of the “Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America.” He is founder of the interactive group blog “Talk to Action.” He said today: “The question of separation of church and state has been a defining issue for Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. But both are now engaged in a dangerous demagoguing of their policy differences with the Obama administration by declaring that he is engaging in a war on religion.

“Both gave speeches early in their quests for president that anticipates the current attacks. The both traveled to Texas to echo and answer John F. Kennedy’s famous 1960 campaign speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association that has been the model for how pols balance religion and public life for a generation. Both embraced the rhetoric of the religious right.

“Rick Santorum has made denunciation of Kennedy’s statement ‘I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute’ — a centerpiece of his campaign.

“When Santorum came to the Boston area last year, he denounced Kennedy before a Catholic audience. He blamed Kennedy for the alleged secularization of public life, calling Kennedy’s statement “radical” and that it has done ‘great damage.’

“Romney as a Mormon faced a similar obstacle to his candidacy that Kennedy faced in 1960. In his Texas speech in 2007 he sought to turn secularism into a bogeyman: ‘In recent years,’ he declared, ‘the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. … It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America — the religion of secularism.'” Clarkson recently wrote “A Tale of Three Speeches About Separation of Church and State.”

Bishops: “Obsessed with What’s Below the Waist”

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COLMAN McCARTHY, cmccarthy at starpower.net
A former Washington Post columnist, McCarthy is founder and director of the Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C., and the author of the book “I’d Rather Teach Peace.” He said today: “On public policy issues, the Catholic hierarchy tends to be obsessed with what’s below the waist, not above. Bishops and archbishops are opposed to federal funding for artificial contraception and abortion. They see abortion as a form of violence. I agree with that, but it’s regrettable that church leaders are selective in what kinds of violence they oppose. They support military violence. Modern popes routinely condemn war, yet none has ever forbidden Catholics to join the military to wage the condemned wars. No pope has ever forbidden Catholics to pay taxes that go to waging the condemned wars. In the U.S., Catholic colleges host ROTC programs. Catholic priests serve as military chaplains. Catholicism is not a pacifist religion, as are the Quakers, Mennonites, Church of the Brethren and Bruderhoffs. Church leaders uphold the ‘Just War’ doctrine. Is there a similar ‘Just Abortion’ doctrine? If even a portion of the massive energy that the leaders were expending on opposing abortion all these recent years had been directed at stopping priests from abusing children, a lot of misery would have been avoided. And tens of millions of dollars saved in payments to the victims.”

FRANCES KISSLING, fkissling at gmail.com
A visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, Kissling said today: “In characterizing the Obama administration’s decision to limit the religious exemption from providing health insurance for contraception to those religious entities that have as their primary purpose serving the public good as an attack on religious freedom, the bishops have opened the door to a totally appropriate and critical discussion of how poorly constructed the mechanisms for state determination of a legitimate claim for an exemption from the public health and other public policies are.

“Unfortunately, that conversation is not occurring. Usually sensible columnists like E.J. Dionne simply repeat the bishops’ claim that their religious liberty is being violated and worry that anti-abortion Catholics who supported Obama will feel betrayed. But the question of what counts as a legitimate request for an exemption from law or regulation goes unanswered. To successfully and seriously adjudicate these question, good faith is needed on all sides. In this case both the bishops and the universities and hospitals requesting the exemption are acting in bad faith. There is nothing in Catholic teaching that forbids insuring for contraception. In fact, many bishops have explicitly told Catholics in their dioceses that the use of contraception is a matter of personal conscience. Moreover, a number of Catholic colleges and hospitals voluntarily provide insurance coverage for contraception. The claim that they would have to close is false. Thus, it is these institutions that have created a crisis in church/state relations, by asking for an exemption they do not need and insisting that whatever they ask for or claim is needed by the religion be granted without review or evaluation. In abusing the claim of religious freedom, they force the state — the Obama administration — to do precisely what it does not wish to do — get involved in what is a genuine religious teaching. Obama chose a wise middle course: do not second guess the church itself; but in institutions that serve the public good — health, education and welfare — require adherence to mandates in the public interest.

“If, in the face of the misuse of conscientious objection, we were to grant religions an absolute and unexamined right to bow out of public policies others must follow, which is what they want, what will be next? Will they refuse to provide insurance for pregnancy and child birth costs for unmarried or divorced and remarried women or for condoms to prevent AIDS (which they often do)? No right is absolute. A request to be exempt from public policy is rightfully subject to state review — whether it is conscientious objection to participating in war or not meeting the insurance needs of women.” Kissling is past president of Catholics for Choice.

Note: At the end of a Democracy Now interview yesterday, Michael Dougherty of the American Conservative, when debating a representative of Catholics for Choice, stated: “And most of the people who want to enforce this rule would prefer a single-payer system of healthcare anyway, where you’re not actually forcing employers to violate their conscience in buying this.” When asked: “So you’re saying a single-payer system would solve the problem.” Dougherty responded: “Well, I’m saying it would solve this particular problem of conscience, as it has in Europe. The bishops don’t — they do not like that the government subsidizes abortion or contraception, but they are not in full mode of fury, because they are not being asked to formally cooperate with things they view as sinful. And the Church will not cooperate with this and will resort to civil disobedience to avoid it.”

The Guardian in “Rick Santorum thinks pregnancy through rape is God’s gift? Seriously?” notes that Santorum stated about a pregnancy caused by rape: “I believe and I think that the right approach is to accept this horribly created, in the sense of rape, but nevertheless, in a very broken way, a gift of human life, and accept what God is giving to you.”

iEmpire: Apple’s Labor in China Even Worse than NYT Reports?

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ARUN GUPTA, ebrowniess at yahoo.com
Gupta just wrote the piece “iEmpire: Apple’s Sordid Business Practices Are Even Worse Than You Think,” which states: “Behind the sleek face of the iPad is an ugly backstory that has revealed once more the horrors of globalization. The buzz about Apple’s sordid business practices is courtesy of the New York Times series on the iEconomy. In some ways it’s well reported but adds little new to what critics of the Taiwan-based Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, have been saying for years. The series’ biggest impact may be discomfiting Apple fanatics who as they read the articles realize that the iPad they are holding is assembled from child labor, toxic shop floors, involuntary overtime, suicidal working conditions, and preventable accidents that kill and maim workers.

“It turns out the story is much worse. Researchers with the Hong Kong-based Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) that legions of vocational and university students, some as young as 16, are forced to take months’-long ‘internships’ in Foxconn’s mainland China factories assembling Apple products. The details of the internship program paint a far more disturbing picture than the Times does of how Foxconn, ‘the Chinese hell factory,’ treats its workers, relying on public humiliation, military discipline, forced labor and physical abuse as management tools to hold down costs and extract maximum profits for Apple.

“To supply enough employees for Foxconn, the 60th largest corporation globally, government officials are serving as lead recruiters at the cost of pushing teenage students into harsh work environments. The scale is astonishing with the Henan provincial government having announced in both 2010 and 2011 that it would send 100,000 vocational and university students to work at Foxconn, according to SACOM.

Gupta is a founding editor of the New York City based Indypendent and also helped found the Occupied Wall Street Journal.

Maldives Coup Ousts Leader Against Global Warming

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The Wall Street Journal reports today in “Protests Rock Maldives After Coup” about the group of islands in the Indian Ocean that “Police and supporters of deposed Maldives’ President Mohamed Nasheed clashed Wednesday, severely injuring at least two people who were protesting Mr. Nasheed’s removal from power a day earlier in a coup involving military and police.”

Today, “Democracy Now!” reported: “For years, Mohamed Nasheed was the most vocal world leader on the threat climate change poses to residents of small island states. After becoming the first democratically elected president in Maldives, he pledged to make the nation the first carbon neutral country and once held a cabinet meeting underwater. … The State Department here in the United States has defended the ousting of President Nasheed and has confirmed the new leadership has been in contact with the Obama administration.”

Earlier this week, President Mohammed Nasheed had an op-ed in the New York Times: “Dictatorships don’t always die when the dictator leaves office. The wave of revolutions that toppled autocrats in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen last year was certainly cause for hope. But the people of those countries should be aware that, long after the revolutions, powerful networks of regime loyalists can remain behind and can attempt to strangle their nascent democracies.

“I learned this lesson quickly. My country, the Maldives, voted out President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, its iron-fisted ruler, back in 2008, in historic elections that swept away three decades of his authoritarian rule. And yet the dictatorship bequeathed to the infant democracy a looted treasury, a ballooning budget deficit and a rotten judiciary.”

JON SHENK, jon at actualfilms.net
Shenk is filmmaker of the new documentary about just-ousted Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed titled “The Island President.” The documentary focuses on Nasheed being the first democratically elected president of the Maldives and his warnings about global climate disruption, which the island nation is very vulnerable to. Shenk appeared today on “Democracy Now!” along with a representative of the deposed president.

T. KUMAR, tkumar at aiusa.org
Kumar is director of international advocacy for Amnesty International USA, which released a statement: “Maldives security forces must stop using violence against supporters of Mohamed Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, a day after he was forced to resign the presidency under the threat of violence by the military and police. … Eyewitnesses told Amnesty International that Nasheed and a large number of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) members were marching peacefully through the streets of the capital Malé when police attacked them first and then failed to protect them from a violent counter-demonstration.

“Some of the MDP demonstrators were cordoned off by the police in a narrow alley where a mob shouting anti-MDP slogans began to beat them. One eyewitness saw Nasheed’s face covered in blood. He was then seen to be rushed away. Later a video emerged on the internet showing the police arresting him. Police also beat some 40 demonstrators with batons. Some sustained serious injuries. There are reports that at least one demonstrator may have died as a result of the beating.”

The environmental group 350.org has set up an online petition: “We are deeply concerned about the recent coup that forced Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed from office. President Nasheed was the first democratically elected leader of his country and a global voice for action to address the climate crisis. He needs your support to ensure his safety.”

Several videos are at the New York Times blog.

Obama Contraception Compromise: Barrier to Access, Fostering Unequal Attitudes

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STEPHANIE SEGUINO, sseguino at uvm.edu
Seguino is professor of economics at the University of Vermont. She recently wrote “Help or Hindrance? Religion’s Impact on Gender Inequality in Attitudes and Outcomes.”

She said today: “In response to Obama’s compromise, I agree with the president that ‘Women deserve to have this preventative health care.’ It is not clear, however, that employees of Catholic organizations that do not provide contraceptive coverage will have ‘the same access and the same affordability.’ The information and time required to access contraceptive care for such employees may well impose a barrier to access.

“The more important issue in my view is that this enables a greater role for religious organizations to play in public policy and access to resources for women. In so doing, we are undermining progress toward gender equality. My research and that of others shows that religiosity contributes to gender-unequal attitudes. Perhaps more surprising is the research that shows that those gender unequal attitudes influence public policy and women’s well-being. A study I recently published shows that the more religious a country, the greater the degree of gender inequality. Women experience greater inequality, as a result, in access to jobs, in education, in maternal mortality, and in the share of professional and technical jobs. It is not hard to see how reducing women’s access to contraception, as this compromise does, can worsen gender inequality in the U.S. — already higher than in many industrialized countries. Studies show that women’s access to contraception improves their health by reducing pregnancy-related deaths. It also has been linked to a reduction in abortions. It has been found to improve women’s abilities to get more education and to generate income for their families.

“Sexual and reproductive health increases with access to contraception. These are major components of the efforts to promote gender equality.

“That religious organizations can therefore extend their own values on women’s appropriate roles into the public policy world with real, palpable negative effects for women suggests a real conflict. The debate about this should be on those terms. Religious ‘freedom’ for some can contribute to economic deprivation for large numbers of women — particularly those who are poor and those who are young.”

Regarding Obama’s claim that there would not be a barrier to access under his proposal, Seguino added: “By making it harder for women who work for Catholic organizations to access contraceptive insurance (researching to find the name of the insurer, taking the time to make the arrangement), access is constrained. This may seem trivial to some, but for women juggling many household responsibilities and stresses, this is a significant impediment. For young women not knowledgeable about insurance practices, this is even more of a barrier. Moreover, we do not know what the impact will be on the work climate, on social norms about using contraception, and whether women in these workplaces will feel pressured to not avail themselves of insurance for fear of the impact on their job. These are unknowns, but it is safe to say that access is made more difficult than if contraceptive care were part of the insurance package Catholic organizations provide.”

“Witness Bahrain” Launched One Year After Start of Uprising

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AP is reporting: “Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in Bahrain are streaming toward a site they seek to occupy for the one-year anniversary of their uprising in the Gulf kingdom.”

The Bahrani regime has been denying visas to media and human rights workers ahead of the anniversary of the start of the uprising.

NABEEL RAJAB,[currently in Bahrain, eight hours ahead of ET] nabeel.rajab at gmail.com
HUWAIDA ARRAF, [also in Bahrain] huwaida.arraf at gmail.com
Rajab is president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Arraf, a U.S. citizen, is with Witness Bahrain, a new initiative that released the following statement: “‘Witness Bahrain‘ is a group of international observers, primarily from the United States, who have responded to the call of Bahraini human rights activists to witness their revolution, stand with them at protests, in hospitals and in villages, and to tell the world what they see. The government of Bahrain has denied entry to a number of prominent journalists and human rights workers in the lead-up to the one-year anniversary of the massive and ongoing pro-democracy movement.

“People here fear that the government of Bahrain’s attempt to keep out foreign observers signals an impending escalation of violence. As such, our presence here is all the more crucial. In the coming days and weeks, Witness Bahrain will stand with people taking to the streets to demand democracy, equality and respect for human rights. Witness Bahrain will also maintain a presence in villages active in pro-democracy protests which are being subjected to night raids, tear-gassing and other attacks by the police. We call on the Bahraini government to refrain from attacking peaceful protesters; however, should the government choose to continue using violence, we will be present to witness.”

HUSAIN ABDULLA, mohajer12 at comcast.net
Abdulla is director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. He is has been involved in the initiative as well.

Update: U.S. Citizens Arrested in Bahrain during Peaceful Protest: Huwaida Arraf & Radhika Sainath in Police Custody

Greece: Government vs People?

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COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, [in NYC] cpanayotakis at gmail.com
Panayotakis is associate professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology at CUNY and author of “Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy.” He said today: “A Greek parliament that, according to all the polls, no longer represents the views of Greek citizens has passed a new austerity package that, like the previous austerity packages dictated by the European Union and the IMF, will not only lead to the collapse of people’s living standards but also prove ineffective by adding to the Greek economy’s severe depression. The reliance, by the government of the unelected former banker, Lucas Papademos, on intense police repression did not prevent very large protests from taking place both in Athens and around Greece. Though marred by fires that burned many buildings in downtown Athens, these protests have intensified the pressure on the Greek political class, leading to over 40 deputies from the socialist and conservative parties supporting the government to vote against the new austerity package. Adding to a third party’s withdrawal of support for the government and the resignation of six cabinet members over the last few days, this latest development shows that, as the Greek economic and social crises intensify, the Greek political system is now hanging by a thread.”

See Panayotakis’ pieces: “The Eurozone Fiasco

Debunking the Greek (and European) Crisis Narrative

What is Bahrain Trying to Hide?

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HUWAIDA ARRAF, huwaida.arraf at gmail.com
RADHIKA SAINATH, radhika.sainath at gmail.com
Arraf and Sainath are lawyers and human rights activists who, as part of the Witness Bahrain initiative, spent a week in Bahrain before being deported over the weekend. The two of them are now in New York City and were on “Democracy Now!” this morning “U.S.-Backed Bahraini Forces Arrest and Deport Two American Peace Activists Acting as Human Rights Observers.”

The group Witness Bahrain just posted a petition on its website: “The Obama administration is currently moving forward with a new set of arms sales to Bahrain despite the well-documented, egregious human rights violations perpetrated by the government against pro-democracy protesters over the past year. Since the start of Bahrain’s ongoing revolution on February 14, 2011, U.S.-manufactured and supplied weapons, including teargas, Humvees and Apache helicopters have been used by the Bahraini government to violently attack civilians. It is time to stop supplying Bahrain with the tools to kill and repress its people.

“Despite congressional opposition to a $53 million dollar arms sale to Bahrain, the Obama Administration is pushing through the sale using a legal loophole that would allow him to avoid notifying Congress and the public by breaking up the sales into small packages of under $1 million each. …”

NABEEL RAJAB, nabeel.rajab at gmail.com
Rajab is president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and is regularly tweeting.

ROBERT NAIMAN, naiman at justforeignpolicy.org
Naiman is policy director at Just Foreign Policy and just wrote the piece “What I Learned at the Airport in Bahrain,” which states: “When I came to Bahrain, it certainly wasn’t with the intention of spending my whole time in the country in the airport. I wanted to see what was going on in the country, not to see what was going on in the airport. But the Bahrain authorities would not let me enter the country. At this writing, it’s 5 p.m. local time. My flight got in at 2:15 a.m. I have been informed that the Director of Immigration has decided that I shall not have a visa to enter Bahrain…”

Next for Occupy: Global Protests? Nine Years After February 15, 2003

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AMIR AMIRANI, a.amirani at gmail.com
Amirani is producer-director of the forthcoming documentary “We Are Many” about the February 15, 2003 global protests by millions against the impending invasion of Iraq. He said today: “In December, Time Magazine named its Person of the Year, ‘The Protestor,’ in a tribute to the Arab uprisings and the subsequent Occupy movement that swept across the U.S. and the world, writing: ‘In 2011, protesters didn’t just voice their complaints; they changed the world.’ Not only Time Magazine, but also many others now suggest that we are living in an ‘Age of Protest.’

“But if you wanted to know anything about the true origins of the momentous events of 2011, the article gave no clues — it suggested that the roots lay in 2011 alone, such as the Tunisian fruit seller, Mohamed Bouazizi, who set himself on fire in a public square, backed by social media. Indeed, in setting the context for the return of protest, it claimed that protest had been dead for at least 20 years, if not since the Vietnam War and the civil rights era.

“This is to ignore the biggest demonstration in human history, which took place on February 15, 2003. ‘We Are Many’ is the untold story of that day, and argues that this was the birth of a new kind of social movement — global, coordinated, nonsectarian, tech savvy and the most diverse in history. It was an event that took place on all seven continents, in around 800 cities, and involved up to 15 million people, some say higher. It has huge global relevance today, for citizens everywhere concerned with issues of peace, non-violence, the Middle East and civil society, not to mention globalization and the economic crisis.

“The sheer size and the utterly international character of the protest on February 15, 2003, mark it as a new phenomenon in human history. … The story of the events that led up to the day, and the day itself, and its legacy, is as dramatic and surprising as any thriller. It is a story that unfolds over a unique decade that has seen changes in our world taking place on a scale and speed never seen before.

“And yet, almost no light has been shed on these titanic shifts in global politics. And just as governments largely dismiss social movements, so the voices of their leaders and the people go unheard. Until now, nobody has done the considerable journalistic spadework needed to piece together the how, what, why, who, and where of the day.

“This film will reveal the many surprising and powerful legacies of the protest, a day seen by many as the ‘Genesis Story’ of our current era. It is a powerful chronicle of the intense struggles that attended the birth of this new movement, the latest fruits of which can be seen today in the remarkable unfolding events of the Arab uprisings. Some of the people we are in contact with in Cairo referenced February 15 and the global tide of anti-war protests at that time as an inspiration, which sowed the seeds for the movements in Egypt. Many are wondering what’s next for the Occupy movement. February 15 might give the answer: Coordinated global protests might point the way forward for communities all around the world seeking social justice to reclaim their lives and fight for a better world in which they have a true stake.”

Obama’s 2013 Budget: Beyond the Partisanship

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2013 Obama Budget - Graphic courtesy Wall Street Journal, CBO, OMBDAPHNE WYSHAM, daphne at ips-dc.org
Wysham is the co-director or the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She said today: “The good news in Obama’s 2013 budget is that he proposes ambitious initiatives on public transit, clean vehicles, energy efficiency, and renewable energy issues, and has proposed to eliminate $4 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. The bad news is that he doesn’t go far enough on all fronts to ensure that the dirty energy industries of the past — including offshore oil and gas drilling, nuclear power and coal — are taken off the dole and made to clean up their messes, thereby allowing truly clean energy to compete on a level playing field.”

KAREN DOLAN, karen at ips-dc.org
Dolan is director of the Cities for Progress Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. She said today: “On the domestic side, the President’s budget has some good proposals for investments and some progressive revenue-raisers. It works well as a populist campaign document and is important as such. However, some programs for low-income families would suffer further unnecessary cuts and the President proposes, over 10 years, to reduce non-security discretionary spending from its current 3.1 percent of GDP to a 50-year low of 1.7 percent. We have to do better.”

ROBERT ALVAREZ, bob at ips-dc.org
Alvarez, a senior scholar of nuclear policy at the Institute for Policy Studies, said today: “President Obama’s proposed budget for the Environmental Protection Agency of $8.3 billion, while reduced from the previous year by $105 million, also reflects some important increases to states and Indian tribes to better enforce the Clean Air and Clear Water Acts. About 60 percent of the Department of Energy’s budget is going mostly for nuclear weapons and the cleanup of nuclear weapons sites. The single largest expenditure in DOE is for nuclear weapons, which commands 27 percent of DOE’s entire budget.”

MIRIAM PEMBERTON, miriam at ips-dc.org
Pemberton, a research fellow with Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, said today: “The preventive medicine in our security budget — including diplomacy, peacekeeping, economic development, climate stabilization — has been shortchanged for years as military spending has surged. Though the President has talked about investing more in prevention, his budget fails to do so. It leaves the extreme imbalance between military and non-military spending virtually unchanged through 2016.”

Honduras Fire: Government Complicity?

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ADRIENNE PINE, pine at american.edu
Pine is an assistant professor at American University who has been researching violence in Honduras for 15 years. She is the author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras.

She said today: “The fire that killed over 300 prisoners early Wednesday morning in the Honduran city of Comayagua occurs in a context of police militarization which has been posited by the post-coup government and U.S. State Department as a solution to ‘security’ problems in Honduras, despite strong opposition from Honduran citizens. Honduras is currently the most dangerous country in the world, with a murder rate of 82 per 100,000 residents, a position to which it plunged following the unresolved 2009 military coup. Prisoners trapped by this morning’s fire were killed when firefighters were unable to rescue them, although the fire occurred close to the U.S. military base Soto Cano, which houses a large, fully-equipped firefighting squad.”

OSCAR ESTRADA, oscarlestrada at gmail.com
Estrada is a Honduran journalist, lawyer, and documentary filmmaker. His film “El Porvenir” traces the murder of 69 gang members in a prison in the city of Ceiba. He said today: “Today’s prison fire also appears to share many characteristics with the Honduran prison fires of 2003 and 2004, which killed 69 and 104 prisoners, respectively. In previous fires, police complicity was proven to be a primary cause of prisoners’ death; prisoners interviewed today have stated that rather than opening the gates, police shot into them. Numerous Honduran media have also reported that police and military have fired bullets and tear gas into a crowd of grieving family members outside the Comayagua prison. Overcrowding, a problem President Lobo resolved to fix in 2004 as president of Congress following the two fires, was also a factor: 900 prisoners were housed in the prison, which had a capacity of 400. This fire can be seen as a reinvigorated post-coup effort at social cleansing; the killing off the most vulnerable members of society in the context of a weak, undemocratic state with an increasingly powerful and unchecked military.”

Iran: Propaganda Wars

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GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com
Porter is an investigative journalist and historian specializing in U.S. national security policy. He just wrote the piece: “A Dangerous Game on Iran.” He said today: “There are clearly drumbeats for war in U.S. media coverage of Iran, largely fueled by the Israeli propaganda blast suggesting an array of Iranian assassination attempts with no discernible factual basis. The indications are that there will be a new round of negotiations with Iran relatively soon. What’s being ignored is the fact that Iran was ready to negotiate with the United States on a fuel swap deal that would reduce its stock of enriched uranium and indicated it would cease its enrichment to 20 percent if the Western countries assured it of a supply of fuel for its Tehran Research Reactor. The U.S. should take advantage of that offer.”

MUHAMMAD SAHIMI, moe@usc.edu,
Sahimi is a professor at the University of Southern California and lead political columnist for the website PBS/Frontline/Tehran Bureau. He said today: “The attempts to assassinate Israeli diplomats are presumably a blowback by Iran against Israel’s covert war against Iran. Israel has been the culprit behind the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists, has supported Iranian terrorist groups to carry out terrorist operations in Iran and is suspected of having a hand in several explosions in important Iranian military and civilian facilities. At the same time, the Israel lobby in the U.S. has been the primary force for imposing tougher sanctions on Iran…”

See Juan Cole: “Indian Investigators do not Suspect Iran in Israel Embassy Blast.”

The .0000063% Election

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ARI BERMAN, ari at thenation.com
Berman just wrote the piece “The .0000063% Election: How the Politics of the Super Rich Became American Politics,” which states: “At a time when it’s become a cliché to say that Occupy Wall Street has changed the nation’s political conversation — drawing long overdue attention to the struggles of the 99% — electoral politics and the 2012 presidential election have become almost exclusively defined by the 1%. Or, to be more precise, the .0000063%. Those are the 196 individual donors who have provided nearly 80 percent of the money raised by super PACs in 2011 by giving $100,000 or more each.

“These political action committees, spawned by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision in January 2010, can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, or unions for the purpose of supporting or opposing a political candidate. In theory, super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating directly with a candidate, though in practice they’re just a murkier extension of political campaigns, performing all the functions of a traditional campaign without any of the corresponding accountability. …

“The Wesleyan Media Project recently reported a 1,600 percent increase in interest-group-sponsored TV ads in this cycle as compared to the 2008 primaries. Florida has proven the battle royal of the super PACs thus far. There, the pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, outspent the pro-Gingrich super PAC, Winning Our Future, five to one. In the last week of the campaign alone, Romney and his allies ran 13,000 TV ads in Florida, compared to only 200 for Gingrich. Ninety-two percent of the ads were negative in nature, with two-thirds attacking Gingrich, who, ironically enough, had been a fervent advocate of the Citizens United decision.

“With the exception of Ron Paul’s underdog candidacy and Rick Santorum’s upset victory in Iowa — where he spent almost no money but visited all of the state’s 99 counties — the Republican candidates and their allied super PACs have all but abandoned retail campaigning and grassroots politicking. They have chosen instead to spend their war chests on TV.”

Berman wrote the piece for TomDispatch.com and is a contributing writer for the Nation magazine and author of “Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics.”

Yemen “Elections”

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SUSANNE DAHLGREN, susanne.dahlgren at helsinki.fi
Dahlgren writes frequently on Yemen. She is Academy of Finland research fellow with the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and the author of Contesting Realities: The Public Sphere and Morality in Southern Yemen. (Syracuse Univ. Press 2010). She said today: “Today Yemen will have presidential ‘elections” with only one candidate, Vice President Abd al-Rab Mansur al-Hadi from Saleh’s party. It is questionable that these elections represent a step forward, and for sure, they hardly reflect the demands of the popular uprising. In fact what we have in Yemen now is the old card trick called ‘dialogue’ Saleh has used for years to lure his opposition into bad compromises. Many Yemenis refuse to believe in Hadi’s leadership. They remember last summer when Saleh spent months hospitalized in Saudi Arabia after a rocket attack and Hadi acted as the nominal head while Saleh’s sons actually held power. The losers of Yemen’s stalemate situation are those who dared to risk their lives to demand justice and fairness, and in today’s Yemen, it is the majority of people. As one indication of the seriousness of the situation in Yemen, the government prevents foreign observers to enter the country in the manner of the Syrian regime.”

Ron Paul: The U.S. Is Slipping Toward Fascism

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This weekend, the AP reported: “Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul warned the U.S. is ‘slipping into a fascist system’ dominated by government and businesses as he held a fiery rally Saturday night upstaging established Republican Party banquets a short distance away.”

A Republican debate is scheduled on CNN for Wednesday evening.

HERBERT BIX, hbix at binghamton.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Bix won the Pulitzer prize for his book Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan. He is a professor at Birmingham University in both the history and sociology departments. While he is best known for his work on Japan, he is a scholar of international and U.S. affairs.

He said today: “Ron Paul is a libertarian and he has racist baggage, but I would never label him with the epithet of isolationist — we should we should thank him for highlighting U.S. interventionism and where it has been leading us. He’s the sole exception on the national stage, and certainly among the major presidential candidates, to advocate a peaceful foreign policy and speak out against our slipping into what I would call a militarized police state. We can easily cite legislation — under both Bush and Obama — that have been constantly building and creating extensions for this militarized police state:

“The FISA statute was passed after the Watergate scandal to deal with Richard Nixon’s illegal actions. It required judicial warrants for wire tapping on Americans. Bush not only violated this and other laws, he tore down the wall between government and big business by granting immunity to the telecom giants who facilitated this law-breaking.

“The Patriot Act spawned numerous invasions of privacy, for example, the National Security Letters, which the FBI abused to forbid anyone — including librarians — who received them from disclosing that they were disclosing information about individuals. And on ten separate occasions Congress renewed without any meaningful revision, all the powers this act transferred to the executive branch.

“The Department of Homeland Security was established and that has operated to reduce civil liberties, especially of immigrants.

“In 2006, the Military Commissions Act gave the president unconstitutional powers to detain any individual he says is an enemy combatant anywhere in the world. How different was this Congressional vote from that to grant Hitler powers and do away with the Weimar Constitution? That seems like an extreme question, but in fact there has been a century of seizure of powers by presidents.

“And just this year, you had the National Defense Authorization Act, which expanded the scope of the Military Commissions Act, so the president could indefinitely detain people who had not been covered — both U.S. citizens and non-citizens — based solely on allegation or rumor. Now we have a new operational phase of the War on Terror: assassination of U.S. citizens — last year Anwar al-Awlaki and journalist Samir Khan were assassinated. This was a milestone event, a violation of the U.S. Constitution and international law.

“Additionally, you have Obama’s administration developing the tactics of torture and drone assassination. Pentagon and CIA war crimes, such as torture and the outsourcing of torture, contribute greatly to the moral degradation of American society.

“Obama has also gone further that Bush in the silencing of whistle blowers. And the courts have actually abetted the executive branch’s subversion of the Constitution because they have refused to question the executive’s claim of ‘national security’ to justify it all.

“As the power of the executive branch grows, it demands obedience through unconstitutional laws and extensions, and the whole ensemble of policies, laws and their extensions threaten freedom, constitutionalism and international law. Only Ron Paul has had the guts to put it on the national agenda.”

End of a Palestinian Hunger Strike Sheds Light on “Lawless Captivity”

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AP reports: “A Palestinian prisoner agreed to end his 66-day hunger strike to protest his imprisonment without charge after reaching a deal with Israel that will free him in April, the Israeli Justice Ministry said Tuesday.”

RICHARD FALK, rfalk at princeton.edu
Just back in the U.S. from the Mideast, Falk is available for a limited number of interviews. He is the UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights and just wrote the piece “Saving Khader Adnan’s Life and Legacy,” which states: “It is a great relief to those millions around the world who were moved to prayer and action by Khader Adnan’s extraordinary hunger strike of 66 days that has ended due to Israel’s agreement to release him on April 17. …

“While it is appropriate to celebrate this ending of the strike as ‘a victory,’ there are several disturbing features that deserve comment. To call an arrangement that saved someone’s life a ‘deal,’ as the media consistently put it, is itself demeaning, and reveals at the very least a failure to appreciate the gravity and deep dedication of purpose that is bound up with such a nonviolent form of resistance.

“Similarly, the carelessness of the initial reactions was notable, often referring to Mr. Adnan’s ‘release’ when in fact he will be still held in administrative detention for several more weeks, and could conceivably be confined much longer, should Israeli military authorities unilaterally decide that “substantial evidence” against him emerges in this period immediately ahead. It should be noted that on matters of principle, Israel gave not an inch: even in relation to Mr. Adnan, he will remain in captivity and will be subject to the “legal” possibility that his period of imprisonment could be extended indefinitely; beyond this, Israeli authorities conceded no intention whatsoever to review the cases of the 309 other Palestinians who are presently being held under the administrative detention procedure. …

“What was entirely missing from the Israeli public discourse was some expression of compassion, even if only for the family of Mr. Adnan, which consists of two daughters of four years or younger and his articulate pregnant wife, Randa. There was not even the slightest show of respect for the dignity of Mr. Adnan’s long hunger strike or sympathy for the acute suffering that accompanies such a determined foregoing of food for an extended period.

“Instead, the Israeli commentary that was at all favorable to the arrangement stressed purely pragmatic factors. It was one more lost opportunity for Israelis of all shades of opinion to reach across the abyss of political conflict to affirm a common humanity. In contrast, the spokesperson for the Netanyahu government, Mark Regev, was only interested in deflecting criticism aimed at Israel. He parried criticism by cynically observing that other governments use administrative detention in the name of security, including the United States, and that the legality of Israel’s use of administrative detention should not be questioned as it depends on a 1946 law enacted when Britain was controlling Palestine, implying not inaccurately that Israel was the ‘colonial’ successor to the British! …

“A fitting tribute to Mr. Adnan’s hunger strike would be to put opposition to administrative detention on the top of the human rights agenda throughout the world. We should begin by refusing to use the phrase ‘administrative detention,’ rechristening it as ‘administrative torture’ or ‘lawless captivity.'”

Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume “International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice.”

See “Pundits Waiting for a Palestinian Gandhi? Meet Khader Adnan” by Peter Hart.

Business Leaders Want Big Corps to Pay More, Not Less

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SCOTT KLINGER, scottklinger at businessforsharedprosperity.org
Klinger is director of tax policy for Business for Shared Prosperity. He said today: “President Obama’s tax framework spotlights some very important themes, including closing corporate tax loopholes and curtailing the abuse of offshore tax havens, but the devil is in the details. Until the President proposes a rate for his global minimum tax, we remain concerned that this positive idea could be turned into a permanent tax break for tax-dodging U.S. multinational corporations. Moreover, the tax framework places too much emphasis on lowering the corporate tax rate and not enough on raising corporate tax collections from their historically low levels. U.S. corporations pay far less toward the cost of public services and infrastructure than they did in decades past and less than their foreign competitors pay in their countries today. The reality is that large U.S. businesses, as a whole, are undertaxed, not overtaxed. In 2011, total corporate federal taxes fell to just 12.1 percent of domestic profits and corporate taxes accounted for just 7.9 percent of all federal revenue. Moreover, as a percentage of U.S. Gross Domestic Product, the corporate tax share was just 1.2 percent. All these levels are historically, irresponsibly low.”

FRANK KNAPP, sbchamber at scsbc.org,
President and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce and vice chair of the American Sustainable Business Council, Knapp said: “Small businesses are tired of big businesses not paying their fair share. The President’s proposal puts the cart before the horse. Rather than starting with a lower corporate tax rate of 28 percent — and an even lower rate for manufacturers — we should start by establishing a fair and responsible share of corporate taxes as a percent of our economy that is competitive with our major trading partners, and achieve that through a combination of closing loopholes and adjusting tax rates where warranted. Then we can meet three important objectives: ending loopholes and breaks that reward large U.S. corporations for disguising their domestic profits as ‘foreign’ earnings and shifting investment and jobs overseas; leveling the playing field among big and small businesses; and raising the revenues we need for the modern infrastructure, education, research and other public investments that underpin an innovative, healthy, job-creating economy. Austerity plans, like those that are causing riots in Europe, are wrong for America. Big businesses and the wealthy have to pay their fair share.”

See “Post Calls Obama a Corporate Hack” by Dean Baker.

Students on Hunger Strike for University Workers’ Living Wage

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Seventeen student hunger strikers are beginning the second week of their fast for a living wage for workers at the University of Virginia getting a living wage.

Interviews with student hunger strikers as well as with university employees who have been asking for a living wage for years can be arranged via Emily Filler, emilyfiller at gmail.com

More information about the campaign and the hunger strike is available.

Among the hunger strikers:

JOSEPH WILLIAMS
Williams just wrote the piece “Why I’m Hunger Striking at UVA,” which is featured on Michael Moore’s website and states: “… in our ‘caring community,’ hundreds of contract employees may make as little as $7.25 per hour … I have experienced many periods of economic hardship in my life. Growing up, I moved over 30 times — including various stays in homeless shelters, the homes of family friends, and church basements. I know firsthand what the economic struggle is like for many of these underpaid workers.”

Williams is third-year student at the University of Virginia and player for the Virginia Cavaliers football team.

Saudi Attacks Syrian Regime, While Repressing Its Eastern Province

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TOBY C. JONES, tobycjones at yahoo.com, @tobycraigjones
Jones is an assistant professor of history at Rutgers University and author of the book “Desert Kingdom: How Oil and Water Forged Modern Saudi Arabia.” He said today: “Saudi Arabia is an unlikely champion of humanitarian causes. Indeed, the kingdom’s support of the armed opposition in Syria and its calls for military action against the Assad regime have little to do with principle or support for a democratic transition there. Instead, Riyadh seeks to alter the regional balance of power away from Iran, Assad’s most important patron, and in its favor. Syrian lives are pawns in this regional game. Just as important, Saudi leaders are also using the crisis in Syria to direct both foreign and domestic attention away from its own internal problems, most notably ongoing protests in its oil rich Eastern Province and the government’s brutal handling of them.”

JESS HILL, jess.hill at theglobalmail.org, @JessRadio
Middle East correspondent for the Global Mail, Hill just wrote the piece “The Growing Rebellion in Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia’s King has been unusually outspoken against Syria’s regime. But what about the rebellion in his own Kingdom? And what kind of ruler will his heir apparent be?” The piece states: “On Saudi Arabia’s much-anticipated ‘Day of Rage’ last year, government minders drove a BBC crew into the center of the capital, Riyadh, to film the ‘no-show’. Police had locked down the capital, and they were confident nobody would show up.

“Imagine their shock, then, when Khaled al-Johani, a teacher and father of five, walked straight up to the BBC crew, and said: ‘The royal family don’t own us! We have a right to speak.’ As government minders closed in on the group, he grew more emphatic: ‘If you speak, they will put you in jail after five minutes!’ When the BBC reporter asked him what would happen to him, he replied, ‘I will go in the jail with a big smile — because I am already in a jail!’ (Al-Johani was arrested that day, and has been in prison since March. He stood trial in a closed court on February 22; the verdict has not been made public.)

“Al-Johani was outspoken, but he was just one man. The world’s investment community breathed a sigh of relief. Why were we so worried about this ‘day of rage’? Saudis don’t protest. Most of them are too comfortable, and internal security is too effective. The Arab Spring won’t come to Saudi Arabia.

“But they were wrong.

“Saudis are protesting. They’ve been protesting for over a year. Their numbers are growing. And there’s no sign of them stopping.”

Auto Unions “Saved the Industry by Making Concessions”

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AL BENCHICH, ajbenchich at me.com
Retired president of UAW local 909 and a retired GM worker in Michigan of 36 years, Benchich said today: “The public airwaves are filled with straight on reporting of what these people [the Republican presidential candidates] are saying with hardly any critique of their statements. [Mitt] Romney especially is pretending that unions were the big beneficiaries of the ‘auto bailout’. But it wasn’t a bailout like the big banks got a bailout, it was a loan that’s being paid back. I don’t see Romney and company calling the bankers the villains for their actual bailouts.

“There’s some discussion of restoring the middle class — and it ignores how vibrant unions were critical to having a large middle class. And now, with the denigration of unions, we’ve seen the degeneration of the middle class.

“What happened with the loans to the auto industry is that the unions saved the industry by making concessions. One of the biggest concessions was agreeing that new workers — including the ones everyone is now toting — are only at about $14 an hour. Now, for a family of four, that’s only a little above poverty level. That’s not middle class.

“The union agreed to phase out the older workers with good wages and have new workers at a lower tier and I think that was a big mistake. What we should have pushed for was converting the industry to be more forward-looking — making wind turbines, solar panels and high speed rail.”

WikiLeaks Exposes Stratfor, “Shadow CIA” — Charges of Using Sex, Targeting Activists, Blackmail, Insider Trading

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MIKE BONANNO, mike at theyesmen.org
ANDY BICHBAUM, andy at theyesmen.org
The Yes Men news release states today: “WikiLeaks begins to publish today over five million e-mails obtained by Anonymous from ‘global intelligence’ company Stratfor. The emails, which reveal everything from sinister spy tactics to an insider trading scheme … also include several discussions of the Yes Men and Bhopal activists. (Bhopal activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India, that led to thousands of deaths, injuries to more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.)

“Many of the Bhopal-related emails, addressed from Stratfor to Dow and Union Carbide public relations directors reveal concern that, in the lead-up to the 25th anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, the Bhopal issue might be expanded into an effective systemic critique of corporate rule, and speculate at length about why this hasn’t yet happened — providing a fascinating window onto what at least some corporate types fear most from activists.”

At today’s news conference, Assange noted that Stratfor, unlike Murdoch’s News Corp., has refused to discuss the information disclosed.

Carlos Enrique Bayo of El Publico in Spain, one of WikiLeak’s media partners, charged that Stratfor guidelines outlined gathering information using illicit methods, including sexual relations, to in Stratfor CEO George Friedman’s words “take control” of informants (around 36:00). Kristinn Hrafnsson from WikiLeaks (around 1:03:00) charged that Stratfor uses “blatant blackmail.”

See the WikiLeaks news release and access the databases of the emails at “The Global Intelligence Files” and see WikiLeaks Twitter feed for updates: @WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks news release states: “Stratfor’s use of insiders for intelligence soon turned into a money-making scheme of questionable legality. The emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and Stratfor CEO George Friedman hatched an idea to ‘utilise the intelligence’ it was pulling in from its insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. CEO George Friedman explained [this] in a confidential August 2011 document, marked DO NOT SHARE OR DISCUSS: ‘What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like.'”

Nuclear-Armed Israel “Won’t Warn U.S. on Iran Strike”

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AP reports today that “Israeli officials say they won’t warn the U.S. if they decide to launch” a strike against Iran.

MARJORIE COHN, marjorielegal at gmail.com
Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Cohn wrote the piece “Pressure Israel, Not Iran,” which states: “Neocons in Israel and the United States are escalating their rhetoric to prepare us for war with Iran. …

“Security Council Resolution 687, that ended the first Gulf War, requires a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Israel, which reportedly has an arsenal of 200-300 nuclear weapons, stands in violation of that resolution. Israel refuses to sign the NPT, thus avoiding inspections by the IAEA. As Shibley Telhami and Steven Kull advocate in a recent op-ed in the Times, we should work toward a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, and that includes Israel. They cite a poll in which 65 percent of Israeli Jews think it would be best if neither Israel nor Iran had the bomb, even if that means Israel giving up its nukes.”

Background: In contrast to the weapons accusations against Iran, many U.S., like Israeli, officials refuse to acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal, see: “The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel’s Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial” by Sam Husseini.

ROBERT NAIMAN, [in D.C.], naiman at justforeignpolicy.org
Policy director of Just Foreign Policy, Naiman said today: “Americans should be very concerned by claims that the Israeli government would not warn the United States before it attacked Iran, because an Israeli attack on Iran could have grave implications for the United States. Such an attack would likely be perceived in Iran as approved by the United States. The U.S. has armed the Israeli military, including with weapons likely to be used in such an attack. Iran is likely to retaliate against the United States for such an attack. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, whose activists will be in Washington next week lobbying Congress to support war with Iran, claims that Israel is a close U.S. ally. But putting us in danger without consulting us is not how a close ally would behave.”

Naiman recently wrote the pieces, “Does AIPAC Want War? Lieberman ‘Capability’ Red Line May Tip AIPAC’s Hand,” and “Keith Ellison and Walter Jones Stand Up for Diplomatic Engagement With Iran.” Just Foreign Policy is a co-sponsor of the “Occupy AIPAC” counter-conference March 2-6 to AIPAC’s policy conference in Washington, D.C. March 4-6; Naiman is moderating a panel on U.S. policy towards Iran at the “Occupy AIPAC Summit” on March 3.

War Protests: From Afghanistan to Hancock Air Base — to Prison?

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ANN WRIGHT, microann at yahoo.com
Wright, a former State Department diplomat and retired Army colonel, helped re-open the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 2001. She resigned from the State Department in protest of the Iraq invasion in March of 2003. She said: “There’s been real blowback from the burning of the Quran, but there has also been real blowback from the killings from continued drone stikes.” Wright is a defendant in a trial today for protests outside the Hancock Air National Guard Base in New York.

KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv at gmail.com
Kelly is just back from Afghanistan and may be sentenced to prison today along with other peace activists for protests outside the base. She is with the group Voices for Creative Nonviolence. Along with Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, she just wrote the piece “The Ghost and the Machine: Drone Warfare and Accountability,” which profiles an impoverished Afghan family with a five-year-old, Aymal, whose father was killed by a drone attack: “Aymal’s grandmother becomes agitated and distraught speaking about her son’s death, and that of his four friends. ‘All of us ask, “Why?'” she says, raising her voice. ‘They kill people with computers and they can’t tell us why. When we ask why this happened, they say they had doubts, they had suspicions. But they didn’t take time to ask “Who is this person?” or “Who was that person?” There is no proof, no accountability. Now, there is no reliable person in the home to bring us bread. I am old, and I do not have a peaceful life.’ …

“In June 2010, Philip G. Alston, then the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, appeared before the UN Human Rights Council and testified that ‘targeted killings pose a rapidly growing challenge to the international rule of law … In a situation in which there is no disclosure of who has been killed, for what reason, and whether innocent civilians have died, the legal principle of international accountability is, by definition, comprehensively violated.’ …

“Drone warfare, ever more widely used from month to month from the Bush through the Obama administrations, has seen very little meaningful public debate. We don’t ask questions — our minds straying no nearer these battlefields than in the coming decades the bodies of our young people will — that is, if the chaos our war-making engenders doesn’t bring the battlefields to us. An expanding network of devastatingly lethal covert actions spreading throughout the developing world passes with minimal concern or comment.”

Kelly and other activists face prison time from a symbolic ‘die-in’ at the main entrance Hancock Air National Guard Base (Mattydale, NY), protesting the piloting and maintenance of the hunter/killer Reaper drones at the base. The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars released a statement today: “Nationally known peace activists Kathy Kelly (Voices for Creative Nonviolence), retired Colonel Ann Wright, Martha Hennessy (NYC Catholic Workers), Elliott Adams (past President of Veterans for Peace) and Jules Orkin (peace walker extraordinaire) will be sentenced on February 29 at 5 p.m. in DeWitt Town Court (5400 Butternut Dr., East Syracuse) by Judge David Gideon. They are the last of the ‘Hancock 38’ Drone Resisters to be sentenced.

“In addition, previously sentenced defendants will return to court. At least eleven people have chosen to send their fines to the Voices for Creative Nonviolence for the benefit of PeaceJam Afghanistan instead of to the court and will present receipts to the judge. Ann Tiffany says ‘To me it is a question of Justice.’ Many will show they do community service on a daily basis despite the judge’s sentence. There will be a press conference at 4 pm, outside of the Court House. Speakers will include Kathy Kelly, Ann Wright, Elliott Adams and Ed Kinane who has redirected his fine.

The Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars will continue to resist the use of drones. As we argued in court, drone warfare violates the Nuremberg Principles and other international, as well as moral, laws. We resist those who would normalize the use of robotic assassins as a mode of warfare and reject the policy of dehumanization of peoples in other lands.”

Contact for the Coalition: Judy Bello, judith at papillonweb.net; Peg Gefell, peg.fink.gefell at gmail.com; Syracuse Peace Council: carol at peacecouncil.net

Also see from the The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers: “2 Million Candles to End the Afghan War

Contraception Controversy Would Be Irrelevant with National Health Care

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AP reports: “In an election year battle mixing birth control, religion and politics, Democrats narrowly blocked an effort by Senate Republicans to overturn President Barack Obama’s order that most employers or their insurers cover the cost of contraceptives.”

CLARK NEWHALL, clark.newhall at health-justice.org
Executive director of Health Justice, Newhall is a doctor and a lawyer. He said today: “What a stupid argument we’re having. If we had national health care, a single-payer program, that would make this irrelevant. Everyone would have health care and it doesn’t matter what your employer thinks. It would be your health care, not the business or your employer or anyone else.”

See MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell commentary: “With single payer, we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

The point was also made in a recent letter in the Chicago Tribune:

“I would like to point out that the recent controversy over employers’ religious views and employees’ health coverage would never have happened if our country had a universal coverage, single-payer health care system.

“That’s because, under single-payer, employers would no longer have to have any involvement in their employees’ health insurance.

“An employer’s religious affiliation or moral beliefs would be a non-issue.

“Under single-payer, everyone would have the same health coverage, regardless of whom they worked for.

“And under single-payer, losing one’s job would no longer mean losing one’s health insurance.

“Something to think about.”

— Dr. Thomas M. Duffy, Northbrook

Obama, Netanyahu and AIPAC: Critical Analysis

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U.S. Military Aid to IsraelJOHN J. MEARSHEIMER, j-mearsheimer at uchicago.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Mearsheimer is co-author of “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” and distinguished professor of political science and co-director of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago. He just co-wrote the piece “Mr. Obama must take a stand against Israel over Iran.”

Mearsheimer is author of several other books, including most recently “Why Leaders Lie: The Truth about Lying in International Politics.” See his original essay, “The Israel Lobby.”

Rabbi YISROEL DOVID WEISS, info at nkusa.org
Rabbi Weiss is with the group Neturei Karta International. He said today: “AIPAC and Israel claim to speak in the name of Judaism, but they are defaming Judaism by waging wars and being oppressive. Jews and Muslims get along, I visit Jewish communities in predominantly Muslim countries and they can worship freely. What creates much of the ill will is that Israel is doing immoral actions in the name of Judaism.”

LIZA BEHRENDT, ljbehrendt at gmail.com
RAE ABILEAH, rae at codepinkalert.org
Behrendt is with Young Jewish Proud and disrupted an AIPAC panel yesterday. See: “Young Jewish activist disrupts AIPAC panel about ‘Israel on Campus’: Stop Silencing Dissent and Supporting Settlement Expansion.”

Abileah is an organizer with Occupy AIPAC — a counter-conference that is taking place across the street from the AIPAC conference. She is also co-director of CODEPINK.

JOSH RUEBNER, congress at endtheoccupation.org
In his address to AIPAC yesterday, Obama said: “Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every single year.” National advocacy director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Ruebner is author of a newly-released policy paper, entitled “U.S. Military Aid to Israel: Policy Implications & Options.” He said today: “President Obama’s speech yesterday at the AIPAC policy conference exposed the contradictory and self-defeating nature of his administration’s policy toward Israel/Palestine. On the one hand, he spoke of the need for Israel to make peace with the Palestinian people and of their need to exercise self-determination; on the other hand, he bragged about his administration providing Israel with ever-greater amounts of U.S. taxpayer-financed weapons, which enable Israel to maintain its illegal military occupation of Palestinian territories and to commit its human rights abuses of Palestinians, making peace impossible. It’s little wonder then that Obama’s first term in office likely will end with Israeli-Palestinian peace an ever remoter goal than four years ago.”

The report finds “From 1949 to 2008, the U.S. government provided Israel more than $103.6 billion of total official aid, making it the largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance in the post-World War II era. In 2007, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding providing for $30 billion of U.S. military aid from 2009 to 2018.” See PDF:

ANN WRIGHT, microann at yahoo.com
Wright is a former State Department diplomat and retired Army colonel. She will be speaking today at a news conference at 11 a.m. at the National Press Club. She said this morning: “As much as Obama calls the Iranian government a Holocaust ‘denier,’ I would say that President Obama is a denier of the incredible Israeli violence that violates international law. I find particularly remarkable and offensive his comment that ‘When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it. When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them. When the Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism.’

“Having been to Gaza within days after the 22-day Israeli attack on Gaza that killed 1440, wounded 5,000 and left 50,000 homeless (13 Israelis were killed — five by Israeli fire), I know the Goldstone Report is accurate. Having been on one of the ships of the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla, I know that Israeli commandos attacked all six ships in the flotilla and killed nine on the Mavi Marmara and wounded 50. One American citizen was killed and the Obama administration did not conduct its own investigation of the death, despite the repeated requests of the family of 19-year-old Furkan Dogan. Israel was isolated by the world after their criminal behavior — and for good reason!”

“Occupy the Kremlin”?

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BORIS KAGARLITSKY, goboka at yandex.ru
Director of the Institute for Globalization and Social movements in Moscow, Kagarlitsky’s books include “Restoration in Russia: Why Capitalism Failed” and “Empire of the Periphery: Russia and the World System.” He was arrested under Brezhnev and under Yeltsin for his political activism.

Kagarlitsky was just interviewed by The Real News: “Putin Wins, Will Mass Protests Follow?” He states that Putin faced no serious opposition candidates, but the Russian people are fed up with the pro-corporate — or neo-liberal — system.

DAVID KOTZ, dmkotz at econs.umass.edu
Kotz is professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and coauthor of Russia’s Path from Gorbachev to Putin: The Demise of the Soviet System and the New Russia. He notes that the U.S. backed many of the policies that led to the autocratic rise of Putin.

FRED WEIR, fred.weir2002 at gmail.com
Moscow-based correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, Weir wrote the piece “Exit polls forecast Vladimir Putin to win another term as president of Russia, while his opponents plan to take to the streets this week and beyond,” which states: “But the mood in Moscow, where Mr. Putin’s popularity is low, was anything but celebratory. Opposition leaders were already crying foul and drawing up plans for rolling protests this week against elections they say were unfair in their very essence. In coming days, reports from tens of thousands of independent election monitors will likely hit the Internet, adding fuel to the protests if significant fraud should be uncovered.

“Much of downtown Moscow was blocked off by about 40,000 special riot police, who set up barricades and blocked access to main squares with rows of buses, apparently aiming to forestall any opposition attempt to hold the kind of fast-moving flash-mob protests that erupted just after the allegedly fraud-tainted elections in December.

“Opposition forces will stage a show of strength Monday evening on Moscow’s central Pushkin Square, just a five minute walk from the Kremlin, which they expect up to 50,000 people to attend. Some of the more radical leaders, such as anti-corruption blogger Alexei Navalny, argue that it’s time to turn the protests from single-event affairs into rolling ‘Occupy the Kremlin’ style tent cities. According to the Moscow Times, Mr. Navalny said Sunday that Putin’s re-election can already be judged a fraud, and the popular goal now would be to overturn the result.”

Holder: Kill Jason Bourne

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The Chicago Tribune reports: “Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. defended the U.S. right to target and kill American citizens overseas in the war on terror … Holder did not take questions from reporters after his remarks, and while he originally was going to answer questions from the law school audience, on Monday morning he abruptly cancelled that plan.”

GLENN GREENWALD, GGreenwald at salon.com
Available for limited number of interviews, Greenwald’s latest book is With Liberty and Justice for Some. He just wrote the piece “Attorney General Holder Defends Execution Without Charges,” which states: “In a speech at Northwestern University yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder provided the most detailed explanation yet for why the Obama administration believes it has the authority to secretly target U.S. citizens for execution by the CIA without even charging them with a crime, notifying them of the accusations, or affording them an opportunity to respond, instead condemning them to death without a shred of transparency or judicial oversight. The administration continues to conceal the legal memorandum it obtained to justify these killings, and, as The New York Times‘ Charlie Savage noted, Holder’s ‘speech contained no footnotes or specific legal citations, and it fell far short of the level of detail contained in the Office of Legal Counsel memo.’ …

“When Obama officials (like Bush officials before them) refer to someone ‘who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,’ what they mean is this: someone the President has accused and then decreed in secret to be a Terrorist without ever proving it with evidence.”

MARCY WHEELER, emptywheel at gmail.com
Wheeler blogs at EmptyWheel.net — she just wrote several pieces on Holder’s speech including “Holder’s Unproven Claims about Anwar al-Awlaki the AQAP Leader,” which states: “If the case that Awlaki [who was assassinated by the U.S. government last September in Yemen] was an imminent threat rests on his leadership role, but we don’t really have any proof of that fact (or, worse, our double agent undermined it after OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] had already signed off on the killing), then the entire argument collapses.

“Moreover, if [the Department of Justice] doesn’t have that evidence (they might, but they certainly haven’t shown it), then consider how much more awful this argument is. It’s bad enough that the Attorney General just argued that due process does not equal judicial due process. But he argued it by claiming that Awlaki was someone they haven’t attempted to prove he was.” See: http://www.emptywheel.net/tag/eric-holder

Wheeler wrote the book: Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy.

Holder’s speech

Obama Says G-8 Moving for “Intimacy” — Not Protests

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When questioned at his first news conference of the year this afternoon about the upcoming G-8 meeting being moved from Chicago to Camp David, President Obama stated that G-8 leaders wanted to meet in an “intimate” and “casual” setting and “the weather should be good.” He made no direct reference to planned protests, but did say “I always have confidence in Chicago being able to handle security issues. Whether it’s Taste of Chicago or Lollapalooza or Bulls championships. We know how to deal with the crowd.” Question starts at 37:15.

“SUGAR” RUSSELL, press at OccupyChi.org
Russell, an activist with Occupy Chicago, said today: “If they wanted to have a more ‘intimate’ setting for the G-8, they would have arranged for that from the start. Instead, they have split the venues for the G-8 and NATO meetings. They fear protests, scrutiny and voices of people representing themselves. They are moving the G-8 meeting because they don’t want negative media, but we will continue the protests — and we’ll be so loud that they will hear us all the way in Camp David.

“The G-8 and NATO work hand in hand for the elites, for cutbacks in social services, militarization of schools and environmental damage that results in increasing inequality, poverty, racism, sexism, loss of youth to war, and destruction of civil rights and democratic systems of governance.”

See: “Obama Moves G-8 Summit from Chicago to Secluded Camp David.”

Santorum “The Catholic Theocrat”

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BETTY CLERMONT, bettyclermont at yahoo.com
Clermont is author of The Neo-Catholics: Implementing Christian Nationalism in America and just wrote the piece “Santorum — The Catholic Theocrat.” She said today: “GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently stated on ABC: ‘I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.’ Santorum also recently told a Michigan audience, ‘I’m for separation of church and state: The state has no business telling the church what do to’ — without ever criticizing the obstructionism of some religious leaders to civil government.

“Since Santorum surged ahead in the GOP primaries, and especially since his attacks against JKF’s speech about the separation of church and state, the majority opinion has been that Santorum isn’t in the ‘real’ Catholic political tradition as formulated by former American Catholic leaders.

“However, looking at the entire history of the Roman Catholic Church, Santorum is very much espousing the tradition of alliances between church and state. Prelates defended the ‘divine right of kings’ and monarchs gave the hierarchs privilege, royal titles, land and money. After the Vatican received over a billion dollars (in today’s money) from the 1929 Lateran Treaty, the financial genius Bernardino Nogara, who Cardinal Francis Spellman called ‘the greatest thing to happen to the Church since Jesus Christ,’ made the Holy See a powerful plutocracy.

“Since then, Rome has backed the corporatists except for the brief combined pontificates of Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, when Liberation Theology and a progressive U.S. episcopate were allowed to develop. John Paul II returned the Church to business as usual. The Roman Catholic Church hierarchy supports wealth and power and the high and mighty make sure the prelates are heard, obeyed and paid.”

In “Santorum — The Catholic Theocrat,” Clermont writes: “Many have also incorrectly suggested that because Santorum is Catholic and has links to Opus Dei that he has the backing of the Catholic Church. But as in Reagan and both Bush presidents, as well as the U.S. episcopate’s vicious assault against the Catholic John Kerry in 2004, it makes no difference if an American politician is or is not Catholic or even a member of Opus Dei in order to get the backing of the Catholic Church. As we have seen by the sex-abuse scandals, the pre-eminent concern of Church hierarchies is the retention and growth of their own influence and money. Therefore, they will support any pro-business candidate willing to partner with them who they think is electable.”

Tensions Soar as Korean Women Try to Stop Destruction of “Wonder of Nature” for Military Base

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Police Attempt to Arrest Student Activists

Today is International Women’s Day and women are leading protests in South Korea. CNN is reporting: “Tensions soared on the South Korean island of Jeju on Thursday as hundreds of residents, activists and priests protest against the building of a naval base. About 500 supporters of the project also arrived Thursday on the second day of key construction work.

“Crews have blown up rocky areas with dynamite to prepare for a caisson and other structures that will help with the construction of the docks. Protests against the building of the naval base started seven years ago over fears of damage to the environment and nature on the island. Protesters say it would also threaten the peace on the island, parts of which are UNESCO world heritage sites, and affect tourism.”

CHRISTINE AHN, christineahn at mac.com, @christineahn
Ahn is executive director of the Korea Policy Institute and can connect media to people on the ground and policy analysts. She said today: “Mayhem has broken out as government forces are arresting activist, there are members of parliament protesting as well.”

The group released a statement: “Despite an official appeal from Jeju Governor Woo to the South Korean Navy to halt the blast of the sacred Gureombi volcanic coastline on Jeju Island, the Navy and Samsung Corporation have proceeded to detonate 800 kilograms of explosives near the seashore. The blasting is estimated to last for five months using 43 tons of explosives.

“The Gureombi coastline is a continuous volcanic rock formation along Gangjeong village, along the southern part of Jeju Island, which is approximately 50 miles south of the Korean peninsula. Yesterday, Governor Woo issued an emergency written appeal to Seoul citing concern about the environmental destruction and likely clashes between village protestors and police. Several members of South Korean Parliament and opposition party leaders are now in Gangjeong village after submitting a bill to immediately halt construction.

“An intense standoff is now underway between Gangjeong villagers and hundreds of police in riot gear who were shipped from the Korean mainland to suppress the peaceful protests. Already dozens of arrests have been made, mostly of women who chained themselves to trucks and other barricades to block Samsung vehicles transporting the explosives. Activists have also boarded kayaks to block Daelim ships from dredging the coastline, which is home to … endangered marine life, such as the red-footed crab and soft coral reef.

“The police have erected double layers of three-meter-high razor wire fences around the construction site to prevent people from entering,’ said Benjamin Monnet, a French peace activist who was in the kayak in the early morning. ‘There were 17 ships, including three equipped with a radar system. It looked like they were ready for war.’ …

“‘Jeju isn’t just any island,’ explains American actor Robert Redford. ‘It has just been selected as one of the “Seven Wonders of Nature” for its breathtaking beauty, unique traditions and sacred groves. Of the world’s 66 UNESCO Global Geoparks, nine are on Jeju Island.’

“For the past five years, Gangjeong villagers have been waging a nonviolent campaign against the construction of the naval base. In a referendum, 94 percent of the villagers voted against the base. Despite these and other democratic efforts, the South Korean government has arrested 350, fined and beaten nonviolent protestors for “obstructing business.”

“Many international arms experts suspect that the naval base will be in the service of the U.S. missile defense system as part of the U.S. pivot towards the Asia Pacific in its efforts to contain China. Villagers say they are the unfortunate target of an arms race between the U.S. and China.”

For more information, see: http://www.savejejuisland.org and https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23savejejuisland

Gureombi Rocks

Protesters at Gureombi Rocks

Video of arrests

One Year Later: “Freeze Our Fukushimas”

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LINDA GUNTER, linda at beyondnuclear.org
KEVIN KAMPS, kevin at beyondnuclear.org
CINDY FOLKERS, cindy at beyondnuclear.org
Gunter, Kamps and Folkers are with the group Beyond Nuclear which is launching a “Freeze Our Fukushimas” campaign “to permanently suspend the operations of the most dangerous class of reactors operating in the United States today: the 23 General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, the same flawed design as those that melted down at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan.”

CECILE PINEDA, cecilep at att.net
Pineda is author of the novel Devil’s Tango: How I Learned the Fukushima Step by Step, which is to be released March 11, a year after the Fukushima disaster. The book “is a one-woman whirlwind tour of the nuclear industry, seen through the lens of the industrial and planetary crisis unfolding most visibly right now in Japan. As much personal journal as investigative journalism, the author’s journal entries trace her own and the world’s evolution of consciousness during the first year following the March 11, 2011 disaster. Pineda keeps track, day-by-day, of worsening developments at Fukushima Daiichi, and records the daily evolution of her perceptions.”

Greek Debt Restructuring a Success? — For Whom?

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COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, cpanayotakis at gmail.com
Panayotakis is associate professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology at CUNY and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy. He said today: “The Greek government is claiming success after the announced agreement over the largest sovereign debt restructuring in history. The sharp rise in global financial markets after the deal was secured shows that this was a success for banks and global financial capital that will get more of their money back than they would if Greece were to go through a ‘disorderly’ default. Meanwhile, the austerity policies that accompany this ‘success’ have led to a depression in Greece that is unprecedented in length and depth. Unemployment continues to rise, already reaching 21 percent for the general population and surpassing 50 percent for young Greek workers. As destitution and desperation spread, it is clear that the only success the Greek government can be proud of is its continued ability to prioritize the interests of Greek and international capitalist elites over those of its citizens. How long the majority of the Greek population allows its government to score such ‘successes’ remains to be seen.”

See Panayotakis’ pieces: “The Eurozone Fiasco

Debunking the Greek (and European) Crisis Narrative

Killings in Afganistan

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KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv at gmail.com
Kelly is just back from Afghanistan and may be sentenced to prison today along with other peace activists for protests outside the base. She is with the group Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She was on “Democracy Now!” this morning along with a representative from the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. She said today: “President Obama and U.S. military brass are depicting a U.S. soldier killing 16 Afghan civilians as an exceptional event. But in fact, this tragedy reflects and encapsulates the U.S. war of choice in Afghanistan. Groups of U.S. soldiers have been breaking into Afghan homes and killing people, without cause or provocation, for the last 11 years. Civilians have been afflicted by aerial bombing by helicopter gunships, drone surveillance and attacks, and night raids.

“In the recent past, Afghan civilians have been appalled and agitated by news of U.S. soldiers that went on killing sprees, cutting off body parts of their victims to save as war trophies. They’ve been repulsed by photos of U.S. soldiers urinating on the corpses of Afghans whom they have killed. The burning of the Quran further enraged civilians. One of the greatest factors contributing to public dismay and hostility towards the foreign forces is the practice of night raids. As many as 40 of these raids happen around the country on some nights, and the U.S. military reports an average of 10 a night. U.S. /NATO soldiers burst into people’s homes and attack people in their sleep.

“The U.S. wants the Karzai government to sign a Strategic Protection Agreement that will allow U.S./NATO forces to stay in Afghanistan until 2024 and possibly beyond. This agreement will very likely frustrate possibilities for a negotiated settlement since Taliban forces have repeatedly stated their demand that all foreign troops leave Afghanistan. The Strategic Partnership Agreement has never been presented to the Afghan Members of Parliament for their consideration. No one in the U.S. or Karzai government seems concerned about how ordinary Afghans might view the Strategic Partnership Agreement.

“Arguably, people in Afghanistan are looking for ways to vent long-suppressed anger over having their future dictated by their invaders and occupiers.”

Kelly recently wrote the piece “The Ghost and the Machine: Drone Warfare and Accountability” along with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers.

Also see from the The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers: “2 Million Candles to End the Afghan War.”

See by Anand Gopal “Night Raids, Hidden Detention Centers, the ‘Black Jail,’ and the Dogs of War in Afghanistan.”

Self-Defense for Iran?

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JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN, amadea311 at earthlink.net
Loewenstein is faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She said today: “News reports on the recent spate of cross-border violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip depicted Israel’s extra-judicial assassination of Popular Resistance Committee leader, Zuhir al-Qaisi, as consistent with its ‘right to defend itself’ by claiming that al-Qaisi and his accomplice were planning an attack on Israel. Israeli justification of the targeted killing caused no raised eyebrows in mainstream commentary on the worst violence against Gazans since Israel’s Dec. 2008 to Jan. 2009 invasion, or ‘Operation Cast Lead.’ It is difficult to second guess what really motivated this assassination, especially given the prevailing — if somber — calm between the two areas; nobody questioned the rationale — that the PRC was planning a terror attack — as if IDF officials have only to make the claim in order to line up support for state-sanctioned murder. Journalists typically parroted back the information without seeking to verify it, standard fare where Israel is involved. It is understood that some sources are not to be questioned: That the IDF is revising and polishing its own war plans, against a variety of countries, territories, and ‘non-state actors’ daily has not yet been justification for Hizbullah, Iran, Hamas, or any other ‘enemy’ to strike at Israel preemptively, in ‘self-defense’, though the same logic prevails. What we do is acceptable, right, and good — and the principle of universality was deep-sixed as long ago as the Nuremburg Trials when the ‘supreme war crime’, aggression, was also to have instructed nations on the unacceptability of force for resolving international disputes.

“Some have speculated that Israel used the occasion to stir up a response in Gaza that would allow it to test out its Iron Dome Missile Defense system — a system whose reliability could be paramount if a strike on Iran prompted a similar response from the Islamic Republic, Hizbullah in Lebanon, or a minor faction such as Islamic Jihad in Gaza. (It should be noted, in fact, that Hamas stayed out of the latest round of violence which pitted the IDF against the tiny factions Islamic Jihad and the PRCs.) Perhaps Israel’s ratcheting up of violence – which killed 26 people and wounded more than 70 — was intended to wreck ongoing efforts at unity among the Palestinian political parties and factions, or to send another belligerent signal to Iran now that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned less than satisfied from his mission to seek a green light for a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities from the United States. We may never know. What will remain true is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will go on to condemn ‘pre-meditated actions’ of the military services of a state (Syria) against people it doesn’t speak for (the popular resistance) but over whom it rules, but that where Israel and the Palestinians are concerned such a view is anathema to our national interests and the client states who help maintain their supremacy — especially in the Middle East.”

High Gas Prices Are Here to Stay, Here’s Why

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MICHAEL T. KLARE, via Leslie Brandon, leslie.brandon at hholt.com
Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author of the new book “The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources.” He just wrote the piece “A Tough-Oil World: Why Twenty-First Century Oil Will Break the Bank — and the Planet,” which states: “Oil prices are now higher than they have ever been — except for a few frenzied moments before the global economic meltdown of 2008. Many immediate factors are contributing to this surge, including Iran’s threats to block oil shipping in the Persian Gulf, fears of a new Middle Eastern war, and turmoil in energy-rich Nigeria. Some of these pressures could ease in the months ahead, providing temporary relief at the gas pump. But the principal cause of higher prices — a fundamental shift in the structure of the oil industry — cannot be reversed, and so oil prices are destined to remain high for a long time to come.

“In energy terms, we are now entering a world whose grim nature has yet to be fully grasped. This pivotal shift has been brought about by the disappearance of relatively accessible and inexpensive petroleum — “easy oil,” in the parlance of industry analysts; in other words, the kind of oil that powered a staggering expansion of global wealth over the past 65 years and the creation of endless car-oriented suburban communities. This oil is now nearly gone.

“The world still harbors large reserves of petroleum, but these are of the hard-to-reach, hard-to-refine, ‘tough oil’ variety. From now on, every barrel we consume will be more costly to extract, more costly to refine — and so more expensive at the gas pump. …

“As with the Deepwater Horizon disaster, oil extraction in deep-offshore areas and other extreme geographical locations will ensure ever greater environmental risks. After all, approximately five million gallons of oil were discharged into the Gulf of Mexico, thanks to BP’s negligence, causing extensive damage to marine animals and coastal habitats.

“Keep in mind that, as catastrophic as it was, it occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, where vast cleanup forces could be mobilized and the ecosystem’s natural recovery capacity was relatively robust. The Arctic and Greenland represent a different story altogether, given their distance from established recovery capabilities and the extreme vulnerability of their ecosystems. Efforts to restore such areas in the wake of massive oil spills would cost many times the $30-$40 billion BP is expected to pay for the Deepwater Horizon damage and be far less effective. …

“And don’t forget the final cost: If all these barrels of oil and oil-like substances are truly produced from the least inviting of places on this planet, then for decades to come we will continue to massively burn fossil fuels, creating ever more greenhouse gases as if there were no tomorrow. And here’s the sad truth: if we proceed down the tough-oil path instead of investing as massively in alternative energies, we may foreclose any hope of averting the most catastrophic consequences of a hotter and more turbulent planet.

“So yes, there is oil out there. But no, it won’t get cheaper, no matter how much there is. And yes, the oil companies can get it, but looked at realistically, who would want it?”

Kony 2012 Video: A Pretext for Military Intervention?

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KAMBALE MUSAVULI, kambale at friendsofthecongo.org
Musavuli is the national spokesperson and student coordinator for Friends of the Congo. He said today: “I spoke with the makers of ‘Kony 2012’ years ago and I asked them if they thought the Ugandan government was doing all it could for peace and they had no response. They are in effect backing this very oppressive government. Kony is certainly a very evil man, but he is no longer in Uganda and this video is pushing for military intervention rather than using diplomatic means. A U.S. ally, Uganda has caused havoc in Somalia, in Rwanda and especially in the Congo where they invaded twice (1996 and 1998) and supported rebel groups which triggered the deaths of millions of Congolese from which Congolese suffer to this day.

“And, while this film calls for U.S. military intervention in capturing a rebel called Joseph Kony by providing military support to Ugandan dictator Museveni, another film — “Crisis in the Congo” [in which Musavuli is featured] — talks about the role of the U.S. in supporting Rwanda and Uganda’s destructive role in the Congo which has resulted in millions dead and wide-scale pilfering of Congo’s minerals. The film emphasizes the need for diplomatic engagement through a law called The Democratic Republic of Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act (Public Law 109-456) which was written by Obama when he was a senator and co-sponsored by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“But today, President Obama is ignoring the law that he himself wrote. Instead, for the past two years the Obama administration has given the Congolese army a waiver to use child soldiers in the military and continue to receive U.S. military backing. So it’s quite something for us to see that the White House is so pleased with the video. The video calls on the U.S. to help the International Criminal Court capture Kony. But the U.S. is itself not a signatory to the ICC, it will not subject itself to the court, but it wants to subject others.”

Musavuli was just in a video by The Real News “Kony 2012 Hides U.S. Support for Repressive Ugandan Regime.”

EMIRA WOODS, emira at ips-dc.org, also via Lacy MacAuley, lacy at ips-dc.org
Woods is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. She recently appeared on the PBS NewsHour on this issue. She said: “There are three bills in Congress related to this issue now. What is not shown in the video is the other part of this picture, which is a Ugandan military that has also been tremendously abusive in terms of the rights of its own people. The type of intervention called for in the video was tried before back in 2008. It was called Operation Lightning Thunder, reported well in The New York Times and elsewhere, where the U.S., using military forces, went in … working with the Ugandan military. What we saw essentially was Ugandan civilians caught in the crossfire, huge escalation in deaths at that time, a military operation that, in fact, failed, was never reviewed, never scrutinized, and now a call for young people to go all out and essentially support yet another attempt at a military intervention.”

Al Jazeera English reports “Ugandans, who suffered at hands of Lord’s Resistance Army, react in anger at Kony video causing Internet waves.”

Crisis in the Congo

Kony 2012

Another journalist killed in Honduras, the “deadliest place in the world to do journalism”

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Felix Molina

CNN reported Wednesday that: “Ninety-four members of Congress signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday, proposing a cutoff to all military and police aid until the issue of human rights violations in Honduras are addressed.”

The latest journalist to be killed was 54-year-old Fausto Elio Hernández Arteaga of Radio Alegre in the Aguan Valley region. He was found Sunday hacked to death with 18 machete wounds, none of his personal belongings were stolen. He is the 19th journalist to be killed since Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo took power in the aftermath of a 2009 military coup. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, Frank La Rue, recently declared Honduras the as “per capita, the deadliest place in the world to do journalism.”

FELIX MOLINA, lvargas at sjc-cjs.org
Molina is host and producer of the nightly news and analysis program for Radio Globo, a chain of 17 stations across Honduras. Radio Globo has been shut down by the military on two occasions since the 2009 coup, and Molina says he receives regular death threats by way of text message. He is currently in Ottawa to denounce the Canadian government’s recent signing of a free-trade agreement with the Lobo regime.

Regarding the killing of Fausto Elio Hernández Arteaga, Molina says: “Another journalist killed in a post-coup situation where none of the previous 18 assassinations have been investigated, much less solved. The responsibility for that impunity lies with the regime that took power by force. It’s also significant that this newest killing took place in the Aguán Valley, the region of the country that has seen the highest degree of political violence since the coup. In the two years since Lobo took power, more than 50 landless farmers have been killed in this one valley, simply for demanding their right to land.”

JESSE FREESTON, jfreeston at gmail.com
Freeston is a video-journalist and filmmaker. He released a 25-minute documentary on journalism in Honduras for The Real News Network in late 2011. He is currently finishing a feature documentary, Resistencia, on the land conflict in the Aguán Valley, where Fausto Elio Hernández Arteaga was killed. (see trailer at www.resistenciathefilm.com)

Freeston says: “We still don’t have the details on the most recent death, but the last journalist that was killed in the Aguán, Nahúm Palacios, was shot dead just one week after doing a TV report sympathetic to the landless farmer movement in the valley. Most international coverage of the journalist deaths neglects to mention that at least 17 of the 19 murdered journalists had been critical of the coup regime, and zero of the 19 worked for any of Honduras’ major media conglomerates that backed the coup (conglomerates that are, by far, the largest employers of journalists). In other words, what we’re seeing is a cleansing of journalists critical of what many Hondurans call the ‘ongoing coup’.”

Congressional Push for Sachs as Next World Bank Head

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For the first time in the World Bank’s history, a candidate is openly campaigning for presidency of the institution. Traditionally, the U.S. government has hand-selected the World Bank president, but economist and health expert Jeffrey Sachs has shaken up the process this time by publicly proclaiming his interest in succeeding Robert Zoellick as World Bank president, saying that to date World Bank presidents have been political appointees or bankers — not development experts.

Members of Congress are expected Friday to deliver a letter to President Obama urging him to nominate Sachs, now the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University to be the next World Bank president. A letter initiated by Rep. John Conyers and signed by over 25 members of Congress states: “Professor Sachs is widely considered to be the world’s leading expert on economic development and the fight against poverty. For over 25 years, he has advised dozens of governments throughout the developing world on economic development, environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, debt cancellation, and globalization. He has twice been named among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential world leaders.”

MARK WEISBROT, DEBORAH JAMES, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Weisbrot is co-director fo the Center for Economic and Policy Research. James is director of international policy for the group. Weisbrot has written several pieces about the World Bank including “Why Jeffrey Sachs Would Make a Better World Bank President.”

James said today: “Folks in the U.S. who care about ending the suffering of the world’s poorest, have an opportunity to do something about it over the next week by demanding that President Obama nominate Jeffrey Sachs, probably the world’s best-known development leader, instead of current front-runner Larry Summers, who would just continue to use the Bank to push disastrous neoliberal economic policies and U.S. elite interests. Unfortunately, no developing country leaders have been nominated; however, many developing countries have already nominated Sachs. In addition to being a world candidate, he should also be the candidate of the U.S. After so many decades of damaging policies, we need someone at the World Bank who is deeply committed to a multidisciplinary, practical approach to eradicating poverty while living within the earth’s natural systems to prevent climate collapse.”

Weisbrot said today: “Sachs’ campaign for the World Bank presidency has already succeeded in highlighting the secretive, corrupt, and anti-democratic process by which the president is normally selected, as well as some of the major failings of the Bank itself. It is especially encouraging that a number of countries have been willing to confront the Obama administration by nominating or supporting him.

“President Obama wants to appoint a crony who will do what Treasury and Wall Street (pardon the redundancy) want the Bank to do. Sachs, on the other hand, wants the Bank to do more to help poor countries fight disease and poverty, and has a track record of doing this: including through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, the Millennium Villages Project, the Earth Institute, and other research and practical projects. He has also been a strong advocate for debt cancellation for developing countries and for stronger measures to combat climate change.”

Sachs has himself written an op-ed in the Washington Post: “How I Would Lead the World Bank” and has received the backing of numerous other individuals, from the prime ministers of Kenya, Namibia and Haiti, to noted economists such as Nouriel Roubini.

Rethinking Afghanistan and Debating the Strategic Partnership Agreement

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ANAND GOPAL, anandgopal80 at gmail.com, @Anand_Gopal_
Available for a limited number of interviews, Gopal is an independent journalist who has reported extensively from Afghanistan for the Christian Science Monitor, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. He is currently at work on a book on the war in Afghanistan. He was recently interviewed by The Real News: “Afghan Killings Product of Failed Strategy.”

RICK REYES, rickreyes at me.com, @rick_reyes
Reyes is a co-founding member of Veterans for Rethinking Afghanistan. He said today: “We’ve stretched out our resources way too thin — we’ve exhausted our troops and reached the breaking point. The latest attack is an indicator of things much worse to come.”

HAKIM, weeteckyoung at gmail.com,
Hakim (Afghans frequently only have one name) is a member of the the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers, which just published the piece “Will the Afghan Parliament, the U.S. Public or the UN Debate the U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement?” which states: “Currently, citizens of Syria and the world can at least discuss Mr Kofi Annan’s warning that the situation in Syria should be handled ‘very, very carefully’ to avoid an escalation that would de-stabilize the region, after an earlier warning against further militarization of the Syrian crisis. The crisis in Afghanistan is as severe as the one in Syria, and it is more chronic. Two million Afghans have been killed in the wars of the past four decades. But not a single diplomat is warning against the further militarization of the Afghan crisis. …

“Military and foreign policy elites in Washington have encouraged a conventional presumption that the ‘war on terror’ requires a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan. Underlying that presumption is a deeper assumption that ‘terrorism’ can be resolved through war, that is, a supposition that humanity can somehow counter ‘terrorism’ by killing as many ‘terrorists’ as possible, regardless of the deadly ANGER these killings, so similar in themselves to terrorist acts, must necessarily fuel, not to mention the costly ‘collateral damage.’ …

“An interesting article dated July 11, 2011 had this to say about possible UN silence over Afghan public sentiment on the U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement: ‘The Afghan public has outrightly rejected the U.S. plans as the results of a survey conducted by UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan suggest. UNAMA with its 23 offices in Afghanistan conducted the survey across the country some two months back and hasn’t published it. Although the survey’s findings are widely known, if published, the stark survey results will undermine the U.S.’ future strategic plans.’

“If this remains true, global citizens should request that the UN disclose the wishes of the Afghan public as reflected in the survey, and demonstrate that it is still committed to diplomatic solutions and the interests of the people of Afghanistan.”

The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers have launched the campaign “Two Million Candles to End the Afghan War.”

Ryan Budget: Increases Pentagon, “Out of Touch”

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House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) unveiled a 2013 budget plan today.

WILLIAM HARTUNG, hartung at newamerica.net
Hartung is a senior research fellow in the New America Foundation’s American Strategy Program and author of the book Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex, which is just being released in paperback. He said today: “While pretending to make the ‘tough choices,’ Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget cutting plan gives a free ride to the largest single item in the discretionary budget: Pentagon spending. In fact, Ryan would spend $400 billion MORE over the next decade than current Pentagon plans. That will result in harsh cuts to virtually every other domestic program. By contrast, the budget developed by the Sustainable Defense Task Force, a plan endorsed by Representatives Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas), would reduce military expenditures by $1 trillion over the next ten years. This can be done without undermining our security, by taking measures such as eliminating outmoded and unnecessary conventional weapons, cutting the Army and Marines back to pre-2001 levels, and eliminating plans for new nuclear bombers, submarines and weapons factories.

“Even as Ryan goes easy on the Pentagon, Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney offers the arms industry an unprecedented bonanza. His plan, which would keep Pentagon spending at 4 percent of Gross Domestic Product, would result in $8 trillion more in Pentagon spending over the next decade, roughly 25 percent more than even Ryan’s generous plan. If Romney endorses the Ryan plan, it is fair to ask whether he is going to eliminate his prior commitment to massive Pentagon budgets or simply pretend the differences between the two approaches don’t exist. That would be a huge deception, if he’s allowed to get away with it.”

ROBERT KRAIG, robert.kraig at citizenactionwi.org
Kraig is executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin. He said today: “It is shameful that Paul Ryan and the House Republicans are proposing massive cuts that will further threaten economic and health security for 99% of Americans to fund billions of dollars in irresponsible new tax giveaways for the wealthy.”

KAREN DOLAN, via Lacy MacAuley, lacy at ips-dc.org
Dolan, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and director of IPS’s Cities for Progress project, said today: “Ryan unveiled a 2013 budget plan that would impose unnecessary hardship on already hurting Americans. Before the economy has had a chance to bounce back, the GOP budget would slash critical safety net programs to rates below what both parties had agreed to in last summer’s Budget Control Act. At the same time, the Ryan budget would give tax breaks to the wealthy and to corporations. I think this shows not only that the GOP is wildly out of touch with average Americans, but that they lack the ability to lead us anywhere but off a cliff. We need revenues, investments, jobs and a strong safety net for the millions of Americans who continue to suffer from the 2008 recession. Tax breaks for the rich and less for everyone else is an idea which has already failed the vast majority of Americans.”

Summers at World Bank? Record on Poor Countries and Gender Bias

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ROBERT WEISSMAN, via Barbara Holzer, bholzer at citizen.org, Dorry Samuels, dsamuels at citizen.org
President of Public Citizen, Weissman just wrote the piece “The (Larry) Summers of Our Discontent,” which states: “‘Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging more migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs (lesser developed countries)?’

“Do those sound like the words of a man who should be running the world’s leading economic development institution?

“They don’t, but the man who put his name on the memo in which those words appeared — Lawrence Summers — does in fact appear to be the Obama administration’s leading candidate to head the World Bank.

“For the sake of hundreds of millions of people for whose lives and life chances are shaped in some significant part by World Bank policy, please urge President Obama not to nominate Larry Summers to be World Bank president. Sign the petition at http://ForgetLarry.org.

“The World Bank is supposed to be the development bank for the world’s poor. It has a very poor record of fulfilling its mission — precisely because it has pushed the kind of deregulatory policies that Summers has advocated.

“By indefensible tradition, the United States is given the power to name the Bank’s president, and it has always named an American — even though the Bank is governed by a board that represents the world’s nations, and the Bank’s mission is to serve poor countries. In 2005, the Bush administration named neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz to run the Bank. That ended in disaster, when Wolfowitz was forced to resign amidst a personal scandal. It’s hard to imagine the Obama administration is on the verge of making a similarly outrageous pick to head the Bank, but that seems to be the case.”

SHAUNNA THOMAS, Doug Gordon, Doug at fitzgibbonmedia.com
Thomas is co-founder of UltraViolet, an advocacy group focusing on gender inequality, they have organized a petition to President Obama: “Please don’t nominate Larry Summers to head the World Bank. Summers has a long history of making sexist comments and the World Bank has so much control over the lives of women and girls in developing countries. We need someone there who believes that women and girls have the same potential as men and boys.”

ELAINE ZUCKERMAN, elainez at genderaction.org
President and founder of Gender Action, Zuckerman worked on development and gender issues at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank for years. She said today: “It would be a travesty for Summers to become the head of the World Bank. He was essentially fired as president of Harvard for saying that women didn’t have equal mental capacities as men. He argued that dumping toxic waste in Africa made sense.

“Working inside the World Bank, I noticed this deep divide between the lofty rhetoric on gender issues and the reality of the investments the Bank makes. It talks so much about reproductive health and HIV, but only puts less than one percent of investments there.

“The World Bank finances dirty energy projects — at Gender Action, we work with local partners — and these projects really hurt local women and girls. World Bank-financed pipelines overwhelmingly hire men. The construction of such projects causes female farmers to be displaced and forced into prostitution. Pipeline leaks cause a myriad of health problems for women. Roads that are built end up being conduits for trafficking in women. We need someone atop the World Bank who will push for investments that help — not harm — poor women and girls around the world.”

See also, Robert Kuttner just wrote a piece on Summers “Pick Me! Pick Me!” The piece states: “Why does Larry Summers have more lives than a cat? He was fired as president of Harvard, did not exactly serve President Obama brilliantly as economic policy czar, and now seems to be in line for the presidency of the World Bank, a post traditionally chosen by the president of the United States.”

Breaking: Coordinated Protests Against “Outlaw” Fukushima-Style Nuclear Plant Operator, Arrests Expected in Three States

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Occupy NOLAThe AP is reporting now: “Protesters marched in Brattleboro against the continued operation of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant Thursday, the first day of its operation after its initial 40-year operating license expired. The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued the plant a 20-year license extension, but the state of Vermont wants the plant to close. … Vermont and New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., the plant owner, have been embroiled in a legal battle over extending the Vernon plant’s 40-year license, which expired Wednesday. A federal judge in January said the Legislature overstepped its bounds in trying to close the plant. The ruling landed the dispute back before state regulators.”

Meanwhile, an affinity group of eight anti-nuclear activists with the New England-based Safe And Green Energy Alliance, today “entered the New Orleans headquarters of U.S. nuclear corporation, Entergy to declare ‘No Nuke Business As Usual on March 22nd’ according to a statement distributed by the SAGE Alliance, which is “demanding that the company cease operations at its Vermont Yankee reactor in Vernon, according to the democratic decision of the State of Vermont and the popular wishes of the Vermont people. The State voted in February 2010 to close the plant on March 21, 2012 when its 40-year license expired.”

The SAGE Alliance statement continued: “The eight protesters, all of whom have ties to New England anti-nuclear activism, some for decades, taped off a corporate ‘crime scene’ at the downtown Entergy building, demanding an audience with Entergy, CEO, J. Wayne Leonard. The request was not granted. The protesters hung banners and yellow crime tape after entering the building. All eight were arrested. It was expected that they would spend 24 hours in jail before being arraigned. A statement by one of the protesters, Renny Cushing can be viewed on YouTube.

“‘I come with the message from Vermont and from New England, that we stand united to oppose nuclear tyranny over our state’s right to self determine a safe and green energy future,’ said Nancy Braus, a resident of Putney, Vermont and a bookstore owner in Brattleboro. ‘Our simple trespass is our statement of resistance to Entergy’s corporate trespass with the continued illegal operation of this nuclear waste factory,’ she said.

“Vermont Yankee is the same GE Mark I Boiling Water Reactor design as the four Fukushima Daiichi reactors that exploded and melted down in the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan.

“‘Entergy’s assault against democracy and the people of Vermont makes it a corporate outlaw,’ said Renny Cushing, a founding member of the Clamshell Alliance in New England that launched the anti-nuclear movement in the U.S. in July 1976 with The Declaration of Nuclear Resistance. ‘We have a responsibility to our families and our communities to resist Entergy’s recklessness, arrogance and greed. The corporation’s management and shareholders need to recognize that if Entergy won’t shut down that Yankee Plant, then as citizens we will work together to shut down Entergy,’ Cushing said.

“Entergy has challenged the State of Vermont in federal court over the state’s decision to close the reactor. On Jan. 19, 2012, a federal judge found mainly in Entergy’s favor but the state has appealed. The federal government, represented by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, issued the Vermont Yankee a 20-year license extension on March 21, 2011, just ten days into the Fukushima nuclear disaster, despite the plant’s history of fires, radioactive leaks, structural collapses, and cover-ups. Entergy also owns reactors in Arkansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, and New York.

The occupation of Entergy’s New Orleans headquarters came at the same time as protesters in Brattleboro, Vt. gathered at Entergy offices there. Five Vermont activists were arrested today during a similar non-violent protest action took place at the Entergy regional headquarters in White Plains, N.Y. On March 21, seven women protesters chained shut the gates at Vermont Yankee while Buddhist monks and others chanted and sang in opposition to the reactor’s continued operation.”

Contacts:
In Washington, D.C.:
LINDA GUNTER, linda at beyondnuclear.org

Currently in New Orleans, Entergy headquarters:
NANCY BRAUS
RENNY CUSHING, rrcushing at earthlink.net

In Vermont:
KEVIN KAMPS, kevin at beyondnuclear.org

World Bank: First Qualified President?

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MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He said today: “The Obama administration’s announcement that it will nominate health expert and Dartmouth College president Jim Yong Kim for World Bank president represents a historic milestone in the institution’s history, with the U.S. nominating, for the first time, a qualified candidate. This is a huge step forward. If Kim becomes World Bank President, he’ll be the first qualified president in 68 years. Kim’s nomination is a victory for all the people, organizations, and governments that stood up to the Obama administration and demanded an open, merit-based process.

“Much of Kim’s career was with Partners in Health, which Kim co-founded. Partners in Health is a uniquely dynamic and enormously capable organization that has implemented important changes in approaches to preventing and treating diseases and other health problems, and Kim deserves much credit for that.

“However, the Bank’s process is still deeply flawed because the majority of the world’s countries are not really involved and I hope that for the next presidency, they will come together long in advance to agree on a candidate.”

Weisbrot noted the importance of Jeffrey Sachs’ candidacy as having busted open the process and “raised the bar for whom could be nominated. Sachs’ campaigning for the Bank’s presidency was unprecedented in its openness, in Sachs’ platform of reform for the Bank, and in terms of Sachs’ qualifications as an economist with extensive experience in economic development and as a health expert, who, like Kim, has worked to fight diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

“Once Sachs was nominated, it was clear it would be very difficult for the Obama administration to follow past practice and simply choose, again, a political insider or a banker,” Weisbrot said. Weisbrot noted that Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s nomination by several African countries today also “represents an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. government’s traditional domination in choosing the next World Bank president.”

STEPHANY GRIFFITH JONES, sgj2108 at columbia.edu
Chilean and British economist Stephany Griffith-Jones, currently Financial Markets Program Director at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University recently wrote the piece “What Makes Jose Antonio Ocampo a Good Candidate for President of the World Bank.”

She said today: “Jim Yong Kim is certainly an interesting choice, and he might be a great candidate to head up a health organization, but the World Bank is focused on development and infrastructure. Someone like Ocampo has that background in economics and development, and he has chosen to spend an important part of his career working in Colombia, the developing country where he was born.”

In her recent article, Griffith-Jones wrote: “Jose Antonio provides the rare combination of an experienced and successful policy-maker at the highest level (he was Minister of three portfolios in Colombia, including Finance, but also Agriculture and Planning), an outstanding international civil servant again at the highest level (including as Under Secretary General at the United Nations, as well as well as Head of the UN Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean), and a leading academic researcher in key issues relating to development and macro-economic policy.”

Griffith-Jones notes that Reuters recently reported: “While Ocampo had agreed to stand and Brazil was willing to nominate him, Colombian Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry said on Thursday that Colombia was instead focusing on a bid for the presidency of the International Labor Organization.”

Beyond “Both Sides” — Doctors Against Mandate and for Universal Coverage

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In a recent letter published by the New York Times, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Arnold Relman, notes that their coverage of the debate about a health insurance mandate didn’t “mention an important new argument against the Affordable Care Act’s mandated purchase of private insurance, the key issue before the Supreme Court.

“Last month, an amicus brief was filed by 50 doctors and two nonprofit organizations arguing that Congress could avoid a mandate by legislating a national single-payer system that provides nearly universal insurance coverage.

“Congress has already created two limited single-payer systems — Medicare and the veterans’ health system — and no legal barriers prevent doing more. Since a mandate isn’t necessary for Congress to exercise its legitimate role in regulating health insurance, there is no justification under the Constitution’s ‘necessary and proper’ clause for such a legislative requirement.”

The following are signatories to this Supreme Court brief and are available for interviews; those in D.C. will be at the Court on Tuesday. See: “Single Payer Doctors to Rally at Supreme Court,” which links to a PDF of the brief.

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com
Flowers an organizer with the National Occupation of Washington, D.C.

RUSSELL MOKHIBER, russellmokhiber at gmail.com
Mokhiber is founder of Single Payer Action and editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter. He said today: “The Obama people say: uphold the law. The right wing says: strike down the law and go back to how things were. We say: strike down the Obama mandate — it’s unconstitutional and pass single payer — everybody in, nobody out.”

CLARK NEWHALL, clark.newhall at health-justice.org
Executive director of Health Justice, Newhall is a doctor and a lawyer. He said today: “The divide is not between liberal and conservative so much as it is between corporatists and everyone else. The current system is in effect a subsidy to the heath insurance industry. We should instead move to get rid of that industry, it is simply not sustainable.”

* Pope in Cuba * Silence as Female Palestinian Hunger Striker Goes Beyond 40 Days

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SAMUEL FARBER, samuelfarber at hotmail.com
Farber is author of Cuba Since the Revolution of 1959: A Critical Assessment. He said today: “While masses of Cubans turned out to greet the Pope, appearances can be misleading. This visit will serve neither democracy nor popular interests. In exchange for the international legitimacy that the Cuban government is obtaining from the Pope, the Catholic Church expects to gain further advantages such as the teaching of religion in Catholic and even public schools.” Farber recently wrote the piece “The Second Coming of El Papa to Cuba: Pope Benedict XVI makes common cause with the Castro brothers.”

ALI ABUNIMAH, aliabunimah at mac.com, @avinunu
Abunimah is co-founder of the Electronic Intifada website and recently wrote the piece “Why the Silence? Hana Shalabi on Day 40 of Hunger Strike as Israel Rejects Appeal,” which states: “As Israeli officials defame and malign her on Twitter, Hana al-Shalabi lies critically ill and at risk of immediate death in Israeli detention on day 40 of her hunger strike. On Sunday, Ma’an News Agency reported today, an Israeli military judge – an officer of the Israeli occupation forces who kidnapped her from her home on 16 February – rejected an appeal against al-Shalabi’s “administrative detention” without charge or trial. …

“What is the ‘threat’ presented by Hana? Why won’t Israel charge her with any recognizable crime? Why did it previously hold her for two years, two years of harsh abuse, without ever charging her? The fact is that Hana al-Shalabi is a victim of Israel’s Orwellian “administrative detention” – a routinely abused “emergency” provision which dates from British colonial days. …

“Rather than an exceptional measure, as Israel claims, detention without charge or trial is on the rise. In its latest call on Israel to release Hana al-Shalabi, Amnesty International points out that she is one of more than 300 Palestinians currently in Israeli ‘administrative detention’ including more than 20 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council whose only ‘crime’ is to have been elected.

“What will it take to get the media pundits – who constantly demand that Palestinians produce Gandhis – to pay heed to Hana al-Shalabi’s struggle? Over these 40 long, agonizing days for her and her family, attention from international media has been sparse. International officials – including the European Union’s ‘Foreign Minister’ Catherine Ashton – have remained silent. Even some prominent human rights groups, including B’Tselem and Human Rights Watch have totally ignored Hana al-Shalabi.”

Abunimah is author of the book One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.

Judges Not Debating Their Own Health Care

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KAREN HIGGINS via Charles Idelson, cidelson at nationalnursesunited.org, or Carl Ginsburg, press at calnurses.org
With nearly half the Supreme Court justices who will pass judgment on the 2010 healthcare law beyond the age where they have to worry about their access to basic care, a leading voice for nurses said today that “all Americans should have the same level of security about their health.”

Higgins is a registered nurse and co-president of National Nurses United. Today she said: “For these judges, that means no concerns about being bankrupted by medical bills, denied needed treatment because some insurance agent deemed it ‘experimental’ or ‘not medically necessary,’ barred from choosing the provider of their choice because they were ‘out of network’ or forced to keep an unwanted job to maintain their present employer-paid coverage.”

“That guarantee could be achieved by extending Medicare, for which four of the nine judges already qualify, to everyone, without raising constitutional questions posed by the individual mandate that forces everyone without coverage to buy private, commercial health insurance” said the 170,000-member National Nurses United in a statement today.

Higgins added: “The Obama administration and Congress could have pre-empted the legal fight over their law by instead just expanding Medicare, a more humane, cost effective system which has no constitutional questions, to everyone under 65.

“Even now, Congress and the President could pre-empt an adverse court ruling by passing Medicare-for-all legislation currently in Congress, S 915 and HR 1200, and end our healthcare nightmare once and for all.”

High-Ranking Officials Investigated About Iranian “Terrorist” Group

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Rudy Giuliani and Maryam Rajavi

Rudy Giuliani and Maryam Rajavi

The columnist Glenn Greenwald wrote yesterday: “Jeremiah Goulka worked as a lawyer in the Bush Justice Department, and then went to work as an analyst with the RAND Corporation, where he was sent to Iraq to analyze, among other things, the Iranian dissident group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), publishing an oft-cited study on the group. MEK has been in the news of late because a high-powered bipartisan cast of former Washington officials have established close ties with the group and have been vocally advocating on its behalf, often in exchange for large payments, despite MEK’s having been formally designated by the U.S. Government as a Terrorist organization. That close association on the part of numerous Washington officials with a Terrorist organization has led to a formal federal investigation of those officials. …

“Supporters of MEK have filed a lawsuit asking a federal court to force the State Department to decide within 30 days whether to remove MEK from the list of designated Terrorist organizations (State Department officials have previously indicated they are considering doing so). … The U.S. list of Terrorist organizations (like its list of state sponsors of Terrorism) has little or nothing to do with who are and are not actually Terrorists; it is, instead, simply an instrument used to reward those who comply with U.S. dictates (you’re no longer a Terrorist) and to punish those who refuse (you are hereby deemed Terrorists).”

JEREMIAH GOULKA, jgoulka at gmail.com
Available for a limited number of interviews, Goulka wrote two pieces featured by Greenwald. In one, “The Iran War Hawks’ Favorite Cult Group,” Goulka writes: “MEK members must report their private sexual thoughts at group meetings and endure public shaming. In a Catch-22, those who deny having sexual thoughts are accused of hiding them and shamed, too. The cult has but one purpose: to put itself in charge in Iran. …”

Goulka adds that group leader Maryam Rajavi “trumpets the dangers of Iran’s nuclear program and gives the NCRI [National Council of Resistance of Iran, the propaganda arm of the MEK] credit for discovering Iran’s Natanz nuclear facility. That self-serving claim is doubtful, as is the NCRI’s posture as a democratic government-in-waiting. While its propaganda arm espouses Western values to Western audiences, the MEK continues to force-feed its doctrine to members who may not criticize the Rajavis and are not free to leave the Ashraf compound.”

In the second piece, “Investigations Begin into MEK Supporters,” Goulka writes: “The U.S. Treasury Department has begun an investigation into nearly two dozen prominent former government officials who have been paid tens of thousands of dollars to promote the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident cult group that has been designated by the State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) since 1997. … These officials include several prominent George W. Bush administration anti-terror officials like Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge, Homeland Security advisor Frances Fragos Townsend, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, UN ambassador John Bolton; as well as former Republican mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani; former Democratic governors Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Howard Dean of Vermont; ex-FBI director Louis Freeh; and retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton. These former officials have given speeches at home and abroad urging the State Department to remove the MEK from the FTO list.”

Syria Revolution “Enigma”

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ELAINE HAGOPIAN, echagop at verizon.net
Hagopian is a Syrian-American sociologist, a professor emeritus of sociology at Simmons College in Boston and political interviewer for Arabic Hour TV. She said today: “The so-called Syrian revolution is an enigma. It has split the left between those who support the so-called opposition with all its disparate parts to those who see the revolution as a plot to destroy the Syrian regime’s alliance with Iran and Hezbollah which stands in the face of Western and local affiliate countries’ interests. Syria is much more complex than these opposing positions. Assad remains in office to date. The opposition continues to fracture. The international community sees no strong and stable alternative to Assad and has thus avoided overt intervention. The resurgence of the Muslim Brothers in Syria along with a number of Salafi (fundamentalist) gangs who infiltrated the ‘revolution’ strikes fear among Western powers and non-Muslim/Arab minorities as well as regional governments who fear possible instability. Special UN Representative Kofi Annan’s six point peace plan which does not call for Assad to step down has been accepted by Assad. Does Assad really accept Annan’s six point peace plan? Is Annan’s effort being used by all parties (local and international) as a face-saving device because of their failure to dislodge Assad? Time will tell.” Hagopian wrote the piece “Bashar Assad’s Missed Opportunity: Syria’s Pandoran Box.”

Welcome to the Energy Third-World: the United States

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MICHAEL T. KLARE, via Leslie Brandon, leslie.brandon at hholt.com
Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author of the new book The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources. He just wrote the piece “A New Energy Third World in North America? How the Big Energy Companies Plan to Turn the United States into a Third-World Petro-State,” which states: “The ‘curse’ of oil wealth is a well-known phenomenon in Third World petro-states where millions of lives are wasted in poverty and the environment is ravaged, while tiny elites rake in the energy dollars and corruption rules the land. Recently, North America has been repeatedly hailed as the planet’s twenty-first-century ‘new Saudi Arabia’ for ‘tough energy’ — deep-sea oil, Canadian tar sands, and fracked oil and natural gas. But here’s a question no one considers: Will the oil curse become as familiar on this continent in the wake of a new American energy rush as it is in Africa and elsewhere? Will North America, that is, become not just the next boom continent for energy bonanzas, but a new energy Third World?

“Eager to escape ever-stronger environmental restrictions and dying oil fields at home, the energy giants were naturally drawn to the economically and environmentally wide-open producing areas of the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America — the Third World — where oil deposits were plentiful, governments compliant, and environmental regulations few or nonexistent.

“Here, then, is the energy surprise of the twenty-first century: with operating conditions growing increasingly difficult in the global South, the major firms are now flocking back to North America. To exploit previously neglected reserves on this continent, however, Big Oil will have to overcome a host of regulatory and environmental obstacles. It will, in other words, have to use its version of deep-pocket persuasion to convert the United States into the functional equivalent of a Third World petro-state.

“The formula for making Canada and the U.S. the ‘Saudi Arabia’ of the twenty-first century is grim but relatively simple: environmental protections will have to be eviscerated and those who stand in the way of intensified drilling, from landowners to local environmental protection groups, bulldozed out of the way. Put another way, North America will have to be Third-Worldified.

“How we characterize our energy predicament in the coming decades and what path we ultimately select will in large measure determine the fate of this nation.”

Cholera in Haiti: Responsibility and Resurgence

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AP is reporting this afternoon: “The United Nations says Haiti has seen a jump in the number of cholera cases as the rainy season begins. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says in a bulletin released Tuesday that the new cholera cases were found in western Haiti.”

On Monday The New York Times featured a piece noting that in the last 17 months “cholera has killed more than 7,050 Haitians and sickened more than 531,000, or 5 percent of the population. Lightning fast and virulent, it spread from here through every Haitian state, erupting into the world’s largest cholera epidemic despite a huge international mobilization still dealing with the effects of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. The world rallied to confront cholera, too, but the mission was muddled by the United Nations’ apparent role in igniting the epidemic and its unwillingness to acknowledge it. …”

See the new six-minute minidocumentary “Cholera in Haiti.”

MARIO JOSEPH, BRIAN CONCANNON, brian at ijdh.org
Joseph and Concannon manage affiliated groups in Haiti and the U.S. that have been noting the UN failure regarding cholera since shortly after the outbreak, and they are now sounding the alarm that criticism is being limited to the outbreak. “Haiti’s cholera epidemic is not simply an unfortunate accident followed by bungling by the international community” said Joseph, managing attorney for the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux in Haiti, the lead attorney for the cholera victims in their suit against the UN. “It is a failure by the UN to obey the law in maintaining its sewage treatment, followed by a refusal to bear the clear legal responsibility for its law-breaking. This is a textbook example of the dangers of impunity. Only an institution with no fear of consequences could have acted so recklessly with such dangerous bacteria.”

“The UN’s excuse for standing by while cholera victims die — that other factors caused the cholera introduced by the UN to spread throughout Haiti — would be laughed out of court, except that the UN makes sure that it is never brought to any court for the wrongful acts of its missions,” said Concannon, director of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti, which also represents the cholera victims. “The UN’s holding itself above the law deeply subverts its mission of promoting the rule of law, in Haiti and throughout the world.” (Joseph, who is in Haiti, may be available for a limited number of interviews via Concannon.)

MARK WEISBROT, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which put out a statement today warning “Cholera infections are rising again with rainy weather in Haiti in a predictable seasonal shift, and the international community must act quickly to contain the epidemic.” The group cited Monday’s New York Times report about “how cholera resurged during the 2011 rainy season after NGOs pulled back their treatment and prevention efforts during the dry season months.”

“Part of cholera prevention is ensuring access to clean water and sanitation,” Weisbrot said. “But as everyone knows, Haiti’s internally displaced persons — among many others — are a long way from having access to these necessities. In many camps there is no money going to empty latrines, going on months now. Sanitation does not exist in such situations — but disease thrives.”

Earlier this month, Bill Clinton, UN Special Envoy to Haiti, finally began acknowledging the UN role in cholera in Haiti. “Clinton: UN Soldier Brought Cholera to Haiti.”

Martin Luther King and the Decline of Black Politics

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Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Many have noted that President Barack Obama has begun addressing racial issues after a long silence on the issue.

KEVIN GRAY, kevinagray57 at gmail.com
Based in South Carolina, Gray is author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics and The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama. Gray notes the continued relevance of King’s message, citing some of his overlooked final speeches such as “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break Silence” at the Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he was assassinated:

“There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. …”

King gave his speech before the group Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam. He said to them: “The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality — and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing ‘clergy and laymen concerned’ committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. …

“Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind.”

After King was attacked for his remarks at Riverside, including by media such as the New York Times and Time magazine, he spoke out even more passionately:

“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. … There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward [segregationist Selma, Ala. sheriff] Jim Clark!’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!’ There is something wrong with that press! …

“I’m convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. … When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our present policies. … True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation.”
— From Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967.

Excerpts of audio on YouTube.

In a special program, Tavis Smiley reported that by the end of his life, as he was focusing on war and poverty as well as racism “King had almost three-quarters … of the American people turned against him, 55 percent of his own people [African Americans] turned against him.” See: “Obama vs. Martin Luther King?”

King’s 1963 “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was addressed to clergy who stated that they were pro-reform, but were advocating a slower approach than King, calling his actions “unwise and untimely.”

International Criminal Court Rejects Israeli War Crimes Probe, Court Called “Hoax”

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The International Criminal Court refused on Tuesday to consider a war crimes tribunal against Israel for its military assault on the Gaza Strip in 2009 or for other possible criminal acts in occupied Palestine. Israel welcomed the news. Amnesty International called the ICC’s move “dangerous.”

MICHAEL MANDEL, MMandel at osgoode.yorku.ca
Author of “How America Gets Away With Murder, Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity,” Mandel said today: “It’s disgraceful but not surprising that the ICC has dismissed Palestine’s complaint against Israel. It sat on the complaint for over three years, always proudly announcing that it was investigating it to give the appearance of impartiality. Meanwhile the ICC jumped to attention in less than three weeks when the U.S. government, which is not a signatory to the treaty, wanted to go to war against Libya, justifying Western aggression with bogus charges against the Libyan regime.”

Mandel added that prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno “Ocampo and company have been busy putting Africa on trial for crimes aided, abetted and exploited by the rich countries, while the U.S. government killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and tens of thousands of Afghans, and Israel has been committing Nuremberg’s ‘supreme international crime’ of aggression against the Palestinians for 45 years.

“Good riddance to Ocampo [who is stepping down], but I doubt his replacement will be any better. The ICC was a hoax from the start.”

Also, see: “ICC Prosecutor Courts Hollywood With Invisible Children” regarding Kony2012.

“JOBS Act” a “Recipe for Fraud” Creating a “Race to the Bottom”

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President Obama is scheduled to sign the “JOBS Act” this afternoon.

WILLIAM K. BLACK, blackw at umkc.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Black is now an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and the author of “The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.” He was the deputy staff director of the national commission that investigated the cause of the savings and loan debacle. He was just interviewed by The Real News: “JOBS Act 2012 a Recipe for Fraud.”

Black recently wrote an open letter signed by several noted analysts: “The JOBS Act is so Criminogenic that it Guarantees Full-Time Jobs for Criminologists,” which states: “As white-collar criminologists (and a former financial regulator and enforcement head) and experts in ferreting out sophisticated financial frauds, our careers and research focus on financial fraud by the world’s most elite private sector criminals and their political cronies. Therefore, we write to thank Congress and the President for preparing to adopt a JOBS Act that will provide us with job security for life. We will be the personal beneficiaries of Congress’ decision to adopt the law without the pesky hearings that would allow critics to launch devastating attacks on the proposed bill based on a brutally unfair tactic — the presentation of facts. Unfortunately, in our professional capacities, we must oppose the bill. This bill is an atrocity.

“The ‘Jumpstart Our Business Startups’ Act, the comically forced effort to create a catchy acronym, is the most cynical bill to emerge from a cynical Congress and Administration. It is an exemplar of why Congressional approval ratings are well below those of used car dealers. The JOBS Act is something only a financial scavenger could love. It will create a fraud-friendly and fraud-enhancing environment. It will add to the unprecedented level of financial fraud by our most elite CEOS that has devastated the U.S. and European economies and cost over 20 million people their jobs. Financial fraud is a prime jobs killer. …

“Among the many fraud-friendly policies that led to the deregulation that prompts our recurrent, intensifying financial crises, the undisputed most destructive aspect is the recurrent, intensifying embrace of the ‘regulatory race to the bottom.’ The ‘logic’ of the argument in the securities law context is that (1) dishonest issuers like bad regulation because it allows them to defraud with impunity, (2) our ‘competitor’ nations (typically described as the City of London) offer weaker regulation to induce the fraudulent issuers to locate abroad, and (3) we must not allow this to happen; we must make sure that fraudulent issuers are based in America. Of course, they never phrase honestly their ‘logic’ about dishonesty. Four national commissions investigated the causes of financial crises — the S&L debacle, the ongoing U.S. crisis, the Irish crisis, and the Icelandic crisis. Each of the commissions has decried the idiocy of the ‘race to the bottom’ dynamic and warned that it must end. The arguments advanced by industry in support of the JOBS Act reflect and worship at the altar of ‘the race to the bottom.'” http://neweconomicperspectives.org/2012/03/the-jobs-act-is-so-criminogenic-that-it-guarantees-full-time-jobs-for-criminologists.html

Background: The New York Times piece this week, “JOBS Act Jeopardizes Safety Net for Investors,” states: “Maybe President Obama should have bought shares in Groupon’s I.P.O. If he had, he would understand what some Groupon investors may be feeling as he prepares this week to sign a new piece of legislation to help start-ups get financing. Had he purchased $10,000 worth of shares on the open market on the first day of public trading for Groupon, the online coupon company based in his hometown Chicago, he would have lost a good chunk of his investment, putting him in the red by almost $4,100 today.”

Also see: “Obama JOBS Act Leaves Labor Fuming In Democratic Feud.”

Bahrani Pro-Democracy Hunger Striker at Risk of Death

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AP is reporting: “Thousands of protesters in Bahrain chanted slogans Friday in support of a jailed human rights activist whose nearly two-month hunger strike has become a powerful rallying point.” BBC is reporting that the hunger striker, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, “has been moved to a hospital clinic and is being fed intravenously after 58 days on hunger strike.”

CNN is reporting: “Authorities in Bahrain said Friday that they’ve arrested the daughter of a human rights activist who has drawn international attention and widespread protests with a hunger strike that he’s sustained for nearly two months. Zainab al-Khawaja was detained outside the Interior Ministry complex, said her lawyer, who is also representing her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Her father is striking to protest the life sentence he received for his alleged role in the unrest that continues to embroil his country.” The CNN report includes a video interview with Maryam, his other daughter.

Amnesty International in a recent statement, “Bahrain: Release leading rights activist at risk of death from hunger strike” noted that they consider “Al-Khawaja to be a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.”

NABEEL RAJAB, nabeel.rajab at gmail.com, @nabeelrajab
Rajab is co-founder with Abdulhadi al-Khawaja of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He said today: “We are afraid that he might lose his life or lose part of his body at any time. We seek international intervention on Bahrain, politically, economically, to pressure the Bahraini regime to stop its crimes against the people and against all the prisoners, including my colleague and my teacher, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.”

RADHIKA SAINATH, radhika.sainath at gmail.com, @radhikasainath
Sainath is an attorney and activist with Occupy Wall Street and Witness Bahrain and has been helping lead protests outside the Bahrani consulate in New York City.

MOHAMMAD ALI NAQUVI, alinaquvi at yahoo.com
Also helping organize protests in New York, Ali Naquvi is an attorney and activist with the American Council for Freedom in Bahrain.

Zainab al-Khawaja, who is now detained and reportedly starting her own hunger strike, had been regularly tweeting: @angryarabiya

Maryam al-Khawaja is at @MARYAMALKHAWAJA

Egypt’s “Torturer-in-Chief” Running for President

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Omar Suleiman, Egyptian AP is reporting: “Hosni Mubarak’s former vice president and spy chief said in comments published Monday that he would not attempt to ‘reinvent’ the regime of his longtime mentor if he is elected president of Egypt.

“Omar Suleiman, who is running in the presidential elections slated for May 23-24, told state-owned Al-Akhbar daily that restoring security would be his top priority as president.”

LISA HAJJAR, lhajjar at soc.ucsb.edu
Hajjar is a professor in the sociology department at the University of California-Santa Barbara. She wrote the piece “Omar Suleiman, the CIA’s Man in Cairo and Egypt’s Torturer-in-Chief.”

The piece states: “At least one person extraordinarily rendered by the CIA to Egypt — Egyptian-born Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib — was tortured by Suleiman himself. … A far more infamous torture case, in which Suleiman also is directly implicated, is that of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi. Unlike Habib, who was innocent of any ties to terror or militancy, al-Libi allegedly was a trainer at al-Khaldan camp in Afghanistan. He was captured by the Pakistanis while fleeing across the border in November 2001. He was sent to Bagram, and questioned by the FBI. But the CIA wanted to take over, which they did, and he was transported to a black site on the USS Bataan in the Arabian Sea, then extraordinarily rendered to Egypt. Under torture there, al-Libi ‘confessed’ knowledge about an al-Qaeda-Saddam connection, claiming that two al-Qaeda operatives had received training in Iraq for use in chemical and biological weapons. In early 2003, this was exactly the kind of information that the Bush administration was seeking to justify attacking Iraq and to persuade reluctant allies to go along. Indeed, al-Libi’s ‘confession’ was one the central pieces of ‘evidence’ presented at the United Nations by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to make the case for war. As it turns out, though, that ‘confession’ was a lie tortured out of him by Egyptians. …

“According to Evan Kohlmann, who enjoys favored status as an ‘al-Qaeda expert’ among U.S. officials, citing a classified source: ‘Al-Libi’s death coincided with the first visit by Egypt’s spymaster Omar Suleiman to Tripoli.’ Kohlmann surmises and opines that after al-Libi recounted his story about an al-Qaeda-Saddam WMD connection, ‘The Egyptians were embarrassed by this admission, and the Bush government found itself in hot water internationally. Then, in May 2009, Omar Suleiman saw an opportunity to get even with al-Libi and traveled to Tripoli. By the time Omar Suleiman’s plane left Tripoli, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi had committed ‘suicide.””

See in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer “Who is Omar Suleiman?

Hajjar was quoted in USA Today: “Suleiman’s reputation holds dread for some in Egypt .”

Where Did Your Taxes Go?

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National Priorities Project recently released Tax Day 2012 with the numbers on how federal income taxes were spent in fiscal 2011 — down to the penny, giving people a “Tax Receipt” for how their money is spent.

The group found “Federal income tax revenues totaled around $1.13 trillion in fiscal 2011. … Twenty-seven cents of every federal income tax dollar went to the military; 21.4 cents went to Medicare and other health programs; 14.5 cents paid for interest on the federal debt…”

In addition, “individuals can enter the amount of federal income taxes they paid in 2011, and find out exactly how much money they contributed to space flight research, disaster relief, food stamps, and more.” NPP found, for example, an individual earning $50,000 and paying approximately $6,000 in federal income taxes in 2011 contributed 64 cents toward high speed rail and $40.97 for nuclear weapons.

MATTEA KRAMER, mattea at nationalpriorities.org
Kramer, a senior research analyst at NPP, said today: “Individuals are our nation’s major bill payers, responsible for 86 percent of all federal revenue in fiscal 2011. That includes our income taxes, as well as payroll taxes, estate and gift taxes, and excise taxes on goods like gasoline.”

Gaza “More Dire Than Ever”

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Dr. Mads Gilbert in Gaza

Dr. Mads Gilbert in Gaza

Dr. MADS GILBERT, mads.gilbert at gmail.com, also via Jennifer Loewenstein, amadea311 at earthlink.net
During the Israeli “Operation Cast Lead” in Dec. 2008 – Jan. 2009, Dr. Gilbert was one of only two outside doctors in Gaza. Last week the International Criminal Court, to the protests of Amnesty International and other groups, stated it would not issue prosecutions for the Israeli Operation. Recently Gilbert, co-author of “Eyes in Gaza,” returned to Gaza and is now on a 10-day speaking tour in the U.S.

Gilbert said today: “The Israeli Operation Cast Lead killed 1.400 people in Gaza, struck 58 mosques and 280 schools. I’m sad to say from my visit to Gaza earlier this year, the situation is now more dire than ever. The Israeli siege effectively prohibits the rebuilding of Gaza — the import of concrete, of window panes, the availability of travel for medical care for the population. I’ve worked in other desperate situations in other places and Gaza is unique in a number of respects. It’s a captive population — usually if civilians are being attacked, there’s a safe place they can take refuge and then come back to their homes when the fighting has stopped. That doesn’t exist for the people in Gaza since they are effectively imprisoned by the Israeli siege. It’s an incredibly young population and a very poor population with nearly 80 percent unemployment, largely because of the Israeli siege, which is an illegal form of collective punishment. Anemia and protein deficiency are widespread.

“During the Israeli attack, I saw the effects of new weapons including drones, phosphorous and also DIME [Dense Inert Metal Explosives], which leave no shrapnel, but I witnessed their capacity to cut a child in two; they also leave radioactive traces. The Palestinian population is very resilient but this is being undermined in a number of ways that are not obvious. Israel is finding ways of getting more and more informants and traitors, including by blackmailing people who need medical care.

“Politically, the Palestinians have fundamentally abided by truces. The truce before Cast Lead was broken by the Israelis on Nov. 4, 2008, just as many in the U.S. were celebrating the election of Barack Obama and was planned for two years.

“When I asked a wise man in Gaza what I should say to people in the U.S., he said: ‘Tell them your tax dollars are killing us, the Palestinians.’ Indeed, all this could change if there were a shift in U.S. policy. Imagine if Obama had acted in a courageous manner — if he’d flown his Marine One helicopter into Gaza when he was in Egypt and addressed the people there, like Kennedy did in Berlin, saying to the people ‘I am a Palestinian.'”

Regarding last week’s ICC decision, Glibert noted “the ICC is in effect telling Israel that it can do what it wants to the Palestinians without legal accountability. Unfortunately the Norwegian legal system similarly dismissed a case form Norwegian lawyers.” He continued, “I do see positive changes coming from the grassroots. My own country of Norway used to be very pro-Israeli, but because of the reality of Israeli polices and because Norwegians became aware of them — through our soldiers serving as peacekeepers in the region and solidarity workers like myself — the Palestinian narrative took hold. It took decades, but it took hold.”

Gilbert is a professor and head of the department of emergency services at the University of North Norway and did medical research at the University of Iowa. See Gilbert’s piece “Inside Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital” in the noted medical journal The Lancet.

Gilbert is also available for interviews via Jennifer Loewenstein, who is faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and board member of the Chomsky Fund, which is organizing Gilbert’s tour.

* Iran Talks * Bahrain Repression * Summit of Americas

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GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com
American and Iranian negotiators are scheduled to meet this weekend in Istanbul regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Porter is an investigative journalist and historian specializing in U.S. national security policy. He just wrote the piece “U.S.-Israel Deal to Demand Qom Closure Threatens Nuclear Talks.”

Protesters throw Molotov cocktails at a police water cannonREEM KHALIFA, reem.khalifa at alwasatnews.com, @Reem_Khalifa
Today, AP is reporting “Formula One’s governing body says the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead as planned,” see: “Human Rights Abuses Aside, Formula 1 Racers Head to Bahrain.”

InterPress Service reported earlier this week “White House Expresses Growing Concern Over Bahrain.”

Khalifa is a noted independent journalist in Bahrain who has written for the AP and other outlets. Today, she reports on large protests including 10,000 people attending a funeral of a citizen journalist. She also reports that the Bahraini government is resorting to weapons they have not used since last year and protesters are denouncing the U.S. and Saudi governments as well as the Bahraini monarchy. Khalifa is scheduled to be interviewed by The Real News today.

MOHAMMAD ALI NAQUVI, alinaquvi at yahoo.com
Ali Naquvi is an attorney and activist with the American Council for Freedom in Bahrain. He said today: “The protests today show that the demands of the Bahrani people have not been met. With the courage of Mr. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s hunger strike, now over 60 days, the morale of the people continues to stay high. Even though the Formula One association says that they are going ahead with the race, many individual teams have expressed concern.”

ALEX MAIN, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Main is senior associate for international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He just wrote the piece “Obama in Cartagena: No Change, Dwindling Hope,” which states: “Whether on Cuba policy, ‘free trade,’ the ‘war on drugs’ or relations with left-wing governments in South America, the administration’s current policies are nearly indistinguishable from those of Bush. As a result, Obama’s reception in Cartagena is likely to be lukewarm at best; and the Summit of the Americas itself may well be seen as increasingly irrelevant by most of Latin America and the Caribbean.”

SANHO TREE, stree at igc.org
Director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, Tree said today: “As the violence caused by drug prohibition threatens governments throughout the region, the demand for ending prohibition will intensify. Previously, it had been only retired politicians and officials who spoke openly of their views. Now, sitting heads of state are joining the discussion.” See a recent interview here.

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rebuffs U.S. State Department on Upcoming Summit

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Mairead Maguire, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work on Ireland and was scheduled to attend the Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates this month in Chicago, has canceled her appearance citing a statement by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the State Department is an “active partner” in the event. Maguire notified associates, including other Nobel Prize Laureates, of her decision in a letter the Institute for Public Accuracy has obtained and is below.

The Nobel Summit leads up to the NATO Summit in Chicago. A video of Clinton’s recent remarks is available here.

Critics of the State Department and NATO applauded Maguire’s decision:

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at law.uiuc.edu
Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of “Tackling America’s Toughest Questions.” He said today: “It is well known that the so-called Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by Norwegian politicians and that Norway is a member of NATO. In other words the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by NATO politicians in order to further their own political interests. And now we have the Nobel Prizers finally come out of the NATO closet.” Boyle derided the notion of the U.S. State Department using the Nobel Peace Prize at the upcoming “NATO WARFEST in Chicago. But of course the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Henry Kissinger. Nobel ‘Peace Prize’? Tell that to millions in war after war — Vietnam, Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and now threatening Syria and Iran.”

Boyle — who was a leading lawyer defending protesters during the fight against apartheid South Africa — noted that a video has also been released of former apartheid South African President Willem de Klerk touting his scheduled participation and interaction with Chicago students in conjunction with the upcoming events. Boyle noted that de Klerk “avoided testifying before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission — so from him there was no truth, no accountability, no prosecution.”

FREDRIK HEFFERMEHL, fredpax at online.no
Author of “The Nobel Peace Prize: What Nobel Really Wanted,” Heffermehl said today: “I take the Mairead Maguire boycott of the Chicago event as a rising awareness of how far the Peace Prize has wandered from the original peace vision of Alfred Nobel, a world peace order based on global law and disarmament. Nobel wished to help a development in the direct opposite direction of what the U.S. and NATO are pursuing and it is particularly pertinent to abstain from participation in a Nobel event hosted by the U.S. State Department.”

“The Norwegian parliamentarians entrusted with the award have transformed it to suit their own political ideas and led Swedish authorities to initiate an investigation of the peace prize awards. The probe ended last month with an order to the Nobel Foundations to do a major overhaul, checking the purpose Nobel had in mind and giving clear instructions to ensure that all awards comply with the purpose.”

Mairead Maguire sent this letter out to fellow Nobel Peace Laureates and other associates on Friday:

Dear Friends,

I write to let you know that I have decided not to attend the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates on 23rd-25th April, 2012, in Chicago, USA.

On 10th April, Sec. of State H. Clinton appeared on video [on the U.S. State Department website] announcing plans for the forthcoming Nobel Peace Laureates Summit and said ‘The U.S. Department of State is proud to be an active partner in this event’. Sec. Clinton gave details of how the U.S. State Dept. is working with U.S. embassies around the world, to bring 20 students and four teachers from four countries to Chicago and explained that video conferences and portals for live streaming of events, will be managed by U.S. State Department.

I have now decided, with some sadness, not to be associated in this Partnership as I do not agree with many of the policies of the U.S. State Department. Indeed I have, as a Nobel Peace Laureate, (and in the spirit of Alfred Nobel) often called for disbandment of NATO, end of militarism and war, and for disarmament and demilitarization. I cannot therefore, in good conscience, be part of a Partnership with the U.S. State Government (NATO). I also believe that my participation in such a partnership would compromise my position and put in jeopardy my work in the Middle East and other countries.

I am very disappointed that what is a great opportunity for young people, the Nobel Laureates and organizations to listen, learn, and exchange friendships and experiences, has been, I believe, seriously compromised in such a Partnership.

However, I hope it will be an enjoyable and educational summit particularly for all the young people, and I am deeply saddened not to be with you all.

Peace,
Mairead Maguire
Peace People, Northern Ireland

Video of Willem de Klerk

Tax Day: “Buffett Rule” and Military Spending

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Yesterday, Senate Democrats mustered only 51 of the 60 votes needed to advance President Obama’s “Buffett Rule” to impose a minimum tax of 30 percent on individuals earning over $1 million.

Today is the second annual Global Day of Action on Military Spending, coinciding with the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s release of global military spending figures. In 2010 the United States spent nearly five times more than the next closest country, China, according to the SIPRI 2011 report.

CHUCK COLLINS via Bob Keener, bob at wealthforcommongood.org
Collins is a senior scholar for the Institute for Policy Studies, and author of the new book “99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It.” He said today: “The tax rules have tilted in favor of the 1 percent for 50 years. We need to institute the Buffett Rule and roll back the Bush tax cuts as the first step toward tax fairness and fiscal responsibility.”

JOHN FEFFER, johnfeffer at gmail.com
Feffer is co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies. He said today: “Almost every country with a military is on an insane path, spending more and more of our tax dollars on missiles, aircraft, and guns, while the planet is in crisis. These countries should be confronting the real threats of climate change, hunger, disease, and oppression, not wasting taxpayers’ money on their military.”

He recently wrote a piece titled “Arms Down,” which states: “Any demilitarization plan must begin with the United States. As the number one military spender and arms exporter in the world, the United States is the heart that pumps the blood that keeps the military-industrial complex functioning worldwide. U.S. arms manufacturers have gamed the system to maintain their dominance. They have set up their manufacturing in as many states as possible in order to buy the support of Congress. …

“To break out of this zero-sum situation and create a virtuous circle of military reductions, we must pursue a three-prong strategy. The first addresses U.S. military spending, the second focuses on the global arms trade, and the third creates incentives for countries to reorient their budget priorities.”

Equal Pay Day Today

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Tuesday, April 17 is Equal Pay Day, a day to mark the fact that women still only earn 77 percent of each dollar earned annually by men and 82 percent of each dollar earned weekly. Equal Pay Day represents the date in the current year through which women must work to match what men earned in the previous year.

ARIANE HEGEWISCH, via Caroline Dobuzinskis, dobuzinskis at iwpr.org
Hegewisch is a study director at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and co-wrote the just-released fact sheet “The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation.” which finds: “Women’s median earnings are lower than men’s in nearly all occupations, whether they work in occupations predominantly done by women, occupations predominantly done by men, or occupations with a more even mix of men and women.”

The group’s research “finds that women have lower median earnings than men in all but one of the 20 most common occupations for women, ‘bookkeeping and auditing clerks,’ where women and men have the same median earnings. In one of the twenty most common male occupations, ‘stock clerks and order fillers,’ women out-earned men by 3 percent of median male earnings.

Hegewisch said today: “These gender wage gaps are not about women choosing to work less than men — the analysis is comparing apples to apples, men and women who all work full time — and we see that across these 40 common occupations, men nearly always earn more than women. Discrimination law cases provide us with some insights on the reasons that the wage gap persists: women are less likely to be hired into the most lucrative jobs, and — when they work side by side with men — they may get hired at a lower rate, and receive lower pay increases over the years. Discrimination in who gets hired for the best jobs hits all women but particularly black and Hispanic women.” See the news release “Men Earn More Than Women Within Nearly All the Most Common Occupations.”

Also see the group’s “Pay Equity and Discrimination” resource page, which states: “Women are almost half of the workforce. They are the equal, if not main, breadwinner in four out of ten families. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men.”

BP Disaster Two Years Later

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This Friday, April 20, is the two-year anniversary of BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and poured 200 million gallons of oil into Gulf waters. Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day.

CHRIS KROMM, chris at southernstudies.org
Kromm is executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies, which is releasing a report today titled “Troubled Waters: Two Years After the BP Oil Disaster, a Struggling Gulf Calls for National Leadership for Coastal Recovery.” The report states: “The BP oil disaster has not gone away. Despite BP’s rosy ad campaign, fishing families are struggling to make ends meet and coastal residents are still reporting widespread illnesses from the spill. Gulf communities need national leadership to restore the coast and rebuild the economy — but in Washington, the BP disaster and Gulf recovery have fallen off the national radar. On the two-year anniversary of the BP spill, there are several key steps lawmakers can take to honor the nation’s promise for a full Gulf recovery.”

Kromm said today: “Two years later, Congress has yet to pass one piece of legislation addressing the BP oil spill, and Gulf recovery has slipped off the political agenda. But oil is still washing up on Gulf shores, and coastal communities are still reeling from hard hits to the fishing industry and widespread reports of illnesses related to the spill. Gulf residents are looking for national leadership to help restore the coast and fully recover.”

See also ISS’s five-part series on the Gulf’s recovery.

DERRICK EVANS, tccidirector at gmail.com
Evans is a resident of Gulfport, Mississippi and advisor to the Gulf Coast Fund, a community foundation. He attended BP’s shareholder meeting in London on April 12, 2012, and in an address to the gathering he said the response to the disaster has been a “fiasco.” Evans also invited BP executives and shareholders to visit the Gulf communities still affected by the disaster, and received a positive response from one BP board member.

He said today: “It was good to be able to meet with BP board member Ian Davis, who is the chairman of the Gulf of Mexico Committee and so has responsibility for ensuring that BP is keeping its promises to the people of the Gulf Coast. However, we were disappointed to learn that he knew nothing about the problems we are facing on the ground. He has now agreed to visit affected communities and see for himself what’s really happening, and so we look forward to helping him fulfill that promise.”

AARON VILES, aaron@healthygulf.org
Viles is deputy director of the Gulf Restoration Network, based in New Orleans. He said today: “As we take stock two years into the worst oil drilling disaster we’ve ever seen, it’s clear an honest assessment brings cause for alarm. From dying dolphins to ongoing problems in the oyster fishery, the impacts to wildlife and the communities which rely upon a healthy Gulf remain. Even more outrageous is the inaction from Washington, D.C.

“Two years after the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969 we had Earth Day and the birth of the modern environmental movement. Two years after the Exxon Valdez, the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 was passed. Here we are, two years after the BP drilling disaster, and not a single law has been signed by the President to restore the Gulf or protect it from future disasters. It’s well past time for the nation to commit to the long-term health of this threatened ecosystem and the people it sustains.”

Sen. Conrad Proposal “Would Dismantle Social Security”

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NANCY ALTMAN, ERIC KINGSON, via Sarah Shive sshive at socialsecurity-works.org
Altman and Kingson are co-chairs of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign. The group released a statement today, which said that Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent “Conrad’s budget mark, the Fiscal Commission Budget Plan, incorporates the Social Security cuts contained in the Bowles-Simpson proposal. Unfortunately, some seem to have forgotten what the Bowles-Simpson proposal would entail for Social Security. The proposal would cut the benefits of all current beneficiaries, drastically cut the benefits of future generations, and worse, effectively end Social Security as we know it.

“Senator Kent Conrad’s Fiscal Commission Budget Plan incorporates the Social Security proposals of the Bowles-Simpson plan. Members should know that this plan would cut benefits for today’s and tomorrow’s beneficiaries. Of even greater concern, it would dismantle Social Security. Specifically, the Conrad/Bowles-Simpson plan would:

* Drastically cut the benefits of middle-class families: The Bowles-Simpson proposal cuts Social Security’s retirement, survivors, and disability benefits by between 19 percent and 42 percent for young people entering the workforce today.

* Reduce the annual Cost of Living Adjustment for current and future Social Security beneficiaries: The Bowles-Simpson proposal would cut the COLA for current and future Social Security beneficiaries, reducing benefits more with every passing year. This would prevent benefits from keeping up with increases in the cost of living over time. Under these plans, retirees claiming benefits at 65 would see their benefits decline by 3.7 percent at age 75, by 6.5 percent at age 85, and 9.2 percent at age 95.2.

* Raise the full retirement age to 69, and the earliest eligibility age to 64: Because of the way that Social Security benefits are calculated, raising the retirement age, as the Bowles-Simpson proposal recommends, is indistinguishable from an across-the-board benefit cut, no matter how long workers continue to work — even when they work to age 70 and beyond. Raising the full retirement age by two full years amounts to a 13 percent benefit cut, on top of the 13 percent cut already made when the retirement age was increased from 65 to 67.3. The cuts are hardest for workers in physically demanding jobs, poor health, or otherwise unable to continue to work.

* Radically restructure the program: The Bowles-Simpson proposal would destroy Social Security by stealth. It would eliminate a fundamental and carefully-crafted feature that has been part of the program since the beginning. As figure 1 shows, over time, everyone would receive nearly the same subsistence level benefit unrelated to wages.

* Cut benefits for the most vulnerable: More than half of all workers with an annual income of about $11,000 would see their benefits cut by about 16 percent under the Bowles-Simpson proposal.”

“George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, and Me”

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James Loreen's Jamea Loewen's JAMES LOEWEN, jloewen at uvm.edu
When George Zimmerman launched a new website, it highlighted quotes from Thomas Paine, Henrik Ibsen, Edmund Burke — and James Loewen. Indeed, Loewen was the only living person Zimmerman quoted — specifically for his statement, “People have a right to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. Evidence must be located, not created, and opinions not backed by evidence cannot be given much weight.”

Loewen recently wrote the piece “George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, and Me,” which states: “I’m happy to be in the company of Burke, Ibsen, and Paine. … I’m not happy with being used as a resource by George Zimmerman, and I disclaim any relationship with him and his cause. Of course, once they have unleashed words upon the world — in particular, upon the World Wide Web — authors have no control over their use, for good or ill. Moreover, one reason why I have not written a thing about the death of Trayvon Martin is my lack of facts. I know only what I have learned from the newspapers (yes, I subscribe) and other media. Anyone likely to read anything I might write about the matter has already read the same sources.

“I would like to know how George Zimmerman learned of my words that he used. They appear on page 358 of ‘Lies My Teacher Told Me.’ While I would like to believe he read the entire book, if he did, he seems to have missed its anti-racist central message.”

Loewen’s other books include “Lies Across America” and “The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader.” See a talk of his about his book “Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism,” which exposes towns and neighborhoods that were or are closed to non-whites.

Drop Egypt’s Debt: IMF Loan May be “Odious”

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Reuters is reporting: “The International Monetary Fund said on Friday Egypt’s government and political partners have made good progress in agreeing on the content of an IMF funding program for the country. … Egypt and the IMF are in discussions on a $3.2 billion loan program. The IMF is insisting that any agreement on financing is backed by Egypt’s government and political partners ahead of June elections.”

As the IMF and World Bank meetings begin Friday in Washington, D.C., the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debt sent a letter to both expressing its reservations about the interim government’s intent to take more loans — and most explicitly the $3.2 billion IMF loan. In its letter, the PCDED highlights the unelected Egyptian government’s lack of transparency — “the government continues to conceal the details of the economic program that is associated with the loan that Egypt is currently negotiating with the IMF” — and state that such a loan may constitute illegitimate odious debt.

AHMAD SHOKR, shokr.ahmad at gmail.com
SALMA HUSSEIN, salmaahussein at gmail.com
Shokr and Hussein are members of the the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debt, which sent the following letter to Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the IMF:

Dear Ms. Christine Lagarde,

The Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debt is writing you to raise concerns on the way the IMF loan is being negotiated and propose actions by the IMF to correct the problems.

Unfortunately the Egyptian government continues to pursue the same style of the pre-January revolution loan handling. For example, the government continues to conceal the details of the economic program that is associated with the loan that Egypt is currently negotiating with the IMF. This approach is reflected in that:

1. The government has not disseminated the economic reform program through media outlets at any stage during its preparation. The details of the initial draft of the program were unveiled to the public only after the Campaign leaked the document to the media.

2. Thus far, the parliament and the Ministry of Finance refuse to disclose the details of the economic reform program after it has been amended.

3. The economic reform program has not been subject to any form of public debate.

4. The economic reform program was never discussed in any public sessions in the parliament. It was only discussed behind closed doors among members of the parliament’s planning and budget committee, and representatives of the government and the IMF.

5. The parliamentary planning and budget committee had announced initially its refusal to accept the economic reform program. It then reversed its position and told the press it approves of the program, without any explanation to the public of the reasons for shifting its position.

These practices are in direct contradiction to the transparency and accountability principles of both the IMF and the Egyptian governments. The Egyptian people will bear responsibility for the obligations of this loan for years to come, and thus they must actively participate in formulating its terms.

Therefore, the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debts urges the IMF to:

– Disclose the details of the economic reform program and the details of previous drafts of the program so that the IMF would not be complicit in sidelining the Egyptian people. Inaction from the IMF would signify its tacit approval of negotiating a loan in isolation from the Egyptian people and of continuing the non-transparent, unfair practices of the Mubarak regime.

– Cease negotiations associated with the proposed loan to Egypt, because the government engaged in these negotiations is unelected and its key figures belong to a corrupt and non-democratic old regime. The Egyptian people continue to struggle to change the old regime in order to establish a society and economy based on transparency, accountability, and citizens’ participation in decision-making affecting their lives. Egyptians are striving for a society and an economy that address the needs of the majority of the people and that distribute burdens among its members according to their respective financial capabilities and obligations.

– Finally, the Campaign believes that the persistence of secrecy surrounding the negotiations of the details of the agreement with the IMF will render the proposed loan suspect of being “odious.”

Socialist Victory in France

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The Los Angeles Times reports: “Socialist Party candidate Francois Hollande and French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday advanced to a presidential runoff election, as a far-right candidate surprised many observers with a strong third-place finish.”

ETHAN YOUNG, ethanyoung at earthlink.net
Content manager for Economy Watch, a blog sponsored by the Brecht Forum, Young said today: “Nationalism — both anti-European unity and anti-immigrant — undercut Nicolas Sarkozy. It should be noted that the Socialist Party in France has been pro-European integration and has pushed austerity. But they are not as closely associated with these policies as Sarkozy who, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, has hoisted draconian austerity measures on southern European countries. The French enjoy, and support, a still-substantial safety net, which came from the Left.

“The anti-immigrant Marine Le Pen’s strong third place showing is very important, but it’s not clear where those voters will go. Le Pen has been anti-Euro and anti-austerity. Much of their base is working class. But it’s a fundamentally fascist party which has taken classical anti-Semitism and applied it to immigrant Arabs and Muslims.

“Jean-Luc Melenchon, further left than the first place Socialists, came in fourth place with 11 percent. His party is anti-European integration and anti-austerity. He had surged in recent weeks with very vibrant protests, but it’s clear that did not translate to as strong a showing as some expected. Melenchon just endorsed Hollande, and his popularity will have weight.”

Principals Against State of Testing

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Throughout the U.S., children are taking tests this week so that local jurisdictions can get federal “Race to the Top” funds.

CAROL BURRIS, cburris at rvcschools.org
Burris has served as principal of South Side High School in the Rockville Centre School District in New York since 2000. She is author of “Detracking for Equity and Excellence.” She was just featured in a report “Teachers, parents push back against high stakes testing,” part of a series on education by The Real News.

Late last year she co-wrote a letter about how testing is being conducted in New York State. As of last week, 1432 New York State principals have become signatories to the letter, which states: “In May 2010, the New York State Legislature — in an effort to secure federal Race to the Top funds — approved an amendment to Educational Law 3012-c regarding the Annual Professional Performance Review of teachers and principals. The new law states that beginning September 2011, all teachers and principals will receive a number from 0-100 to rate their performance. Part of that number (ranging from 20 percent to 40 percent) will be derived from how well students perform on standardized tests. At first glance, using test scores might seem like a reasonable approach to accountability. As designed, however, these regulations carry unintended negative consequences for our schools and students that simply cannot be ignored. Below we explain both the flaws and the consequences.

“Educational research and researchers strongly caution against teacher evaluation approaches like New York Stateʼs APPR Legislation. A few days before the Regents approved the APPR regulations, ten prominent researchers of assessment, teaching and learning wrote an open letter that included some of the following concerns about using student test scores to evaluate educators. Value-added models of teacher effectiveness do not produce stable ratings of teachers. …

“The Regents examinations and Grades 3-8 Assessments are designed to evaluate student learning, not teacher effectiveness, nor student learning growth. Using them to measure the latter is akin to using a meter stick to weigh a person: you might be able to develop a formula that links height and weight, but there will be plenty of error in your calculations. …

“Students will be adversely affected by New York Stateʼs APPR. When a teacherʼs livelihood is directly impacted by his or her studentsʼ scores on an end-of-year examination, test scores take front and center. The nurturing relationship between teacher and student changes for the worse. …

“With a focus on the end of year testing, there inevitably will be a narrowing of the curriculum as teachers focus more on test preparation and skill and drill teaching. Enrichment activities in the arts, music, civics and other non-tested areas will diminish. …

“Teachers will subtly but surely be incentivized to avoid students with health issues, students with disabilities, English Language Learners or students suffering from emotional issues. Research has shown that no model yet developed can adequately account for all of these ongoing factors. …

“Collaboration among teachers will be replaced by competition. With a ‘value added’ system, a 5th grade teacher has little incentive to make sure that her incoming students score well on the 4th grade exams, for incoming students with high scores would make her job more challenging. When competition replaces collaboration, every student loses. …

“Tax dollars are being redirected from schools to testing companies, trainers and outside vendors…”

“Occupy the Justice Department”

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DANNY GLOVER, FRANCES FOX PIVEN, NORMAN FINKELSTEIN, TALIB KWELI, via April R. Silver, pr at akilaworksongs.com
Actor Danny Glover, activists and authors Frances Fox Piven and Norman Finkelstein and rapper Talib Kweli are among those participating in “Occupy the Justice Department” protests today. The protests demand an end to “systemic police corruption and civil rights violations in Mumia Abu-Jamal’s case and in the cases of hundreds of others across the nation.” They also demand that the government “Release Abu-Jamal; End mass incarceration and the criminalization of Black and Latino Youth; Create jobs, education, and health care, not jails; End solitary confinement and stop torture; End the racist death penalty; Hands off immigrants; Free all political prisoners.”

NOELLE HANRAHAN, globalaudiopi at gmail.com
Hanrahan is the director of Prison Radio. She edited Mumia Abu-Jamal’s book “All Things Censored” and for years has produced his recordings from death row and now from prison (Abu-Jamal was recently released from death row). She said today: “Prison Radio brings the voices of prisoners into the debate on crime and punishment. We have a new recording by Mumia and by other political prisoners. Mumia’s case and voice is emblematic, it represents much of what is wrong in our society. There are 7 million people under correctional control, 2 million actually in prison. About 1 in 46 people will do time in their lifetime. We spend more on prisons than we do on education. It does not lead to public safety, it leads to the public sector not being able to provide what it needs to for a healthy society. What you do to people in prison directly impacts us on the outside — you have HIV and TB spreading in prisons. And it’s devastating to particular communities: 1 in 3 black men will do prison time.”

JOHN CARLOS FREY, via Ben Wyskida, ben at berlinrosen.com
John Carlos Frey is a documentary filmmaker and investigative journalist at the Nation Institute. His exposé on the death of Anastasio Hernández-Rojas aired on Friday on “Need to Know.”

This morning on Democracy Now he said: “Anastasio Hernández-Rojas was caught trying to cross back into the United States. He was detained by Border Patrol agents, went through the detention process. And in the process of being deported, this is when the story really begins. The Border Patrol agents, via their own press release and documents, say that he was combative, Hernández-Rojas was combative. They removed his handcuffs — this is actually in the document — they removed his handcuffs and applied the use of a taser. He fell to the ground, suffered a heart attack and subsequently died. That is what is actually in the police report.

“But the new video and eyewitness testimony proves otherwise. He was handcuffed. He was hogtied. He was not combative. The taser was applied at least five times. He was kicked. He was beaten. He suffered five broken ribs, bruises and cuts all over his body, misaligned teeth. None of that is in the official report. … The Justice Department has not asked any of the eyewitnesses for this information. … So, from our knowledge, it looks like the Justice Department has done absolutely nothing in investigating this case.”

[Note: A previous version of this news release incorrectly identified Talib Kweli as being affiliated with the group Public Enemy.]

Arizona Immigration Case and “Reverse-Commandeering”

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Protesters in front of the Supreme Court

MARGARET HU, mhu at law.duke.edu
Hu is an assistant professor at Duke Law School and is the author of a forthcoming article in the U.C. Davis Law Review titled “Reverse-Commandeering.” She just wrote on the American Constitution Society blog: “As the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Arizona v. U.S., one of the main legal questions it considered is this: Whether Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 (SB 1070) is preempted by federal immigration law under the Supremacy Clause. This is a statutory-driven inquiry that misses the constitutional mark. The more relevant question is this: Whether SB 1070 poses a threat to the vertical separation of powers. …

“The recent tidal wave of thousands of immigration control efforts proposed by state and local governments can best be characterized as ‘reverse-commandeering’ laws. Setting migration policy at the national level, like establishing a national currency, falls within the sole power of the federal government. Reverse-commandeering by the states is an effort to usurp the federal government’s sole prerogative. This growing movement represents an attempt to control the terms of what federal resources and officers must be appropriated to accommodate a myriad of state immigration enforcement programs. It is a deliberate attempt to skew the immigration enforcement power in favor of the states. …

“Given the impact of immigration policy on foreign and interstate commerce, international treaties, and foreign relations, the Court has concluded that controlling migration patterns is strictly the prerogative of the federal government. Consequently, the growing proliferation of thousands of proposed state and local immigration laws should be examined doctrinally within a commandeering jurisprudential frame. To fail to do so — to continue to accept mirror image theory carte blanche as a favored method of statutory interpretation under the existing preemption doctrine — threatens federal sovereignty. Put another way, it eviscerates the federal government’s ability to develop and implement a coherent, efficacious, and uniform immigration policy at the national level.”

Charles Taylor Conviction

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Taylor, a former warlord, was elected president of Liberia in 1997

Reuters reports: “A United Nations-backed court convicted former Liberian president Charles Taylor of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the first time a head of state has been found guilty by an international tribunal since the Nazi trials at Nuremberg.”

EMIRA WOODS, via Lacy MacAuley, lacy at ips-dc.org
Woods, who is originally from Liberia, is co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. She said today: “Taylor’s case is associated with many firsts. He is the first head of state to have escaped from a U.S. medium security prison. He is the first head of state to publicly refuse to sign an imbalanced rubber concession agreement with Firestone Tire
and Rubber Company. He was the first sitting head of state to be brought on charges for international crimes against humanity. And now, he is the first
head of state since World War II to have been convicted of war crimes by an international criminal court.

“Taylor was accused of 11 charges, ranging from murder, rape, and sexual violence to the recruitment and use of child soldiers in a long and bloodied war in Liberia’s neighbor Sierra Leone. Taylor was charged by the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a court that predates the formation of the International Criminal Court.

“Taylor’s history is a reminder that proxy wars can be like deadly dominoes. Embroiled in cold war politics, Taylor and his forces were trained, armed, and financed by Libya’s former president Mohamar Qaddafi as an antidote to Liberia’s U.S.-backed dictator Samuel Doe. Taylor successfully ousted Doe in a war that ultimately killed 250,000 Liberians.

“While in Libya, Taylor was trained with Sierra Leonean rebel leader Foday Sankoh, head of the Revolutionary United Front. Taylor and Sankoh marched forth jointly from Libya to unleash terror in the subregion.

“Taylor, Qaddafi’s proxy, then served with Qaddafi as patrons of Sankoh as he led RUF in a push for power and control of diamond-rich Sierra Leone. Taylor is alleged to have served as kingpin in what was a vibrant guns-for-diamonds trading scheme. The spotlight of the trial shone most brightly on supermodel Naomi Campbell who had allegedly received from Taylor what she called ‘dirty little stones’ — rough diamonds.”

“May Day is Coming Home”

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Haymarket Martyrs Monument in Forest Home Cemetery: "The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today."

NOAM CHOMSKY, via Karla Quinonez-Ruggiero at Adelante Alliance, occupy at adelantealliance.org
Available for a very limited numbers of interviews scheduled well in advance, Chomsky’s latest pamphlet, titled Occupy, is being released on MayDay. It’s the first of the new “Occupied Media” pamphlet series from Zuccotti Park Press. Chomsky just wrote the piece “May Day,” which states: “People seem to know about May Day everywhere except where it began, here in the United States of America. That’s because those in power have done everything they can to erase its real meaning. For example, Ronald Reagan designated what he called, ‘Law Day’ — a day of jingoist fanaticism, like an extra twist of the knife in the labor movement. Today, there is a renewed awareness, energized by the Occupy movement’s organizing, around May Day, and its relevance for reform and perhaps eventual revolution.”

MARINA SITRIN, marina.sitrin at gmail.com
Sitrin is co-author of the forthcoming May Day: The Secret Rendezvous, which is part of the same “Occupied Media” pamphlet series. She said today: “The Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City and elsewhere are gearing up for May Day. One of the most significant things about these protests is their ‘horizonalnzess’ — that is the lack of hierarchical structure. This is remarkably similar to how protests in Greece, Spain, Egypt and elsewhere are developing.” See for NYC: maydaynyc.org and nationwide: occupytogether.org

STAUGHTON LYND, salynd at aol.com
Lynd’s books include The Fight Against Shutdowns: Youngstown’s Steel Mill Closings, From Here to There: The Staughton Lynd Reader and Solidarity Unionism at Starbucks. He recently wrote the introduction to Howard Zinn’s re-released book On History. He said today: “There is a general impression in the U.S. that May Day is a communist holiday since communists did latch on to it eventually, but it’s a wrong impression. May Day originated in 1886 in the U.S. There was a large nationwide general strike that day, the purpose of which was to obtain an eight-hour day. There were radicals involved, but they were anarchists, not communists. On May 4 of that year, at a plant in Chicago that was locking out its workers, the authorities opened fire. So a meeting was called at the hay market and it was peaceful. Then a junior officer riled up the crowd and someone threw a bomb. The government went after the leaders of the popular movement in Chicago, who were not associated with the bomb-throwing, leading to the trial and
execution of ‘the Haymarket martyrs.’

“The European social movements picked it up immediately and May Day spread around the world. It was not associated with communism until after World War I. The U.S. government has feared and sought to suppress May Day — creating things like ‘Law Day’ on May 1st and a new ‘Labor Day’ in September — as a sort of tame labor celebration. But the original May Day was neither communist nor state-endorsed, it was a holiday of the international working class.

“Since 2006, May Day has been rescued to some extent by immigrants from Mexico and Guatemala and elsewhere who see it as a workers’ holiday and a chance to come out of the shadows. And now, this year, we see the Occupy movement picking it up.”

PRISCILLA MUROLO, pmurolo at sarahlawrence.edu
Murolo’s books include From the Folks Who Brought You the Weekend: A Short, Illustrated History of Labor in the United States. She said today: “May Day is coming home. The oppression of the labor movement moved it offshore, but this year there should be extensive May Day activities inside the U.S. as well as around the world.

“In 1884, a nucleus of trade unions — which would later become the AFL — decided that, starting May 1, 1886, they would refuse to work for more than eight hours a day. When that day came, several hundred thousand workers across the country went out on strike for the eight-hour day. The movement’s vital center was Chicago, where radicals — in particular anarchists — were a core component of the trade-union movement. On May 2, Chicago police opened fire on workers picketing the McCormick tractor factory and killed some strikers. In response to these shootings, thousands of workers gathered in Haymarket Square on May 4 for an ‘indignation meeting’ called by the anarchists. As this protest drew to a close, a phalanx of police entered the Square, and someone — we still don’t know who — threw a bomb. Among those killed by he bomb were seven police officers, and their deaths gave the enemies of the eight-hour movement a pretext to crush it. Picket lines were busted up, meetings were raided, labor activists were rounded up for questioning. In the end, eight anarchists — some of whom had not even been in Haymarket Square when the bomb was thrown — were convicted of conspiracy to murder, despite a dearth of evidence against them. Four of the defendants were hanged, a fifth committed suicide, and the others were sentenced to long prison terms and later pardoned by a pro-labor governor.

“This assault on the labor movement was devastating. Not until the 1910s did labor unions establish the eight-hour day as the standard in some sectors, and it wasn’t until 1938 that the Fair Labor Standards Act defined the eight-hour day as the norm in workplaces covered by this law. The meaning of the Haymarket crackdown was not just that it derailed the eight-hour movement but also and more fundamentally that it deprived the U.S. labor movement of its most potent wing. In later years, U.S. labor radicals revived May Day. Veterans of the union organizing drives of the 1930s and 1940s will recall gigantic May Day marches in American cities, but McCarthyism saw to it that U.S. labor was once again deprived of its radical sectors.

“The re-emergence of May Day in 2011 signals of new convergence of organized labor, the immigrants rights movement, and the Occupy movement in the name of the 99%. The excitement surrounding this convergence gives us a chance to experience what our ancestors experienced — the power of a workers’ movement for better labor conditions AND for equality and human rights for one and all.” Murolo is co-director of the Graduate Program in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College.

“Terrorist Plots, Hatched by the FBI”

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Pulitzer-prize winning author David Shipler had an op-ed in the Sunday New York Times titled “Terrorist Plots, Hatched by the FBI,” which states: “The United States has been narrowly saved from lethal terrorist plots in recent years — or so it has seemed. A would-be suicide bomber was intercepted on his way to the Capitol; a scheme to bomb synagogues and shoot Stinger missiles at military aircraft was developed by men in Newburgh, N.Y.; and a fanciful idea to fly explosive-laden model planes into the Pentagon and the Capitol was hatched in Massachusetts.

“But all these dramas were facilitated by the F.B.I., whose undercover agents and informers posed as terrorists offering a dummy missile, fake C-4 explosives, a disarmed suicide vest and rudimentary training. Suspects naïvely played their parts until they were arrested.”

SHAHID BUTTAR, via Amy E. Ferrer, media at bordc.org
Buttar is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. He said today: “The FBI has a long and recurring pattern of civil rights abuses impacting numerous law-abiding Americans from all walks of life. It has abused its investigative powers, violated its own guidelines, arbitrarily revised those guidelines to permit longstanding abuses even in the face of congressional concerns, and avoided public accountability by cloaking its actions in secrecy — all while actively (and demonstrably) misleading federal courts, Congress, and the American people. Its modus operandi, contriving fake cases to inflate its political capital, reflects an institutional recidivism screaming out for long overdue transparency, accountability, ongoing oversight, and corrective legislation.”

See letter on the FBI from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee to members of
Congress [PDF]

Also see: “Former FBI and CIA Officials Share BORDC’s Concerns.

May Day: Activists on the Ground

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May Day

The Guardian is providing live coverage of May Day protests.

ARUN GUPTA, ebrowniess at yahoo.com occupyusatoday.com
Gupta is a founding editor of the New York City-based Indypendent, co-founder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal and covers the Occupy movement for Salon. He has recently visited dozens of “occupations” around the country and just wrote “Occupy’s Other Big Test: In order to survive past May Day, the movement will have to fend off attempts at co-optation.”

JACKIE DiSALVO, [in NYC] jdisalvo at nyc.rr.com
DiSalvo is on the May Day committee of Occupy Wall Street. She said today: “We have a coalition with over 50 unions and 20 emigrant organizations. There will be a rally at Union Square which will feature a lot of musicians. We’ll then march past Zuccotti Park and to Wall Street and then Bowling Green. We’ll also march on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the march will be lead by transit workers, who are facing wage freezes and benefits cuts, like so many workers now. We’ve set up pickets in front of various companies including banks, the New York Times and ABC/Disney over the last week and a half.” See: 99picketlines.tumblr.com, maydaysolidarity2012.org, maydaynyc.org, #M1GS and occupytogether.org.

CHARLES IDELSON, cidelson at calnurses.org, LIZ JACOBS, RN, ljacobs at calnurses.org
Idelson and Jacobs are with National Nurses United, which just released a statement: “Registered nurses will mark May 1 with a one-day strike at eight hospitals that are part of the wealthy Sutter corporate chain to protest Wall Street-type demands for more than 100 sweeping reductions in patient care and nurses’ standards and workplace conditions.

“Despite making over $4 billion in profits since 2007, and paying its chief executive Pat Fry $4.7 million a year (or $2,260 per hour), Sutter is demanding big cuts for its RNs, many of which would pose risks to patient safety. The nurses … offered to call off the strike if Sutter agreed to withdraw the concession demands. Some 4,500 RNs, as well as respiratory and radiology techs, are affected by the planned walkout at some of the Bay Area’s largest hospitals in most of the counties ringing San Francisco.”

Background, see IPA release: “May Day is Coming Home,” which outlined the origins of May Day in the U.S.

Obama-Karzai Text Allows for Tens of Thousands of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

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The New York Times just wrote from Afghanistan: “President Obama landed here Tuesday, on a surprise visit, to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan meant to mark the beginning of the end of a war that has lasted for more than a decade.

The Times claimed: “Mr. Obama, arriving after nightfall under a veil of secrecy at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, flew by helicopter to the presidential palace, where he was to meet President Hamid Karzai before both leaders signed the pact. It is intended to be a road map for two nations lashed together by more than a decade of war and groping for a new relationship after the departure of American troops, scheduled for the end of 2014.”

HAKIM, [in Afghanistan, available intermittently] weeteckyoung at gmail.com http://ourjourneytosmile.com/blog
KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv@gmail.com http://vcnv.org
Hakim (Afghans frequently only have one name) is a member of the the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. Kelly is co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and was recently in Afghanistan. They recently co-wrote a piece that states that the text was kept from the people of Afghanistan. They wrote: “While the world may accept that the U.S. and Afghan governments have some ’state’ or ‘noble’ considerations for not revealing the contents of the U.S. Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement, how about the democratic consideration of involving Afghans in their own future?

“Even the Afghan Parliament was in the dark and uninvolved until they were recently given a peek when Afghanistan’s National Security Advisor, Rangin Dadfar Spanta, read ‘portions’ of the Agreement to assembled parliamentarians on 23rd April, saying that the U.S. will defend Afghanistan from any outside interference via ‘diplomatic means, political means, economic means and even military means.’

“The U.S. has said it expects to keep about 20,000 troops in the country after 2014. …” http://vcnv.org/the-un-may-have-silenced-the-afghan-public

Kelly added: “The SPA is likely to prolong fighting in the region because the Taliban and neighboring countries have clearly stated that they won’t accept U.S. foreign troop presence. Also, many Afghans wonder if the U.S. and NATO want to protect construction of the TAPI [Trans-Afghanistan] pipeline, which the 2010 NATO summit approved of and the New Silk Road which Hilary Clinton has promised the U.S. will construct.” Kelly is currently on a peace walk from Madison, Wisc. to Chicago, where she will arrive in time for the upcoming NATO Summit.

JACOB GEORGE, jacobdavidgeorge at gmail.com, http://www.operationawareness.org
Sgt. Geroge works with a group of veterans touring the country by bike. He recently visited Afghanistan, is based in Arkansas and is currently in Missouri. He said today: “The agreement actually allows for sustaining a ‘post-conflict’ force of 20,000 to 30,000 troops for a continued training of indigenous forces. They are pretending this is something new, but it’s not. That’s what I was doing in 2001 — and 2002, 2003 and 2004. This is just disastrous, for ten years, with the greatest military the world has ever seen, we’ve been unable to defeat people with RPGs. And a year after Bin Laden was killed, we’re still planning to keep tens of thousands of troops there.”

ABC News recently reported: “Although specific troop numbers and other military details are not included in the agreement, the U.S. has said it expects to keep about 20,000 troops in the country after 2014. They would mentor and train the Afghan National Security Forces while also taking part in counterterrorism operations.”
http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/us-defend-afghanistan-decade-drawdown-16193077#.T6BNi8dYtMG

Is Murdoch Fit to Control Broadcast Licenses?

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KARL GROSSMAN, kgrossman at hamptons.com
Professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College of New York, Grossman recently wrote the article, “Rupert Murdoch and the FCC: Unfit to Broadcast,” which states: “With the finding this week by a committee of the British Parliament that Rupert Murdoch is ‘not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company,’ the Federal Communications Commission should move to prohibit Murdoch from owning television stations in the United States.

“The licensing system for TV and radio stations in the U.S. requires that their owners be of good character. It also mandates that only U.S. citizens hold a major interest in a station — the reason why Murdoch became a U.S. citizen in 1985 as he moved to create a U.S.-based media empire.

“His Australian citizenship went, but as for his questionable character, that remained. In its extensive and scathing report on the hacking and bribery scandal in the U.K. involving Murdoch’s News Corporation, the Parliamentary committee declared that Murdoch ‘turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. This culture, we consider, permeated from the top.’ …

“‘Rupert Murdoch is certainly not, as part of his evidence would have us believe, a “hands-off proprietor,”‘ the panel stated. Indeed, last week, Murdoch finally acknowledged to the committee that there was a ‘cover-up’ of the scandal in which he took part.

“The report, said the BBC, ‘directly questioned the integrity and honesty of Rupert Murdoch’ and could lead to a determination in the U.K. that Murdoch’s company ‘is not fit and proper to hold a broadcasting license.’

“When the Federal Communications Act — the regulatory structure for radio and later also TV in the U.S. — was initially enacted in 1934, a similar standard requiring station owners to be ‘stewards’ of the public airwaves became law in America. … If the owners are found guilty of a felony, an anti-trust violation, a fraudulent statement to a governmental entity, discrimination, among other things, they can lose their license to operate the station.

* 7,000 Occupy Arrests * Return of May Day

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May Day rally at Union Square Park, New York City

CHRIS ERNESTO, chris at stpeteforpeace.org
Ernesto is with OccupyArrests.com which just released these findings: “With the May Day arrests of at least 116 people at Occupy protests around the country, there have now been a minimum of 7,106 Occupy arrests in 114 cities across the United States since the Occupy movement began in New York on September 17, 2011.”
See: “Arrests Exceed 7,000 As the Occupy’s Movement’s Spring Plans Unfold Across the Nation.”

HEIDI BOGHOSIAN, director at nlg.org
Director of the National Lawyers Guild and author of the forthcoming book, “Spying on Democracy, Protest and Dissent in the New Era of Government Surveillance,” Boghosian said today: “The piling on of Occupy arrests can be seen as a barometer of this government’s intolerance for the First Amendment. Aggressive policing tactics, including frequent gratuitous assaults on protesters and bystanders, are making our parks and streets hostile to the Constitution.”

JOHN KNEFEL, johnknefel at gmail.com
Knefel can address media coverage of May Day and the Occupy protests. He wrote “Bored With Occupy — and Inequality: Class issues fade along with protest coverage” in the current issue of the media watch group FAIR’s magazine Extra!

FAIR recently posted two additional pieces on May Day coverage: “May Day Media” and “Fox Host Leaps to Link Occupy to White Powder Mailings.”

MARINA SITRIN, [in NYC] marina.sitrin at gmail.com
Sitrin wrote the piece “May Day 2012 — A Success Before it Began in the U.S.,” which states: “We succeeded before we began. May Day has been retaken in the U.S. We are now again a part of the rest of the globe — where May Day is one where we celebrate our power — people’s power — that of workers, precarious and unionized, immigrants and migrants, radicals of all sorts, from the anarchist to the democratic socialist. People around the world were talking about May Day in the U.S. before May Day began. And now, those of us here in the U.S., have begun something new, something that is old, and yet has been reinvented … the future of which is still being determined, as so many things are in our new movements. But the question is again posed – as with democracy and power.”

Sitrin is co-author of the forthcoming “May Day: The Secret Rendezvous,” which is part of the “Occupied Media” pamphlet series from Zuccotti Park Press. See was on the recent IPA news release “May Day Is Coming Home.”

See video “May Day Protests Around the World Pt.1”

Is Inequality Good?

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A new book by one of Mitt Romney’s former business partners at Bain Capital, scheduled to be the featured New York Times Magazine cover story on Sunday,argues that inequality is good.

CHUCK COLLINS, Bob Keener, bob at wealthforcommongood.org
http://99to1book.org
Collins, a long-time inequality activist was certainly born into the 1%. He went to the same high school as Mitt Romney — and is the great-grandson of Oscar Mayer. His brand new book is called, “99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It.”

Collins said today: “Inequality is destroying everything you care about. Whether you care about public health, education, civic society, sports, business — inequality is making things worse. And unless we interrupt the process, this destruction will keep increasing. We’re in an inequality death spiral, where concentration of wealth and power is enabling the wealthy and powerful to rig the rules to make themselves more wealthy and powerful — at the expense of everyone else. This is why the 1% versus 99% lens is so
meaningful to people. It reflects their lived reality.”

Collins was recently on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal:
http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/305321-4

Background:
Paul Krugman “Rich Guy Says We Should Be Grateful For His Wealth”

Dean Baker recently wrote the piece “Mitt Romney’s Partner in Crime: Ed Conard’s Unintended Consequences,” which states: “Did Conard really miss the story of Fabrice Tourre (a.k.a. ‘Fabulous Fab’) the Goldman Sachs mortgage trader who put together collaterized debt obligations that were designed to fail and then hawked them off on unsuspecting clients? Does he not know about the flash traders who make fortunes by designing sophisticated programs that allow them to front-run major trades? (This means that they can detect major trades and jump in ahead, thereby capturing some of the profit.) …

“How much has the pharmaceutical industry profited from using its political power to get Congress to give it ever longer and stronger patent monopolies? We now spend almost $300 billion a year on prescription drugs that would cost us around $30 billion in a free market. …

“Conard and Romney’s own industry provides an excellent example of using political power to promote private wealth. One of the major ways that private equity companies make money is by taking advantage of the tax deductibility of interest. Private equity companies typically load the firms they buy with as much debt as possible. This is because the interest payments on debt are tax deductible and they don’t really care if the company ends up going bankrupt. They expect a substantial portion of their firms to go into bankruptcy.”

French and Greek Elections: End of “Pain-Is-Good” Politics?

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ETHAN YOUNG ethanyoung at earthlink.net
Content manager for Economy Watch, a blog sponsored by the Brecht Forum, Young said today: “The defeat of Nicolas Sarkozy marks the end of ‘pain-is-good’ politics in France. The new Socialist president Francois Hollande is center-left to Sarkozy’s center-right, and shares Sarkozy’s commitment to the European Union. Unlike Sarkozy, Hollande campaigned to curtail the EU austerity policies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and is not identified with demonizing immigrants, Muslims and other supposedly non-French’ French. Hollande is still challenged by the strong showing of the anti-immigrant, far right National Front in the first election round.”

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, [in NYC] cpanayotakis at gmail.com
Panayotakis is associate professor of sociology at the New York City College of Technology at CUNY and author of the new book “Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy.” He said today: “After two years Greek citizens have finally had their chance to express their views on the austerity program that has drastically increased unemployment and poverty, while plunging the Greek economy into a deep depression. The result of the election has been an unambiguous repudiation of this program, as the two parties supporting it, the Socialists and the Conservatives, have seen their support collapse. The two parties that used to get 80 percent of the vote have together received less than a third of the popular vote. Meanwhile, the support for the left has increased, especially for the Coalition of the Radical Left — SYRIZA — which advocates the formation of a government that would unite all the forces of the political left and which would repudiate the austerity program imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. All in all, the Greek election result exemplifies the more general change in the balance of forces within the European continent, a change also reflected in Nicolas Sarkozy’s failure to be reelected to the French presidency. On a more sober note, the Greek election result also confirmed the rise of the extreme right in Europe, as the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party will, after having received 7 percent of the vote, enter for the
first time the Greek parliament.”

See Panayotakis’ pieces:

The Eurozone Fiasco

On the ‘Keynesian Neoliberalism’ of the New York Times

“Debunking the Greek (and European) Crisis Narrative”

U.S. Hosts Bahraini Prince as Monarchy Vows Harsher Crackdown

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The Obama administration is hosting Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa in Washington just as the Bahraini regime is vowing a harsher crackdown on anti-government protesters. Democracy Now reported this morning, “Appearing with al-Khalifa at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to directly mention the repression of protests, referring only to Bahrain’s ‘internal issues.'”

Secretary Clinton stated: “Bahrain is a valued ally of the United States. We partner on many important issues of mutual concern to each of our nations and to the regional and global concerns as well. I’m looking forward to a chance to talk over with His Royal Highness a number of the issues both internally and externally that Bahrain is dealing with and have some better understanding of the ongoing efforts that the government of Bahrain is undertaking. So again, His Royal Highness, welcome to the United States.” See video

Clinton’s comments came one day after the Bahraini government vowed to escalate its crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. Speaking to Reuters, a Bahraini government spokesman said: “We are looking into the perpetrators and people who use print, broadcast and social media to encourage illegal protest and violence around the country. If applying the law means tougher action, then so be it.” The warning came days after the arrest of the prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who has been featured on IPA news releases. In a statement, Amnesty International declared Rajab a “prisoner of conscience” and called for his immediate release. Another prominent activist, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, has been on a hunger strike for three months protesting his life imprisonment.

NADA ALWADI, alwadi.nada at gmail.com, @bentalwadi
Alwadi is a Bahrani journalist based in D.C.

Note: Alwadi is being joined next week in Washington, D.C. by representatives of the Arab NGO Network for Development, including nonprofits and civil society groups from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia, Yemen and other Arab countries. For more information including arranging interviews, contact Ryme Katkhouda, rymepmc at gmail.com.

JPMorgan “Shock Disclosure” a “Wake-Up Call We Dare Not Ignore”

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The Financial Times reports today: “JPMorgan Chase announced a surprise $2 billion trading loss on credit derivatives trading, which chief executive Jamie Dimon blamed on ‘errors, sloppiness and bad judgement’ and warned ‘could get worse.’

“The shock disclosure, made after the market closed on Thursday in a regulatory filing, prompted renewed calls for tougher regulation. Investors reacted by sending the bank’s shares down by more than 9 percent when Wall Street opened on Friday. Other U.S. banking stocks also suffered sharp falls.”

STEPHANY GRIFFITH JONES, sgj2108 at columbia.edu
Stephany Griffith-Jones is Financial Markets Program Director at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University.

WILLIAM K. BLACK, blackw at umkc.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Black is now an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and the author of “The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.” He was the deputy staff director of the national commission that investigated the cause of the savings and loan debacle. He said today: “JPMorgan has announced that it has suffered large losses, and remains exposed to far greater losses, because purported ‘economic hedges’ did not perform as ‘expected’ because they were poorly designed. These purported hedges are not real. JPMorgan was speculating wildly and its panicky releases reveal that it is afraid that the positions it took exposed it to grave risks. The experience demonstrates the importance of the Volcker rule, the largest banks’ efforts to gut and evade the rule, and the continuing refusal of bank regulators to say ‘no’ to practices of the systemically dangerous institutions or SDIs (the roughly 20 ‘too big to fail’ banks) that are unsafe and unsound. As long as we permit the SDIs to remain so large that regulators fear that their failure will produce a global crisis we are rolling the dice 20 times a day wondering when (not ‘if’) the next SDI failure will occur and blow up the economy. JPMorgan’s losses on its faux hedges are the wake-up call we dare not ignore.”

Also see: “‘JOBS Act’ a ‘Recipe for Fraud’ Creating a ‘Race to the Bottom’.”

Mommy Wars or Moms Against War: Bread and Butter and the Radical History of Mother’s Day

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ELLEN BRAVO, bravo at uwm.edu
Bravo is director of Family Values @ Work Consortium, a network of state coalitions working for paid sick days and paid family leave. She just wrote the piece “The Gifts Mothers Really Want,” which states: “My favorite Mother’s day gifts from my sons were their original stories, songs and poems. But what I needed when they were infants and toddlers was something children can’t deliver: affordable time off when they were born and when they were sick.

“So for all those candidates and elected officials interested in the women’s vote and eager to prove their support for motherhood and families, here’s a sampling of what mothers want and need, not just one day a year but every day:

“The right to care for a sick child or personal illness without losing our paychecks or our jobs. Moms need leaders to actively support the right for workers to earn paid sick days and champion local, state and federal policies that would guarantee this protection. Make sure no one has to choose between being a good parent and being a good employee — and that no one has to serve you flu with your soup. …”

TERRY O’NEILL, via Latoya Veal, press at now.org
O’Neill is president of the National Organization for Women Foundation. The group today released the report “Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling: A Proposal to Modernize Women’s Benefits” with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare Foundation and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. She said today: “If implemented, the recommendations we make in ‘Breaking the Social Security Glass Ceiling’ will go a long way toward creating a retirement and disability insurance program that recognizes the new reality of working women and men, and values women’s role in society as both breadwinners and primary caregivers. Crediting women’s years out of the paid labor force is a long overdue feature that NOW strongly supports and urges lawmakers to support as well.”

LAURA KACERE, laura.kacere at gmail.com
Kacere is a feminist activist working with Occupy D.C. who recently wrote the piece “The Radical History of Mother’s Day,” which states: “There’s a good number of us who question holidays like Mother’s Day in which you spend more time feeding money into a system that exploits our love for our mothers than actually celebrating them. It’s not unlike any other holiday in America in that its complete commercialization has stripped away so much of its genuine meaning, as well its history. Mother’s Day is unique in its completely radical and feminist history, as much as it has been forgotten.

“Mother’s Day began in America in 1870 when Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation. Written in response to the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, her proclamation called on women to use their position as mothers to influence society in fighting for an end to all wars. She called for women to stand up against the unjust violence of war through their roles as wife and mother, to protest the futility of their sons killing other mothers’ sons.”

Howe wrote:

“Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

“Say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies, our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.’

“From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: ‘Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.’ Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.

“In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed …to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.”

NATO Above the Law?

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Human Rights Watch today released a report “Unacknowledged Deaths: Civilian Casualties in NATO’s Air Campaign in Libya”. NATO will be holding its summit in Chicago beginning May 20.

VIJAY PRASHAD, vijay.prashad at trincoll.edu
Author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter and The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, Prashad is chair of South Asian history and director of international studies at Trinity College, in Hartford, Connecticut.

He said today: “A United Nations report released in early March 2012 asked for an investigation of NATO’s potential war crimes, but was snubbed by the military alliance, whose lawyer, Peter Olsen, wrote in February of this year to the UN Commission that, ‘in the event the Commission elects to include a discussion of NATO actions in Libya, its report clearly states that NATO did not deliberately target civilians and did not commit war crimes in Libya.’ In other words, it is impossible for NATO to commit war crimes. NATO, unlike the Libyans, is too civilized to be guilty of any such violations. It is, therefore, above investigation. The scandal here is that NATO, a military alliance, refuses any civilian oversight of its actions. It operated under a UN mandate (Security Council Resolution 1973) and yet refuses to allow a UN evaluation of its actions. NATO, in other words, operates as a rogue military entity, outside the bounds of the prejudices of democratic society. It is precisely because NATO refuses an evaluation that the UN Security Council will not allow another NATO-like military intervention. The new HRW report reinforces what was raised in the UN report from March. It simply underlines the necessity of a formal and independent evaluation of NATO’s actions in Libya.”

On May 18, Prashad will be speaking at the the NATO Counter-Summit

See Prashad’s pieces:

“NATO’S Craven Coverup of Its Libyan Bombing”

“Straining NATO on Short Syrian Leash”

Majority Favors Cutting Military Budget

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Discretionary Spending Areas (Billions of Dollars)

STEVEN KULL, skull at pipa.org
Kull is director of the Program for Public Consultation, a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes and the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland and lead author of the recently released study “Consulting the American People on National Defense Spending.”

He said today: “Three quarters of respondents favored cutting defense as a way to reduce the deficit, including two thirds of Republicans as well as nine in ten Democrats. …

“Other polls on defense spending have mostly asked simply whether respondents favor or oppose defense cuts, and generally found smaller numbers favoring cuts. This suggests that Americans generally underestimate the size of the defense budget and that when they receive balanced information about its size they are more likely to cut it to reduce the deficit. …

“The area cut by the greatest percentage was nuclear weapons, which respondents reduced an average of 27 percent (Republicans 18 percent, Democrats 35 percent). The area that was cut the most in dollar terms was for existing ground force capabilities which was cut an average of $36.2 billion (Republicans $23.8 billion, Democrats $44.5 billion) or 23 percent.

“What is striking is that it appears that the American people, unlike Congress, are able to thoughtfully recognize the validity of arguments both for and against cutting defense spending and still come to hard and even bold decisions.

“Eight in ten favored cutting the Obama administration’s proposed budget of $88 billion for 2013 war spending in Afghanistan. Overall, on average it was cut 40 percent or $35 billion.”

Note: Respondents were queried about “defense” spending, not “military” spending, which likely would have drawn even less support.

Standing Up to JPMorgan’s Dimon and “Hedginess”

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STEPHANY GRIFFITH JONES, sgj2108 at columbia.edu
Stephany Griffith Jones is Financial Markets Program Director at the Initiative for Policy Dialogue at Columbia University. With José Antonio Ocampo, and Joseph E. Stiglitz she co-edited “Time for a Visible Hand: Lessons from the 2008 World Financial Crisis.” She said today: “Two billion dollar losses in JPMorgan give us further confirmation of the need to regulate the financial system much more, particularly increasing transparency of derivatives, forcing all derivatives on exchanges, and tightening the Volcker rule. Dilution of regulation by financial interests must be resisted strongly. More radical questions need to be asked: whether such complex financial activity, where risks are impossible to measure, and with no positive effect on the real economy, should be allowed at all?”

WILLIAM K. BLACK, blackw at umkc.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Black is now an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One. He was the deputy staff director of the national commission that investigated the cause of the savings and loan debacle. He just wrote a piece for CNN which states: “Financial institutions such as JPMorgan love to buy derivatives because they are opaque, create fictional income that leads to real bonuses and when (not if) they suffer losses so large that they would cause the bank to fail, they will be bailed out. The Dodd-Frank Act’s Volcker Rule was designed to solve the problem.

“However, JPMorgan led the effort to gut the Volcker Rule and the provision that requires transparency. JPMorgan is the world’s largest proprietary purchaser of financial derivatives — precisely what the Volcker Rule sought to end. The bank claims that it does not engage in proprietary trading and that it purchases derivatives solely to hedge. That claim is an example of what Stephen Colbert meant when he invented the term: ‘truthiness.’

“A hedge is an investment that offsets losses in another investment. JPMorgan’s supposed hedges aren’t hedges under accounting rules because they haven’t been shown to perform as hedges. JPMorgan bought tens of billions of dollars of derivatives that increased its losses rather than reduced them. It calls these anti-hedges ‘hedges’ — in other words, it practiced ‘hedginess.'”

On Friday, Black will be speaking at a United Nations summit on the “State of the World Economy and Finance in 2012.”

GERALD EPSTEIN, gepstein at econs.umass.edu
Professor of economics and a founding co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Epstein just wrote the piece “Standing Up to Jamie Dimon: Is it Safe?” which states: “How do we stand up to Jamie Dimon and the other tax payer subsidized bankers that use the privileged position of tax payer underwritten banks to engage in risky activity that harms the real economy and generates massive salaries and bonuses for the bankers (Ina Drew is reportedly in line to make $14 million this year).

“First, we must unmask the Republican and Democratic politicians that have actively served to eviscerate the Dodd-Frank rules on proprietary trading, derivatives and swaps regulations and other parts of the Dodd-Frank regulations, in the name of job creation and liquidity enhancement. The regulators at the Federal Reserve, Securities and Exchange Commission and others must be badgered to write and enforce rules that implement strict enforcement of the Dodd-Frank rules against proprietary trading, controls over derivatives…

“But such provisions will not be enough because banks will eventually find ways around them and continue to act like the world is one big casino and ponzi palace. There is increasing recognition by economists and public officials that the too big to fail banks need to be cut down to size. Senator Sherrod Brown has introduced the SAFE banking act”

Epstein was just interviewed by The Real News

Palestinian Hunger Strikers: “Fighting Ingrained Duplicity”

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Reuters is reporting: “Standing up to Israel through non-violent resistance can produce encouraging results, Palestinians said on Tuesday, after a prisoner hunger strike produced some Israeli concessions.

“The deal under which some 1,600 Palestinian prisoners agreed on Monday to end a month-long fast against Israel’s prison policy was struck on the eve of Nakba (catastrophe) Day…”

ALLAM JARRAR, via Ryme Katkhouda, rymepmc at gmail.com; Kinda Mohamadieh, kinda.mohamadieh at annd.org
Jarrar is with the Palestinian NGO Network. He is in Washington, D.C. with a delegation of the Arab NGO Network for Development, which also includes representatives from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia, Yemen and other Arab countries. The delegation just released a paper, “Overview and Suggestions for Improving Key Areas in U.S. Foreign Policy Towards the Arab Region.” Point one is “The centrality of recognizing the Palestinian rights to democratic and development processes.”

NOURA ERAKAT, nourae at mac.com; RICHARD FALK, rfalk at princeton.edu
Erakat is an adjunct professor of international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University and the U.S.-based legal advocacy consultant for the Badil Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights. She is also a contributing editor to Jadaliyya.com.

Available for a limited number of interviews, Falk is professor of international law emeritus, Princeton University and Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestinian Territories for the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Erakat said today: “It is empowering that on the day of the 64th commemoration of the Nakba, or the day that marks the initial displacement and dispossession of Palestinians, that Thaer Halahleh and Bilal Diab will be ending their hunger strike in exchange for their freedom. As a result of an Egyptian-brokered deal between Israelis and Palestinians, all the hunger strikers will end their strike upon Israel’s vow to not renew their arbitrary detention without charge or trial upon its expiration. This marks a significant milestone in the struggle against colonial violence in Palestine. It does not however, signal an end to the struggle as demonstrated by the case of Hana al-Shalabi who spent two years in administrative detention before obtaining her release as part of the Hamas-brokered prisoner exchange only to be re-arreseted two months later. A definitive end to these punitive and racist practices necessitates the political will of international governments and agencies who have the ability to exert the requisite pressure upon Israel to comply with international law and human rights norms.”

Falk and Erakat recently wrote the piece “Palestinian Hunger Strikers: Fighting Ingrained Duplicity,” which states: “On his seventy-third day of hunger strike, Thaer Halahleh was vomiting blood, bleeding from his lips and gums, while his body weighs in at 121 pounds—a fraction of its pre-hunger strike size. The thirty-three-year-old Palestinian follows the still-palpable footsteps of Adnan Khader and Hana Shalabi whose hunger strikes resulted in release. He also stands alongside Bilal Diab who is also entering his seventy-third day of visceral protest. Together, they inspired nearly 2,500 Palestinian political prisoners to go on hunger strike in protest of Israel’s policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial.

“Administrative detention has constituted a core of Israel’s 1,500 occupation laws that apply to Palestinians only, and which are not subject to any type of civilian or public review. Derived from British Mandate laws, administrative detention permits Israeli Forces to arrest Palestinians for up to six months without charge or trial, and without any show of incriminating evidence. Such detention orders can be renewed indefinitely, each time for another six-month term.

“Ayed Dudeen is one of the longest-serving detainees in Israeli captivity. First arrested in October 2007, Israeli officials renewed his detention thirty times without charge or trial. After languishing in a prison cell for nearly four years without due process, prison authorities released him in August 2011 only to re-arrest him two weeks later. His wife Amal no longer tells their six children that their father is coming home, because, in her words, ‘I do not want to give them false hope anymore, I just hope that this nightmare will go away.'”

See recent New York Times report: “Palestinians Go Hungry to Make Their Voices Heard”

U.S. in Yemen: Escalating War, Stifling Speech

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Human Rights Information and Training Center in Yemen states: "An ongoing heavy and regular attack by the military forces is targeting and destroying Taiz city's peaceful neighborhoods."

AP is reporting: “Government troops and warplanes pounded al-Qaida positions in southern Yemen on Wednesday, killing at least 29 militants as part of a ramped up campaign against the group, military officials said.”

IZZA-DEEN EL ASBAHI, via Ryme Katkhouda, rymepmc at gmail.com or Kinda Mohamadieh, kinda.mohamadieh at annd.org
El Asbahi is founder and director of the Human Rights Information and Training Center in Yemen. He said today: “The U.S. military and the Yemeni government frequently launch these attacks and claim they are killing al-Qaida fighters. But the fact is quite often they are killing regular people, or political opponents of the regime who are not al-Qaida. This ends up having the effect of causing more resentment and gives al-Qaida more recruits. After the start of the uprising a year ago, the U.S. declared they would get rid of al-Qaida in a matter of three weeks. Today al-Qaida controls a region ten times the size of Bahrain with sea port access.”

This week El Asbahi is in Washington, D.C. with a delegation of the Arab NGO Network for Development, which also includes representatives from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and other Arab countries.

He added: “Military intervention and use of violence has left a negative impact and does not achieve the stated goal of eliminating terrorism. The elimination of terrorism starts with the support of local development. Airplane and drone bombings nurture terrorism as they enroll more people struggling with poverty, anger and fear with al-Qaida which gives them a salary and a Kalashnikov to empty their anger. While in city of Taiz, a stronghold of the left and revolution in Yemen, they still talk fondly of U.S. aid and the ‘Kennedy project’ of drinking water distribution.”

The Arab NGO delegation just released a paper, “Overview and Suggestions for Improving Key Areas in U.S. Foreign Policy Towards the Arab Region.” For a copy and profiles of the delegates, see here.

While most of the members of the delegation can speak English, El Asbahi would require Arabic translation, which can be provided.

The Washington Post is reporting: “President Obama issued an executive order Wednesday giving the Treasury Department authority to freeze the U.S.-based assets of anyone who ‘obstructs’ implementation of the administration-backed political transition in Yemen.

“The unusual order, which administration officials said also targets U.S. citizens who engage in activity deemed to threaten Yemen’s security or political stability, is the first issued for Yemen that does not directly relate to counterterrorism.”

IBRAHAM QATABI, Ibraham.Qatabi at gmail.com
Qatabi is a Yemeni American human rights activist and a legal worker with Center for Constitutional Rights specializing in Yemen. He said today: “The USG isn’t naming groups or people who it’s illegal to work with, so any sensible person would be very cautious about working with anyone they aren’t 100 percent sure the USG approves of. In fact, the USG’s officials have flat out told the press that the sanctions are a ‘deterrent’ to ‘make clear to those who are even thinking of spoiling the transition’ to think again — in other words, think again before you work with any democracy activists who we think are ‘spoiling the transition’ to the U.S. government’s favored candidate for leadership. It reminds me of something the government said in the 9th Circuit in HLP v. Holder — that the aim of these broadly-worded sanctions regimes, capable of criminalizing speech, is to make groups the U.S. government disfavors so ‘radioactive’ that American citizens won’t even want to go near them. That’s not democracy – either here or in Yemen.”

See on the White House website: “Executive Order — Blocking Property of Persons Threatening the Peace, Security, or Stability of Yemen.”

Background: Obama urged the Yemeni dictator Saheh to keep the journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye in prison. This was apparently because Shaye was exposing that U.S. strikes were killing civilians. See “Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?” by Jeremy Scahill.

Marcy Wheeler today notes that the new executive order could be used to target Scahill: “The Jeremy Scahill Yemen Executive Order”

Bilking the Poor: America’s Poverty Taxes

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Multibillonaire Pete Peterson’s Fiscal Summit concluded on Tuesday with a stand for no-compromise austerity and Speaker of the House John Boehner laying out the case for massive spending cuts. Yesterday the Senate voted down budget proposals that would have slashed Medicaid, cut SNAP, voucher-ized Medicare, and shrunk most other domestic human needs programs. At the same time, these proposals protect and even increase the military budget and cut taxes for those at the top. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that nearly two-thirds of those proposed program cuts would hit low-income people disproportionately.

But authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Gary Rivlin argue that any discussion of the safety net and poverty alleviation has to include the ways that local and state governments and private enterprise actively prey on the poor.

BARBARA EHRENREICH, via Beth Schulman, barbara.ehrenreich at economichardship.org,
Ehrereich is the author of “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America” and is most recently the founder of the just-launched Economic Hardship Reporting Project, which supports innovative journalism on poverty . In her report “Preying On the Poor,” released today by TomDispatch, she writes: “Before we can ‘do something’ for the poor, there are some things we need to stop doing to them. … The amounts extracted from the poor by the private and public sector are comparable to the amounts ‘given’ to the poor through the safety net. It’s not just the private sector that’s preying on the poor. Local governments are discovering that they can partially make up for declining tax revenues through fines, fees, and other costs imposed on indigent defendants, often for crimes no more dastardly than driving with a suspended license.”

She said today: “I am surprised by the size of these numbers, and made all the more impatient with the standard liberal discourse on poverty. We can’t go on talking about poverty without talking about how it is being manufactured and intensified all the time.”

GARY RIVLIN, grivlin at mindspring.com
Journalist and author of five books, including “Broke USA,” and co-editor of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project with Ehrenreich, Rivlin just wrote the piece “America’s Poverty Tax,” where he reports on the exorbitant fees the poor and the working poor pay because they have lousy credit or because they have no savings. Rivlin said today: “The numbers show it’s very expensive to be poor.” The article states: “Add up all the profits pocketed by all those payday lenders, check cashers, subprime auto lenders, and other Poverty, Inc. enterprises and divide it by the 40 million households the Federal Reserve says survive on $30,000 a year or less. That works out to around $2,500 per household, or a poverty tax of around 10 percent.”

G8: Preventing a More Just World?

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The Guardian is providing coverage of G8 summit at Camp David and NATO protests in Chicago.

DONNA SMITH, donnas at calnurses.org
CHARLES IDELSON, cidelson at calnurses.org,
Smith and Idelson are with National Nurses United, the largest union and professional association of nurses in the U.S. They are holding a rally Friday in Chicago with other groups and musicians including Tom Morello. In a statement, they derided “the AWOL G8 world leaders, who decided to run off and hide in the woods of rural Maryland [at Camp David] rather than face a disgruntled public in Chicago as originally announced, to determine what they are doing to help average families, not just the banks and Wall Street high rollers, in the midst of a continuing economic gloom.” National Nurses United is calling for a “tax on Wall Street stocks, bonds, derivatives and other financial instruments that can raise up to $350 billion every year to help mitigate the economic crisis created by the banks, with the revenue available for jobs, healthcare, education, and other basic needs and services.”

MARGARET FLOWERS, M.D., mdpnhp at gmail.com,
Flowers is an organizer of the Occupy G8 Peoples’ Summit in Maryland. She appeared on Democracy Now this morning and just co-wrote the piece “Why We Protest the G8,” which states: “Countries representing concentrated wealth will gather in remote Camp David this week to try to prop up a failing global economic system that has funneled wealth to the top, leaving everyone else behind. From its founding, the G8 has been engaged in a struggle between the wealthiest people in a handful of nations and everyone else. The losing side of this corrupt bargain has increasingly come to include many people within those wealthy countries, as well.

“In 1974 the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration for the Establishment of a New International Economic Order. This document laid out an economic vision that would have created a much healthier planet and fairer international economy. It would have empowered countries to regulate and control multinational corporations operating within their borders. It sought to develop international trade that was fair so countries received equitable prices for raw materials and labor. It also opposed the use of military, economic or political force to prevent countries from acting in their own economic self-interest, whether individually or jointly. This latter point was in defense of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, whose oil embargo occurred two years earlier.

“The response from the wealthiest nations was to create the G6, the forerunner to the G8 (as it did not include Russia or Canada) which first met in 1975, amidst another recession that featured high unemployment, inflation, and deficit. The G6 sought to circumvent the UN’s Declaration and prevent the world from participating in economic decision-making that benefited all, not just a few. The G6 put the world on an economic path of concentrated wealth and corporatism that has looted our resources and brought the economy and environment to the breaking point.”

KINDA MOHAMADIEH, kinda.mohamadieha at annd.org or via Ryme Katkhouda, rymepmc at gmail.com
Mohamadieh is with the Arab NGO Network for Development and is currently visiting Washington, D.C. with a delegation from several Arab countries. The delegation just released a paper, “Overview and Suggestions for Improving Key Areas in U.S. Foreign Policy Towards the Arab Region,” which states: “U.S. development assistance to the Arab region has been closely linked with promoting foreign policy and strategic military goals, while not necessarily serving democracy and human development.”

NATO and ICC: Power and Accountability

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AARON HUGHES, aarhughes at ivaw.org; SCOTT KIMBALL, scttkmbll at gmail.com
Hughes and Kimball are veterans and members of Iraq Veterans Against the War. They will be leading a rally and march on Sunday to the NATO meeting “security perimeter.” Kimball said today: “We plan on returning our medals to the leaders of NATO — it’s been destabilizing, not stabilizing, Afghanistan. We are against this militarism.”

Hughes explained his returning of medals: “Because every day in this country, 18 veterans are committing suicide. Seventeen percent of the individuals that are in combat in Afghanistan, my brothers and sisters, are on psychotropic medication. Twenty to 50 percent of the individuals getting deployed to Afghanistan are already diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, military sexual trauma or a traumatic brain injury. Currently one-third of the women in the military are sexually assaulted.”

DAVID N. GIBBS, dgibbs at arizona.edu
Author of First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, Gibbs is a professor of history and government at the University of Arizona who has written extensively on NATO. He said today: “NATO is an organization that lost its relevance with the Cold War. It was originally created to protect Europe against a military invasion by the Soviet Union. By any reasonable standard, it should simply have ceased to exist with the end of the Cold War in 1989. Today, it is largely an example of bureaucratic self-preservation, as well as a drain on the economy.”

FRANCIS BOYLE, fboyle at law.uiuc.edu
Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law and author of Tackling America’s Toughest Questions. Yesterday, AllAfrica.com reported that Charles Taylor — in his first statements after being convicted by the UN Special Court on Sierra Leone: “President George W. Bush not too long ago ordered torture and admitted to doing so. Torture is a crime against humanity. The United States has refused to prosecute him. Is he above the law? Where is the fairness?” The report noted that “In January of 2010, one Professor Francis A. Boyle of the College of Law at the University of Illinois filed a Complaint with the International Criminal Court against President Bush and at least five of his senior officials for allegedly committing international crimes.”

Just this week, Boyle returned to the U.S. from Malaysia and the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, which convicted Bush in absentia. He said today: “The International Criminal Court has become a joke and a fraud. I supported it originally. But no more. It has no credibility whatsoever. It just goes after tin-pot dictators in Africa while the real war criminals such as Bush, Blair and Netanyahu get off scot-free. Hence I went out to the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal to convict Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their consigliore lawyers.”

JPMorgan is Biggest Contributor to Senate Chair Calling Them to Testify

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THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute. He just wrote the piece “Senate Banking Chair Calls Jamie Dimon to Testify: But JPMorgan Chase is His Biggest Contributor!” about Senate Banking Committee Chair Tim Johnson of South Dakota announcing his panel would call JPMorgan Chase Chair Jamie Dimon.

Ferguson said today: “Four years ago, the failure of Lehman Brothers precipitated a world wide financial collapse. Now policymakers in Europe are weighing whether to let not a bank, but a whole country — Greece — go down the drain. We have been repeatedly told that American banks have so carefully hedged their European exposures that there is no reason to fear contagion from such a disaster. The JPMorgan Chase case raises fundamental questions about these breezy assurances and whether American bank regulators truly understand what our Too Big To Fail Banks are really up to. We cannot afford another expensive policy failure by our money-driven Congress: Senator Johnson’s committee needs to start posing searching questions not in weeks, but immediately, before American banks and their regulators are once again overtaken by events.”

Also see Ferguson’s piece on Congress and money in the Financial Times.

See Johnson’s information from the Center for Responsive Politics at OpenSecrets.org

Veterans Return Medals to NATO

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The following veterans returned their medals yesterday during a protest outside the NATO meeting in Chicago as thousands protested. See footage here.

JACOB GEORGE, jacobdavidgeorge at gmail.com, http://www.operationawareness.org
Geroge, who is from Arkansas, recently visited Afghanistan where he was deployed several times. He said Sunday at the NATO protest in Chicago: “Today I made history with my brothers and sisters in the military. We returned our medals and rejected the mistakes we have made and the lies we have been taught. We showed that solidarity and justice can prevail over endless war.”

MAGGIE MARTIN, maggiemartin at ivaw.org, http://ivaw.org
Martin is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. She said yesterday as she returned her medals: “No amount of medals, ribbons, or flags can cover the amount of human suffering caused by these wars. We don’t want this garbage, we want our human rights, we want our right to heal.”

SCOTT KIMBALL, scttkmbll at gmail.com
Kimball is also a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and said Sunday outside the NATO meeting: “I am turning in these medals today for the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and all victims of occupation across the world. And also, for all the service members and veterans who are against these wars: you’re not alone.”

AARON HUGHES, aarhughes at ivaw.org
Hughes is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and he threw three medals in sequence on Sunday: “This medal here is for Anthony Wagner, he died last year. This medal right here is for one-third of the women who are sexually assaulted by their peers. We talk about standing up for our sisters in Afghanistan, but we can’t take care of our sisters here. And this medal right here, is because I’m sorry. I’m sorry to you all.”

SARAH LAZARE, Sarah.Lazare at gmail.com
Lazare has been working with veterans and military families for several years. She recently wrote the piece “Mobilizing Military Moms Against NATO.”

She can speak to the issues involved and connect media to veterans and military families.

Is NATO Ending the Afghan War?

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REBECCA GRIFFIN, rgriffin at peaceactionwest.org
Griffin is the political director of Peace Action West. She said today: “President Obama clearly feels the pressure to end the war. However, the plan endorsed at this week’s NATO summit leaves the door open to a substantial U.S military presence as far out as 2024. This is clearly out of step with the vast majority of Americans who want our troops out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. Despite the administration’s efforts to sell this plan as an end to the war, we’re still talking about thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars for another twelve years.

Opposition to this war is not going away. Last week, House Republicans tried to beat back the inevitable tide by blocking a vote on an amendment supporting withdrawal that many believe would have passed. But the writing is on the wall and the American people will continue to speak up until our government brings us a clear plan to end this war.”

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) on Monday released the following statement as world leaders met in Chicago for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit: “The [NATO] talks are being billed as discussions of plans to end the war. The war in Afghanistan is not ending. These talks are simply about financing the next phase of the war.”

“The Strategic Partnership Agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan commits us to the country for at least another decade, despite public support for the war being at an all time low. The United States will pay for half of the estimated $4.1 billion per year cost of supporting 352,000 Afghan army and police officers. Afghanistan’s contribution will be $500,000. The rest will be financed by our ‘NATO partners.’ It is not surprising that support for the war among NATO members is waning, with France threatening to pull out its troops by the end of this year.”

How Much Does Washington Spend on “Defense”?

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CHRIS HELLMAN and MATTEA KRAMER, mattea at nationalpriorities.org
Hellman is communications liaison at the National Priorities Project, and Kramer is a research analyst with the group. They just wrote a report “War Pay: The Nearly $1 Trillion Security Budget,” which tallies the military budget, showing it to be much higher than is often stated. Their piece states: “In fact, with projected cuts added in, the national security budget in fiscal 2013 will be nearly $1 trillion – a staggering enough sum that it’s worth taking a walk through the maze of the national security budget to see just where that money’s lodged. …

“The Pentagon’s base budget doesn’t include war funding, which in recent years has been well over $100 billion. With U.S. troops withdrawn from Iraq and troop levels falling in Afghanistan, you might think that war funding would be plummeting as well. In fact, it will drop to a mere $88 billion in fiscal 2013. By way of comparison, the federal government will spend around $64 billion on education that same year. …

“You might assume that we’ve already accounted for nukes in the Pentagon’s $530 billion base budget. But you’d be wrong. Funding for nuclear weapons falls under the Department of Energy (DOE), so it’s a number you rarely hear. In fiscal 2013, we’ll be spending $11.5 billion on weapons and related programs at the DOE. And disposal of nuclear waste is expensive, so add another $6.4 billion for weapons cleanup.”

U.S. “Escalating Military Presence in Honduras”

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Associated Press is reporting: “Villagers say the drug bust that left four passengers of a riverboat dead after helicopters mistakenly fired on civilians continued into the predawn hours when commandos, including some they think were Americans, raided their town. … Jose Ruiz, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the U.S. military in Honduras, said there were no American troops there. ‘We can confirm there were no U.S. military personnel or U.S. military assets involved in any way. Our joint task force occasionally supports DEA, but they had no personnel or equipment in that particular mission,” Ruiz said. …

“Several villagers, however, told The Associated Press that some of the masked agents were gringos. ‘They spoke in English among themselves and on the radios,’ said Zavala, whose husband was held at gunpoint. ‘They had brought a computer and they put in the names of everyone and sought identification for everyone.'”

DANA FRANK, danafrank at ucsc.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews with larger media outlets, Frank is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of several books, including “Bananeras: Women Transforming the Banana Unions of Latin America,” which examines the banana workers’ unions of Honduras. She writes in the cover article in The Nation this week: “In the early hours of the morning on May 11, a group of indigenous people traveling by canoe on a river in the northeast Mosquitia region of Honduras came under helicopter fire. When the shooting was over, at least four persons lay dead, including, by some accounts, two pregnant women. In Honduras, such grisly violence is no longer out of the ordinary. But what this incident threw into stark relief was the powerful role the United States is playing in a Honduran war.

“U.S. officials maintain that the Drug Enforcement Administration commandos on board the helicopters did not fire their weapons that morning; Honduran policemen pulled the triggers. But no one disputes that U.S. forces were heavily involved in the raid, and that the helicopters were owned by the U.S. State Department.

“The United States has, in fact, been quietly escalating its military presence in Honduras, pouring police and military funding into the regime of President Porfirio Lobo in the name of fighting drugs. The DEA is using counterinsurgency methods developed in Iraq against drug traffickers in Honduras, deploying squads of commandos with U.S. military Special Forces backgrounds to work closely with the Honduran police and military. The U.S. ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, recently said, ‘We have an opportunity now, because the military is no longer at war in Iraq. Using the military funding that won’t be spent, we should be able to have resources to be able to work here.'”

ALEX MAIN, via Dan Beeton, beeton at cepr.net
Senior associate for international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Main said today: “The U.S. involvement in the shooting incident earlier this month on Honduras’ Patuca River, in which pregnant women and others were killed, and the subsequent commando raid on people’s homes, raises a number of troubling questions. Among these are, what are the guidelines under which U.S. DEA and other forces are operating? What kind of violence is permitted in going after drug traffickers? And is it applicable to unarmed, or just armed traffickers? And what constitutes a drug trafficker? What are the parameters for using deadly force in populated areas?

“It is also disturbing that the U.S. State Department does not appear to know whether the Leahy law, which cuts off U.S. police and military assistance to known human rights abusers, is even being applied in Honduras. If there were evidence that it is, we would probably know about it. But the fact is that the U.S. government is ramping up aid to a police force that murders civilians with impunity, and that according to credible high-level officials is tainted by corruption and drug-trafficking itself.”

See Los Angeles Times editorial: “In Honduras, U.S. should tread lightly: Military assistance to Honduras may exacerbate its drug problems rather than helping solve them.”

Egyptian Election: Will the Military and Establishment Retain Power?

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SEIF DA’NA, dana at uwp.edu
Seif Da’Na is an associate professor of sociology and international studies at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside specializing in the Mideast and North Africa. He said today: “The Egyptian presidential election are being held today and tomorrow, with a highly possible run-off on June 16 and 17, is a significant step in Egypt’s political and democratic transformation. However, the multi-candidate presidential election, including two high ranking officials of the ousted Mubarak regime (Ahmad Shafiq, former prime minister, and Amr Mousa, former foreign minister and secretary general of the League of Arab States) might not put an end to the control of the SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces].

“The new president will have to take on serious challenges from day one (regional, economic, political, and administrative, etc.) but the president faces the ambiguity of his role and limits of his power. The new constitution has not been drafted and SCAF will still hold the real power. It is unlikely that the presidential election will put an end to the ongoing protests in Egypt, as long as people realize that SCAF is still the real ruler of Egypt and that their demands have to be negotiated in the street.”

On Jan. 25 of last year, the day the Egyptian uprising began, Da’Na was featured on an Institute for Public Accuracy news release stating that the protests represented the “beginning of a new era.

See report by Sharif Abdel Kouddous from Cairo on Democracy Now.

Iran: * Scuttling Talks * “Un-Declaring War”

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MUHAMMAD SAHIMI, moe at usc.edu
Sahimi is a professor at the University of Southern California and lead political columnist for the website PBS/Frontline/Tehran Bureau. He just wrote the piece “Intervention Proponents Try to Scuttle Nuclear Talks with Iran,” which states: The prospect of a diplomatic solution has generated deep anxiety among the proponents of military intervention, from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to his ideological allies among American neoconservatives. Through periodicals such as the Weekly Standard and Commentary, the editorial pages of the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, and various other media outlets, U.S. advocates of intervention have pursued a campaign aimed at scuttling the upcoming negotiations. I focus here on what I believe to be three central contributors to this campaign — two individual journalists and one Washington-based research institute [the Institute for Science and International Security, headed by David Albright]. …

In the media: First is Associated Press reporter George Jahn. Almost without exception, every time there is positive news about the possibility of a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, Jahn comes up with an ‘exclusive’ revelation of a dire nature, always provided to him by ‘an official of a country tracking Iran’s nuclear program,’ or ‘an official of a country that has been severely critical of Iran’s nuclear program.'” Sahimi criticizes this use of anonymous sources and questions if the country is Israel. Sahimi writes: “Sometimes the country is referred to as a ‘member of the International Atomic Energy Agency,’ sometimes as a ‘member state.’ Presumably, the hope is that since it is widely known that Israel is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, readers will assume that it is not the source; what is not widely known, however, is that Israel is a member of the IAEA, an odd exception. I will limit my discussion to just two examples from the long list of claims put forward by Jahn. …”

KATE GOULD, kate at fcnl.org
Gould is the legislative associate for Middle East policy for the Friends Committee on National Legislation and just wrote the piece “Congress ‘Un-Declares’ War with Iran,” which states: “The House was the first chamber to ‘un-declare war,’ with its inclusion of a proviso in the National Defense Authorization Act that this legislation does not authorize war with Iran. This stipulation that ‘nothing in this Act shall be construed as authorizing the use of force against Iran’ is a remarkably sober note of caution and common sense in an otherwise dangerous and reckless piece of legislation. The NDAA allocates billions of dollars of weapons that could be used for an attack on Iran and requires the administration to prepare for war and dramatically escalate the U.S. militarization of the Middle East. Notably, the NDAA exceeds the limitations on Pentagon spending that Congress agreed to in the Budget Control Act by about $8 billion — much of which is allotted for the anti-Iran weaponry. Rep. John Conyers (MI) championed this amendment to ‘un-declare’ war with Iran with a bipartisan group of representatives: Rep. Ron Paul (TX), Rep. Keith Ellison (MN), and Rep. Walter Jones (NC).”

Confronting the “Taboo of Public Ownership”

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GAR ALPEROVITZ, via John Duda, jduda at democracycollaborative.org
THOMAS HANNA, tmhanna at democracycollaborative.org
Alperovitz, author of America Beyond Capitalism and co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, and his co-author Thomas Hanna, have written an article published today in The Nation, “Beyond Corporate Capitalism: Not So Wild a Dream,” which states: “It’s time to put the taboo subject of public ownership back on the progressive agenda: It is the only way to solve some of the most serious problems facing the nation. … Take the financial sector where the current recession was hatched. Today, five giants control more than a third of all the deposits … all were deeply involved in creating the meltdown that cost taxpayers billions in bailouts and the overall economy trillions. Numerous economists, left and right, agree that their unbridled operations will inevitably lead to another crisis. JPMorgan Chase’s recent speculative loss of at least $2 billion should be fair warning. …

“If some of the most important corporations have a massively disruptive and costly impact on the economy in general and the environment in particular — and if regulation and anti-trust laws in many areas are likely to be subverted by these corporations — a public takeover is the only logical answer. …

The article highlights existing, successful examples of public ownership in America today: “public ownership … is not the radical departure most imagine it to be. Two of the most cost-effective health providers in the United States — Medicare and the Veterans Administration — are run by the U.S. government. So, too, the largest pension manager in the country is a public entity: the Social Security Administration.”

In an election year likely to be dominated by discussions of corporations and the economy, Alperovitz and Hanna lay out a clear mandate for progressives: “At a time when progressives are being called ‘socialists’ no matter what, there is little to lose and much to gain by clearly making the case for a new longer term direction that confronts — and ultimately overcomes — the centrality of corporate power.”

Alperovitz is a professor of political economy at the University of Maryland and a founder of the Democracy Collaborative. Hanna is a researcher at the Democracy Collaborative.

* U.S. “Hard Line” on Iran * Egyptian Election

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GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 at gmail.com
Porter is an investigative journalist and historian specializing in U.S. national security policy. He has been writing extensively about the Iranian nuclear talks, including the new piece “U.S. Hard Line in Failed Iran Talks Driven by Israel,” which states: “Negotiations between Iran and the United States and other members of the P5+1 group in Baghdad ended in fundamental disagreement Thursday over the position of the P5+1 offering no relief from sanctions against Iran. The two sides agreed to meet again in Moscow Jun. 18 and 19, but only after Iran had threatened not to schedule another meeting, because the P5+1 had originally failed to respond properly to its five-point plan. The prospects for agreement are not likely to improve before that meeting, however, mainly because of an inflexible U.S. diplomatic posture that reflects President Barack Obama’s need to bow to the demands of Israel and the U.S. Congress on Iran policy.”

SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS, sharif at democracynow.org, @sharifkouddous
Sharif Abdel Kouddous is Democracy Now! correspondent in Cairo. See his reporting on the election.

JIHAN HAFIZ, fahema22 at gmail.com
Hafiz is The Real News correspondent in Cairo. See her recent reports.

MATTHEW CASSEL, justimage at gmail.com, @justimage
Cassel is an Al-Jazeera journalist in Cairo.

“Bain Actually Loves Dems”

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DOUG HENWOOD, dhenwood at panix.com
Editor of Left Business Observer and author of the book Wall Street, Henwood just wrote the brief piece “Bain Actually Loves Dems,” which states: “All good Democrats are busily hating on Bain Capital right now. What they’re forgetting is how many Bain-affiliated political contributions have gone to Democrats.

“Plug the words ‘Bain Capital’ into an OpenSecrets.org search and you learn that while Bain people have lovingly contributed to their former CEO’s presidential campaign, almost three-quarters of their contributions to other candidates, 72 percent to be precise, have gone to Democrats. That’s a higher percentage to Dems than the AFL-CIO!”

“And among the top recipients are Dem headliners like Al Franken, Claire McCaskill, John Kerry, Mark Udall, Nancy Pelosi, and Sherrod Brown. They were also major contributors to the Democratic National Committee and the national Democratic party. There are very few Republican candidates on the OpenSecrets list, and no major gifts to the GOP itself.

“So [Newark, N.J., Mayor] Cory Booker’s defense of PE [private equity] against attacks by the Obama campaign has a very materialist explanation: PE titans like Bain have been funding Dems for ages — including Booker himself (e.g., ‘Cory Booker’s Bain Capital money‘). It was just a few years ago that HF [hedge fund] hotshot Paul Tudor Jones held a 500-guest fundraiser for Obama, back when ‘the whole of Greenwich’ (an epicenter of the industry) was behind him (‘Another top hedge fund chief backs Obama‘). Then he hurt their feelings with one intemperate use of the term ‘fatcats.’ But it’s not like Obama is about to expropriate the PE and HF types.”

A recent Bob Fitch memorial lecture by Henwood contains a broader critique of Wall Street and real estate support for many establishment Democrats. (Fitch was author of the book The Assassination of New York, which charged that elites seeking ever greater profits had effectively gutted New York City neighborhoods and productive economic sectors.)

President Obama’s Priestly Assassinations

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A New York Times investigative piece “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will” reports today: “Beside the president at every step is his counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, who is variously compared by colleagues to a dogged police detective, tracking terrorists from his cavelike office in the White House basement, or a priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president’s attempt to apply the ‘just war’ theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict. …

“In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the ‘single digits’ — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

“But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The CIA accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it ‘guilt by association’ that has led to ‘deceptive’ estimates of civilian casualties. ‘It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,’ the official said. ‘They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.’ …

“It is the strangest of bureaucratic rituals: Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die. … David Axelrod, the president’s closest political adviser, began showing up at the ‘Terror Tuesday’ meetings, his unspeaking presence a visible reminder of what everyone understood: a successful attack would overwhelm the president’s other aspirations and achievements. …

“In fact, in a 2007 campaign speech in which he vowed to pull the United States out of Iraq and refocus on Al Qaeda, Mr. Obama had trumpeted his plan to go after terrorist bases in Pakistan — even if Pakistani leaders objected. His rivals at the time, including Mitt Romney, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Mrs. Clinton, had all pounced on what they considered a greenhorn’s campaign bluster. (Mr. Romney said Mr. Obama had become ‘Dr. Strangelove.’) …

“Mr. Obama has avoided the complications of detention by deciding, in effect, to take no prisoners alive. …

“Some State Department officials have complained to the White House that the criteria used by the CIA for identifying a terrorist ‘signature’ were too lax. The joke was that when the CIA sees ‘three guys doing jumping jacks,’ the agency thinks it is a terrorist training camp, said one senior official. Men loading a truck with fertilizer could be bombmakers — but they might also be farmers, skeptics argued.

“Now, in the wake of the bad first strike in Yemen, Mr. Obama overruled military and intelligence commanders who were pushing to use signature strikes there as well. ‘We are not going to war with Yemen,’ he admonished in one meeting, according to participants. … Mr. Obama had drawn a line. But within two years, he stepped across it. Signature strikes in Pakistan were killing a large number of terrorist suspects, even when CIA analysts were not certain beforehand of their presence. And in Yemen, roiled by the Arab Spring unrest, the Qaeda affiliate was seizing territory. …

“Moreover, Mr. Obama’s record has not drawn anything like the sweeping criticism from allies that his predecessor faced. John B. Bellinger III, a top national security lawyer under the Bush administration, said that was because Mr. Obama’s liberal reputation and ‘softer packaging’ have protected him. ‘After the global outrage over Guantánamo, it’s remarkable that the rest of the world has looked the other way while the Obama administration has conducted hundreds of drone strikes in several different countries, including killing at least some civilians,’ said Mr. Bellinger, who supports the strikes.”

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net
Rowley, a former FBI Special Agent and Division Counsel whose May 2002 memo described some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She said today: “These New York Times reporters do a good job explaining how Obama’s political calculations and desire to show toughness in the ‘war on terror’ has led him to his role as judge, jury and executioner. Whereas Bush detained and tortured, Obama impresses the former Bush officials with his taking of no prisoners, thus avoiding all the messy legal questions that tend to arise in court. This, however, is the only little bit of transparency that exists so far showing how this new type of ‘due process’ functions. Hopefully there will be judges asking to see the secret memo inventing the new ‘due process’ (written by the same Office of Legal Counsel that OK’d waterboarding). How have they decided that CIA and Pentagon Power point presentations can fully substitute for the entire body of law governing American judicial process?”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com
McGovern, who was a U.S. army officer and CIA analyst for 30 years, now works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He said today: “So THAT’S it. New York Times writers Jo Becker and Scott Shane today provide insight into how President Obama is helped to resolve the ‘moral and legal conundrum’ of ordering ‘kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical.’ Counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, is ‘beside the president at every step.’ Colleagues compare Brennan’s role to that of a ‘priest whose blessing has become indispensable to Mr. Obama, echoing the president’s attempt to apply “just war” theories of Christian philosophers to a brutal modern conflict.’

“So that’s why Brennan’s alma mater, Fordham University, last week conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, and asked him to deliver the commencement address. Many graduates had greeted the honoring of Brennan with astonishment, and strongly criticized him for his key role in ‘justifying’ things like drone killing and ‘mosque crawling’ (infiltrating mosques with pretend-Muslims from NYPD/CIA). A few of the Fordham’s justice-oriented graduating students faced into the prevailing winds with exceptional courage, and a few days later wrote about it.” McGovern cited the just-published student pieces:

White House ‘Assassination Czar‘ Confronted at Fordham” by Ayca Bahce

Counterterrorism Adviser Non-Transparent at Fordham” by Michael Pappas

Radioactive Tuna in U.S. from Fukushima * “Meltdown at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission”

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ROBERT ALVAREZ, kitbob at starpower.net
AP is reporting: “Across the vast Pacific, the mighty bluefin tuna carried radioactive contamination that leaked from Japan’s crippled nuclear plant to the shores of the United States 6,000 miles away — the first time a huge migrating fish has been shown to carry radioactivity such a distance.”

Available for a limited number of interviews, Alvarez is a former senior policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy and now a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. He said today: “Radioactive cesium from the Fukushima nuclear accident deposited over 600,000 square-miles of the Pacific, as well as the Northern Hemisphere and Europe. With a half-life of 30 years, cesium-137 mimics potassium as it concentrates in the food chain until it reaches Bluefin Tuna which are at the top. In addition to mercury, Cesium-137 has become another reason why pregnant women, should be discouraged from eating this fish.” Alvarez recently wrote the piece “Why Fukushima Is a Greater Disaster than Chernobyl and a Warning Sign for the U.S.

KARL GROSSMAN, kgrossman at hamptons.com
Professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, Grossman is author of Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power and Power Crazy. He just wrote the piece “Meltdown at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Nuclear Denial and the Resignation of Gregory Jaczko,” which states: “The resignation last week of the chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is another demonstration of the bankrupt basis of the NRC. Gregory Jaczko repeatedly called for the NRC to apply ‘lessons learned’ from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in Japan. And, for that, the nuclear industry — quite successfully — went after him fiercely.

“The New York Times in an editorial over the weekend said that President Obama’s choice to replace Jaczko, Allison McFarlane, ‘will need to be as independent and aggressive as Dr. Jaczko.’

“That misses the institutional point.

“The NRC was created in 1974 when Congress abolished the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission after deciding that the AEC’s dual missions of promoting and at the same time regulating nuclear power were deemed a conflict of interest. The AEC was replaced by the NRC which was to regulate nuclear power, and a Department of Energy was later formed to advocate for it.

“However, the same extreme pro-nuclear culture of the AEC continued on at the NRC. It has partnered with the DOE in promoting nuclear power.

“Indeed, neither the AEC, in its more than 25 years, nor the NRC, in its nearly 30 years, ever denied an application for a construction or operating license for a nuclear power plant anywhere, anytime in the United States.”

Assange and the “War on Whistleblowers”

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COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net
Rowley, a former FBI Special Agent and Division Counsel whose May 2002 memo described some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She was featured on an IPA news release yesterday titled “Obama’s Priestly Assassinations” about the administration’s “secret kill list.” She said today: “The war on whistleblowers (which Obama has likened to traitors and espionage), is connected to yesterday’s New York Times story about the ‘secret kill list’ since it is secrecy that is being protected and which fuels and empowers the entire illegal, immoral wrongdoing by a ‘l’etat c’est moi’ [‘I am the state’] war presidency setting itself up as investigator, judge, jury and executioner. The only thing that will prevent a return to the dark ages is light.”

DAVID MacMICHAEL, dmacmi at centurylink.net
MacMichael is a former CIA analyst. He said today: “There is a strong possibility that if Assange is extradited to Sweden that the U.S. will have him extradited here. It’s widely thought that there is already a U.S. government secret indictment against Assange in the Alexandria, Virginia, federal court. This would be part of a pattern of the Obama administration’s unprecedented attacks on whistleblowers, using the 1917 Espionage Act to pursue them. So are we going to see an extraordinary prosecution of Assange from this? This is a strong possibility, I believe.

“The U.S. government, like any other, seeks to avoid transparency in the conduct of its foreign policy. The Obama administration is no different in this than its predecessors. Yesterday the New York Times published a piece on the way Obama personally approves the so-called ‘kill lists.’ of individuals being targeted in the Middle East and elsewhere. During the Vietnam war, it was widely accepted: ‘If he’s dead, he must be Viet Cong,’ hence the notorious body counts of that conflict — and that’s essentially what the Obama administration is doing: If a foreign male who is of broadly-considered military age is killed as a result of U.S. operations — drone strikes, helicopter strafings, etc., he must have been a ‘militant’ (interesting definition, that) and not a civilian. Because, of course, we (our military and intelligence forces) don’t kill civilians. That would be wrong.”

GLENN GREENWALD, ggreenwald at salon.com, @ggreenwald
Available for limited number of interviews, Greenwald’s latest book is With Liberty and Justice for Some. He has written extensively about WikiLeaks and said today: “Remember, Julian Assange is one of the most hated people by Western governments because of the transparency that he brought. … Typically, and unfortunately, judicial branches in the United States and in the United Kingdom do the opposite of what they’re intending to do, which is protecting the institutional power, and help to punish and deprive those who are most scorned. So I would have been shocked had the court ruled in favor of Assange, even though, as the two opposing judges on the high court pointed out, the argument for Sweden and those who argued extradition is directly antithetical to what the statute said. No one thinks that a prosecutor is a judicial authority. He hasn’t been charged with a crime, and therefore, there is no courtroom judge seeking his extradition. … But the law in these cases is not what typically governs. What governs is political consideration and views of the party. …

“[Sweden has] a very oppressive, I would even say borderline barbaric, system of pretrial detention.” Greenwald noted that Assange, since he is not a Swedish citizen, will be “automatically consigned to prison, and not released on bail. … The pre-trial hearings in Sweden are private. … And given how sensitive this case is, the idea that judicial decision in Sweden will be made privately and secretly is very alarming. …The concern is that Sweden will hand him over [to the U.S] without much of a fight and that he will face life imprisonment under espionage statute when he is doing nothing more than what newspapers do everyday.”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com
McGovern, who was a U.S. army officer and CIA analyst for 30 years, now works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was also featured on the “Obama’s Priestly Assassinations” news release and has closely followed WikiLeaks.

* Syria * Ireland Referendum * Charles Taylor Conviction

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CHARLES GLASS, [in London, 5 hours ahead of U.S. ET] charlesmglassmail2003 at yahoo.com
A noted journalist, Glass was ABC News Chief Middle East correspondent and just wrote the piece “Syria: The Citadel & the War” for the New York Review of Books.

Yesterday, he was featured on Democracy Now.

IARA LEE, iaralee at culturesofresistance.org
A filmmaker, Lee is currently in post-production on her new documentary, “The Suffering Grasses,” which was filmed at the Syria-Turkey border. She recently wrote the piece “The Only True Revolution in Syria Is Nonviolent.”

ROGER COLE, pana at eircom.net, Skype: silchester52,
AP is reporting: “Irish voters were deciding Thursday whether their government can ratify the European Union’s fiscal treaty.”

A spokesperson for the Campaign for a Social Europe, Cole said today: “Legally, Ireland has its own constitution that ensures the Irish people are sovereign, as a consequence of our war of independence — unlike the rest of Europe — so we have a referendum about matters regarding the European Union. The issue is that this referendum is being pushed by the current government based on fear. The vast majority of people in Ireland don’t like how the EU is progressing — it’s dominated by German and French bankers. The previous Irish government took on the debt of the Irish banks that became indebted to the big German and French banks and the Irish people are getting crucified for this, having to pay back money they didn’t benefit from — with interest. So a ‘Yes’ on the referendum is being pushed by fear — the ‘Yes’ side states if Ireland says ‘No,’ then the situation could spiral out of control like in Greece. But a ‘Yes’ vote does not insure stability either. And countries that have defaulted after a tough few years, like Argentina and Iceland, have done well.”

BENJAMIN DAVIS, ben.davis at utoledo.edu
Associate professor of law at the University of Toledo College of Law, Davis said today: “I was born in 1955 in Liberia where my parents were stationed for the U.S. State Department. Liberia is close to my family and my heart. With the conviction and sentencing of Charles Taylor, another former head of state is held accountable at the international level for his depredations and I welcome that result. Charles Taylor is quoted as comparing his treatment with that of former President George Bush and questions whether there is a double standard. For years now, people in the U.S. of goodwill have raised the issue of criminal prosecution in federal and state courts, foreign courts, and international tribunals of former President Bush and others for the torture and war on false pretenses in Iraq. We are insisting that there not be a double standard. …

There is no structural flaw in the Constitution but a failure of character of our leaders and intelligentsia who loathe even the idea of criminal accountability for high-level governmental officials.”

See: “Taylor: Prosecute George Bush, Too.

Roots of the Rise of Fundamentalist Islam: The 1967 War

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NASEER ARURI, naruri at aol.com
Aruri is chancellor professor emeritus of political science at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth and author of the books Dishonest Broker: The U.S. Role in Israel and Palestine and Obstruction of Peace. He also contributed to the anthology The June 1967 War, which took place 45 years ago.

He said today: “The 1967 Middle East war, sometimes referred to as the June War, is also called ‘al-Naksa,’ or ‘the setback,’ whereas the debacle of 1948 — which cost the Arabs more than two-thirds of Palestine and resulted in the expulsion/exodus of 78 percent of the Palestinian people — is increasingly referred to as ‘al-Nakba,’ i.e., ‘the catastrophe.’ While one might recover from a setback, it is probably a very daunting task to recover from a catastrophe.

“And yet, the 1967 War was a transforming event of epochal dimensions involving huge stakes: Who will emerge as the hegemon of the Middle East? Conservative monarchies with influence and power based on petroleum products and pro-west affiliations — or Arab socialism, non-alignment, Arab unity and secularism? Would revolutionary Arab nationalism or right-wing monarchies emerge as the order of the day?

“Today, almost a half a century later, as the Arab uprisings proceed, we ask whether these questions have been answered. Can we say with certainty, that political Islam has emerged triumphant while secularism has been dealt another setback? Did fundamentalist Islam score high particularly in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere? Did right-wing Arabs such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, etc. score better than did others on the left?

“The single most important outcome of the June War was the defeat of Arab nationalism, known as Nasserism, the antithesis of reactionary Arab politics. Correspondingly, Israel emerged as America’s surrogate in the Middle East. The shifting realignments which can be traced to the 1967 war reveals a new geo-political map, which pits the big powers against each other Cold War style — the U.S., NATO, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Israel versus Syria, Iran, Hizbullah, Lebanon. Such shifting realignments are rooted in the June War and the Cold War, both significant eras which will have a geo-political impact on the region for some time to come.”

Journalist Questioning Honeywell CEO Stifled, Police Investigating Incident

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On Thursday, journalist Mike Elk attempted to ask a tough question of Honeywell CEO David Cote at an event at the U.S. Capitol, but the microphone was ripped fromhis hand. See video, which has gotten 50,000 views on YouTube:

MIKE ELK, mike at inthesetimes.com, @MikeElk
A reporter for In These Times magazine, Elk said today: “On Friday President Obama appeared with Honeywell CEO David Cote at Honeywell’s Minneapolis facility for an event on the economy. While Cote claims Honeywell’s profitability is due to innovation, much of it actually rests on union busting that risks the safety of the public. I attempted to ask Cote about this on Thursday, but was blocked from doing so. Today, the Capitol police informed me they are investigating the incident. Here’s what happened:

“For the last two years, I have covered union busting efforts by Honeywell, their close connections to President Obama and how federal agencies have assisted Honeywell in three different labor struggles since Obama came to power. In particular, I covered a 14-month lockout at a Honeywell uranium plant in Metropolis, Illinois, where Honeywell cheated on tests for replacement workers, one of whom later caused several releases of radioactive gas into the atmosphere. Instead of joining the picket line with the striking workers as he promised to do during his campaign, Obama decided to fly with top Democratic donor and Honeywell CEO Cote to India while the lockout was still going on. …

“On Thursday, at an event on the Hill, I began to ask Cote about the uranium release caused by a non-union engineer working a job performed by a union worker. Cote began to frown and looked annoyed with my question. Immediately, I started getting dirty stares and smirks from the room of assembled corporate lobbyists and allies. The moderator of the panel interrupted me to say ‘Sir, if I can interrupt. This is to hear from entrepreneurs.’

“Within a few seconds, Nicolas D. Muzin, a senior adviser for Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC), grabbed me and attempted to physically remove me from the room.” After he attempted to follow Cote, Elk states that “Honeywell External Communications Director Rob Ferris barricaded me in a room for several minutes and afterwards had the Capitol Police detain me. They released me after 10 minutes when they realized I had done nothing more than try to follow a CEO down a hallway. Indeed, Capitol Police asked me if I wanted to press charges against Ferris for false imprisonment for barricading me into the room. Today, I was informed they are investigating the incident.”

* Escalating Drone Strikes in Pakistan * State of Libya

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JUNAID AHMAD, junaid.ahmad at lums.edu.pk
Ahmad is assistant professor of law at Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan and is currently visiting the U.S. He said today: “The United States launched new drone strikes on Pakistan over the weekend, causing at least a dozen deaths in the tribal area of South Waziristan.

“The attack on Sunday included two drones that fired missiles into a home and a car in the Wana district of the northwestern Pakistan tribal area near Afghanistan. Ten people were killed, and another ten wounded.

“Media reports about the attacks portrayed all of the victims as ‘suspected militants.’ This is in line with the publication last week of a detailed article in the New York Times describing how President Barack Obama determines victims for targeted assassinations and personally authorizes a number of the so-called ‘signature strikes’ — those targeted not at clearly identified ‘suspects,’ but rather at gatherings deemed to be involved in ‘suspicious behavior.’

“The report disclosed that Obama had authorized a CIA policy of classifying any combat-aged male killed in a drone attack as a ‘militant,’ in the absence of clear proof to the contrary. This approach effectively allows for the murder of any adult male in the tribal areas identified as kosher for drone strikes.

“Sunday’s attack was the seventh drone strike since the NATO summit in Chicago last month. They have included a May 24 attack on a mosque that killed 10 people during worship. A May 26 strike murdered 4 persons in a bakery where supposed militants were purchasing bread.

“The intensification of the U.S. drone attacks comes in the context of the NATO summit in Chicago last month, where the U.S. and Pakistani governments failed to come to an agreement concerning the reopening of a supply route for U.S.-NATO occupation forces in Afghanistan. The route, which goes from the Pakistani port city of Karachi to Afghanistan, was closed by Islamabad in protest over U.S. air strikes that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers last November.

“The supply lines through Pakistan were previously carrying over 30 percent of the materiel for the U.S.-NATO soldiers in Afghanistan and are perceived to be critically important for the withdrawal over the next two and half years of U.S.-NATO forces and their equipment.

“Also toward the end of last year, Islamabad shut down the covert Shamsi air base in Baluchistan that the U.S. relied upon to launch its drone strikes.

“Just last month, the Pakistani parliament passed a resolution stating that an end to the drone attacks will be the precondition for reopening the supply lines and calling on the United States to apologize for the killing of the 24 Pakistani soldiers. The Obama administration has rebuked both demands.

“The recent drone assaults are the most blatant expressions of American anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to completely subordinate itself to U.S. diktat. The period after the Chicago summit has also witnessed repeated threats in Congress to halt all aid to Pakistan as well as a propaganda frenzy over a Pakistani court’s sentencing of a CIA informant who facilitated the Navy Seal raid that assassinated Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

“It should be obvious to the world by now that these ongoing drone attacks are viewed with disgust in Pakistan, and are blamed for killing thousands, mostly civilians.”

Reuters is reporting: “In a fresh challenge to the interim government’s weak authority, members of the al-Awfea Brigade occupied the airport for several hours demanding the release of their leader whom they said was being held by Tripoli’s security forces.”

REESE ERLICH, rerlich at pacbell.net
Recently back from Libya and available for a limited number of interviews, foreign correspondent Erlich, author of “Conversations with Terrorists: Middle East Leaders on Politics, Violence and Empire,” is currently writing a book on the Arab uprisings. He said: “The western-backed National Transition Council operates a weak and ineffective government. Some 60 militias are the real power centers. Unable to suppress the militias, the NTC uses some as auxiliary forces to be called out in time of emergency. Some are now allying with political parties, a very dangerous long-term trend because they will be much harder to dissolve.” Erlich’s article on the Libyan uprising and its political aftermath will appear in an upcoming issue of The Progressive.

U.S.-Mexican Border: A New Front of the War on Terror?

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TODD MILLER, toddmiller70 at hotmail.com
Todd Miller has researched and written about U.S.-Mexican border issues for more than 10 years. He just wrote the article, “Bringing the Battlefield to the Border, The Wild World of Border Security and Boundary Building in Arizona,” which states: “William ‘Drew’ Dodds, the salesperson for StrongWatch, a Tucson-based company, is at the top of his game when he describes developments on the southern border of the United States in football terms. In his telling, that boundary is the line of scrimmage, and the technology his company is trying to sell — a mobile surveillance system named Freedom-On-The-Move, a camera set atop a retractable mast outfitted in the bed of a truck and maneuvered with an Xbox controller — acts like a ‘roving linebacker.’

“As Dodds describes it, unauthorized migrants and drug traffickers often cross the line of scrimmage undetected. At best, they are seldom caught until the “last mile,” far from the boundary line. His surveillance system, he claims, will cover a lot more of that ground in very little time and from multiple angles. It will become the border-enforcement equivalent of New York Giants’ linebacking great, Lawrence Taylor.

“To listen to Dodds, an ex-Marine — Afghanistan and Iraq, 2001-2004 — with the hulking physique of a linebacker himself, is to experience a new worldview being constructed on the run. Even a decade or so ago, it might have seemed like a mad dream from the American fringe. These days, his all-the-world’s-a-football-field vision seemed perfectly mainstream inside the brightly-lit convention hall in Phoenix, Arizona, where the seventh annual Border Security Expo took place this March. Dodds was just one of hundreds of salespeople peddling their border-enforcement products and national security wares, …[and] one of more than a hundred companies scrambling for a profitable edge in an exploding market.

“As that buzzing convention floor made clear, the anything-goes approach to immigration enforcement found in Arizona — home to SB1070, the infamous anti-immigrant law now before the Supreme Court — has generated interest from boundary-militarizers elsewhere in the country and the world. An urge for zero-tolerance-style Arizona borders is spreading fast, as evidenced by the convention’s clientele. In addition to U.S. Border Patrol types, attendees came from law enforcement outfits and agencies nationwide, and from 18 countries around the world, including Israel and Russia. …

“More than one million migrants have been deported from the country over the last three and a half years under the Obama administration, numbers that surpass those of the Bush years. This should be a reminder that a significant, if overlooked, part of this country’s post 9/11 security iron fist has been aimed not at al-Qaeda but at the undocumented migrant. Indeed, as writer Roberto Lovato points out, there has been an ‘al-Qaedization of immigrants and immigration policy.’ And as in the Global War on Terror, military-industrial companies like Boeing and Halliburton are cashing in on this version of for-profit war.”

Beyond Wisconsin: “The Case Against the Middle Class”

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ANDY KROLL, andykroll at gmail.com
Kroll, a reporter for Mother Jones magazine and an associate editor at TomDispatch.com, just wrote the piece “Getting Rolled in Wisconsin,” which states: “The energy of the Wisconsin uprising was never electoral. The movement’s mistake: letting itself be channeled solely into traditional politics, into the usual box of uninspired candidates and the usual line-up of debates, primaries, and general elections. The uprising was too broad and diverse to fit electoral politics comfortably. You can’t play a symphony with a single instrument. Nor can you funnel the energy and outrage of a popular movement into a single race, behind a single well-worn candidate, at a time when all the money in the world from corporate ‘individuals’ and right-wing billionaires is pouring into races like the Walker recall.”

ARUN GUPTA, ebrowniess at yahoo.com
Gupta, a founding editor of the Indypendent magazine and the Occupy Wall Street Journal, recently wrote the piece “Wisconsin’s Recall Election: An Ominous Crucible of U.S. Politics.”

He said today: “The Wisconsin recall election is a snapshot of an organized, energized right swimming in cash, a Democratic Party in disarray, a labor movement sliding toward oblivion and an Obama campaign in deep trouble. The continuous protests by tens of thousands last year in Madison put the right on the defensive and proved real power can be exercised outside the voting booth. The instant Democratic and union leaders steered the Wisconsin Uprising into electoral politics spelled doom. Democrats are bereft of principles other than those provided by pollsters and consultants. Progressives confuse elections with movements. And unions have lost their organizing muscles. The result is a party and president who talk endlessly about the middle class, but endorse similar austerity policies as the right. And they run away from their true base — workers, the marginally employed and the poor, who now make up the majority of the country.”

In April of 2011, Gupta wrote a piece titled “The Case Against the Middle Class,” which stated: “In Madison, however, the intoxicating talk of ‘general strike’ has been replaced by recall elections to oust eight Republican state senators. A general strike requires months of education, debate, organizing, community outreach, producing media, building links to other sectors. Labor has the resources in terms of money, staff and infrastructure. There is no guarantee of victory, but it would be a glorious display of the chaos and creativity of democracy.

“A recall election, on the other hand, is authoritarian politics run by self-selected consultants, pollsters, wealthy donors and Democratic Party honchos. They need labor, but only as a mindless automaton to gather signatures, do phone banking, get out the vote and spread messaging decreed from above.

“This is symptomatic of labor’s deeper malaise in which it can’t see beyond the market, the middle class and electoral politics. By some estimates, in the last two election cycles, organized labor poured more than half-a-billion dollars into the Democratic Party with disastrous results.

“What if organized labor had poured one or $200 million into organizing the unemployed? This could have created a mass popular force on the left, but its politics might have been more radical than middle-class conformism.”

U.S. Supporting Rwanda as it Destabilizes the Congo — Again

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BBC is reporting “The UN says it has evidence that a rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo is being fueled by recruits and support from neighboring Rwanda.” Human Rights Watch reports that “Rwandan army officials have provided weapons, ammunition, and an estimated 200 to 300 recruits to support Ntaganda’s mutiny in Rutshuru territory, eastern Congo.” A leading Congolese newspaper, Le Potentiel notes “The mutiny underway in the eastern DRC receives support in manpower and logistics from Rwanda, in the face of astonishing passivity from the international community (U.S., Britain, EU, etc.).”

JACQUES BAHATI, bahati at afjn.org
Bahati, a policy analyst at the Africa Faith and Justice Network says “DRC has been the playground of Rwanda since 1996 and this will never change if serious reforms are not made. On a long list of problems needing urgent solutions, DRC must address corruption in its leadership, army reform and make a priority the grievances of all warring parties.”

EMIRA WOODS, emira at ips-dc.org
Woods, co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies, said today: “Rwanda’s role in destabilizing the Congo has contributed to the millions who have perished as result of the conflict since 1996 and the 100,000 displaced persons since March of this year. It is time that the United States, which provides significant funding to the Rwandan government, uses its leverage to hold Rwanda accountable for its destructive actions in the Congo.”

MAURICE CARNEY, info at friendsofthecongo.org
Carney, executive director of Friends of the Congo, said today: “The Rwandan government has acted as a major destabilizing force in the east of the Congo since 1996. However, as a staunch ally of the United States and the United Kingdom, the Rwandan government has benefited tremendously from the diplomatic cover and protection that accompanies its relationship with such powerful nations.”

Middle Class Wealth Plummets

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The New York Times reports: “The recent financial crisis left the median American family in 2010 with no more wealth than they had in the early 1990s, erasing almost two decades of accumulated prosperity, the Federal Reserve said Monday. The median family, richer than half of the nation’s families and poorer than the other half, had a net worth of $77,300 in 2010, down from $126,400 in 2007, the Fed said. The crash of housing prices explained three-quarters of the loss.”

WILLIAM K. BLACK, blackw at umkc.edu
Available for a limited number of interviews, Black is now an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and the author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One. He was the deputy staff director of the national commission that investigated the cause of the savings and loan debacle. He said today: “The facts are in, and we now know that the ongoing crisis represents by far the most expensive epidemic of fraud in history. It was an epidemic of fraud that the FBI first warned of in 2004 — and predicted that it would cause a financial ‘crisis.’ It was an epidemic that Chairmen Greenspan and Bernanke could have ended with a stroke of their pens by heeding the pleas to ban liars’ loans. And it is an epidemic led by elite bankers with total impunity. A staggering percentage of homeowner wealth was stolen and destroyed by the elite frauds. Attorney General Holder, Chairman Bernanke, and Secretary Geithner should resign and be replaced by those who will insure that no man is above the law.”

CHUCK COLLINS, Bob Keener, bob at wealthforcommongood.org
Collins, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and long-time inequality activist. He was born into the 1 percent. His brand new book is called, 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It. Collins said today: “The economic meltdown, triggered by reckless financial speculation and extreme wealth inequality, has cost the middle class two decades of economic prosperity. Reducing wealth and income disparities is key toward rebuilding an economy that works for the 100 percent.”

See Collins’ recent piece: “99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It.”

MATTEA KRAMER, mattea at nationalpriorities.org
Kramer is a research analyst for the National Priorities Project, which is just releasing a book A People’s Guide to the Federal Budget.

Kramer said today: “This is compounded by a federal income-tax system riddled with tax breaks that largely benefit wealthy Americans. Thus, even as middle-class wealth has eroded in recent years, the federal government handed a $4.4 billion housing subsidy to the top 1 percent of Americans in 2011. That diverted tax dollars away from long-term investment in the middle class, such as tuition support for higher education.”

* Syria * Supreme Court and “Gutted Habeas Corpus”

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ELAINE HAGOPIAN, echagop at verizon.net
Hagopian is a Syrian-American sociologist, a professor emeritus of sociology at Simmons College in Boston and political interviewer for Arabic Hour TV. She said today: “The situation in Syria has intensified. The regime is determined to defeat the militarized opposition and the fractured and incoherent militarized opposition, which is trying to develop a united strategy, is determined to bring down the regime. Both parties refuse to accept a cease fire as part of the Annan plan, blaming each other for its failure. Each blames the other for the series of massacres that have taken place. But there are conflicting reports on these, and the UN monitors have confirmed the massacres, but have not stated who committed them. They did identify artillery shells that were fired in the area by the regime, but did not connect the up close murders of civilians to the regime. A leading German daily, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), reports that the rebels did the killing, and the victims were Alawites. Mainstream media report that the Shabiha (civilian Alawite mafia) did it on behalf of the regime. Who to believe? Two things are clear, both the regime and the militarized opposition lie, and both commit atrocities. In the meantime, the original, non-violent reform movement, now calling for Assad to step down as well, has been overshadowed by the violent exchanges going on between the regime and the militarized opposition. As Syria deteriorates and feels the pressures of the economic sanctions, the violence escalates. Russia and the U.S. suggest different ‘solutions,’ but have not found common ground to move toward halting the violence…”

ANDY WORTHINGTON, andy at andyworthington.co.uk
The New York Times reports: “The Supreme Court on Monday, June 11, refused to hear appeals from seven men contesting their imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, passing up an opportunity to clarify its last Guantanamo decision, in 2008.”

Worthington is author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison. He is co-director of the film “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo.”

He said today: “The Supreme Court’s refusal to rebuke the right-wing judges of the D.C. Circuit Court, who have gutted habeas corpus of all meaning, has led to a situation in which, although 87 of the remaining 169 prisoners at Guantanamo have been cleared for release — some as long ago as 2004 — it is probable that none of them will ever be released, as they have been failed by every branch of the U.S. government.” Worthington was on Democracy Now this morning.

Will JPMorgan’s Dimon Get Serious Questions Today From Senate Banking Committee?

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Los Angeles Times reports: “The ‘King of Wall Street’ returns to Capitol Hill today, this time to explain how JPMorgan Chase & Co. sustained a $2-billion hole in its ‘fortress balance sheet.'”

THOMAS FERGUSON, thomas.ferguson at umb.edu
Ferguson is professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, senior fellow of the Roosevelt Institute, and contributing editor at AlterNet. AlterNet has just published his “How Wall Street Hustles America’s Cities and States Out of Billions.”

He also recently wrote “Senate Banking Chair Calls Jamie Dimon to Testify: But JPMorgan Chase is His Biggest Contributor!

Ferguson said today: “We obviously need clear answers about what went wrong with risk management at JPMorgan Chase. We have been told repeatedly that America’s banks were well hedged against disaster in Europe. But who now would put much stock in those assurances as investors run on Spain and Italy and we approach the fateful Greek election? But the Senators can’t stop there. They also need to ask some hard questions about the banks’ unwillingness to let our cities and states out of disastrous swap contracts they sold them. These have cost taxpayers billions of dollars. American bankers have benefited from from vast amounts of taxpayer assistance. Not just TARP, but super cheap Federal Reserve financing, Fed, Freddie, and Fannie purchases of mortgage-backed securities, and deposit guarantees as well as tax concessions granted by the Treasury in the wake of the 2008 disaster. For the banks to keep mulcting the people who bailed them out is unconscionable. [Senate Banking Chair Tim] Johnson (D-SD) in particular needs to stand up and represent, not his contributors, but his constituents and start asking the hard questions.”

Also see Ferguson’s piece on Congress and money in the Financial Times.

Egypt: Behind the Chaos

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The Guardian headlines their Mideast blog “Egypt’s Transition Plunged into Chaos.” The Wall Street Journal reports: “Egypt’s highest court ruled on Thursday to allow a former regime loyalist to run in presidential elections starting Saturday and to dissolve both houses of Egypt’s parliament, in verdicts that could add another pressure point to Egypt’s already fraught transition from military rule to democracy.

“The verdicts come only two days before run-off elections for Egypt’s next president start on Saturday, and only two weeks before the ruling council of generals had promised to hand over its executive authority to the newly-elected head of state.”

Meanwhile, Al-Jazeera is reporting: “Egypt’s justice ministry has issued a decree allowing military police and intelligence officers to arrest civilians suspected of crimes, restoring some of the powers of the decades-old emergency law which expired just two weeks ago.”

JENNIFER LOEWENSTEIN, amadea311 at earthlink.net,
Loewenstein is faculty associate in Middle East Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She said today: “The Supreme Court ruled that Ahmed Shafiq can run in the election even though he was part of the Mubarak regime — he was the last prime minister — and even though the court has ruled that others associated with the Mubarak regime cannot stand for office. Meanwhile, the other candidate, Muhammed Morsi, is the candidate put forth by the Muslim Brotherhood — though they initially said they would not field a candidate. While the Brotherhood represents the oldest and most well-organized political party in modern Egypt, it nevertheless sat on the sidelines of the uprisings in Tahrir Square when they were at their most popular and intense. There is real irony in the fact that neither of the two contenders for president of a new, democratic Egypt represents the people and organizations whose energy and motivation set the Egyptian Revolution in motion. The ramifications of this situation could be profound.”

JIHAN HAFIZ, fahema22 at gmail.com
REED LINDSAY, reedlindsay at yahoo.com
Hafiz is The Real News correspondent in Cairo. Lindsay is bureau chief there. See their recent reports.

KHALED BEYDOUN, khaled.beydoun at earla.org
Beydoun is with the Egyptian American Rule of Law Association. He said today: “The Egyptian Courts, and SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces], are not only undermining the self-determination millions of Egyptian’s marched and rallied for during the January 25th Revolution, but also manipulating a result advantageous to a select few of elites — many of whom are remnants or proxies of the toppled government. Much of what SCAF’s strategy is an extension of what Mubarak did for decades: If not for us, the nation will degenerate into chaos.”

See on twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/accuracy/egypt

French and Greek Elections

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RICHARD WOLFF, rdwolff at att.net
Wolff is author of the new book Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism. He is professor of economics emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and currently a visiting professor in the Graduate Program for International Affairs at the New School University in New York City.

He said today: “Recent elections in France and Greece show politics moving sharply to the left. The basic reasons are shock and then mounting anger. After five years of global capitalist crisis and government bailouts chiefly for the financiers who caused that crisis, the people are told to pay the costs of crisis and bailouts by suffering austerity (reduced public services when most needed plus reduced government jobs when unemployment is already severe). The usual parties and the usual politics are exposed as bankrupt servants of a capitalism that no longer can ‘deliver the goods’ and keeps dumping ‘bads’ on most people. Demands for major leftward social shifts win millions of new supporters, especially among the young.”

COSTAS PANAYOTAKIS, [in NYC] cpanayotakis at gmail.com
Panayotakis is an associate professor of sociology at New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York and author of Remaking Scarcity: From Capitalist Inefficiency to Economic Democracy.

He said today: “With yesterday’s elections, a new phase in the struggle over the Greek austerity program is beginning. The meteoric rise of the anti-austerity left continued, with Syriza, the coalition of the radical left, receiving 27 percent of the vote. However, with the help of scare tactics regarding the economic risks of a Syriza government as well as with the embrace of an anti-immigrant message aimed at voters of the extreme right, the pro-austerity camp rallied around the conservatives, giving them 30 percent of the vote and a chance to form a coalition government. Such a government’s continuation of the austerity program will likely add to the social and economic devastation that this program has already wrought. The strengthening of the left will, however, also strengthen the movements resisting these policies. The struggle over how, and to whose benefit, the Greek crisis will be resolved is certainly not over. If the left does not prove successful, the beneficiaries may not be the mainstream parties presiding over Greece’s ongoing social and economic collapse but the neo-Nazis, who once again managed to enter the parliament by capturing 7 percent of the vote.

See: “Extremes And ‘Extremes’: On The Rise Of Anti-Austerity Parties In Greece And Europe.

Radical Left Surges in Greece as Economy Collapses

Protests at G20 Summit

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LACY MacAULEY, lacymacauley at gmail.com, @lacymacauley
MacAuley is an Occupy D.C. activist currently at the People’s Summit in La Paz, Mexico. She said today: “La Paz is the closest that activists can get to the G20 Summit. The town of Cabo San Lucas is under heavy security. No one can travel to or from Cabo unless they are a documented Cabo resident. They have even closed the schools and hospitals. I’ve heard a story from a woman whose pregnant family member in Cabo was told that the hospital would not even be open if she were to give birth during the summit. They were lucky: The baby was born last week. This is just another example of how the G20 acts with total disregard for everyday people — they make decisions behind closed doors that impact all of us, decisions that serve the corporate elite of the world, and leave the rest of us out. We need to build our own solutions to the crises of the world, and move beyond big institutions like the G20.”

JUAN JOSE GOMEZ BERISTAIN, sme.jjgoberis at gmail.com
Beristain is a member of the Mexican Electricians Union (Sindicato Mexicano de Electristas) who is at the People’s Summit in La Paz, Mexico, near Cabo.

He said today: “As a Mexican worker, fired two and a half years ago because of the neoliberal government of Mexico, I’m against the G20 because the G20, a strictly economic organization, have no moral or political responsibility for the people and are the real rulers of the political and economic policies in our countries. We haven’t elected any of them. … Yet they have more power over us than the governments of our countries. And now we’re tired of them. We won’t take another year paying the debt they invented for us, suffering the crisis they built. Now is our time to fight back with unity, unity in action, organized action, informed action.”

HECTOR DE LA CUEVA, correohdc at yahoo.com.mx
De la Cueva is a member of the Mexican Action Network Against Free Trade (RMALC) who is also at the People’s Summit in La Paz. He said today: “We are here because the G20 represents the governments of the main powers of the world. … We are here to make sure that the people’s voices are expressed for the rest of the world. … The People’s Summit represents the people’s interest. It represents the working people. So there’s two sides to the story. We are here to make sure that our story, the 99 percent story, is heard.”

Pakistani Court Dismisses Prime Minister

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Al Jazeera reports: “The decision comes two months after Gilani, the nation’s longest-running prime minister, was convicted of contempt for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari. … The allegations against Zardari date back to the 1990s, when he and his late wife, former president Benazir Bhutto, are suspected of using Swiss bank accounts to launder an estimated $12m allegedly paid in bribes by companies seeking customs inspection contracts.”

JUNAID AHMAD, junaidsahmad at gmail.com
Ahmad is assistant professor of law at Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan and is currently visiting the U.S. He said today: “The supreme court ruling disqualifying Prime Minister Gilani from office throws this deeply unpopular Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led civilian government further into crisis. The government is trying to be the first civilian dispensation to complete its five-year term in power, but seems to have few friends both in the population at large as well as in the army establishment — the institution that really calls the shots. The question now is whether the successor to Gilani that the PPP chooses will be willing to reopen the corruption cases against the PPP’s sitting president, Asif Zardari, as the supreme court has demanded and which Gilani’s unwillingness to do…cost him his job.”

Rise of the Egyptian Junta

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PHILIP RIZK, rizkphilip at googlemail.com, @tabulagaza
Rizk is an independent blogger and filmmaker based in Cairo. He has been warning of the actions of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces since the uprising last year. See Institute for Public Accuracy news release: “From Cairo: Egypt’s Military Leading the Counter-Revolution?

Also, see: “Egypt One Year After the Uprising, Protests Continue Against Junta.

SEIF DA’NA, dana at uwp.edu
Seif Da’Na is an associate professor of sociology and international studies at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside specializing in the Mideast and North Africa. He said today: “Egypt’s SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] exploited the transitional period and people’s faith in the armed forces to abort the revolution through a slowly, but well-planned coup. The outcome is a major setback to the revolution in Egypt and the region, but might result in significantly weakening the Muslim Brotherhood, whose performance during this period not only divided the revolution camp but also enabled SCAF to carry out its premeditated scheme.

“On June 14, 2012, SCAF initiated what most commentators, as well as Egypt’s activists, believe was nothing less than a coup d’etat. Egypt’s High Constitutional Court, whose justices are remnants of Mubarak’s regime, dissolved the newly democratically elected parliament. Later, the Minister of Interior Affairs issued a decree empowering military police and intelligence to indefinably arrest any person considered a threat to public order, which restores the 30-year-old emergency law that was revoked a few weeks ago due to activists’ pressure.

“On the eve of the run-off election, the coup was completed with SCAF’s second constitutional declaration that basically revokes the president’s power and places him under its power, in addition to taking over the legislative power of the dissolved Parliament. This renders an expected victory of Mohammad Mursi (the Muslim Brotherhood candidate) rather insignificant (the official results of the runoff elections are scheduled to be announced on Thursday, but both campaigns contest the claims of the other).”

See on twitter.com/accuracy/egypt.

Assange’s Asylum

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Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers (top-secret government documents that showed a pattern of governmental deceit about the Vietnam War), today signed a petition calling on Ecuador to grant political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Ellsberg stated: “Political asylum was made for cases like this. Freedom for Julian in Ecuador would serve the cause of freedom of speech and of the press worldwide. It would be good for us all; and it would be cause to honor, respect and thank Ecuador.”

COLEEN ROWLEY, rowleyclan at earthlink.net
Rowley, a former FBI Special Agent and Division Counsel whose May 2002 memo described some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures, was named one of Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year” in 2002. She said today: “An unbelievably cruel irony exists in witnessing powerful western political figures threaten Julian Assange, someone with a unique track record of supporting whistleblowers without any viable outlet for disclosing their superiors’ illegal orders and activities. WikiLeaks’ efforts combating undue secrecy, exposing illegal cover-ups and championing transparency in government has already benefited the world. And I’m convinced, more than ever, that if that type of anti-secrecy publication had existed and enabled the proper information sharing in early 2001, it could have not only prevented the 9/11 attacks but it could have exposed the fabricating of intelligence and deceptive propaganda which enabled the Bush Administration to unjustifiably launch war on Iraq.”

RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern at gmail.com
McGovern, who was a U.S. army officer and CIA analyst for 30 years, now works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He just wrote the piece “Julian Assange’s Artful Dodge,” which states: “Not only is Julian Assange within his rights to seek asylum, he is also in his right mind. Consider this: he was about to be sent to faux-neutral Sweden, which has a recent history of bowing to U.S. demands in dealing with those that Washington says are some kind of threat to U.S. security. Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday provided an example:

“‘In December 2001, Sweden handed over two asylum seekers to the CIA, which then rendered them to be tortured in Egypt. A ruling from the U.N. Human Rights Committee found Sweden in violation of the global ban on torture for its role in that rendition (the two individuals later received a substantial settlement from the Swedish government).’

“For those of you thinking, Oh, but that was under the Bush administration and that kind of thing is over, think again. In 2010 and 2011, the hysteria surrounding WikiLeaks’ disclosures of U.S. misconduct and crimes around the world brought cries from prominent American political figures seeking Assange’s designation as a terrorist, his prosecution as a spy and even his assassination.

“Rep. Peter King, R-New York, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, has called for WikiLeaks to be declared a terrorist organization and Assange to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917, a position shared by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed:

“‘The release of these documents damages our national interests and puts innocent lives at risk. He should be vigorously prosecuted for espionage.’

“Others have gone even further, demanding that Assange be put to death, either by judicial or extrajudicial means. …

“Four weeks before Assange sought asylum, he interviewed Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa for Episode 6 of The World Tomorrow (Assange’s program Tuesdays on RT [formerly Russia Today]). Assange asked Correa why he has advocated that WikiLeaks release all its cables. Correa responded:

“‘First, you don’t owe anything, have nothing to fear. We have nothing to hide. Your WikiLeaks have made us stronger’ with the damaging revelations showing the attitude of the U.S. embassy toward the sovereignty of the Ecuadorian government.’

“Correa continued: ‘On the other hand, WikiLeaks wrote a lot about the goals that the national media pursue, about the power groups who seek help and report to foreign embassies. … Let them publish everything they have about the Ecuadorian government. You will see how many things about those who oppose the civil revolution in Ecuador will come to light. Things to do with opportunism, betrayal, and being self serving.’

“Correa made the point that when WikiLeaks cables became available to the national media in Ecuador, they chose not to publish them — partly because the documents aired so much ‘dirty linen’ about the media themselves. He added that when he took office in January 2007, five out of seven privately owned TV channels in Ecuador were run by bankers. The bankers were using the guise of journalism to interfere in politics and to destabilize governments, for fear of losing power.”

See the Assange-Correa interview.

Earth Summit: Questioning the “Green Economy”

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The Miami Herald reports: “More than 50,000 people and representatives of more than 120 countries gather in Rio de Janeiro for the opening of the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development. Topics include the destruction of the rain forest, vanishing coral reefs, land grabs, the need for food security, clean water, the role of women in food production, safe drinking water, energy access, clogged transit systems, jobs and sustainable development as a way of fighting poverty. The conference marks the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.”

Many environmental and indigenous groups and social movements attending the conference and the adjacent “People’s Summit” are questioning and criticizing the “green economy” approach as offering “false solutions.” — also see: Rio 20, Gears of Change

WINNIE OVERBEEK, winnie at wrm.org.uy
Overbeek is the executive secretary of World Rainforest Movement (Brazil/Uruguay). She wrote the piece “The Great Lie: Monoculture Trees as Forests,” which states: “Tree plantation companies were ‘pioneers’ in the green economy when, in the early 1990s, they started to influence public opinion with claims about the ‘sustainable production cycle’, promoting the positive idea that they were planting carbon-absorbing ‘forests’. However, the negative impacts of large-scale monoculture plantations on local communities and increasing unsustainable paper consumption, especially in the North, were left unmentioned.

“Monoculture oil palm, eucalyptus,