News Releases

Veto of Keystone Pipeline: * Fracking * Real Climate Plan?

AP is reporting: “President Barack Obama will veto a Republican-backed bill on Tuesday that would have approved construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, the White House said, putting a freeze on a top GOP priority — at least for now.”

WENONAH HAUTER, via Ryanne Waters, rwaters at fwwatch.org, @foodandwater@wenonahhauter
Hauter is the executive director of Food & Water Watch and wrote the piece “To Save the Climate, We Need a Ban on Fracking.” She said today: “We commend President Obama for vetoing this dangerous project in the interest of millions of Americans who depend on safe drinking water. But as the debate over the future of our energy policies evolves, we also need the president to take strong action on fracking, which is threatening Americans from coast to coast with water contamination, earthquakes and alarming health effects. A fracking ban on our precious public lands would be a smart start toward a truly clean, healthy, renewable energy future.” Food & Water Watch was the first national organization to call for a complete ban on fracking in 2011 and released “The Urgent Case for a Ban on Fracking” this past September.

MICHAEL DORSEY, via Hayden Higgins, hayden at usclimateplan.org; mkdorsey at professordorsey.com
EVAN WEBER, evan at usclimateplan.org, @usclimateplan
Dorsey is vice president for strategy and co-founder of U.S. Climate Plan. He’s quoted in a statement the group just put out: “The battle over the Keystone XL pipeline has demonstrated what is possible when a diverse movement draws a line in the sand and rallies around a single cause. The problems we’re facing are much bigger than a pipeline. More massive fossil fuel infrastructure projects continue to be proposed, and the president has shown little resolve for the transformational change the nation needs. So we must show the public and our leaders the scope of this challenge and force them to choose a side.”

Weber is executive director and co-founder of U.S. Climate Plan. He said today: “Because of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, every state in the country is now having a conversation about climate policy. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to demand solutions that match the scale of the challenge and demonstrate that people who care about climate change — especially young people — can be a political force to be reckoned with. The ‘solutions’ the government has been putting forward aren’t bold enough, so we’re launching our own plan, the Future Power Plan, to build the people power necessary to create the political will to shift the way we power our society and protect our future.”

Real American Exceptionalism: Torture and Drone Assassination?

Bloomberg is reporting: “A proposed sale of unarmed surveillance drones by General Atomics to the United Arab Emirates — the first to a non-NATO ally — is clearing its final U.S. hurdle.”

ALFRED McCOY, awmccoy at wisc.edu
McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include Torture and Impunity: The U.S. Doctrine of Coercive Interrogation and Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State. He just wrote the piece “The Real American Exceptionalism” for TomDispatch.com, which states: “‘The sovereign is he who decides on the exception,’ said conservative thinker Carl Schmitt in 1922, meaning that a nation’s leader can defy the law to serve the greater good. Though Schmitt’s service as Nazi Germany’s chief jurist and his unwavering support for Hitler from the night of the long knives to Kristallnacht and beyond damaged his reputation for decades, today his ideas have achieved unimagined influence. …

“Washington, more than any other power, created the modern international community of laws and treaties, yet it now reserves the right to defy those same laws with impunity. A sovereign ruler should, said Schmitt, discard laws in times of national emergency. So the United States, as the planet’s last superpower or, in Schmitt’s terms, its global sovereign, has in these years repeatedly ignored international law, following instead its own unwritten rules of the road for the exercise of world power. …

“Under Obama, drones have grown from a tactical Band-Aid in Afghanistan into a strategic weapon for the exercise of global power. From 2009 to 2015, the CIA and the U.S. Air Force deployed a drone armada of over 200 Predators and Reapers, launching 413 strikes in Pakistan alone, killing as many as 3,800 people. EveryTuesday inside the White House Situation Room, as the New York Times reported in 2012, President Obama reviews a CIA drone ‘kill list’ and stares at the faces of those who are targeted for possible assassination from the air.  He then decides, without any legal procedure, who will live and who will die, even in the case of American citizens. Unlike other world leaders, this sovereign applies the ultimate exception across the Greater Middle East, parts of Africa, and elsewhere if he chooses. …

“By the end of Obama’s first term, the NSA could sweep up billions of messages worldwide through its agile surveillance architecture. This included hundreds of access points for penetration of the Worldwide Web’s fiber optic cables; ancillary intercepts through special protocols and ‘backdoor’ software flaws; supercomputers to crack the encryption of this digital torrent; and a massive data farm in Bluffdale, Utah, built at a cost of $2 billion to store yottabytes of purloined data. …

“As a senior CIA official posted to the Near East in the early 1950s put it, the Agency then saw every Muslim leader who was not pro-American as ‘a target legally authorized by statute for CIA political action.’ Applied on a global scale and not just to Muslims, this policy helped produce a distinct ‘reverse wave’ in the global trend towards democracy from 1958 to 1975, as coups — most of them U.S.-sanctioned — allowed military men to seize power in more than three-dozen nations, representing a quarter of the world’s sovereign states. …

“Can there be any question that, in the decades to come, Washington will continue to violate national sovereignty through old-style covert as well as open interventions, even as it insists on rejecting any international conventions that restrain its use of aerospace or cyberspace for unchecked force projection, anywhere, anytime? Extant laws or conventions that in any way check this power will be violated when the sovereign so decides. These are now the unwritten rules of the road for our planet. They represent the real American exceptionalism.”

Malcolm X’s Legacy: Double Anniversary This Year

February is Black History Month. Malcolm X was assassinated 50 years ago on Feb. 21, 1965. He was born on May 19, 1925 — he would be 90 years old this year had he lived.

KEVIN ALEXANDER GRAY,  kevinagray57 at gmail.com, @kevinagray
Co-editor of the new book Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence, Gray said today: “Whenever anyone uses the phrase ‘by any means necessary’ we automatically think of Malcolm X, otherwise known as El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. The phrase means that freedom and the fight for human rights are something worth dying for. He also knew that those opposed to the idea of freedom for all would kill to protect their power over those they deemed as powerless.

“Feb. 21 marks the 50th anniversary of Malcolm Shabazz’s death at the Audubon Ballroom in New York. Malcolm knew he was about to die before he went on stage. He knew being a threat to the status quo had a cost. He knew that the enemy were those opposed to freedom for all and telling the truth about American racism and white supremacy. Malcolm spoke the truth about the demand and need for racial equality, due process and equal justice for all. He spoke the truth about men and their shortcomings, the truth about our nation and its shortcomings.

“Malcolm gave his all. He gave his life. But before he died, he spoke of civil rights being human rights and taking the black freedom struggle beyond the boundaries of the United States. Because of Malcolm we understand the connectedness we have with the struggles of oppressed people around the world. Malcolm is a shining example of courage and an unfearing challenger of the status quo. We are better because he lived.

“The protests that have arisen across the nation in the aftermath of the killings of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Eric Garner and the countless others that have died at the hands of law enforcement and those acting under the color of law calls for connecting the struggles of oppressed people around the world to hold accountable those with unchecked power. Malcolm’s legacy calls for connecting the struggle of Ferguson, New York, Oakland, Detroit, Atlanta and many others towns, cities and states with those who struggle in Palestine. Malcolm’s legacy is to take action, even if it means giving the last measure. Or as Dr. Martin Luther King said: If someone ‘hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.’” Gray’s previous books include The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama.

Excerpts from Malcolm Shabazz’s speeches (he broke with the Nation of Islam in early 1964):

“We need to expand the civil-rights struggle to a higher level — to the level of human rights. Whenever you are in a civil-rights struggle, whether you know it or not, you are confining yourself to the jurisdiction of Uncle Sam. … [T]he Negro problem is never brought before the UN. This is part of the conspiracy. This old, tricky blue-eyed liberal who is supposed to be your and my friend, supposed to be in our corner, supposed to be subsidizing our struggle, and supposed to be acting in the capacity of an adviser, never tells you anything about human rights.”
– “The Ballot or the Bullet,” April 3, 1964

“You have to read the history of slavery to understand this. There were two kinds of Negroes. There was that old house Negro and the field Negro. And the house Negro always looked out for his master. When the field Negroes got too much out of line, he held them back in check. He put ‘em back on the plantation.”

– “To Mississippi Youth,” December 31, 1964. This and many other speeches are available via YouTube.

“They have a new gimmick every year. They’re going to take one of their boys, black boys, and put him in the cabinet so he can walk around Washington with a cigar. Fire on one end and fool on the other end. And because his immediate personal problem will have been solved he will be the one to tell our people: ‘Look how much progress we’re making. I’m in Washington, D.C., I can have tea in the White House. I’m your spokesman, I’m your leader.’ While our people are still living in Harlem in the slums. Still receiving the worst form of education. …

“But how many sitting here right now feel that they could [laughs] truly identify with a struggle that was designed to eliminate the basic causes that create the conditions that exist? Not very many. They can jive, but when it comes to identifying yourself with a struggle that is not endorsed by the power structure, that is not acceptable, that the ground rules are not laid down by the society in which you live, in which you are struggling against, you can’t identify with that, you step back. …

“It’s easy to become a satellite today without even realizing it. This country can seduce God. Yes, it has that seductive power of economic dollarism. You can cut out colonialism, imperialism and all other kind of ism, but it’s hard for you to cut that dollarism. When they drop those dollars on you, you’ll fold though.”

– “The Prospects for Freedom in 1965,” at the Militant Labor Forum, New York City, Jan. 7, 1965. 
Audio from this and other speeches here.

“While I was traveling, I had a chance to speak in Cairo, or rather Alexandria, with President [Gamal Abdel] Nasser for about an hour and a half. He’s a very brilliant man. And I can see why they’re so afraid of him, and they are afraid of him — they know he can cut off their oil. And actually the only thing power respects is power. …

“This is a society whose government doesn’t hesitate to inflict the most brutal form of punishment and oppression upon dark-skinned people all over the world. To wit, right now what’s going on in and around Saigon and Hanoi and in the Congo and elsewhere. They are violent when their interests are at stake. But all of that violence that they display at the international level, when you and I want just a little bit of freedom, we’re supposed to be nonviolent. They’re violent. They’re violent in Korea, they’re violent in Germany, they’re violent in the South Pacific, they’re violent in Cuba, they’re violent wherever they go. But when it comes time for you and me to protect ourselves against lynchings, they tell us to be nonviolent. …

[On the Congo:] “And they’re able to take these hired killers, put them in American planes, with American bombs, and drop them on African villages, blowing to bits black men, black women, black children, black babies, and you black people sitting over here cool like it doesn’t even involve you. You’re a fool. …

“And with the press they feed these statistics to the public, primarily the white public. Because there are some well-meaning persons in the white public as well as bad-meaning persons in the white public. And whatever the government is going to do, it always wants the public on its side. … So they use the press to create images.”
– “The Last Message,” address to the Afro-American Broadcasting Company, Detroit, Michigan, Feb. 14, 1965, the night his home was firebombed and a week before his assassination; text and audio.

Roots of Military “Culture of Lying”

Stars and Stripes reports: “A new study by Army War College professors found that not only is lying common in the military, the armed forces themselves may be inadvertently encouraging it.”

MATTHEW HOH, mphoh1 at yahoo.com
Hoh, a State Department whistleblower, said today: “The culture of lying that is endemic and systemic in the Army, as found by researchers with the Army War College, finds its expression in America’s pointless wars, a one trillion dollar-a-year, pork-filled and inauditable national security budget, chronic veteran suicides, an expanded and more globally robust international terrorist movement, and untold suffering of millions of people and political chaos throughout the Greater Middle East perpetuated by our war policies.

“However, listening to our military leaders, and the politicians who adore and deify them rather than oversee them, America’s wars and its military have been a great patriotic success. This report is not a surprise for those of us who have worn the uniform, nor should it be surprising to those who have watched and paid attention with a modicum of critical and independent thought to our wars these past thirteen plus years. The wars are failures, but careers must prosper, budgets must increase and popular narratives and myths of American military success must endure, so the culture of lying becomes a necessity for our Army at a great physical, mental and moral cost to our Nation.”

Hoh, a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, previously directed the Afghanistan Study Group, a collection of foreign and public policy experts and professionals advocating for a change in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Prior to that, Hoh served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. Embassy teams in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

NSA Whistleblowers on Breaking Story: Spying on Billions of Cell Phones

The Intercept is reporting: “American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the largest manufacturer of SIM cards in the world, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“The hack was perpetrated by a joint unit consisting of operatives from the NSA and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. The breach, detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document, gave the surveillance agencies the potential to secretly monitor a large portion of the world’s cellular communications, including both voice and data.

“The company targeted by the intelligence agencies, Gemalto, is a multinational firm incorporated in the Netherlands that makes the chips used in mobile phones and next-generation credit cards. Among its clients are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers around the world. The company operates in 85 countries and has more than 40 manufacturing facilities. One of its three global headquarters is in Austin, Texas and it has a large factory in Pennsylvania.

“In all, Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year. Its motto is ‘Security to be Free.’

“With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt.

“As part of the covert operations against Gemalto, spies from GCHQ — with support from the NSA — mined the private communications of unwitting engineers and other company employees in multiple countries. …

“Leading privacy advocates and security experts say that the theft of encryption keys from major wireless network providers is tantamount to a thief obtaining the master ring of a building superintendent who holds the keys to every apartment.”

The following NSA whistleblowers are available for interviews.

WILLIAM BINNEY, williambinney0802 at comcast.net
Binney is a former high-level National Security Agency intelligence official who, after his 2001 retirement after 30 years, blew the whistle on NSA surveillance programs. His outspoken criticism of the NSA during the George W. Bush administration made him the subject of FBI investigations that included a raid on his home in 2007. Even before Edward Snowden’s NSA whistleblowing, Binney publicly revealed that NSA had access to telecommunications companies’ domestic and international billing records, and that since 9/11 the agency has intercepted some 15 to 20 trillion communications. Snowden has said: “I have tremendous respect for Binney, who did everything he could according to the rules.”

J. KIRK WIEBE, jkwiebe at comcast.net, @KirkWiebe
Wiebe is a retired National Security Agency whistleblower who worked at the agency for 36 years. Wiebe’s colleague William Binney developed the ThinThread information processing system that, arguably, could have detected and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attacks. NSA officials, though, ignored the program in favor of Trailblazer, a program that ended in total failure with costs of billions of dollars. Wiebe and Binney blew the whistle internally on Trailblazer, but to no avail.

THOMAS DRAKE, tadrake at earthlink.net, @Thomas_Drake1
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Drake is a former senior executive at the National Security Agency where he blew the whistle on massive multi-billion dollar fraud, waste and the widespread violations of the rights of citizens through secret mass surveillance programs after 9/11. As retaliation and reprisal, the Obama Administration indicted Drake in 2010 as the first whistleblower since Daniel Ellsberg charged with espionage, and Drake faced 35 years in prison, turning him into an Enemy of the State for his oath to defend the Constitution. In 2011, the government’s case against him collapsed and he went free in a plea deal. He is the recipient of the 2011 Ridenhour Truth Telling Prize.

Binney, Wiebe and Drake are on the advisory board of Exposefacts.org, a project of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Elite Corruption: A “Violation of Public Trust”

unaccountable_bookJANINE R. WEDEL, jwedel at gmu.edu, @janinewedel
Wedel is an anthropologist and professor at George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government and International Affairs. She is the author of several books, including the recently released Unaccountable: How Elite Power Brokers Corrupt our Finances, Freedom and Security.

In her most recent piece “Beyond Bribery,” she states: “Last month Greeks delivered a sharp blow to the European Union by voting in the left-wing Syriza Party, which has vowed to end years of painful austerity policies. But Syriza owes much of its popularity for its opposition to something else: elite corruption. As one news report put it, ‘Many in Greece feel slashed public spending has hit the most vulnerable hardest, while leaving… corruption of the apparent elites untouched.’

“This sense that something on high smells bad has galvanized protesters in recent years in countries as different as Brazil, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States. They seem to share an intuitive sense that the system is gamed against them, that it compromises their livelihoods and futures, and that it makes it harder to have their voices heard, let alone discover who is responsible.

“Petty corruption, such as having to pay a bribe to a bureaucrat or customs official, also leads to discontent around the world. Some scholars call this ‘need corruption,’ because it is driven by everyday people trying to navigate an impossible system to receive basic goods and services. And since corruption became a ‘hot’ issue in the 1990s, global efforts to combat it have concentrated largely on this need corruption, with major players like the World Bank and Transparency International at the forefront.

“But it’s often the corruption of elite insiders, not petty bribery, that most foments distrust of leaders and public institutions. As I describe in my new book, this ‘new corruption’ may be less visible, but it is practiced on a wide scale by a set of global power brokers who have rigged the system to their advantage in innovative ways. The worldwide protests triggered by this form of corruption are proof that a growing number of people have turned into disaffected outsiders, all too aware that they stand squarely apart from this system of power and influence. This is the most damaging and far-reaching form of corruption that exists today. And this ‘new corruption’ — difficult to detect, but insidious — deserves our attention.

“The essence of this new (legal) corruption –- the violation of public trust – harks back to ancient notions of corruption. Yet its practitioners follow a thoroughly 21st-century playbook, written over the past few decades as privatization, deregulation, the end of the Cold War, and the advent of the digital age have transformed the world. These developments have broken down barriers and created new openings for elites to exercise their power and influence in a system that is more complex and opaque than ever, enabling them to use the levers of power to their own advantage while, at the same time, denying responsibility. (Many bankers, for example, trade in derivatives so complex that even they can plausibly deny understanding them.)

“Practitioners of the new corruption assume a tangle of roles that fuses state and private sectors. They abrogate public trust by working on behalf of their own, instead of those on whose behalf they purport to act. Just think of Goldman Sachs, often derided as ‘Government Sachs’ for its seamless enmeshing of Wall Street and Washington. In the years leading up to the financial crash of 2008, Goldman routinely pushed the envelope — such as the notorious ABACUS case, in which the bank sold investments it knew were bad to one client at the behest of another. Yet the company apparently broke few or no laws along the way. Goldman also famously helped Greece (and possibly other struggling European countries) hide debt in the early 2000s. When the day of reckoning came for Greece, it wasn’t Goldman Sachs, elite insiders, or national leaders who paid the price of slashing austerity measures.

“That the system is rigged in new ways resounds worldwide, even in the West. There’s a documented loss of confidence in formal institutions: governments, parliaments, courts, banks, corporations, the media. A 2014 research project attempted to quantify how gamed the system is in the United States. Two political scientists looked at 1,779 policy issues hashed out from 1981 to 2002 and found that policies widely supported by economically elite Americans were adopted about 45 percent of the time. If these same privileged Americans didn’t support particular policies, then their rate of acceptance dropped to 18 percent. The scholars write: ‘The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites… have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.’

“In the United States and many European countries, then, the new corruption appears to have surpassed the old. How can it be that bribes and blatant illegality have come to matter more than insider elites who betray our trust but go mostly unscrutinized, let alone unsanctioned?”

Netanyahu: * Corrie’s Death * Nuclear Armed

CNN is reporting: “A large majority of Americans believe that Republican congressional leaders should not have invited Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress without consulting the White House, according to a new CNN/ORC survey.” However, the partisanship around his invitation has in many ways clouded underlying critical issues, addressed by the following:

CINDY CORRIE, cindy at rachelcorriefoundation.org, @rcfoundation
CRAIG CORRIE, craig at rachelcorriefoundation.org
On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a statement: “Israel: Dangerous Ruling in Rachel Corrie Case” about “Israel’s Supreme Court on February 12, 2015, exempt[ing] the Israeli defense ministry from liability for actions by its forces…”

Cindy and Craig are the parents of Rachel Corrie, who was killed in 2003 by Israeli troops in Gaza with a bulldozer while she was attempting to protect a Palestinian home from being demolished. Together, Cindy and Craig founded Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. They issued a statement after the court ruling: “The Supreme Court decision ignores international law arguments regarding the protection of civilians and human rights defenders in armed conflict and grossly violates the internationally recognized right to effective remedy. … Rachel’s case provides yet another example of how the Israeli justice system is failing to provide accountability.”

GRANT F. SMITH, gsmith at irmep.org, @IRmep
Courthouse News reports: “In the midst of controversy over the Israeli prime minister’s plans to address Congress next month, a researcher has won the release of a decades-old Defense Department report detailing the U.S. government’s extensive help to Israel in that nation’s development of a nuclear bomb.

“‘I am struck by the degree of cooperation on specialized war making devices between Israel and the U.S.,’ said Roger Mattson, a former member of the Atomic Energy Commission technical staff.

“The 1987 report, ‘Critical Technology Assessment in Israel and NATO Nations,’ compares the key Israeli facilities developing nuclear weapons to Los Alamos and Oak Ridge National Laboratories, the principal U.S. laboratories that developed the bomb for the United States.

“The tightly held report notes that the Israelis are ‘developing the kind of codes which will enable them to make hydrogen bombs. That is, codes which detail fission and fusion processes on a microscopic and macroscopic level.’

“The release comes after Grant Smith, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy filed a FOIA request last year and followed with a lawsuit in September seeking to compel release of the report.

“The government fought to delay release of the 386-page report in hearings before Judge Tanya Chutkan in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, who expressed skepticism with the government’s reasons for refusing to provide a single unclassified document.

“The report’s release this week has substantial political ramifications.”

Smith wrote the piece “U.S. Confirmed Existence of Israeli H-Bomb Program in 1987,” which states: “The 1987 report’s confirmation of Israel’s advanced nuclear weapons program should have immediately triggered a cutoff in all U.S. aid to Israel under the Symington and Glenn Amendments to the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act. …

“Informal and Freedom of Information Act release of such information is rare. Under two known gag orders — punishable by imprisonment — U.S. security-cleared government agency employees and contractors may not disclose that Israel has a nuclear weapons program. GEN-16 is a ‘no-comment’ regulation on ‘classified information in the public domain.’ ‘DOE Classification Bulletin WPN-136 on Foreign Nuclear Capabilities’ forbids stating what 63.9 percent of Americans already know — that Israel has a nuclear arsenal.”

Also see Smith’s piece “Lawsuit Challenges U.S. “Ambiguity” Toward Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal,” which states: “Los Alamos National Laboratory nuclear analyst James Doyle wrote candidly about Israel’s nuclear weapons for a magazine in 2013. After a congressional staffer read the article, which had passed a classification review, it was referred to classification officials for a second review. Doyle’s pay was then cut, his home computer searched, and he was fired.”

Smith also wrote the piece “Poll: Netanyahu Should be Investigated for Nuclear Weapons Tech Smuggling Before U.S. Visit,” which states: “In 2012 the FBI declassified and released files (PDF archive) of its investigation into how 800 nuclear weapons triggers were illegally smuggled from the U.S. to Israel. According to the FBI, the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered nuclear triggers (krytrons), encrypted radios, ballistic missile propellants and other export-prohibited items through a network of front companies. Smuggling ring operations leader Richard Kelly Smyth alleged that Netanyahu worked at one of the fronts — Heli Trading owned by confessed spy and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan — and met with him frequently to execute smuggling operations.

Background: See by Sam Husseini: “The Absurd U.S. Stance on Israel’s Nukes: A Video Sampling of Denial,” which features major U.S. government officials declining to forthrightly acknowledge that Israel has a nuclear weapons arsenal. For example, in 2010, then-Senator Russ Feingold said, “I’m not free to comment on that.”

See by Jim Lobe about Netanyahu’s claims about Iraq WMD’s in 2003: “Remember Bibi’s Wisdom on Iraq.”

See from Nima Shirazi “Benjamin & His Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Lies: Netanyahu Cries ‘Wolf’…Again” about his allegations regarding Iran’s nuclear program.

West Virginia Oil Train Derailment Highlights Need for Significant Safety Reforms

Reuters is reporting today: “A CSX Corp oil train that derailed and erupted in flames in West Virginia on Monday was hauling newer model tank cars, not the older versions widely criticized for being prone to puncture, the firm said.”

MOLLIE MATTESON, mmatteson at biologicaldiversity.org, @centerforbiodiv
Matteson is a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity where she works for the preservation of wild places and the protection of endangered species. The group said in a statement: “An oil train transporting highly volatile crude oil derailed and caught fire today in Fayette County, W.V., spewing burning oil into the Kanawha River and setting a house ablaze, forcing the evacuation of two nearby communities and threatening municipal drinking water supplies.

“The accident, which follows a similar derailment and explosion in Timmins, Ontario on Saturday, is the latest in a string of fiery accidents involving oil trains in Canada and the United States in recent years following a 40-fold increase in crude oil transport by rail since 2008 that has been marked by no upgrade in federal safety requirements.”

Matteson added: “Back-to-back fiery derailments involving crude oil trains should be an unmistakable wake-up call to our political leaders: Stop these dangerous oil trains and stop them now. People’s lives are at stake, clean drinking water is at stake, and the well-being of towns and wildlife along thousands of miles of rail line are directly in harm’s way of this unchecked, reckless increase in oil transport by rail.”

The group notes: “Oil transport, especially by rail, has dramatically increased in recent years, growing from virtually nothing in 2008 to more than 400,000 rail cars of oil in 2013. Billions of gallons of oil pass through towns and cities ill-equipped to respond to the kinds of explosions and spills that have been occurring. A series of fiery oil-train derailments in the United States and Canada has resulted in life-threatening explosions and millions of gallons of crude oil being spilled into waterways.

“The worst was a derailment in Quebec in July 2013 that killed 47 people, forced the evacuation of 2,000 people, and incinerated portions of a popular tourist town. Last year, an explosive derailment occurred in April in downtown Lynchburg, Va., resulted in crude oil leaking out of punctured tank cars, setting the James River on fire.

“Ethanol shipments by rail have also raised safety concerns. On Feb. 4, a train transporting ethanol derailed along the Mississippi River in Iowa, catching fire and sending an unknown amount of ethanol into the river.

“Last week the U.S. Department of Transportation sent new rules governing oil train safety to the White House for review, prior to public release. It will be another three months before the rules are published, and at least another two and a half years before the most dangerous tank cars are phased out of use for the most hazardous cargos. The oil and railroad industries have lobbied for weaker rules on tank car safety and brake requirements. The industries also want more time to comply with the new rules.

“Without regulations that will effectively prevent derailments and rupture of tank cars, oil trains will continue to threaten people, drinking water supplies and wildlife, including endangered species.”

Surveillance “Reforms” Allow for Plenty of Suspicionless Spying on Americans

MARGO SCHLANGER, mschlan at umich.edu, @mjschlanger
Schlanger is the Henry M. Butzel Professor of Law at the University of Michigan, where she also heads the Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse. She served as the Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security in 2010 and 2011.

She recently wrote the piece “U.S. Intelligence Reforms Still Allow Plenty of Suspicionless Spying on Americans,” which states: “[Recently], the Obama administration released a report and documents cataloging progress toward signals intelligence (SIGINT) reform goals set a year ago by the president in a document known as PPD-28. PPD-28 promises foreigners some of the same privacy protections given to U.S. citizens and residents. But it turns out that those protections, even for citizens, are fairly meager, in ways that have not yet fully entered the public conversation about surveillance. U.S. citizens and residents have been — and remain — exposed to suspicionless electronic surveillance. Implementation of PPD-28 will do little to change that.

“To my mind, the surveillance I’m about to describe, which proceeds under Executive Order 12333, rather than FISA, is far more worrisome than the programs under Section 215 of the Patriot Act and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act that have received so much recent attention. …

“Thus, if its other constraints (wire or radio, domestic or overseas collection, etc.) are followed, FISA doesn’t address strategies that select what to collect based not on the identities of communication participants, but using other techniques — say, the words used in the communication, or whether the messages are enciphered. …

“The point is, so far as U.S. surveillance law is concerned, the NSA can, if it chooses, ‘collect [nearly] everything’ —  including your domestic phone calls and emails — so long as it does not select which communications to collect using the identity of a ‘particular, known’ communicant.”

“Why Muslim Lives Don’t Matter”


NBC News is reporting: “The Federal Bureau of Investigation is launching a ‘preliminary inquiry’ into the killings of three people near the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Tuesday – slayings that authorities say were carried out by a neighbor upset over parking.

“But the families of Deah Barakat, 23, a dentistry student at the university; his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her 19-year-old sister, Razan Abu-Salha, believe they may have been killed because they are Muslim … [by] Craig Stephen Hicks, a self-described ‘gun-toting’ atheist. …

“The funeral service was held [Thursday] on a field at North Carolina State University to accommodate the overflow crowd who came to mourn…”

KHALED BEYDOUN, NADIA EL-ZEIN TONOVA, kbeydoun at gmail.com, @KhaledBeydoun
Beydoun is an assistant professor of law at the Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law. Nadia El-Zein Tonova is director of the National Network of Arab American Communities.

They wrote the piece “Why Muslim lives don’t matter,” which states: “Irrespective of what rallying cries, signs or adapted hashtags proclaim, Muslim lives in America don’t matter. The aftermath of the murder of the three American students in Chapel Hill, and the broader context that spurred it, reconfirms this brutal truth. …

“State-run programming targeting Muslims marks members of that demographic as presumptively suspicious. NSA surveillance and counter-extremism programming, PATRIOT and Suspicious Activity Reporting strategies, are shaped within government walls. But these policies also shape stereotypes and spur violence far beyond them.

“This comprehensive programming, which is both synchronised and expanding, is built upon age-old perceptions of Muslims as ‘enemy combatants,’ ‘national security risks,’ and ‘unassimilable.’

“Past laws that restricted the naturalisation of Muslims were built upon racist and Orientalist tropes. However, state policies that profile and persecute today are still based on these very baselines.

“In addition to enabling discriminatory state tactics, anti-Muslim laws and programming sanction widely held stereotypes of Muslims as violent and unruly, threatening and anti-American. By endorsing these stereotypes, this network of anti-Muslim laws and programming embolden private citizens, like Hicks, to take justice into their own hands.

“It would be a misnomer to single out anti-Muslim laws and policies as spurring Islamophobic and anti-Arab culture. Rather, it pronounces this already existing psychosis, which is magnified by slanted news coverage and cinematic misrepresentations, illustrated vividly in films such as American Sniper.”

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