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Showing posts from February, 2012

Victory: Grassroots Pressure Leads to Closure of Two Highly Polluting Coal Plants in Chicago

Common Dreams - Marking a grassroots victory, Midwest Generation, a subsidiary of Edison International, will retire two of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the nation. Activists have been working for the past ten years to close the two plants located in Chicago.

Agreements signed by Midwest Generation, the Clean Power Coalition, and the City of Chicago indicate that the Fisk coal plant in Pilsen will shut down in 2012 and the Crawford coal plant in Little Village will shut down by 2014.  Read more.

Mass Black Incarceration: Damn Right, We Charge Genocide

Glen Ford @ Black Agenda Report - The United States resisted signing the international treaty against genocide until 1988 – because it was guilty of the crime, and not necessarily finished. Mass Black incarceration, in both its past and present forms, provides much evidence of U.S. genocidal intent. The bodies have been piling up for forty years – although mainly warehoused, rather than deceased. “The criminalization of genocide was intended to be much more than a kind of legal epitaph for the dead; it was designed, like all laws, to prevent the crime.”  Read more.

Lawsuit Takes Aim at CIA's "Covert" Attack on Transparency

Jason Leopold @ Truthout - Last September, the CIA quietly changed its long-standing policy for how it would process certain records requests by implementing a new fee structure that will essentially discourage the public from trying to get the agency to declassify secret government documents because the costs are too high, open-government advocates have charged.  Read more.

Occupy Takes Aim at ALEC Today in 70 US Cities

Yana Kunichoff @ Truthout - The Occupy movement, since its inception in September 2011, has been against corporate greed. And in 70 cities across the country, it's found one target that best shows the rampant corporate control of our judicial system that Occupiers see as a central grievance: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

ALEC brings legislators and corporations together in a "public-private partnership" to draft model legislation that Occupy groups say serves the interests of the 1 percent.  Read more.

Wikileaks Exposes DHS Spying on Occupy Movement

Allison Kilkenney @ In These Times - Rolling Stone's Michael Hastings last night posted a story on an internal DHS report entitled "SPECIAL COVERAGE: Occupy Wall Street," dated October of last year. The five-page report, part of five million newly leaked documents obtained by Wikileaks, sums up the history of the movement and assesses its "impact" on the financial services and government facilities.

In an interview on Citizen Radio, Hastings talked about the monitoring by DHS and also the leaked emails from Stratfor, a leading private intelligence firm Hastings describes as the "shadow CIA."  Read more.

Black Feminist Archaeology

Max Eternity @ Truthout - Every February is Black History Month, which presents many opportunities to explore and contextualize the broader, nuanced and less familiar aspects of what it means to be an American man, woman or child. This is all the more true when it comes from an African Diaspora perspective.

So, what happens when one comes to understand that race is more of a social construct and not a biological fact? From that perspective, how should one interpret and convey the black experience in America?  Read more.

White House Applauds Decision to Build Part of Keystone XL Pipeline

McClatchy Newspapers @ Truthout - With President Barack Obama facing fire from Republicans over the rising cost of gasoline, the White House moved quickly Monday to trumpet a Canadian company's decision to build a section of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing, Okla., to Houston after Obama blocked a longer path last month.

Press Secretary Jay Carney hailed TransCanada's announcement and used it to counter Republican criticism that the administration has stifled oil and gas production. He said that the Oklahoma to Texas section of the pipeline would "help address the bottleneck of oil in Cushing that has resulted in large part from increased domestic oil production, currently at an eight-year high."  Read more.

“A Terrible Sight”: Police Evict Occupy London, Arrest 20 Protesters

In These Times - Police dressed in riot gear evicted Occupy London and removed the camp's tents at St. Paul's Cathedral just after midnight on Tuesday.

Hundreds of police and around 100 bailiffs swarmed the campsite and arrested about 20 individuals, some of whom reportedly tried to form a barricade and set off smoke bombs to prevent officials from clearing the area.

The City of London Corporation commented that it "regretted" having to evict the protesters.  Read more.  Read more.

The Never-Ending and Never-Prosecuted Humanitarian Disaster in Iraq

Truthout - On 24 of January, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said she was "shocked" at reports that 34 individuals, including two women, were executed in Iraq on 19 January following their conviction for various crimes.

"Even if the most scrupulous fair trial standards were observed, this would be a terrifying number of executions to take place in a single day," she said.  Read more.

BP Exits California

New America Media - As political maneuvering continues over the fate of the controversial proposed Keystone XL pipeline, one of the world's largest energy companies -- BP -- is already signaling the direction it plans to take: it's positioning itself to tap the burgeoning supply of Canadian tar sands oil.  Read more.

The History of the BP Trial

Bridge the Gulf - U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier decided that in the civil trial against BP for their oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the oil company’s history of accidents and poor safety records won’t be admissible as evidence. Maybe that’s appropriate; I’m no legal expert so I can’t make that call. I asked Loyola law professor Blaine LeCesne, who specializes in torts and Louisiana civil procedure, about it and he said that it “was absolutely the correct ruling,” especially in terms of streamlining the case for trial -- and the trial is what everybody wants to see, except BP.  Read more.

Rich Presidents of Poor Nations: An African Story of Oil and Capital Flight

Triple Crisis - Stories of African presidents shipping suitcases of cash to finance political campaigns abroad in exchange for patronage have made the headlines recently, prompting legal probes into illicit wealth accumulation. On February 14th, France 24 reported that the French Police#[1] searched the apartment of Theodoro Obiang Nguema, the President of Equatorial Guinea, whose family has accumulated massive wealth by mortgaging his country’s oil. In 2011, Global Witness reported that his flamboyant son Theodorin Obiang commissioned a personal super-yacht with a handsome price tag of $380 million, worth three times the country’s combined budget for health and education.#[2] The French Justice system is also pursuing inquiries into the illicit wealth of Ali Bongo of Gabon and Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo. While they are dramatic, these stories reflect a deep seated tragedy of African resource-rich countries.  Read more.

Why the Banks Are Too Big to Jail

Simon Johnson @ Project Syndicate - Among the fundamental principles of any functioning justice system is the following: Don’t lie to a judge or falsify documents submitted to a court, or you will go to jail. Breaking an oath to tell the truth is perjury, and lying in official documents is both perjury and fraud. These are serious criminal offenses, but apparently not if you are at the heart of America’s financial system. On the contrary, key individuals there appear to be well compensated for their crimes.  Read more.

The Need for a Black Agenda

Glen Ford @ Black Agenda Report - The African American Left’s failure to formulate a Black Agenda has made it “largely irrelevant during the greatest crisis of capitalism since at least the Great Depression, and the worst economic and social crisis for African Americans since the death of Reconstruction.” The default Black Agenda is Obamaism, which is corporatism, and the death of Black politics. “If all that matters is Obama, then there is no need for a Black political agenda – except four more years of Obama.”

Malcolm X, whose assassination is commemorated this week, warned us that, "If we don't stand for something, we may fall for anything." Forty-seven years later, most Black politicians and mainline African American organizations are willing to stand for nothing beyond the re-election of the First Black President. For the second presidential season in a row, in deathly fear of embarrassing (or somehow tainting) Barack Obama, traditional and elected Black leadership …

Dow and Monsanto Join Forces to Poison America's Heartland

Richard Schiffman @ Truthout - In a match that some would say was made in hell, the nation's two leading producers of agrochemicals have joined forces in a partnership to reintroduce the use of the herbicide 2,4-D, one half of the infamous defoliant Agent Orange, which was used by American forces to clear jungle during the Vietnam War. These two biotech giants have developed a weed management program that, if successful, would go a long way toward a predicted doubling of harmful herbicide use in America's corn belt during the next decade.

The problem for corn farmers is that "superweeds" have been developing resistance to America's best-selling herbicide Roundup, which is being sprayed on millions of acres in the Midwest and elsewhere.  Read more.

Monsanto Found Guilty of Chemical Poisoning in France

Anthony Gucciardi @ Natural Society - In a major victory for public health and what will hopefully lead to other nations taking action, a French court decided today that GMO crops monster Monsanto is guilty of chemically poisoning a French farmer. The grain grower, Paul Francois, says he developed neurological problems such as memory loss and headaches after being exposed to Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller back in 2004. The monumental case paves the way for legal action against Monsanto’s Roundup and other harmful herbicides and pesticides made by other manufacturers.  Read more.

Occupy for Prisoners Comes Out Against Mass Incarceration

Yana Kunichoff @ Truthout - Each time the 100-strong crowd assembled for the national Occupy for Prisoners day roared below the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago on Monday evening, the lights in a couple of windows would flicker on and off - prisoners up above, responding to the chants of "build schools, not prisons" and "we're with you, brothers and sisters."  Read more.

UN Nuclear Inspectors Return to Tehran

NY Times News Service @ Truthout - A team of U.N. inspectors arrived in Iran on Monday for its second visit in three weeks, saying its highest priority remained “the possible military dimensions” that Tehran denies are part of a disputed nuclear program that has led to European oil sanctions and a new threat of expanded countermeasures from Tehran.

The talks between Iranian officials and investigators from the International Atomic Energy Agency coincided with heightening international tensions, pressures and counterpressures over the nuclear program, as Iran claims significant technological advances in uranium enrichment.  Read more.

Uncle Sam, Global Gangster

Andrew Bacevich @ TomDispatch - With the United States now well into the second decade of what the Pentagon has styled an “era of persistent conflict,” the war formerly known as the global war on terrorism (unofficial acronym WFKATGWOT) appears increasingly fragmented and diffuse.  Without achieving victory, yet unwilling to acknowledge failure, the United States military has withdrawn from Iraq.  It is trying to leave Afghanistan, where events seem equally unlikely to yield a happy outcome.

Elsewhere -- in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, for example -- U.S. forces are busily opening up new fronts.  Published reports that the United States is establishing “a constellation of secret drone bases” in or near the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula suggest that the scope of operations will only widen further.  In a front-page story, the New York Times described plans for “thickening” the global presence of U.S. special operations forces.  Rushed Navy plans to convert an aging am…

In Maryland, House Passes Gay Marriage Bill

NY Times News Service @ Truthout - Annapolis, Maryland - The Maryland House narrowly passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage on Friday, delivering a major victory to Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, who had proposed it. But its implementation remained uncertain as its opponents promised to take it to voters in November.

The bill, known as the Civil Marriage Protection Act, squeaked by in a 72-to-67 vote, drawing loud applause and cheers from proponents in the House. A similar bill failed in the chamber last year.

The measure still faces a vote in the Senate, where it is expected to pass, before Mr. O’Malley can sign it into law.  Read more.

Stanford University researchers break NuCaptcha video security

Cnet - When it launched in 2010, NuCaptcha touted its proprietary technology as being able to "provide the highest level of security available" by using video streams to display those distorted letters you type in to prove you're really a human.

Now, however, the company's claims of providing "the next generation of Captcha security" look a tad optimistic.  Read more.

Pakistan won’t help US attack Iran, says Zardari

“Pakistan and Iran need each other and no foreign pressure can hinder their ties.”
- Asif Ali Zardari, President of Pakistan

The Nation - Pakistan will not provide Americans airbases to launch attack on its neighbour, President Asif Ali Zardari said after the third trilateral summit of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan.

At the summit the three states expressed their resolve to work collectively for peace and stability in the region and enhancement of mutual cooperation in different sectors, particularly economy and trade.

Addressing a joint news conference, along with his Iranian and Afghan counterparts Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamid Karzai, President Zardari emphatically stated that Pakistan’s relationship with the brethren countries cannot be undermined by the international pressure of any kind. “Pakistan and Iran need each other and no foreign pressure can hinder their ties.”  Read more.

Why I'm Suing the FBI, the DoD and the CIA

Jason Leopold @ Truthout - Over the past year, I've filed dozens of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the FBI, CIA, Department of Defense, and other government agencies in hopes of prying loose documents I need to support my investigative reporting efforts on a wide-range of issues and policies.

One of the frustrating realities about the FOIA process is the enormous backlog of requests government agencies have to contend with, which means many months or years could pass before my request is finally processed and I receive a response.

However, a little-known FOIA provision allows requesters to seek an estimated date of completion from government agencies on their FOIA requests. Specifically, the law, as it was amended in 2007, says:  Read more.

Face Masks, Snipers and Aerial Surveillance: Chicago's Newest Anti-Protest Measures Revealed

Yana Kunichoff @ Truthout - Each time a new measure that the city of Chicago is preparing for the coming NATO and G8 summits is unveiled, the tension in the city ratchets up a notch. The latest news comes in the form of reports that Chicago has purchased face shields, and may be considering the implementation of airborne surveillance technology.  Read more.

Anonymous takes down government sites in massive anti-ACTA attack

Russian Times - At least half a dozen federal websites belonging to the United States government were disrupted in the latest Anonymous-led assault this week. The US Federal Trade Commission was the primary target of the infiltration, and along with it Anonymous managed to take down the sites for National Consumer Protection Week as well as the Consumer Protection Agency, the Federal Trade Commission and others.

In place of the websites’ traditional homepages, Anonymous operatives left a message to the US government and other international bodies: world leaders should rethink the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA — an in-the-works agreement between more than a dozen major nations.  Read more.

Obama DOJ Tries to Insulate Warrantless Wiretapping Law

Common Dreams - The government today asked the Supreme Court to overturn an appeals court ruling that allowed the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the constitutionality of a law that gives the government unprecedented authority to monitor international emails and phone calls by Americans, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

At issue is an appeals court ruling that allowed the ACLU’s case to move forward. It rebuffed Obama administration arguments that the case should be dismissed because the ACLU’s clients cannot prove their communications will be collected under the law, known as the FISA Amendments Act. The ACLU said it was disappointed by today’s request.  Read more.

Hold Tight To Your Anger

Common Dreams - Bruce Springsteen has unveiled his new album, "Wrecking Ball," a sorrowful and furious roar, born of the financial crisis, about "an enormous fault-line...a basic theft (that) struck to the heart of the American idea,” with no one held accountable. His 17th studio and reportedly his most overtly political, he says it's about "the distance between American reality and the American Dream” - a distance greater than he's ever seen. It also includes, on 'Land of Hope and Dreams,' the last sax solo from the late Clarence Clemons. Out March 5.  Read more.

'Journalist without Peer': Anthony Shadid Dies at 43 in Syria

NY Times - Anthony Shadid, the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent who died on Thursday at 43, had long been passionately interested in the Middle East, first because of his Lebanese-American heritage and later because of what he saw there firsthand.

Mr. Shadid spent most of his professional life covering the region, as a reporter first with The Associated Press; then The Boston Globe; then with The Washington Post, for which he won Pulitzer Prizes in 2004 and 2010; and afterward with The New York Times. At his death, from what appeared to be an asthma attack, he was on assignment for The Times in Syria.  Read more.

Occupy Joins the Fight Against Private Prisons

Truthout - On Wednesday, January 24, the Occupy movement joined the National Prison Divestment Campaign in 13 cities across the country for a nationwide day of action that gave a voice to an invisible segment of the 99 percent exploited by the private prison industry.

The National Prison Divestment Campaign was organized less than a year ago by Enlace, a coalition of US and Mexican low-wage worker centers and unions, to pressure corporations to divest from private prisons, whose chief investors include some of country's largest financial institutions such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America, both of which have provoked the ire of the Occupy movement for their role in tanking the economy, among other things.  Read more.

Four Recent Victories Signal Hard Truth About Rebuilding Labor Movement

In These Times - For the first time in my journalism career, during one week I wrote four stories about workers winning tough fights. The victories include GE and Cablevision workers unionizing after several failed organizing attempts, the end of the bloody Longview Port longshoremen dispute and the State Department issuing new rules governing student guest workers after last summer's strike by young Hershey foreign workers. 

This extraordinarily rare string of victories leads me to believe that despite major attacks on workers’ organizing and collective bargaining rights, unions can take advantage of workers' backlash against these attacks and win big victories. They can still organize.  Read more.

Bill Moyers: Freedom of and From Religion

Bill Moyers @ Moyers & Co. - The president did something agile and wise the other day. And something quite important to the health of our politics. He reached up and snuffed out what some folks wanted to make into a cosmic battle between good and evil. No, said the president, we’re not going to turn the argument over contraception into Armageddon, this is an honest difference between Americans, and I’ll not see it escalated into a holy war. So instead of the government requiring Catholic hospitals and other faith-based institutions to provide employees with health coverage involving contraceptives, the insurance companies will offer that coverage, and offer it free.  Read more.

Mortgage Settlement 'Whitewash': US Taxpayers Will Pay for Big Bank Settlement

Common Dreams - Neil Barofsky, the former special inspector-general of the TARP, said this morning that the recently approved mortgage deal between the nation's largest banks was "supposed to be a settlement for this remarkable fraud that the banks and the servicers have created across the country" is, in fact, a "political whitewash" because instead of the banks facing punitive action it "is actually going to involve money flowing from the taxpayer into the banks." And, straight to the point, he said, "We're bailing them out again!"  Read more.

Drones Set Sights on U.S. Skies

NY Times - Daniel Gárate’s career came crashing to earth a few weeks ago. That’s when the Los Angeles Police Department warned local real estate agents not to hire photographers like Mr. Gárate, who was helping sell luxury property by using a drone to shoot sumptuous aerial movies. Flying drones for commercial purposes, the police said, violated federal aviation rules.  Read more.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie vetoes bill allowing same-sex marriage a day after Assembly passes it

Washington Post - Gov. Chris Christie has followed through on his promise to reject a bill allowing same-sex marriage in New Jersey by quickly vetoing the measure Friday and renewing his call for a ballot question to decide the issue.

The veto came a day after the state Assembly passed the bill. The state Senate had passed it on Monday. Christie, a Republican who opposes same-sex marriage, had vowed “very swift action” once the measure reached his desk.  Read more.

Trader Joe’s Caves to Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Signs Fair Food Agreement

In These Times - On Thursday, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers announced it had signed a Fair Food Agreement with Trader Joe’s, a significant step forward its efforts to bring fairness and accountability to the food industry.  “We are truly happy today to welcome Trader Joe’s aboard the Fair Food Program,” CIW’s Gerardo Reyes said in a joint statement issued by CIW and Trader Joe’s.  “Trader Joe’s is cherished by its customers for a number of reasons, but high on that list is the company’s commitment to ethical purchasing practices.”  Read more.

49-State Foreclosure Fraud Settlement Will Be Finalized Thursday

David Dayen @ Fire Dog Lake (FDL) - Forty-nine states, every one but Oklahoma, as well as federal regulators will participate in a foreclosure fraud settlement that will release the five biggest banks (Wells Fargo, Citi, Ally/GMAC, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America) and their mortgage servicing units from liability for robo-signing and other forms of servicer abuse, in exchange for $25 billion in funding for legal aid, refinancing, short sales, restitution for wrongful foreclosures and principal reduction for underwater borrowers. The announcement will be made on Thursday.

This settlement arises from multiple abuses found in the servicing of loans and the foreclosure process over the past several years. At the height of the housing bubble, banks sliced and diced mortgages and traded them with little regard for the rules following land recording or securitization to such a sloppy extent that they lost track of the true owner on potentially millions of homes. To cover up for this massiv…

One on One With Rep. Lynn Woolsey: "US Family Law Is Stuck in the 'Leave It to Beaver' Era"

Alissa Bohling @ Truthout - Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen" myth has been strenuously discredited, but another counterexample never hurts - especially when she's spent 20 years on Capitol Hill. Before she ran for office, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-California) spent years raising her three children on her own and with the support of public assistance. Her story, and her influential presence in Congress - as the former co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, an outspoken critic of war and a two-decade veteran in the House - are more relevant than ever as divisive rhetoric about a tax-drunk "entitlement society" pervades the GOP primary.  Read more.

Loss of polar ice blamed for freezing Artic-like weather to Europe

Independent UK - Studies by scientists at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research have confirmed a link between the loss of Arctic sea ice and the development of high-pressure zones in the polar region, which influence wind patterns at lower latitudes further south. Scientists found that as the cap of sea ice is removed from the ocean, huge amounts of heat are released from the sea into the colder air above, causing the air to rise. Rising air destabilises the atmosphere and alters the difference in air pressure between the Arctic and more southerly regions, changing wind patterns.  Read more.

Iran warns against attacks on its nuclear bases

Guardian UK - Iran has warned it will attack any country used to launch airstrikes against its nuclear bases, as increasingly aggressive rhetoric emanating from the Islamic Republic and Israel has increased apprehension that military confrontation is looming.

"Any spot used by the enemy for hostile operations against Iran will be subjected to retaliatory aggression by our armed forces," Hossein Salami, the deputy head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, told the semi-official Fars news agency.  Read more.

Occupy DC Raided by Police in Riot Gear

Travis Waldron @ Think Progress - United States Park Police bearing riot gear and on horse back raided Occupy DC Saturday morning and throughout the day, removing tents that were deemed to be in violation of a no camping rule at McPherson Square. Park Police spokesperson Sgt. David Schlosser said the raid did not constitute an eviction and that protesters would be allowed to continue activities at the park as long as they complied with the no camping rule.  Read more.

Why Black Union Workers Matter in This Year’s Super Bowl Showdown

Colorlines - Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was not supposed to be among this year’s Super Bowl story lines. This year’s contenders, the New England Patriots and the New York Giants, should instead be taking center stage. Yet less than a week before America’s biggest sporting event of the year kicks off in Indianapolis, Gov. Daniels’  fight with the state’s unionized workers over legislation that could curtail the power of their collective bargaining rights has given a new national platform to the right wing’s bitter, decades-old war against unions.  Read more.

The Democrats Who Unleashed Wall Street and Got Away With It

Robert Scheer @ Truthdig - That Lawrence Summers, a president emeritus of Harvard, is a consummate distorter of fact and logic is not a revelation. That he and Bill Clinton, the president he served as treasury secretary, can still get away with disclaiming responsibility for our financial meltdown is an insult to reason.

Yet, there they go again. Clinton is presented, in a fawning cover story in the current edition of Esquire magazine, as “Someone we can all agree on. ... Even his staunchest enemies now regard his presidency as the good old days.” In a softball interview, Clinton is once again allowed to pass himself off as a job creator without noting the subsequent loss of jobs resulting from the collapse of the housing derivatives bubble that his financial deregulatory policies promoted.  Read more.

Paying For Cancer Treatment for Children in America With a Car Wash, Bake Sale and Fish Fry

Wendell Potter @ Common Dreams - "It shouldn't be this way," read the subject line of an email I received Friday morning from a conservative friend and fellow Southerner. "People shouldn't have to beg for money to pay for medical care."

At first, I thought he was referring to my column last week in which I wrote about the fundraising effort to cover the bills, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars, that the husband of Canadian skier Sarah Burke is now facing. Burke died on January 19, nine days after sustaining severe head injuries in a skiing accident in Park City, Utah. I noted that had the accident occurred in Burke's native Canada, which has a system of universal coverage, the fundraiser would not have been necessary.  Read more.

Bird life badly hit by nuclear fallout in Japan

Irish Times - Researchers working in the irradiated zone around the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant say bird populations there have begun to dwindle, in what may be a chilling harbinger of the impact of radioactive fallout on local life.

In the first major study on the impact of the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years, the researchers from Japan, the US and Denmark say that analysis of 14 species of birds common to Fukushima and Chernobyl shows the effect on numbers is worse in the Japanese disaster zone.  Read more.