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Showing posts from March, 2012

UN Special Rapporteur "Looking Into" Guantanamo "Suicides"

Jeffery Kaye @ Truthout - On Friday, March 9, Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, responded to an inquiry by this reporter regarding new information on the deaths of two Guantanamo prisoners, Abdul Rahman Al Amri and Mohammad Salih Al Hanashi.

According to the Department of Defense (DoD), both prisoners died of suicide in 2007 and 2009, respectively. But new details surrounding their deaths, reported in a March 1 article at Truthout, challenged government accounts concerning what happened. The new information was drawn from an examination of the autopsy reports for the prisoners and other findings pertaining to their conditions of confinement at Guantanamo, including statements from detainees and their attorneys.  Read more.

Black law students at Harvard remember Trayvon Martin

Boston.com - Nearly 100 Harvard University students and supporters gathered outside the Langdell Library on the university's campus Monday night to remember Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old student who was shot and killed a month ago in Sanford, Fla. by a neighborhood watch volunteer.

"We think it's important to provide a place to process the tragedy of losing a young life in what seems to be a senseless act of violence," said Reese Frogle, a law student at Harvard and president of the Black Law Students Association, which organized the vigil.  Read more.
New York Times News Service @ Truthout - On a warm Friday afternoon three years ago, Rob Reiner, the director, arrived for lunch at the Beverly Hills estate of David Geffen, the entertainment mogul. Mr. Reiner and his political adviser, Chad H. Griffin, had spent six months drafting an ambitious legal campaign aimed at persuading the United States Supreme Court to establish a constitutional right of same-sex marriage.

Mr. Reiner, joined by Mr. Griffin and Mr. Reiner’s wife, Michele, told Mr. Geffen they would need $3 million to challenge Proposition 8, a California voter initiative approved the previous November banning same-sex marriage. He informed Mr. Geffen that they had recruited two renowned lawyers, David Boies, a Democrat, and Theodore B. Olson, a Republican, to argue the case.

“Our feeling is not to go state by state,” Mr. Reiner said. “Our strategy is to make this wind up in the United States Supreme Court and have this a settled issue for all time.”  Read more.

Totalitarian Systems Always Begin by Rewriting the Law

Chris Hedges @ Truthdig - I spent four hours in a third-floor conference room at 86 Chambers St. in Manhattan on Friday as I underwent a government deposition. Benjamin H. Torrance, an assistant U.S. attorney, carried out the questioning as part of the government's effort to decide whether it will challenge my standing as a plaintiff in the lawsuit I have brought with others against President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), also known as the Homeland Battlefield Bill.

The NDAA implodes our most cherished constitutional protections. It permits the military to function on U.S. soil as a civilian law enforcement agency. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to selectively suspend due process and habeas corpus for citizens. The law can be used to detain people deemed threats to national security, including dissidents whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, and hold them until w…

Trayvon Martin case: Use of Stand Your Ground law or pursuit of a black teen?

Christian Science Monitor - The shooting death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin is no longer in the sole hands of local law-enforcement officials, meaning the wheels of justice appear to be moving, after a three-week delay, toward a fuller investigation of whether the shooter killed the 17-year-old in self-defense.

On Tuesday came the announcement that Florida's Seminole County will convene a grand jury on April 10 to look into the case, even as a team from the US Justice Department's civil rights division arrived in Sanford, Fla., the community where Trayvon died Feb. 26 after he was shot by a self-appointed neighborhood watchman.

The Justice Department would not ordinarily investigate such an incident, but the fact that Trayvon was black and the alleged shooter, George Zimmerman, is part white, part Hispanic – and that local authorities declined to press charges against Mr. Zimmerman, even though Trayvon was unarmed – opens the door to a civil rights investigation on groun…

To be Black in America

Eugene Robinson @ Washington Post - For every black man in America, from the millionaire in the corner office to the mechanic in the local garage, the Trayvon Martin tragedy is personal. It could have been me or one of my sons. It could have been any of us.

How many George Zimmermans are out there cruising the streets? How many guys with chips on their shoulders and itchy fingers on the triggers of loaded handguns? How many self-imagined guardians of the peace who say the words "black male" with a sneer?  Read more.

Florida Justice Department and FBI will review death of Trayvon Martin

Washington Post - Honoring Trayvon Martin, the young man allegedly gunned down by neighborhood crime watch captain and gun carrying vigilante, George Zimmerman, #Trayvon quickly became a worldwide trending hashtag.

Hundreds of thousands of people, including celebrities, signed a Change.org petition, Tweeted and utilized social medias to demand the arrest of George Zimmerman.  Read more.

Archie Comics Defies Religious Extremists and Celebrates Gay Marriage

Buzzflash - For 70 years the small pristine town of Riverdale has been home to Archie, Veronica, Betty, Reggie, Jughead and an assortment of decidedly wholesome and occasionally zany characters. In Veronica#202 - published in September 2010 - Kevin Keller joined the gang, becoming Riverdale's first openly gay chap.

"Archie's hometown of Riverdale has always been a safe world for everyone. It just makes sense to have an openly gay character in Archie comic books," Archie Comics co-CEO Jon Goldwater explained. Keller, "proved so popular that not only is he coming back to hang with Archie and the gang in issue 205 ... but he's getting his own Kevin Keller ongoing series beginning in June," USA Today's Brian Truitt recently reported.  Read more.

Job Seekers Getting Asked For Facebook Passwords

Yahoo! - When Justin Bassett interviewed for a new job, he expected the usual questions about experience and references. So he was astonished when the interviewer asked for something else: his Facebook username and password.

Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn't see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.  Read more..

Al Gore: Our "Democracy Hacked"; Time to Occupy

Common Dreams - Former vice president Al Gore and Napster co-founder and Web entrepreneur Sean Parker on led a discussion Monday evening at the South By Southwest conference (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. An audience of thousands attended the Austin Convention Center talk and more thousands more watched via a live stream.

"Our democracy has been hacked." said Gore. “I’d like to see a new movement called Occupy Democracy,” Gore said as Parker nodded in agreement and a packed auditorium of attendees cheered and applauded.  Read more.

With Larry Summers' World Bank Bid in Trouble, Mexico Insists on Open Process

Robert Naiman @ Truthout - Early last week, The New York Times reported that despite all the previous fine rhetoric about the G20 and consultation and open process, the US Treasury Department had decided to rule by decree and impose its own candidate for the next president of the World Bank, the G20 be damned. US officials informed G20 officials that the US intended to "retain control of the bank," as the Times put it. According to the Times, the G20 countries grumbled, but showed no sign of being willing to fight the Treasury. The US candidate would be a "lock," the Times said, "since Europe will almost certainly support whomever Washington picks."  Read more.

Murder Is Not an Anomaly in War

Chris Hedges @ Truthdig - The war in Afghanistan—where the enemy is elusive and rarely seen, where the cultural and linguistic disconnect makes every trip outside the wire a visit to hostile territory, where it is clear that you are losing despite the vast industrial killing machine at your disposal—feeds the culture of atrocity. The fear and stress, the anger and hatred, reduce all Afghans to the enemy, and this includes women, children and the elderly. Civilians and combatants merge into one detested nameless, faceless mass. The psychological leap to murder is short. And murder happens every day in Afghanistan. It happens in drone strikes, artillery bombardments, airstrikes, missile attacks and the withering suppressing fire unleashed in villages from belt-fed machine guns.  Read more.

Standing Up for Common Sense

Jim Hightower @ OtherWords - Keene, New Hampshire has no crime that would warrant rolling out a tank.

During a recent city council meeting, the mayor of Keene, New Hampshire leaned over to a council member and whispered excitedly: "We're going to have our own tank."

Yes, the tank (or, more specifically, the "armored personnel vehicle") is the latest must-have toy for mayors and police departments. Read more.

US Identifies Army Sergeant in Killing of 16 in Afghanistan

New York Times News Service @ Truthout - The military on Friday identified the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers earlier this week as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a 38-year-old father of two who had been injured twice in combat over the course of four deployments and had, his lawyer said, an exemplary military record.

 The release of Sergeant Bales’s name, first reported by Fox News, ended an extraordinary six-day blackout of public information about him from the Pentagon, which said it withheld his identity for so long because of concerns about his and his family’s security.  Read more.

USDA: Schools Can Opt Not to Feed "Pink Slime" to Students

McClatchy Newspapers - After a public uproar sparked by a Houston mom's online petition, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture on Thursday backed off the federal school lunch program's use of "pink slime" by letting school districts decide whether to accept the controversial beef product.

A groundswell developed over the "yuck factor" of the ground beef extended with filler that is made from beef renderings and treated with ammonia hydroxide. The USDA says the product is safe.  Read more.

How We Cured “the Culture of Poverty,” Not Poverty Itself

Barbara Ehrenreich @ TomDispatch - It’s been exactly 50 years since Americans, or at least the non-poor among them, “discovered” poverty, thanks to Michael Harrington’s engaging book The Other America. If this discovery now seems a little overstated, like Columbus’s “discovery” of America, it was because the poor, according to Harrington, were so “hidden” and “invisible” that it took a crusading left-wing journalist to ferret them out.  Read more.

America's Crimes of War

Consortium News - A U.S. Army Staff Sergeant walked through two villages in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, around 3 a.m. March 11, methodically shooting 16 people that he’d dragged from their beds with single shots to the head. Then he dragged corpses outside and set some on fire. Eleven were reportedly from one family. Nine were children.  Read more.

Pro-Life or Just Pro-Sperm?

David Morris @ Common Dreams - Most pro-life organizations more accurately should be labeled pro sperm.  For they insist the sperm has the inalienable, indeed the God-given right to pursue the egg without human enabled interference.  Joseph M. Scheidler, the National Director of the Pro-Life Action League memorably declared, “I think contraception is disgusting-people using each other for pleasure.” Judith Brown, President of The American Life Lobby asserts its opposition “to all forms of birth control with the exception of natural family planning.”
The Catholic Church is fervently pro-sperm.  Decades before the Church mobilized against abortion it mobilized against contraception.  As late as 1960, many states outlawed sales of contraceptives.  The Catholic Church was the driving force behind these laws.  Read more.

Death in Afghanistan: The Spiritual Cancer of PTSD is Spreading

Buzzflash - The killer was in his fourth deployment. He walked from his base to one village, then another, leaving behind the lunacy and spiritual wreckage of American foreign policy. Then he walked back to his base and calmly turned himself in.

I've been staring at the words for hours now:

"This terrible incident does not change our steadfast dedication to protecting the Afghan people and to doing everything we can to build a strong and stable Afghanistan." - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and their entire community." - deputy American ambassador to Afghanistan, James B. Cunningham

The words are meant to soften this PR disaster, to muffle the cries of the survivors.  Read more.

Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs

Greg Smith @ NY Times - TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.  Read more.

Jeremy Scahill: Obama After Whistleblowers Worldwide

US Continues Drone Strikes in Yemen

Guardian UK - At least 45 militants linked to al-Qaida, including a number of tribal leaders, have been killed by air strikes in south Yemen.

Twenty-five militants were killed in Bayda, about 166 miles south-east of the capital, Sana'a, on Friday, while 20 died at a base in the restive southern town of Jaar, residents told Reuters on Saturday.  Read more.

Grace Lee Boggs: 'We Need to Grow Our Souls'

Common Dreams - At an event to celebrate the work of Grace Lee Boggs, the long-time activist says that "we need to grow our souls" and emphasizes that the "secret to visionary organizing" is "a combination of philosophy and activism."

The Chinese Progressive Association in San Francisco held the event on March 3 titled Building the Next American Revolution: A Celebration and Tribute to Grace Lee Boggs.  Read more.

Blow the Whistle on the Air Force Academy and Your Dog May Get Poisoned

Matthew Harwood @ Truthout - On Saturday, April 23, 2011, David Mullin, an associate professor of economics at the United States Air Force Academy, and his wife went to the Woodmen Valley Chapel to worship to avoid the Easter rush the next morning. During the service, Mullin noticed his service dog Caleb, a two-year-old black Labrador retriever, acting strangely. Mullin, who suffers from chronic pain due to limbically augmented pain syndrome, relies on Caleb for support to weather balance issues and dizzy spells brought on by his condition.

Two hours later, Caleb was suffering from massive internal bleeding. Mullin and his wife rushed Caleb to the vet, where he was given three blood transfusions to save his life. According to Caleb's patient history file from the Animal Emergency Care Centers-North, Caleb suffered from "Coagulopathy (bleeding disorder), suspect Rodenticide Toxicity or Coumadin Toxicity." The dog had ingested an anticoagulant, either rat poison or a blood-…

3/11: Japan Marks Anniversary of Meltdowns, Tsunami in Day of Mourning, Protest

Japan Times - Japan marked one year since the massive earthquake and tsunami struck parts of the Tohoku region last March 11. The catastrophe left nearly 20,000 people confirmed dead or missing.

The disasters, compounded by subsequent meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, created the greatest political and humanitarian crisis the nation has faced since the end of World War II in 1945.  Read more.

American Is Held After Shooting at Least 16 Civilians in Afghanistan

New York Times News Service @ Truthout - Panjway, Afghanistan - A United States service member walked out of a military base in a rural district of southern Afghanistan on Sunday and opened fire on three nearby houses, killing at least 16 civilians, including several children, local villagers and provincial officials said.

The shooting risks further inciting anti-American sentiment in Afghanistan and troubling a relationship that had already been brought to a new low by the burning of Korans at an American military base last month. On Sunday, President Hamid Karzai demanded an explanation for the shooting from Washington. “This is an assassination, an intentional killing of innocent civilians and cannot be forgiven,” Mr. Karzai said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.  Read more.

Why Can't You Smoke Pot? Because Lobbyists Are Getting Rich Off of the War on Drugs

Republic Report - John Lovell is a lobbyist who makes a lot of money from making sure you can’t smoke a joint. That’s his job. He’s a lobbyist for the police unions in Sacramento, and he is a driving force behind grabbing Federal dollars to shut down the California marijuana industry. I’ll get to the evidence on this important story in a bit, but first, some context.

At some point in the distant past, the war on drugs might have been popular. But not anymore — the polling is clear, but beyond that, the last three Presidents have used illegal drugs. So why do we still put hundreds of thousands of people in steel cages for pot-related offenses? Well, there are many reasons, but one of them is, of course, money in politics. Corruption. Whatever you want to call it, it’s why you can’t smoke a joint without committing a crime, though of course you can ingest any number of pills or drinks completely within the law.  Read more.

The Bipartisan Force Behind the For-Profit College Scam: Big Money

Republic Report - As we head into an election year, we’re going to increasingly hear that Democrats and Republicans fight like cats and dogs, that there is a civil war in Washington. This describes the state of play on some issues, but on others there is bipartisan agreement to do the wrong thing: Both parties do what the money tells them to do. How this works is subtle and often kept secret, done in rooms meant to shield policy-making while the public is distracted with electoral hoopla. Fortunately for Republic Report readers, I got access to one of these rooms, and I can explain how the money guides policy-making.  Read more.

Peace, Justice Groups Target AIPAC at Summit

common Dreams - From March 4 -6, as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) convenes its annual conference in Washington, DC, Occupy AIPAC has organized a concurrent summit to discuss AIPAC's heavy influence in determining US foreign policy. It hopes to show a there is a new way forward for a just Middle East policy.  Read more.

Did US Ploy to Find Bin Laden Spur Pakistan Polio Crisis?

Common Dreams - Nearly 200 international aid and humanitarian groups have issued a letter to the CIA to voice their opposition of the US intelligence agency's use of a fake hepatitis vaccination campaign to help pinpoint the location of Osama Bin Laden in Abottabad, Pakistan in early 2011. The groups link the covert operation to increased suspicion of aid workers and a subsequent polio crisis that has gripped Pakistan in the last year.  Read more.

Guantanamo Prison's True Secret: Jason Leopold in Conversation With Andy Worthington

Angola 3 News Staff @ Truthout - British journalist Andy Worthington, the author of "The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America's Illegal Prison," has been documenting the array of human rights abuses at Guantanamo for over six years now, after he personally became angry that the US government would not say who they were holding at Guantanamo. Worthington was recently a guest speaker alongside investigative journalist Jason Leopold at the UC Hastings College of Law, in San Francisco on January 13, 2012, hosted by the college's chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The event, entitled "Ten Years of Guantanamo," was held amidst protests around the world calling for the prison to be immediately shut.  Read more.

How Pop Culture Influences Political Expectations

Bill Moyers @ Truthout - Film historian and culture critic Neal Gabler joins Bill Moyers to discuss how representations of heroism in movies shape our expectations of a U.S. president, and how our real-world candidates are packaged into superficial, two-dimensional personas designed to appeal to both the electorate and the media. As a result, says Gabler, we never get to the true pressing questions and issues of America.

“We love candidates who speak their mind in movies,” Gabler tells Moyers, adding that the same is not true for real life. “Movies are clean; democracy is a mess.”  Read more.

Conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart dies at 43

CNN - Andrew Breitbart, the conservative blogger whose posting of a sexually explicit photo of former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner led to the congressman's downfall, has died, his attorney confirmed Thursday.

He was 43.

Joel Pollak, editor-in-chief and in-house counsel for Breitbart's website, Breitbart.com, posted a statement confirming his death.  Read more.

America's Image Problem

Foreign Policy In Focus - The United States definitely sends mixed messages to the Muslim world. Early in his presidency, Barack Obama went to Cairo to “seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition.” The president proclaimed that America and Islam “share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

That all sounds good. Unfortunately, the image has proven stronger than the word.  Read more.

C. Wright Mills Would Have Loved Occupy Wall Street

Peter Drier @ Truthout - C. Wright Mills, the radical Columbia University sociologist who died 50 years ago (March 20, 1962) at age 45, would have loved Occupy Wall Street. In the 1950s, when most college professors were cautious about their political views and lifestyles, Mills rode a motorcycle to work; wore plaid shirts, jeans and work boots instead of flannel suits; built his house with his own hands; and, in a torrent of books and articles, warned that America was becoming a nation of "cheerful robots," heading toward a third world war and was being corrupted by an economic elite.  Read more.

Frontline's Fukushima "Meltdown" Perpetuates Industry Lie That Tsunami, Not Quake, Started Nuclear Crisis

Gregg Levine @ Capitolette.com - In all fairness, “Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown,” the Frontline documentary that debuted on US public television stations last night (February 28), sets out to accomplish an almost impossible task: explain what has happened inside and around Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility since a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled reactors and safety systems on March 11, 2011–and do so in 53 minutes. The filmmakers had several challenges, not the least of which is that the Fukushima meltdowns are not a closed case, but an ever-evolving crisis. Add to that the technical nature of the information, the global impact of the disaster, the still-extant dangers in and around the crippled plant, the contentious politics around nuclear issues, and the refusal of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to let its employees talk either to reporters or independent investigative bodies, and it quickly becomes apparent that Frontline had a lot to tackle in order …

Why Was Stephon Watts Killed?

Rory Fanning @ Socialist Worker - Stephon Watts suffered from autism, but he was like other 15-year-olds in many ways. He loved to fix computers, watch YouTube and read Dr. Seuss books.

On the morning of February 1, Stephon was having an emotional meltdown because he didn't want to go to school. His father, Steven Watts, called the hospital and described the situation, and they told him to call police.

This wasn't unusual. The local Calumet City, Ill., police had been to the home 10 times under similar circumstances, and Stephon's social worker had also counseled the family to call police in various situations.

Stephon had calmed down soon after his father called the police, and by the time four white police officers arrived, he was sitting quietly in the basement of his home. But the sight of the officers frightened him, so he raised a butter knife and lunged at the gun-toting men, according to his father.

That's when police shot and killed the African American teenager.�…

In the US, Stimulate Demand by Reversing Local Austerity

Paul Krugman for Krugman & Co. @ Truthout - One question that arises when we talk about the possibility of reversing the disastrous push for austerity runs something like this: “O.K., you say you want more government spending, but what should it spend money on?” The truth is that I think the perceived lack of shovel-ready projects in the United States was overstated even in 2009, but it was a real concern.

The point I want to make is that matters now are actually a lot easier: we could get a fairly big fiscal bang just by resuming aid to state and local governments, which would allow them to reverse the big cuts they have recently made.  Read more.