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Showing posts from May, 2010

Louise Bourgeois, Influential Sculptor, Dies at 98

"Maman" by Louise Bourgeoi s The New York Times - Louise Bourgeois, the French-born American artist who gained fame only late in a long career, when her psychologically charged abstract sculptures, drawings and prints had a galvanizing effect on the work of younger artists, particularly women, died on Monday in Manhattan, where she lived. She was 98. Ms. Bourgeois’s sculptures in wood, steel, stone and cast rubber, often organic in form and sexually explicit, emotionally aggressive yet witty, covered many stylistic bases. Among her most familiar sculptures was the much-exhibited “Nature Study” (1984), a headless sphinx with powerful claws and multiple breasts. Perhaps the most provocative was “Fillette” (1968), a large, detached latex phallus. Ms. Bourgeois can be seen carrying this object, nonchalantly tucked under one arm, in a portrait by the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe taken for the catalog of her 1982 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. (In the catalog, th

Israel Attacks Gaza Aid Ships, Killing At Least 19

"Mavi Marmara" ship leaving port in Istanbul, loaded with humanitarian aid, headed for Gaza, Palestine Antiwar - Israel had telegraphed its move for weeks. They had promised to stop the aid ships at all cost, they had promised to use force against the aid workers. Somehow, no amount of official bellicosity could prepare anyone for the carnage that unfolded. At least 19 aid workers were killed and dozens of others wounded when Israeli commandos, backed up with helicopters, boarded the Mavi Marmara, one of the six aid ships, and opened fire on the passengers. Read more .

Israel Murders Human Rights Workers Delivering Aid to Gaza

Truthout - On Sunday, Israel murdered human rights workers who were attempting to deliver 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, because Gaza has been virtually cut off from the outside world by Israel. At least 19 people were reportedly killed and dozens injured when Israeli troops boarded the 6-ship Freedom Flotilla convoy in international waters and immediately fired live ammunition at the people on board the ships. The convoy was comprised of 700 people from 50 nationalities and included a Nobel laureate, members of parliament from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Turkey and Malaysia, as well as Palestinian members of the Israeli Knesset and a Holocaust survivor. Read more .

Why Obama Should Put BP Under Temporary Receivership

Robert Reich - It’s time for the federal government to put BP under temporary receivership, which gives the government authority to take over BP’s operations in the Gulf of Mexico until the gusher is stopped. This is the only way the public know what’s going on, be confident enough resources are being put to stopping the gusher, ensure BP’s strategy is correct, know the government has enough clout to force BP to use a different one if necessary, and be sure the President is ultimately in charge. If the government can take over giant global insurer AIG and the auto giant General Motors and replace their CEOs, in order to keep them financially solvent, it should be able to put BP’s north American operations into temporary receivership in order to stop one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. The Obama administration keeps saying BP is in charge because BP has the equipment and expertise necessary to do what’s necessary. But under temporary receivership, BP would contin

Obama Memorial Day Speech Cut Short By Rain, Lightning

NY Daily News - President Barack Obama's Memorial Day observance was stepped in its tracks Monday by a torrential downpour accompanied by bolts of lightning and booming thunder. Obama thrilled the crowd at Abraham Lincoln National Ceremony by appearing under an umbrella as the rain poured down. But he did not deliver his prepared remarks honoring troops who died fighting for the United States. Instead he urged the crowd to seek shelter in their cars. Read more .

German President Horst Koehler Quits Over Military Remarks

The Huffington Post - President Horst Koehler stunned Germans by resigning Monday after being criticized for appearing to link military deployments abroad with the country's economic interests – creating a new headache for Chancellor Angela Merkel. The resignation, effective immediately, came a year into Koehler's second term as the largely ceremonial head of state. Merkel's center-right alliance installed the former International Monetary Fund boss as president in 2004, and his departure is a symbolic blow. The speaker of parliament's upper house – Bremen Mayor Jens Boehrnsen, a member of the opposition Social Democrats – temporarily takes over presidential duties, largely signing legislation into law. "I was surprised by his phone call and I tried to talk him around, but unfortunately I didn't succeed," Merkel said. "I think people in Germany will be very sad about this resignation." Read more .

Living Wage Fight Revitalized in New York City

Michele Chen @ In These Times - In a city starkly divided between the haves and have nots, community activists are demanding an honest day's pay for New Yorkers who work at businesses profitting on the taxpayers' dime. Activists representing low-income communities are rallying behind legislation that would boost the wage floor for workers at city-subsidized projects. The pending bill would set the minimum pay at $10 per hour for workers at development sites that benefit from city financial support. That essentially covers any new development project receiving a city tax break or subsidy, from malls built with municipal tax credits to “redevelopment” schemes in gentrifying neighborhoods. Employers would also have to offer health insurance or pay an extra $1.50 per hour, and the wage would grow with a periodic cost-of-living adjustment. Read more .

Nelson Mandela's "Elders" condemn Israel's deadly attack on Gaza aid flotilla

Times Live - "We as elders condemn Israel utterly for this attack. The actions of the Israelis is inexcusable," said Tutu. He was speaking at the conclusion of a meeting of the group formed in 2008 to highlight humanitarian issues. Members include former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and former US president Jimmy Carter. Reading a statement, Tutu said the Elders wanted an urgent investigation into the "tragic incident" after Israeli forces boarded the Mavi Marmara as it sailed with a flotilla to Gaza. He said it should draw the world's attention to the "terrible suffering of Gaza's 1.5 million people, half of whom are children under the age of 18". The Elders considered Israel's blockage of Gaza illegal collective punishment of its inhabitants and said it was also counterproductive. "This is because it creates unacceptable suffering, in the process empowering extremists and undermining moderate forces in Gaza", they said. Rea

Israel attacks aid ship, kills at least 10 civilians

Glenn Greenwald - Late last night, Israel attacked a flotilla of ships in international waters carrying food, medicine and other aid to Gaza, killing at least 10 civilians on board and injuring at least 30 more (many reports now put the numbers at 19 dead and 60 injured). The Israeli Defense Forces is claiming that its soldiers were attacked with clubs, knives and "handguns" when they boarded the ship without permission, but none of the Israeli soldiers were killed while two are reported injured. Those on the ships emphatically state that the IDF came on board shooting. An IDF spokesman said: "Our initial findings show that at least 10 convoy participants were killed." The six-ship flotilla was carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid along with 600 people, all civilians, which included 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, 85. Read more .

Israeli commandos storm aid flotilla; 9 killed

Yahoo News - Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis. Dozens of activists and six Israeli soldiers were wounded in the bloody predawn confrontation in international waters. The violent takeover dealt yet another blow to Israel's international image, already tarnished by war crimes accusations in Gaza and its 3-year-old blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory. Read more .

Author Henning Mankell aboard Gaza flotilla stormed by Israeli troops

The Guardian UK - The bestselling Swedish author Henning Mankell was on board a convoy of Gaza-bound aid boats stormed by Israeli forces today, resulting in the deaths of at least 10 activists and injuries to dozens of others. With the ships out of communication since the attack early this morning, it is not yet known whether he is among the injured. A spokesperson for Ship to Gaza-Sweden said he had last spoken to someone on board Mankell's ship just before 5am Swedish time (4am BST). "They were telling us then about the Israeli soldiers climbing into the neighbouring ship, and they heard shooting aboard it. I was not speaking to Henning but to one of his friends. The Swedish ship was attacked a bit later, 10-15 minutes later. The whole attack was done between 4-5 o'clock Swedish time," said Mikael Löfgren. "We don't know what's happened since. When the ships were attacked, the Israelis cut off all communications and we haven't heard from them sin

Breaking the Israeli-Egyptian Seige of Gaza

The Huffington Post - Now, over four years later and one year after the Israeli assault which killed 1,440 Palestinians (330 of them children) and 14 Israelis, the Palestinian people in Gaza continue to suffer under the inhuman Israeli-Egyptian siege. It bears emphasizing that this state of affairs cannot exist without Barack Obama's complicit approval; collective punishment indelibly mars his legacy. Collective punishment is a war crime. Previous sea-borne attempts to break the siege were met by an aggressive Israeli navy. Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney was one of the activists arrested by the Israelis in 2009 after attempting to access the Strip that way. She released an audiotape from an Israeli prison, declaring: This is Cynthia McKinney and I'm speaking from an Israeli prison cellblock in Ramle. [I am one of] the Free Gaza 21, human rights activists currently imprisoned for trying to take medical supplies to Gaza, building supplies -- and even crayons for childre

Gaza Flotilla ATTACKED: Israel Storms Aid Ship, At Least 10 Dead

Associated Press @ The Huffington Post - Israeli naval commandos stormed a flotilla of ships carrying aid and hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip on Monday, killing nine passengers in a botched raid that provoked international outrage and a diplomatic crisis. Dozens of activists and six Israeli soldiers were wounded in the bloody predawn confrontation in international waters. The violent takeover dealt yet another blow to Israel's international image, already tarnished by war crimes accusations in Gaza and its 3-year-old blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory. Read more

Israeli Commandos Kill Gaza Aid Volunteers

Truthout - A demonstration was held to welcome the Freedom Flotilla, a fleet of boats carrying international activists and humanitarian aid for Gaza, intending to defy Israel's embargo on certain types of aid. About 700 activists rode on the flotilla, including a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, an elderly Holocaust survivor and 17 European legislators. Yesterday morning, the flotilla congregated close to Cypriot territorial waters, preparing to begin its voyage to the Gaza Strip. The mood was celebratory at the Port of Gaza. Hamas security forces looked on as members of other political parties shouted out their slogans, everyone hoping for the siege to end. What a horrible difference a day makes. Today, news reports and clips and dispatches arrived that I had never in my life expected to see. Israeli commandoes had rappelled onto the deck of the Mervi Manara, the big red-and-white Turkish aid ship sailing to Gaza. Counts of dead and injured rose throughout the morning, in horrible d

Israel Attacks Gaza Aid Fleet

Al Jazeera - Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country's siege on Gaza. At least 19 people were killed and dozens injured when troops intercepted the convoy of ships dubbed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, Israeli radio reported. The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, confirmed that the attack took place in international waters, saying: "This happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves." Footage from the flotilla's lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, showed armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead. Read more .

Nigeria's agony dwarfs the Gulf oil spill. The US and Europe ignore it

The Observer/UK - village of Otuegwe after a long hike through cassava plantations. Ahead of us lay swamp. We waded into the warm tropical water and began swimming, cameras and notebooks held above our heads. We could smell the oil long before we saw it – the stench of garage forecourts and rotting vegetation hanging thickly in the air. The farther we travelled, the more nauseous it became. Soon we were swimming in pools of light Nigerian crude, the best-quality oil in the world. One of the many hundreds of 40-year-old pipelines that crisscross the Niger delta had corroded and spewed oil for several months. Forest and farmland were now covered in a sheen of greasy oil. Drinking wells were polluted and people were distraught. No one knew how much oil had leaked. "We lost our nets, huts and fishing pots," said Chief Promise, village leader of Otuegwe and our guide. "This is where we fished and farmed. We have lost our forest. We told Shell of the spill within days, but t

BP's OTHER Spill this Week

Greg Palast @ Buzzflash - With the Gulf Coast dying of oil poisoning, there's no space in the press for British Petroleum's latest spill, just this week: over 100,000 gallons, at its Alaska pipeline operation. A hundred thousand used to be a lot. Still is. On Tuesday, Pump Station 9, at Delta Junction on the 800-mile pipeline, busted. Thousands of barrels began spewing an explosive cocktail of hydrocarbons after "procedures weren't properly implemented" by BP operators, say state inspectors "Procedures weren't properly implemented" is, it seems, BP's company motto. Few Americans know that BP owns the controlling stake in the trans-Alaska pipeline; but, unlike with the Deepwater Horizon, BP keeps its Limey name off the Big Pipe. There's another reason to keep their name off the Pipe: their management of the pipe stinks. It's corroded, it's undermanned and "basic maintenance" is a term BP never heard of. How does BP get aw

Occupied, D.C.

In These Times - As a visitor to our nation’s capital, it’s disconcerting to step off a Metro train and find yourself face-to-face with an F-35 fighter jet. Washington D.C.’s subway system, the second busiest in the country, hosts full-color backlit billboards for some of the most deadly—and expensive—weapons systems ever produced. The ads for Lockheed Martin (the world’s largest arms merchant), Goodrich, KBR, AGI, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman adorn Metro stations throughout the D.C. metropolitan area. But not surprisingly, the ads are most heavily concentrated at Pentagon City and near government offices at the Federal Center and Capitol South stations. The ads clearly aim to influence key decision-makers, but they also sell to the public the concept that only superior military prowess can protect us from a hostile world. The billboards range from explicit ads for attack helicopters and combat vehicles to more subtle ads for companies like little-known DRS, owned by Italian we

Valerie Plame & Joe Wilson Return “Political Courage” Award

Alternet - “It is unconscionable in our view to tie political courage to partisan activities… Democrats are not the only ones who demonstrate political courage,” wrote a furious Joe and Valerie Wilson on Friday, returning their “Political Courage” awards to the influential Pacific Palisades Democratic Club of California. In 2003 the two were victims of Republican partisan revenge. Now, in an apparent act of Democratic partisan revenge that actor and celebrity Ed Asner has called a “circular firing squad,” the club has just withdrawn its “Political Courage” award offer from Military Religious Freedom Foundation head Mikey Weinstein, who has led the fight against efforts by radical evangelical Christian groups to take over the United States military. On May 21st Hollywood’s Fair Game, starring Noami Watts and Sean Penn, premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. The movie is based on the lives of Joe Wilson and Valerie Wilson, whose secret identity as a CIA agent working undercover against

The Infuriating Cell Phone Racket

Alternet - If you're not angry with AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint -- America's four national wireless providers that reportedly control 90 percent of the market -- then here's some ridiculous news to raise your righteous ire. Perhaps you'd be interested to know about one of the most outrageous cell phone scams? It's simple: Charge customers for being forced to listen to 15 seconds of unnecessary voicemail instructions reminding them how to leave a message after the beep. According to New York Times technology writer David Pogue, if Verizon customers leave voicemails or check their messages twice a day, the mammoth New Jersey-based telco takes in around $620 million. In return, you lose wasted hours of your life and have to pay for it. Speaking of Verizon, have you heard about the representative who refused to shut down a dead man's service, even though his daughter produced a death certificate and needed the account closed so settlement of his estate

BP oil spill: 'top kill' failure means well may gush until August

Christian Science Monitor - After the failure of "top kill," BP said it will concentrate on containing, not stopping the leak. As failures to stop the BP oil spill mount, the federal government is careful not to promise too much. With the failure of the BP “top kill” maneuver, the effort to combat the BP oil spill is increasingly becoming an attempt to manage expectations. A month ago, when the spill was barely a week old, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told CNN that the “ultimate relief” – drilling a relief well – was still “90 days out.” Now, that pronouncement is looking like the most realistic target. BP managing director Bob Dudley said Sunday that the the company's best hope was not in capping the well but in containing and collecting the oil at the source until a relief well is ready in August. After BP's three unsuccessful attempts to stop or siphon the gushing oil, federal officials also appear to be shifting focus. They are subtly but repeatedly emphasiz

“This Scares Everybody” says BP: Top Kill Fails, Imperils Gulf; “There are no Solar Spills”

Juan Cole @ Informed Comment - British Petroleum's attempt to plug the petroleum gusher a mile beneath the Gulf of Mexico through a "top kill," pumping mud into the oil pipeline in hopes of plugging it up, has failed, according to Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles. The LAT quotes him as saying, chillingly, at a news conference Saturday in Robert, LA, "After three full days, we have been unable to overcome the flow from the well, so we now believe it is time to move on to another option . . . This scares everybody - the fact that we can't make this well stop flowing or the fact that we haven't succeeded so far." Worse, the best estimates of independent scientists for the amount of petroleum being released daily is now north, possibly well north, of 25,000 barrels a day. To put this rate in perspective, it should be noted that oil companies routinely invest substantial resources to get fields going in places such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Ir

I Can't Wait for Barack Obama to Become President

David Michael Green @ Common Dreams - Watching the latest tragedy unfold in the Gulf this last month, all I can say is: I can’t wait for Barack Obama to become president. This Bush guy is such a disaster, literally and figuratively. It just seems that the destruction of America he presides over is all but endless. As if one Gulf Coast disaster left to rot in the sun wasn’t enough for this president, now comes a second. What did those folks in New Orleans ever do to him? Heck, what did Americans ever do to him? I just can’t wait any longer for the new administration to take office. They are absolutely guaranteed to handle things so much differently than the Cheney Bots in the White House who seem intent on wrecking the whole world, with their charity beginning at home. Look at this oil spill disaster, for example. To start with, Barack Obama would never pick a guy like Ken Salazar for the crucial environmental position of Secretary of the Interior. Of course Bush would, though

Book Review: The Lost Soul of Higher Education

Truthout - Ellen Schrecker, a history professor at New York City's Yeshiva University, starts "The Lost Soul of Higher Education" with a blunt assessment: "In reacting to the economic insecurities of the past forty years, the nation's colleges and universities have adopted corporate practices that degrade undergraduate instruction, marginalize faculty members, and threaten the very mission of the academy as an institution devoted to the common good." It's depressing stuff. And sadly, there is a wealth of evidence to support Schrecker's assertion. She starts by introducing the concept of academic freedom - the notion that teachers should be able to present ideas, both popular and not, without fear of reprisal. Sounds great. Yet, reality, Schrecker writes, is somewhat different, for while rhetoric in support of academic freedom is plentiful, neither pedagogical nor personal autonomy have ever had free rein on campus. Howard Zinn, for one, was fired

Phillippe Cousteau To Bill Maher: Even Before Oil Spill, The Oceans Couldn't Take Any More

Phillipe Cousteau & Bill Marher @ The Huffington Post - BP's oil spill is humanity's latest strike against against the World's oceans, according to Phillippe Cousteau Jr., an explorer and host for Animal Planet and Planet Green. Cousteau, who is the grandson of French explorer and ecologist Jacques-Yves Cousteau, appeared on "Real Time with Bill Maher" on Friday and explained what the country's worst in oil spill in history will mean for oceans that are already suffering from pollution and overfishing. "I could cut my leg off, I could cut my arm off, I could gouge my eye out, I'd still probably survive, but not very well," Cousteau said. "And that's what we're doing to our oceans." Pointing to massive annual dead zones off the U.S. coast, Cousteau explained that our oceans are past their tipping point: Read more .

22-Mile Oil Plume Under Gulf Nears Rich Waters

The Huffington Post - A thick, 22-mile plume of oil discovered by researchers off the BP spill site was nearing an underwater canyon, where it could poison the foodchain for sealife in the waters off Florida. The discovery by researchers on the University of South Florida College of Marine Science's Weatherbird II vessel is the second significant undersea plume reported since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20. The plume is more than 6 miles wide and its presence was reported Thursday. The cloud was nearing a large underwater canyon whose currents fuel the foodchain in Gulf waters off Florida and could potentially wash the tiny plants and animals that feed larger organisms in a stew of toxic chemicals, another researcher said Friday. Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, said the DeSoto Canyon off the Florida Panhandle sends nutrient-rich water from the deep sea up to shal

Gulf Disaster Brings Home the Real Costs of Fossil Fuels

Triple Crisis - “An upside-down faucet, just open and running out.” That’s how an oil-spill expert at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute describes the massive release of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico that began April 20th at British Petroleum’s Deep Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. [See live video feed of the spill here.] The disaster has opened an information faucet, too: every day, more truth about the real costs of fossil fuels is emptying into public view. Desperate efforts to control both spills are underway. After its 450-ton blowout preventer failed, BP tried burning the oil slick, creating the macabre spectacle of the ocean on fire. The company then tried using chemical dispersants to reduce the oil reaching the surface, a strategy that helped to create enormous underwater oil plumes – as much as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick – now floating toward the powerful loop current that could “slingshot the oil into the Atlantic Ocean around the

Ex-EPA Officials: Why Isn't BP Under Criminal Investigation?

Jason Leopold @ Truthout - Why hasn't the government launched a criminal investigation into BP? That's the question several former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials have been asking in the aftermath of the catastrophic explosion aboard the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig last month that killed 11 employees and ruptured a newly drilled well 5,000 feet below the surface that has spewed tens of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf if Mexico. Scott West, the former special agent-in-charge at the EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, who spent more than a year probing allegations that BP committed crimes in connection with a massive oil spill on Alaska's North Slope in 2006, said the company's prior felony and misdemeanor convictions should have immediately "raised red flags" and resulted in a federal criminal investigation. "If the company behind this disaster was Texaco or Chevron I would have likely waited a couple of days before I

Obama’s Rudderless Foreign Policy Underscores America’s Waning Power

Dilip Hiro @ Tom Dispatch - Irrespective of their politics, flawed leaders share a common trait. They generally remain remarkably oblivious to the harm they do to the nation they lead. George W. Bush is a salient recent example, as is former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. When it comes to foreign policy, we are now witnessing a similar phenomenon at the Obama White House. Here is the Obama pattern: Choose a foreign leader to pressure. Threaten him with dire consequences if he does not bend to Washington’s will. When he refuses to submit and instead responds vigorously, back off quickly and overcompensate for failure by switching into a placatory mode. In his first year-plus in office, Barack Obama has provided us with enough examples to summarize his leadership style. The American president fails to objectively evaluate the strength of the cards that a targeted leader holds and his resolve to play them. Obama’s propensity to retreat at the first sign of resistance shows that he

Presidents Obama and Clinton bribe Democrat to drop out of race

The Huffington Post - Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.) was offered a prominent but uncompensated, advisory position -- in the national security/foreign policy area -- if he would drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate primary race, a source with knowledge of the exchange said during a briefing on Friday morning. The offer was made by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel through a prominent intermediary -- former President Bill Clinton -- during the months of June and July of 2009. The White House initiated the conversation, which occurred over phone. It would have allowed Sestak to remain in the House of Representatives while advising the president. The source said it would not be surprising if more than one conversation took place, though there were no other intermediaries involved. Sestak ultimately rejected the overture and went on to defeat incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Penn) in the Democratic primary election earlier this month. Read more .

A disgrace of historic proportions

Glenn Greenwald @ Salon - The Miami Herald's Carol Rosenberg reports that, this week, yet another federal judge has ordered the Obama administration to release yet another Guantanamo detainee on the ground that there is no persuasive evidence to justify his detention. The latest detainee to win his habeas hearing, Mohammed Hassen, is a 27-year old Yemeni imprisoned by the U.S. without charges for 8 years, since he was 19 years old. He has "long claimed he was captured in Pakistan studying the Quran and had no ties to al Qaida," and that "he had been unjustly rounded up in a March 2002 dragnet by Pakistani security forces in the city of Faisalabad that targeted Arabs." Hassen is now the third consecutive detainee ordered freed who was rounded up in that same raid. The Obama DOJ opposed his petition even though the Bush administration had cleared him for release in 2007. He has now spent roughly 30% of his life in a cage at Guantanamo. The real disgrace here

Gaza Flotilla: This is What Smart Strategy Looks Like

Common Dreams - The flotilla of ships currently on its way to Gaza, loaded with relief supplies, is not big news in the U.S., yet. But it's making headlines in Israel and causing plenty of concern there. So this seems like an especially good time to continue the conversation about strategy among those of us working for a just peace between Israel and Palestine. In a recent column I asked, "How long will it be until the American left figures out how turn angry verbal outbursts [against Israel] into useful political action?" The "freedom flotilla," which may well be a useful political action, puts that question in a new perspective. A spokesperson for the flotilla was quoted in the Israeli press saying, "We are a humanitarian group without political aims." That may very well be true. But humanitarian actions can have great political consequences, especially if they are planned with an intelligence worthy of Gandhi. And this is one action Gandhi w

Is Obama The Kind of Leader Chairman Mao Warned Us About?

"The American people are clamoring for justice but our voices are still being ignored. The President says he is on our side. Is he?" Danny Schechter @ Common Dreams - We now know that it was the Obama Administration led by the President himself who used techniques well understood and denounced decades earlier by none other than Mao TseTung. Mao had no use for those who talked left to move right. In several high profile speeches, Obama lashed out at Wall Street for its greed and mendacity, proposing financial reforms that appeared to be hard hitting if only because of the way the lobbyists for the financial services industry squealed about them. But even as he was feinting left, he and his main economic operative, Tim Geithner, were moving right to kill off amendments that the bankers hated like Senator Bernie Sanders's proposal for a deep audit of the Federal Reserve Bank and the Brown-Kaufman Amendment that would have broken up the six biggest banks in America.&qu

BP: Obama's Do-Nothing "Root Causes" Commission

Truthout - Obama had this frozen, robotic expression on his face when he announced that he'd put his signature on the executive order establishing the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. He looked a bit like he'd been replaced with an animatronic doll, one programmed to speak very eloquently and say precisely nothing. Obama's commission is supposed to carry out a six-month investigation into the reasons underlying the explosion of the Deepwater Horizons offshore drilling rig. Securely informed and enlightened by such knowledge, the United States will be able to "prevent and mitigate the impact of any spills that result from offshore drilling." Obama has been quite chastened by the tens of thousands of barrels of oil daily billowing into the Gulf of Mexico entailing a multi-billion dollar "clean-up effort." This effort involves burning the oil, removing toxic billows from the water and sending toxic plumes int

The Audacity of the Free Gaza Flotilla

Ann Wright @ Common Dreams - By the time you read this, we will be on the high seas of the Mediterranean (we hope the seas will not be too high). Our two U.S. flagged Free Gaza boats, will join two other passenger ships, a 600 passenger ship from Turkey sponsored by the Turkish humanitarian organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) and a 50 passenger ship from Athens sponsored by the European Campaign Against the Siege and the Greek/Swedish Ships to Gaza campaign, to sail to the shores of Gaza to break the Israeli naval blockade of the 1.5 million citizens in Gaza. Four cargo ships from Ireland, Greece, Algeria and Turkey, will carry a total of 10,000 tons or 2 million pounds of construction materials for the housing of 50,000 made homeless during the 22 day Israeli attack on Gaza that killed 1440 Palestinians and wounded 5,000. Read more .

Crimes Committed in Oily Gulf of Mexico

Ann Woolner @ Bloomberg -At least one federal crime had indisputably been committed when oil started spewing into the Gulf of Mexico and approached land. Another criminal act became clear when the first oil-covered sea bird died. Even if everyone involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster did precisely what they were supposed to do, if every crew member, each manager and all suppliers followed every regulation diligently, the oil globs reaching shore and the deadly crude covering pelicans signal crimes just as clearly as would a body with a dagger through the heart. “Someone’s going to be criminally prosecuted for this,” says David M. Uhlmann, who for 17 years worked as a prosecutor for the Justice Department’s environmental crimes section, including seven years as the unit’s chief. The questions are: who, and for what crimes? Read more .

Gulf Oil Spill Now Far Worse Than Exxon Valdez, Worst In U.S. History, Scientists Say

Wikipedia - The oil slick as photographed in outer space by NASA The Huffington Post - An untested procedure to plug the blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico seemed to be working, officials said Thursday, but new estimates showed the spill has already surpassed the Exxon Valdez as the worst in U.S. history. A team of scientists trying to determine how much oil has been flowing since the offshore rig Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20 and sank two days later found the rate was more than twice and possibly up to five times as high as previously thought. The fallout from the spill has stretched all the way to Washington, where the head of the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling resigned Thursday and President Barack Obama sought to counter criticism by announcing a series of new steps to deal with the spill's aftermath. Even using the most conservative estimate, the new numbers mean the leak has grown to nearly 19 million gallons over the past five weeks. If the o

Gulf Oil Spill: Scientists Discover Massive New Sea Oil Plume

The Huffington Post - Marine scientists have discovered a massive new plume of what they believe to be oil deep beneath the Gulf of Mexico, stretching 22 miles (35 kilometers) from the leaking wellhead northeast toward Mobile Bay, Alabama. The discovery by researchers on the University of South Florida College of Marine Science's Weatherbird II vessel is the second significant undersea plume recorded since the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20. The thick plume was detected just beneath the surface down to about 3,300 feet (1,000 meters), and is more than 6 miles (9.6 kilometers) wide, said David Hollander, associate professor of chemical oceanography at the school. Hollander said the team detected the thickest amount of hydrocarbons, likely from the oil spewing from the blown out well, at about 1,300 feet (nearly 400 meters) in the same spot on two separate days this week. The discovery was important, he said, because it confirmed that the substance found in the water was

BP Oil spill clean-up workers report feeling ‘drugged, disoriented’

The Huffington Post - Many of the fishermen who signed up to work for BP cleaning up the oil signed contracts that forbid them from talking to the press. Perhaps for that reason, reports of illnesses have been somewhat slow to emerge. Last week, the wives of some of the fishermen spoke out publicly about the symptoms their husbands were experiencing. This week, some fishermen are starting to come forward. In this WDSU TV interview, one of the fishermen reports feeling drugged, disoriented, tingling, fatigued, and also reporting shortness of breath and cough. These are symptoms that are consistent with what one might expect from exposure to hydrocarbons in oil. There are also disturbing photos that have been posted on the internet and in the LA Times, showing clean-up workers on beaches in regular street clothes without even the benefit of gloves. Read more .

Tap water tops bottled on quality and cost

The Capital Times - As Americans, we take the availability of clean water so much for granted that when arriving in exotic places we are unpleasantly surprised to discover that the tap water in our hotel is unhealthy. Yet even with our easy access to good tap water, it seems that we have been convinced that attractively packaged and branded bottles of water offer us something better than what we get from the tap; we have been convinced enough to spend $15 billion annually on bottled water. While the bottlers use images of springs, mountains and glaciers to imply that their product comes from “natural” sources, in reality, up to 40 percent of their product actually comes from municipal tap Read more .

Police introduce military "sonic weapon" for domestic use in North America

The Toronto Star - Protesters marching at the G20 summit next month may be greeted with ear-splitting “sound cannons,” the latest Toronto police tool for quelling unruly crowds. Toronto police have purchased four, long-range acoustic devices (LRAD) — often referred to as sound guns or sound cannons — for the upcoming June 26-27 summit, the Star has learned. Purchased this month, the LRADs will become a permanent fixture in Toronto law enforcement, said police spokesperson Const. Wendy Drummond. “They were purchased as part of the G20 budget process,” Drummond said. “It’s definitely going to be beneficial for us, not only in the G20 but in any future large gatherings.” Read more .

Evidence of Sixth Great Extinction Species are vanishing quicker than at any point in the last 65 million years

The Independent UK - One more step in what scientists are increasingly referring to as the Sixth Great Extinction is announced today: the disappearance of yet another bird species. The vanishing of the Alaotra grebe of Madagascar is formally notified this morning by the global conservation partnership BirdLife International - and it marks a small but ominous step in the biological process which seems likely to dominate the 21st century. Researchers now recognise five earlier cataclysmic events in the earth's prehistory when most species on the planet died out, the last being the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event of 65 million years ago, which may have been caused by a giant meteorite striking the earth, and which saw the disappearance of the dinosaurs. But the rate at which species are now disappearing makes many biologists consider we are living in a sixth major extinction comparable in scale to the others - except that this one has been caused by humans. In essence, we are

BP played key role in botched Exxon Valdez oil spill response

The Huffington Post - Since a busted oil well began spewing crude into the Gulf of Mexico a month ago, the catastrophe has constantly been measured against the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster. The Alaska spill leaked nearly 11 million gallons of crude, killed countless animals and tarnished the owner of the damaged tanker, Exxon. Yet the leader of botched containment efforts in the critical hours after the tanker ran aground wasn't Exxon Mobil Corp. It was BP PLC, the same firm now fighting to plug the Gulf leak. BP owned a controlling interest in the Alaska oil industry consortium that was required to write a cleanup plan and respond to the spill two decades ago. It also supplied the top executive of the consortium, Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. Lawsuits and investigations that followed the Valdez disaster blamed both Exxon and Alyeska for a response that was bungled on many levels. People who had a front row seat to the Alaska spill tell The Associated Press that BP's actions i

FLASHBACK: How to Squander the Presidency in One Year

Common Dreams - There's only one political party in the entire world that is so inept, cowardly and bungling that it could manage to simultaneously lick the boots of Wall Street bankers and then get blamed by the voters for being flaming revolutionary socialists. It's the same party that has allowed the opposition to go on a thirty year scorched earth campaign, stealing everything in sight from middle and working class voters, and yet successfully claim to be protecting ‘real Americans' from out-of-touch elites. It's the same party that could run a decorated combat hero against a war evader in 1972, only to be successfully labeled as national security wimps. Just to be sure, it then did the exact same thing again in 2004. It's the same party that stood by silently while two presidential elections in a row were stolen away from them. How ‘bout dem Dems, eh? Read more .

Obama's Financial Reform: A Win for Wall Street, A Cold Shoulder for Main Street

Arianna Huffington -It's mission accomplished for financial reform. Unfortunately, it's more of a Bush 43 "mission accomplished" than an Apollo 13 "mission accomplished." That's because the financial reform bill passed by the Senate last week, like Bush's ship deck ceremony, is more notable for what it has left to still be done. The Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2010 will do no such thing. First, it doesn't do enough to rein in Wall Street. It doesn't end "too big to fail" banks, doesn't create a Glass-Steagall style firewall between commercial and investment banking, keeps taxpayers on the hook for future bailouts, and leaves open dangerous loopholes in the regulation of derivatives. And we can expect more loopholes to be inserted as the bill heads to conference committee. In D.C., crafting a bill without them would be like baking bread without yeast. Though you can't see them, they're what makes a Was

Obama wins the right to detain people with no habeas review

Glenn Greenwald - Few issues highlight Barack Obama's extreme hypocrisy the way that Bagram does. As everyone knows, one of George Bush’s most extreme policies was abducting people from all over the world -- far away from any battlefield -- and then detaining them at Guantanamo with no legal rights of any kind, not even the most minimal right to a habeas review in a federal court. Back in the day, this was called "Bush's legal black hole." In 2006, Congress codified that policy by enacting the Military Commissions Act, but in 2008, the Supreme Court, in Boumediene v. Bush, ruled that provision unconstitutional, holding that the Constitution grants habeas corpus rights even to foreign nationals held at Guantanamo. Since then, detainees have won 35 out of 48 habeas hearings brought pursuant to Boumediene, on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to justify their detention. Immediately following Boumediene, the Bush administration argued that the decision w

Strawberry Show Down: No Methyl Iodide with My Shortcake, Please

Civil Eats - Commercially grown strawberries and tomatoes in California could start getting an unhealthy dose of the highly toxic fumigant methyl iodide, a known carcinogen, neurotoxin, and thyroid disruptor. Among scientists’ greatest concerns is the pesticide’s ability to cause spontaneous abortion late in pregnancy. So you might be surprised to hear that the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) recently issued a proposed decision to approve methyl iodide for use just months after a state-commissioned study warned that any agricultural use “would result in exposures to a large number of the public and thus would have a significant adverse impact on the public health” adding that, “adequate control of human exposure would be difficult, if not impossible.” Strawberries are already near the top of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen (13 pesticides were detected on a single sample) and recently, a high-level Presidential Cancer Panel recommended reducing chemi

Disaster must be catalyst for change, says Jean-Michel Cousteau

Jean Michel Cousteau @ Times Online - Jean-Michel Cousteau, one of the world's leading ocean explorers, has spoken of his "frustration at the human species" over the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster and called for it to become a catalyst for political, industrial and environmental change. Describing the slick as "the worst oil accident anywhere on the planet", the 72-year-old son of Jacques Cousteau, the pioneering underwater ecologist, said that the consequences for Man and nature would be monumental. "The sad side of the human species is that we talk a lot and take very little action until we have a catastrophe on our hands," he told The Times. "I don't want to call this doomsday. I want to believe we can sit down with decision-makers and industry and government and convince them that there's a better way to manage our life support system. We can do the good thing or we can keep destroying it." Read more .

Obama's War Supplemental: Recent Reports Strengthen The Case Against It

Dan Froomkin @ The Huffington Post - Members of Congress with any inclination to balk at President Obama's massive emergency war-funding request have found their case strengthened by two recent reports that question many of the administration's key premises and assumptions. The reports from the Congressional Research Service and Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction raise concerns ranging from the existential to the procedural. Just for starters, there's the lack of an exit strategy, signs of a slipping timeframe for troop drawdowns and the mixed results thus far of the troop "surge." There's also the matter of seemingly unrealistic goals for training Afghan security forces, poor planning of infrastructure projects, pervasive corruption within the Afghan government and the lack of contracting oversight. Finally there's the concern that some of the individual funding requests seem inflated, in certain areas the Pentagon isn't spendi

Obama politely asks for cooperation while BP rules spill zone with iron fist

Allison Kilkenney - Judging by the government’s handling of the spill zone, I’d be hard pressed to tell you who is in charge of the country right now. BP has stifled the freedom of the press, given the finger to the EPA, and will not be forced to testify in Obama’s shiny, new commission. Honestly, I’m amazed Obama’s first reaction wasn’t to rename the country The United States Of BP. Mac McClelland, a human rights reporter for Mother Jones, has been chased away from spill site by a local policeman, who claims he was just doing “what they told me to do.” McClelland asked the logical question: Who are they? And aren’t the police usually the ones charged with maintaining order?

Get a Grip: Austerity Does Not Produce Prosperity

Robert Kuttner @ The Huffington Post - Austerity has suddenly become the universally prescribed cure for the fallout from the financial collapse. If widely adopted, it will prove worse than the disease. The price of the rescues of Greece, Spain and Portugal will be brutal deflation. The International Monetary Fund, which supposedly learned from its earlier mistakes of imposing austerity on already damaged economies, is back in cold-bath mode, demanding higher taxes and dramatically reduced spending as its pound of flesh. The European Central Bank and key leaders of the E.U. are promoting economic pain as the price of relief. Here at home, President Obama has sworn off serious new outlays for jobs or aid to the states, and is using his fiscal commission to pursue a bipartisan consensus on spending cuts and higher taxes. Read more .

Gulf Oil Disaster: Pelicans Coated In Crude, Marshes Heavily Damaged

The Huffington Post - As officials approached to survey the damage the Gulf oil spill caused in coastal marshes, some brown pelicans couldn't fly away Sunday. All they could do was hobble. Several pelicans were coated in oil on Barataria Bay off Louisiana, their usually brown and white feathers now jet black. Pelican eggs were glazed with rust-colored gunk, and new hatchlings and nests were also coated with crude. It is unclear if the area can even be cleaned, or if the birds can be saved. It is also unknown how much of the Gulf Coast will end up looking the same way because of a well that has spewed untold millions of gallons of oil since an offshore rig exploded more than a month ago. "As we talk, a total of more than 65 miles of our shoreline now has been oiled," said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who announced new efforts to keep the spill from spreading. Read more .

One month anniversary of BP oil disaster

Allison Kilkinney - As BP CEO Tony Hayward demonstrated, many people remain ignorant about the magnitude of unseen damage the underwater oil geyser is inflicting upon the ocean’s ecosystem right now. Hayward’s comment that the oil patch is “relatively tiny” compared to the “very big ocean” probably represents the views of many Americans. Sanitized language like “patch,” “spill,” and “plume” make this terrible event seem more like a minor inconvenience – like a baby spilling a glass of milk. It’s adorable, really, except when it’s beautiful or delicious i.e. when it’s being described by Rep. Gene Taylor as “a light, rainbow sheen with patches that look like chocolate milk.” Meanwhile, the “patch” is now larger than Maryland and Delaware, combined. The AP is desperately trying to depict the magnitude of this event by using an array of easy-to-envision examples: Read more .

Gaza, Here We Come to Break the Siege

Ann Wright @ Common Dreams - I am honored to be a part of the latest international citizen effort to break the Israeli and Egyptian governments' siege of Gaza. This week, hundreds of persons from 20 countries will challenge the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza in an eight ship flotilla. An international coalition composed of Free Gaza Movement, European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza, the Malaysian humanitarian organization Perdana and the Turkish non-governmental organization Humanitarian Aid Foundation (IHH) is sending three cargo ships and five passenger vessels to Gaza from Ireland, Greece and Turkey. While the citizens mobilize, their governments are receiving intense diplomatic pressure from the Israeli government. On Monday, May 17, 2010, Naor Gilon, the Israeli Foreign Ministry deputy director general, told the ambassadors of Greece, Ireland, Turkey, and Sweden that the attempt to break Israel's blockage Gaza " is a provocation and a breach of Israeli law,&qu

The Greeks Get It

Chris Hedges @ Truthdig - IHere's to the Greeks. They know what to do when corporations pillage and loot their country. They know what to do when Goldman Sachs and international bankers collude with their power elite to falsify economic data and then make billions betting that the Greek economy will collapse. They know what to do when they are told their pensions, benefits and jobs have to be cut to pay corporate banks, which screwed them in the first place. Call a general strike. Riot. Shut down the city centers. Toss the bastards out. Do not be afraid of the language of class warfare-the rich versus the poor, the oligarchs versus the citizens, the capitalists versus the proletariat. The Greeks, unlike most of us, get it. The former right-wing government of Greece lied about the size of the country's budget deficit. It was not 3.7 percent of gross domestic product but 13.6 percent. And it now looks like the economies of Spain, Ireland, Italy and Portugal are as bad as Greece

White domestic terrorists slip off media’s radar

Allison Kilinney - I guess bombs aren’t sexy enough to warrant national attention anymore. At least, not if the terrorists planting the bombs are white. Here are a couple stories that failed to attract significant coverage, and let me emphasize that these are just two examples I scooped up. One need only spend an afternoon exploring SPLC’s website to observe the surge in far right extremism, so undoubtedly, there are many similar examples. Robert Joos Jr. is an anti-government crazy person, and also the pastor of a church of “apocalyptic Christians.” He was convicted in January for possessing firearms and explosives. He and his accomplices, twin brothers Dennis and Daniel Mahon, were indicted for delivering a bomb to diversity officer Don Logan, a black man, who needed extensive surgery for injuries to his hands and arms. Logan’s secretary also suffered injuries to her face and eyes. Read more .

Thoughts on the President's Marriage to Wall Street and Big Oil

Max Eternity - Why is BP still in charge a month after tearing open a rift spilling untold millions of oil just off the US coast in the Gulf of Mexico? I'll tell you why: Rhetoric, celebrity and the art of the political apologists has replaced truth, transparency and accountability within the realm of common sense leadership, to such a degree that much of the US populace has become intractably fixated on personality affectations, mistakenly identifying the evolving face of the status quo–its core remaining rotten, while its face becomes more seductively alluring. Blinded by political sermons of hope and change, these "I just wanna feel good" individuals protest all critical analysis of their supposed liberation, foolishly welcoming the yoke of consumerism and the Corporate Military Industrialist Complex, though believing themselves to be better off and free, using the logic of "at least we got rid of Bush." And yet led by President Obama, the plutocracy, g