Edward Snowden

Open Letter To Obama

July 26, 2013 President Barack Obama The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500 Re: Civil Disobedience, Edward J. Snowden, and the Constitution Dear Mr. President: You are acutely aware More »

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U.S. Companies Pay Just One-Third Of The Legal Tax Rate: GAO Study

Huffington Post July 1, 2013 By Mark Gongloff Big, profitable U.S. companies paid an average federal tax rate of less than 13 percent in 2010, according to a new study — or More »

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Man Tried for Chalk Drawings Found Not Guilty

NBC San Diego July 1, 2013 By Christina London The man accused of vandalism for drawing with chalk outside banks has been found not guilty on all charges. A jury returned its More »

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The Bigger Story Behind the AP Spying Scandal

Washington’s Blog/Global Research May 20, 2012 By George Washington Attack on the Press You know that the Department of Justice tapped scores of phone lines at the Associated Press. You might have More »

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‘Anonymous’ Hacker Explains Why He Fled The US

Business Insider Mar. 2, 2012 By Michael Kelley Anonymous is front and center these days: the amorphous hacktivist group has been publishing internal data of U.S. banks while prominent members are prosecuted More »

Monthly Archives: July 2010

Long-Awaited Cluster Bomb Ban Enters Into Force

Inter Press Service
July 31, 2010
By Esther Banales  

United Nations – Thirty-eight countries will start observing the Convention on Cluster Munitions this Sunday, Aug. 1, after a rapid entry into force since the treaty was announced two years ago in Oslo.
“This new instrument is a major advance for the global disarmament and humanitarian agendas, and will help us to counter the widespread insecurity and suffering caused by these terrible weapons, particularly among civilians and children,” noted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Cluster munitions explode in mid-air to release dozens – sometimes hundreds – of smaller “bomblets” across large areas. Because the final location of these scattered smaller bombs is difficult to control, they can cause large numbers of civilian casualties.
Bomblets that fail to explode immediately may also lay dormant, potentially acting as landmines and killing or maiming civilians long after a conflict is ended. Children are known to be particularly at risk from dud cluster munitions since they are often attracted to the shiny objects and less aware of their dangers.
Since the countdown towards enforcement started in February 2010, the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC), a civil society campaign, has been raising public awareness and encouraging countries to adhere to the “most significant disarmament and humanitarian treaty in over a decade”.
“Our activities more recently have been aimed at trying to get an early entry into force, getting to the 30 ratifications necessary to do this,” Stephen Goose, one of the founders and co-chair of the CMC and director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch (HRW), told IPS. “It is quite unusual for so many countries to have already completed their ratification procedures.”
After Sunday, more countries are expected to join the current list of 38. “Many of the states who signed but not yet ratified are very close to ratifying it, most of them awaiting completion of their national domestic law procedures,” an official with the Office for Disarmament Affaires (ODA) at the United Nations told IPS.
So far, 107 countries have signed. Others remain hesitant.
For example, Thailand, a leader in the adoption of the landmark Mine Ban Treaty in 1997, has not yet become a signatory. The CMC has been lobbying its Foreign Ministry to join the treaty, and called for Thailand to attend the First Meeting of States Parties from Nov. 9-12 in Laos.
“Although Thailand possesses cluster munition stockpiles, this should not be a barrier to joining this important agreement,” reads a recent letter sent by the CMC. “Thailand has already announced that it does not intend to use cluster munitions and its stockpiles are outdated. The Convention also contains an eight year period in which States Parties need to complete the destruction of stockpiles.”
IPS contacted the Mission of Thailand to the United Nations, but received no answer by press time.
The letter was one of many sent to governments around the world as part of the “Countdown to Entry Into Force” campaign led by the coalition that appealed to governments in Morocco, Slovakia, and Sudan, among others.
“The Convention will have a stigmatising effect even for countries that haven’t joined,” Conor Fortune, a media officer with the CMC, told IPS. “We’ve already seen that there was international public condemnation when the weapon was used in recent armed conflicts, by Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia in 2008 and by Israel in Lebanon in 2006.”
In the West, the United States has also been a focus of the coalition’s efforts. “At the moment the [Barack] Obama Administration is engaged in a very in-depth review of their landmine policy to see if they want to join the convention,” Goose explained. “The U.S. has already acknowledged that cluster munitions should be banned at some point in the future.”

Colombia: US Military Aid May Have Sparked Civilian Killings

Global Post/Truthout
July 31, 2010
By Nadja Drost

La Macarena, Colombia – When Colombian military units receive an increase in U.S. aid, they allegedly kill more civilians and frame the deaths as combat kills, according to a new report.
The report, released Thursday by two American human rights organizations, raises serious questions about the implications of U.S. military aid to Colombia. The United States has provided more than $7 billion in mostly military aid to Colombia since 2000 for fighting drugs and counterinsurgency — making it the largest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel.
The army is accused of killing civilians and presenting them as guerrillas killed in combat to pump body counts. The Colombian military faces significant political pressure to produce concrete results in its war against the the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), the country’s left-wing guerrilla insurgency.
Many point to the macabre practice — euphemistically known as producing a “false positive” — as a result of an unofficial incentive-based system that rewards high numbers of combat kills with job perks and promotions. Colombia’s attorney general’s office is investigating more than 2,000 alleged cases of false-positives committed by the armed forces.
The report was based on a two-year study using records of 3,000 reported extrajudicial killings since 2002 and lists of 500 military units approved to receive U.S. assistance. It found that in regions that received the largest increases in U.S. aid, the number of reported extrajudicial killings surged 56 percent on average in the four years surrounding the aid boost. When U.S. assistance was withdrawn or reduced, the number of army killings of civilians dropped.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation and the U.S. Office on Colombia published the report. The U.S. Embassy declined to comment.
Most U.S. military aid has come in the form of equipment, training, intelligence and anti-narcotics efforts such as the fumigation of coca crops.
At the heart of U.S.-backed efforts is the region of Meta, a traditional guerrilla stronghold of vast savannah and river networks. Parts of Meta were demilitarized as part of the failed 1999-2002 peace talks between the government and the FARC. The guerrillas used a cease-fire to strengthen their presence in the region. As a result, it became a priority for President Alvaro Uribe’s government to recover the territory from the guerrillas and Meta received a massive injection of government troops.
While the Colombian government has been credited with restoring security to many parts of the country, many residents interviewed in various hamlets and towns in Meta said their security situation has worsened as a result of the military presence. They complain that the armed forces indiscriminately accuse all inhabitants of being, or collaborating with, guerrillas simply because they live in a formerly guerrilla-controlled area.
As a result, “the impact of the war for the civilian population has increased,” said Edinson Cuellar, a lawyer with the Orlando Fals Borda Lawyers Collective, a group that monitors human rights violations in the region.
In a hamlet in Meta’s interior, military troops patrol through the intersection of a pot-holed dirt road lined by mostly abandoned homes. Many have fled over the last several years as a result of violence or because of worsening economic conditions.
Meta’s economy used to revolve around cocoa cultivation, which has fallen dramatically in the area with eradication efforts. The U.S. government has invested tens of millions of dollars in pilot projects in the region — to mixed reviews — aimed at fostering social and economic development while improving security.

Incoming BP CEO: Time for ‘scaleback’ in cleanup

Associated Press
July 31, 2010

BP’s incoming CEO said Friday that it’s time for a “scaleback” of the massive effort to clean up the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but stressed the commitment to make things right is the same as ever.

Tens of thousands of people — many of them idled fishermen — have been involved in the cleanup, but more than two weeks after the leak was stopped there is relatively little oil on the surface, leaving less work for oil skimmers to do.

Bob Dudley, who heads BP’s oil spill recovery and will take over as CEO in October, said it’s “not too soon for a scaleback” in the cleanup, and in areas where there is no oil, “you probably don’t need to see people in hazmat suits on the beach.”

He added, however, that there is “no pullback” in BP’s commitment to clean up the spill. Dudley was in Biloxi to announce that former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief James Lee Witt will be supporting BP’s Gulf restoration work.

link – http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0730/bp-ceo-scaleback-cleanup/ 

FBI admits probing ‘radical’ historian Zinn for criticizing bureau

There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” – Howard Zinn

Raw Story
July 30, 2010
By Daniel Tencer

FBI files show bureau may have tried to get Zinn fired from Boston University for his political opinions

Those who knew of the dissident historian Howard Zinn would not be surprised that J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI kept tabs on him for decades during the Cold War.

But in a release of documents pertaining to Zinn, the bureau admitted that one of its investigations into the left-wing academic was prompted not by suspicion of criminal activity, but by Zinn’s criticism of the FBI’s record on civil rights investigations.

“In 1949, the FBI opened a domestic security investigation on Zinn,” the bureau states. “The Bureau noted Zinn’s activities in what were called Communist Front Groups and received informant reports that Zinn was an active member of the CPUSA; Zinn denied ever being a member when he was questioned by agents in the 1950s.

“In the 1960s, the Bureau took another look at Zinn on account of his criticism of the FBI’s civil rights investigations.”

On Friday, the FBI released a 243-page file on Zinn, who died in January at age 87. The release describes the historian as “radical.” The documents show the bureau taking an active interest in Zinn since the late 1940s, when he was a student at New York University. The interest continued through the 1950s, as Zinn worked on his PhD at Columbia University.

When the FBI again took an interest in Zinn in the 1960s, documents show the bureau evidently tried to have the historian fired from his job as professor at Boston University.

In a document from the Boston FBI office (see PDF file here), an FBI “source,” whose name was redacted from the publicly released documents, was quoted as being outraged over Zinn’s comment at a protest that the US had become a “police state” and that prosecutions of Black Panther Party members were creating “political prisoners.”

The bureau’s Boston office then indicated it wanted to help the source in his or her campaign to unseat Zinn.

“[The] Boston [office] proposes under captioned program with Bureau permission to furnish [name redacted] with public source data regarding Zinn’s numerous anti-war activities … in an effort to back [redacted] efforts for his removal.”

read more at - http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0730/fbi-admits-probing-zinn-criticizing-bureau/

BOA ROV HIT BY ERUPTION FROM SEA FLOOR

US casualties in Afghanistan soar to record highs

Associated Press
July 30, 2010
By ROBERT H. REID

Eric, how is this supposed to look exactly?

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — In a summer of suffering, America’s military death toll in Afghanistan is rising, with back-to-back record months for U.S. losses in the grinding conflict. All signs point to more bloodshed in the months ahead, straining the already shaky international support for the war.

Six more Americans were reported killed in fighting in the south — three Thursday and three Friday — pushing the U.S. death toll for July to a record 66 and surpassing June as the deadliest month for U.S. forces in the nearly nine-year war.

U.S. officials confirmed the latest American deaths Friday but gave no further details. Five of the latest reported deaths were a result of hidden bombs — the insurgents’ weapon of choice — and the sixth to an armed attack, NATO said in statements.

U.S. commanders say American casualties are mounting because more troops are fighting — and the Taliban are stiffening resistance as NATO and Afghan forces challenge the insurgents in areas they can’t afford to give up without a fight.

“Recent months in Afghanistan have … seen tough fighting and tough casualties. This was expected,” the top U.S. and NATO commander, Gen. David Petraeus, said at his Senate confirmation hearing last month. “My sense is that the tough fighting will continue; indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months.”

That forecast is proving grimly accurate.

The month has brought a sharp increase in the tragic images of war — medics frantically seeking to stop the bleeding of a soldier who lost his leg in a bombing, fearful comrades huddled around a wounded trooper fighting for his life, the solemn scenes at Dover Air Force Bare in Delaware when shattered relatives come to receive the bodies of their loved ones.

After a dip in American deaths last spring following the February capture of the southern town of Marjah, U.S. fatalities have been rising — from 19 in April to 34 in May to 60 in June. Last month’s deaths for the entire NATO-led force reached a record 104, including the 60 Americans. This month’s coalition death count stands at 89, including the 66 Americans.

Some U.S. military officers speculated that the spring drop in fatalities was due in part to the fact that many
Taliban fighters in the south — the main focus of NATO operations — were busy harvesting the annual opium poppy crop, a major source of funding for the insurgents.

As the harvest ended and the pace of battle accelerated, more American troops were streaming into the country as part of President Barack Obama’s decision last December to dispatch 30,000 reinforcements in a bid to turn back a resurgent Taliban.

American troop strength stands at about 95,000, and by the end of August the figure is expected to swell to 100,000 — three times the number in early 2009. Commanders say more boots on the ground inevitably means more casualties.

read more at – http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hvWEqwq3CrRvaQCmt21MfoYhjZJQD9H9K6780 

Thousands in Gulf Suffer from Misdiagnosed Skin Lesions

Project Gulf Impact
July 30, 2010
By Christina Gagnier

Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana—Area residents have begun to show up at clinics and hospitals with mysterious scabs and pustules covering their extremities, as reported from residents to non-profit relief organizations in the Gulf.

One thirty-three year-old woman, who wished to remain anonymous, has disclosed to Project Gulf Impact that upon seeking medical advice at a clinic, she was told she had scabies. Hours later, she was told by an area hospital that she had a staph infection. The woman was treated with a shot of penicillin and Elimite cream, a topical agent for the treatment of scabies mite infestations, and an oral antibiotic. In addition to the lesions, the woman reported aching bones, weight loss, stomach pains, inflammation in her leg and sties developing in her eyes.

Other residents have shown up at local doctors and area hospitals reporting similar symptoms. According to area residents suffering from the mysterious rash, patients feel like they are not being given the proper medical treatment. Doctors have told area patients they are suffering from scabies with no clear diagnosis and from Staphylococcus infections with no underlying cause.

Exposure to chemicals, such as those being used to break down oil in the region, like the dispersant, Corexit, may be the cause of such infections. Corexit is an agent that has been proven to break down lipid membranes, which cover and protect human skin. Human skin is composed of a thin layer of lipids and Corexit, by nature, breaks down these organized barriers into smaller individual molecules allowing the barrier to become permeable to pathogens. The skin irritation could be caused by prolonged exposure to these chemicals and could break down the ability of the body to fight off infection.

Economic conditions in the Gulf have left many people without health insurance, leaving them with little recourse in terms of medical care. Noted Marine toxicologist and Exxon Valdez survivor Riki Ott first reported the effects of dispersants on July 7, 2010 in The Huffington Post.

For more information, follow Project Gulf Impact on Twitter @PrjGulfImpact or visit http://www.projectgulfimpact.org.

Honduras: Ongoing Attacks Foster Climate of Intimidation

Human Rights Watch
July 29, 2010

Little Progress on Human Rights after Six Months of Lobo Government

(Washington DC) – Six months after President Porfirio Lobo took office, Honduras has made little progress toward addressing the serious human rights abuses since the 2009 coup, Human Rights Watch said today.

Threats and attacks against journalists and the political opposition have fostered a climate of intimidation, while impunity for abuses remains the norm.  

“Violent attacks on journalists and political opponents have had a profound chilling effect on basic freedoms in Honduras,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “When journalists stop reporting, citizens abandon political activities, and judges fear being fired for their rulings, the building blocks of democratic society are at grave risk.”

Human Rights Watch called on the Honduran government to provide protection to journalists and members of the political opposition, prosecute people responsible for human rights abuses, and restore the independence of the judiciary. 

A Climate of Intimidation

At least eight journalists and ten members of the National Popular Resistance Front (FNRP)-a political group that opposed the 2009 coup and advocated  the reinstatement of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya-have been killed since President Lobo assumed power on January 27, 2010.

There has also been a significant increase in threats against journalists and opposition members during this period, according to justice officials interviewed by Human Rights Watch.

For example, José Oswaldo Martínez, a journalist with Radio Uno in San Pedro Sula, told Human Rights Watch that he had received repeated death threats in phone calls, text messages, and emails, including one in July that said: “Because you won’t stop talking about that dog Zelaya, we are going to shut your mouth with a bullet.”

On June 15, Luis Arturo Mondragón, the news director for Channel 19 in El Paraíso, was shot to death as he left the station. He had reportedly received death threats by phone.

Oslin Obando Cáceres, a 22-year-old taxi driver from Tela who was an active member of the FNRP, has been missing since June 13 and is feared dead. In the weeks before he disappeared, Obando and his family had received repeated death threats for their political activities.

In response to these and other attacks and threats, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has issued 26 “precautionary measures” (medidas cautelares) during the current administration to journalists, members of the political opposition, and their families, instructing the Honduran government to provide them with protection. However, efforts by Honduras to comply with these measures have been “few, late in coming, and in some cases nonexistent,” the commission said in a June report.

read more at – http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2010/07/29/honduras-ongoing-attacks-foster-climate-intimidation

House rejects bill to aid sick 9/11 responders

Associated Press
July 29, 2010
By ANDREW MIGA and DAVID B. CARUSO

WASHINGTON — A bill that would have provided up to $7.4 billion in aid to people sickened by World Trade Center dust fell short in the House on Thursday, raising the possibility that the bulk of compensation for the ill will come from a legal settlement hammered out in the federal courts.

The bill would have provided free health care and compensation payments to 9/11 rescue and recovery workers who fell ill after working in the trade center ruins.

It failed to win the needed two-thirds majority, 255-159. The vote was largely along party lines, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats supporting the measure.

For weeks, a judge and teams of lawyers have been urging 10,000 former ground zero workers to sign on to a court-supervised settlement that would split $713 million among people who developed respiratory problems and other illnesses after inhaling trade center ash.

The court deal shares some similarities with the aid program that the federal legislation would have created, but it involves far less money. Only the most seriously ill of the thousands of police officers, firefighters and construction workers suing New York City over their exposure to the dust would be eligible for a hefty payout.

But supporters of the deal have been saying the court settlement is the only realistic option for the sick, because Congress will never act.

“Ladies and gentlemen, you can wait and wait and wait for that legislation … it’s not passing,” Kenneth Feinberg, the former special master of the federal 9/11 victim compensation fund, told an audience of ground zero responders Monday in a meeting on Staten Island.

Democratic leaders opted to consider the House bill under a procedure that requires a two-thirds vote for approval rather than a simple majority. Such a move blocked potential GOP amendments to the measure.

A key backer of the bill, U.S. Rep. Peter King, a Long Island Republican, accused Democrats of staging a “charade.”

King said Democrats were “petrified” about casting votes as the fall elections near on controversial amendments, possibly including one that could ban the bill from covering illegal immigrants who were sickened by trade center dust.

If Democrats brought it to the floor as a regular bill, King said, it would have passed with majority support.

GOP critics branded the bill as yet another big-government “massive new entitlement program” that would have increased taxes and possibly kill jobs.

To pay the bill’s estimated $7.4 billion cost over 10 years, the legislation would have prevented foreign multinational corporations incorporated in tax haven countries from avoiding tax on income earned in the U.S.

Bill supporters said that would close a tax loophole. Republicans branded it a corporate tax increase.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the vote an “outrage.” He said it was clearly a tactic designed to stall the bill.

“This is a way to avoid having to make a tough decision,” Bloomberg said, adding that the nation owes more to “the people who worked down at 9/11 whose health has fallen apart because they did what America wanted them to do.”

John Feal, a ground zero demolition worker who has lobbied extensively for the legislation, expressed disgust.

“They pulled the rug out from beneath our feet,” Feal said. “Whatever member of Congress vote against this bill, whether Republican or Democrat, should go to jail for manslaughter.”

The bill would have provided up to $3.2 billion to cover the medical treatment of people sickened by trade center dust and an additional $4.2 billion for a new fund that would have compensated them for their suffering and lost wages.

The potential promise of a substantial payout from the federal government had caused some ground zero workers to balk at participating in the proposed legal settlement, which would resolve as many as 10,000 lawsuits against the city.

Initially, the bill would have prohibited people from participating in the new federal compensation program if they had already been compensated for their injuries through a lawsuit, but a change was made in recent days eliminating that restriction.

Nevertheless, with the House rejecting the bill and no vote scheduled on a similar Senate version, it appears almost guaranteed that there will be no new federal law by Sept. 8, the date by which ground zero workers involved in the lawsuits must decide whether to accept the settlement offer.

Under the terms of the deal, 95 percent of those workers must say yes for the court settlement to take effect.

The compensation system set up by the court would make payments ranging from $3,250 for people who aren’t sick but worry they could fall ill in the future to as much as $1.5 million to the families of people who have died. Nonsmokers disabled by severe asthma might get between $800,000 and $1 million.

read more at - http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hbFu_USPHXmnxTOR0tOnrbYrckcwD9H942U80

‘Worst Bush-era policies’ becoming the ‘new normal’: ACLU

Raw Story
July 29, 2010
By Muriel Kane

From the point of view of civil libertarians, the Obama administration has been an exercise in frustration, with every hopeful sign followed by failures to live up to its own promises.

The ACLU has just issued a report (pdf), titled “Establishing a New Normal: National Security, Civil Liberties, and Human Rights Under the Obama Administration,” which focuses on this pattern of inconsistency.

“The administration has displayed a decidedly mixed record,” explains ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romaro, “resulting, on a range of issues, in the very real danger that the Obama administration will institutionalize some of the most troublesome policies of the previous administration — in essence, creating a troubling ‘new normal.’”

As summarized in a press release announcing the report, “President Obama has made great strides in some areas, such as his auspicious first steps to categorically prohibit torture, outlaw the CIA’s use of secret overseas detention sites and release the Bush administration’s torture memos, but he has failed to eliminate some of the worst policies put in place by President Bush, such as military commissions and indefinite detention. He has also expanded the Bush administration’s ‘targeted killing’ program.”

The report is divided into seven sections covering transparency, torture and accountability, detention, targeted killing, military commissions, speech and surveillance, and watch lists. The most striking areas of the report, however, are those which focus not on torture or secret prisons but on less-publicized recent actions by the Obama administration.

The transparency section, for example, emphasizes that the program of “targeted killing” of suspected terrorists has been “shrouded in secrecy,” and that despite a FOIA request by the ACLU, “the CIA has refused even to confirm or deny whether it has records about the program.”

It also points out that rather than living up to Obama’s promise as a candidate that he would make sure whistleblowers got protection, “the administration has been prosecuting them.”

“It has charged Bradley Manning,” the report notes, “a 22-year-old Army intelligence analyst, for allegedly leaking a video showing the killing of two Reuters news staff and several other civilians by U.S. helicopter gunships in Iraq. (Reuters had spent nearly three years trying to obtain the video through FOIA; now that the video is in the public domain, it is clear that there was no basis for withholding it.)”

“We urge the administration to recommit itself to the ideals that the President himself invoked in his first days in office,” the report urges. “Our democracy cannot survive if crucial public policy decisions are made behind closed doors, implemented in secret, and never subjected to meaningful public oversight and debate. It cannot survive if the public does not know what policies have been adopted in its name.”

read more at – http://rawstory.com/rs/2010/0729/aclu-report-obama-core-liberties/