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Leaked TPP ‘Environment Chapter’ Shows ‘Corporate Agenda Wins’ January 15, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, Trade Agreements.
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Roger’s note: I have always found international trade issues and documents to be dull and boring.  Time to wake up, Roger.  The TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is NAFTA on steroids.  Consider this: when governments turn over authority to private corporations, the distinction between private and pubic disappears.  Government and corporations become indistinguishable.  This is rightly called National Socialism.  Another word for it is Nazi-ism.  You don’t need Brown Shirts, goose-stepping and a dictator with an absurd looking moustache to have genuine fascism.  A president and Congress, backed by a compliant Supreme Court, wholly sold out and owned by the private corporate world (backed by the military and Homeland Security supplied local police forces) will do.

Published on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by Common Dreams

US called main ‘outlier’ when it comes to strong protections; Leak comes as Obama tries to ram trade deal through Congress

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Confirming the suspicions and fears of environmental campaigners and concerned individuals across the globe, Wikileaks on Wednesday released a draft version of the ‘Environment Chapter’from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), exposing most of the so-called “environmental protections” as toothless policies that serve to protect corporate profit not Mother Earth.

In its review of the chapter—which covers environmental issues related to trade, including climate change, biodiversity and fishing stocks; and trade and investment in ‘environmental’ goods and services—Wikileaks described the chapter as functioning like “a public relations exercise” and saying the text is most notable “for its absence of mandated clauses or meaningful enforcement measures.”

“Today’s WikiLeaks release shows that the public sweetner in the TPP is just media sugar water,” said Wikileaks’ publisher Julian Assange in a statement. “The fabled TPP environmental chapter turns out to be a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism.”

The draft chapter, which was presented at the Salt Lake City, Utah round of negotiations that took places in November, contains language from the participating nations describing their positions on environmental protections that would be included in the final deal.

According to Jane Kelsey, a professor of environmental law at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, the leaked text of the agreement shows no balance between commercial interests and those of the environment.

“Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable… The corporate agenda wins both ways.” –Jane Kelsey, Univ. of Auckland

“Instead of a 21st century standard of protection, the leaked text shows that the obligations are weak and compliance with them is unenforceable,” she writes in apublic statement (pdf) Wednesday. “Contrast that to other chapters that subordinate the environment, natural resources and indigenous rights to commercial objectives and business interests. The corporate agenda wins both ways.”

Kelsey’s review of the draft also points out that the main outlier on environmental protections is the United States. She also notes that because the protections included in the draft fall short even of those contained in previous trade agreements backed by the US, passage of the deal will create a “particular political dilemma” for President Obama and other backers. She writes:

The text falls far below the standards it has insisted are included in all US free trade agreements since May 2007, which resulted from a deal reached between the Democrat-­‐controlled Congress and President George W Bush.

The most fundamental problem for the US is the refusal of all the other countries to agree that the chapter should be subject to the same dispute settlement mechanism as the rest of the agreement. It provides for consultation at officials and ministerial levels, leading to arbitration and agreement to a plan of action, but there are no penalties if the state does not implement the plan.

Obama is going to find this a very hard sell to domestic constituencies. The timing of the leak could hardly be worse. On 9 January 2014 a Bill seeking fast track authority was presented to the Congress. The controversial fast track process requires the Congress to accept or reject the deal as a whole and imposes a strict time limit on debate. The numbers were already stacking up against the Bill, with Democrats especially critical of the erosion of their powers and the secrecy of the negotiations, as well as the reported content. This leaked environment chapter will further erode support among Democratic members of the House of Representatives who are up for re-election later this year.

Obama is going to have to rely heavily on unfriendly Republicans.

Read Wikileaks’ full press statement here and view the complete draft version here (pdf).

The secretive TPP trade deal between the United States and 11 other Pacific rim nations that has been negotiated with the backing of corporate interests but kept secret from the general public and even most lawmakers from the participating countries.

Ilana Solomon, the director of the Sierra Club’s Responsible Trade Program, responded to the leaked draft by telling the New York Times on Wednesday that the language in the deal omits crucial protections against increased environmental destruction caused by globalized trade practices.

“It rolls back key standards set by Congress to ensure that the environment chapters are legally enforceable, in the same way the commercial parts of free-trade agreements are,” Ms. Solomon said.

Long sought by journalists, green activists, and environmental advocacy organizations the trade deal’s chapter on the environment will be hotly reviewed throughout the day. Follow reactions and updates on Twitter:

Homeless Japanese Being ‘Recruited’ To Clean Up Fukushima Disaster December 30, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Housing/Homelessness, Japan, Labor, Nuclear weapons/power.
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Investigation reveals systematic exploitation of homeless by big business and organized crime

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Shizuya Nishiyama, a 57-year-old homeless man from Hokkaido, speaks during an interview with Reuters at Sendai Station in Sendai, northern Japan December 18, 2013. (Credit: REUTERS/Issei Kato)

Private labor contractors in Japan are “recruiting” homeless individuals throughout the country, luring them to perform clean-up work in the areas near the destroyed nuclear power plant at Fukushima for less than minimum wage.

That’s the finding of a new special Reuters investigation which says that shady business operators are employing men like Seiji Sasa to “prowl” train stations and other places throughout the country targeting “homeless men” who are “willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.”

The investigation found a shady but systematic labor scheme—much of it run by organized crime but also involving some of the nation’s top construction firms—in which day laborers are exploited by contractors receiving state funds to clean up areas near the plant.

“We’re an easy target for recruiters,” said 57-year-old Shizuya Nishiyama, a homeless man recruited at a train station in the city of Sendai. “We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we’re easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven’t eaten, they offer to find us a job.”

In exchange for bringing workers to the sites, the middlemen receive a cut of their wages.

“I don’t ask questions; that’s not my job,” said Sasa, one of these so-called “middle men,” in an interview with Reuters. “I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That’s it. I don’t get involved in what happens after that.”

Reviewing police records and conducting interviews with some of the people directly involved, Reuters reveals the ongoing and perilous nature of the clean-up work at Fukushima and the ways in which society’s most vulnerable are being exploited for profit in the aftermath of one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

According to Reuters, the scheme plays out when large construction firms like Obayashi, the nation’s second biggest and major contractor at Fukushima, employs sub-contractors like Sasa:

Seiji Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station to work in the nuclear cleanup. The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a $1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say. [...]

Only a third of the money allocated for wages by Obayashi’s top contractor made it to the workers Sasa had found. The rest was skimmed by middlemen, police say. After deductions for food and lodging, that left workers with an hourly rate of about $6, just below the minimum wage equal to about $6.50 per hour in Fukushima, according to wage data provided by police. Some of the homeless men ended up in debt after fees for food and housing were deducted, police say.

Read the complete investigation here.

Are Utility Companies Out to Destroy Solar’s ‘Rooftop Revolution’? October 16, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in California, Energy, Environment.
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In California, customers who install solar systems and battery arrays are finding themselves cut off from grid

 

- Jon Queally, staff writer

In California and elsewhere, utilities see a rooftop solar revolution as fundemental threat. (Photo: shutterstock)

In the nation’s largest state, California, the major utility companies are trying to limit growth.

Of rooftop solar panels, that is.

According to reporting by Bloomberg, the state’s three largest utilities—Edison International, PG&E Corp. and Sempra Energy—are “putting up hurdles” to homeowners who have installed sun-powered energy systems, especially those with “battery backups wired to solar panels,” in order to slow the spread of what has become a threat to their dominant business model.

“The utilities clearly see rooftop solar as the next threat,” Ben Peters, a government affairs analyst at solar company Mainstream Energy Corp., told Bloomberg. “They’re trying to limit the growth.”

According to Peters, as the business news outlet reports, the dispute between those with solar arrays and the utility giants “threatens the state’s $2 billion rooftop solar industry and indicates the depth of utilities’ concerns about consumers producing their own power.  People with rooftop panels are already buying less electricity, and adding batteries takes them closer to the day they won’t need to buy from the local grid at all.”

Citing but one example, Bloomberg reports:

Matthew Sperling, a Santa Barbara, California, resident, installed eight panels and eight batteries at his home in April.

“We wanted to have an alternative in case of a blackout to keep the refrigerator running,” he said in an interview. Southern California Edison rejected his application to link the system to the grid even though city inspectors said “it was one of the nicest they’d ever seen,” he said.

“We’ve installed a $30,000 system and we can’t use it,” Sperling said.

The utilities argue that customers with solar energy-storing batteries might be rigging the system by fraudulently storing conventional energy sent in from the utility grid, storing it in the batteries, and then sending it back to the grid for credit. The solar companies say there is no proof that this is happening.

What environmentalists and solar energy advocates see is the utility companies putting barriers up to a decentralized system they will not no longer be able to control or profit from.

As Danny Kennedy, author of the book “Rooftop Revolution” and co-founder of solar company Sungevity in California, said in an interview with Alternet earlier this year:

Solar power represents a change in electricity that has a potentially disruptive impact on power in both the literal sense (meaning how we get electricity) and in the figurative sense of how we distribute wealth and power in our society. Fossil fuels have led to the concentration of power whereas solar’s potential is really to give power over to the hands of people. This shift has huge community benefits while releasing our dependency on the centralized, monopolized capital of the fossil fuel industry. So it’s revolutionary in the technological and political sense.

The tensions between decentralized forms of energy like rootop solar or small-scale wind and traditional large-scale utilities is nothing new, but as the crisis of climate change has spurred a global grassroots movement push for a complete withdrawal from the fossil fuel and nuclear paradigm that forms the basis of the current electricity grid, these tensions are growing.

But the resistance to these changes is coming strongest from those with a vested interest in the status quo. With most focus on the behavior of the fossil fuel companies themselves, the idea that utility companies will be deeply impacted by this green energy revolution is often overlooked.

Earlier this summer, David Roberts, an energy and environmental blogger at Grist.org, wrote an extensive, multi-part series on the role of utilities in the renewable energy transition, explaining why understanding the politics and economics of the utility industry (despite the grand “tedium” of the task) will be essential for the remainder of the 21st century. Roberts wrote:

There’s very little public discussion of utilities or utility regulations, especially relative to sexier topics like fracking or electric cars. That’s mainly because the subject is excruciatingly boring, a thicket of obscure institutions and processes, opaque jargon, and acronyms out the wazoo. Whether PURPA allows IOUs to customize RFPs for low-carbon QFs is actually quite important, but you, dear reader, don’t know it, because you fell asleep halfway through this sentence. Utilities are shielded by a force field of tedium.

It’s is an unfortunate state of affairs, because this is going to be the century of electricity. Everything that can be electrified will be. (This point calls for its own post, but mark my words: transportation, heat, even lots of industrial work is going to shift to electricity.) So the question of how best to manage electricity is key to both economic competitiveness and ecological sustainability.

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Spying for Economic Gain: Canada’s CSEC Targeted Brazilian Energy Firms October 7, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Brazil, Canada, Energy, Latin America.
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New documents revealed by Edward Snowden show how CSEC spied on mining and energy companies in South American country

 

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A new revelation based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that appeared on a Brazilian investigative news show on Sunday night showed that the Canadian intelligence agency, the CSEC, shared with its U.S. counterpart how it used high-tech surveillance to perform “economic espionage” on oil and gas companies in Brazil.

The internal documents, created by the CSEC and reportedly shared with the U.S. agency, shows how it tapped into computers and smartphones affiliated with Brazil’s mining and energy ministry in hopes of gaining “economic intelligence.” (Photo: PAWEL KOPCZYNSKI/REUTERS)

The internal documents, created by the CSEC and reportedly shared with the U.S. agency, shows how it tapped into computers and smartphones affiliated with Brazil’s mining and energy ministry in hopes of gaining “economic intelligence.”

The key element of the new disclosure, according to journalist Glenn Greenwald, is how the revealed program again betrays claims by the NSA and similar agencies around the world that their surveillance programs are designed solely to protect citizens from the scourge of terrorism. As he tweeted Monday:

As the CBC reports Monday:

The report said the metadata of phone calls and emails from and to the Brazilian ministry were targeted by the Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC, to map the ministry’s communications, using a software program called Olympia. It didn’t indicate whether emails were read or phone calls were listened to.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper would neither confirm nor deny the allegations when asked to respond to the report late Sunday night.

The “CSEC does not comment on its specific foreign intelligence activities or capabilities,” said Harper’s communications director Jason MacDonald.

Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao told Globo that “Canada has interests in Brazil, above all in the mining sector. I can’t say if the spying served corporate interests or other groups.”

American journalist Glenn Greenwald, based in Rio de Janeiro, worked with Globo on its report. Greenwald broke the first stories about the NSA’s global spy program focusing on Internet traffic and phone calls.

And the Globe and Mail adds:

The impact for Canada of these revelations could be [...] grave: they come at a time when Brazil has become a top destination for Canadian exports, when a stream of delegations from the oil and gas industries are making pilgrimages to Rio de Janeiro to try to get a piece of the booming offshore oil industry, and when the Canadian government is eager to burnish ties with Brasilia. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited Brazil in August, and spoke repeatedly about the country as a critical partner for Canadian business.

American lawmakers have introduced several bills that aim to rein in the U.S. National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs.

Throughout all this, Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency has kept a relatively low profile, never before emerging as the central figure in any Snowden-leaked spying program. Although it has existed since the Second World War, CSEC has rarely discussed any of its operations in public.

CSEC has a $350-million budget and 2,000 employees. By law, it has three mandates – to safeguard Canadian government communications and computers from foreign hackers, to help other federal security agencies where legally possible, and to gather “foreign intelligence.”

The federal government is building a new $1-billion headquarters for CSEC on the outskirts of Ottawa.

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Gitmo Groups Call Out Obama Over Political Cowardice April 30, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Criminal Justice, Health, Human Rights, Torture.
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Roger’s note: On the first day of his presidency, Obama promised to close Guantánamo within a year.  That was over five years ago.  Guantánamo is a national disgrace and only one example of the president’s abominable lack of ethics, courage, and  of his broken promises.

‘Congress has very little to do with it’: Following press conference, groups say Obama has only himself to blame for Guantanamo

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

U.S. President Barack Obama stated at a press conference on Tuesday that he would like to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison but said that Congress was to blame for blockading any such action.

However, rights groups are calling Obama’s bluff, saying he actually does have the power to transfer detainees and put an end to the indefinite detention, solitary confinement, and torture inherent within the military prison—without the approval of Congress—and that he simply lacks the political courage to do so.

Obama stated Tuesday:

Now Congress determined that they would not let us close it and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country. . . . And so I’m going to — as I’ve said before, we’re — examine every option that we have administratively to try to deal with this issue. But ultimately, we’re also going to need some help from Congress.

In response, lawyers for Guantanamo detainees at the Center for Constitutional Rights stated, “We praise the president for re-affirming his commitment to closing the base but take issue with the impression he strives to give that it is largely up to Congress.”

Rather than waiting for Congress to make a move on Guantanamo, CCR reports Tuesday that Obama has the autonomy to take a number of actions:

  • Congress is certainly responsible for imposing unprecedented restrictions on detainee transfers, but President Obama still has the power to transfer men right now. He should use the certification/waiver process created by Congress to transfer detainees, starting with the 86 men who have been cleared for release, including our client Djamel Ameziane.
  • Congress may have tied one hand behind his back, but he has tied the other: he should lift his self-imposed moratorium on transfers to Yemen regardless of a detainee’s status. It’s collective punishment based on citizenship, and needs to be reevaluated now.
  • President Obama should appoint a senior government official to shepherd the process of closure, and should give that person sufficient authority to resolve inter-agency disputes.
  • The President must demonstrate immediate, tangible progress toward the closure of Guantanamo or the men who are on hunger strike will die, and he will be ultimately responsible for their deaths.

Likewise, the ACLU affirmed Tuesday that Obama holds certain powers to release at least half of the Guantanamo detainees:

There are two things the president should do. One is to appoint a senior point person so that the administration’s Guantánamo closure policy is directed by the White House and not by Pentagon bureaucrats. The president can also order the secretary of defense to start certifying for transfer detainees who have been cleared, which is more than half the Guantánamo population.

Carlos Warner, an attorney representing 11 Guantanamo prisoners, said today:

I applaud President Obama’s remarks — he hasn’t mentioned Guantanamo in years — but the fact is that Congress has very little to do with it. NDAA as written allows the President to transfer individuals if it’s in the national security of the United States. The President’s statement made clear that Guantanamo negatively impacts our national security. The question is not whether the administration has the authority to transfer innocent men, but whether it has the political courage to do so.

And writing at the Lawfare Tuesday, Benjamin Wittes adds that Obama’s comments on Tuesday are a direct contradiction of his own self imposed policies. Wittes states:

The President’s comments are bewildering because his own policies give rise to the vast majority of the concerns about which he so earnestly delivered himself in these remarks.

Remember that Obama himself has imposed a moratorium on repatriating people to Yemen. And Obama himself has insisted that nearly 50 detainees cannot either be tried or transferred.

‘Torture Reinforcements’ Not ‘Medical Personnel’ Arrive to Combat Gitmo Hunger Strike

US Military Calls in ‘Force-Feeding Teams’ as Guantanamo Hunger Strike Continues

- Jon Queally, staff writer

A US military guard carries shackles at the US detention center in Guantánamo Bay. (Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images)

The US military has confirmed that at least 40 “medical personnel” have arrived at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in order to expand a force-feeding operation designed to counter an ongoing hunger strike by more than 100 prisoners protesting their indefinite detention and ill treatment.

But because the procedure of “force-feeding” is widely held as a form of torture, critics of the practice may well view the medical teams as nothing more than ‘torture reinforcements’ as the number of those approved for the painful process continues to grow and their conditions deteriorate.

Military authorities repeatedly claim that force-feedings are somehow necessary, but experts are unequivocal when they declare that the procedure is torture.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission considers the practice of force-feeding—in which detainees are strapped to a restraining chair, have tubes pushed up their nostrils and liquids pumped down their throats—a clear form of torture. In addition, the World Medical Association prohibits its physicians from participating in force-feeding and the American Medical Association has just sent a letter to the Pentagon calling the practice an affront to accepted medical ethics.

One detainee, speaking recently through his lawyer David Remes, described the process by saying it felt a “razor blade [going] down through your nose and into your throat.”

In an interview with the Guardian, Remes discussed the treatment of those at Guantanamo as he pushed back against the US military’s claims that it is safeguarding the prisoners by torturing them. “It’s like the way you would treat an animal,” he said. Watch:

Despite testimony like this and the many objections by human rights advocates, reports indicate that at least 21 men have been approved for force feeding at the US prison.

As The Guardian reports:

Authorities said that the “influx” of medical reinforcements had been weeks in the planning. But the news will fuel speculation that the condition of hunger-striking prisoners at Guantánamo Bay is deteriorating. Shaker Aamer, the last British resident being kept at the centre, told his lawyer earlier this month that authorities will soon see fatalities as a result of the current action.

“I cannot give you numbers and names, but people are dying here,” said Aamer, who is refusing food.

The action is a protest against conditions at the centre, as well as the indefinite nature of the remaining prisoners’ confinement. Aamer has been cleared for release twice, but is still behind bars after 11 years. He has never been charged or faced trial but the US refuses to allow him to return to the UK, despite official protests by the British government.

Late last week, president of the American Medical Association, Dr. Jeremy Lazarus, sent a letter to US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in order to remind the Pentagon that the AMA’s long-held view is that force feeding is both an unethical and inhumane practic practice.

As Reuters report:

[The AMA letter] urged the defense secretary “to address any situation in which a physician may be asked to violate the ethical standards of his or her profession.”

Hagel had just returned from a trip to the Middle East and it was unclear whether he had seen the letter, said Pentagon spokesman Army Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale.

Asked if military doctors had raised ethical concerns about being asked to perform force-feedings, Breasseale said, “I can tell you there have been no organized efforts, but I cannot speak for individual physicians.

Vince Warren, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights which represents many of the detainees, welcomed the AMA’s letter.

“In reaffirming its long-standing opposition to force feeding Guantanamo prisoners, the country’s most prominent medical association has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Obama administration’s wholly inadequate response to the hunger strik,” Warren said. “The administration cannot force feed its way out of this growing medical emergency.”

He added, “The only true solution is to resume transfers of prisoners and close Guantanamo.”

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‘Time for a Reckoning’: UN Investigator says US/UK Must Account for Torture, Human Rights Violation March 5, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Human Rights, Torture, Uncategorized, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: “Under Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Department of Justice would not prosecute any official who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance given by its Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush era on interrogation.”  The mind boggles at this statement, which was the classic Nazi defense  (not to mention the classic “Nixon Defense:” if the president does it, it is legal).  It is as if Nuremberg never happened.  
Published on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 by Common Dreams

‘Words are not enough. Platitudinous repetition of statements affirming opposition to torture ring hollow,’ says Ben Emmerson’

- Jon Queally, staff writer

If the US and UK governments truly want to rebuke the role that kidnapping, torture and prolonged detention without trial played—and in some cases continues to play—in their declared “war against terrorism” than they must go beyond words and release the still disclosed internal reports that document such abuses.

Ben Emmerson: failure to release intelligence reports shows seeming unwillingness by UK and US to face up to international crimes. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

That’s the argument of Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, who spoke out on Monday against the secrecy and denial that persists within both governments.

Perpetrators and architects of such programs should be held accountable and face justice, he declared in both an official report and in a speech delivered Monday.

“Despite this clear repudiation of the unlawful actions carried out by the Bush-era CIA, many of the facts remain classified, and no public official has so far been brought to justice in the United States,” Emmerson writes in the report written for the the U.N. Human Rights Council, which he will present Tuesday.

Prefacing the report in Geneva on Monday, Emmerson criticized “a policy of de facto immunity for public officials who engaged in acts of torture, rendition and secret detention, and their superiors and political masters who authorized these acts.”

Citing the hypocrisy of such secrecy and the damage done to the reputation of both countries abroad, Emmerson continued:

“Words are not enough. Platitudinous repetition of statements affirming opposition to torture ring hollow to many in those parts of the Middle East and North Africa that have undergone, or are undergoing, major upheaval, since they have first-hand experience of living under repressive regimes that used torture in private whilst making similar statements in public.”

“The scepticism of these communities can only be reinforced if western governments continue to demonstrate resolute indifference to the crimes committed by their predecessor administrations.”

Shortly before the speech in Geneva, Emmerson told the Guardian it was time for “a reckoning with the past”. He added:

“In South America it took up to 30 years before the officials responsible for crimes like these were held fully accountable. With the conspiracy organised by ther Bush-era CIA it has taken a decade, but the campaign for securing the right to truth has now reached a critical point.

“The British and American governments are sitting on reports that reveal the extent of the involvement of former governments in these crimes. If William Hague is serious about pursuing a policy of ethical counter-terrorism, as he says he is, then the first thing the British government needs to do is to release the interim report of the Gibson Inquiry immediately.”

And Reuters adds:

Emmerson, an international lawyer from Britain, has served since August 2011 in the independent post set up by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2005 to probe human rights violations committed during counter-terrorism operations worldwide.

The “war on terror” waged by Bush after al Qaeda attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 led to “gross or systematic” violations involving secret prisons for Islamic militant suspects, clandestine transfers and torture, Emmerson said.

Under Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Department of Justice would not prosecute any official who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance given by its Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush era on interrogation.

But Emmerson said that using a “superior orders defense” and invoking secrecy on national security grounds was “perpetuating impunity for the public officials implicated in these crimes”.

With Little More Than a Note, Obama Deploys US Troops To Niger February 22, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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Roger’s Note: Good thing that war-monger Romney wasn’t elected, no?  Unless my sense of geography fails me, Niger borders upon Nigeria, which is African for OIL.  Someone should do an analysis comparing the gallons of oil extracted with the gallons of blood spilled.
Published on Friday, February 22, 2013 by Common Dreams

West African nation that will host fleet of US drones will also have armed US soldiers with “boots on the ground”

- Jon Queally, staff writer

With little more than a note to Congress, President Obama announced Friday morning that he has ordered the deployment of approximately 100 armed US soldiers to the west African country of Niger.

President Obama has order US soldiers to the west African nation of Niger. (AP)

According to the Associated Press, Obama’s letter stated that the mission would be to conduct “intelligence sharing” with French troops stationed in the neighboring country of Mali who have joined that country’s army in a fight with Toureg fighters in the north.

As AP notes:

The U.S. and Niger signed an agreement last month spelling out legal protections and obligations of Americans who might operate from the African nation. But U.S. officials declined at the time to discuss specific plans for a military presence in Niger.

The announcement of “boots on the ground” in Niger comes just weeks after reports surfaced that the US was in negotiations to establish an airbase in the country so that a portion of its drone fleet could operate in the region.

Events in Mali that led to the current violence followed on the US/NATO intervention in Libya in 2011. The cumulative effect, however, has been a growing chorus of western officials who say that west Africa is now the new front on the “war on terror” and the increased military presence, from Libya, then Mali, and now Niger, suggests that the buildup in the region is just beginning.

In the era of executive authority—almost entirely enabled by the annually renewed Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted after the events of 9/11—the question remains, at what point will Congress reassert its right to control declarations of war and at what point will the US public begin to question a “war on terror” that can deploy US soldiers in a foreign nation with the quick delivery of a simple presidential note?

US Senator: I Support Drone Program That Has Killed 4,700 “Innocent People” February 21, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, War, War on Terror.
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Roger’s note: Let’s say, if you will excuse the expression, conservatively, that for each of the 4700 murdered, there will be 5 family and friends so outraged as to become serious life long enemies of the United States: that makes 23,500 converts to Al Qaeda.  Good work BushObama!
Published on Thursday, February 21, 2013 by Common Dreams

Republican from South Carolina becomes first elected official to impart government’s estimate of civilians killed by US drones abroad

- Jon Queally, staff writer

Becoming the first elected government official to publicly state an estimated number of “innocent people” killed in US drone attacks overseas, Sen. Lindsey Graham told a local crowd in his home state of South Carolina that “We’ve killed 4,700.”

“Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war,” said Sen Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

Speaking to a group of Rotarians at a forum in Easley, South Carolina, Graham responded to a question about drones by saying, “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda.”

His remarks, reported by the local Easley Patch, included a defense of the use of drones despite their propensity to kill innocent bystanders, including women and children.

“I didn’t want him to have a trial,” Graham stated, refering to a US citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki, who was assassinated in Yemen by a missile from a US drone in 2011.

“We’re not fighting a crime, we’re fighting a war,” Graham said. “I support the president’s ability to make a determination as to who an enemy combatant is. It’s never been done by judges before. I support the drone program.”

Graham’s remarks have since been picked up by national and international media due to the fact that he appears to be the first high-ranking US government official to put an exact number of the number civilians killed by the US practice.

As Al-Jazeera reports:

Several organizations have tried to calculate how many militants and civilians may have been killed in drone strikes since 2004 but have arrived at a wide range of numbers.

The figure cited by Graham matches the high end of a tally by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism. It says the number killed in drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is between 3,072 and 4,756.

The Washington-based New America Foundation says there have been 350 US drone strikes since 2004, most of them during Barack Obama’s presidency. And the foundation estimates the death toll at between 1,963 and 3,293, with 261 to 305 civilians killed.

US intelligence agencies and the White House have refused to divulge details about the strikes, which are officially termed classified, but officials have suggested that few if any civilians have been killed inadvertently.

The comments by Graham set off speculation about whether or not the senator mistakenly cited official government estimates, and human rights advocates and civil liberty groups would be pleased to discover that such numbers actually exist given the Obama administration’s refusal to release any details about the program which was initiated under President Bush but escalated over the course of the current president.

Micah Zenko, credited by many for breaking the story of Graham’s comment at his CFR blog, said it’s notable that Graham’s publicly stated estimate “nearly matches” the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s.

“Either Graham is a big fan of TBIJ’s work,” wrote Zenko, “or perhaps he inadvertently revealed the U.S. government’s body count for nonbattlefield targeted killings.”

And Anti-War‘s John Glaser adds:

It should be noted also that TBIJ, despite their rigorous methodology, was for a long time shunned by a mainstream media that refused to cite their casualty estimates, simply because it recorded the highest ones available. Newspapers and TV typically used the middle-of-the-road estimate, which was New America Foundation. Graham – with his seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee – is almost certainly privy to some secret government numbers on drone war casualties. The fact that he might of let it slip here – and the fact that it’s way higher than virtually anybody in the mainstream reports – should be something of a lesson, I think.

Graham also noted in his comments that in addition to his support for the drone war overseas, he supported further use of the technology within the US.

“I don’t want to arm them, but we need drones along the border so we can really control illegal immigration,” Graham told his constituents.

 

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Gun Lobby Speaks: We Need More Guns, Especially in Schools December 19, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Gun Control/Violence.
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1 comment so far
Published on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 by Common Dreams

Gun Lobby Speaks: We Need More Guns, Especially in Schools

The NRA, its affiliates and the lawmakers it supports did not stay silent for too long. Now, the familiar arguments and strategies to defang a national push for stronger gun regulations

  – Jon Queally, staff writer

As a nation mourns and as funerals continue for the child victims of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last week, gun industry lobbyists and their political affiliates are emerging from ‘the rock they’ve been hiding under‘ since Friday to deliver their solution to the country’s ongoing gun violence epidemic.

The Newtown school shootings have sparked renewed calls for gun control. (Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA)

Their message, in short: more guns. Especially in schools.

On Tuesday, a bill was introduced in the South Carolina legislature that would permit school teachers to carry loaded firearms in their classrooms.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Phillip Lowe (R-Florence), would demand that a teacher wanting to have a gun in the classroom would have to meet a set of criteria, but would only allow school officials to deny the request “upon a finding of just cause.”

According to the Charlotte Observer, one fellow lawmaker called the bill “idiotic” but the House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. Greg Delleney (R-Chester), said he would give the bill a hearing.

Governor of Virginia, Republican Bob McDonnell, also joined the ‘more guns in schools’ chorus by telling constinuents in his state that he would consider such a law for his state.

“I think there should at least be a discussion of that,” McDonnell said during a public Q&A Tuesday. “If people were armed, not just a police officer, but other school officials who were trained and chose to have a weapon, certainly there would be an opportunity to stop aggressors trying to come into the school, so I think that’s a reasonable discussion that ought to be had.”

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association broke its media silence late Tuesday evening and issued a statement promising “to offer meaningful contributions” to a national dialogue and make efforts to “make sure this never happens again.”

The NRA’s statement was met with immediate scorn by many.

As a post by New York Magazine‘s Joe Coscarelli points out, “It took the NRA four days to come up with ‘Shocked, Saddened, and Heartbroken’”?

Commenting on the group’s announcement for a “major” conference on Friday to expand on what their “contributions” to solving the nation’s culture of violence and mass murder would be, Coscarelli commented derisively: “That should be something.”

And, as gun policy expert Kristin Goss told CNN, the NRA’s strategy is a signature part of the organization’s playbook after an incident such as the massacre at Sandy Hook.

“The typical pattern is something horrific happens. There is a national outcry, mourning. People call for a national conversation on gun control. Gun rights proponents lay low,” Goss said. “They’re used to seeing this cycle express condolences and hope the attention will shift to a new issue.”

CNN adds:

When the NRA does speak in detail, it will do so forcefully and with the type of political sway and heft the pro-gun lobby has carefully amassed over dozens of election cycles, experts say.

“When the emotions come down, I’m sure you’ll hear the NRA address this issue. It’ll be in January when legislation is introduced. They’ll testify at hearings. You’ll hear the same kind of arguments that I’d come up with,” said Richard Feldman, who served as regional political director for the NRA during its rise to power in the 1980s and is president of a gun rights group, the Independent Firearm Owners Association.

When that happens, the group will wield the full power of its millions of members and leverage the $17 million it spent in federal races this year helping elect candidates who it considers supporters of the NRA’s mission, said policy experts.

For his part, Larry Pratt, executive director for Gun Owners of America, appeared on Piers Morgan’s evening show to hash out the familiar arguments of the pro-gun lobby, including arming teachers to make schools “more safe”:

 Comments   

 

  • Grant Schreiber

    Clearly, anyone who has guns for “protection” is a cringing sissy afraid of every shadow.  The entire carrying of a concealed weapon is for people who are too spooked to be anywhere outside of their homes.  Only a wimp needs a gun to feel safe.  And that’s the message we need to hammer out:  Guns are for weaklings.  Real Americans don’t live in fear of their neighbors.

  • John A Randolph

    Ban the NRA’s (and all corporate interest groups’) lobbying powers.

    Get the gun powder out of government!

  • WJM51

    Pinheaded morons. Guns will make everything just WONDERFUL for everyone, won’t they? And so MORE guns will just make sure that no one is ever killed again by one, right?

    It’s time to get over this nonsense. Guns are not the answer, and NO ONE needs a freaking assault weapon in a civilized society. Their ONLY purpose is to kill as many as possible in as short a time as possible. NO ONE needs that in society, and you can’t have a society if those are allowed. We are living proof of that right now.

    We’ve been letting our politicians and our “leaders” play divide and conquer on us for a generation, now, and this is the end result. We let them arm us like we are still the wild west (where most guns were actually used to beat someone with, bullets were expensive), and then wonder why people shoot each other rather than discuss things. Our government is totally dysfunctional, and they expect us NOT to see that. Our KIDS see that. Seems the only ones who don’t are the politicians and pundits.

    To hell with the NRA. Wayne LaPierre is a 100% insane nut case for an industry that is destroying this country, and we are foolish enough to let them. We have more than enough guns, we could shut down the whole industry and no one would notice for decades, there are more than enough used ones around. I’m all for melting them ALL down, personally, but that’s just me.

  • rudyspeaks

    In the last several days a number of posts have appeared citing instances of people using guns to protect themselves against crime. Frankly, some seem of questionable authenticity, but, some are probably true. Based on these accounts several pro-gun spokespeople have suggested bluntly that arming more citizens is the answer to gun violence. Pay attention, though, to the slew of shootings that no one defends as authentic “protection”, e.g. (just recently) 3 shot/1 dead in an Alabama hospital, 5 dead in Colorado, a guy shot in a pizza shop over an overdue pizza, a roommate dispute with 1 dead in Fla., a killing over loud music in N.C. There is no question that this is the result (it is, after all, what happened, y’kinow, reality) of the present level of an armed citizenry. And, to get the “benefits’ we’re promised will come of universal carry permits, even MORE people would have to be armed, meaning more of these lethal escalations. Does this strike anyone as a reasonable, or even sane, solution?

  • Gubdeb

    “Save Our Children”? Really? Save Our Children? How many countless children have been sent or are being sent off today to die for these sons-of-bitches in Washington? And for nothing. The citizenry needs the same firepower as these goons in D.C. have. Some will argue the founders didn’t know the firepower guns of the future would have, true, but neither did they know how absolutely evil, sinister, and all powerful our government could become. Again, never cared for guns or savored over them. But I think it may be time to own one now.

    Btw, I happen to see the Piers Morgan interview last night. No fan of either guy, but Morgan was reduced to calling his guest “stupid”. Really? Stupid? That’s the best

Clearly, anyone who has guns for “protection” is a cringing sissy afraid of every shadow.  The entire carrying of a concealed weapon is for people who are too spooked to be anywhere outside of their homes.  Only a wimp needs a gun to feel safe.  And that’s the message we need to hammer out:  Guns are for weaklings.  Real Americans don’t live in fear of their neighbors.
  • Avatar
    John A Randolphan hour ago

    Ban the NRA’s (and all corporate interest groups’) lobbying powers.

    Get the gun powder out of government!

  • Pinheaded morons. Guns will make everything just WONDERFUL for everyone, won’t they? And so MORE guns will just make sure that no one is ever killed again by one, right?

    It’s time to get over this nonsense. Guns are not the answer, and NO ONE needs a freaking assault weapon in a civilized society. Their ONLY purpose is to kill as many as possible in as short a time as possible. NO ONE needs that in society, and you can’t have a society if those are allowed. We are living proof of that right now.

    We’ve been letting our politicians and our “leaders” play divide and conquer on us for a generation, now, and this is the end result. We let them arm us like we are still the wild west (where most guns were actually used to beat someone with, bullets were expensive), and then wonder why people shoot each other rather than discuss things. Our government is totally dysfunctional, and they expect us NOT to see that. Our KIDS see that. Seems the only ones who don’t are the politicians and pundits.

    To hell with the NRA. Wayne LaPierre is a 100% insane nut case for an industry that is destroying this country, and we are foolish enough to let them. We have more than enough guns, we could shut down the whole industry and no one would notice for decades, there are more than enough used ones around. I’m all for melting them ALL down, personally, but that’s just me.

  • In the last several days a number of posts have appeared citing instances of people using guns to protect themselves against crime. Frankly, some seem of questionable authenticity, but, some are probably true. Based on these accounts several pro-gun spokespeople have suggested bluntly that arming more citizens is the answer to gun violence. Pay attention, though, to the slew of shootings that no one defends as authentic “protection”, e.g. (just recently) 3 shot/1 dead in an Alabama hospital, 5 dead in Colorado, a guy shot in a pizza shop over an overdue pizza, a roommate dispute with 1 dead in Fla., a killing over loud music in N.C. There is no question that this is the result (it is, after all, what happened, y’kinow, reality) of the present level of an armed citizenry. And, to get the “benefits’ we’re promised will come of universal carry permits, even MORE people would have to be armed, meaning more of these lethal escalations. Does this strike anyone as a reasonable, or even sane, solution?

      • Save Our Children”? Really? Save Our Children? How many countless children have been sent or are being sent off today to die for these sons-of-bitches in Washington? And for nothing. The citizenry needs the same firepower as these goons in D.C. have. Some will argue the founders didn’t know the firepower guns of the future would have, true, but neither did they know how absolutely evil, sinister, and all powerful our government could become. Again, never cared for guns or savored over them. But I think it may be time to own one now.

    Btw, I happen to see the Piers Morgan interview last night. No fan of either guy, but Morgan was reduced to calling his guest “stupid”. Really? Stupid? That’s the best the man could do?

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