Sunday, December 19, 2010

Lockdown Ends in Georgia Prison Strike

In Georgia, thousands of prisoners taking part in a strike against poor living and working conditions in at least seven prisons reportedly came out of their cells on Thursday after a week-long action. The nonviolent protest was organized through a network of banned cell phones. The prisoners are calling for better medical care and nutrition, more educational opportunities, just parole decisions, an end to cruel and unusual punishments, better access to their families, and payment for the work they do in the prisons. There have been reports some strike leaders have temporarily called off the strike to negotiate with prison officials while other prisoners are continuing their strike.

What's Going on In Afghanistan: What are the "success" indicators of war?

Red Cross Warns of Deteriorating Conditions in Afghanistan

While the Obama administration touted the Afghan war in Washington, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a rare public statement warning of a dire situation on the ground. The Red Cross says conditions for delivering aid in Afghanistan are at their lowest point in the 30 years since the group first entered the country under Soviet occupation. Red Cross spokesperson Bijan Farnoudi said he expects the suffering of Afghan civilians to increase next year.
Bijan Farnoudi: "Our assessment is that we’re worried. We’re worried about more displacement, we’re worried about more civilian casualties, we’re worried about more difficulties with people to access healthcare, and we’re worried about more armed groups being around. If you say that we’re expecting more of the same for 2011, that would be putting it mildly.

War Review Claims U.S. Progress in Afghanistan

The new guidelines come as President Obama unveiled a military strategy review claiming the United States is achieving its main war aims in Afghanistan.
President Obama: "I want to be clear: this continues to be a very difficult endeavor, but I can report that, thanks to the extraordinary service of our troops and civilians on the ground, we are on track to achieve our goals. It’s important to remember why we remain in Afghanistan. It was Afghanistan where al-Qaeda plotted the 9/11 attacks that murdered 3,000 innocent people. It is the tribal regions along the Afghan-Pakistan border from which terrorists have launched more attacks against our homeland and our allies. And if an even wider insurgency were to engulf Afghanistan, that would give al-Qaeda even more space to plan these attacks."
Appearing with Obama, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates addressed this week’s disclosure that the most recent National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan differ sharply from the Pentagon’s conclusions. The estimates conclude the United States cannot achieve its goals in Afghanistan unless Pakistan wipes out militants on its side of the border and ends covert support for the Afghan Taliban.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: "Pakistan has committed over 140,000 troops to operations in extremist safe havens along the border in coordination with Afghan and coalition forces on the Afghan side. Though we believe the Pakistanis can and must do more to shut down the flow of insurgents across the border, it is important to remember that these kinds of military operations in the tribal areas would have been considered unthinkable just two years ago." 

Dozens Arrested at Veteran-Led Antiwar Protest (daniel Ellsberg Arrested)

As the Afghan war review was released, an estimated 135 people were arrested outside the White House in an antiwar protest led by the group Veterans for Peace. The protesters were detained after chaining themselves to the White House fence. Iraq War veteran Mike Prysner urged continued civil disobedience to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mike Prysner: "They’re not going to end the wars. And they’re not going to do it, because it’s not our government. It’s their government. It’s the government of the rich. It’s the government of Wall Street, of the oil giants, of the defense contractors. It’s their government. And the only language that they understand is shutting down business as usual. And that’s what we’re doing here today, and we’re going to continue to do until these wars are over. We’re going to fight until there’s not one more bomb dropped, not one more bullet fired, not one more soldier coming home in a wheelchair, not one more family slaughtered, not one more day of U.S. imperialism."
Among those arrested were the Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and FBI whistleblower Colleen Rowley.

Red Cross Warns of Deteriorating Condition

Congress Sends Tax Package to Obama; Estate Tax Kept at Lower Rate

Congress has sent President Obama a controversial bipartisan tax deal following its approval in the House. Just before midnight, the House voted to 277 to 148 to extend the Bush-era tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and reduce the estate tax in return for a 13-month extension of jobless benefits and a handful of tax credits for low- and moderate-income Americans. At least a quarter of the tax savings under the deal will go to the wealthiest one percent of the population. The only group that will see its taxes increase are the nation’s lowest-paid workers. A group of House Democrats failed in their attempt to block a provision that reduces the estate tax; their proposal to increase the estate tax was defeated in a stand-alone vote of 233 to 194.

House Judiciary Chair Voices Concern on WikiLeaks Attacks

As Assange was freed, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the constitutional issues raised by WikiLeaks’ release of classified government documents. House Judiciary chair John Conyers said he is worried by the attacks on Assange and his group.

Rep. John Conyers: "There is no doubt that WikiLeaks is in an unpopular position right now. Many feel their publication was offensive. But unpopularity is not a crime, and publishing offensive information isn’t either. And the repeated calls from members of Congress, the government, journalists and other experts crying out for criminal prosecutions or other extreme measures cause me some consternation."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Is WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange a Hero? Glenn Greenwald Debates Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News

What do we learn in school, State control and Education institution (wikileaks)

I’m going to interrupt, because I want to get to some memos that we’ve been getting from around the country that are very important and interesting. University students are being warned about WikiLeaks. An email from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, that we read in headlines, reads—I want to do it again—quote, 

"Hi students, we received a call today from a SIPA alumnus who is working at the State Department. He asked us to pass along the following information to anyone who will be applying for jobs in the federal government, since all would require a background investigation and in some instances a security clearance".

"The documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. He recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.
"Regards, Office of Career Services."

That’s the email to Columbia University students at the School of International and Public Affairs.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"Thousands from Cancún"–Mass March Planned by Via Campesina Against U.N. Climate Talks

Lula Backs WikiLeaks Release

WikiLeaks supporters meanwhile are mobilizing worldwide. Here in New York, demonstrators gathered outside the U.S. Federal Building on Thursday to denounce the targeting of WikiLeaks. Hundreds of people are taking part in rallies today in Julian Assange’s native Australia to call on the Australian government to support Assange. In Brazil, outgoing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva emerged as one of WikiLeaks’ highest-profile supporters to date with a message of solidarity.

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: "Blame who wrote the nonsense; otherwise, it would not have been such a scandal. So, to WikiLeaks, I express my solidarity regarding the release of these cables, and I protest against the restrictions to freedom of speech."

Way to go US DEMS--- thanks (ass holes)

House Dems Reject Obama-GOP Tax Deal

The Senate appears headed toward approval of President Obama’s controversial fiscal deal with Republicans amidst an uproar by Democratic members of the House. This week, Obama agreed to extend the Bush-era tax cut for the wealthiest Americans and reduce the estate tax in return for a 13-month extension of jobless benefits and a handful of tax credits for low- and moderate-income Americans. According to the New York Times, at least a quarter of the tax savings under the deal will go to the wealthiest one percent of the population. The only group that will see its taxes increase are the nation’s lowest-paid workers. The Senate has scheduled a test vote on Monday after opening debate on the measure last night. Meanwhile in the House, the Democratic caucus passed a non-binding measure denouncing the tax deal. At the White House, President Obama urged lawmakers to drop their opposition.
President Obama: "The average American family will start 2011 knowing that there will be more money to pay the bills each month, more money to pay for tuition, more money to raise their children. But if this framework fails, the reverse is true. Americans would see it in smaller paychecks that would have the effect of fewer jobs. So as we meet here today to talk about one important facet of our economic strategy for the future, I urge members of Congress to move forward on this essential priority."

Senate GOP Blocks "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" Repeal, DREAM Act, 9/11 Settlement

The U.S. Senate has failed to advance a measure that would repeal the military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian servicemembers known as "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell." On Thursday, the Senate fell three votes short of advancing a military spending bill with a repeal provision attached. The vote raises the prospect that the ban will not be repealed before Republicans take over the House and weaken the Democrats’ Senate majority next month. In another vote, Republicans also blocked a measure to advance the DREAM Act, a provision that would grant undocumented young people a chance at citizenship. Republicans also blocked a measure to provide up to $7.4 billion to workers sickened during the cleanup at the World Trade Center following the 9/11 attacks. The measure passed the House earlier this year.

Cables: Pfizer Targeted Nigerian Attorney General in Drug Case

The latest diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks show the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer hired investigators to find evidence of corruption against the Nigerian attorney general to pressure him to drop legal action over fraudulent drug tests on Nigerian children. In 1996, 11 children died in a drug test of Pfizer’s antibiotic drug Trovan. A lawsuit brought by the Nigerian government said children also suffered injuries including deafness, muteness, paralysis, brain damage, loss of sight, slurred speech. The cable also reports Pfizer’s investigators passed information to the Nigerian media in an effort to tarnish the attorney general’s reputation. Pfizer reached a tentative settlement in the case last year of around $75 million.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Is the US loosing it's influence?

(CNN) -- Opening The New York Times on Friday morning, I blinked. The headline on its lead story, spread over two columns, blared out, "Obama's Economic View Is Rejected on World Stage."
Whether or not you like this president, the headline should make every American wince. Yes, other presidents have experienced setbacks, but it has been a long time since any of them has been so publicly rebuffed in a gathering of the world's major nations. Indeed, since World War II, our presidents have dominated the world's economic decision-making.

Attorney & Blogger Glenn Greenwald on the Arrest of Julian Assange and the U.S. "War on Whistle-blowers"

"Well, I just want to underscore how alarming everything is that you just described, both in that report and in your earlier one, which is, whatever you think of WikiLeaks, they’ve never been charged with a crime, let alone indicted or convicted. And yet, look at what has happened to them. They’ve been essentially removed from the internet, not just through a denial of service attacks that are very sophisticated, but through political pressure applied to numerous countries. Their funds have been frozen, including funds donated by people around the world for his—for Julian Assange’s defense fund and for WikiLeaks’s defense fund. They’ve had their access to all kinds of accounts cut off. Leading politicians and media figures have called for their assassination, their murder, to be labeled a terrorist organization. What’s really going on here is a war over control of the internet and whether or not the internet can actually serve what a lot of people hoped its ultimate purpose was, which was to allow citizens to band together and democratize the checks on the world’s most powerful factions. That’s what this really is about. It’s why you see Western government, totally lawlessly, waging what can only be described as a war on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange outside the bounds of any constraints, because that’s what really is at stake here. If they want to prosecute them, they should go to court and do it through legal means. But this extralegal persecution ought to be very alarming to every citizen in every one of these countries, because it essentially is pure authoritarianism and is designed to prevent the internet from being used as its ultimate promise, which is providing a check on unconstrained political power."   - Glenn Greenwald

Friday, December 10, 2010

Deficits: Real Issue, Phony Debates

Deficits have now risen, yet again, to headline status. Conservatives inside and to the right of the Republican Party frame the national debates by attacking deficits. They want to reduce them by cutting government spending. Liberals respond, as usual, by insisting that overcoming the crisis requires big government spending (“stimulus”) and hence big deficits. Most Americans watch the politicians' conflicts with mixtures of confusion, disinterest, and disdain. Yet deficits pose a real issue for everyone, one that the debates among politicians and their economist advisors miss, ignore, or hide.

When the federal government raises less in taxes and other revenues than it spends, it must borrow the difference. Such annual borrowing is each year's deficit. The U.S. Treasury borrows that money by selling bonds, federal IOUs, to the lenders. The accumulation of annual deficits comprises the national debt, the total of outstanding U.S. treasury bonds. So the first and simplest questions about deficits are (1) why does the federal government choose to borrow rather than to raise taxes? and (2) why does it borrow rather than cut its expenditures? The twin answers are profoundly political. Elected officials are afraid to raise taxes on business and the rich because their profits and great personal wealth can then finance the defeat of officials who do that. Cutting government spending that benefits business and the rich is avoided for the same reason. As the tax burden shifted increasingly onto middle- and lower-income people in recent decades, elected officials have faced rising tax revolts coupled with demands for more government services and supports.

Obama Authorizes Settlements for Native Americans, Black Farmers

And President Obama has signed into law a pair of multi-billion-dollar settlements resolving longstanding lawsuits over the mismanagement of Native American land trusts and discrimination against African-American farmers. Under the Cobell settlement, $3.4 billion will be paid out to more than 300,000 Native Americans to settle claims over unpaid royalties on seized lands. African-American farmers will receive just more than $1.1 billion under the Pigford II settlement for having been systemically denied aid and loans by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Baltimore Resident Arrested for Attempt at Military Recruitment Center

 In Maryland, a 21-year-old Baltimore resident has been arrested on charges of trying to blow up a military recruiting station in a bomb plot orchestrated in an FBI sting. Antonio Martinez was jailed Wednesday after allegedly trying to detonate a fake bomb supplied to him by undercover FBI agents. A recent convert to Islam, Martinez was targeted for the sting after the FBI was alerted to postings on his Facebook page. His arrest is the latest in a series of cases in which the role of government agents has sparked allegations of entrapment.

US accused of rigging Hatian elections.

2 Killed in Haiti Election Protests

Protests have erupted across Haiti over allegations of voter fraud in last month’s presidential election. At least two people were killed Wednesday as thousands of Haitians held demonstrations in the capital Port-au-Prince and other cities. This week Haiti’s election council announced a runoff vote between government-backed candidate Jude Celestin and former first lady Mirlande Manigat. On Wednesday, supporters of third-place candidate Michel Martelly erected barricades across Port-au-Prince to demand his inclusion in the second-round vote. One protester said the United States had helped advance Celestin’s bid.
Protester: "The Americans have elected Jude Celestin. They want to put him in power. If there is a second round, it is not for the people."

Carl Sagan: God?

Fox Analyst Calls for Assange’s Killing

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continues to face threatening calls from a number of U.S. politicians and commentators since the release of the diplomatic cables. This week, Fox Business commentator Bob Beckel called for Assange’s assassination.

Bob Beckel: "We’ve got special ops forces. I mean, a dead man can’t leak stuff. This guy’s a traitor, a treasonous, and he has broken every law of the United States. The guy ought to be—and I’m not for the death penalty—so if I’m not for the death penalty, there’s only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch."

Shell Oil can go to Hell

WikiLeaks continues to release more documents from its trove of some quarter million classified U.S. diplomatic cables. Among the new disclosures is a claim that the oil giant Royal Dutch Shell essentially infiltrated the Nigerian government to monitor and influence decisions related to its business in the Niger Delta. A cable from October 2009 quotes Ann Pickard, then Shell’s vice president in Africa, saying that the Nigerian government "forgot] that Shell had seconded people to all the relevant ministries and that Shell consequently had access to everything that was being done in those ministries." An earlier cable from 2008 shows that Shell passed intelligence claims to U.S. diplomats, including naming two Nigerian politicians the company said were backing Nigerian militants. Shell officials also asked the United States to relay information on whether Nigerian militants had acquired anti-aircraft missiles. In an ironic aside, one cable quotes the Shell executive, Ann Pickard, as saying she’s hesitant to talk to U.S. officials because the U.S. government is "leaky." The cable continues, "She may be concerned that ... bad news about Shell’s Nigerian operations will leak out." In response to the cables, Celestine AkpoBari of the group Social Action Nigeria said, "Shell is everywhere. They have an eye and an ear in every ministry of Nigeria… They are more powerful than the Nigerian government."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

110 people occupy coal train station in Australia

Hundreds of people gathered near Australia's single largest source of carbon pollution - The Bayswater power station - for Climate Camp NSW over the last week. 

Climate Camp culminated in a day of mass action where 130 campers pushed over a fence and for eight hours occupied the train tracks adjacent the power station. 110 people remained on the tracks. 73 arrests were made and 12 people locked-on, in protest of the NSW Government's approval of 'Bayswater B' an additional coal-fired power station building built on the site as part of Australian Government plans to build another 12 coal-fired power stations nationally ("The Dirty Dozen"). 

By all accounts (apart from perhaps the Police ;), the day was a huge success. The Camp represented a diverse range of grassroots organisations including local climate action groups, Rising Tide Newcastle, Friends of the Earth Sydney, members of the Christian movement, students, senior citizens, medical professionals, farmers, scientists, teachers and many more. 

One of the major highlights was when Police arrested Bill, and 89 year old Korean War veteran who was occupying the tracks - this is his fourth arrest.

more information at Climate Camp NSW website HERE

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I see said the blind man as he picked up his hammer and saw - wolrd press freedom day event in the US?

The United States is pleased to announce that it will host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day event in 2011, from May 1 - May 3 in Washington, D.C. UNESCO is the only UN agency with the mandate to promote freedom of expression and its corollary, freedom of the press.
The theme for next year’s commemoration will be 21st Century Media: New Frontiers, New Barriers. The United States places technology and innovation at the forefront of its diplomatic and development efforts. New media has empowered citizens around the world to report on their circumstances, express opinions on world events, and exchange information in environments sometimes hostile to such exercises of individuals’ right to freedom of expression. At the same time, we are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of information. We mark events such as World Press Freedom Day in the context of our enduring commitment to support and expand press freedom and the free flow of information in this digital age.