Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
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.
Red Cross Warns of Deteriorating Condition
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.
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.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
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
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.