July 24, 2014

Folow the bouncing ball


US weapons supplied to Israel have killed more than Russian weapons spplied to Ukrainian rebels

Truth Out - The United States exported to Israel a substantial amount of the same types of weapons Israel is using to kill Gazans, a new analysis of US Census Bureau export data reveals. For example, in 2013, the United States sent Israel at least $196 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters, a category that includes F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, both of which Israel is currently using to attack Gazan homes, offices and farmland. Between January and May 2014, the United States had already exported $92 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters.


Great moments in American exceptionalism

Firedog Lake -  American exceptionalism strikes again. This time it manifested itself as the US being the only country on the United Nations Human Rights Council to vote against investigating the killing of civilians in Operation Protective Edge. The call to respect international legal restrictions on warfare and investigate whether any violations have taken place received a yea or abstention from every other country on the council.

Jewish identity

@Harpers - Percentage of American Jews who believe that following Jewish law is essential to Jewish identity: 19... Who believe that having a sense of humor is: 42

Drought update

NY TIMES

Study: More than half of those executed suffer from severe mental illness

Think Progress - A majority of the 100 executed inmates examined in a new study by three legal researchers had “a severe mental illness such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or psychosis.” Yet, because of an oddity in the Supreme Court’s death penalty cases, it is typically constitutional under existing precedents to execute people with these illnesses.

Obama bars media from corrupt meeting with cash cows

Politico - President Barack Obama went to the West Coast to meet donors from two top Democratic super PACs, but the press wasn’t invited.

The reporters and photographers traveling with the president on Air Force One and in his motorcade were left on the gravel path not even within sight of former Costco CEO Jim Sinegal’s house in the Seattle suburbs where Obama sat for a Senate Majority PAC fundraiser with a $25,000 entrance fee. Continue Reading Text Size

When he met with big donors for the House Majority PAC at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown San Francisco, they weren’t even told what room or floor he was on.

“We think these fundraisers ought to be open to at least some scrutiny, because the president’s participation in them is fundamentally public in nature,” said Christi Parsons, the new president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. “Denying access to him in that setting undermines the public’s ability to independently monitor and see what its government is doing. It’s of special concern as these events and the donors they attract become more influential in the political process.”

Despite constant complaints from the press corps and promises from White House officials, access to the president continues to be limited. The constantly repeated line that they’re running the “most transparent administration in history” tends to prompt snickers. Halfway through Obama’s West Coast swing, it’s tipping toward outrage.

Washington reporters get a White House chaperon in interviews

Paul Fahri, Washington Post - When NBC News White House reporter Chuck Todd conducts background interviews with government officials these days, he and his source usually aren’t the only ones in the room or on the call. Typically, there’s a third party: A representative of the White House’s press staff monitors the conversation.

Sometimes, the press monitor interjects to clarify a point the official makes. Other times, he or she remains silent. Each time, however, “it feels like having a third wheel on a date,” Todd says. “It’s like having a chaperon.” He adds, “There’s so much precaution now in the way people in power interact with the press.”

The press-minder phenomenon isn’t limited to the White House. Reporters who cover other parts of official Washington, such as Capitol Hill, can usually count on encountering an official escort, turning a one-on-one interview into a one-on-two. The same thing happens irregularly to journalists who interview sports, entertainment and business figures.

... Even lesser officials are subject to the policy; one reporter says a press attendant sat in when she interviewed Sam Kass, the chef who advises first lady Michelle Obama on her “Let’s Move!” health and nutrition program.

Obama thinks he can name you a terrorist for any reason he wants

The difference between Joseph McCarthy and Barack Obama is that McCarthy only accused people of being traitors; Obama claims the power to declare them such - TPR


Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux, Intercept - The Obama administration has quietly approved a substantial expansion of the terrorist watchlist system, authorizing a secret process that requires neither “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence” to designate an American or foreigner as a terrorist, according to a key government document obtained by The Intercept.

The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance,” a 166-page document issued last year by the National Counterterrorism Center, spells out the government’s secret rules for putting individuals on its main terrorist database, as well as the no fly list and the selectee list, which triggers enhanced screening at airports and border crossings. The new guidelines allow individuals to be designated as representatives of terror organizations without any evidence they are actually connected to such organizations, and it gives a single White House official the unilateral authority to place “entire categories” of people the government is tracking onto the no fly and selectee lists. It broadens the authority of government officials to “nominate” people to the watchlists based on what is vaguely described as “fragmentary information.” It also allows for dead people to be watchlisted.

Over the years, the Obama and Bush Administrations have fiercely resisted disclosing the criteria for placing names on the databases—though the guidelines are officially labeled as unclassified. In May, Attorney General Eric Holder even invoked the state secrets privilege to prevent watchlisting guidelines from being disclosed in litigation launched by an American who was on the no fly list. In an affidavit, Holder called them a “clear roadmap” to the government’s terrorist-tracking apparatus, adding: “The Watchlisting Guidance, although unclassified, contains national security information that, if disclosed … could cause significant harm to national security.”

The rulebook, which The Intercept is publishing in full, was developed behind closed doors by representatives of the nation’s intelligence, military, and law-enforcement establishment, including the Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and FBI. Emblazoned with the crests of 19 agencies, it offers the most complete and revealing look into the secret history of the government’s terror list policies to date. It reveals a confounding and convoluted system filled with exceptions to its own rules, and it relies on the elastic concept of “reasonable suspicion” as a standard for determining whether someone is a possible threat. Because the government tracks “suspected terrorists” as well as “known terrorists,” individuals can be watchlisted if they are suspected of being a suspected terrorist, or if they are suspected of associating with people who are suspected of terrorism activity.

“Instead of a watchlist limited to actual, known terrorists, the government has built a vast system based on the unproven and flawed premise that it can predict if a person will commit a terrorist act in the future,” says Hina Shamsi, the head of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “On that dangerous theory, the government is secretly blacklisting people as suspected terrorists and giving them the impossible task of proving themselves innocent of a threat they haven’t carried out.” Shamsi, who reviewed the document, added, “These criteria should never have been kept secret.”

THE DOCUMENT

Pocket paradigms

Among the powerful, "mistakes were made" but no one has to admit that they were the ones who made them. Instead, the elite rises as one to pronounce it not the time for blame, but rather for moving forward together into the future and putting this or that "behind us." Everyone nods their heads and the foxes are allowed back into the chicken coop one more time..- Sam Smith

Word

Freedom is the right to tell people what they don't want to hear -- George Orwell

Democracy and the 'hood

From 50 years of our overstocked archives

[Remarks at a conference in 2006]


Sam Smith

WASHINGTON'S advisory neighborhood commissions came out of a time that seems distant today, a time before 9/11, George Bush, the closing of DC's public hospital and the socio-ethnic cleansing of DC.

Sure, we were still recovering from the riots, but the very word 'recover' - one you don't hear much today - implied that there was a least a chance you would. The writer Dorothy Allison described the spirit of the times: "I had the idea that if you took America and shook it really hard it would do the right thing."

And so you proposed all sorts of new ideas and just talking about them made you feel hopeful. Central to a lot the talk was devolution - the idea that people could control things better if they were brought down to the local level. We tend to forget this now, but back then, decentralization and community power were important progressive ideas.

I wrote about them a lot in the 1960s and suggested that Washington needed neighborhood councils with members representing small districts that would get to approve the local police commander, help direct the schools, set up a neighborhood development corporation and so forth.

In the early 1970s, those of us in the new DC Statehood Party added the idea to our platform. We wanted:

- Neighborhood authorities and neighborhood housing banks

· Elected neighborhood legislative councils and neighborhood executives with power over selection of neighborhood police officials, selection of neighborhood school superintendent, school site selection and proposed roads.

· Community control of the schools

Then, as sometimes happens with ideas, something happened. Don Frasier, a progressive member of Congress from Minneapolis - where they already had advisory neighborhood commissions - added the plan to the DC home rule bill then under consideration.

It wasn't well received by the local powers that wannatobe. Walter Washington, Walter Fauntroy and others who were in line to personally benefit from home rule weren't happy to see some of their pending power being distributed to others. Someone - we never found out who - even snuck in a change in the Senate version of the bill that would have required a majority of all registered voters in the city - and not just those coming to vote that day - in order for the ANC referendum to be approved. Fortunately this con was caught in time.

The home rule bill was passed and the ANC referendum easily approved but the legislation had not fully defined the nature and power of the commissions. That was to be left to the new city government.

A group of us formed a citizens lobby for proposed rules under which the ANCs would function. At one meeting, someone suggested that the commissions' views be given "great weight" by the city government.

"What does that term mean," asked a lawyer.

"Damned if I know," I replied, "but let's put it in and find out."

As luck would have it, the court case deciding what it meant would come out of my district and I would be one of the plaintiffs. It was a tough one for me for not only did it force me to betray my roots - it involved an Irish bar - but one of the owners, the bar's lawyer and all of the complaining petitioners lived in my district. I had tried to get them all together but it didn't work. In the end, the court handed down a decision on "great weight" that favored the commissions.

My own election had been somewhat problematical. It was the city's first home rule vote and the ballots were being counted in the ballroom of the Shoreham Hotel. Some of them had already fallen off a pick-up truck on their way and were lost.

My wife was holding a Sunday School meeting that evening and I told her I thought I'd go to the Shoreham to watch the count. "Don't you think you're taking this a bit too seriously?" she asked. She had a point. My only opposition had been an older man who had hardly campaigned and, besides, I had seen scores of my friends come to the precinct.

When the morning count was finished, I was stunned. My opponent was ahead by a 7 to 1 margin. I got up my nerve and went to see Norval Perkins, the genial head of the Board of Elections, to ask for a recount. He shrugged and added my name to his growing list. Then I went and found where they were counting the afternoon votes and when they were finished I had won by a 4 to one margin. I went back to Norval and pointed out the dichotomy. "Well, Sam" he said, "it just looks like you have more afternoon than morning friends."

As it turned out, all my morning votes had been accidentally given to my opponent and I now knew what Chicago politicians meant when they said "watch the count." The point was reiterated the next morning with a Washington Post story saying that my district had gotten more votes than any in the city. The strange thing was that the numbers didn't add up. Back at the Board of Elections I discovered they had added my correct morning and evening counts to the incorrect morning count. I now really knew what "watch the count" meant.

Our new commission worked remarkably well considering that all of us were playing it by ear. We made some simple rules that helped. For example, we would only deal with local issues. That way our national and citywide issue conflicts wouldn't ruin our meetings.

And we also developed some good habits, such as retiring to the Zebra Room to debrief over drinks after each meeting. We accepted our differences and played by the rules, remained friends, and it all worked pretty well.

I was named chair of the education, recreation, and agriculture committee. I added that last term because we had the largest community garden in DC. Soon I wished I hadn't because a big dispute developed over how long people should retain their garden rights on public land. I proposed what I thought was a modest seven years but the gardeners saw that proposal as the moral equivalent of eminent domain.

I had more luck with the Great Hearst Playground Dispute. A hundred and fifty tennis players came to me with a petition to have a backboard constructed at Hearst playground. Knee jerk politician that I was, I successfully pressed for the backboard. The Rec Department, however, constructed the backboard without consulting anyone and made a huge cinderblock wall that blocked some of the neighbors' view of the playground. Next thing I knew, there was a petition from 150 neighbors wanting the backboard removed.

The matter was ultimately resolved during a five hour meeting with the Rec Department and disputing parties. I proposed that a new backboard be placed at a 90 degree angle so it didn't block anyone's view. Geometry worked where politics had failed.

I was overwhelmed with problems, some solvable, many not. I had far less clout that many residents thought but I worked overtime to conceal the fact. This didn't help. Their expectations just seemed to mount.

As I looked around the city things weren't going as well as I had hoped. For one thing, the rules the city council had passed deliberately restricted the councils' power: no incorporation, no spending of public funds in joint projects with other commissions and so forth.

From the beginning, and to this day, the city government considered the ANCs to be an annoyance to be controlled more than to be included. I had argued from the start that our prime goal should be to take the "A" out of ANC. . . to make these bodies functioning units of government rather than merely advisory. Instead they were dismissed by the media and co-opted by politicians and bureaucrats until only the bravest and most self-reliant commissions dared to act as the law had envisioned.

From the start in 1974, city officials began to set up bureaucratic and fiscal hurdles for the fledgling commissions to jump over and they adopted the view that the ANCs were just another part of the city government. At workshops and in regulations, they treated the ANCs as subservient and ancillary. Many commissioners, unschooled in either ANC history, law, or politics accepted this more menial role without question. They also accepted the gross and widespread falsehood that ANCs were banned from meeting with one another. In fact, the law only prohibited them from spending city money to do so.

Instead of seeing themselves as a sleeping giant -- a grassroots political system that could actually be run from the grassroots -- the ANCs tolerated a lesser role.

This subservience continues to today.

The situation has not been helped by gentrification. There are unhappy reports of ethnic and cultural conflicts being played out in commissions just as elsewhere.

We seem to have forgotten how to share space with others. For example in one part of town we have churchgoers mad at a gay bar and gentrifiers mad at churchgoers' double-parked cars. As a heterosexual agnostic I have no money on this race, but I know the answer is most likely to come when both sides accept the notion of reciprocal liberty - that we can't be free to do what we want unless we grant others a similar right. Out of such an attitude can come, for example, valet parking on Sundays and a hefty contribution to a local rec center by the gay bar.

ANCs can be important at such times or they can add to the conflict. It's one of the many choices their members have to make.

ANCs are still a sleeping giant. Don't believe what city hall tells you about what they can and can't do. They can do almost anything if they do it the right way.

For example, the chairs in a ward could get together each month at someone's house and share what their commissions agree about. If they have differences, forget them for the time being. Look for the unity and then let your councilmember, school board member, mayor, and media know about it.

Practice this awhile and then try it citywide. Three dozen commission chairs working together could become a de facto lower house of the city government.

You don't need city funding. Get a church or a bar to give you free space and get a few grants from a friendly funder. And when they tell you it's against the law, just point to the First Amendment.

And it's not just a local matter. In increasingly corrupt and anti-democratic America, local solidarity and action are oases of freedom and decency from which a new future can grow. As we find ourselves in a post-constitutional society where our leaders in politics and business consider themselves immune from either morality or legislation, we must constantly tend these community gardens of hope.

Just as during the century of segregation with no home rule, neighborhood organizations in DC were the voice and organizing strength of this city, so today our communities are where we must begin to make things work again with decency, democracy and fairness.

Our neighborhood commissions can be central to this if they remember the words of a woman who passed away just a few days go, Jane Jacobs: "Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody."

July 23, 2014

Iatrogenic violence

From 50 years of our overstocked archives
 
Sam Smith, 2006 - Reader Dan writes in response to our listing of American corporations tied to Israel: "Do you have a comparable list of corporations that remain silent when a Palestinian bomb explodes aboard an Israeli bus? The policies of the Israeli government are abhorrent, but the tactics of the Palestinians are inexcusable as well."

When I raised a similar argument as a kid, my mother's response was, "If Johnny were to jump off a cliff, would you jump off a cliff, too?" I never could come up with good answer to that and so eventually had to concede that somebody else's stupidity was not a good excuse for my own.

The underlying problem is that we are funding Israel's violence but not that of Palestine. We are not directly responsible for the bombs on Israeli busses but we are very much responsible for the wrongs that Israel does. Further, if you occupy and oppress a people long and hard enough they will do all sorts of things to fight back that don't fit the definition of civil discourse.

The "well, what about their violence?" argument was used against the North Vietnamese and in just about every war since. Implicit in this is the idea that what we do wrong is excusable because it has been matched - or allegedly so - by the other side. Of course, the other side doesn't see it that way so you end up with a perfect stalemate of violence.

In fact, Israel - as does America - largely faces a security threat that it has created by its own supposed remedies. Both America and Israel are far more in danger now than they were before 9/11 because an ever growing portion of the world doesn't like the vicious cure they are offering.

During a 1999 anti-war speech in Washington's Dupont Circle, I addressed a similar problem in the Balkans:
There is a name for this sort of medicine. It is called iatrogenic - in which the disease is caused by the physician. Doctors who cause diseases or ruin the health of the patient through arrogance, incompetence, and mindless machismo have large insurance policies because people sue them for something we call malpractice. In medicine this is considered a bad thing.

We have just gone through yet another iatrogenic war, in which our elites have argued falsely that their stated intentions outweigh any actual consequences. The patient is in far worse shape than before this war began, the victim of arrogance, incompetence, and mindless machismo. . .

We, of course, have had other iatrogenic wars. This is what happened in Vietnam when we declared that it was necessary to destroy villages in order to save them. This is what happened in Iraq when in the name defeating a modern Hitler we caused the post-war death by disease and malnutrition of far more people than Hussein himself had killed. And it is what happened when NATO declared that Slobadon Milosevic's crimes against humanity were such that they justified the brutal destruction of a country and the pain and death and the very ethnic cleansing we said we sought to avoid.

In fact, every moral act in the face of mental or physical injury carries twin responsibilities: to mend the injury and to avoid replacing it with another. This twin burden is faced every day by doctors. Every police officer faces it. Every firefighter. It was what I was taught as a Coast Guard officer. It's well past time for our politicians do so as well.

The point of speaking of the evils of a Milosovec or a Hussein is to raise the alarm. But once that has been successfully done, this alarm may not rightfully be used as a perpetual excuse for our own misdeeds. From the moment we commence a moral intervention we become a part of the story, and part of the good and evil. We are no longer the innocent bystander but a full participant whose acts will either help or make things worse. Our intentions become irrelevant; they are overwhelmed by the character of our response to them. The morality of the disease is supplanted by the morality of the cure. Any other course amounts to reckless and negligent political malpractice.
The security threat that both America and Israel now face is, in no small part, iatrogenic. The first step towards a cure rather than continued harm is to take responsibility for our own actions and not hide behind the violence of those who oppose us.

This means doing things that are an anathema to the politicians and media in this country such as actually talking - even seemingly forever - with those with whom we disagree. It means an end to showboating and the beginning of endless tiny steps towards accommodation. It means saying you're sorry when you have done wrong. It means finding things - like economic projects and programs - that benefit both sides and that make their former quarrels less important. It means giving dollars instead of shooting bullets. It means helping both sides choose to be survivors of their past rather than its perpetual victims. And it means putting away the guns, the threats and the bombast and looking for, in Benjamin Franklin's phrase, "the little felicities of every day."

Above all, it means taking constant and self-critical responsibility for our own acts and for those of our allies and not finding false moral shelter in the violent reactions they provoke. As Gandhi put it, "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

Transportation news

Transportation news
Bike news

Letting a nine year old play in the park alone considered child abuse

Laura Clawson, Alternet - McDonald's has fired Debra Harrell, the woman who was arrested for letting her nine-year-old daughter play alone at the park while she was at work.

Harrell originally had her daughter come to work with her and play on a laptop during her summer vacation, but their home was burglarized and the laptop stolen, so she allowed her daughter to go to a well-populated park with a cell phone for emergencies. And for that she was arrested. Now:
While Robert Phillips, the attorney representing her pro bono at McGowan, Hood & Felder, said that she was released from jail the day after she was arrested on bond, he confirmed that she had been let go from her job. He didn’t have any information as to why. A spokesperson for McDonald’s declined to comment, saying it is inappropriate to discuss a human resources issue. She also said the company is cooperating with local police in their investigation of the situation.
The good news is that Harrell has been reunited with her daughter, as Phillips confirmed. But the case from the Department of Social Services is still ongoing. “Whenever there’s an allegation of a crime, and in this case the child is considered the victim even though she wasn’t harmed…allegedly perpetrated by a family member, DSS has a mandate to come in and remove the child from immediate harm,” he noted. “They were just doing what the law requires them to do.”

The idea that children should never be more than five feet from their parents is getting ridiculously out of control, and, of course, poor women and especially poor black women are being made the victims of this overprotective parenting ethic. Bad enough for all mothers (because you know it's overwhelmingly mothers bearing the brunt of the over-parenting requirement) that kids are now supposed to be closely watched at every moment to the exclusion of all else, but of course it's the women who can't afford nannies and summer camps, and especially the women who are viewed with suspicion and doubt, who actually face the choice between making a living and having their children taken away.

If you're making less than $8 an hour at McDonald's, just what are you supposed to do with your child during summer vacation?

Toy wars

Sam Smith - Regardless of the considerable bias in the mainstream media over little wars like those right now in Palestine and Ukraine, it is important to remember that the big media first and foremost loves toy wars. For example, sending Wolf Blitzer to Israel journalistically makes about as much sense as sending Justin Bieber to report from a girl's summer camp, But CNN thinks it adds gravitas. Besides, Israel and Palestine have roughly the same population as Pennsylvania. They should not be encouraged to determine the course of American history.

As for the strife between Russia and Ukraine it is worth remembering that Ukraine and Crimea first became aligned with the Russian Empire in the 18th century and in World War  3.5 million Ukrainians fought on one side and 250,000 fought on the other. It's not the sort of issue one should expect John Kerry or CNN to resolve.

Still, it helps build audience to imply that we're on the verge of World War III so the major bias of big media - led by TV - is not on one side or another but comes from being enthralled by military crises anyway they can get them. Which is why you see endless mlitary experts being interviewed on cable TV but hardly any peace experts despite the fact that peace is much hard to achieve than war.



Nestle contributes to California water shortage

Al Jazeera - The Golden State is in the third year of record drought, and while consumer restrictions are not expected to make a sizeable dent in state water usage on their own, officials hope the fines, which go into effect August 1, will send a message to Californians who apparently have yet to grasp the severity of the situation.

That message, however, has not, it seems, reached Nestlé Waters North America, makers of a variety of bottled waters, including Arrowhead brand.

... In contrast to the Arrowhead labels showing snowy mountain streams, the water in many of those bottles comes from a spring in Millard Canyon, on the grounds of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation in Cabazon, Calif., west of Palm Springs.

Access to the spring actually belongs to the Morongo tribe, which bought the rights from the Cabazon Water District in the early part of the last decade for $3 million. Soon after, the tribe cut a 25-year deal with Perrier Group of America, a division of Nestlé, to bottle Arrowhead water.

California water districts are required to report their water consumption and the levels in their wells to the state. The Morongo Indians, however, are a sovereign nation, and therefore exempt form oversight.

Through 2009, Nestlé Waters, the division that operates the Millard Canyon facility, provided the state with annual reports, but after that, the flow of information has slowed to a trickle. The state has used a rounded estimate of 244 million gallons pumped out per year — roughly the annual usage for 480 area homes, according to calculations used by area newspaper The Desert Sun.

... “The reason this particular plant is of special concern is precisely because water is so scarce in the basin,” said Peter Gleick in The Desert Sun. Gleick has toured the Millard Canyon plant in the past and has written about the bottled water industry. “Surface water in the desert is exceedingly rare and has a much higher environmental value than the same amount of water somewhere else,” Gleick said.

The Arrowhead facility is one of Nestlé’s largest in North America, but it not the only one to see controversy. The company, under its Poland Spring brand, has been in a decade-long struggle with Maine over rights to drill springs and purchase water from a variety of counties outside the area where the original Poland Spring was sourced. The company has also been sued for selling regular municipal groundwater as natural spring water.

Nestlé is America’s largest water bottler, controlling a third of the market. In addition to Arrowhead and Poland Spring, it sells water under the Nestlé Pure Life, Deer Park, Perrier and San Pellegrino names, as well as several other regional brands.

The real economy

Global Research - The percentage of children in poverty hit 23 percent in 2012, up sharply from 16 percent in 2000. Some states are much worse. For almost the entire American South, the share of children in poverty is higher than 25 percent.

Infrequently asked questions

If sanctions are so righteous against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, why not try them against Israel's invasion of Palestine?

More on Israel's role in building Hamas

 Robert Dreyfuss, Institute for Public Accuracy - In Gaza, between 1967 and 1987, when Hamas was founded, the number of mosques tripled in Gaza from 200 to 600. And a lot of that came with money flowing from outside Gaza, from wealthy conservative Islamists in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. But, of course, none of this could have happened without the Israelis casting an approving eye upon it.

And during these years, during that 20-year span, the Hamas organization was a bitter opponent of Palestinian nationalism, clashed repeatedly with the P.L.O. and with Fatah, of course, refused to participate in the P.L.O. umbrella. And just as during the ’50s and ’60s, the Muslim Brotherhood fought against the Nasserists, the Baath Party, the communists and the rest of the Arab left, in the 1970s and ’80s, the Muslim Brotherhood fought against the Palestinian national movement.

There’s plenty of evidence that the Israeli intelligence services, especially Shin Bet and the military occupation authorities, encouraged the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood and the founding of Hamas. There are many examples and incidents of that. But there were armed clashes, of course, on Palestinian university campuses in the ’70s and ’80s, where Hamas would attack PLO, PFLP, PDFLP and other groups, with clubs and chains. This was before guns became prominent in the Occupied Territories.

Diplomats and intelligence people who I interviewed say that there was plenty of reason to think that the Israelis were fostering the growth of Hamas. And, of course, Yasser Arafat himself, in a quote to a newspaper reporter a number of years ago, explicitly described Hamas as, quote, ‘a creature of Israel.’ And he said that he discussed this with Yitzhak Rabin during their Oslo process. And Rabin told Arafat that it was ‘a fatal error’ for the Israelis to have encouraged the growth of Hamas. The theory of it, of course, was that Hamas would be a force against Palestinian nationalism.

Pocket paradigms

Some day our leaders may again be as good as our firefighters..- Sam Smith

Word

Those who want the government to regulate matters of the mind and spirit are like men who are so afraid of being murdered that they commit suicide. -- Harry Truman

July 22, 2014

Word: Where the Palestinian crisis began

Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel. Most recently, she was a founding member of Jews Say No!, is on the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and is a member of the coordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project--US.

Donna Nevel - As Israeli government violence against the Palestinians in Gaza intensifies (the latest news being an aggressive ground invasion), I saw a discussion on-line about whether Israel has become more brutal or the brutality has simply become more visible to the public.

I remembered listening to Benjamin Netanyahu when he was at MIT in the 1970's. He called himself Bibi Nitai and said he was in self-exile until the Labor Party, which he despised, was out of power. He spoke contemptuously about Arabs, and predicted he would be the leader of Israel someday and would protect the Jewish state in the way it deserved. The immediate response many of us had was: "Heaven help us all if he ever gets into power in Israel."

I also remember the many Israeli leaders I met in the 1970's from Labor and Mapam and from smaller parties on the "Zionist left" who seemed kind and caring and markedly different from Benjamin Netanyahu-and in many ways they were, not just in their political rhetoric (they all said they were socialists) but as human beings, or so it seemed. But when I finally dug a little deeper and read my history, I learned how they, too, were participants-in fact, often leaders-in the plan to drive the Palestinians out of their homes and off their land. Nothing very kind or caring about that, to say the least.

The bottom line: Israel was created based on the expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their land and from their homes (what Palestinians call the Nakba, the catastrophe). This is the heart of the problem.

In some circles, particularly among "progressive" Zionists, the terrible injustice done to the Palestinians is acknowledged, but as awful as the Nakba was, they say, it was what had to be done to create and ensure the security of the Jewish state. (The most recent proponent of this position is Israeli writer Avi Shavit.) It was a terrible price that had to be paid, he and others concede. To be clear, the price was paid by the Palestinians-that is, the killing and expulsion of Palestinians for the sake of Jewish safety. And quite simply, the only way you can think that - that you can excuse the Nakba- is to believe that Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives.

And isn't that what we are seeing today? If Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives-if, as the argument goes, the Nakba had to happen so that Jews could be "safe"-doesn't the brutal violence we see so casually inflicted on the people of Gaza by the Israeli government follow from, in fact, isn't it embedded in, that history? (And it's ironic to note that large numbers of the Palestinians in Gaza are from families that fled there during the Nakba in 1948 as refugees from cities and villages in what became Israel.)

That is why I believe those of us working in our own communities-in my case, the Jewish community-need to make sure everyone not only knows about the Nakba but understands that this is the heart of the issue. And that central to the achievement of the "Zionist dream" has been that Jewish lives matter more than Arab lives.

Israel hiring students to troll social media sites

USA Today - Israel is looking to hire university students to post pro-Israel messages on social media networks — without needing to identify themselves as government-linked, officials said Wednesday.

The Israeli prime minister's office said in a statement that students on Israeli university campuses would receive full or partial scholarships to combat anti-Semitism and calls to boycott Israel online. It said students' messages would parallel statements by government officials.

"This is a groundbreaking project aimed at strengthening Israeli national diplomacy and adapting it to changes in information consumption," the statement said.

The war crimes Israel and Obama are committing

Shamus Cooke, Anti-War - The two most glaring war crimes Israel is committing – as defined by the Geneva Convention – are the concepts of “collective punishment” and “necessity and proportionality.”

Under collective punishment, a warring party cannot respond to an attack by waging war on the attacker’s community, as is clearly happening in Gaza. The clearest proof that collective punishment is being used is that a 1,000 Gaza homes have been destroyed and the majority of the casualties are civilians.

Under “necessity and proportionality” a warring party must only use the amount of force necessary to defeat the opponent; disproportional force is a crime. So, for example, if Hamas fires wimpy rockets that kill virtually no Israelis, then it is “disproportionate” for Israel to rain massive bombs, missiles, and artillery to reduce large sections of Gaza to rubble. Even Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called the Israel attack a “deliberately disproportionate form of collective punishment.”

It is also a specific war crime to deliberately attack civilians, and especially to attack facilities treating the wounded. But Israel has attacked al-Aqsa hospital in Gaza four times, according to Reuters. The latest shelling of al-Aqsa killed 4 and wounded 70.

Even the pro-western Human Rights Watch has denounced Israel for committing war crimes:

“Israeli air attacks in Gaza investigated by Human Rights Watch have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war.”

Obama’s aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes is also closed to debate, since his administration stands guilty from the very beginning of the conflict by shielding Israel from international political pressure, hiding its war crimes by deliberate misrepresenting what is happening, and giving political space for the war to continue by not intervening directly.

It was a blatantly laughable lie when Obama said that his government was “using all means” to achieve a ceasefire early in the conflict.

The U.S. influence over Israel is tremendous, and Obama could have ended the conflict in the first hour by simply declaring, “If Israel does not stop its attack on Gaza, the US will refuse further military and financial assistance and sever all diplomatic and political ties.” War over.

California drought update

LA Times -Te groundwater level in the San Bernardino Basin area is at its lowest point in recorded history, officials say.
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Measured in volume, the groundwater level for the basin is now about 500,000 acre-feet below full, according to Douglas Headrick, general manager for the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District.

That would put it below the previous low recorded in 1964, a period that followed a 20-year drought, officials said.

CORECTION: Mandela on Palestine

The letter we posted a few minutes ago allegedly from Mandela to Thomas Friedman was actually a satirical piece. According to The Electronic Intifada, this article was written by Arjan El Fassed in 2001 in the satirical style then being employed by Thomas Friedman, of writing mock letters from one world leader to another. Although it carries El Fassed’s byline, it has been repeatedly mistaken for an actual letter from Mandela. It is not. It is a piece of satire and has never been presented by EI as anything other than satire. El Fassed has written this history of the piece and how it subsequently was mistaken for a real letter, on his personal blog.

Here are some actual thoughts of Mandela on Palestine as reported by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz in 2013:

Haaretz - A survey of some of Mandela’s comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict evince that he was indeed highly critical of the Israeli occupation and the absence of an independent Palestine from map of the world. But Mandela fully endorsed Israel’s right to exist – and thought the Arabs states would need to reconcile fully with Israel in the context of a peace agreement.

“To the many people who have questioned why I came, I say: Israel worked very closely with the apartheid regime. I say: I’ve made peace with many men who slaughtered our people like animals. Israel cooperated with the apartheid regime, but it did not participate in any atrocities…My view is that talk of peace remains hollow if Israel continues to occupy Arab lands.” - to reporters during a visit to Israel in 1999, following a meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy.

“I cannot conceive of Israel withdrawing if Arab states do not recognize Israel within secure borders.” – Israel visit in 1999

"We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” - Speech in Pretoria 1997 for International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people

“When in 1977, the United Nations passed the resolution inaugurating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, it was asserting the recognition that injustice and gross human rights violations were being perpetrated in Palestine. In the same period, the UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system." - Speech in Pretoria 1997 for International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people

Jazz break

MONTY ALEXANDER: SATIN DOLL

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Massive retaliation reported in Veterans Administration

Lydia Dennett, Project on Government Oversight - In California, a Department of Veterans Affairs inpatient pharmacy supervisor was placed on administrative leave and ordered not to speak out after protesting what he described as errors and delays in the delivery of medications to patients.

In Pennsylvania, a former VA doctor was removed from clinical work and forced to spend his days in an office with nothing to do, he told the Project On Government Oversight. This action occurred after he complained that, in medical emergencies, physicians who were supposed to be on call were failing or refusing to report to the hospital. “There’s a culture of bullying employees….It’s just a culture of harassment that goes on if you report wrongdoing.”

In Appalachia, a former VA nurse was bullied by management and forced out of her job after complaining that patients with serious injuries were being neglected, she told POGO. “Such an upsetting thing for a nurse just to see this blatant neglect occur almost on a daily basis. It was not only overlooked but appeared to be embraced,” she said. “

These people are among the hundreds who contacted POGO over the past several weeks after we joined forces with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to seek inside perspectives on the Department of Veterans Affairs. Together, we and IAVA created the website VAOversight.org and asked people within the VA system to share their stories.

In its 33-year history, POGO has never received as many submissions on a single issue—nearly 800 current and former VA employees and veterans contacted us. POGO reviewed each of the submissions, and the comments indicate that concerns about the VA go far beyond long or falsified wait times for medical appointments; they extend to the quality of health care services veterans receive.

POGO received allegations of wrongdoing from 35 states and the District of Columbia, and in the limited time we have had thus far to analyze the information, a recurring and fundamental theme has become clear: VA employees across the country fear they will face repercussions if they dare to raise a dissenting voice.

Top foreign aid recipients per capita

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How Israel helped to create Hamas

Richard Sale, UPI, June 18, 2002 - Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.

Israel "aided Hamas directly -- the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO" said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.

Israel's support for Hamas "was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative," said a former senior CIA official.

... According to U.S. administration officials, funds for the movement came from the oil-producing states and directly and indirectly from Israel. The PLO was secular and leftist and promoted Palestinian nationalism. Hamas wanted to set up a transnational state under the rule of Islam, much like Khomeini's Iran.

What took Israeli leaders by surprise was the way the Islamic movements began to surge after the Iranian revolution, after armed resistance to Israel sprang up in southern Lebanon
A further factor of Hamas' growth was the fact the PLO moved its base of operations to Beirut in the '80s, leaving the Islamic organization to grow in influence in the Occupied Territories "as the court of last resort," he said.

When the intifada began, Israeli leadership was surprised when Islamic groups began to surge in membership and strength. Hamas immediately grew in numbers and violence. The group had always embraced the doctrine of armed struggle, but the doctrine had not been practiced and Islamic groups had not been subjected to suppression the way groups like Fatah had been, according to U.S. government officials.

But with the triumph of the Khomeini revolution in Iran, with the birth of Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorism in Lebanon, Hamas began to gain in strength in Gaza and then in the West Bank, relying on terror to resist the Israeli occupation.

Israel was certainly funding the group at that time. One U.S. intelligence source who asked not to be named said that not only was Hamas being funded as a "counterweight" to the PLO, Israeli aid had another purpose: "To help identify and channel towards Israeli agents Hamas members who were dangerous terrorists."

In addition, by infiltrating Hamas, Israeli informers could only listen to debates on policy and identify Hamas members who "were dangerous hard-liners," the official said.

In the end, as Hamas set up a very comprehensive counterintelligence system, many collaborators with Israel were weeded out and shot. Violent acts of terrorism became the central tenet, and Hamas, unlike the PLO, was unwilling to compromise in any way with Israel, refusing to acquiesce in its very existence.

But even then, some in Israel saw some benefits to be had in trying to continue to give Hamas support: "The thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the others, if they gained control, would refuse to have any part of the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place," said a U.S. government official who asked not to be named.

All of which disgusts some former U.S. intelligence officials.

"The thing wrong with so many Israeli operations is that they try to be too sexy," said former CIA official Vincent Cannestraro.

According to former State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson, "the Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism."

"The Israelis are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer."

"They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than curb it," he said.

... Cordesman said that a similar attempt by Egyptian intelligence to fund Egypt's fundamentalists had also come to grief because of "misreading of the complexities."


Warmest June on record

Rural Blog - The earth continues to experience record-breaking temperatures. Last month was the hottest June on record, following a trend in which the previous month was the hottest May on record, according to a report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Primarily, it was the oceans of the world that pushed the mercury into the red zone," Angela Fritz reports for The Washington Post.

Book: Israel tried to blackmail Clinton over Lewinsky

As noted below, we reported a NY Post account of this 15 years ago.

Daily Mail, UK According to a new book, tapes of Bill Clinton’s steamy phone sex with Monica Lewinsky posed a threat to national security and resulted in a not-so-subtle ‘blackmail’ attempt by the Prime Minister of Israel, who used the torrid exchanges to try to ‘convince’ the President to secure the release of an American spying for the Israelis.

The book, Clinton, Inc.: The Audacious Rebuilding of a Political Machine by Weekly Standard editor Daniel Halper, has. . . been widely leaked and have already been the subject of numerous news reports.

Halper reports evidence that not only the Israelis but also the British and Russians had ‘scooped up’ the microwaves off the top of the White House and taped Clinton's phone sex conversations with Monica – and perhaps other women.

According to allegations in the book, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the tapes to try to persuade Clinton to release Jonathan Pollard, an American caught and jailed for spying for Israel.

Progresive Review, 1999 - Neal Travis of the New York Post reports that, according to a new book on the Mossad, Israel blackmailed President Clinton with 30 hours of tapes of his phone sex talks with Monica Lewinsky. The agency allegedly agreed not to release the material in return for Clinton calling off an FBI hunt for a top-level Israeli mole supposedly in the White House. The allegation appears in "Gideon's Spies - The Secret History of the Mossad," written by Gordon Thomas. Lewinsky testified under oath that after a session of heavy petting and oral sex in the White House, Clinton told her a foreign embassy was tapping the two phone lines in her DC apartment. She claims Clinton told her that if questioned they should say they knew their calls were being bugged and were only joking to fool the tappers. Kenneth Starr does not pursue the matter. Thomas tells the NYP: "So far as anyone knows, the Israeli agent MEGA - a much more important spy than the imprisoned CIA traitor Jonathan Pollard, and probably his controller - is still in place at the White House."

Stupid Florida tricks

WFTV, Fl - Pull up or pay up: It's now illegal to wear low pants that expose underwear or bare buttocks in parts of Ocala.

Th City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to approve an ordinance that prohibits anyone on city property from wearing pants 2 inches below their natural waist.

"I just think it's disgraceful to show your underwear," Councilwoman Mary Rich said.

Residents who talked with Channel 9 on Thursday said they think young black men and teens will take the brunt of the new ordinance.

"I think this is a form of harassment," said resident Curt Brown. "(It) gets you pulled to the side, (so they can) harass you, search you and have a right to do whatever they want to."

Police blotter

Baltimore Sun - Johns Hopkins Hospital has agreed to pay $190 million to settle claims from thousands of women who may have been surreptitiously recorded during pelvic exams by gynecologist Dr. Nikita A. Levy.

The amount of the settlement is one of the largest on record involving sexual misconduct by a physician. Levy, a doctor in the Johns Hopkins Community Medicine system for 25 years, took his life in February 2013 during an investigation that revealed he was using tiny cameras concealed in pens and key fobs to record patients.

Investigators found more than 1,300 videos and images during searches of Levy's home and office. Plaintiffs' attorneys estimate more than 8,000 patients could have a claim.

Because the women could not be identified from the images, all former patients could be considered victims. Anyone treated by Levy has been affected by a feeling of "betrayal" and an invasion of doctor-patient confidentiality, said Jonathan Schochor, the lead attorney for the patients

Obamacare in big trouble

Kaiser Health News - In what could be a major blow to the Affordable Care Act, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington ruled Tuesday that subsidies may not be offered in the federal health exchange. The decision overturned a lower court ruling. You can read the decision here.

The Washington Post: Federal Appeals Court Panel Deals Major Blow To Health Law A federal appeals court panel in the District struck down a major part of the 2010 health-care law Tuesday, ruling that the tax subsidies that are central to the program may not be provided in at least half of the states. ... The government could request an “en banc” hearing, putting the case before the entire appeals court, and the question ultimately may end up at the Supreme Court. But if subsidies for half the states are barred, it represents a potentially crippling blow to the health-care law, which relies on the subsidies to make insurance affordable for millions of low- and middle-income Americans (Somashekhar, 7/22).

Government goes beserk in selecting possible terrorists

Courthouse News - Five California men sued the Department of Justice, claiming they were entered into a counterterrorism database for innocent activities such as a professional photographer taking pictures, a computer consultant buying computers at Best Buy, and in one case, waiting for one's mother at a train station. The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU and the Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus on behalf of lead plaintiff Wiley Gill et al., challenges the Suspicious Activity Reports database, which flags people with potential connections to terrorism. 

The men, all U.S. citizens, say they were put into the database for innocuous activities such as photographing landmarks, or viewing a website about videos in his own home. One says his "suspicious activity" was "standing outside a restroom at a train station while waiting for his mother." The reports are part of the National Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative, in which the federal government encourages state and local law enforcement agencies to collect and report information that may be connected to terrorism.

The reports are maintained in various counterterrorism databases and disseminated to law enforcement agencies across the country, according to the complaint. "An individual who is reported in a SAR is flagged as a person with a potential nexus to terrorism and automatically falls under law enforcement scrutiny which may include intrusive questioning by local or federal law enforcement agents. Even when the Federal Bureau of Investigation concludes that the person did not have any nexus to terrorism, a SAR can haunt that individual for decades, as SARs remain in federal databases for up to 30 years," the complaint states.

... Gill, a custodian at a state university who converted to Islam while a student, had his name put in the database after being identified as a "Suspicious Male Subject in Possession of Flight Simulator Game," according to the lawsuit. The report was filed after a search by the Chico Police Department in 2012. The report states that "Mr. Gill's computer displayed a screen titled something to the effect of 'Games that fly under the radar,' which appeared to be a 'flight simulator type of game.' The SAR concludes by describing Mr. Gill's 'full conversion to Islam as a young WMA [white, male adult],' 'pious demeanor,' and 'potential access to flight simulation via the internet' as 'worthy of note,'" the complaint states. (Brackets in complaint.)

In reality, Gill believes he was viewing a website about a video game on his computer at home, the complaint states. "The only reason that someone deemed Mr. Gill 'suspicious' is because he is a devout Muslim, not because he has done anything wrong," Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus attorney Nasrina Bargzie said in a statement. "With such a lax standard, it's not surprising that the result is religious profiling of this nature. Racial and religious profiling of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities needs to stop."

Khaled Ibrahim, a U.S. citizen of Egyptian descent who works for a computer network consulting and service company, was flagged for trying to make a bulk purchase of computers from a Best Buy retail store as a purchasing agent for his company, the complaint states.

Tariq Razak, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent who works in the biotech industry, is identified in one of the reports as a "Male of Middle Easter decent [sic] observed surveying entry/exit points" at the Santa Ana Train Depot. He is described as exiting the facility with "a female wearing a white burka head dress," according to the complaint. Razak was trying to find his way to the county employment resource center, inside the depot, for an appointment. The woman with him was his mother, the complaint states.

... Despite a 1978 Justice Department regulation prohibiting the collection and dissemination of criminal intelligence unless "there is a reasonable suspicion that the individual is involved in criminal activity," the Justice Department's standard for SARS requires only behavior that may be indicative of terrorism planning, according to the lawsuit. "The Justice Department's own rules say that there should be reasonable suspicion before creating a record on someone, but the government's instructions to local police are that they should write up SARs even if there's no valid reason to suspect a person of doing anything wrong," ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye said in the statement.

Book; Bill Clinton's girlfriend has a Secret Service code name

Page Six - Bill Clinton reportedly has a buxom blond mistress who visits so often when Hillary Clinton isn’t home in Chappaqua that the former president’s Secret Service detail have given her an unofficial code name: Energizer.

This is according to Ronald Kessler in “The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of Presidents,” due Aug. 5 from Crown Forum.

Kessler is no stranger to the controversies surrounding the Secret Service.

He broke the story that Secret Service agents protecting President Obama in Cartagena, Colombia, hired prostitutes, and put the president in jeopardy.

The book, portions of which I’ve obtained, says none of the normal protocols are followed when Energizer arrives in her SUV, sometimes just minutes after Hillary has left the Westchester house.

Kessler quotes a supervisor informing a new agent: “You don’t stop her, you don’t approach her, you just let her go in.”

Energizer, who is described as charming and friendly, sometimes brought cookies to the agents, according to the book excerpts.

One told Kessler: “It was a warm day, and she was wearing a low-cut tank top, and as she leaned over, her breasts were very exposed. They appeared to be very perky and very new and full…There was no doubt in my mind they were enhanced.”

Kessler also reports that Hillary’s Secret Service detail informs Bill’s Secret Service detail when the former First Lady is coming home, so Bill has time to get Energizer off the property and clean up any evidence.

But once, the warning came late. “The agents had to scramble to get Energizer out of there so there wasn’t some kind of big confrontation.”

Kessler also reveals that Hillary is routinely rude to the agents who are sworn to take a bullet for her.

“Because she is so nasty to agents and hostile to law enforcement officers and military officers in general, agents consider being assigned to her detail a form of punishment,” Kessler wrote.

And they don’t get any cookies.

Bill’s representatives did not answer requests for comment.

Ronald Kessler was a reporter for the Washington Post, has written 20 books and won two Polk Awards. This story adds flame to rumors that Bill Clinton doesn't want his wife to win the White House as it might give her a history leg up over him and restrict his life style. - TPR

Beef production far more damaging to environment than other livestock

 As a comment below notes, this study aggregates - but does not distinguish between - pasture raised and heavily corn fed cattle. Scientific Blogging notes: "Cattle grazing on arid land in the western half of the US use enormous amounts of land, but relatively little irrigation water. Cattle in feedlots, on the other hand, eat mostly corn, which requires less land, but much more irrigation and nitrogen fertilizer. The researchers needed to account for these differences, but determine aggregate figures that reflect current practices and thus approximate the true environmental cost for each food item." in fact, the report should have distinguished between the two.

BBC - A new study suggests that the production of beef is around 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other form of livestock.

Scientists measured the environment inputs required to produce the main US sources of protein.

Beef cattle need 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than pork, poultry, eggs or dairy.

The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

While it has long been known that beef has a greater environmental impact than other meats, the authors of this paper say theirs is is the first to quantify the scale in a comparative way.

Obama support DC statehood

The Hill - President Obama said Monday that as a Washington, D.C., resident he supported statehood for the District of Columbia’s 650,000 inhabitants.

"I'm in D.C., so I'm for it," Obama said Monday at a town-hall event to promote his "My Brother's Keeper" program.

"I've long believed that folks in D.C. pay taxes like everybody else. They contribute to the overall well-being of the country like everybody else. They should be represented like everybody else," Obama added.

The president said there was no reason based on population size to deny the district's residents statehood. But he acknowledged that the politics in Congress on D.C. statehood would be "difficult."

The movement for DC statehood began right on these pages in our former guise as the DC Gazette. Three months later, your editor joined a small group of activists led by Julius Hobson to form the DC Statehood movement.

A doctor moves from Tokyo because of radiation

Shigeru Mita, Newsletter of Association of Doctors in Kodaira, Metropolitan Tokyo -  To my fellow doctorsI closed the clinic in March 2014, which had served the community of Kodaira for more than 50 years, since my father’s generation, and I have started a new Mita clinic in Okayama-city on April 21.

I had been a member of the board of directors in the Kodaira medical association since the 1990’s, the time I started practicing medicine at my father’s clinic. For the last 10 years, I had worked to establish a disaster emergency response in the city.

... I have been worried about the possibility of radiation contamination in Tokyo, so I had repeatedly requested the medical association, the municipal government and the local public health department to stock medical iodine. However, every time my request was turned down; the reason given was that Tokyo did not expect such an event. Hence there was no plan for preparing for the event.

In the afternoon of March 11, 2011, Tokyo experienced slow but great motions in the earthquake...The temperature of the reactors in Fukushima Daiichi NPP rose and it caused massive explosions, followed by meltdowns and melt-through.

It is clear that Eastern Japan and Metropolitan Tokyo have been contaminated with radiation.

....Since December 2011, I have conducted thyroid ultrasound examinations, thyroid function tests, general blood tests and biochemical tests on about 2000 people, mostly families in the Tokyo metropolitan area expressing concerns on the effects of radiation. I have observed that white blood cells, especially neutrophils, are decreasing among children under the age of 10. There are cases of significant decline in the number of neutrophils in 0-1 year-olds born after the earthquake. In both cases, conditions tend to improve by moving to Western Japan. Patients report nosebleed, hair loss, lack of energy, subcutaneous bleeding, visible urinary hemorrhage, skin inflammations, coughs and various other non-specific symptoms.

Kodaira, in western Tokyo, is one of the least-contaminated areas in Kanto; however, we began to notice changes in children’s blood test results around mid-2013 even in this area. Contamination in Tokyo is progressing, and further worsened by urban radiation concentration, or the effect by which urban sanitation systems such as the sewage system, garbage collection and incineration condense radiation, because contaminated waste is gathered and compressed. Data measured by citizens’ groups showed that radiation levels on the riverbeds of Kawabori River in Higashiyamato and Higashimurayama in Tokyo have increased drastically in the last 1-2 years.

Other concerns I have include symptoms reported by general patients, such as persistent asthma and sinusitis. The patients show notable improvement once they move away.

I also observe high occurrences of rheumatic polymyalgia characterized by complaints such as “difficulty turning over,” “inability to dress and undress,” and “inability to stand up” among my middle-aged and older patients. Could these be the same symptoms of muscle rheumatism that were recorded in Chernobyl?

Changes are also noticeable in the manifestation of contagious diseases such as influenza, hand-foot-and-mouth disease and shingles.

Many patients report experiencing unfamiliar symptoms or sensing unusual changes in their bodies. Perhaps they feel comfortable speaking to me, knowing that my clinic posted signs informing of possible radiation-related symptoms immediately after the nuclear accident. Many young couples with small children and women worried about their grandchildren visit my clinic and earnestly engage in the discussion, and there is not a single patient who resists my critical views on the impacts of radiation.

Ever since 3.11, everybody living in Eastern Japan including Tokyo is a victim, and everybody is involved.

We discovered that our knowledge from the discipline of radiology was completely useless in the face of a nuclear disaster. The keyword here is “long-term low-level internal irradiation.” This differs greatly from medical irradiation or simple external exposure to radiation. I do not want to get involved in political issues; nonetheless, I must state that the policies of the WHO, the IAEA or the Japanese government cannot be trusted. They are simply far too distanced from the harsh realities that people in Chernobyl still face today.

... Residents of Tokyo are unfortunately not in the position to pity the affected regions of Tohoku because they are victims themselves. Time is running short. I took an earlier step forward and evacuated to the west. My fellow doctors of medicine, I am waiting for you here. And to the people in Eastern Japan still hesitating, all my support goes to facilitating and enabling your evacuation, relocation, or a temporary relief in Western Japan.

New battle: marijuana vs. water

Indian Country - The drought in California is exacerbating the effect that illegal marijuana farms have on the Yurok ’s water supply, and on July 21 federal and state agencies raided several properties on or adjoining the reservation along the Klamath River.

The Yurok are not the only ones contending with the effects of illegal pot grows on their lands. The Hoopa Tribe has been actively combating incursions as well.

Even without the ongoing and worsening drought, the farms put a strain on Yurok life in a number of ways. Rat poison kills sacred fish and other animals, lower water levels become too warm and unhealthy for salmon to spawn in, and water pressure is just about nil on the reservation.

"They're stealing millions and millions of gallons of water, and it's impacting our ecosystem," Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O'Rourke said during the raid, according to the Los Angeles Times. "We can no longer make it into our dance places, our women and children can't leave the road to gather. We can't hunt. We can't live the life we've lived for thousands of years."

“We are coming close to being prisoners in our own land,” O’Rourke said. “Everything we stand for, everything we do is impacted.”

Pocket paradigms

We need a trial to judge all those who bear significant responsibility for the past century - the most murderous and ecologically destructive in human history. We could call it the war, air and fiscal crimes tribunal and we could put politicians and CEOs and major media owners in the dock with earphones like Eichmann and make them listen to the evidence of how they killed millions of people and almost murdered the planet and made most of us far more miserable than we needed to be. Of course, we wouldn't have time to go after them one by one. We'd have to lump Wall Street investment bankers in one trial, the Council on Foreign Relations in another, and any remaining Harvard Business School or Yale Law graduates in a third. We don't need this for retribution, only for edification. So there would be no capital punishment, but rather banishment to an overseas Nike factory with a vow of perpetual silence.- Sam Smith

Word

Oppression and harassment are a small price to live in the land of the free - C. Montgomery Burns, The Simpsons

July 21, 2014

Headlines of the day

How many politicians are being blackmailed by the NSA, CIA and FBI?

NSA shares secrets on US citizens with Israel

More cities defining homelessness as a crime

Infrequently asked questions

New York City approves segregated entrances at major development

Hillary in top one hundredth of one percent

Israelis gather on hilltops to cheer assault on Gaza

97 year old musician sent to homeless shelter for playing too much uke at ret...

Whites comprise biggest increase moving to poverty areas

Chicago school system killing vocational education

Word: Move veterans to Medicare

Where Americans live

Why I remember World War One

Links: Religion and its alternatives

Word: Ralph Nader's summary of the Gaza crisis

School reform child abuse hurting kids physically as well

Israelis destroy Gaza hospital

How many politicians are being blackmailed by the NSA, CIA and FBI?

David Sirota - When I asked U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) if the NSA was keeping files on his colleagues, he recounted a meeting between NSA officials and lawmakers in the lead-up to a closely contested House vote to better regulate the agency:

“One of my colleagues asked the NSA point blank will you give me a copy of my own record and the NSA said no, we won’t. They didn’t say no we don’t have one. They said no we won’t. So that’s possible.”

Grayson is right: presumably, if the NSA wasn’t tracking lawmakers, it would have flatly denied it. Instead, those officials merely denied lawmakers access to whatever files the agency might have. That suggests one of two realities: 1) the NSA is keeping files on lawmakers 2) the NSA isn’t keeping files on lawmakers, but answered vaguely in order to stoke fear among legislators that it is.

Regardless of which of these realities happens to be the case, the mere existence of legitimate fears of congressional surveillance by an executive-branch agency is a serious legal and separation-of-powers problem. Why? Because whether or not the surveillance is actually happening, the very real possibility that it even could be happening or has happened can unduly intimidate the legislative branch into abrogating its constitutional oversight responsibilities. In this particular case, it can scare congressional lawmakers away from voting to better regulate the NSA.

Washington's Blog - During the Vietnam war, the NSA spied on two prominent politicians – Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker – as well as critics of government policy Muhammad Ali, Martin Luther King, and a Washington Post humorist.

A recently declassified history written by the NSA itself called the effort “disreputable if not outright illegal.”

The main whistleblower who revealed the Vietnam-era spying was Christopher H. Pyle. Pyle told Rob Kall of OpEdNews:

"If the NSA was targeting people like Sen. Frank Church, who were in a position to oversee the NSA — is that happening now? That is, are people like intelligence committee chairs Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and other congressional leaders — who are supposed to be providing oversight themselves — compromised in some way by the NSA? If so, as seems quite certain from the recent Edward Snowden revelations, then how can they conduct genuine oversight of the NSA with their committees?”

The NSA has been tracking people’s porn in order to discredit them. The New York Times reports that this type of behavior has been going on for a long time: “J. Edgar Hoover compiled secret dossiers on the sexual peccadilloes and private misbehavior of those he labeled as enemies — really dangerous people like … President John F. Kennedy, for example”.

A high-level NSA whistleblower says that the NSA is spying on – and blackmailing – top government officials and military officers, including Supreme Court Justices, high-ranked generals, Colin Powell and other State Department personnel, and many other top officials

Another very high-level NSA whistleblower – the head of the NSA’s global intelligence gathering operation – says that the NSA targeted CIA chief Petraeus

And it’s not just the NSA.

Last year, Eric Holder refused to say whether the Department of Justice was spying on Congress.

Wikipedia - The Lavender Scare refers to the fear and persecution of homosexuals in the 1950s in the United States, which paralleled the anti-communist campaign known as McCarthyism. Because the psychiatric community regarded homosexuality as a mental illness, gay men and lesbians were considered susceptible to blackmail …. Former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson has written: “The so-called ‘Red Scare’ has been the main focus of most historians of that period of time. A lesser-known element . . . and one that harmed far more people was the witch-hunt McCarthy and others conducted against homosexuals.”

NY Times - J. Edgar Hoover compiled secret dossiers on the sexual peccadillos and private misbehavior of those he labeled as enemies — really dangerous people like … President John F. Kennedy, for example.

Alfred McCoy, Tom's Dispatch -  In the Obama years, the first signs have appeared that NSA surveillance will use the information gathered to traffic in scandal, much as Hoover’s FBI once did. In September 2013, the New York Times reported that the NSA has, since 2010, applied sophisticated software to create “social network diagrams…, unlock as many secrets about individuals as possible…, and pick up sensitive information like regular calls to a psychiatrist’s office, late-night messages to an extramarital partner.”

...By collecting knowledge — routine, intimate, or scandalous — about foreign leaders, imperial proconsuls from ancient Rome to modern America have gained both the intelligence and aura of authority necessary for dominion over alien societies. The importance, and challenge, of controlling these local elites cannot be overstated. During its pacification of the Philippines after 1898, for instance, the U.S. colonial regime subdued contentious Filipino leaders via pervasive policing that swept up both political intelligence and personal scandal. And that, of course, was just what J. Edgar Hoover was doing in Washington during the 1950s and 1960s.

Washington's Blog - FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds alleged under oath that a recently-serving Democratic Congresswoman was secretly videotaped – for blackmail purposes – during a lesbian affair. There have been allegations of blackmail of gay activities within the U.S. armed forces for years.

NSA whistleblower Bill Binney said his agency targeted "Supreme Court Judges, other judges, Senators, Representatives, law firms and lawyers, and just anybody you don’t like … reporters included”

Washington's Blog -  NSA whistleblower Russell Tice (a key source in the 2005 New York Times report that blew the lid off the Bush administration’s use of warrantless wiretapping),  says:
  • The NSA is spying on and blackmailing its overseers in Washington, as well as Supreme Court judges, generals and others
  • The agency started spying on Barack Obama when he was just a candidate for the Senate
Washington's Blog -  The Washington Post’s report shows that the NSA also collected information on President Obama, both as president-elect and as president:
A “minimized U.S. president-elect” begins to appear in the files in early 2009, and references to the current “minimized U.S. president” appear 1,227 times in the following four years.
...Of course, the NSA has pretty much admitted to spying on Congress. And see this.

.....The NSA is spying on and blackmailing its overseers in Washington, as well as Supreme Court judges, generals and others

The agency started spying on Barack Obama when he was just a candidate for the Senate.

NSA shares secrets on US citizens with Israel

Guardian, UK - The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens, a top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the Israelis.

The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process "minimization", but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the Israelis would be in its pre-minimized state.

More cities defining homelessness as a crime

PBS - In many cities throughout the U.S. it is now a crime to beg, loiter or sleep in public. It’s getting harder to be homeless in America.

Laws that criminalize homelessness are cropping up in cities throughout the country, while simultaneously, a national shortage of shelter beds and housing options is roiling the system.

Since 2001, the U.S. has lost nearly 13 percent of its low-income housing according to a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty that surveyed 187 cities.

The advocacy group’s report found that laws placing restrictions on loitering, begging, sitting and lying down in public have increased nationwide since 2009. Eighteen percent of cities now ban sleeping in public and 42 percent of cities ban sleeping in vehicles.

From Skid Row to high school graduation, Los Angeles supports homeless students’ academic success Homeless professor protests conditions of adjuncts

And that’s a problem, NLCHP Executive Director Mary Foscarinis told NPR, because it makes it difficult for individuals to get back on their feet.

“It’s really hard to get a job when you’re homeless anyway, or to get housing,” Foscarinis said. ”You have no place to bathe, no place to dress, no money for transportation. But then if you also have an arrest record, it’s even more challenging,” she said.

In May, city officials in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, passed a series of ordinances cracking down on public drunkenness, urination and sleeping on sidewalks — all in an effort to help the homeless and preserve the city’s quality of life, city spokesman Matt Little told USA Today.

“The city of Fort Lauderdale has a distinguished history of compassion toward those in need,” Little said. “Protecting our quality of life and business environment ensures continued funding for humanitarian needs.”

NLCHP says an overwhelming increase in urban homelessness after the recession and a widespread initiative to revitalize cities’ downtown areas incited the crackdown on the homeless.

Infrequenlty asked questions

If it's wrong for Russia to fund rebel attacks on Ukraine, why isn't it wrong for America to be a major under of Israel's attacks on Palestine?