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Posts tagged Washington DC

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License Plate Tracking Spreads beyond Criminal Suspects


From Tennessee to the District of Columbia, police are using mobile and stationary surveillance cameras to collect and store license plates of residents who have committed no crime—so that they can be found if they ever do.
In Tennessee, police utilize cameras mounted atop patrol cars that can capture thousands of license numbers each day. The information is then loaded into an ever-expanding database, which can help officers locate a vehicle in the event its owner is suspected of criminal behavior. The program is now expanding to include stationary cameras mounted next to busy roads.
“I’m sure that there’s going to be people out there that say this is an invasion of privacy,” Detective James Kemp of Gallatin County told The Tennessean. But “the possibilities are endless there for solving crimes. It’s just a multitude of information out there—to not tap into it to better protect your citizens, that’s ludicrous.”
In Washington D.C., local police make use of 250 cameras set up around the city that can capture license plates. Last year they claimed that the cameras led to an average of one arrest a day. DC reportedly has the highest concentration of cameras per square mile in the United States for spotting criminals on the move or just ordinary citizens going about their lives.
Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst for the American Civil Liberties Union’s technology and liberty program, expressed concern over D.C.’s “large database of innocent people’s comings and goings.” He told The Washington Post: “The government has no business collecting that kind of information on people without a warrant.”
Others predict that the technology will be declared constitutional because license plates are displayed in public, so there is no invasion of privacy.

Filed under News Surveillance Surveillance State Police Tracking big brother Washington dc

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Not Explaining the Why of Terrorism

by Ray McGovern

John Brennan, President Obama’s chief adviser on counterterrorism, has again put on public display two unfortunate facts: (1) that the White House has no clue as to how to counter terrorism; and (2) (in Brennan’s words) “the unfortunate fact that to save many innocent lives we are sometimes obliged to take lives.”

In a speech on April 30, Brennan did share one profound insight: “Countries typically don’t want foreign soldiers in their cities and towns.” His answer to that? “The precision of targeted [drone] strikes.” Does he really mean to suggest that local populations are more accepting of unmanned drones buzzing overhead and firing missiles on the push of a button by a “pilot” halfway around the world?

Beneath Brennan’s Orwellian rhetoric lies the reality that he remains unable (or unwilling) to deal with, the $64 question former White House correspondent Helen Thomas asked him repeatedly on Jan. 7, 2010, about why terrorists do the things they do.

Brennan: “Al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Is it possible he still has no clue? To demonstrate how little progress Brennan has made in the way of understanding the challenge of “terrorism,” let’s look back at my commentary in early 2010 about Brennan’s vacuous non-answers to Helen Thomas. At the time, I wrote:

Thank God for Helen Thomas, the only person to show any courage at the White House press briefing after President Barack Obama gave a flaccid account of the intelligence screw-up that almost downed an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

After Obama briefly addressed L’Affaire Abdulmutallab and wrote “must do better” on the report cards of the national security schoolboys responsible for the near catastrophe, the President turned the stage over to counter-terrorism guru John Brennan and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

It took 89-year old veteran correspondent Helen Thomas (now 91) to break through the vapid remarks about rechanneling “intelligence streams,” fixing “no-fly” lists, deploying “behavior detection officers,” and buying more body-imaging scanners.

Thomas recognized the John & Janet filibuster for what it was, as her catatonic press colleagues took their customary dictation and asked their predictable questions. Instead, Thomas posed an adult query that spotlighted the futility of government plans to counter terrorism with more high-tech gizmos and more intrusions on the liberties and privacy of the traveling public.

She asked why Abdulmutallab did what he did. Thomas: “And what is the motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.”

Brennan: “Al-Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. … They attract individuals like Mr. Abdulmutallab and use them for these types of attacks. He was motivated by a sense of religious sort of drive. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has perverted Islam, and has corrupted the concept of Islam, so that he’s (sic) able to attract these individuals. But al-Qaeda has the agenda of destruction and death.”

Thomas: “And you’re saying it’s because of religion?”

Brennan: “I’m saying it’s because of an al-Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.”

Thomas: “Why?”

Brennan: “I think this is a — long issue, but al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.”

Thomas: “But you haven’t explained why.”

Neither did President Obama, nor anyone else in the U.S. political/media hierarchy. All the American public gets is the boilerplate about how al-Qaeda evildoers are perverting a religion and exploiting impressionable young men. 

There is almost no discussion about why so many people in the Muslim world object to U.S. policies so strongly that they are inclined to resist violently and even resort to suicide attacks.

Obama’s Non-Answer

I had been hoping Obama would say something intelligent about what drove Abdulmutallab to do what he did, but the president uttered a few vacuous comments before sending in the clowns. This is what he said before he walked away from the podium:

It is clear that al-Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals without known terrorist affiliations … to do their bidding. … And that’s why we must communicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al-Qaeda offers nothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death … while the United States stands with those who seek justice and progress. … That’s the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.

But why it is so hard for Muslims to “get” that message? Why can’t they end their preoccupation with dodging U.S. missiles in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Gaza long enough to reflect on how we are only trying to save them from terrorists while simultaneously demonstrating our commitment to “justice and progress”?

Does a smart fellow like Obama expect us to believe that all we need to do is “communicate clearly to Muslims” that it is al-Qaeda, not the U.S. and its allies, that brings “misery and death”? Does any informed person not know that the unprovoked U.S.-led invasion of Iraq killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and displaced 4.5 million from their homes? How is that for “misery and death”?

Rather than a failure to communicate, U.S. officials are trying to rewrite recent history, which seems to be much easier to accomplish with the Washington press corps and large segments of the American population than with the Muslim world. But why isn’t there a frank discussion by America’s leaders and media about the real motivation of Muslim anger toward the United States? Why was Helen Thomas the only journalist to raise the touchy but central question of motive?

Peeking Behind the Screen

We witnessed a similar phenomenon when the 9/11 Commission Report tiptoed into a cautious discussion of possible motives behind the 9/11 attacks. To their credit, the drafters of that report apparently went as far as their masters would allow, in gingerly introducing a major elephant into the room: “America’s policy choices have consequences. Right or wrong, it is simply a fact that American policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and American actions in Iraq are dominant staples of popular commentary across the Arab and Muslim world.” (p. 376)

When asked later about the flabby way that last sentence ended, former Rep. Lee Hamilton, vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission, explained that there had been a donnybrook over whether that paragraph could be included at all.

The drafters also squeezed in the reason given by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as to why he “masterminded” the attacks on 9/11: “By his own account, KSM’s animus toward the United States stemmed … from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.”

Would you believe that former Vice President Dick Cheney has also pointed to U.S. support for Israel as one of the “true sources of resentment”? This unique piece of honesty crept into his speech to the American Enterprise Institute on May 21, 2009.

Sure, he also trotted out the bromide that the terrorists hate “all the things that make us a force for good in the world.” But the Israel factor slipped into the speech, perhaps an inadvertent acknowledgement of the Israeli albatross adorning the neck of U.S. policy in the Middle East. Very few pundits and academicians are willing to allude to this reality, presumably out of fear for their future career prospects.

Former senior CIA officer Paul R. Pillar, now a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the few willing to refer, in his typically understated way, to “all the other things … including policies and practices that affect the likelihood that people … will be radicalized, and will try to act out the anger against us.” One has to fill in the blanks regarding what those “other things” are.

But no worries. Secretary Napolitano has a fix for this unmentionable conundrum. It’s called “counter-radicalization,” which she describes thus: “How do we identify someone before they become radicalized to the point where they’re ready to blow themselves up with others on a plane? And how do we communicate better American values and so forth … around the globe?”

Better communication. That’s the ticket.

Hypocrisy and Double Talk

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Filed under News Commentary War War crimes Terrorism Imperialism Totalitarianism Washington DC USA DHS

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DC Students Walk Out on Michael Oren

by Nour Joudah and Adrieh AbouShehade

On 30 April, 2012, Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren gave a speech at George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs. Michael Oren served in the IDF during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, served again as the IDF spokesman during Israel’s brutal assault on Lebanon in 2006, and was the media relations officer during the massacre of over 1,200 Palestinians in Gaza in 2008-2009. Now, as the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Oren continues to fill the role of whitewashing Israel’s war crimes and illegal occupation—be it in US news stations churches, or universities. 

But the close relationship between Israel and the American public (particularly the Christian community) that Oren speaks of in the video below was recently challenged by a CBS special. Oren was deliberate in mentioning his and his wife’s [alleged] Sunday ritual of going to churches to speak to congregations, most recently an African American church to which they were welcomed. However, as we saw in Bob Simon’s interview, Oren’s storytelling is only loose and free when he is in control of the conversation; attempts to present the Palestinian perspective are categorically denied and censored

On 8 February, 2010, students at the University of California-Irvine interrupted his speech, protesting his propaganda justifying Israeli atrocities. Though these students left the auditorium peacefully, they were arrested, tried, convicted of misdemeanors, and sentenced to community service and a three-year probation period for exercising their right to free speech. Since the actions by these students, now commonly referred to as the “Irvine 11,” activists across the country have made it a point to walk out, protest, or in some manner disrupt the visits of Michael Oren, IDF soldiers, and others to American university campuses—sending a clear message to their universities that war criminals are not welcome. 

Several months ago, George Washington University hosted a speaker from the IDF on campus. A university event publicist shared the news of the event on Twitter, declaring that it was open and that students were encouraged to attend. 

Yet, upon overhearing an Arabic-speaking student approaching the door, two Israeli security guards communicated to each other in Hebrew that this student should not be allowed to enter. No evidence that registration was required was shown to the student and her peers; instead, the door was shut in their faces and campus police were called to the scene to have them removed on the assumption that they may protest, although no evidence of this other than the ethnicity of a few members of the group was given. Despite reporting this incident to the relevant authorities, no apology or explanation was given to the students involved. University administrators at the scene admitted that, according to protocol and the lack of a registration or legitimate filtering mechanism, the students should have been allowed to attend. 

This incident caused increased trepidation in many of the organizers for this week’s walkout, who were unsure if they would even be allowed to enter, or, given the Irvine 11 case, if they could be prosecuted. Nevertheless, students continued with their plans with the strong conviction that Michael Oren and Israel’s narrative should not go unchallenged. 

The walkout and protest in the video below were organized and attended by students and activists from the DC area, with representatives from Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, American University and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Since the walkout, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post have both reported the action, as well as coverage of the walkout on C-SPAN’s online boradcast of the event.

Filed under News Washington DC Washington University United States Israel Gaza West Bank Georgetown University George Washington University Howard University American University Jewish Voice for Peace

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May Day protests in front of the White House

The May Day/Occupy protesters are making their voices heard in nation’s capital - Washington DC. RT’s Kristine Frazao went along for part of their march.

Side Note: I realize that President Obama is currently in Afghanistan giving some bullshit speech - the contents of which will primarily be lies, so I don’t feel like covering them here - but I do have two words for that nitwit: “BUG-SPLAT.

Filed under News Occupy May Day Washington DC Protest

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‘Lasting Pride’ For the Hell We Left in Iraq

By John Glaser

“We’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people.” – President Barack Obama, Fort Bragg, N.C., December 2011

“You will leave with great pride – lasting pride.” – Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to U.S. troops, December 2011

I’ve written repeatedly about the terrible dictatorship and lasting sectarian violenceWashington left in Iraq after the troop withdrawal of December 2011. Contrary to the lies of these indecent politicians, the enduring effects of the illegal U.S. war in Iraq are still causing havoc and bloodshed throughout the country. Iraq is neither secure, nor is it a democracy as was promised by warmongers in Washington.

A new Congressional Research Service report takes a look at post-withdrawal Iraq and at one point lists the most high-profile incidents of sectarian violence:

On February 7, 2012, the AQ-I affiliate Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for two of the deadliest attacks on Shiites since the U.S. withdrawal—on January 5 and January 14, 2012, which killed 78 and 53 Shiite pilgrims, respectively. In one of the most complex attacks in recent months, on February 23, 2012, bombings in 12 Iraqi cities killed over 50 persons; based on the method and scope of the attacks, Iraqi observers attributed the attacks to AQ-I. AQ-I claimed responsibility for a broad series of attacks—encompassing six cities—on March 20, 2012; over 40 persons were killed. Another spate of attacks took place in Baghdad and Kirkuk on April 19, 2012, killing about 36 persons.

As for the record of the government (other than what’s included in the above hyperlinks), the report had this to say:

The State Department’s report on human rights for 2010 released April 8, 2011, largely repeated the previous year’s characterizations of Iraq’s human rights record as follows: “Extremist violence, coupled with weak government performance in upholding the rule of law, resulted in widespread and severe human rights abuses.” The State Department report cited a wide range of human rights problems committed by Iraqi government security and law enforcement personnel, including some unlawful killings; torture and other cruel punishments; poor conditions in prison facilities; denial of fair public trials; arbitrary arrest; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; limits on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association due to sectarianism and extremist threats; lack of protection of stateless persons; wide scale governmental corruption; human trafficking; and limited exercise of labor rights.

All this, as America continues to give money and weapons to the Maliki government. What exactly do U.S. troops have to be proud about?

Filed under News Commentary Iraq antiwar dissent War Washington DC Pentagon

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How Think Tanks Think

Side Note: I love Kelley Vlahos.

Kelley B. Vlahos

When liberal Americans find themselves at a loss as to why Democrats appear to walk, talk and gurgle like Republicans on national security issues — especially during election season — they honestly need to look no further than the powerful think tank apparatus in Washington for the culprit.

First of all, it is important to understand that Washington is place that breeds and feeds only on power — power ordained on seemingly endless revenue sources, charitable, political and the kind you and I send to Uncle Sam in a thick white envelope every April 15. One’s power is determined by their placement in the pecking order and every four years elections determine who is in the big house parlor holding the purse, and who is stewing in the guestroom, plotting to take over when the other dies.

Everything else — the non-profits, lobbyists, unions, trade associations, and all the agencies that make up the massive federal bureaucracy, are the animals in the barnyard, fighting for slop and supremacy. Not surprisingly, the military rooster is usually bullying everyone around, including the thin skins in the house.

Therefore, federal elections that determine members of the House and Senate and who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue are not — contrary to what were taught in grade school — a near-religious American ritual that determines the kind of ideas and principles that will guide the Republic, but an extremely expensive, often cut-throat contest to see who gets to drive the car (further into the ditch).

Thus, after endless campaign slogans calling for “reform” and “change” and “getting the money out of Washington,” there’s never any real effort at doing any of those things when the time comes, because no one, once in Washington, wants to alter the stakes. Locked into this timeless struggle, Republicans and Democrats know that money is power and vice-versa. The man who once said “I hate a Roman named Status Quo!” never sat in the Roman Senate.

Which brings us to our vaunted think tanks. The most influential ones in Washington have the most money (tons of contributions from corporations, foundation grants, individuals and associations) and with few exception play the biggest role in advancing Republican and Democratic agendas, though for tax purposes most will call themselves “non partisan” or some such hooey. Those more obliquely partisan still fall along “liberal” or “conservative” lines (with Cato the only major libertarian vessel).

Think tank success requires fealty to certain principles that tether thinking and general policy-making to the establishment hive, or better yet, the barnyard mentality. For sure, the Washington think tank world at second blush is a rather bland cultural orthodoxy that while allowing for seemingly stark shifts in ideology and method, belies a clubby landscape in which the same chief actors set tone and prioritize issues, blessing those who prove themselves “of the body,” and quietly boxing out those who don’t.

Thus, they are as parochial as they are loyal to the duopoly that dominates the nation’s politics and its centers of power: Congress, the White House and the Pentagon establishment, otherwise known as the military industrial complex (MIC).

I’d like to concentrate on one such think tank because not only does it exhibit everything we’re discussing in spades, but because and its audience is particularly interested in the MIC, and how war has become a corrupt and supremely political business that has made a lot of people inside the Beltway rich and many more outside of it, dead.

Last week, Josh Rogin of wrote what could only be described as a press release for the aptly named Truman National Security Project. Calling it “a major arm of the progressive foreign-policy establishment in Washington,” that “does not self-identify with either political party,” Rogin went on to report that the group had released its new “Truman Security Briefing Book,” a “comprehensive collection of suggested messaging, issue framing, and policy options for Democratic officials and candidates to use this summer and fall.”

Don’t choke on the chicken scratch yet. It gets worse. Rogin calls the group “left of center,” which it is decidedly not. To maintain this non-partisan fiction, the Truman people call themselves “progressives,” but while the rest of us in the 21st century are thinking this means liberal “reformers,” their “blueprint” for success suggests they are reliable foreign policy hegemons with a humanitarian interventionist philosophy harking further back from their namesake to Wilsonian progressivism itself. In their world, neoconservatives are much preferred over foreign policy “realists” or non-interventionists, which they casually refer to as pitiable isolationists anyway.

Whatever they are, with the number of Clinton era retreads, Democratic operatives, corporate suits, defense contractors and current or former congressional and administration staff attached to this outfit, no one should confuse the Truman Project with anything other than a re-election campaign that promises to keep the war machine humming no matter who is elected to office.

The People

One need to go no further to understand the dynamic at work here than the advisory board, on which sits former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who once infamously said while advocating the bombing of Bosnia, “What’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” She also said, when asked in a 1996 interview about the estimated half a million children dead due to Clinton’s Iraq sanctions, that “we think the price is worth it.” She now stewards her own lucrative “global strategy” consulting firm, The Albright Group LLC.

Then there’s Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which makes him a made man in the purest embodiment of the foreign policy establishment there is. Gelb confessed in 2009 that he supported the Iraq War because the hive made him do it. You may not have heard of Robert Abernethy, head of American Standard Development Co., but he sits on the board and serves as trustee at dozens of schools, associations, colleges and think tanks, including Brookings, the RAND Corporation, CFR, the Pacific Council and Johns Hopkins University. He’s also raised some $80,000 in campaign contributions for Democrats since the beginning of 2011 and tens of thousands more over the past decade. He also sits on the Truman board.

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Filed under Commentary Antiwar CFR Washington DC RAND Corporation

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FBI Attempts to Hold Sibel Edmonds’ Book Hostage


Agency Used Contracts to Censor Whistleblowers

Washington, D.C. April 10, 2012. Today, the National Whistleblowers Center (NWC) revealed that the FBI required employees to sign employment contracts that are illegal under Federal law. The NWC launched the investigation in response to a nearly year long campaign by the FBI to prevent the publication of whistleblower Sibel Edmonds’ new book, Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story.

On April 26, 2011, Ms. Edmonds followed official procedure and submitted her manuscript to the FBI for pre-publication clearance. Under the terms of her employment agreement and controlling regulations, the FBI was required to review and approve the submission within thirty (30) days. Instead of complying with the law, the FBI intentionally stalled the approval process for over 341 days and has still refused to “clear” the book for publication.

Ms. Edmonds will speak today for the first time about the FBI’s attempts to suppress her book. The interview will be aired live at 1:30pm ET on Honesty Without Fear, and the podcast will also be available for download.

The NWC is also releasing documentation confirming that the FBI required employees, including Ms. Edmonds, to sign the illegal contracts that allowed the FBI to censor issues of “public policy” it found embarrassing. According to Ms. Edmonds attorney, Stephen M. Kohn, “the controlling law strictly limits government’s ability to censor its employees. Agencies like the FBI may require pre-publication review of its employees’ writings, but may only censor classified or secret information. The government may not censor books or other writings on ‘policy’ grounds. The FBI’s employment contract with Ms. Edmonds is overreaching and illegal.” 

Additional documents demonstrate that the agency acted illegally to prevent Ms. Edmonds from publishing a manuscript that might embarrass the agency.

The book in question, Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story, discusses Ms. Edmonds’s experience as an FBI Language Specialist who discovered and blew the whistle on serious security breaches and cover-ups at the Washington Field Office. The FBI fired Ms. Edmonds for making protected disclosures about the misconduct she observed and later invoked the “state’s secret” privilege to suppress her story.

An independent investigation by the Department of Justice Office of Inspector General confirmed her allegations and the illegality of her termination. However, the Bush administration invoked the state secrets privilege in 2002 in order to have Ms. Edmonds’ whistleblower claims dismissed and to protect the government from embarrassment.

In recognition of her work to expose intelligence failures, Ms. Edmonds received the 2006 First Amendment Award, presented by the PEN American Center and Newman’s Own.

Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblowers Center, also stated:

The FBI must stop harassing Sibel Edmonds. The law is crystal clear on the government’s ability to censor federal employees and contractors. When reviewing their writings, the government has the single ability to strike classified or secret information. The government may not censor a book based on “policy.” Here, the FBI has invented new powers for itself, violating the Constitution. Congress should investigate all employment agreements drafted by the FBI to ensure that they are legal and not designed to censor speech protected under the First Amendment.

To schedule interviews with Ms. Edmonds and/or her attorney please contact Lindsey Williams at


Manuscript cover letter to FBI

Illegal employment agreement (excerpt)

Notification of stalled FBI review process

Honesty Without Fear radio show (hear the interview live or download the program) (Sibel Edmonds blog)

Filed under Books CIA News Sibel Edmonds whistleblower FBI washington dc

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Banker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

ByBenn Steil

President Obama recently nominated Jim Yong Kim, the president of Dartmouth, to be the next president of the World Bank - a privilege accorded to the United States since the bank’s founding in 1946. A European, in turn, gets to run the International Monetary Fund.

In the wake of World War II, such a divvying up of the top spots among the great powers was inevitable. But how did the United States, the primary founder and financer of the two institutions, wind up taking the helm of the World Bank, and not the IMF, which was of vastly greater importance to its government?

In fact, that was the original goal of Harry Dexter White, the Treasury Department’s key representative at the Bretton Woods conference of July 1944, where the two institutions were created. The IMF was central to White’s vision of a postwar global financial architecture dominated by the American dollar.

White relegated the British delegation head, John Maynard Keynes, to the commission creating the World Bank specifically to keep him away from the main event: creating the IMF. White so masterfully outmaneuvered the British that they wound up signing on to a dollar-centric design for the fund, one they thought they had already blocked.

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Filed under Editorial Commentary IMF World Bank United States Europe Washington DC

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Monsanto Threatens to Sue Vermont if Legislators Pass a Bill Requiring GMO Food to Be Labeled

Side Note: An entity like Monsanto just should not exist… period.

What it really comes down to this: Elected officials are abandoning the public interest and public will in the face of corporate intimidation

By Will Allen

The world’s most hated corporation is at it again, this time in Vermont.

Despite overwhelming public support and support from a clear majority of Vermont’s Agriculture Committee, Vermont legislators are dragging their feet on a proposed GMO labeling bill. Why? Because Monsanto has threatened to sue the state if the bill passes.

The popular legislative bill requiring mandatory labels on genetically engineered food (H-722) is languishing in the Vermont House Agriculture Committee, with only four weeks left until the legislature adjourns for the year. Despite thousands of emails and calls from constituents who overwhelmingly support mandatory labeling, despite the fact that a majority (6 to 5) of Agriculture Committee members support passage of the measure, Vermont legislators are holding up the labeling bill and refusing to take a vote.

Instead, they’re calling for more public hearings on April 12, in the apparent hope that they can run out the clock until the legislative session ends in early May.

What happened to the formerly staunch legislative champions of Vermont’s “right to know” bill? They lost their nerve and abandoned their principles after Monsanto representative recently threatened a public official that the biotech giant would sue Vermont if they dared to pass the bill. Several legislators have rather unconvincingly argued that the Vermont public has a “low appetite” for any bills, even very popular bills like this one, that might end up in court. Others expressed concern about Vermont being the first state to pass a mandatory GMO labeling bill and then having to “go it alone” against Monsanto in court.

What it really comes down to this: Elected officials are abandoning the public interest and public will in the face of corporate intimidation. 

Read more …

Filed under News Commentary GMO Frankenfoods Monsanto Vermont Washington DC

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Empires Then and Now


Great empires, such as the Roman and British, were extractive. The empires succeeded, because the value of the resources and wealth extracted from conquered lands exceeded the value of conquest and governance. The reason Rome did not extend its empire further east into Germany was not the military prowess of the Germanic tribes but Rome’s calculation that the cost of conquest exceeded the value of extractable resources.

The Roman empire failed, because Romans exhausted manpower and resources in civil wars fighting amongst themselves for power. The British empire failed, because the British exhausted themselves fighting Germany in two world wars.

In his book, The Rule of Empires (2010), Timothy H. Parsons replaces the myth of the civilizing empire with the truth of the extractive empire. He describes the successes of the Romans, the Umayyad Caliphate, the Spanish in Peru, Napoleon in Italy, and the British in India and Kenya in extracting resources. To lower the cost of governing Kenya, the British instigated tribal consciousness and invented tribal customs that worked to British advantage.

Parsons does not examine the American empire, but in his introduction to the book he wonders whether America’s empire is really an empire as the Americans don’t seem to get any extractive benefits from it. After eight years of war and attempted occupation of Iraq, all Washington has for its efforts is several trillion dollars of additional debt and no Iraqi oil. After ten years of trillion dollar struggle against the Taliban in Afghanistan, Washington has nothing to show for it except possibly some part of the drug trade that can be used to fund covert CIA operations.

America’s wars are very expensive. Bush and Obama have doubled the national debt, and the American people have no benefits from it. No riches, no bread and circuses flow to Americans from Washington’s wars. So what is it all about?

The answer is that Washington’s empire extracts resources from the American people for the benefit of the few powerful interest groups that rule America. The military-security complex, Wall Street, agri-business and the Israel Lobby use the government to extract resources from Americans to serve their profits and power. The US Constitution has been extracted in the interests of the Security State, and Americans’ incomes have been redirected to the pockets of the 1 percent. That is how the American Empire functions.

The New Empire is different. It happens without achieving conquest. The American military did not conquer Iraq and has been forced out politically by the puppet government that Washington established. There is no victory in Afghanistan, and after a decade the American military does not control the country.

In the New Empire success at war no longer matters. The extraction takes place by being at war. Huge sums of American taxpayers’ money have flowed into the American armaments industries and huge amounts of power into Homeland Security. The American empire works by stripping Americans of wealth and liberty.

This is why the wars cannot end, or if one does end another starts. Remember when Obama came into office and was asked what the US mission was in Afghanistan? He replied that he did not know what the mission was and that the mission needed to be defined.

Obama never defined the mission. He renewed the Afghan war without telling us its purpose. Obama cannot tell Americans that the purpose of the war is to build the power and profit of the military/security complex at the expense of American citizens.

This truth doesn’t mean that the objects of American military aggression have escaped without cost. Large numbers of Muslims have been bombed and murdered and their economies and infrastructure ruined, but not in order to extract resources from them.

It is ironic that under the New Empire the citizens of the empire are extracted of their wealth and liberty in order to extract lives from the targeted foreign populations. Just like the bombed and murdered Muslims, the American people are victims of the American empire.

Filed under Commentary Empire Roman British American USA Britain Rome Imperialism CIA Iraq Afghanistan Washington DC DHS

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U.S. drone attacks from Afghanistan to end after 2014: FM


Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasool said on Thursday Afghanistan would not be used as a launch pad for U.S. drones attacks on neighboring countries after NATO combat forces leave by the end of 2014.

"Afghan soil will not be used against any country in the region," Rasool told Al Jazeera television when asked if Washington would be allowed to launch drone strikes against Pakistan after the troops’ withdrawal.

U.S.-operated drones have repeatedly carried out deadly missile strikes against suspected al Qaeda targets in Pakistan.

"The presence of the remaining forces in Afghanistan is for training, equipping and securing Afghanistan’s security. It has been mentioned, it is going to be mentioned, that this force is not for use against any neighbors in the region," Rasool told the Doha-based channel.

Rasool was in Qatar for talks over the opening of Taliban office in Doha.

Filed under News Afghanistan Drones Washington DC Pakistan War War Crimes NATO Qatar Doha

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Drones Flying Under the Radar

By Tom Barry

An undated handout photo of a U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper, a drone aircraft aimed with laser-guided munitions and Hellfire missiles.

Drones are the future, especially in foreign wars, surveillance and law enforcement.

In all sizes, armed and unarmed, drones are proliferating at home and abroad. Some are loaded with missiles, others simply with Tasers, but all carry surveillance payloads.

These “eyes in the skies,” also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPA), may soon be inescapable. For the most part, however, drones fly outside the radar of public scrutiny, Congressional oversight or international control.

In the seven years that the CIA and US military have deployed killer drones, the US Congress has never once debated the new commitment to drone operations. Although the CIA and the US military now routinely direct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations that enter foreign airspace, these interventions haven’t been subject to serious Congressional review.

Drone operations often proceed without any authorization or knowledge of the intervened nations.

On the domestic front, local police and Homeland Security agents are also enthusiastically deploying drones for law enforcement and border security missions. At all levels, government in the United States is sidelining mounting civil rights, privacy and air safety concerns. The US Congress functions more as a booster for the drone industry than as a regulator.

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Filed under News Drones UAV Drones Surveillance Surveillance State US Government CIA US Military Spying Washington DC UK FAA DHS department of homeland security

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US aid to Israel: 115 billion dollars


New data shows Washington has given more than 115 billion dollars in financial aid to Israel over the years, indicating Tel Aviv’s great dependence on the US.

According to the report published by the Congressional Research Service Israel has received more assistance from the US than 15 European countries did to recover from the devastation caused during World War II. 

More than 67 billion dollars of the Washington’s aid to Israel has been in military, the report said. 

The astonishing report adds that the US has allocated 3.1 billion dollars, around one-fifth of its defense budget, to Israel this year alone. 

Americans also allow the Israeli army to use their emergency reserve ammunition stored in Israel. The value of the weapons held in the US emergency supplies is 1.2 billion dollars. 

The US gives billions of dollars in American taxpayers’ money to the Tel Aviv regime each year in the form of military and economic aid, legally justified as part of US government’s foreign aid package. 

Washington has never downsized its annual 3 billion dollars grant to the Israeli regime despite going through its worst recession in decades which has prompted the government to impose major cuts on most public service programs for citizens

Filed under News USA Israel Foreign policy Tel Aviv Washington DC Geopolitics

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Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control

April 28-29, 2012

9:00am - 9:00pm
900 Massachusetts Avenue NW,
Washington, DC 20001

Register here

The peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights are hosting the first international drone summit. The summit will bring together actors from various sectors, including CIP senior analyst and director of the TransBorder Project, Tom Barry, to discuss the expanding use and deployment of drones internationally and in the United States. Participants will also have the opportunity to hear the personal stories of Pakistani drone-strike victims.

"Drones are proliferating, and Americans are finally waking up to the way that the drone industry and the national/homeland security complex are driving this explosion of drones at home and abroad. Unfortunately, the call for better control, oversight, and international regulation of drones is coming largely from nongovernmental organizations and the grassroots. The Drone Summit on April 28-29 in Washington is an example of how NGOs, including the Center for International Policy, are taking the lead — not Congress, not the administration — in education and policy advocacy," says Tom Barry.

Sunday, April 29 will be a strategy session to network, discuss and plan advocacy efforts focused on various aspects of drones, including surveillance and targeted killings.

Time: 10:00am-4:00pm
Location: 100 Maryland Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20001
Sunday’s session is for representatives of organizations and individuals who want to be actively involved in this work. If you are interested in attending, please email Ramah Kudaimi at

Topics will include:
-the impact of drones on human lives and prospects for peace
-the lack of transparency and accountability for drone operations, including targeted killings
-disputed legality of drone warfare
-compensation for victims
-the future of domestic drone surveillance
-development of autonomous drones
-drone use along U.S. borders.

Speakers will include:
-Clive Stafford Smith, director of UK legal group Reprieve that represents drone victims
-Medea Benjamin, author of forthcoming book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control
-Pardiss Kebriaei, attorney with Center for Constitutional Rights
-Shahzad Akbar, attorney with Pakistani Foundation for Fundamental Fights
-Rafia Zakaria, Amnesty International-USA Board of Directors
-Sarah Holewinski, director of Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC)
-Hina Shamsi, ACLU national security expert
-Jay Stanley, ACLU privacy expert
-Tom Barry, drone border expert with Center for International Policy
-David Glazier, law professor who served 21 years as a US Navy surface warfare officer
-Amie Stepanovich, legal counsel at Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)
-Trevor Timm, activist at Electronic Frontier Foundation
-Peter Asaro and Noel Sharkey from the International Committee for Robot Arms Control (ICRAC).

You can register now or visit our website for more information.

Please contact Summit Organizer Ramah Kudaimi at if you have any questions.

Make sure to invite your friends on Facebook and follow @WarDronesOn for updates.

Endorsed by the Center for International Policy, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Global Exchange, Peace Action, United For Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the Washington Peace Center and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Filed under Drones CodePink Anti-War Drones ACLU America Was USA Washington DC Drone Summit

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Scientist reveals how he made bird flu that could spread between people

Researcher created a hybrid of H5N1 bird flu and swine flu viruses then isolated a strain that can infect cells in the throat

By Ian Sample

Silhouette of a woman coughing or sneezing

A scientist whose work was deemed too dangerous to publish by US biosecurity advisers revealed for the first time on Tuesday how he created a hybrid bird flu virus that is spread easily by coughs and sneezes.

In a conference presentation that was webcasted live to the public, he detailed how his team created the deadly virus. Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka at the University of Wisconsin-Madison described experiments that pinpointed four genetic mutations enabling the virus to spread between ferrets kept in neighbouring cages. The animals are considered the best models of how the infection might spread between people.

In December the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) called for sections of Kawaoka’s work to be deleted from a paper in the British science journal Nature, amid fears that a rogue state might use the information to create a biological weapon.

The NSABB raised similar concerns over a paper by Dr Ron Fouchier at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. That study, describing another mutant bird flu strain that can also be spread through the air between ferrets, is under consideration at the US journal Science.

The controversy over the papers triggered a crisis in science. Many researchers argued the work must be made fully public so it is available to other experts in the field, such as surveillance teams looking for emergent pandemic strains in Asia and elsewhere. Others said the work should never have been done, or that sensitive details should be shared only with a list of approved experts.

The advisory board reversed its stance on Friday after considering updated versions of the papers and a fresh risk analysis of the studies at a meeting at the National Institutes of Health in Washington DC. The board unanimously approved Kawaoka’s paper for publication in full, and gave the green light to Fouchier’s work after a vote of 12 to 6 in favour. Neither paper had information removed for the review.

Bird flu is considered particularly threatening to people because more than half of the 600 or so people known to have caught the virus have died from the infection. Many scientists fear the virus could trigger a pandemic if it evolved into a form that spread rapidly.

The experiments by Kawaoka and Fouchier were designed to answer the question of whether the bird flu virus could pick up genetic mutations in the wild that would allow it to adapt to humans and spread rapidly like seasonal flu.

Speaking at a Royal Society conference on bird flu, Kawaoka and Fouchier claimed their work highlighted how easily bird flu could mutate into a form that would potentially be transmissible among humans. But their findings showed the mutant strains did not spread as swiftly as seasonal flu, and were not lethal to animals that caught the infection from a neighbouring animal. Both viruses could be controlled by antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu, and bird flu vaccines, the researchers added.

Kawaoka created a hybrid flu strain by merging H5N1 bird flu with the “swine flu" virus that caused a pandemic in humans in 2009. Through a series of experiments in ferrets, he isolated a strain with four mutations that helped the virus latch on to and infect cells in the throat. One reason bird flu does not spread well between people is that it cannot bind to cells in the throat and nose, where it can be coughed and sneezed out.

Defending the work, Kawaoka said is was carried out in a high-security laboratory where all of the staff had been vetted by the FBI. The work was “important for pandemic preparedness” and emphasised the need for countries to stockpile vaccines to combat bird flu.

One of the mutations is already common in the wild, Kawaoka said, appearing in all 46 bird flu viruses isolated from people in Egypt between 2009 and 2011. “The risk is out there in nature,” Kawaoka said.

The UK has a stockpile of 16,000 doses of the GSK bird flu vaccine, Pandemrix, which has a shelf life of three to seven years.

Fouchier told the conference he was unable to reveal full details of his own research because the Dutch government has imposed export controls on the information. His team created a mutant strain of H5N1 bird flu by infecting a succession of ferrets until a strain emerged that spread between animals housed in neighbouring cages. Ferrets that had already been exposed to flu viruses were not affected by the mutant strain.

Fouchier was unable to confirm the specific mutations that made the virus more transmissible, but said many had already been spotted in the wild. “Most of the mutations we found we can see in the field, and we are even seeing them in combination,” he said.

"We are looking for strains of mutants that are associated with particular biological traits," Fouchier added. "Just as we want to predict tsunamis and earthquakes, we want to predict pandemics."

Filed under News Science Influenza Pandemic Epidemic flu H5N1 USA Washington DC

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