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US, UK impose new sanctions on Iran

Press TV – November 22, 2011

Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom, George Osborne (file photo)

Britain the United States have imposed new sanctions on Iran’s banking system and energy sector after the UN nuclear agency’s recent report on Tehran’s nuclear program.

Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom George Osborne said on Monday that the White Hall was terminating all contact between the UK’s financial system and the entire Iranian banking system, AFP reported.

Speaking through a statement, he said, “All UK credit and financial institutions are required to cease business relationships and transactions with all Iranian banks, including the Central Bank of Iran.”

Osborne added that Tehran’s activities “pose a significant risk to the national interests of the UK and countries across the region.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report, circulated among the 35 members of the agency’s Board of Governors on November 8, accused Iran of pursuing military objectives in its nuclear program.

Iran has dismissed the report as “unbalanced, unprofessional, and prepared with political motivation and under political pressure mostly by the United States.”

As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a member of the IAEA, Tehran has stood by its right to develop and acquire nuclear technology meant for peaceful purposes.

The IAEA has conducted numerous inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, but has never found any evidence indicating that Iran’s civilian nuclear program has been diverted to nuclear weapons production.

Iran has been the target of several rounds of sanctions by the West since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

The US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the Washington-imposed sanctions targeted Iran’s oil and petrochemicals industry and the Iranian companies supplying Tehran’s nuclear program.

The US official added that “financial institutions around the world should think hard about the risks of doing business with Iran.”

The new unilateral measures came after a failed attempt by the US and its allies to take Iran’s case to the UN Security Council.

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Wars for Israel | 2 Comments

License Plate Scanners Logging Our Every Move

ACLU | November 21, 2011

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the District of Columbia is engaging in widespread tracking of citizen’s movements using automated license plate readers (ALPRs). According to the Post, the D.C. police:

  • Are running more than one ALPR per square mile;
  • Are planning on sharply increasing the density of these devices until they form a “comprehensive dragnet;”
  • Retain the time/date/location/tag number even of innocent people for whom nothing is found to be wrong;
  • Store that data in a database for three years.

It has now become clear that this technology, if we do not limit its use, will represent a significant step toward the creation of a surveillance society in the United States.

The first we heard of this technology was in a March 2002 piece in The Boston Globe with the headline “Parking Enforcement on a Roll.” At that time, the technology was being deployed to scan parking lots for licenses associated with unpaid parking tickets and other fines. As we said at the time as we began to get questions about the technology, we don’t have any fundamental objections to the technology itself — after all, a police officer could manually phone in all the tags in a parking lot to check for unpaid tickets, and this just did the same thing in a quicker, more efficient way. Sometimes the speed and efficiency of computers does fundamentally change the nature of surveillance compared to non-computerized equivalents — as with GPS tracking, for example. Quantity can change quality. But checking for unpaid tickets and stolen cars does not affect the innocent, so this did not seem to us to be a problem — as long, we said, as the police do not retain location data about innocent people where nothing is found to be wrong.

Our main concern was that the technology not grow into a means for the constant, routine tracking of Americans and their whereabouts.  Sometimes when we say things like that, we’re accused of being paranoid. But I am always amazed by the speed and consistency with which our worst fears for these kinds of technologies turn into reality.

Clearly this technology is rapidly approaching the point where it could be used to reconstruct the entire movements of any individual vehicle. As we have argued in the context of GPS tracking (and as I said to the Post reporter) that level of intrusion on private life is something that the police should not be able to engage in without a warrant.

The Post article cites a number of examples in which the technology has proven useful to police. Of course, if the police track all of us all the time, there is no doubt that will help to solve some crimes — just as it would no doubt help solve some crimes if they could read everybody’s e-mail and install cameras in everybody’s homes. But in a free society, we don’t let the police watch over us just because we might do something wrong. That is not the balance struck by our Constitution and is not the balance we should strike in our policymaking.

Finally, technologies that have such significant implications for our privacy — and more broadly, what kind of society we want to live in — should not be put in place through what I call “procurement policymaking.” The police should not be able to run out and buy a new technology and put it in place before anybody realizes what’s going on — before society has a chance to discuss and debate it and consider where we want to draw the lines between police power and the freedom to live a private life. That decision is one that should be made through the full, open, democratic process — not quietly and unilaterally by police departments.

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | 2 Comments

Letter to Members of the Congressional Super Committee

As the November 23rd deadline approaches for the “super committee” to find $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts over the next 10 years, I am writing to urge the members of the committee to consider options to cut government spending and raise revenue that extend beyond those typically discussed on Capitol Hill and in the media. Members of Congress – both Democrats and Republicans – often appear to be struggling to find deficit-cutting proposals that will either go far enough or attract bipartisan support. I have two proposals that should on the merits – absent the undue influence of special interests in our nation.

The first place that the super committee should look to cut wasteful government spending lies in the hundreds of billions of dollars in direct and indirect corporate welfare that our nation’s government gives away every year. Cutting wasteful government spending in this area alone could produce savings well above and beyond the desired $1.2 trillion in deficit cuts over the next ten years. Democrats and Republicans alike should champion the elimination of corporate welfare as a drain on our government’s budgets. Subsidizing some of the most profitable industries and largest corporations in this country at the level of billions of dollars per year is not consistent with the values of fair competition and a level playing field that are cherished as a part of a capitalist economic system. Nor do they actually allow for a true free market to exist. Instead they skew the playing field toward the largest and most politically powerful multinational corporations and away from small and mid-sized businesses.

Republicans and Democrats talk of the needs of small businesses throughout the country on a daily basis, but rarely are the needs or interests of those businesses represented in Congress when they are different from the Big Boys’ demands. They certainly aren’t represented when small town businesses go out of business despite their best efforts, but the speculators on Wall Street who cheated and gambled their way to the brink were pulled back from the ledge by a past complicit and compliant Congress. Nor were they represented, by the way, when the reason many of those small businesses failed was because of a mega corporation, Wal-Mart, which itself has received hundreds of millions, if not billions, in subsidies over decades. You can talk the talk when it comes to the value of small businesses, free markets, and a capitalist system – but is it not time to start walking the walk?

Yet another proposal that should be explored is the implementation of a financial speculation tax, which would impose a miniscule tax on all trades of stock, bonds, options, and other more speculative financial instruments. A financial speculation sales tax would curb risky speculative trading and high-frequency trading schemes that contribute little real economic value and instead can create a lot of instability. On top of this, a small tax – ranging to 0.5 % depending upon the financial instrument being taxed – could produce hundreds of billions of dollars annually, perhaps as much as $350 billion.

The Capital Institute’s John Fullerton, a former JPMorgan managing director, says it best when he states that a financial speculation tax would “combat one of the most corrosive realities undermining capitalism itself: short-term speculation has displaced real investment, transforming our economy into a bankrupt financial system that lacks morals and purpose.” He has stated that 70 percent of the equities market is composed of speculative, high-frequency, and “quant” driven trading strategies. It is no wonder that our economy is struggling with that much investment going towards entirely unproductive uses. Mr. Fullerton concludes one of his articles by stating that “the real economy and job creation would be enhanced if FDIC-insured consumer deposits funded productive loans to the real economy instead of leveraged short-term speculation by banks and their hedge fund counterparties, and, if more human capital shifted out of finance and into the productive economy.”

Please reference my testimony that I gave before the Committee on the Budget in the U.S. House of Representatives on June 30, 1999. The testimony chronicles some of the most egregious examples of corporate welfare in the United States and can help you to identify proposals for the super committee to adopt. Also look at my recent op-ed, printed in the Wall Street Journal on November 2, 2011, titled “Time for a Tax on Speculation.”

It is my hope these items may be useful to you over the next several days in finding a means to cut the deficit that benefits the American people for once, and not those pursuing unproductive or unfair maneuvers on Wall Street or in the corporate board rooms.

Sincerely,

Ralph Nader

Source

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Economics | 1 Comment

CIA intelligence fiasco in Lebanon

Press TV – November 21, 2011

Hezbollah has dealt a heavy blow to CIA operations in Lebanon, forcing the intelligence agency to curtail its espionage activities in the country, US officials say.

According to current and former US officials, CIA operations in Lebanon have been badly damaged after the resistance movement identified and captured a number of US spies this year, AP reported.

They have also said that CIA officials have secretly been scrambling in recent months to protect their remaining spies, foreign assets or agents working for the agency, before Hezbollah finds them.

Giving credit to Hezbollah for uncovering the espionage rings, the US officials blamed negligence by CIA managers and sloppy practices used by the spies for their networks being discovered in Lebanon, which is considered a key watching post for collecting crucial intelligence on Middle East countries including Syria and Iran.

It remains unclear whether anyone has been or will be held accountable in the wake of this counterintelligence disaster.

Hezbollah Secretary General Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah in June announced the arrest of several spies affiliated with the CIA, who had infiltrated the ranks of the group. Nasrallah said that CIA officers, posing as diplomats at the US Embassy in Beirut, had recruited them in early 2011.

At the time, US officials denied the report, but now current and former US officials concede that Hezbollah busted several US spy rings and arrested a number of American spies, which affected CIA espionage activities in Lebanon.

“Beirut station is out of business,” said one source using the CIA terminology.

In April 2009, Lebanon launched a nationwide crackdown on spy cells, mostly Israeli networks, arresting nearly 100 people, including members of the country’s security forces and telecommunications personnel, on suspicion of espionage for Mossad.

A number of the suspects have admitted to their role in helping Israel identify targets inside Lebanon, mostly belonging to Hezbollah, which Tel Aviv heavily bombed during its 2006 war against the country.

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Aletho News | 2 Comments

The Bloodshed in Honduras: Obama’s Disgrace

Biofuel Death Squads

By MARK WEISBROT | CounterPunch | November 21, 2011

Imagine that an opposition organizer were murdered in broad daylight in Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador or Venezuela by masked gunmen, or kidnapped and murdered by armed guards of a well-known supporter of the government.  It would be front page news in the New York Times, and all over the TV news.  The U.S. State Department would issue a strong statement of concern over grave human rights abuses.  If this were ever to happen.

Now imagine that 59 of these kinds of political killings had taken place so far this year, and 61 the previous year.  Long before the number of victims reached this level, this would become a major foreign policy issue for the United States, and Washington would be calling for international sanctions.

But we are talking about Honduras, not Bolivia or Venezuela.  So when President Porfirio Lobo of Honduras came to Washington last month, President Obama greeted him warmly and said:

“Two years ago, we saw a coup in Honduras that threatened to move the country away from democracy, and in part because of pressure from the international community, but also because of the strong commitment to democracy and leadership by President Lobo, what we’ve been seeing is a restoration of democratic practices and a commitment to reconciliation that gives us great hope.”

Of course, President Obama refused to even meet with the democratically elected president that was overthrown in the coup that he mentioned, even though that president came to Washington three times seeking help after the coup.  That was Mel Zelaya, a left-of-center president who was overthrown by the military and conservative sectors in Honduras after instituting a number of reforms that people had voted for, like raising the minimum wage and laws promoting land reform.

But what angered Washington most was that Zelaya was close to the left governments of South America, including Venezuela.  He wasn’t any closer to Venezuela than Brazil or Argentina was, but this was a crime of opportunity.  So when the Honduran military overthrew Zelaya in June of 2009, the Obama Administration did everything it could for the next six months to make sure that the coup succeeded.  The “pressure from the international community” that Obama referred to in the above statement came from other countries, mainly the left-of-center governments in South America.  The United States was on the other side, fighting — ultimately successfully — to legitimize the coup government through an “election” that the rest of the hemisphere refused to recognize.

In May of this year, Zelaya  stated publicly what most of us who followed the events closely already guessed was true:  that Washington was behind the coup and helped bring it about.  While no one will likely bother to investigate the U.S. role in the coup, this is quite plausible given the overwhelming circumstantial evidence.

Porifiro Lobo took office in January 2010, but most of the hemisphere refused to recognize the government because his election took place under conditions of serious human rights violations.  In May 2011 an agreement was finally brokered in Cartegena, Colombia, that allowed Honduras back into the Organization of American States. But the Lobo government has not complied with its part of the Cartegena accords, which included human rights guarantees for the political opposition.

Here are two of the dozens of political killings that have occurred during Lobo’s presidency, as compiled by the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN):

“Pedro Salgado, vice-president of the Unified Campesino Movement of Aguán (MUCA), was shot then beheaded at about 8:00 p.m. at his home in the La Concepción empresa cooperative. His spouse, Reina Irene Mejía, was also shot to death at the same time. Pedro suffered a murder attempt in December 2010. … Salgado, like the presidents of all the cooperatives claiming rights to land used by African palm oil businessmen in the Aguán, had been subject to constant death threats since the beginning of 2011.”

The courage of these activists and organizers in the face of such horrific violence and repression is amazing.  Many of the killings over the past year have been in the Aguán Valley in the Northeast, where small farmers are struggling for land rights against one of Honduras’ richest landowners, Miguel Facussé.  He is producing biofuels in this region on disputed land.  He is close to the United States and was an important backer of the 2009 coup against Zelaya. His private security forces, together with U.S.-backed military and police, are responsible for the political violence in the region.  U.S. aid to the Honduran military has increased since the coup. … Full article

November 21, 2011 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Environmentalism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Timeless or most popular | 2 Comments

Ex-Inspector Rejects IAEA Iran Bomb Test Chamber Claim

By GARETH PORTER | CounterPunch | November 21, 2011

A former inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has repudiated its major new claim that Iran built an explosives chamber to test components of a nuclear weapon and carry out a simulated nuclear explosion.

The IAEA claim that a foreign scientist – identified in news reports as Vyacheslav Danilenko – had been involved in building the alleged containment chamber has now been denied firmly by Danilenko himself in an interview with Radio Free Europe published Friday.

The latest report by the IAEA cited “information provided by Member States” that Iran had constructed “a large explosives containment vessel in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments” – meaning simulated explosions of nuclear weapons – in its Parchin military complex in 2000.

The report said it had “confirmed” that a “large cylindrical object” housed at the same complex had been “designed to contain the detonation of up to 70 kilograms of high explosives”. That amount of explosives, it said, would be “appropriate” for testing a detonation system to trigger a nuclear weapon.

But former IAEA inspector Robert Kelley has denounced the agency’s claims about such a containment chamber as “highly misleading”.

Kelley, a nuclear engineer who was the IAEA’s chief weapons inspector in Iraq and is now a senior research fellow at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, pointed out in an interview with the Real News Network that a cylindrical chamber designed to contain 70 kg of explosives, as claimed by the IAEA, could not possibly have been used for hydrodynamic testing of a nuclear weapon design, contrary to the IAEA claim.

“There are far more explosives in that bomb than could be contained by this container,” Kelley said, referring to the simulated explosion of a nuclear weapon in a hydrodynamic experiment.

Kelley also observed that hydrodynamic testing would not have been done in a container inside a building in any case. “You have to be crazy to do hydrodynamic explosives in a container,” he said. “There’s no reason to do it. They’re done outdoors on firing tables.”

Kelley rejected the IAEA claim that the alleged cylindrical chamber was new evidence of an Iranian weapons program. “We’ve been led by the nose to believe that this container is important, when in fact it’s not important at all,” Kelley said.

The IAEA report and unnamed “diplomats” implied that a “former Soviet nuclear weapons scientist”, identified in the media as Danilenko, had helped build the alleged containment vessel at Parchin.

But their claims conflict with one another as well as with readily documented facts about Danilenko’s work in Iran.

The IAEA report does not deny that Danilenko – a Ukrainian who worked in a Soviet-era research institute that was identified mainly with nuclear weapons – was actually a specialist on nanodiamonds. The report nevertheless implies a link beween Danilenko and the purported explosives chamber at Parchin by citing a publication by Danilenko as a source for the dimensions of the alleged explosives chamber.

Associated Press reported Nov. 11 that unnamed diplomats suggested Volodymyr Padalko, a partner of Danilenko in a nanodiamond business who was described as Danilenko’s son-in-law, had contradicted Danilenko’s firm denial of involvement in building a containment vessel for weapons testing. The diplomats claimed Padalko had told IAEA investigators that Danilenko had helped build “a large steel chamber to contain the force of the blast set off by such explosives testing”.

But that claim appears to be an effort to confuse Danilenko’s well-established work on an explosives chamber for nanodiamond synthesis with a chamber for weapons testing, such as the IAEA now claims was built at Parchin.

One of the unnamed diplomats described the steel chamber at Parchin as “the size of a double decker bus” and thus “much too large” for nanodiamonds.

But the IAEA report itself made exactly the opposite argument, suggesting that the purported steel chamber at Parchin was based on the design in a published paper by Danilenko.

The report said the alleged explosives chamber was designed to contain “up to 70 kg of high explosives” which is claims would be “suitable” for testing what it calls a “multipoint initiation system” for a nuclear weapon.

But a 2008 slide show on systems for nanodiamond synthesis posted on the internet by the U.S.-based nanotechnology company NanoBlox shows that the last patented containment chamber built by Danilenko and patented in 1992, with a total volume of 100 cubic metres, was designed for the use of just 10 kg of explosives.

An unnamed member state had given the IAEA a purported Iranian document in 2008 describing a 2003 test of what the agency interpreted to be a possible “high explosive implosion system for a nuclear weapon”.

David Albright, director of a Washington, D.C. think tank who frequently passes on information from IAEA officials to the news media, told this writer in 2009 that the member state in question was “probably Israel”.

Although the process of making “detonation nanodiamonds” uses explosives in a containment chamber, the chamber would bear little resemblance to one used for testing a nuclear bomb’s initiation system.

The production of diamonds does not require the same high degree of precision in simultaneous explosions as the initiator for a nuclear device. And unlike the explosives used in a multipoint initiation system, the explosives used for making synthetic nanodiamonds must be under water in a closed pool, as Danilenko noted in a 2010 PowerPoint presentation.

Having endorsed the IAEA’s claims, Albright concedes in a Nov. 13 article that the IAEA report “did not provide [sic] Danilenko’s involvement, if any, in this chamber.”

In an interview with Radio Free Europe Friday, Danilenko denied that he has any expertise in nuclear weapons, saying, “I understand absolutely nothing in nuclear physics.” He also denied that he participated in “modeling warheads” at the research institute in Russia where he worked for three decades.

Danilenko further denied doing any work in Iran that did not relate to “dynamic detonation synthesis of diamonds” and said he has “strong doubts” that Iran had a nuclear weapons program during those years.

Albright and three co-authors published an account of Danilenko’s work in Iran this week seeking to give credibility to the IAEA suggestion that he worked on the containment chamber for a nuclear weapons programme.

The Albright article, published on the website of the Institute for Science and International Security, said that Danilenko approached the Iranian embassy in 1995 offering his expertise on detonation diamonds, and later signed a contract with Syed Abbas Shahmoradi who responded to Danilenko’s query.

Albright identifies Shahmoradi as the “head of Iran’s secret nuclear sector involved in the development of nuclear weapons”, merely because Shahmoradi later headed the Physics Research Center, which the IAEA argues has led Iran’s nuclear weapons research.

But in late 1995, Shahmoradi was at the Sharif University of Technology, which is a leading centre for nanodiamonds in Iran. Albright argues that this is evidence supporting his suspicion that nanodiamonds were a cover for his real work, because the main centre for nanodiamond research is at Malek Ashtar University of Technology rather than at Sharif University.

However, Sharif University had just established an Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in 2005 that was intended to become the hub for nanotechnology research activities and strategy planning for Iran. So Sharif University and Shahmoradi would have been the logical choice to contract one of the world’s leading specialists on nanodiamonds.

~

GARETH PORTER is an investigative historian and journalist with Inter-Press Service specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam“, was published in 2006.

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | Leave a comment

US shoots down Russian missile defense proposals

RT | November 21, 2011

Russia’s Ambassador to NATO has said that Russia-US missile defense negotiations have hit an impasse, as Washington rejects Russia’s cooperation in the controversial project.

­The United States has rejected every missile defense proposal offered by Moscow, Permanent Representative to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said in an interview with Echo of Moscow radio.

Washington has said “no” to the Russian idea of a common missile defense network, Rogozin said. More telling as to the true purpose of the project, perhaps, the US also refused to give legally binding guarantees that the system would not be aimed at Russia’s strategic nuclear defenses under any circumstances.

The United States and NATO have been working on a European missile defense shield to protect Eastern Europe from a rogue missile strike. Russia has warned the West that such a system, without full interoperability between NATO and Russia, will necessarily be viewed as a potential threat to its national security.

In May, during the G8 Summit in Deauville, France, President Dmitry Medvedev warned of “another arms race” unless the two sides reached an acceptable position.

Meanwhile, Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev ordered the negotiators back to the table to continue negotiations until NATO makes its decision on the missile defense architecture.

A final decision is expected to be announced at the NATO Chicago summit in May 2012.

November 21, 2011 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Militarism | Leave a comment

More Anti-Iran Propaganda By Joby Warrick & Co

Moon of Alabama | November 21, 2011

The currently “most emailed story” at the Washington Post site is Iran may have sent Libya shells for chemical weapons.

May, may, may?

The 1.500 words piece is clearly written to suggest some Iranian “Weapon of Mass Destruction” business even though, as a not-so-casual read will find, there is nothing to it. Just many mays, vague anonymous sources and innuendo added to each other.

The picture above the article shows unmarked empty gas canisters with handles, not artillery shells.

In the second picture in the gallery accompanying the article a container marked “Hydroxyde de Sodium” somewhere in Libya is shown. It is describe as:

Chemical containers are seen in an unguarded storage facility in the desert, about 60 miles south of Sirte, Libya.

But “hydroxyde de sodium” is just caustic soda which:

is used in many industries, mostly as a strong chemical base in the manufacture of pulp and paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergents and as a drain cleaner. Worldwide production in 2004 was approximately 60 million tonnes, …”

This has, unlike the Washington Post placement of the pictures suggests, nothing to do with chemical weapons.

The article begins:

The Obama administration is investigating whether Iran supplied the Libyan government of Moammar Gaddafi with hundreds of special artillery shells for chemical weapons that Libya kept secret for decades, U.S. officials said.The shells, which Libya filled with highly toxic mustard agent, were uncovered in recent weeks by revolutionary fighters at two sites in central Libya. Both are under heavy guard and round-the-clock surveillance by drones, U.S. and Libyan officials said.

So the whole issue is about empty artillery shells found somewhere in Libya (the piece does not even say where), which may have come from Iran, decades ago.

How does such a find, even when confirmed, allow for the following passages:

A U.S. official with access to classified information confirmed that there were “serious concerns” that Iran had provided the shells, albeit some years ago. [...] Confirmed evidence of Iran’s provision of the specialized shells may exacerbate international tensions over the country’s alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Why should decades old empty artillery shells in Libya “exacerbate international tensions” about an alleged nuclear program in Iran?

In an unclassified report to Congress this year, the U.S. director of national intelligence said that “Iran maintains the capability to produce chemical warfare agents … [and] is capable of weaponizing CW agents in a variety of delivery systems.” Those systems include artillery shells, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Any school chemistry lab has the “capability to produce chemical warfare agents” and the means to deliver those. Again – what has this to do with decades old empty artillery shells in the Libyan desert? Is this journalism?

The whole piece is just constructed anti-Iran propaganda. Not astonishingly, it was co-written by Joby Warrick, the Washington Post’s Judith Miller equivalent, who also recently spread the false “Soviet nuclear scientist” stories about an expert in nanodiamond production who once worked in Iran.

What gives me some hope is that the comments to this latest Washington Post smear piece seem to recognize it for what it is. They don’t buy it but call it out as pure propaganda without any journalistic value.

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 1 Comment

Note to Media: The UC Davis “Investigation” is not the Story

By Angus Johnston | Student Activism | November 20, 2011

The UC Davis story has gone global overnight. Here’s a taste of the morning papers:

But see what they all did here? They all led with Linda Katehi’s promised investigation of the incident, which she announced in a statement yesterday:

I am forming a task force made of faculty, students and staff to review the events and provide to me a thorough report within 90 days. As part of this, a process will be designed that allows members of the community to express their views on this matter. This report will help inform our policies and processes within the university administration and the Police Department to help us avoid similar outcomes in the future.

That’s it. That’s the entirety of the relevant portion of the statement. No word on how the task force will be constituted, what its composition will be, how its student and faculty members will be chosen. No hint that it will have any actual policymaking authority. And it’s got 90 days before it’s expected to report — does anyone really think that this situation is going to stay static until mid-February? Does anyone think that the release of this report is going to be a major event?

Come on.

I get why the press is going with this angle for their ledes. It sounds like a big deal. It sounds serious, momentous. And it’s something you can report without seeming to take sides. An investigation! A report! That’s just the thing to get to the bottom of this situation!

But here’s the thing. We’ve already gotten to the bottom of the situation. We know what happened. UC Davis police used unwarranted force on a group of peaceful student demonstrators in violation of university policy, and then top university officials lied about why. That’s the story. That’s the situation. If the task force reports that, they’ll be telling us all what we already know. If they don’t, they’ll be engaging in an act of utterly pointless misrepresentation.

A lot of important stuff happened yesterday. New videos emerged that helped to prove the university’s original cover story false. Katehi was asked to resign, by multiple people in multiple venues, and gave a series of not particularly forceful responses. University officials gave a press conference at which reporters greeted their continuing attempts to justify Friday’s violence with barely concealed scorn. And then Katehi hid from a peaceful crowd for two hours before emerging to slink back to her car in silence and shame.

All that stuff happened. And any of if would make a great lede.

November 21, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Solidarity and Activism | 1 Comment

Ten Things You Should Know About Friday’s UC Davis Police Violence

By Angus Johnston | Student Activism | November 20, 2011

1. The protest at which UC Davis police officers used pepper spray and batons against unresisting demonstrators was an entirely nonviolent one.

None of the arrests at UC Davis in the current wave of activism have been for violent offenses. Indeed, as the New York Times reported this morning, the university’s administration has “reported no instances of violence by any protesters.” Not one.

2. The unauthorized tent encampment was dismantled before the pepper spraying began.

Students had set up tents on campus on Thursday, and the administration had allowed them to stay up overnight. When campus police ordered students to take the tents down on Friday afternoon, however, most complied. The remainder of the tents were quickly removed by police without incident before the pepper spray incident.

3. Students did not restrict the movement of police at any time during the demonstration.

After police made a handful of arrests in the course of taking down the students’ tents, some of the remaining demonstrators formed a wide seated circle around the officers and arrestees.

UC Davis police chief Annette Spicuzza has claimed that officers were unable to leave that circle: “There was no way out,” she told the Sacramento Bee. “They were cutting the officers off from their support. It’s a very volatile situation.” But multiple videos clearly show that the seated students made no effort to impede the officers’ movement. Indeed, Lt. Pike, who initiated the pepper spraying of the group, was inside the circle moments earlier. To position himself to spray, he simply stepped over the line.

4. Lt. Pike was not in fear for his safety when he sprayed the students.

Chief Spicuzza told reporters on Thursday that her officers had been concerned for their safety when they began spraying. But again, multiple videos show this claim to be groundless.

The most widely distributed video of the incident (viewed, as I write this, by nearly 700,000 people on YouTube) begins just moments before Lt. Pike begain spraying, but another video, which starts a few minutes earlier, shows Pike chatting amiably with one activist, even patting him casually on the back.

The pat on the back occurs just two minutes and nineteen seconds before Pike pepper sprayed the student he had just been chatting with and all of his friends.

5. University of California Police are not authorized to use pepper spray except in circumstances in which it is necessary to prevent physical injury to themselves or others. 

From the University of California’s Universitywide Police Policies and Administrative Procedures: “Chemical agents are weapons used to minimize the potential for injury to officers, offenders, or other persons. They should only be used in situations where such force reasonably appears justified and necessary.”

6. UC police are not authorized to use physical force except to control violent offenders or keep suspects from escaping.

Another quote from the UC’s policing policy: “Arrestees and suspects shall be treated in a humane manner … they shall not be subject to physical force except as required to subdue violence or ensure detention. No officer shall strike an arrestee or suspect except in self-defense, to prevent an escape, or to prevent injury to another person.”

7. The UC Davis Police made no effort to remove the student demonstrators from the walkway peacefully before using pepper spray against them.

One video of the pepper-spray incident shows a group of officers moving in to remove the students from the walkway. Just as one of them reaches down to pick up a female student who was leaning against a friend, however, Lt. Pike waves the group back, clearing a space for him to use pepper spray without risk of accidentally spraying his colleagues.

8. Use of pepper spray and other physical force continued after the students’ minimal obstruction of the area around the police ended.

The line of seated students had begun to break up no more than eight seconds after Lt. Pike began spraying. The spraying continued, however, and officers soon began using batons and other physical force against the now-incapacitated group.

9. Even after police began using unprovoked and unlawful violence against the students, they remained peaceful.

Multiple videos show the aftermath of the initial pepper spraying and the physical violence that followed. In none of them do any of the assaulted students or any of the onlookers strike any of the officers who are attacking them and their friends.

10. The students’ commitment to nonviolence extended to their use of language.

At one point on Thursday afternoon, before the police attack on the demonstration, a few activists started a chant of “From Davis to Greece, fuck the police.” They were quickly hushed by fellow demonstrators who urged them to “keep it nonviolent! Keep it peaceful!”

Their chant was replaced by one of “you use weapons, we use our voice.”

Six and a half minutes later, the entire group was pepper sprayed.

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November 21, 2011 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Solidarity and Activism | 2 Comments

   

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