Standing Up for the Right to Sit Down
ACLU | February 23, 2010
GERMANTOWN, MD – Despite free speech guarantees in the Bill of Rights, state law, and in the Montgomery County School System’s student guide, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU) has had to take action on behalf of a middle school student who was harassed and humiliated by a teacher for declining to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. In a letter sent February 5 to Khadija F. Barkley, Acting Principal of Roberto Clemente Middle School, the ACLU details why what was done to the traumatized student was wrong and humiliating, and seeks an apology and education on the meaning and importance of the First Amendment.
“The law is crystal clear that a public school cannot embarrass or harass a student for maintaining a respectful silence during the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Ajmel Quereshi, an attorney for the ACLU of Maryland. “While expression of patriotism in unsettling times is a worthy and admirable emotion, the Supreme Court says that patriotism is best honored by venerating the civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution and not by punishing or ridiculing those whose views might differ from our own.”
On January 27, a thirteen-year-old at Roberto Clemente Middle School chose neither to stand nor to speak during the school’s daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Instead, she sat quietly while students recited the Pledge. Her teacher demanded she stand for the Pledge. When she did not stand, the teacher ordered her to leave the classroom and stand out in the hall. He threatened to give her detention for refusing to stand for the Pledge, and sent her to the counselor’s office. The next day, the student again declined to stand for the pledge. The teacher then called upon a school security officer to escort her out of the classroom and to the school counselor’s office. When the student’s mother reached out to an assistant principal for help in dealing with the teacher’s abusive and improper actions, the official said her daughter should instead apologize for her “defiance.” The student did apologize, twice.
However, the right of a student to refrain from participating during the Pledge has been settled law since 1943, when the Supreme Court held that students could not be forced to salute the flag. As the Court put it then, “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” Here in Maryland, the State Court of Appeals, in 1871, struck down as unconstitutional a state law that required students to salute the flag. Maryland law now explicitly exempts from the Pledge of Allegiance “any student or teacher who wishes to be excused.”
In addition, the Montgomery County school system explicitly acknowledges the student’s right to act as she did in the student handbook provision concerning “Patriotic Exercises”:
“You will have the opportunity to participate in and/or watch patriotic exercises in school.
You cannot be required to say a pledge, sing an anthem, or take part in patriotic exercises. No one will be permitted to intentionally embarrass you if you choose not to participate.”
The young girl was so traumatized by her teacher’s humiliating and inappropriate reaction, that she has not felt comfortable returning to school until the situation is addressed. Faced with the school’s unwillingness to acknowledge that the teacher had acted improperly, the mother contacted the ACLU for assistance. Even more shockingly, following the ACLU’s letter to the acting principal pointing out the law, and seeking an apology and explanation to the class to ease the girl’s return, the school system’s lawyer responded that school officials would not meet with the mother if she brought an ACLU lawyer to the meeting.
Quereshi noted that “every other school system has moved quickly to resolve Pledge of Allegiance issues when the ACLU has contacted them on behalf of students. It is appalling that, in this case, the school is refusing to meet to resolve the issue, and thus keeping the traumatized victim out of school even longer than necessary.”
The ACLU of Maryland’s letter asks that the teacher personally apologize to the student, and promise to respect her right to respectfully dissent in the future. We further request that the assistant principal and teacher review with the class that witnessed this incident the county school policy on patriotic exercise, and explain that trying to force a student to salute the flag is wrong, and it should never have occurred. It is our hope that this incident can be used as an educational opportunity for both students and teachers – as has been done in other Maryland schools when Pledge issues have arisen.
CONTACT: Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, 410-889-8555; email@example.com
Microbiologist Meryl Nass Responds to FBI Closing Anthrax Case
Dr. Meryl Nass, MD | February 25th, 2010
The FBI’s report, documents and accompanying information (only pertaining to Ivins, not to the rest of the investigation) were released on Friday afternoon. which means the FBI anticipated doubt and ridicule. The National Academies of Science (NAS) is several months away from issuing its $879,550 report on the microbial forensics, suggesting a) asking NAS to investigate the FBI’s science was just a charade to placate Congress, and/or b) NAS’ investigation might be uncovering things the FBI would prefer to bury, so FBI decided to preempt the NAS panel’s report.
The FBI’s handling of the investigation has been criticized by Ivins’s colleagues and by independent analysts who have pointed out multiple gaps, including a lack of hair, fiber other physical evidence directly linking Ivins to the anthrax letters. But despite long delays and false leads, Justice officials Friday expressed satisfaction with the outcome.
The evidence “established that Dr. Ivins, alone, mailed the anthrax letters,” the Justice summary stated.
Actually, the 96 page FBI report is predicated on the assumption that the anthrax letters attack was carried out by a “lone nut.” The FBI report fails to entertain the possibility that the letters attack could have involved more than one actor. The FBI admits that about 400 people may have had access to Ivins’ RMR-1029 anthrax preparation, but asserts all were “ruled out” as lone perpetrators. FBI never tried to rule any out as part of a conspiracy, however.
That is only the first of many holes in FBI’s case. Here is a sampling of some more.
- The report assumes Ivins manufactured, purified and dried the spore prep in the anthrax hot room at US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). His colleagues say the equipment available was insufficient to do so on the scale required.
- But even more important, the letter spores contained a Bacillus subtilis contaminant, and silicon to enhance dispersal. FBI has never found the Bacillus subtilis strain at USAMRIID, and it has never acknowledged finding silicon there, either. If the letters anthrax was made at USAMRIID, at least small amounts of both would be there.
- Drs. Perry Mikesell, Ayaad Assaad and Stephen Hatfill were 3 earlier suspects. All had circumstantial evidence linking them to the case. In Hatfill’s case, especially, are hints he could have been “set up.” Greendale, the return address on the letters, was a suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe where Hatfill attended medical school. Hatfill wrote an unpublished book about a biowarfare attack that bears some resemblance to the anthrax case. So the fact that abundant circumstantial evidence links Ivins to the case might be a reflection that he too was “set up” as a potential suspect, before the letters were sent.
- FBI fails to provide any discussion of why no autopsy was performed, nor why, with Ivins under 24/7 surveillance from the house next door, with even his garbage being combed through, the FBI failed to notice that he overdosed and went into a coma. Nor is there any discussion of why the FBI didn’t immediately identify tylenol as the overdose substance, and notify the hospital, so that a well-known antidote for tylenol toxicity could be given (N-acetyl cysteine, or alternatively glutathione). These omissions support the suggestion that Ivins’ suicide was a convenience for the FBI. It enabled them to conclude the anthrax case, in the absence of evidence that would satisfy the courts.
- The FBI’s alleged motive is bogus. In 2001, Bioport’s anthrax vaccine could not be (legally) relicensed due to potency failures, and its impending demise provided room for Ivins’ newer anthrax vaccines to fill the gap. Ivins had nothing to do with developing Bioport’s vaccine, although in addition to his duties working on newer vaccines, he was charged with assisting Bioport to get through licensure.
- FBI’s report claims, “Those who worked for him knew that Nass was one of those topics to avoid discussing around Dr. Ivins” (page 41). The truth is we had friendly meetings at the Annapolis, Maryland international anthrax conference in June 2001, and several phone conversations after that. Bruce occasionally assisted me in my study of the safety and efficacy of Bioport’s licensed anthrax vaccine, giving me advice and papers he and others had written. I wonder if I was mentioned negatively to discourage Ivins’ other friends and associates from communicating with me, since they have been prohibited from speaking freely? Clever.
- The FBI’s Summary states that “only a limited number of individuals ever had access to this specific spore preparation” and that the flask was under Ivins’ sole and exclusive control. Yet the body of the report acknowledges hundreds of people who had access to the spores, and questions remain about the location of the spore prep during the period in question. FBI wordsmiths around this, claiming that no one at USAMRIID “legitimately” used spores from RMR1029 without the “authorization and knowledge” of Bruce Ivins. Of course, stealing spores to terrorize and kill is not a legitimate activity.
- FBI says that only a small number of labs had Ames anthrax, including only 3 foreign labs. Yet a quick Pub Med search of papers published between 1999 and 2004 revealed Ames anthrax was studied in at least Italy, France, the UK, Israel and South Korea as well as the US. By failing to identify all labs with access to Ames, the FBI managed to exclude potential domestic and foreign perpetrators.
- FBI claims that “drying anthrax is expressly forbidden by various treaties,” therefore it would have to be performed clandestinely. Actually, the US government sponsored several programs that dried anthrax spores. Drying spores is not explicitly prohibited by the Biological Weapons Convention, though many would like it to be.
- The FBI report claims the anthrax letters envelopes were sold in Frederick, Md. Later it admits that millions of indistinguishable envelopes were made, with sales in Maryland and Virginia.
- FBI emphasizes Ivins’ access to a photocopy machine, but fails to mention it was not the machine from which the notes that accompanied the spores were printed.
- FBI claims Ivins was able to make a spore prep of equivalent purity as the letter spores. However, Ivins had clumping in his spores, while the spores in the Daschle/Leahy letters had no clumps. Whether Ivins could make a pure dried prep is unknown, but there is no evidence he had ever done so.
- FBI asserts that Bioport and USAMRIID were nearly out of anthrax vaccine, to the point researchers might not have enough to vaccinate themselves. FBI further asserts this would end all anthrax research, derailing Ivins’ career. In fact, USAMRIID has developed many dozens of vaccines (including those for anthrax) that were never licensed, but have been used by researchers to vaccinate themselves. There would be no vaccine shortage for researchers.
- Ivins certainly had mental problems. But that does not explain why the FBI accompanied Ivins’ therapist, Ms. Duley (herself under charges for multiple DUIs) and assisted her to apply for a peace order against him. Nor does it explain why Duley then went into hiding, never to be heard from again.
- FBI obtained a voluntary collection of anthrax samples. Is that the way to conduct a multiple murder investigation: ask the scientists to supply you with the evidence to convict them? There is no report that spores were seized from anyone but Ivins, about 6 years after the attacks. This is a huge hole in the FBI’s “scientific” methodology.
- FBI claims it investigated Bioport and others who had a financial motive for the letters attack, and ruled them out. However, FBI provides not a shred of evidence from such an investigation.
FBI gave this report its best shot. The report sounds good. It includes some new evidence. It certainly makes Ivins out to be a crazed, scary and pathetic figure. If you haven’t followed this story intently, you may be convinced of his guilt.
On the other hand, there are reasons why a conspiracy makes better sense. If the FBI really had the goods, they would not be overreaching to pin the crime on a lone nut.
JFK, RFK, George Wallace, Martin Luther King, all felled by lone nuts. Even Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin was a lone nut. Now Bruce Ivins. The American public is supposed to believe that all these crimes required no assistance and no funds.
Does the FBI stand for the Federal Bureau of Invention?
Dr. Meryl Nass, MD is a leading expert on anthrax and anthrax vaccine. She has offered her research and expert testimony at several Congressional hearings in the U.S. Dr. Nass’s website anthraxvaccine.org offers in depth insight into anthrax, anthrax vaccine, biological warfare and related topics.
©2010 by thepeoplesvoice.org
The EU court in Luxembourg has ruled that Israel cannot pass off products made by its settlers on occupied Palestinian land as its own in order to get customs perks.
The verdict on Thursday (25 February) came in the case of German soft drinks firm Brita, which buys syrups from Israeli company Soda-Club in Mishor Adumin in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli customs authorities had put forward documents saying that the goods were made in Israel and fell under the customs rules of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
But the court ruling said Soda-Club should have obtained papers from the Palestinian Authority instead if it wanted any customs breaks.
“Products obtained in locations which have been placed under Israeli administration since 1967 do not qualify for the preferential treatment provided for under that [EU-Israel] agreement,” the court explained in a statement, referring to the 1967 Six-Day War.
The ruling sets an EU-wide precedent for Israeli imports to the union, worth €8.8 billion last year.
It is unlikely to have a big financial impact, however. The European Commission says that exports from settlements currently account for just 0.87 percent of the trade volume and are in many cases labeled as such, meaning they pay full EU customs duties.
But the judgment has political weight in the context of long-standing EU complaints that Israeli support for settlers is damaging the Middle East peace process.
Maybe Al Gore’s been advised by legal counsel to lie low. He may be the leader of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) movement, but he’s not defending it in public, not even when it’s falling apart and his new fortune is based upon it.
RICO was written in broad terms. To state a claim, a plaintiff must allege four elements: (1) conduct (2) of an enterprise (3) through a pattern (4) of racketeering activity… Each element of a RICO claim requires additional analysis: an “enterprise” is marked by association and control; a “pattern” requires a showing of “continuity” — continuous and related behavior that amounts to, or poses a threat of, continued criminal violations; and “racketeering activity” involves the violation of designated federal laws …
Bethlehem – Robert Serry, the UN envoy for Middle East peace, expressed concern on Monday over Israel’s announcement regarding holy sites in Hebron and Bethlehem and the heightened tensions that have resulted.
“These sites are in occupied Palestinian territory and are of historical and religious significance not only to Judaism but also to Islam, and to Christianity as well,” Serry said in a statement.
“I urge Israel not to take any steps on the ground which undermine trust or could prejudice negotiations, the resumption of which should be the highest shared priority of all who seek peace. I also call for restraint and calm,” he said.
“As I underscored in my visit to Hebron last week, I would like to see more positive steps by Israel to enable Palestinian development and state-building in the area and throughout the West Bank, reflecting a genuine commitment to the two State solution,” he added.
Beijing once again has shrugged off Washington’s call for harsher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear activities.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said she expects the UN Security Council to impose new sanctions against Iran within the “next 30 to 60 days.”
Clinton claimed that the US administration’s overtures to Tehran have helped Washington gain greater international support for tougher sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Clinton said, “Iran has left the international community little choice but to impose greater costs for its provocative steps.”
However, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said that his country believes diplomatic efforts have not yet been exhausted.
“We believe there is still diplomatic room for the Iranian nuclear issue,” Qin said.
“We hope all parties concerned can put the overall interest in their mind and enhance consultation and dialogue so as to come to a peaceful solution,” he added.
Qin said China would “continue to play a constructive role” in resolving the issue.
Aside from China, Russia — another veto-wielding member of the UN Security Council — has voiced opposition to new Iran sanctions proposed by Clinton.
Tehran has repeatedly declared that the Western-backed sanctions will not force it to give up the Iranian nation’s legitimate nuclear rights.
Obama has been criticized for his failure to deliver on his promise for the closure of the notorious Guantanamo prison.
Human Rights Watch has blasted US President Barack Obama’s change in “rhetoric” rather than “policies” as US transfers more Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Europe.
Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, says that vows of change in the US administration have been limited to presidential rhetoric, US media said Wednesday.
When it came to promoting human rights, there has undoubtedly been a marked improvement in presidential rhetoric, Roth said. However, he added, the translation of those words into deeds remains incomplete.
Roth referred to Obama’s failure to deliver on his promise for the closure of the notorious Guantanamo prison one-year after assuming power and urged the president to “aggressively” pursue the rights agenda.
Human Rights Watch and other Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have called upon the US government to prosecute detainees in regular federal courts, repatriate them, or resettle them in safe countries.
Roth, however, says that Obama’s refusal to end military commissions and detention without trial continues the spirit of Guantanamo even after its complete shutdown in future.
Roth’s assessment comes amid reports of the transfer of four Guantanamo inmates to Spain and Albania from the US military prison in Cuba.
The four “terror suspects” have been identified as Saleh Bin Hadi Asasi, from Tunisia, Sharif Fati Ali al Mishad, from Egypt and Abdul Rauf Omar Mohammad Abu al Qusin from Libya, reports quoted US Justice Department officials as saying on Wednesday. The identity of the fourth captive has not been disclosed.
Around 190 prisoners still remain in custody in the US Naval detention facilities despite Obama’s own deadline to close Guantanamo by February 2010.