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Scottish TUC delegates join Palestine freedom struggle – unanimously!

Scottish PSC | April 25, 2012

The delegates to the Annual Conference of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the umbrella group for every trade union in Scotland, today voted unanimously and repeatedly against Israeli apartheid. The 450 delegates voted to:

  • campaign to expose the role of the racist JNF (Jewish National Fund) in the Israeli apartheid system
  • support the participants in the Welcome to Palestine initiative who tried to travel peacefully to Palestine via Tel Aviv Airport
  • fully support the Palestinian-Brazilian call for the World Social Forum-Free Palestine in Brazil in November
  • support the Palestinian hunger strikers and the work of Addameer, the Palestinian prisoner support organisation.

Congress delegates congratulated the students for their work organising Israeli Apartheid Week 2012 events, who initiated action in support of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike and called for support for the Scottish demonstration this Saturday 28th April in Edinburgh.

These decisions of the Scottish TUC in support of the Palestinian freedom struggle, by a union confederation representing half a million organised workers in every sector of the economy, will be widely seen as a continuation of the international solidarity the STUC also provided to the liberation struggle in South Africa. Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, named a city centre street after Mandela in 1986 while he was still on Robben Island. How long till there is a Palestine Square or Palestine Street in our major cities?

The full text of the resolutions – all passed unanimously – is given below.

The Jewish National Fund

That this Congress notes that the Jewish National Fund acquisition and control of land in Israel and the occupied territories actively discriminates against Palestinians.

Congress calls on the General Council to:

  • endorse the international call for action against the Jewish National Fund;
  • campaign to expose the role of the Jewish National Fund in the oppression of Palestinians; and
  • campaign to have the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund revoked.

(Mover: Midlothian TUC)

Emergency Motion – Palestine

Congress:

  • notes that despite prisoner releases, over 4,600 Palestinian political prisoners remain in detention, including 203 children.
  • applauds the steadfastness of 1,200 Palestinian political prisoners who began an open-ended hunger strike on 17 April to protest against ‘administrative detention’, where detainees are held without charge or trial for up to six months and which can be renewed repeatedly.
  • congratulates the student Palestine solidarity network for organising the biggest ever ‘Israeli Apartheid Week’ of educational and solidarity events and for their mobilisation across Scotland in support of Palestinian political prisoners.
  • believes that the engagement of students, trade unionists and others with Palestinian civil society can only strengthen the current human-rights based approach to Palestinian self-determination and is essential to building a future of peace and democracy in the Middle East.
  • therefore welcomes the January call by the Palestinian National Committee and the Brazilian National preparatory committee for the 2012 ‘World Social Forum: Free Palestine’ to be held at Porto Alegre, Brazil in November. Conference believes that this “Global Meeting of Solidarity with Palestine” will underline the strength and diversity of the support for the Palestinian call for justice.
  • therefore instructs the General Council to:
    • Support the work of Addameer, Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, by distributing information and updates to affiliates and by supporting appeals for action where appropriate;
    • Endorse the Scottish demonstration, called by students in support Palestinian political prisoners and the hunger strikers, taking place in Edinburgh on Saturday 28th April;
    • Endorse the WSF Free Palestine as part of the internationalist activities promoted by the STUC and fully support the appeal from the Secretariat of the Palestinian National Committee for the World Social Forum “Free Palestine” to mobilise the Scottish trade union movement towards WSF Free Palestine.

(Mover: Dundee Trades Union Council)

Emergency Motion – ‘Welcome to Palestine 2012′

This Congress notes that there is no way into the Occupied Palestinian territories except through Israeli controlled airports or checkpoints.

Congress applauds the ‘Welcome to Palestine 2012′ initiative which highlighted Israel’s oppressive and abhorrent policy of restricting free and unopposed movement to, from and within the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Congress condemns:

  • the actions of the Israeli government in blacklisting activists from around the world and denying them access to the Palestinian territories.
  • the detention of those activists who reached Tel Aviv wishing to visit Bethlehem at the invitation of the Mayor in order to attend the launch of an educational project to build new schools.
  • Congress asks the General Council to call upon the Israeli government:
    • to allow unrestricted passage to and from the Occupied Palestinian Territories for those wishing to visit.
    • to end the continued, illegal siege by air, land and sea of the Palestinian Territories.

(Mover: Midlothian TUC)

Palestine

That this Congress applauds the successful delivery of humanitarian aid by the Scottish FBU to the Nablus Municipality Fire Department. Congress calls for continued trade union support for Palestinian projects, and for the exploration of a Scottish Trade Union Palestinian Support Group, and report back to Congress in 2013 any progress on this matter.

(Mover: Fire Brigades Union)

President’s Address to Congress (Mike Kirby, UNISON):

“There is a growing apartheid elsewhere, in Palestine.  There have been many changes since my first official visit with Bill Speirs, Eddie Reilly and Malcolm Burns in 2001, during the Second Intifada. We were challenged by different militia, as we were escorted throughout the Occupied Lands by PGFTU, our hosts. On leaving, at the last stop at Jerusalem, we met  members of the British Press Corps, who challenged us that we had only visited one place, met with one people. Eddie Reilly’s reply still pertains “We met many Israelis on our travels in Palestine. They were all armed and wearing uniforms.” Order may have been restored in many parts under the control of democratically elected representation of Fatah, democratically elected Hamas, and other political organisations. But that order is still enforced by a circle of unlawful Occupation, and the Apartheid Wall divides communities from their lands and work, and families are split apart.”  Read full President’s address

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike

MEMO | 26 April 2012

1.1 – The issue of Palestinian prisoners is one of the worst consequences of the Israeli occupation.  Since 1967, over 700,000 Palestinians, 20% of the population of the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have been detained. This number represents approximately 40% of the total male Palestinian population in the occupied territories.

1.2 – Today, there are about 6,000 prisoners in 17 Israeli jails and detention centres. They include six women and more than 200 minors.

1.3 – 330 Palestinians are being held in administrative detention with no formal charges having been brought against them in a court of law. 28 elected members of the parliament, and three former ministers fall within this category.

1.4 – Israel is currently holding all these Palestinian prisoners far away from their homes, and outside of the occupied territory. This constitutes a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Article 76 of the Convention states:

“Protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein.”

Article 49 also states:

“Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”

1.5 – Article 32 specifically prohibits “murder, torture, corporal punishments, mutilation and … any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents”. Since 1967, 202 Palestinians prisoners have died while being tortured in Israeli jails.

1.6 – Israel routinely tries Palestinians before military courts, none of which meet the most basic standards of international law; particularly the laws relating to the treatment of prisoners of war and people under occupation.

1.7 – In light of the above, there are now calls for the prosecution of Israeli officials at an international tribunal.

Download Full Fact Sheet

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | Comments Off on Why Palestinian prisoners are on hunger strike

Hundreds of Economists: Marijuana Prohibition Costs Billions, Legalization Would Earn Billions

By Ezekiel Edwards and Rebecca McCray | ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project | April 26, 2012

Over 300 economists, including three Nobel Laureates, recently signed a petition that encourages the president, Congress, governors and state legislatures to carefully consider marijuana legalization in America. The petition draws attention to an article by Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, whose findings highlight the substantial cost-savings our government could incur if it were to tax and regulate marijuana, rather than needlessly spending billions of dollars enforcing its prohibition.

Miron predicts that legalizing marijuana would save $7.7 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement, in addition to generating $2.4 billion annually if taxed like most consumer goods, or $6 billion per year if taxed similarly to alcohol and tobacco. The economists signing the petition note that the budgetary implications of marijuana prohibition are just one of many factors to be considered, but declare it essential that these findings become a serious part of the national decriminalization discussion.

The advantages of marijuana legalization extend far beyond an opportunity to make a dent in our federal deficit. The criminalization of marijuana is one of the many fights in the War on Drugs that has failed miserably. And while it’s tempting to associate only the harder, “scarier” drugs with this botched crusade, the fact remains that marijuana prohibition is very much a part of the battle. The federal government has even classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance (its most serious category of substances), placing it in a more dangerous category than cocaine. More than 800,000 people are arrested for marijuana use and possession each year, and 46 percent of all drug prosecutions across the country are for marijuana possession. Yet this costly and time-consuming targeting of marijuana users by law enforcement and lawmakers has done little to quell use of the drug.

The criminalization of marijuana has not only resulted in a startlingly high number of arrests, it also reflects the devastating disparate racial impact of the War on Drugs. Despite ample evidence that marijuana is used more frequently by white people, Blacks and Latinos account for a grossly disproportionate percentage of the 800,000 people arrested annually for marijuana use and possession. These convictions hinder one’s ability to find or keep employment, vote or gain access to affordable housing. The fact that these hard-to-shake consequences – bad enough as they are — are suffered more frequently by a demographic that uses marijuana less makes our current policies toward marijuana all the more unfair, unwise and unacceptable.

Our marijuana policies have proven ineffective, expensive and discriminatory. Our courtrooms, jails and prisons remain crowded with nonviolent drug offenders. And yet, the government persists in its costly, racist and counterproductive criminalization of marijuana. We learned our lesson decades ago with alcohol prohibition; it is long overdue for us to do the same with marijuana prohibition. In the face of Miron’s new report, and its support from hundreds of economists, we are hopeful that not only will the national conversation surrounding marijuana change, but so will our disastrous policies.

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , , | Comments Off on Hundreds of Economists: Marijuana Prohibition Costs Billions, Legalization Would Earn Billions

One Thing Maine, Virginia and Arizona Have in Common: Opposition to the NDAA

By Allie Bohm | ACLU | April 27, 2012

This week, the House Armed Services Committee has turned its attention back to the National Defense Authorization Act and began working on this year’s bill. You remember last year’s perversion that, for the first time in American history, codified indefinite military detention without charge or trial far from any battlefield? State legislators and activists and concerned citizens on the right and the left — and everyone in between — haven’t forgotten.

On Wednesday, Arizona’s state legislature sent a bill opposing the detention provisions in the NDAA to their governor. And, last week, a similar bill became law in Virginia, about a month after Maine passed a joint resolution to the same effect. Add to that list the cities and counties that have passed resolutions urging Congress to repeal the problematic provisions in the NDAA — Fairfax, Calif.; Santa Cruz, Calif.; El Paso County, Colo.; Fremont County, Colo.; Moffat County, Colo.; Weld County, Colo.; Cherokee County, Kan.; Northampton, Mass.; Alleghany County, N.C.; Macomb, N.Y.; Elk County, Pa.; and New Shoreham, R.I. — and the map starts looking awfully full. This is not a red state issue or a blue state issue or a purple state issue. A few of the resolutions are under-inclusive, but their message is still clear: across social and political lines, no one likes the idea of indefinite detention or mandatory military detention far from any battlefield. (Okay, except maybe Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and a few other misguided members of Congress.)

Will your town, city, county, or state be the next to speak up? You can make that happen. Check out our model legislation and activist toolkit for legislative language, talking points, and tips to help you get started. Our bill sends a message from your local legislative body to Congress that the indefinite military detention provisions of the NDAA should be repealed. The model legislation prohibits state and local employees from aiding the federal armed forces in the investigation, arrest, detention, or trial of any person within the United States under the NDAA. It also sends a message from your legislative body to Congress that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force should expire at the end of the war in Afghanistan so that the government cannot continue to use the AUMF as justification for its claims that war is everywhere and anywhere and that the president can order the American military to imprison without charge or trial people picked up far from any battlefield.

And while you’re at it, head over to our Action Center and urge your member of Congress to fix the NDAA. The time is now. This year’s NDAA provides the perfect opportunity for Congress to fix last year’s debacle. And, we need you — and your state legislators and city council members — to speak up if we’re going to get Congress to finally do the right thing.

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Somnambulant in Cartagena

By ROBERT SANDELS | CounterPunch | April 27, 2012

“I watched Obama closely at the famous ‘summit gathering.’  Fatigue sometimes overcame him, he involuntarily closed his eyes and occasionally slept with his eyes open.”

– Fidel Castro [1]

The Sixth Summit of the Americas, held April 14 and 15 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia was supposed to be about what President Barak Obama wanted to talk about; instead it was about everything he didn’t want to hear.

The theme of the summit was “Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity,” but what most of the 33 leaders present wanted to discuss with Obama was decriminalizing drugs, supporting Argentina’s claim to sovereignty over the Islas Malvinas (Falkland Islands) and an end to US exclusion of Cuba from the summits.

Having no good answers on these and other matters Obama shut down, — if Fidel observed correctly — put his mouth on auto pilot, recited the words to the anthem about free trade, national security, and prosperity for all and then refused to sign the final declaration.

The US agenda of prosperity through promotion of market capitalism, asymmetric free trade agreements, privatizations, unfettered flow of capital, and excessive protection of intellectual property rights is currently out of favor in most of the region.

Free trade of the kind pedaled by Bill Clinton and George W. Bush is no longer a regional issue.  In a sense, all of these summits have been pointless if one recalls their main purpose.  When Clinton convened the first one in Miami in 1994, it was not to address the forever problems of the region but to follow up on the successful negotiation of a dubious free-trade agreement with Mexico (NAFTA) by extending US commercial and financial penetration into the rest of the region under a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).  That drive was stopped cold at Mar del Plata, Argentina during the 2005 summit.

Led by Brazil, – the largest regional economy and the “B” in the BRICS — many leaders in Cartagena saw Obama’s free trade and monetary obsessions as his way to help resolve US economic problems but not theirs.  The cheap-dollar strategy may help US exports, job growth and narrow its trade deficit but those gains are seen as other people’s losses.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve makes nearly interest-free dollars available to financial institutions that then can engage in the lucrative carry trade – moving cheap dollars to places like Brazil where, perforce, interest rates are higher.

Brazil’s President Dilma Rouseff has complained to Obama’s face that the Fed’s actions have caused a “monetary tsunami” and are driving up Brazil’s currency.  [2] The central bank has tried to reduce upward pressure on the Brazilian real through capital controls and dollar purchases, a situation that seems at odds with Obama’s “partnership for prosperity.”

Cuba: the Phantom of the Summit 

Most or all the delegates (except Obama and his faithful Canadian companion Stephen Harper) wanted an end to the US policy of excluding Cuba from the summits and to the 50-year old blockade of the island.  The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), which includes Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela, had already formally demanded that Cuba be invited to Cartagena.  Ecuador’s President Evo Morales reported that it was not just ALBA but Rouseff and other leaders in the Caribbean and South America who were saying, “there will not be another summit without Cuba.” [3]

In his speech opening the Cartagena summit, host President Juan Manuel Santos said that another summit without Cuba was  ”unacceptable.”  [4]

Of all the speeches and rumors of speeches in this hermetically sealed summit perhaps Santos’ remarks were the most striking.  Here was a conservative president of one of the few loyal US allies left in Latin America, the recipient of billions in US aid to fight a proxy war on Colombia’s coca leaves under Clinton’s 1999 Plan Colombia, one of the few countries to sign a free trade pact with the United States and host to US troops on seven Colombian military bases telling Obama that his views on Cuba were based on an “outmoded ideology.”  It was a “cold war anachronism,” he said.  [5]

The Cuba issue could not have taken Obama by surprise.  What did he expect after it was pounded into him when the previous summit foundered on the issue?  At the 2009 summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, his colleagues wanted to talk about readmitting Cuba to the OAS.  The summit ended with no agreement on the final declaration, which only the host government signed, but there was consensus that Cuba could re-apply for admission.  That is not going to happen because Cuba does not want to rejoin the OAS and even if it did, Obama could impose the majority-crushing one-country veto arguing that Cuba isn’t democratic.

The constant harping about the lack of democracy in Cuba seems especially odd considering that the US government has never paid attention to the annual lopsided vote in the UN condemning the blockade.  And in this very summit there was little exercise of majority rule when the United States and Canada blocked agreement on a final declaration because it contained inconvenient resolutions.

Obama, in office only a few weeks when he went to Port of Spain in April 2009, was well regarded in the region.  He talked about cooperation and admitted that mistakes were made by his predecessors.  He was generally praised for dropping Bush’s harsh restrictions on Cuban-American travel to Cuba.  He has tried to live on those meager crumbs ever since, pretending that by reverting to the travel rules in play under Clinton he was “easing” Cuba policy when in reality the policy has remained the destruction of the Cuban revolution.

Soon after Port of Spain, however, Obama supported the June 2009 Honduran coup that followed the arrest and defenestration of President Jose Manuel Zelaya — who of course was democratically elected.  Then as now Obama never tired of calling upon Cuban President Raul Castro to hold elections, without which, the island could never attend a Summit of the Americas.

Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, the direct beneficiary of that coup, attended the summit.

The lesson of Port of Spain was that John F. Kennedy’s 1962 expulsion of Cuba from the OAS was now reversed.  The lesson of Cartagena was that there wouldn’t be any more of these summits without Cuba.

Who said summits are pointless?

A war on the war on drugs

Latin American leaders of all political hues have been murmuring recently about legalization or decriminalization of drugs.  Guatemala’s President Otto Perez Molina is probably the furthest to the right in that group, which includes ex-presidents Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, and Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox of Mexico and current Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who, against a background of some 50,000 deaths in his militarized war on drugs, has lately suggested the idea should be on the table.

Appearing slightly flexible on the issue, Obama told Univision News, “I don’t mind a debate around issues like decriminalization,” but added, “I personally don’t agree that’s a solution to the problem.”  [6]

Whether or not there was a debate on drugs during the closed-door sessions, Vice President Joe Biden had already made the rounds in Mexico and Central America to promise there would be no legalization while Obama was in office.

And, as if to drive the point home, the summit had barely closed when General Douglas Fraser, chief of the US Southern Command, (Was there a democratic vote among the peoples of the region to include themselves in a US military zone?) made it clear that what Obama doesn’t like, the United States doesn’t like.  The general called for greater cooperation from the region on planning for the naval side of the war on drugs.  It seems that Operation Hammer, which will cover the Caribbean coast of Central America and the Pacific coast of South America, is about to begin and he wants “the naval forces of all the region” to get with the plan.  [7]

If Obama’s views on legalization were not clearly spelled out in Cartagena, they are in his 2012 National Drug Control Strategy, which “rejects the false choice between an enforcement-centric ‘war on drugs’ and the extreme notion of drug legalization.”  [8]

His 2012 budget to pay for that strategy authorizes $15.1 billion for traditional enforcement methods and $10.1 billion for prevention and treatment.  The Marijuana News and Information blog notes that the percentage for enforcement is the same or higher than what Bush proposed spending.  [9]

While hinting at flexibility on the drug issue, Obama announced at the summit that the United States was increasing funds for the foreign war on drugs led by “our Central American friends” and pledged more than $130 million dollars for it in 2012.  [10]

As for the Malvinas, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner argued for inclusion in the final declaration of Argentina’s claims of sovereignty.

Pressed to declare himself, Obama pleaded neutrality.  That’s a “no.”

There was a certain airy dismissiveness about Obamas demeanor at the summit.  He danced away from the serious issues and, apparently forgetting he was the U.S. president, said, “I’m not somebody who brings to the table here a lot of baggage from the past, and I want to look at these issues in a new and fresh way.” [11]

That was a curious, even astonishing statement by a man who has willingly shouldered a good deal of imperial baggage.  Of course the baggage is his to dump or carry: 54 years of it since Dwight Eisenhower tried to block Fidel from taking power, 51 years of it since the Bay of Pigs, 50 years of it since JFK got Cuba kicked out of the OAS and now nearly four years of Obama continuing the blockade, instituting his own cyber warfare against Cuba and continuing to pay Cubans to act as agents of US policy inside the island.

What baggage has he not made his own?

The other summit 

Obama’s election-year intransigence on the issues at Cartagena has badly damaged and probably sunk the Americas summitry and with it maybe even the OAS.  The best thing for Obama is to let the summits die and blame it on Fidel and Raul Castro (also on Santos, Rouseff, Morales, Rafael Correa, among many others).

Waiting to take its place is the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), inaugurated in Caracas last December as an OAS without the United States and Canada.

Behind it is ALBA, which held its own, little noticed meeting in Caracas just before the Cartagena summit. It was the summit that most of the Cartagena delegates most likely would have preferred.  Its final declaration supported Argentina on the Malvinas, condemned the blockade of Cuba and called the exclusion of Cuba from the Americas summits “unacceptable.”  [12]

“Perhaps,” wrote Fidel, “CELAC will become what it should be, a hemispheric political organization without the United States and Canada. The decadent and unsustainable empire has earned the right to rest in peace.” [13]

Robert Sandels is a writer for Cuba-L and CounterPunch.

Notes.

[1] Fidel Castro, Reflexiones, Granma, 04/17/12,
http://www.granma.cu/espanol/reflexiones/17abril-reflexiones.html.

[2[Reuters, 04/14/12,
<http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Scandal+mars+Obama+wooing+Latin+America+wi
th+video/6473757/story.html>.

[3] ALBA-TCP website, http://www.alianzabolivariana.org/modules.php?
name=News&file=article&sid=8495.

[4] La Jornada (Mexico), 04/14/12,
http://www.lajornadajalisco.com.mx/2012/04/14/inaceptable-una-nueva-cumbre-s
in-cuba-santos/.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Interview, Univision News, 04/14/12,
http://univisionnews.tumblr.com/post/21081359245/obama-dont-mind-debating-le
galization-of-drugs.

[7] United States Southern Command website, 04/18/12,
http://www.southcom.mil/newsroom/Pages/Western-Hemisphere-Defense,
-Security-Leaders-Gather-to-Discuss-Transnational-Organized-Crime-in-Central
-America.aspx.
[8] White House,
http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/2012-national-drug-control-strategy.
[9] Marijuana News and Information, 04/20/12,
http://www.theweedblog.com/obamas-2012-drug-strategy-is-a-reminder-the-feds-
are-addicted-to-the-drug-war/.

[10] Xinhua, 04/14/12,
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/world/2012-04/15/c_131527076.htm.

[11] Washington Post, 04/15/12,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/obama-concludes-summit-of-t
he-americas-on-the-defensive-about-inviting-cuba/2012/04/15/gIQAVrgAKT_story
.html.

[12] Granma Internacional, 04/18/12,
http://www.granma.cu/ingles/cuba-i/18abr-17gobierno.html.

[13] Fidel Castro, Reflexiones, Granma Internacional, 04/17/12,
http://www.granma.cu/espanol/reflexiones/17abril-reflexiones.html.

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Progressive Hypocrite, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Somnambulant in Cartagena

Recognizing Heroes

By Ralph Nader | The Nader Page | April 26, 2012

The media regularly cover awards for their reporters, editors and producers. They regularly cover award ceremonies for movie stars, athletes, and business leaders. But they regularly ignore the far more important awards for people who ethically blow the whistle on corruption and suppression in both business and government, risking their careers and more to tell the truth to the American people.

Sure, the Pulitzers, the Academy Awards, the Heisman Trophy and the many business awards may seem exciting. But protecting the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people is important and serious. It is hard to conclude that recalling millions of defective automobiles and dangerous pharmaceuticals, exposing serious contamination of drinking water, lies about the BushObama wars and the huge subprime mortgage crimes should be outside the realm of news coverage.

But this news or features blackout consistently prevails, at least in Washington, D.C., even when the annual Ridenhour prizes are given to heroic figures before packed audiences of notables at the National Press Club. Named after the late Ron Ridenhour, a Vietnam War veteran who wrote to Congress about the horrific massacre at the village of My Lai, this year’s recognitions went to truth-tellers from Countrywide Financial, Bank of America, the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Marine Corps.

Each of them delivered concise, eloquent remarks that would qualify for any “Style Page” feature that requires drama, courage, human interest, resolve and proposed reforms. C-SPAN, replete with astonishingly repetitive right-wing events, was not there. Some members of the fourth estate – reporters, columnists, editorial writers or profilers – were in attendance, but no major news outlets covered this splendid event.

The Ridenhour awardees did not indulge in sentiment and self-pity. They spoke cogently about widespread dereliction or institutional crimes, and they spoke of specific ways a democratic society can foresee and forestall further recurrences. These people know what they are talking about. They are not like the glib pundits, politicians and commentators who get abundant airtime or print column inches for their insipid, ignorant, repetitive or self-serving pontifications.

When Lt. Col. Daniel L. Davis spoke about his assignment for the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force which resulted in a meticulous and well-documented report from the battlefields, contrary to the official “success” claims of the generals, he provided fresh material and a sensitive mind ready to elaborate on any questions by the press.

When Ali Soufan (former FBI interrogator) spoke about the uses of torture that backfire, fail to get useful information, risk the safety of soldiers, violate the laws and stain the reputation of the U.S., he can back it up with book-length details. Soufan’s New York Times op-ed was an eye-opener but the present situation is still festering and exhibiting prevarication. Extensive reporting is still needed on this subject.

Eileen Foster, hired in 2005 by Countrywide to become the executive vice president in charge of their fraud risk management division, proved that there was a “cult” of commission-hungry loan officers who created fraudulent financial papers that expanded toxic mortgages, helping to lead to the great Wall Street-U.S. economy crash of 2008. She showed the various law enforcement paths the Justice Department failed to take against any Wall Street executive, despite ample grounds for prosecution.

And when career Marine Corps Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger suspected that his nine-year-old daughter’s death might have an environmental cause at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, he came upon a “cover-up by the Marine Corps of one of the largest drinking water contaminations in U.S. history.” The Marine Corps learned of the carcinogenic chemicals in the groundwater at the base in 1980 and refused to officially notify the residents for another 28 years, an admission finally provoked by Sgt. Ensminger’s indefatigable campaign that went national (see the documentary “Semper Fi: Always Faithful”).

Now compare these heroic stands of the human spirit with the regular, rancid portrayals in the media of misbehaving actors, actresses, and professional athletes. There isn’t even a semblance of balance between informing the moral and voyeuristic instincts of their readers and viewers.

Lt. Colonel Davis, still on active duty, urged the audience to go forth and expand the range of their common concerns represented by these awards to ever larger circles of Americans. He declared that “telling the truth and doing your duty are synonymous.”

(For the fully streamed event, visit Ridenhour)

2012 Ridenhour Prize Winners

  • The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling – Eileen Foster, Stood up Against Corruption at Countrywide
  • The Ridenhour Prize for Truth-Telling – Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, Exposed Pentagon Deceptions About the Afghan War
  • The Ridenhour Documentary Film Prize – Semper Fi, One Marine’s Quest for the Truth
  • The Ridenhour Book Prize – Ali Soufan, Former FBI Special Agent and Author of The Black Banners
  • The Ridenhour Courage Prize – Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights Icon and Fierce Advocate for Equality and Justice

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , | Comments Off on Recognizing Heroes

Why Are These Fraudulent Papers Unretracted?

Big Pharma’s Ghostwriters

By MARTHA ROSENBERG | CounterPunch | April 27, 2012

According to Science Times [1], the Tuesday science section in the New York Times, scientific retractions are on the rise because of a “dysfunctional scientific climate” that has created a “winner-take-all game with perverse incentives that lead scientists to cut corners and, in some cases, commit acts of misconduct.”

But elsewhere, audacious, falsified research stands unretracted–including the work of authors who actually went to prison for fraud!

Richard Borison, MD, former psychiatry chief at the Augusta Veterans Affairs medical center and Medical College of Georgia, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for a $10 million clinical trial fraud [2] but his 1996 US Seroquel® Study Group research is unretracted. [3] In fact, it is cited in 173 works and medical textbooks, misleading future medical professionals. [4]

Scott Reuben, MD, the “Bernie Madoff” of medicine who published research on clinical trials that never existed, was sentenced to six months in prison in 2010.[5] But his “research” on popular pain killers like Celebrex and Lyrica is unretracted. [6] If going to prison for research fraud is not enough reason for retraction, what is?

Wayne MacFadden, MD, resigned as US medical director for Seroquel in 2006, after sexual affairs with two coworker women researchers surfaced[7], but the related work is unretracted and was even part of Seroquel’s FDA approval package for bipolar disorder. [8]

More than 50 ghostwritten papers about hormone therapy (HT) written by Pfizer’s marketing firm, Designwrite, ran in medical journals, according to unsealed court documents on the University of California–San Francisco’s Drug Industry Document Archive. [9] Though the papers claimed no link between HT and breast cancer and false cardiac and cognitive benefits and were ghostwritten by marketing professionals not doctors, none has been retracted.

Pfizer/Parke-Davis placed 13 ghostwritten articles[10] in medical journals promoting Neurontin for off label uses, including a supplement to the Cleveland Clinic [11] but only Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews and Protocols has retracted the specious articles. [12]

Nor is the phony science just a product of “Big Pharma.” In 2008, JAMA was forced to print a correction stating that authors of an article arguing for a higher recommended dietary allowance of protein were, in fact, industry operatives. [13] Sharon L. Miller was “formerly employed by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association,” and author Robert R. Wolfe, PhD, received money from the Egg Nutrition Center, the National Dairy Council, the National Pork Board, and the Beef Checkoff through the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, said the clarification. Miller’s email address, in fact was smiller@beef.org, which should might have been the JAMA editors’ first tip-off.[14] The article has also not been retracted.

Martha Rosenberg’s is an investigative health reporter. Her first book,  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, has just been released by Prometheus books.

Notes.

[2]  Steve Stecklow and Laura Johannes, “Test Case: Drug Makers Relied on Two Researchers Who Now Await Trial,” Wall Street Journal, August 8, 1997

[3] Richard Borison et al., “ICI 204,636, an Atypical Antipsychotic: Efficacy and Safety in a Multicenter, Placebo-Controlled Trial in Patients with Schizophrenia,” Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology 16, no. 2 (April 1996): 158–69

[4] Alan F. Schatzberg and Charles B. Nemeroff, Textbook of Psychopharmacology (New York: American Psychiatric Publishing, 2009) p. 609

[6] Scott Reuben et al., “The Analgesic Efficacy of Celecoxib, Pregabalin, and Their Combination for Spinal Fusion Surgery,” Anesthesia & Analgesia 103, no. 5 (November 2006): 1271–77.

[9] Martha Rosenberg, “Flash Back. The Troubling Revival of Hormone Therapy. Consumers Digest, November 2010

[10] Kristina Fiore, “Journals Aided in Marketing of Gabapentin,” MedPage Today, September 11, 2009

[11] United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, Report on the Use of Neurontin for Bipolar and Other Mood Disorders,http://i.bnet.com/blogs/neurontin-09513078512.pdf

[12] P. J. Wiffen et al., “WITHDRAWN: Gabapentin for Acute and Chronic Pain,” Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews and Protocols 16, no. 3 (March 16, 2011); P. J. Wiffen et al., “WITHDRAWN: Anticonvulsant Drugs for Acute and Chronic Pain,” Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews and Protocols no. 1 (January 20, 2010);

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , | Comments Off on Why Are These Fraudulent Papers Unretracted?

Settlers Raise Israel’s Flag On Top Of Ibrahimi Mosque

By Saed Bannoura | IMEMC & Agencies | April 26, 2012

A group of Israeli settlers raised Israeli flags on top of the fourth holiest site in Islam, the Ibrahimi Mosque in the southern West Bank city of Hebron. This is the first time ever since Hebron fell under Israeli occupation in 1967.

Image - Milad News Agency
Image – Milad News Agency

The Milad News Agency reported that head of the Waqf and Endowment Department in Hebron, Zeid al-Ja’bary, slammed the provocative move and stated that “this is an attack against the religious and historic stature of this site to millions of Muslims around the world”.

He added that this is a “seriously dangerous provocative act” targeting the holy site.

The Israeli Prime Minister and his coalition partners have declared the Ibrahimi Mosque, also referred to as the “Cave of Patriarchs”, to be part of the Jewish Heritage sites; a move designed to preclude the Palestinian attempt to have UNESCO officially include the Old City of Hebron on its list of historic and archeological cities.

Hebron Governor, Kamel Hameed, held the Israeli government responsible for provocative acts and attacks carried out by settlers in Hebron.

Hameed told the Milad News Agency that “writing street names in Hebrew, renaming the mosque, and placing iron and electronic gates on its entrances are provocative acts that are meant to prevent the Muslims from entering it”.

He added that the Ibrahimi Mosque “is in the hearts and minds of millions of Muslims around the world”, and added that Israeli settlers are pushing the region into instability.

Hebron Mayor, Khaled al-Aseely, stated that this act is part of Israel’s violations against Islamic Holy sites and the historic heritage of the region, and falls under Israel’s ongoing violations, including the Israeli decision to consider the mosque as part of the “Jewish heritage sites”, a decision that was rejected by numerous human rights and cultural institutions around the world.

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Charter Cities in Honduras: A Proposal to Expand Canadian Colonialism

By Dawn Paley | The Media Co-op | April 26, 2012
Protest against charter cities proposal in Honduras. Banner reads: Model Cities: Expulsion of Garifuna People from Honduras. Photo G. Trucchi.
Protest against charter cities proposal in Honduras. Banner reads: Model Cities: Expulsion of Garifuna People from Honduras. Photo G. Trucchi.

The Globe and Mail really outdid themselves today. With the help of a writer named Jeremy Torobin, they took their journalism to the level of the commentary they once specialized in courtesy of Christy Blatchford (who is now at the National Post).

The article in question is called “How ‘charter cities’ could lift the global economy.” Hint: replace “charter city” with “colony” and you’re 99 per cent of the way to understanding the concept.

Torobin relies on a report by the Macdonald Laurier Institute (MLI), a 16-page document filled with sweeping generalizations and assertions, backed up by 10 piddly footnotes. But don’t worry, because as Torobin deftly points out:

The authors back up their arguments with research, such as a statistic that people who move to places with better rules than in the ones they’ve left behind can earn wages which are three to seven times higher.

Whoa, wait a sec, hang on… They back their arguments up with research and a statistic!? ZOMG.

Upon closer inspection, the report isn’t peer reviewed, and a disclaimer from MLI assures readers that the authors have worked independently and are solely responsible for the content. Oh, and the authors are both involved in a “non-profit” pushing the idea of new urban colonies (ahem, charter cities) all around the world.

Doesn’t stop Torobin from presenting the conclusions in the report, which he calls “intriguing,” as fact. He writes:

Prof. Romer was in Ottawa Wednesday pushing his concept of “charter cities,” essentially locales created from scratch in the developing world where reform-minded people could migrate and be governed under a broad set of evenly applied rules that, in theory, could remake norms across the country. If it worked, the “political risk” that is the chief impediment to foreign investment in so many poor countries would be significantly reduced, paving the way for money to pour in. Also, in theory, similar charter cities would start to pop up as people see what’s gone on in the first one and want to replicate it. Eventually, entire regions could be adopting new rules and norms established in the initial charter cities, dramatically improving the quality of more and more people’s lives.

Yes, that’s right. One urban colony (charter city) at at time, entire countries could be re-made into urban oases based on rules and foreign direct investment. But wait, it gets better.

According to Paul Romer and his pal Brandon Fuller, the NYU urbanization academics and colony boosters who penned the report, Canada is especially well suited to run a new colony, ahem, charter city in Honduras. The idea has been approved by Honduras’ congress (which, it is worth remembering, came about via illegitimate elections following a coup d’etat in 2009), and is known there as a “special economic region” or RED. Back to the report:

The RCMP, perhaps in partnership with another respected policing authority such as the Carabineros de Chile, could greatly enhance security and quality of life in the RED by establishing a presence in the zone – training police officers and holding officers accountable for modern standards of service and conduct in policing.

Yea, you read that right. Sorry if you just lost your lunch. The idea here is to bring in two national police forces whose origins are in the decimation and repression of Indigenous peoples and put them to work in a new colony.

I can’t bring myself to go into more detail about this pathetically colonial initiative. It’s all there. Read the report yourself (if you have the urge to get angry and scoff at the same time).

As for the Globe’s pitiful attempt at “journalism” on this one, after following along on this colonial fairy tale Torobin takes the time to note “Cynics might dismiss the whole concept as a starry-eyed mix of idealism, paternalism, even imperialism.” True to the tradition of Blatchfordian-Canadian-colonialist journalism, he doesn’t appear to have spoken to a critic, or even played devil’s advocate for a moment to understand what could possibly be wrong with this proposal.

I think it could be argued that this initiative has more to do with controlling migration and resistance movements than anything else. Miriam Miranda, a Garifuna leader, said recently of RED that “it is difficult to get information, but it is evident that we’re faced with the maximum expression of the loss of sovereignty.”

There’s another obvious colonial connection to this, which is this idea of tierra nullius, which would be applied to set up the first of these charter cities near Trujillo, ancestral & present day territory of the Garifuna people. I visited Trujillo and wrote about Randy Jorgensen’s housing projects marketed to Canadian retirees there a few years ago.

I look forward to more critical analysis of this proposal, but I have no illusions of finding it in the mainstream media. After all, it is already clear the old media dinosaurs want us all to go extinct along with them.

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Charter Cities in Honduras: A Proposal to Expand Canadian Colonialism

Latin America: What Comes After the Back Yard

By Raúl Zibechi* | La Journada | 26 April 2012

After the recent sixth Summit of the Americas there remains little doubt that the Latin American region has changed. It stopped being the back- yard of a decadent empire that has very little to offer save military bases and threatening fleets. The double failure of the United States, by Barack Obama in Cartagena and by Hillary Clinton the following week in Brasilia, shows the lack of constructive proposals for the region.

As Dilma Rousseff pointed out, countries of the region demand “ relations among equals,” which was interpreted by some analysts as “a rebellion against the United States.” The summit’s principal consequence is proof of US isolation and the non-existence of policies capable of attracting the region jointly as happened until the middle of the 1990s. I find five reasons for the deterioration of Washington’s relations with the entire continent, which anticipate the new scenario in formation.

The first is the double failure of the drug war and the embargo of Cuba. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Washington had to fabricate an enemy to continue forcing the militarization of international relations. Illegal drug trafficking fulfilled that function for a while, despite never being credible because it did not include a reduction of consumption in northern countries, the big consumers of illegal drugs.

Now the war against drugs lost the battle for legitimacy. The International Institute of Strategic Studies just launched a study in which it affirms that it not only failed in combating consumption and trafficking, but also the war against drugs “has created an important threat to international security” (La Jornada, April 17). Was that not perhaps the desired objective?

The second is the end of the OAS’ time and the consolidation of Unasur (Union of South American Nations) and Celac (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), both of which exclude the United States and Canada and adjust to the new global reality. Following the already marked tendency by Unasur since 2009, Celac is rapidly becoming the organism capable of resolving the region’s problems and of tracing the direction of its sovereignty before the extra-continental powers. It can be discussed whether that is the type of integration that the Latin American peoples need, but there is no room for doubt that, whatever the path they elect, they are excluding the old property owners from the back yard.

In third place, the United States no longer is the principal trade associate of the region’s principal countries, particularly of South America, and its decreasing internal market no longer has the attraction of old nor is it in any condition to capture Latin American exports. The tendency is that China and the Asia group substitute for the role that the United States had from the beginning of the 20th Century until the 2008 crisis as the decisive trade and political ally.

Until 2005, the United States purchased 1.5 million barrels per day from Venezuela, a number that fell in 2011 to less than one million. To the contrary, Venezuelan exports to China, which were almost non-existent in 2005, climbed to almost a half million barrels per day n 2011 (Geab No. 60, December 2011). The tendency is that one market substitutes for the other.

The United States and the European Union, in fourth place, are on the way to being displaced as the principal investors in Latin America. China is the principal investor in Venezuela, the first world reserve for oil, third for bauxite, fourth reserve for gold, in sixth position in natural gas and tenth reserve of iron in the world. China also has strong investments in Argentina and Brazil, the two largest South American economies.

The second Chinese oil company, Sinopec, was interested in buying a part of Repsol in YPF for 15 billion dollars before the nationalization decided by the government of Cristina Fernández (Financial Times, April 18, 2012). Now it can expand its investments in Argentina, where it is responsible for 6 percent of the offer of crude and for 1.7 percent of gas.

The region also has endogenous capabilities for investment. The best example is the announcement of the investment of 16 billion dollars by three Brazilian companies (Petrobras, Odebrecht and Braskem) in Peru, to extract gas in Camisea, to construct a gas duct of more than a thousand kilometers toward the south and a petrochemical pole in the port city of Ilo, the first on the Pacific Coast.

In fifth place, the United States no longer is the region’s only military ally. Venezuela maintains a solid alliance with Russia, Brazil has co-operation agreements with India in aeronautics and with China in the space industry. But the most notable is the progressive integration of the region’s military industries, in other words the coupling of the South American countries with the growing Brazilian military industry.

The most notable case is the strategic alliance between Brazil and Argentina, which translates into joint development of protection, a military carrier that will substitute for the Hercules, the development of air-to-air missiles that Brazil worked on with South Africa, and unmanned planes for border vigilance. Both countries form a critical mass capable of trumping the rest to set up a regional military industry autonomous from the north.

The imminent victory of the socialist François Hollande in the French elections “will activate a series of strategic changes” that accelerate the geopolitical transitions underway, according to what the European Laboratory of Political Anticipation (Laboratorio Europeo de Anticipación Política) estimates. See: (Geab No. 54, April 17, 2012). One of the principal turns will be the formation of a Europe-BRICS strategic alliance. In some way, this alliance already started with the 2009 France-Brazil military agreement to construct submarines and attack planes. The region’s autonomization can have unexpected allies.

* Translation by Chiapas Support Committee

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Latin America: What Comes After the Back Yard

CISPA passes House in unexpected last-minute vote

RT | 27 April, 2012

The House of Representatives has approved Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act with a vote count of 248-168. The bill is now headed for the Senate. President Barack Obama will be able to sign or cancel it pending Senate approval.

Initially slated to vote on the bill Friday, the House of Representatives decided to pass Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) Thursday after approving a number of amendments.

Apart from cyber and national security purposes, the bill would now allow the government to use private information obtained through CISPA for the investigation and prosecution of “cybersecurity crime,” protection of individuals and the protection of children. The new clauses define “cybersecurity crime” as any crime involving network disruption or hacking.

“Basically this means CISPA can no longer be called a cyber security bill at all. The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a ‘cybersecurity crime.’ Basically it says the Fourth Amendment does not apply online, at all,” Techdirt’s Leigh Beadon said.

Declan McCullagh, correspondent from CNET News, says CISPA will cause more trouble than is immediately apparent.

“The most controversial section of CISPA is the language – that notwithstanding any other portion the of law, companies can share what they want as long as it’s for what they call a ‘cyber security purpose,'” he told RT.

CISPA was introduced in the House last November.  Critics chided the bill, saying its broad wording could allow the government to spy on individual Internet users and block websites that publish vaguely defined ‘sensitive’ data.

“[CISPA] doesn’t really have any protections against cyber threats, all it does is make people share their information. But that’s not going to solve the problem. What’s going to solve the problem is actual security measures, protecting the service in the first place, not spying on people after the fact,” Internet activist Aaron Swartz told RT.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday saying President Barack Obama would be advised to veto the bill if he receives it. The Obama administration denounces the proposed law for potentially giving the government cyber-sleuthing powers that would allow both federal authorities and private businesses to sneak into inboxes and online activities in the name of combating Internet terrorism tactics.

Earlier, the House of Representatives and Senate also considered adopting the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA). These bills sought to entitle the US government to curb access to “rogue websites” that illegally hosted intellectual property. The bills could effectively force search engines to remove these websites from search results, an action many private companies considered intrusive.

PIPA and SOPA were opposed by many Internet giants including Google, Mozilla, Facebook, Yahoo!, Wikipedia and Reddit. Google organized a petition against the legislation, while Wikipedia held a 24-hour blackout to protest the bill in January. As a result, SOPA was recalled while PIPA was postponed indefinitely.

However, CISPA was actually backed by Facebook, despite its opposition to SOPA and PIPA. In a blog post on April 13, Joel Kaplan, Vice President of US Public Policy at Facebook, argued that if enacted into law, the bill would “give companies like ours the tools we need to protect our systems and the security of our users’ information, while also providing those users confidence that adequate privacy safeguards are in place.”

A number of big companies, including AT&T, Microsoft, Boeing, Verizon and Oracle have also supported CISPA.

The CISPA battleground in numbers

April 27, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Comments Off on CISPA passes House in unexpected last-minute vote