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Obama to cut nonproliferation budget in favor of new nukes

Press TV – April 11, 2013

US President Barack Obama has reportedly requested more funding to further upgrade American nuclear weapons at the cost of reduced spending on nuclear nonproliferation measures, which it demands from other nations.

The Obama administration’s funding request for continued modernization of its atomic arsenal has reportedly been included in its 2014 federal budget proposal that was released on Wednesday, according to a report in US-based Foreign Policy magazine.

The Obama administration’s plan to further “modernize” American nuclear weapons comes nearly four years after the US president received the Noble Peace Prize in 2009 for the promotion of “nuclear non-proliferation.”

Despite massive cuts in public spending and even some Defense Department programs, under the new budget proposal, funding for US Energy Department’s nuclear arms-related programs would increase by nearly seven percent or about USD500 million, according to the report, which cited American officials that spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The current budget for such programs reportedly stands at more than USD7 billion.

The Energy Department’s nonproliferation programs, however, would be slashed by about 20 percent, or nearly USD460 million, under the new budget plan, according to the report. Its current annual budget stands at almost USD2.5 billion.

The proposed funding would reportedly cover the continuing upgrade of older American atomic warheads as well as the construction of a uranium processing plant in the State of Tennessee.

The so-called modernization program for aging US nuclear weapons is part of a deal between the Obama administration and Congress as part of the ‘New START’ (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement with Russia, its major rival in maintaining massive numbers of atomic weapons.

According to the pact, both nuclear powers should slash their atomic warheads to 1,500 by 2018.

US lawmakers reportedly agreed to support the reduction of the quantity of the country’s atomic warheads if the ones remaining active are upgraded.

The only category of the US Energy Department’s nonproliferation activities that would receive increased funding is its research and development division. It is intended to finance the development of a satellite-based nuclear detonation sensor, according to the Foreign Policy report.

This is while the Energy Department’s nuclear weapon programs was reportedly hindered by mismanagement and overspending issues, prompting the department to ask the Pentagon to cover cost overruns for its W76 warhead upgrade operations, though it only received three billion of the seven billion dollars it had requested.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s 2014 budget proposal is reportedly billions of dollars higher than the spending caps mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act. It is, therefore, expected to face strong opposition from congressional members. The White House and US lawmakers have been battling for the past two years over budgetary issues, and are yet to reach a common ground.

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, War Crimes | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

On Thatcher, What’s the Difference Between PBS & Fox News?

By Peter Hart | FAIR | April 9, 2013

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s death yesterday brought waves of mostly flattering coverage of the divisive right-wing leader.  It was striking to see the parallels between the way Thatcher was covered on the PBS NewsHour and Fox News Channel‘s most popular show, the O’Reilly Factor. Though some people like to think that PBS and Fox couldn’t be further apart, they were basically singing the same tune.

newshour-thatcher

The main Thatcher segment on the PBS newscast was a discussion with two former Republican secretaries of State, George Shultz and James Baker. Of course, both were big fans of Thatcher’s foreign policy (which was closely aligned with their own priorities during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush years). It was more than that, too; as Baker put it, Thatcher “emphasized the private sector and got rid of the oppressive influence of the trade unions.” And Shultz explained that Thatcher “was a very attractive woman. So you were certainly aware of that.”

PBS had one other guest: former Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, who cheered both Thatcher’s defeat of unions but also her humanity: “It’s kind of touching to be reminded of what a lovely woman she was.”

On the O’Reilly show, the host paid tribute to Thatcher’s leadership, contrasting it with Barack Obama’s tenure. As O’Reilly declared:

Her accomplishments are many, but she was always a very controversial figure in her own country and here in America, because the British press and the American media are liberal and always have been.

oreilly-thatcher

Later in the show, he was joined by conservatives Brit Hume and Bernard Goldberg; ironically, the latter segment focused on the alleged hostility to Thatcher in the mainstream media. So the guest line-ups were more alike than different. But so was some of the reporting. On Fox, Thatcher rescued Britain from the clutches of an oppressive union movement, and the record speaks for itself. As O’Reilly put it:

In Britain, 13 percent unemployment…. That’s a catastrophe, 13 percent, all right. When she leaves office eight years later, 5.8 percent unemployment. But if the unemployment rate drops 7 percent, which means all those millions of people are working under this woman, give her some credit.

And he put it a different way:

In 1982, about two and a half years into her term, unemployment in Great Britain was 13 percent. It’s chaos, absolute chaos there. When she left office in 1990, she was the longest serving prime minister in British history. It was at 5.8 percent.

On PBS, meanwhile, reporter Margaret Warner declared that Thatcher “brought a free market revolution to Britain, lowering taxes and privatizing state industries…. Britain’s economy rebounded from her tough medicine.”

Neither report gives viewers a good sense of Thatcher’s economic policy. (The wording in the PBS segment about rebounding from medicine is difficult to comprehend.) The Guardian compiled a list of economic indicators during Thatcher’s tenure; the short story is that inequality increased, and so did poverty–from 13.4 percent in 1979 to 22.2 percent in 1990.

O’Reilly is correct that unemployment dropped during part of Thatcher’s time in office; it also skyrocketed the first two years. When she left office in 1990, it was, according to the Guardian‘s figures, higher than when she took office.  If that’s the record, then one would imagine it would be reflected somewhere–perhaps not at Fox News, for ideological reasons. But PBS is supposed to be about giving us the views that we’re not getting from the commercial media.

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , | Comments Off on On Thatcher, What’s the Difference Between PBS & Fox News?

New Documents Suggest IRS Reads Emails Without a Warrant

By Nathan Freed Wessler | ACLU | April 10, 2013

Everyone knows the IRS is our nation’s tax collector, but it is also a law enforcement organization tasked with investigating criminal violations of the tax laws. New documents released to the ACLU under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the IRS Criminal Tax Division has long taken the position that the IRS can read your emails without a warrant—a practice that one appeals court has said violates the Fourth Amendment (and we think most Americans would agree).

Last year, the ACLU sent a FOIA request to the IRS seeking records regarding whether it gets a warrant before reading people’s email, text messages and other private electronic communications. The IRS has now responded by sending us 247 pages of records describing the policies and practices of its criminal investigative arm when seeking the contents of emails and other electronic communications.

So does the IRS always get a warrant? Unfortunately, while the documents we have obtained do not answer this question point blank, they suggest otherwise. This question is too important for the IRS not to be completely forthright with the American public. The IRS should tell the public whether it always gets a warrant to access email and other private communications in the course of criminal investigations. And if the agency does not get a warrant, it should change its policy to always require one.

The IRS and Email: Reading Between the Lines

The federal law that governs law enforcement access to emails, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), is hopelessly outdated. It draws a distinction between email that is stored on an email provider’s server for 180 days or less, and email that is older or has been opened. The former requires a warrant; the latter does not. Luckily, the Fourth Amendment still protects against unreasonable searches by the government. Accordingly, in 2010 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided in United States v. Warshak that the government must obtain a probable cause warrant before compelling email providers to turn over messages.

However, the IRS hasn’t told the public whether it is following Warshak everywhere in the country, or only within the Sixth Circuit.

The documents the ACLU obtained make clear that, before Warshak, it was the policy of the IRS to read people’s email without getting a warrant. Not only that, but the IRS believed that the Fourth Amendment did not apply to email at all. A 2009 “Search Warrant Handbook” from the IRS Criminal Tax Division’s Office of Chief Counsel baldly asserts that “the Fourth Amendment does not protect communications held in electronic storage, such as email messages stored on a server, because internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications.” Again in 2010, a presentation by the IRS Office of Chief Counsel asserts that the “4th Amendment Does Not Protect Emails Stored on Server” and there is “No Privacy Expectation” in those emails.

Other older documents corroborate that the IRS did not get warrants across the board. For example, the 2009 edition of the Internal Revenue Manual (the official compilation of IRS policies and procedures) explains that “the government may obtain the contents of electronic communication that has been in storage for more than 180 days” without a warrant.

Then came Warshak, decided on December 14, 2010. The key question our FOIA request seeks to answer is whether the IRS’s policy changed after Warshak, which should have put the agency on notice that the Fourth Amendment does in fact protect the contents of emails. The first indication of the IRS’s position, from an email exchange in mid-January 2011, does not bode well. In an email titled “US v. Warshak,” an employee of the IRS Criminal Investigation unit asks two lawyers in the IRS Criminal Tax Division whether Warshak will have any effect on the IRS’s work. A Special Counsel in the Criminal Tax Division replies: “I have not heard anything related to this opinion. We have always taken the position that a warrant is necessary when retrieving e-mails that are less than 180 days old.” But that’s just the ECPA standard. The real question is whether the IRS is obtaining warrants for emails more than 180 days old. Shortly after Warshak, apparently it still was not.

The IRS had an opportunity to officially reconsider its position when it issued edits to the Internal Revenue Manual in March 2011. But its policy stayed the same: the Manual explained that under ECPA, “Investigators can obtain everything in an account except for unopened e-mail or voice mail stored with a provider for 180 days or less using a [relevant-and-material-standard] court order” instead of a warrant. Again, no suggestion that the Fourth Amendment might require more.

The first indication that the IRS was considering the effect of Warshak came in an October 2011 IRS Chief Counsel Advice memorandum available on the IRS website but not provided in response to our FOIA request. An IRS employee sought guidance about whether it is proper to use an administrative summons, instead of a warrant, to obtain emails that are more than 180 days old. (The emails in question were located on an internet service provider’s (ISP) server somewhere in the territory covered by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals). The memo summarized the holding of Warshak and advised that “as a practical matter it would not be sensible” to seek older emails without a warrant. This is good advice, but the memo’s reasoning leaves much to be desired. The memo explained that Warshak applies only in the Sixth Circuit but that, because the ISP had informed the IRS that it did not intend to voluntarily comply with an administrative summons for emails, there was not “any reasonable possibility that the Service will be able to obtain the contents of this customer’s emails . . . without protracted litigation, if at all.” Any investigative leads contained in the emails would therefore be “stale” by the time the litigation could be concluded, making attempted warrantless access not worthwhile.

The memo misses another chance to declare that agents should obtain a warrant for emails because the Fourth Amendment requires it. Instead, the memo’s advice (which may not be used as precedent and is not binding in other IRS criminal investigations) is limited to situations in the Ninth Circuit where an ISP intends to challenge warrantless requests for emails. The IRS shouldn’t obey the Fourth Amendment only when it faces the inconvenience of protracted litigation; it should recognize that the Fourth Amendment requires warrants for the contents of emails at all times.

Finally, to the present: has the IRS’s position changed this tax season? Apparently not. The current version of the Internal Revenue Manual, available on the IRS website, continues to explain that no warrant is required for emails that are stored by an ISP for more than 180 days. Apparently the agency believes nothing of consequence has changed since ECPA was enacted in 1986, or the now-outdated Surveillance Handbook was published in 1994.

The IRS Owes the American Public an Explanation—and a Warrant Requirement

Let’s hope you never end up on the wrong end of an IRS criminal tax investigation. But if you do, you should be able to trust that the IRS will obey the Fourth Amendment when it seeks the contents of your private emails. Until now, that hasn’t been the case. The IRS should let the American public know whether it obtains warrants across the board when accessing people’s email. And even more important, the IRS should formally amend its policies to require its agents to obtain warrants when seeking the contents of emails, without regard to their age.

(We also sent FOIA requests to the FBI and other components of the Department of Justice—we will be receiving records from those offices in the coming weeks).

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Documents Suggest IRS Reads Emails Without a Warrant

Capriles Attacks Venezuelan Electoral Council, Refuses to Sign Document

Venezuelanalysis | April 9th 2013

Merida – Tonight rightwing candidate Henrique Capriles said that he will not sign a National Electoral Council (CNE) document to guarantee that he would recognise the results of the 14 April presidential elections.

The document, requested by the government and written by the CNE, called ‘Commitment with Democracy’ was signed by pro-Chavez candidate Nicolas Maduro, as well three other candidates. Candidate Reina Sequera didn’t sign the document today because she wasn’t in Caracas. A similar document was signed by all candidates, including Capriles, for the 7 October presidential elections in July last year.

Instead, a representative for Capriles’ campaign, Carlos Vecchio, handed in a different document signed by Capriles, where he committed to “respect the popular will” but demanded that the interim president Nicolas Maduro “cease his abuse of the use of public resources to promote his candidature”.

In the document he also accused Maduro of “intimidating public servants” and “taking advantage of the needs of the poor… in order to bribe them with the delivery, or not, of social missions, and in that way, obtain their votes”.

He called the CNE “negligent” and warned that “we will be vigilant before…any alteration that is attempted on the electoral results”. Further he suggested that the electoral power is biased towards the government.

The move by Capriles follows weeks of  opposition and private Venezuelan media attacks on the CNE, as well as a small protest in Caracas calling for “fairness and transparency” in the elections.

US Assistant Secretary of State, Roberta Jackson, also said last month that it would be “difficult” to have “open, fair and transparent elections” in Venezuela.

Maduro signed the CNE document while at a workers’ rally, saying, “I’m going to sign it in name of peace for the country, and respect for the people. This signature is worth my own life. I’ll respect the results that the people decide on 14 April. I swear it before God, I swear it before the people, and I swear it on the memory of Hugo Chavez”.

The CNE completed its auditing process today, where all aspects related to the voting act were verified. Assessors from the Central University of Venezuela, technical experts from all candidates’ campaign teams, and the electoral mission of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) were all present.

CNE president Tibisay Lucena announced that the electoral system is “safe and ironclad” and said the council had not found the irregularity denounced by the opposition serious, where a member of the governing United Socialist Party allegedly had the code to the electoral machines.

“The code is a general one, not only do the CNE technicians know it, but also over 90 contracted personnel… that is, it is not a code that implies infringement of electoral security”.

She also highlighted that participation in elections has grown progressively in Venezuela, which “is proof of the enormous credibility of the [electoral] organism”. 81% of registered voters voted last October.

46,000 voting machines are being sent to voting centres such as schools, which as of Wednesday will be closed and protected by soldiers as part of the Republic Plan. 80,000 CNE assistants have been trained to operate the machines.

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Deception | , , | Comments Off on Capriles Attacks Venezuelan Electoral Council, Refuses to Sign Document

Free Speech, Culture Wars, and Enlightenment

By LORENZO OSPRI | CounterPunch | April 10, 2013

Dr. Ben Carson, director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, likes to pose as a man of faith, a steadfast Christian deriving his worldview from the Bible – heroically, unapologetically, in the face of wanton persecution by the liberal PC-police.

As a sedulous, restless oracle, he’s grown wont, of late, to offer his take on a variety of social and cultural issues. And like the ancient Pythia at Delphi, his utterances have shown the power to strike his audiences agape. Darwinists are nihilistic time-bombs – he maintains – since true morality only stems from the literal word of the Bible; parents should be encouraged to mete out a sound caning to their misbehaving tots, as the Book of Proverbs says so; fiscal policy is divinely-ordained to stand to benefit the rich; and last but not least, we’re assured the Good Book is riddled with warnings throughout that marriage is only the union of one man and one woman.

Not wholly surprisingly, a fierce row has finally erupted over one or the other of his eclectic remarks. His speakership at the 2013 medical class commencement at Hopkins is on the verge of an unprecedented revocation, prompting fury from the Right over alleged liberal intolerance.  Apart from the unabashed dogmatism exuding from Dr. Carson’s pronouncements – standard fare in the raging culture wars of America –, we need only wonder whether they withstand rational scrutiny or not.

The Seven Hundred Wives of Solomon

What’s the viewpoint of the Bible on marriage? Contrary to common wisdom, the Good Book doesn’t provide any consistent definition. If anything, it seems to lean overall toward polygamy. The list of Old Testament figures having multiple wives is endless: from Abraham to Esau, Jacob, Gideon, Elkanah, and so on and so forth. Solomon, indefatigable stud, outdid them all, by taking 700 wives and 300 concubines. The New Testament is perfectly ambiguous on the subject, sporting some verses in support of monogamy (Mark 10:11, Matthew 19:4) and others hinting at polygamy (Matthew 25:1, 1 Timothy 3:2). Saint Paul himself recommended eschewing marriage altogether, in favor of a life of chastity – something we regret to learn Dr. Carson was all too quick personally to discount.

The Scarlet Letter

If the Bible’s stance on marriage is murky, other pieces of Bible-based morality are crystal clear:

“Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death.

The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born,

when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.”

The capital punishment is prescribed with largess for many other sins, notably adultery, disrespecting one’s parents, having sexual relations with a menstruating woman, and various forms of incest. If we really are to believe Dr. Carson’s protestations that he’s a staunch, coherent, and fearless believer in the literal truth of the Bible, we should ask him what he proposes to do with adulterers. If he doesn’t support stoning them, as we all know he doesn’t, mustn’t we logically conclude he’s a hypocrite who cherry-picks passages from the Bible and wields them as a cloak, or disposable political tool, for his prejudices?

Jesus, the Commie

What about the Bible-mandated tax cuts for the rich? We confess after reading Dr. Carson’s words on the subject we were left wondering whether the good doctor has actually ever been introduced to the Gospels, where a prominent character named Jesus not once mentions the Gays, but adamantly condemns Roman Judea’s top 1% of earners:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:21)

As for the saying, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s”, we’re acutely reassured it came from Brutus.

The Parapet of Separation

Beyond scriptural (in)accuracy, the fundamental flaw in Dr. Carson’s reasoning lies, of course, in his failure to realize the United States is not a Christian nation, but a secular Republic, where there’s a constitutionally-mandated distinction between sin and crime, between civil order and religious institutions.

Whatever the Bible, or the Koran, or the Upanishads, have to say about “traditional marriage”, taxes or anything else is irrelevant to civil policies. This is for the safeguard of religion as much as the state. As James Madison (not Lenin) put it, the entanglement of religion and politics yields “in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution”.

Immanuel Kant, Party-Pooper

Finally, Dr. Carson seems utterly positive the only possible foundation of ethics is a supernatural law-giver descending from the clouds to hand over stone tablets to His favorite prophet. Murder is bad because God said so. Had God decided in His own free will that murder should be good, then it would have been so. The bedrock of morality, according to this line of thought, is God’s whim.

But the worse has yet to come.  We all know God shies away from making regular appearances into the world to confirm which are His authentic wishes for ethical behavior.

Thus we’re left with a plethora of conflicting religious ethical systems, each urging people on to arbitrary commandments (“don’t eat pork!”, or “stone the blasphemer!”) that need to be revealed, or interpreted, or enforced, by God’s earthly representatives, be they priests, pastors, rabbis, imams, ayatollahs, etc.

Is there an alternative to this tottering source of ethical legitimacy?

Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, Isaiah Berlin, John Rawles, and a host of other modern philosophers have variously come up with universalist moral systems, all based on the common notion that there are objective moral truths out there applying to all, because each and every one of us has some shared feature with his fellow humans, be it practical reason or a common nature that favors what benefits us and is vulnerable to suffering. It is nothing less than game theory, the mathematical tool used to study the evolution of animal behavior, that suggests whenever rational, social agents evolve, a non-arbitrary set of rules (“ethical norms”) emerges in the fitness landscape that ensures an optimal outcome. For instance, cooperation among agents leads to demonstrably greater benefits than violence or exploitation. Nihilistic selfishness is not rationally defensible, as a universal morality based on reason requires one to rise above petty short-term interests, and see things as if sub specie aeternitatis (under the viewpoint of eternity).

Free speech and Personal Responsibility

What should we make of Dr. Carson and the backlash he’s suffering?

Nobody proposes the good doctor should be gagged.  In fact, we’re pretty sure a lucrative contract is waiting for him at Fox News after his retirement, where he’ll be able to preach to willing crowds as much as he pleases.

What we should all demand, and indeed expect, is to hold him accountable for his declarations.

If Dr. Carson feels compelled to go on national TV to spout out ludicrous and embarrassing arguments about gays, evolutionists, or whatever ghost haunts his imagination at a given time, he’s free to do so. But once he’s lost his credibility, speaking at a university commencement is not something he should be rewarded with.

And this has nothing to do with free speech, but everything to do with bearing responsibility for one’s own actions.

Lorenzo Ospri is a fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Free Speech, Culture Wars, and Enlightenment

The Ironic Lady: Margaret Thatcher, Supposed Champion of ‘Freedom and Democracy’, and Her Dictator Friends

By Nima Shirazi | Wide Asleep in America | April 8, 2013

Margaret Thatcher died Monday, April 8, 2013, at the age of 87. While there is no dearth of hagiographic profiles of the former British Prime Minister in the mainstream press and scathing vitriol elsewhere, it should be remembered that, throughout her career, Thatcher was a staunch supporter of many of the world’s most brutal regimes, propping up and arming war criminals and dictators in service to Western imperialism, anti-Communism and neoliberal hegemony.

Throughout the 1980s, Thatcher’s government backed Iraq during its war against Iran, funneling weapons and equipment to Saddam Hussein in contravention of both international law and British policy, all the way up until Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait.  She even sent Christmas cards to both Saddam and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi in 1981.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s a review of some of her other pals…


The Shah of Iran and Margaret Thatcher, 1978

In April 1978, prior to her ascension to Prime Minister, Thatcher visited the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, in Tehran where she praised him as “one of the world’s most far-sighted statesmen, whose experience is unrivaled.”

Despite the popular protests against the Shah occurring across Iran with increasing frequency, Thatcher said of her host, “No other world leader has given his country more dynamic leadership. He is leading Iran through a twentieth century renaissance.” Exactly one month before her visit, street protests in over 55 Iranian cities resulted in the killing of more than 100 civilians, when police opened fire on the crowds.

Iran “holds a key strategic position in the defence of the Western World,” Thatcher continued, “Her strength and resolve are vital to our future.” She added, “Iran has been the West’s most resolute and stalwart ally in this crucial region.”

Upon his overthrow the following February, the Shah expressed his desire to seek asylum in England at his lavish country estate in Surrey. While the British government at the time wound up secretly helping the Shah make his way from Morocco to the Bahamas, it rejected his request to enter the UK.

Thatcher, who became Prime Minister soon thereafter, respected the decision of her predecessor for political reasons, but was “deeply unhappy” that Britain could not offer sanctuary to Pahlavi, whom she called a “firm and helpful friend.”

A longtime supporter of the Egyptian dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, Thatcher once received a memo from the UK Foreign Office referring to Mubarak as “no intellectual but… always friendly and cheerful,” noting that while “apt to express simplistic views, he has become an experienced and accomplished political operator.”  The brief continued, “His affable exterior evidently conceals a degree of ruthlessness since it seems likely that he has conducted some successful political infighting to maintain his position” having “succeeded in ousting or at least surviving all other prominent figures in the government or armed forces.”

“Nevertheless his reputation is free of any taint of corruption or malpractice and he is not thought to have made many enemies,” the memo said of Mubarak, adding that he was “eager to improve relations with the Royal Air Force and to buy British [military] equipment.”

Thatcher was only too happy to oblige.

Over the years of her leadership, Thatcher routinely commended Mubarak for his “courage” and “strength.”  In 1985, at a banquet in Cairo, she said she “admire[d] particularly, Mr. President, the leadership which you personally… have shown.”  Five years later, while hosting Mubarak and his wife at No. 10 Downing Street, Thatcher declared, “You are among our very favourite visitors because we all know you as particularly good and close friends of this country, as we are of Egypt,” and once again expressed her admiration for the Egyptian president, this time for his “incredible energy.”

“You are as full of beans as ever,” she said. Unfortunately for the Egyptian people over the next 11 years, thanks largely to American and British largesse, she was right.

Thatcher was a steadfast defender of Augusto Pinochet, whose unspeakably brutal dictatorship of torture and repression terrorized Chile from 1973 to 1990. She visited Pinochet in 1999 during his house arrest in England, saying that her country “owed” him “a great debt” of gratitude for his help during the 1982 Falklands War.

Without any sense of irony, Thatcher added, “I’m also very much aware that it is you who brought democracy to Chile.”

Never one to mention his appalling human rights record, Thatcher expressed her “outrage at the callous and unjust treatment” of Pinochet during a speech that October at the Conservative Party Conference, called him “this country’s only political prisoner,” and hailed him as Britain’s “staunch, true friend in our time of need” and “who stopped the communists taking Chile.”

The next year, upon his release and return to Chile, for which she fought tirelessly, Thatcher sent Pinochet a silver Armada dish as a gift, condemned his detention in England as “a great injustice” and wished the deposed dictator and his family “all good wishes for a peaceful and secure future.”

When Pinochet died six years later, Thatcher said she was “deeply saddened” by his passing.

Subsequently, Robin Harris, a former official in Thatcher’s administration, wrote in The Telegraph that Thatcher “took a positive view of Pinochet’s 17 years in power” and “would not have spoken up for him if she had believed him a monster. She could not judge the merits of every allegation. But, clearly, the legal case against him was weak and the motivation of those involved suspect.”

Harris similarly praised Pinochet for “[leaving] behind a stable democracy,” concluding that “Margaret Thatcher has nothing to be ashamed of in defending Augusto Pinochet, when others refused to do so” and that Pinochet “was lucky to find such a champion.”

In March 1987, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, visited Thatcher.  Beforehand, Thatcher said in an interview, “Relations between Saudi Arabia and Britain are excellent. We have common interests in peace and stability in the Middle East. The Al Yamamah Project for the sale of Tornado and other aircraft to Saudi Arabia has done much to focus Saudi attention on Britain and British attention on Saudi Arabia.”

The Al Yamamah arms deal, signed a year and a half earlier, was “the biggest export transaction in British history, estimated by a British Aerospace executive in 2005 to be worth £83 billion in past and future sales to Saudi Arabia of military hardware including aircraft ranging from Tornado fighters and Hawk trainer jets to Eurofighter Typhoons,” in addition to a wide range of arms, naval vessels, radar, spare parts, and a pilot-training program.

The deal was largely the result of Thatcher’s own lobbying initiative on behalf of the British defense industry and weapons manufacturers and, ever since its signing, allegations of corruption, fraud and bribery have abounded.

In 1993, in a speech to a Chatham House Conference on Saudi Arabia after leaving office, Thatcher maintained that “[o]ne of Al Yamamah’s achievements has been the training and equipping of the Royal Saudi Air Force by Britain. Both training and aircraft were put to the test of wartime combat far sooner than anyone expected. As we now know, both the aircraft and their RSAF pilots performed superbly in Operation Desert Storm.” She continued, “The Al Yamamah programme has continued steadily since the conflict. When this year’s new order of a further 48 Tornado aircraft for the RSAF has been executed it will be safe to say that Saudi Arabia will have one of the strongest and most effective Air Forces in the world.”

Beyond this, Thatcher described the kingdom as “a peace loving nation” and a “modern miracle,” touting its “domestic achievements” and the “stable framework” and “solid rock of a well established and respected monarchy.”

“We are strong partners in trade and defence. We share great strategic interests,” she said.

Regarding Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, Thatcher was silent. “I have no intention of meddling in that country’s internal affairs,” she insisted. “It is one of my firmest beliefs that although there are certain basic standards and goals we should expect from every member of the international community, the precise pace and approach must reflect different societies’ cultural, social, economic and historical backgrounds. And Saudi Arabia, in particular, is a complex society which Westerners do not often fully comprehend.”

Again, without even the slightest hint of irony, Thatcher – in the very same speech – noted, “It is the surest signal to other dictators that the West lacks the resolve to defend justice. We have yet to see its full consequences — our lack of effective action will return to haunt us.” She was talking about Bosnia.

While Thatcher maintained throughout her political that she “loathe[d] apartheid and everything connected with it,” she referred to Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress, as “a typical terrorist organization” and refused, alongside Ronald Reagan, to back sanctions against the Apartheid regime in South Africa. “In my view, isolation will lead only to an increasingly negative and intransigent attitude in the part of white South African,” she said in December 1977.

In 1984, Thatcher invited South African Prime Minister P.W. Botha to visit London, the first such visit in 23 years, sparking understandable outrage in the anti-Apartheid movement. The next year, the Associated Press reported that she “rejected demands by the opposition Labor Party that she meet with Oliver Tambo, leader of the African National Congress guerrilla movement, who is visiting Britain…on grounds he espouses violence.”

“I do not accept that apartheid is the root of violence… nor do most other people,” Thatcher insisted and, during a speech before Parliament, stated that Botha’s “South African government has taken more steps to start dismantling apartheid than any of their predecessors.”

“I can see little point in sanctions creating more unemployment in this country only to create more unemployment in South Africa… It seems to me a ridiculous policy that would not work,” she added.

Five years later, during the last gasps of Apartheid, Thatcher was still opposing sanctions.  In 2006, Tory leader (and now British Prime Minister) David Cameron apologized for Thatcher’s actions.

In response to her death today, Oliver Tambo’s son Dali told the press, “My gut reaction now is what it was at the time when she said my father was the leader of a terrorist organisation. I don’t think she ever got it that every day she opposed sanctions, more people were dying, and that the best thing for the assets she wanted to protect was democracy,” adding, “It’s a shame that we could never call her one of the champions of the liberation struggle. Normally we say that when one of us goes, the ANC ancestors will meet them at the pearly gates and give them a standing ovation. I think it’s quite likely that when Margaret Thatcher reaches the pearly gates, the ANC will boycott the occasion.”

In the midst of the bloody Indonesian occupation of East Timor, Thatcher visited genocidal Indonesian dictator General Suharto, praised Indonesia’s “agricultural and industrial development” and, although East Timorese had been killed, starved, disappeared and herded into “resettlement camps” as part of Suharto’s “encirclement and annihilation” campaign, dismissed allegations of human rights abuses, explaining that East Timor was none of Britain’s business and that Suharto himself has “assured me that the International Red Cross not only had access to East Timor, but was very welcome there.”

She told the press, “Trade brings us together and identifies our interests, and I am sure that trade between Indonesia and Britain will increase as a result of the very friendly and warm atmosphere created by my visit here. We are clearly the best of friends and there is no sounder basis on which to construct future collaboration.”

In 2008, veteran journalist John Pilger recalled that Thatcher referred to Suharto as, “One of our very best and most valuable friends,” and how, “[f]or three decades the south-east Asian department of the Foreign Office worked tirelessly to minimise the crimes of Suharto’s gestapo, known as Kopassus, who gunned down people with British-supplied Heckler & Koch machine guns from British-supplied Tactica ‘riot control’ vehicles.”

“A Foreign Office speciality was smearing witnesses to the bombing of East Timorese villages by British-supplied Hawk aircraft – until Robin Cook was forced to admit it was true. Almost a billion pounds in export credit guarantees financed the sale of the Hawks, paid for by the British taxpayer while the arms industry reaped the profit,” Pilger adds.

With this kind of record, it is clear that Thatcher’s constantly pledged support for “freedom and democracy” was really a violent, imperial campaign waged for free markets and domination.

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Comments Off on The Ironic Lady: Margaret Thatcher, Supposed Champion of ‘Freedom and Democracy’, and Her Dictator Friends

‘Irreparable’ safety issues: All US nuclear reactors should be taken out of commission

RT | April 9, 2013

All 104 nuclear reactors currently operational in the US have irreparable safety issues and should be taken out of commission and replaced, former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory B. Jaczko said.

The comments, made during the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference, are “highly unusual” for a current or former member of the safety commission, according to The New York Times. Asked why he had suddenly decided to make the remarks, Jaczko implied that he had only recently arrived at these conclusions following the serious aftermath of Japan’s tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daichii nuclear facility.

“I was just thinking about the issues more, and watching as the industry and the regulators and the whole nuclear safety community continues to try to figure out how to address these very, very difficult problems,” which were made more evident by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, he said. “Continuing to put Band-Aid on Band-Aid is not going to fix the problem.”

According to the former chairman, US reactors that received permission from the nuclear commission to operate for an additional 20 years past their initial 40-year licenses would not likely last long. He further rejected the commission’s proposal for a second 20-year extension, which would leave some American nuclear reactors operating for some 80 years.

Jaczko’s comments are quite significant as the US faces a mass retirement of its reactors and nuclear policy largely revolves around maintaining existing facilities, rather than attempting to go through the politically hazardous process of financing and breaking ground on new plants.

Though the US maintains a massive naval nuclear program, all of the country’s current civilian reactors began construction in 1974 or earlier, and a serious incident at Three Mile Island in 1979, along with an economic recession, essentially caused new projects to be scrapped.

A modest revival of enthusiasm for nuclear power emerged in the early part of the last decade, leading to the construction of four reactors at existing facilities within the last three years, slated to be completed by 2020. Despite the lack of new projects, the US is still the world’s biggest producer of nuclear power, which represents 19% of its total electrical output.

Fittingly, Jaczko’s comments came during a panel discussion of the Fukushima incident, which has brought greater attention to aging US reactors – some of which were quite similar to the General Electric-designed models overwhelmed by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011.

In response to those comments, Marvin S. Fertel, president and chief executive of the Nuclear Energy Institute, told the Times that the country’s nuclear power grid has, is, and will operate safely.

“US nuclear energy facilities are operating safely,” said Fertel. “That was the case prior to Greg Jaczko’s tenure as Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman. It was the case during his tenure as NRC chairman, as acknowledged by the NRC’s special Fukushima response task force and evidenced by a multitude of safety and performance indicators. It is still the case today.”

Since the first nuclear reactor went operational in the US, there have been very few fatal incidents at nuclear power facilities, though there were a number of high profile stories written over the inherent dangers of large nuclear reactors during the mid-1970s. One of the most recent incidents at a US reactor was in April of 2013, when an employee was killed at the Arkansas Nuclear One plant while moving part of a generator.

Jaczko served as chairman of the nuclear regulatory agency since 2009, and according to the Times resigned in 2012 following conflicts with colleagues. He was seen as an outlying vote on a number of safety issues, and had advocated for more stringent safety improvements during his tenure.

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , , | Comments Off on ‘Irreparable’ safety issues: All US nuclear reactors should be taken out of commission

Fatal Payback for Organizing, Mother Says

By IULIA FILIP | Courthouse News | April 9, 2013

GULFPORT, Mississipi – A worker trying to unionize an unsafe workplace was dragged into a conveyor and killed when the plant intentionally left him unattended inside and failed to lock the equipment, his mother claims in court.

Cynthia Hebert sued Omega Protein, ACE American Insurance Co., and ESIS Inc., in Federal Court, seeking damages for the death of her son, Christopher Allen Hebert.

She claims Omega “engaged in intentional conduct designed to bring about injury, or death, to Christopher.”

In the years before he died, Chris Hebert tried to unionize the workers at the unsafe plant, which met “harsh resistance” from management, his mother says in the complaint.

Christopher died on April 9, 2012, at Omega Protein’s Moss Point, Miss. fish-processing plant, according to the complaint.
Houston-based Omega Protein produces omega-3 fish oil and fish meal.

Hebert, 24, had worked at the plant for three years, according to WLOX-TV of Biloxi.

While working in the maintenance department, he reported to his supervisors “what he believed to be unreasonably unsafe and dangerous working conditions,” but management failed to act, according to the complaint.

“Upon information and belief, because Christopher’s reports of unsafe and dangerous work conditions were not acted upon by Omega Protein, Christopher began to discuss with other employees and management the need to unionize the workers at the Moss Point facility,” his mom says in the complaint. “Christopher began the process of unionization by having the employees sign a petition. Christopher believed that unionization of the employees at the Moss Point facility would help to improve the working conditions and eliminate the unsafe and unreasonable dangerous conditions there. Based upon information and belief, Christopher’s efforts to unionize the employees of Omega Protein were met with harsh resistance from the management at Omega Protein. Based on information and belief, Christopher was harassed by the management of Omega Protein for his unionization efforts.

“On April 9, 2012, Christopher reported to work at the Moss Point facility. After arriving at work, he was directed by supervisor Wayne Gray to weld the seams of a newly installed hopper that released fish products into a single screw conveyor at its base. At that time, supervisor Gray assigned an employee to be Christopher’s safety watchperson. This new ‘safety’ watchperson was not the same watchperson Christopher partnered with normally. At the time Christopher began his work, the single screw conveyor equipment remained energized and operational. At the time Christopher began his work, Christopher was unaware that the single screw conveyor was energized and operational. The single screw conveyor was not locked out or otherwise prevented from operating. While Christopher was inside the single screw conveyor, his safety watchperson left without notifying Christopher. After the safety watchperson left, another employee was directed by an Omega Protein supervisor to turn on the single screw conveyor.

“When the single screw conveyor was activated, Christopher was dragged into the machinery feet first. Christopher began screaming for help as the machine dragged him in. Other employees heard Christopher’s screams and arrived at Christopher’s location. Christopher’s last words were ‘I’m dead!’ Christopher died of massive blood loss.

“Based upon information and belief, defendant Omega Protein intentionally chose not to have lockout equipment and safety rules for the single screw conveyor which killed Christopher. Based on information and belief, defendant Omega Protein intentionally left Christopher unattended in the energized and operational single screw conveyor without a safety watchperson. Based upon information and belief, defendant Omega Protein, by and through its employees, engaged in intentional conduct designed to bring about injury, or death, to Christopher.”

Hebert’s mother claims that ACE and ESIS, which provided workers’ compensation insurance to Omega Protein, failed to inspect the plant and implement machinery safety rules.

Omega Protein did not have its own safety rules, and relied on the insurers to design and implement them, according to the complaint.

Hebert’s family seeks compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful death, pain and suffering, negligence, and breach of contract.

It is represented by David Harris Jr. with the Corban Gunn Van Cleave Law Firm of Biloxi.

Omega Protein did not return a request for comment.  

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

British miners celebrate Thatcher’s demise

Press TV – April 9, 2013

The Durham Miners’ Association is celebrating the death of Baroness Thatcher as a “great day” for coal miners, local media reported.

“It looks like one of the best birthdays I have ever had. There’s no sympathy from me for what she did to our community. She destroyed our community, our villages and our people”, said David Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association.

“For the union this could not come soon enough and I’m pleased that I have outlived her. It’s a great day for all the miners, I imagine we will have a counter demonstration when they have her funeral”, he added.

“Our children have got no jobs and the community is full of problems. There’s no work and no money and it’s very sad the legacy she has left behind”, Hopper said.

“She absolutely hated working people and I have got very bitter memories of what she did. She turned all the nation against us and the violence that was meted out on us was terrible. I would say to those people who want to mourn her that they’re lucky she did not treat them like she treated us.”

Darren Vaines, 47, a former miner who worked at Ackton Hall Colliery near Pontefract, West Yorkshire, and was on strike for the entire 12 months of the dispute.

“It’s a very strange emotional feeling because her death brings back a lot of memories and opens up a wound that has never really healed. The cut went so deep people have never been able to forget about it. It’s something they can never get out of their system”, he said.

Chris Kitchen, general secretary for the National Union of Miners, said: “We’ve been waiting for a long time to hear the news of Baroness Thatcher’s demise and I can’t say I’m sorry.

“I’ve got no sympathy for Margaret Thatcher and I will not be shedding a tear for her. She’s done untold damage to the mining community. I don’t think Margaret Thatcher had any sympathy for the mining communities she decimated, the people she threw on the dole and the state she left the country in.”

April 10, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | Comments Off on British miners celebrate Thatcher’s demise