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Court blocks NYPD bid to fire whistleblower as commissioner brags of ‘awesome powers’

RT | June 21, 2013

The New York City Police Department’s latest attempt to fire Adrian Schoolcraft, the whistleblower who secretly recorded evidence of corruption among his superiors over three years ago, was blocked this week in federal court.

Schoolcraft has said he began wearing a microphone to defend himself against citizens’ allegations that he used racial slurs while policing the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant, a poor and primarily African-American section of Brooklyn. By wearing the device from June 1, 2008 until October 15, 2009, though, he soon began recording directions from NYPD higher-ups who pressured officers to fill monthly arrest quotas, which is illegal.

“He wants three seat belt [summonses], one cell phone, and 11 others,” one police sergeant is heard saying on the tape. “I don’t know what the number is, but that’s what [an executive officer] wants.”

Upon complaining of corrupt policies and wrongful arrests, Schoolcraft has said, he began receiving threats from fellow police officers and was eventually reassigned to a desk job.

Three weeks after he told the NYPD the damning recordings existed, Schoolcraft’s home was raided by a large group of officers who forcibly checked him into a psychiatric ward in Queens citing suicidal tendencies. Approximately twelve of Schoolcraft’s superiors were on hand at his home. Reportedly among them was Paul Browne, a top aide to Commissioner Ray Kelly, whose presence would indicate Kelly knew of and approved of the raid.

After Schoolcraft refused treatment, the officers guarding him at a Queens hospital handcuffed him to a bed and prevented him from using a telephone. He was held there for three days until his father tracked him down and signed him out. The Schoolcraft family later received a bill for $7,185 for his stay at the facility.

Schoolcraft eventually turned over his recordings, including of the night when he was dragged to the hospital, to the Village Voice, which dubbed the audio “The NYPD Tapes.” In 2009 and 2010, the NYPD charged Schoolcraft with approximately two dozen charges of leaving work early, failing to respond to department summonses, failure to obey an order, being away without leave, and others.

The department could have tried and fired Schoolcraft in early 2010, the Voice reported, but presumably suspended him instead because of the bad publicity that would come as a natural result of dismissing a man for exposing corruption.

“I think within the precinct, he was probably seen as a little bit eccentric,” Graham Rayman, a reporter for the Village Voice, told This American Life in 2010. “And also, he wasn’t going with the program. And anyone who doesn’t go with the program is automatically marked.”

For nearly four years he has been on leave without pay, waiting for the start of a federal lawsuit he filed against the department for intimidation and retaliation.

In response, the NYPD filed its own administrative suit seeking to fire Schoolcraft, a move Schoolcraft’s lawyers said will unduly influence the verdict in the original suit. The department was blocked from filing that suit this week.

“You have the power to arrest, to take away someone’s liberty. You have the power and the authority to use force and sometimes deadly force,” Kelly said this week in a speech to this year’s graduating class of the NYPD academy. “Now these are awesome powers.”

The commissioner, quoted by CBS, also said that different ethnic groups are “not always happy” with the department and that “all it takes is one errant police officer” to undermine the “great institution” that has been built by generations.

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Federal Ban on School Prayer Widely Ignored

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | June 21, 2013

Half a century after the U.S. Supreme Court banned prayer in public classrooms, religion is nonetheless very present in schools these days.

7f06ecc9-300d-4d9e-9166-98f0b20b9f1bIn two landmark decisions (Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp), the Supreme Court in 1962 and 1963 declared school-sponsored prayer and Bible readings unconstitutional.

But the rulings applied only to public school teachers and administrators.

Students were free to say grace in the cafeteria, meet outside class to study the Bible, Quran, or Torah, and participate in religious after-school programs on their campuses.

“We’ve gone from virtual silence about religion in the curriculum and virtually no student religious expression in many schools,” Charles Haynes, a scholar at the First Amendment Center and head of the Religious Freedom Education Project in Washington, DC, told the Christian Science Monitor, “to today, when social studies and other standards are fairly generous to religion, and students are expressing their faiths in many different ways in many public schools, if not most.”

Consider the following facts:

Good News Clubs, organized by the Child Evangelism Fellowship, hold Sunday school-like classes in some 3,200 public elementary schools for 156,000 students.

One million to two million students participate in “See You at the Pole” prayer services every September beneath their campus flagpoles.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes has more than 8,000 chapters on junior and high school campuses across the country.

Campus Crusade for Christ has about 200 clubs, almost all of them in public schools.

Youth for Christ, an evangelical missionary organization, has on- and off-campus clubs at 1,200 schools, most of them public.

Meanwhile, a poll conducted in 2012 by the National Opinion Research Center showed that 57% of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court prohibition against public schools requiring the reading of Bible verses or the Lord’s Prayer, while 39% approve. However, there were sharp regional differences. A majority in the Northeast and the West did approve of the prohibition, while in the South 73% disapproved. In addition, Americans age 18-29 differed from their elders, approving of the prohibition 56% to 38%.

To Learn More:

School Prayer: 50 Years after the Ban, God and Faith more Present than Ever (by Lee Lawrence, Christian Science Monitor)

School Prayer 50 Years Later: What Do Americans Believe? (by Jaweed Kaleem, Huffington Post)

High School Valedictorian Sues to Stop Graduation Prayer (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 4 Comments

Corporatizing National Security: What It Means

By Ralph Nader | June 20, 2013

Privacy is a sacred word to many Americans, as demonstrated by the recent uproar over the brazen invasion of it by the Patriot Act-enabled National Security Agency (NSA). The information about dragnet data-collecting of telephone and internet records leaked by Edward Snowden has opened the door to another pressing conversation—one about privatization, or corporatization of this governmental function.

In addition to potentially having access to the private electronic correspondence of American citizens, what does it mean that Mr. Snowden—a low-level contractor—had access to critical national security information not available to the general public? Author James Bamford, an expert on intelligence agencies, recently wrote: “The Snowden case demonstrates the potential risks involved when the nation turns its spying and eavesdropping over to companies with lax security and inadequate personnel policies. The risks increase exponentially when those same people must make critical decisions involving choices that may lead to war, cyber or otherwise.”

This is a stark example of the blurring of the line between corporate and governmental functions. Booz Allen Hamilton, the company that employed Mr. Snowden, earned over $5 billion in revenues in the last fiscal year, according to The Washington Post. The Carlyle Group, the majority owner of Booz Allen Hamilton, has made nearly $2 billion on its $910 million investment in “government consulting.” It is clear that “national security” is big business.

Given the value and importance of privacy to American ideals, it is disturbing how the terms “privatization” and “private sector” are deceptively used. Many Americans have been led to believe that corporations can and will do a better job handling certain vital tasks than the government can. Such is the ideology of privatization. But in practice, there is very little evidence to prove this notion. Instead, the term “privatization” has become a clever euphemism to draw attention away from a harsh truth. Public functions are being handed over to corporations in sweetheart deals while publicly owned assets such as minerals on public lands and research development breakthroughs are being given away at bargain basement prices.

These functions and assets—which belong to or are the responsibility of the taxpayers—are being used to make an increasingly small pool of top corporate executives very wealthy. And taxpayers are left footing the cleanup bill when corporate greed does not align with the public need.

With this in mind, let us not mince words. “Privatization” is a soft term. Let us call the practice what it really is—corporatization.

There’s big money to be made in moving government-owned functions and assets into corporate hands. Public highways, prisons, drinking water systems, school management, trash collection, libraries, the military and now even national security matters are all being outsourced to corporations. But what happens when such vital government functions are performed for big profit rather than the public good?

Look to the many reports of waste, fraud, and abuse that arose out of the over-use of corporate contractors in Iraq. At one point, there were more contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than U.S. soldiers. Look to the private prisons, which make their money by incarcerating as many people as they can for as long as they can. Look to privatized water systems, the majority of which deliver poorer service at higher costs than public utility alternatives. Visit privatizationwatch.org for many more examples of the perils, pitfalls and excesses of rampant, unaccountable corporatization.

In short, corporatizing public functions does not work well for the public, consumers and taxpayers who are paying through the nose.

Some right-wing critics might view government providing essential public services as “socialism,” but as it now stands, we live in a nation increasingly comprised of corporate socialism. There is great value in having public assets and functions that are already owned by the people, to be performed for the public benefit, and not at high profit margins and prices for big corporations. By allowing corporate entities to assume control of such functions, it makes profiteering the central determinant in what, how, and why vital services are rendered.

Just look at the price of medicines given to drug companies by taxpayer-funded government agencies that discovered them.

(Autographed copies of my new book Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns are available from Politics and Prose, an independent book store in Washington D.C.)

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , , | Comments Off on Corporatizing National Security: What It Means

Most in US distrust newspapers, TV reports: Gallup poll

Press TV – June 21, 2013

A new nationwide opinion poll indicates that over 77 percent of people in the United States do not trust mainstream newspapers and television reports.

The survey, which was conducted by Gallup on June 1-4, was based on nationwide telephone interviews with 1,529 American adults. Its results were released on June 17.

Only 23 percent of Americans trust news institutions in the United States. The figure shows a fall from 25 percent in 2012 and 28 percent in 2011.

The Gallup poll also pointed out that news consumers have found increasingly better ways to access news amid the expanding social media sites and the Internet in general, making it difficult for the news industry to find a suitable niche.

Newspapers and television ranked near the bottom of the confidence list of 16 societal institutions, placing alongside banks, Congress and big businesses.

Americans’ in all key demographic groups including conservatives, moderates and liberals have experienced a drop in confidence in mainstream news since the early 2000s. The confidence has worsened further since 2007, the study revealed.

The opinion poll was released as mainstream media outlets are under fire for their extensively lopsided coverage of key international events including the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, the National Security Agency’s spy scandal involving whistleblower Edward Snowden, and the unresolved Boston Marathon bombings.

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 1 Comment

UN committee slams Israeli forces’ torture of Palestinian children

A child sits in front of a destroyed home in Rafah. (Photo: European Commission DG ECHO/cc/flickr)
Al-Akhbar | June 20, 2013

A United Nations human rights body accused Israel on Thursday of mistreating Palestinian children, including by torturing those in custody and using others as human shields.

Palestinian children in the Gaza and the West Bank, captured by Israeli forces in the 1967 war, are routinely denied registration of their birth and access to health care, decent schools and clean water, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said.

“Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released,” it said in a report.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had responded to a report by the UN children’s agency UNICEF in March on ill-treatment of Palestinian minors and questioned whether the UN committee’s investigation covered new ground.

“If someone simply wants to magnify their political bias and political bashing of Israel not based on a new report, on work on the ground, but simply recycling old stuff, there is no importance in that,” spokesman Yigal Palmor said.

The report by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child noted that, while both Israeli and Palestinian children end up killed and wounded, Palestinians constitute a much larger proportion of these casualties.

Most Palestinian children arrested are accused of having thrown stones, an offense which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, the committee said. Israeli soldiers had testified to the often arbitrary nature of the arrests, it said.

The watchdog’s 18 independent experts examined Israel’s record of compliance with a 1990 treaty as part of its regular review of a pact signed by all nations except Somalia and the United States. An Israeli delegation attended the session.

The UN committee regretted Israel’s “persistent refusal” to respond to requests for information on children in the Palestinian territories and occupied Syrian Golan Heights since the last review in 2002.

“Hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed and thousands injured over the reporting period as a result of the state party military operations, especially in Gaza where the state party proceeded to (conduct) air and naval strikes on densely populated areas with a significant presence of children, thus disregarding the principles of proportionality and distinction,” the report said.

The 10-year period examined by the committee included the second Intifada, which took place between 2000 and 2005.

Israel withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, but maintains a heavy blockade on the Hamas-run enclave.

During the 10-year period, an estimated 7,000 Palestinian children aged 12 to 17, but some as young as nine, had been arrested, interrogated and detained, the UN report said.

Many are brought in leg chains and shackles before military courts, while youths are held in solitary confinement, sometimes for months, the report said.

It voiced deep concern at the “continuous use of Palestinian children as human shields and informants”, saying 14 such cases had been reported between January 2010 and March 2013 alone.

Israeli soldiers had used Palestinian children to enter potentially dangerous buildings before them and to stand in front of military vehicles to deter stone-throwing, it said.

“Almost all those using children as human shields and informants have remained unpunished and the soldiers convicted for having forced at gunpoint a nine-year-old child to search bags suspected of containing explosives only received a suspended sentence of three months and were demoted,” it said.

Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and the Syrian Golan Heights, continued expansion of Jewish settlements, construction of the apartheid wall into the West Bank, land confiscation and destruction of homes and livelihoods “constitute severe and continuous violations of the rights of Palestinian children and their families,” it said.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank are deemed illegal by international law, a charge the Zionist state disputes.

The UNICEF report in March showed that Israel was the only country in the world where children were “systematically tried” in military courts.

Over the past decade, Israeli forces have arrested, interrogated and prosecuted around 7,000 children between between 12 and 17, mostly boys, UNICEF found, noting the rate was equivalent to “an average of two children each day.”

Figures from the end of January show that 233 children are currently being held in custody, 31 of them under the age of 16.

(Reuters, Al-Akhbar)

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli security guard kills Jew in Jerusalem, mistaking him for a Palestinian

Al-Akhbar | June 21, 2013

An Israeli security guard shot dead a Jewish visitor at Jerusalem’s Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, on Friday. The visitor was shot after being mistaken for a Palestinian militant.

“There was a Jewish guy, an Israeli guy, who was in the bathroom area,” police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

“He for some reason shouted ‘Allahu Akbar,'” Rosenfeld said. “A security guard drew his weapon and fired several shots at the suspect… He died from his wounds a few moments ago.”

The shooting took place shortly before 8am as the plaza in front of the Wall filled with worshipers for morning prayers ahead of the start of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown.

The site was closed to the public for at least an hour afterwards.

Paramedic Zeevi Hessed told news website NRG that his team rushed to the scene as reports of a shooting came in.

“When we reached the place, we saw him lying at the Western Wall plaza,” he said. “He had been shot in several parts of his body… Sadly there was nothing we could do but declare him dead.”

Rosenfeld said that an investigation had been opened into the shooting.

Public radio quoted the private security guard as telling police investigators that he thought the man, 46, was pulling something from his pocket as he shouted, and was about to attack him.

It said that police found nothing suspicious on the man’s person.

Privately-owned Channel 10 TV cited witnesses as saying that the guard fired between seven and 10 bullets and that the fire was unjustified and that the man appeared to be a harmless eccentric.

Rosenfeld said the circumstances were still unclear.

“We’re looking into the background: why the security officer opened fire and what the motives were of the guy, the 46-year-old – it’s very strange behavior.”

The Western Wall is venerated by Jews as the last remnant of the wall supporting the Second Temple.

Above it is the compound housing the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

The compound is a deeply sensitive location where clashes frequently break out between Israeli forces and Palestinian worshipers. Muslims under 50 are regularly denied access to the mosque.

Jews are not allowed to pray inside the al-Aqsa mosque compound, but settlers have stormed the compound on several occasions, with support from the Israeli army.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 3 Comments

Turkey announces plans ‘for gas’ and cyber security in face of Gezi protests

RT | June 20, 2013

Turkey has announced plans to purchase 100,000 gas bomb cartridges and launch a central cyber security agency, local media report. This comes after protests across the country which also saw a series of attacks on government websites.

The order for the 100,000 new cartridges will be accompanied by an order for 60 water cannon vehicles, the daily local newspaper Milliyet reported, also stating that the excessive use of gas bomb cartridges meant that Turkish riot police used up some 130,000 units across the space of a mere 20 days.

The protests began in Istanbul, but nationwide demonstrations shortly followed suit, drawing thousands in support of the Gezi Park protesters suffering brutal police repressions. In one of the instances, a horrifying video emerged of a man in a wheelchair being fired at by a similar [water canon] vehicle on June 11.

“The excessive use of force by the police has turned this issue into a security one,” said Galip Dalay, a research assistant with the SETA foundation.

At the same time, Turkish Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Binali Yildirim announced the formation of a new cyber security agency on Thursday. He declared “The Center for Response to National Cyber Threats,” (or USOM) was to be founded on the grounds that cyber-attacks during the Gezi Park protests were a global threat and “likely to increase.”

At the beginning of June, Anonymous hacking group launched #OpTurkey, which took down the Turkish President’s website, along with that of the country’s ruling party, in support of anti-government protests.

Another mid-June attack on over 225 tourist, library, and private business websites was blamed on Kurdish group ColdHackers.

On Thursday, Turkish hacker group Redhack claimed responsibility for all tweets relating to the Gezi protests after the launching of an investigation into some 5 million Gezi Park tweets was announced by the AKP (Justice and Development Party).

“We have posted all tweets and hacked thousands of people’s computers. Don’t take on the innocent ones, we are here,” Redhack wrote on its Twitter account, going on to say that any accounts that appeared to play a role in the organization of resistance were to re-tweet their message, and those that did had been hacked by the group.

Following the claim of responsibility, Twitter users began to announce that they were hacked by Redhack using the hashtag #wewerehackedbyredhack.

After 29 people’s houses were raided and they were subsequently detained for tweets related to the protests on June 5, the group recommended that “users can tell the police that their account was hacked by Redhack. We would take the blame with pleasure.”

Social media activists had been accused of using Twitter to “instigate public hatred and animosity,” according to Turkish media.

PM Erdogan even blamed social media for the unrest stating “there is now a menace which is called Twitter,” in the midst of the upheaval, dismissing the protests as being organized by extreme societal elements. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society,” he said.

Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım stressed however on June 19 that the government was working to “fight against cyber-crime, not to regulate social media,” with Deputy PM Bülent Arınç adding that people were free to communicate on social media but should be deterred from encouraging crime or violence.

As the protests have continued to draw support across the country, the Turkish government has used increasingly retaliatory measures against anyone involved in protests, culminating in threats to deploy the armed forces on Tuesday, the day after using tear gas and water cannons to disperse Monday’s demonstrators. Over 130 were arrested on Thursday alone, and six people have died to date as a result of the unrest, which is not scaling down despite authorities halting proposed renovations of Gezi Park.

“They’ve left branches hanging off trees and water and debris all over the streets” said RT’s Tom Barton in Ankara on Thursday.

Peaceful demonstrations began on May 28 when a group of environmentalists gathered together to campaign against the proposed development of a shopping mall in Istanbul neighborhood’s only remaining park – Gezi Park – next to Taksim Square. The violent suppression after Erdogan announced that he had already made his decision motivated thousands nationwide to display their solidarity.

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Comments Off on Turkey announces plans ‘for gas’ and cyber security in face of Gezi protests