Archive | October 4th, 2014

Why Phone and Cable Companies Want to Kill the Internet’s Most Democratic Right


Free Press activists rallied for net neutrality on President Obama’s motorcade route in Los Angeles. 

Net Neutrality — the principle that protects Internet users’ free speech rights — is censorship.

Did you get that? You did if you happened to be reading the Wall Street Journal’s editorial pages. Former Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell recently wrote a screed claiming that Net Neutrality supporters have taken a turn “toward undermining free speech.”

And McDowell is not alone. Since the FCC announced its plan to make a new ruling regarding the open Internet, Washington has been overrun with phone and cable lobbyists whose sole mission is to convince the agency that real Net Neutrality rules are downright un-American.

Industry-funded think tanks have argued that any enforceable effort to protect the open Internet denies phone and cable companies their First Amendment right “by compelling them to convey content providers’ messages with which they may disagree.”

That these industry voices have mangled the intent of the First Amendment should come as no surprise to anyone witnessing their campaign to undermine the open Internet. (It’s a campaign that includes Comcast and Verizon spending millions on a PR campaign that claims they are for Net Neutrality while spending millions more on lobbyists to push Washington to destroy it.)

The Right to Censor

According to many industry spokespeople, the Net Neutrality protections that millions of Americans are fighting for are an “attempt to turn the Internet into… a federally regulated public utility.” In the view of McDowell and others, Net Neutrality is bad for free speech because it takes away broadband providers’ unalienable right to censor you.

As an FCC decision on the matter grows nearer, the rhetoric from lobbyists will become even more extreme.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because Verizon’s lawyers made a similarly distorted argument in 2013 before a federal appeals court, claiming that the First Amendment meant that Internet service providers were the Internet’s editors — free to pick and choose what content gets delivered to customers and what content ends up in a digital dust bin.

The First Amendment “protects those transmitting the speech of others, and those who ‘exercise editorial discretion’ in selecting which speech to transmit and how to transmit it,” Verizon’s attorneys wrote in a brief to the court. “In performing these functions, broadband providers possess ‘editorial discretion.’ Just as a newspaper is entitled to decide which content to publish and where, broadband providers may feature some content over others.”

Did you get that? As a last-mile connection between its customers and the network itself, Verizon has the right to block any content that flows across the Web to or from its users.

Common Carriage: The Means of Free Speech

If this is beginning to sound Orwellian, that’s because it is. For years now, phone and cable companies have likened the Internet to their private property, a domain over which they have ultimate say.


Under this scenario, Net Neutrality violates the phone and cable companies’ rights as “individuals” — none being more sacred than the right to free speech (or, in their view, the right to throw all other speakers off the front porch).

What’s lost in this spin is this: The Internet is not the private property of AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. It’s a network of networks (some private and some public) that depends on a common set of rules to transport information, connect people and function. The most important rule for preserving free speech online is common carriage, the classification that prohibits these access providers from interfering with the content that flows through their pipes.

Returning the Internet to the widely used common-carrier standard is what these industry types fear most. It’s a fear that has reached a fever pitch after an overwhelming majority of the public urged the FCC to protect real Net Neutrality and reclassify broadband providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act.

The public outpouring of support for Title II has set alarms ringing at the headquarters of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the lobbying group that’s led the industry’s decades-long effort to destroy the one principle that preserves the Internet’s open and democratic nature.

According to established law, common carriage applies to any carrier that “holds itself out … to carry for all people” without interference. It was originally applied to transportation like railroads and ferries, but became an essential standard for open communications. Any two-way communications network that serves the public is not supposed to block, degrade or otherwise unreasonably discriminate in the transmission of the content it carries across its networks.

Common carriage extends free speech principles to privately owned networks, promoting interconnection and the widest possible sharing of content while ensuring a marketplace that’s bolstered by competition.

Common carriage works well across the U.S. economy. It applies to wireless carriers (like Sprint) and more than 1,000 small rural carriers (like Iowa Network Services) offering DSL and fiber access.

Your Right to Connect and Communicate

Congress defined the common-carrier obligations of telecommunications services as transmitting information between points of users’ choosing without unjust discrimination. After intense lobbying by phone and cable companies, the FCC removed broadband service providers from that classification during the Bush-era, creating the legal mess that now envelops the agency.

“McDowell needs to regain some common sense about common carriage,” says Marvin Ammori, a First Amendment scholar who runs an Internet policy consultancy in Washington, D.C. “Are your phone lines censored? Are enterprise lines censored? Are mobile voice services censored? All of these are common carriers. We need the same assurances with our Internet communications.”

The framers of the U.S. Constitution could not have foreseen a time in which technology allowed more than 2.7 billion people to communicate via interconnected digital platforms. Nor could they have envisioned a world in which companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon wield more authority over free speech than a British monarch.

The sheer scale of free speech today is without precedent; more people than ever before are able to connect and communicate. Going forward, these Internet users need common-carrier rules, as much as the First Amendment, to protect this most democratic right.

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After Feigning Love for Egyptian Democracy, US Back To Openly Supporting Tyranny


Hillary and Bill Clinton with former army general, now president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: (Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

It is, of course, very difficult to choose the single most extreme episode of misleading American media propaganda, but if forced to do so, coverage of the February, 2011 Tahrir Square demonstrations in Egypt would be an excellent candidate. For weeks, U.S. media outlets openly positioned themselves on the side of the demonstrators, depicting the upheaval as a Manichean battle between the evil despot Hosni Mubarak’s “three decades of iron rule” and the hordes of ordinary, oppressed Egyptians inspirationally yearning for American-style freedom and democracy.

Almost completely missing from this feel-good morality play was the terribly unpleasant fact that Mubarak was one of the U.S. Government’s longest and closest allies and that his ”three decades of iron rule” — featuring murder, torture and indefinite detention for dissidents — were enabled in multiple ways by American support.

Throughout Mubarak’s rule, the U.S. fed his regime an average of $2 billion each year, most of which was military aid. The tear gas cannisters shot at protesters by Mubarak’s police bore “Made in U.S.A.” labels. A 2009 diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks noted that “Egyptian democracy and human rights efforts … are being stymied” but described the benefits received by U.S. from support for the regime: “Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the U.S. military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace.”Another 2009 cable put it more bluntly: “the Egyptians appear more willing to confront the Iranian surrogates and to work closely with Israel.”

That same year, Hillary Clinton pronounced: “I really consider President and Mrs. Mubarak to be friends of my family.” Another WikiLeaks cable, anticipating the first meeting between Obama and Mubarak in 2009, emphasized that “the Administration wants to restore the sense of warmth that has traditionally characterized the U.S.-Egyptian partnership” and that “the Egyptians want the visit to demonstrate that Egypt remains America’s ‘indispensible [sic] Arab ally.’” The cable dryly noted that “[intelligence] Chief Omar Soliman and Interior Minister al-Adly keep the domestic beasts at bay, and Mubarak is not one to lose sleep over their tactics.” The Obama administration supported Mubarak right up to the point where his demise was inevitable, and even then, plotted to replace him with Soliman: an equally loyal and even more brutal autocrat, most appreciated in Washington circles for helpfully torturing people on behalf of the Americans.

By: The Intercept

Glenn Greenwald is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, constitutional lawyer, commentator, author of three New York Times best-selling books on politics and law, and a staff writer and editor at First Look media. His fifth and latest book is, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State, about the U.S. surveillance state and his experiences reporting on the Snowden documents around the world. Prior to his collaboration with Pierre Omidyar, Glenn’s column was featured at Guardian USand Salon.  His previous books include: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful,  Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics,  A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency, and How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values from a President Run AmokHe is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, a George Polk Award, and was on The Guardian team that won the Pulitzer Prize for public interest journalism in 2014.

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Alan Henning: Latest updates as tributes continue to pour in for murdered Salford cabbie


A video that appears to show the murder of the 47-year-old hostage was released by Islamic State terrorists on Friday


A video has been released purporting to show the murder of Salford aid worker Alan Henning.

The 47-year-old former cabbie from Eccles was captured by militants from the extremist group Islamic State in December.

He was shown at the end of a video last month after the murder of fellow British captive David Haines with a warning that he would killed next.

7:12 pm Interpol boss: We should rename IS

The world should rename the extremist group who have murdered Western hostages Cowardly Murderers (CM) instead of the Islamic State (IS) name the jihadists prefer, the head of international police agency Interpol said.

Secretary General Ronald Noble said the killing of UK aid worker Alan Henning was “testament to the depravity” of the organisation and showed it had nothing religious about it.

Joining calls for a blackout of the “Islamic State” name, he said: “The cruel murder of an innocent man who freely gave his time to assist the people of the very region where he met his death is a testament to the depravity of this terrorist group, which is seeking to create a reign of terror across the region.

“I ask the global community: why should we allow a bloodthirsty group of terrorists to name themselves after a religion as a pretext to justify their heinous crimes that no religion would justify?

“I propose that the global community and law enforcement rename this group as CM for Cowardly Murderers.

“By doing this, we will remove their efforts to legitimise their crimes and put would-be foreign fighters on notice that if they join this group, then the world will see them as nothing more than cowardly murderers.

“Finally, let me stress that the cold-blooded and barbaric murder of Alan Henning only serves to harden the resolve of the global community to increase our efforts against the growing threat posed by militant terrorist groups, and bring those responsible for committing such atrocities to justice.”


Candles and a bible are among the items that have been left alongside flowers at the memorial opposite Eccles bus interchange.

One of the messages reads: “Our hero. Whilst we come to terms with this living nightmare you have suffered, rest in peace Alan. You leave an irreplaceable gap in all our lives.”

Another says: “A very special man with a heart of gold, God bless Alan.”

With a third reading: “To my special friend. Devastated Going to miss you so much. Love you.”

Floral tributes left to Alan Henning in Eccles town centre

Dozens of floral tributes have been laid on a stone memorial in Eccles town centre with some visibly moved to tears as they paid their respects today.

And people living in the town his death had left the whole area overcome by grief.

Dave Mills, 43, from Eccles, said: “I was gutted when I heard, shocked.

“We all thought and hoped he might be released, so it’s just so sad.

“There has been a massive show of support, there have been yellow ribbons everywhere,

“I didn’t know him personally but so many people did and he was really well thought of.”


The murder of Alan Henning was condemned as a ‘cowardly and criminal act of appalling brutality’ at Manchester Central Mosque this afternoon.

Muslim leaders said the Islamic State militants were ‘an insult to the Islamic faith’ and joined calls for the brutal killers to be brought to justice

The passionate statement was issued at an emotional reading on behalf of Muslims of the North of England in Manchester this afternoon.

Imam Asim Hussain praised Salford cabbie Alan Henning, from Eccles, as a ‘local and national hero’ who was selflessly committed to helping those most in need.

Full story here


A pal of Alan Henning has recounted the last time he saw his friend before his tragic aid mission to Syria.

Orlando Napolitano, 68, who runs the Bridge Cafe on Bridge Street, Pendlebury, was visited by Alan on a daily basis during his time as a taxi driver.

Read his tribute to Alan here


Alan Henning’s wife Barbara has released the following statement: “Alan, my husband, and father of Lucy and Adam, was kidnapped in Syria in December last year.

“Last night we received news of his murder by ISIL. It is the news we hoped we would never hear. As a family we are devastated by the news of his death.

“There are few words to describe how we feel at this moment.

“Myself, Lucy and Adam, and all of Alan’s family and friends are numb with grief.

“During this ordeal we have relied heavily on the support of many people. That support from the Government, FCO and GMP has been there from the start and has meant that we were able to get through the most awful of times.

“We always knew that Alan was in the most dangerous of situations but we hoped that he would return home to us. That is not to be.

“On behalf of the entire family, I want to thank everyone who campaigned for Alan’s release, who held vigils to pray for his safe return, and who condemned those who took him.

“Your efforts were a great support to us, and we take comfort in knowing how many people stood beside us in hoping for the best.

“Alan was a decent, caring human being. His interest was in the welfare of others.

“He will be remembered for this and we as a family are extremely proud of him and what he achieved and the people he helped.

“We now need time to come to terms with our loss.

“We would therefore be grateful if our privacy could be respected at this time.”

View image on Twitter

People are continuing to lay flowers on a momument in Eccles town centre


Number 10 Downing Street has released a statement following today’s meeting with the Prime Minister and UK security, intelligence and police officials following the murder of Alan Henning.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister met with senior officials from the intelligence agencies, Foreign Office, Home Office, police and military this morning to discuss the murder of Alan Henning and the government’s response.

“The Prime Minister was updated on work overnight to take down the video of the barbaric murder.

“He also discussed with officials the collective effort to hunt down the murderers.

“The PM was clear that we must keep doing all we can to ensure that these terrorists are found and brought to justice for their heinous crimes and we will keep working with our US partners and those in the region to do this.

“ISIL’s brutality will not persuade us to change our approach.

“Indeed, the senseless murder of an innocent man only reinforces our resolve to defeat this terrorist organisation and to eradicate the threat they pose to Britons – whether those in the region or here on the streets of the UK.

“At the meeting, the Prime Minister also raised a second video released last night which shows an apparent British ISIL fighter unmasked delivering a further message.

“The police are urgently investigating the contents of the video, including possible terrorism offences relating to it.”

View image on Twitter

Floral tributes in memory of Alan Henning are being left in Eccles


Dr Shimeela added: “By joining the US air strikes, we handed Alan and many other western hostages a death sentence.”


Dr Shimeela said: “With today marking the first day of Eid, it should have been a day to celebrate across the Muslim world.

“But instead it will be a day of mourning with a sense of deep realisation of the true nature of Islamic State.”

Dr Shimeela adds that IS have ‘made a mockery of our emotions and appeals by showing utter disregard for the sanctity of life’.

View image on Twitter

Reporter Tom Payne is at Manchester Central Mosque speaking with an aid worker who was with Mr Henning when he was captured.


Hugo Swire, Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has tweeted: “Barbaric murder of a brave man by cowardly terrorists.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Alan Henning’s family.”


Churches Together in Eccles will be holding a Service of Reflection for Alan Henning at Eccles Parish Church tomorrow (Sunday).

It will start at 6.30pm.

Everyone is welcome at this simple service of quiet reflection.


The Foreign Office has released a short statement.

They have said: “This is another disgusting murder and we are offering every possible support to the family.”


Football fans at matches across the UK will unite in applauding brave Alan Henning following news of his murder.

Thousands of supporters will show there respect for the aid worker by clapping for a minute in the third minute of games.

Premier League matches today include Aston Villa vs Manchester City and Liverpool vs West Brom.


Alan Henning’s brother-in-law has described his killers as ‘scum’ and said the family had lost a ‘great person’.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Henning’s wife Barbara’s brother Colin Livesey, said: “My heart’s just sunk to a level that I never thought it could do.

“I’m just devastated for my sister and two kids for what they’ve gone through, and it’s so hard.”

Regarding Mr Henning’s killers he added: “I just hope and pray they get what’s coming to them.

“I’ve just so much hatred for them.”


Here is Orlando Napolitano who runs a cafe where Alan Henning was a regular when he worked as a taxi driver.

Mr Napolitano tells us about what kind of man Mr Henning was.


Watch Prime Minister David Cameron’s condemnation of Alan Henning’s murder below.

Full story here


Salford City FC have announced that they will hold a minute sulence before today’s game with Bamber Bridge.

A statement posted on the club’s website says: “Following the tragic news about local man Alan Henning a minute’s silence will be held prior to this afternoon’s game

“Everyone at Moor Lane wishes to offer their sincere condolences to Mr.Henning’s family at this very sad time.”


Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has offered his condolences to Mr Henning’s family.

He said: “This is a barbaric act of criminality by people who have no concept of mercy.

“That it was done during the holy festival of Eid makes it even more despicable, if that is possible. It is an affront not just to humanity but also to the Islamic faith.

“Alan Henning was in Syria to assist and help those affected. It is a disgrace that that should result in his murder and our thoughts go out to his family, friends and colleagues at this time.”


Manchester-based Muslim broadcaster Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, met Alan Henning at a charity dinner in September last year.

He said:  ‘We’re totally disgusted by the news of Alan’s death and condemn it beyond reservation.

“What we’ve seen today is a coming together of Greater Manchester’s faith communities.

“Alan was a British hero who have up a life of luxury to help those most in need.

“That’s what he was, a true hero.’


We now have a story online with reaction from Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Mr Cameron has paid tribute to Mr Henning calling him ‘a man of great peace and kindness’.

Read the full story here


Orlando Napolitano runs a cafe where Mr Henning was a regular when working as a taxi driver.

This morning he has been recounting the last time he saw Alan, just before Christmas, when he came into the cafe and revealed he would making the trip to Syria.

Orlando said: “I asked him ‘why are you doing that?’ and he said ‘because I want to. It will make me happy’.

“I broke down when I heard the news this morning.

“I really thought he was coming home. He was a special man.”


Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has been speaking with Sky News this morning. about the death of Alan Henning

He told the news organisation: “He was there to help people in Syria.

“He has now been brutally murdered by an organisation twisting a religion for its own means.

“What ISIL are doing is sick and twisted and they will not win.”

Mr Clegg also rejected that the decision to start air strikes against ISIL in Iraq led to the murder.

He added: “ISIL were murdering innocent people before the vote in the House of Commons last week.

“None of the reasons they give will every justify what they do.”


The Islamic Society of Britain has tweeted: “ISIL is a vile and evil death cult, killing an innocent man who went to help others, during the sacred days of Hajj. #AlanHenning


Mr Cameron also told Sky News: “We will use all our assets to try and find those hostages and help their families.”

He added that everything will be done to try and destroy the ‘ruthless and barbaric’ IS organisation.


Prime Minster David Cameron has been speaking to Sky News calling the murder of Alan Henning by Isalmic State terrorists as ‘senseless and completely unforgivable’.

He added: “As a country we need to do everything we can do defeat this organisation.

“We must do everything we can to hunt down the people responsible.

“There is no level of depravity that they will not sink.

“Alan Henning was a man of great peace and kindness.

“This was a kind caring man.

“The fact they can murder him in the way they did shows what we are dealing with.”


Tributes are continuing to pour in for Alan Henning this morning.

Friends, family and world leaders are paying tribute to the aid worker.

Read the full story here


The Rt Revd Dr David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, has said: “Our prayers and our thoughts have been with the family of Alan Henning over these last weeks, during which his life has been so publicly threatened.

“Today those thoughts and prayers are redoubled, not only here in his home city of Salford but across the globe.

“In his life Alan Henning united people across the boundaries of nationality and faith. He did so both through his humanitarian actions and by the love that drove him on.

“That his tragic death continues to unite people across Britain and beyond is demonstrated today by the range of people and organisations paying him tribute.

“To ISIS we say: You no longer have the power to shock us, now you just sicken us. Your brutality, against any who don’t share your narrow, perverted worldview, doesn’t undermine our determination, it stiffens our resolve.

“Your destiny is not to be a force in human history, merely one of its sad footnotes.”

The Rt Rev David Walker, Bishop of Manchester
The Rt Rev David Walker, Bishop of Manchester

British Muslims have led condemnation of the murder of British hostage Alan Henning as a “despicable and offensive act” which showed the Islamic State jihadists who killed him had “no regard for Islam”.

Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “It is quite clear that the murderers of Alan Henning have no regard for Islam, or for the Muslims around the world who pleaded for his life.

“Alan was a friend of Muslims, and he will be mourned by Muslims.

“In this period of Hajj and this festival of Eid, Muslims remember the mercy of God and the emphasis God places on human life.

“Alan Henning’s murderers have clearly gone against that spirit of Islam. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”


The American ambassador to the UK Matthew Barzun has said: “Today, we stand with the UK in joint determination, resolve and commitment to achieve justice for Alan Henning.”


Manchester’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd has just released a statement following the murder of aid worker Alan Henning.

Mr Lloyd said: “People across Greater Manchester will be shocked at the murder of Alan Henning.

“Our thoughts are with his family and circle of loved ones at this terrible time. What they are going through is unimaginable.

“All we can do is express our sympathy and pledge to remember Alan for what he was – a thoroughly decent man and the kind of quiet humanitarian who makes this world a better place.

“This is murder, plain and simple. That it could be claimed to be in the name of religion is obscene and all people of faith will abhor this brutal act of cowardice.

“Alan Henning will not be forgotten – he made a difference to people’s lives and while the world is a little darker today, his commitment to the cause of humanity will last longer and burn brighter than the supposed cause of the evil men who took his life.”


The United Nations Security Council has released a statement expressing outrage at Alan Henning’s murder.

It says: “This crime is a tragic reminder of the increasing dangers volunteer humanitarian personnel face every day in Syria.

“It also once again demonstrates the brutality of Isil, which is responsible for thousands of abuses against the Syrian and Iraqi people.”


The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby writing on Twitter said: “Alan Henning’s memory will last, he gave his life serving people far away with nobility and love.

“Pray for his family’s strength and courage.”


Prime Minister David Cameron is meeting with security chiefs at the moment to discuss the murder of Alan Henning.


I’m meeting security chiefs this morning to discuss the barbaric murder of Alan Henning. His killers will be hunted down and face justice.

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) October 4, 2014


Last night the Primer Minister said the country would do everything in its power to hunt down Alan Henning’s murderers.

In a statement David Cameron said the barbaric murder of Salford aid worker Mr Henning shows the depravity of his captors.

He said: “The brutal murder of Alan Henning by ISIL shows just how barbaric and repulsive these terrorists are.

“My thoughts and prayers are tonight with Alan’s wife Barbara, their children, and all those who loved them.

“Alan had gone to Syria to help get aid to people of all faiths in their hour of need.

“The fact he was taken hostage when trying to help others and now murdered demonstrates that there is no limits to the depravity of these ISIL terrorists.

“We will do all we can to hunt down these murderers and bring them to justice.”


French president Francois Hollande is another world leader to condemn the murder of Alan Henning.

He said he is “outraged by the heinous crime.”

Mr Hollande added in a statement: “This crime like previous ones will not be unpunished.

“France will continue to lend support to the people and authorities of Iraq in their fight against terrorism.”


Salford MP Barbara Keeley added: “Everyone takes great pride in him and what he was doing.

“You hear people, whether that be regular taxi customers of his, or others, telling so many stories about what a great man he was.

“And people will also remember him for the work he was doing.

“He was a good man trying to help families and children who had suffered.

“How many people would give up their Christmas to join aid mission to a place like Syria, and take the risks that he did, because they believed it was what needed to be done?

“And I think people will want to reflect and remember him for that.”


Alan’s local MP, Barbara Keeley, says the death of Alan Henning is not just a tragedy for his family but for the entire community.

The Salford MP has told the M.E.N: “First and foremost my thoughts and prayers are with his family, especially Barbara Henning.

“It is worth remembering how many months how many months of torment she has been through, and the bravery she has shown throughout them.

“It is devastating news for them, but also for the community as a whole.

“What we have seen over the past few weeks is just how much the community values Alan.”


This is the photo that should be spread across the world to remember Alan Henning, a man who was just trying to

— Manchester News MEN (@MENnewsdesk) October 3, 2014


The father of journalist John Cantlie, who is being held by Islamic State militants, appealed for his son’s release hours before a video emerged apparently showing the murder of fellow British hostage Alan Henning.

Paul Cantlie spoke of his family’s “despair and helplessness” after seeing his son appear on a video released on the internet.

Delivering his appeal in a video, he said: “To those holding John: please know that he is a good man.

“He sought only to help the Syrian people and I ask you from all that is sacred to help us to allow him to return safely to those he loves and those who love him.”

Speaking with the help of a voice aid from a hospital bed, Mr Cantlie said the family experienced “great reilef” when they saw John in a televised broadcast – but this feeling turned to “despair”.

Referring to the moment he saw John in the clip, Mr Cantlie said: “For the first time in almost two years, we saw John when he made a televised broadcast during which he told viewers that he was still a prisoner of the Islamic State and that maybe he will live and maybe he will die.

“As a family we experienced great relief seeing and hearing John and knowing that he is alive, but this was followed by the feeling of despair and helplessness.”


More reaction…

Inspire, an anti-extremist campaign group of British Muslim women, described Mr Henning’s death as “an affront to all Muslims across the world”.

Co-director Sara Khan expressed her “heartfelt condolences” to the family of the aid worker, who she described as an “amazing man, a man of courage, a man of dignity, a man of integrity”.

She said: “The only thing that the killing of Alan has achieved is greater revulsion for ISIS and the fact that more people from across our world, within our communities, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, are united in their stance against their barbarity and inhumanity.

“The murder of Alan Henning is a brutal and criminal act of terror that is an affront to all Muslims across the world.”


Our front page tomorrow, with Alan Henning how he should be remembered.

— Manchester News MEN (@MENnewsdesk) October 3, 2014


British Muslims have led condemnation of the murder of British hostage Alan Henning as a “despicable and offensive act” which showed the Islamic State jihadists who killed him had “no regard for Islam”.

Imams and other influential figures had joined forces to appeal to the terrorists to release the aid worker, a former taxi driver from Salford who left his job to travel to Syria to take help to victims of its civil war.

Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “This reported murder is a despicable and offensive act, coming as it does on the eve of the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha.

“It is quite clear that the murderers of Alan Henning have no regard for Islam, or for the Muslims around the world who pleaded for his life.

“Alan was a friend of Muslims, and he will be mourned by Muslims.


In the days after news of his capture was known, Alan Henning’s friends released this footage, where he explains his reasons for going out to help and be an aid worker:


Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, tweeted:

Every time you do a good deed you shine the light a little farther into the dark. When you’re gone that light keeps shining on. #AlanHenning

— Andrew Gwynne MP (@GwynneMP) October 3, 2014


Labour party leader Ed Miliband has also paid tribute. He tweeted:

The murder of Alan Henning by ISIL is appalling and barbaric.

— Ed Miliband (@Ed_Miliband) October 3, 2014


Washington said the latest of four killings – including two US hostages – “is again yet another just very clear example of the brutality of this group, and why the president has articulated and is moving out in a comprehensive way to degrade and destroy ISIL”.

Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counter-terrorism, said: “Our hearts go out to the British aid worker who we believe is in that video and to the remaining hostages and to their families.”


The video emerged a week after the House of Commons overwhelmingly backed the deployment of British military forces to bomb IS positions in Iraq.

With Labour support, MPs voted by a majority of 481 to endorse joining the US-led coalition confronting the extremists – although extending the mission into Syria is yet to be debated.

RAF jets began bombing missions at the weekend and Mr Cameron earlier announced the deployment of two more Tornado fighter bombers as he visited the Cyprus base from where they are operating.

The two additional GR4s lift the number to eight engaged in raids to support local ground forces, especially Kurdish Peshmerga forces.


PA have also released a small piece with a fellow aid worker.

Kasim Jameel, who said he was with Mr Henning on the final trip, did not want to talk about his capture.

Mr Jameel said: “Alan is just a taxi driver, that’s all he is, just a taxi driver. Ultimately they have no reason to kill him. He could see suffering before his eyes on social media. He knew how to get involved via myself. He went there to help.”


PA have put out a tribute to Alan Henning. In it, people who knew him in Salford tell of their memories.

Orlando Napolitano, 68, runs a cafe on Bridge Street, Salford, where Mr Henning was a regular, around the corner from the garage and taxi hire firm.

Mr Napolitano said: “I have been here 22 years, and two years ago these Asian people moved in around the back and that’s when all this started, this aid doing, taking stuff to Syria.

“He said he was going there to help these people who had nothing, refugees. He was happy to help.

“That last trip I said, ‘Alan, I think it is a bit dangerous’ He said, ‘No, I have been there twice. We don’t go far in, just past the border.’

“I said, ‘Alan, you are going before Christmas. What about your family?’

“He said, ‘That’s what I love to do. When you give them goods, the kids are so happy and that’s why.’

“He would come in for coffee twice a day and we would chat. He’s a nice guy, happy, cheerful.

“He was missing straight away, as soon as he went to Syria. As soon as he crossed the border they snatched him.”


Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has tweeted his condolences:

Sincere condolences to Alan Henning’s family. Barbaric actions of ISIL are held in complete contempt. We are resolved to defeat this evil.

— Nick Clegg (@nick_clegg) October 3, 2014

10:30 pm

Many people had held vigils praying for the safe return and release of Alan Henning.

Greater Manchester Mosques also paid tribute to him, and urged IS to release him.

Last month, mosques across Greater Manchester made a heartfelt plea during Friday prayers in a joint statement signed by Muslim leaders in the region.


Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, has tweeted a tribute on behalf of GMP.

Everyone in GMP pays tribute to Alan Henning a brave man who left home to help people in need – our thoughts are with his family

— Peter Fahy (@gmpfahy) October 3, 2014


Alan Henning was taken hostage in December 2013.

We’ve published a timeline of events here.


The Prime Minister has tweeted this:

The brutal murder of Alan Henning by ISIL shows just how barbaric these terrorists are. My thoughts are with his wife and their children.

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) October 3, 2014


Michael Wheeler, a councillor for Eccles, tweets this:

Terrible news about Alan Henning. This is simply cold-blooded murder that the whole community condemns. My thoughts are with his family.

— Michael Wheeler (@MJWheeler85) October 3, 2014

 MPs were swift to condemn the apparent murder, one describing it as “an attack on humanity”.

Liberal Democrat party president Tim Farron said: “Alan Henning should be remembered for what he was – a kind hearted, selfless man who wanted to help others. My prayers are with his family.”

Shadow cabinet minister Jonathan Ashworth said the video emerged only hours after a vigil for his safe return by people “of all faiths and none” in Leicester.

“Dreadful devastating news,” he said.

Labour’s Pat McFadden said it was the “senseless killing of an innocent man. An attack on humanity.”


David Cameron’s statement on murder of Alan Henning

— Tim Montgomerie (@TimMontgomerie) October 3, 2014


John Mullen, an Assistant Mayor at Salford Council and councillor in Alan’s ward of Barton said: “I’m really saddened by the news.

“I just hope it turns out that the video is a fake.

“His family must be beyond devastated and all our thoughts go to his family.

“He was an aid worker, that says everything you need to know about him, all he wanted to do was help people.

“And it’s just so wicked and cruel that he has had to go through this.

“What has happened to him has shook the area to its core.

“But the community spirit we have seen, with the yellow ribbons, is a tribute to the area’s care and compassion.”

Neighbours turned out for vigil saying Alan is ‘one of their own’

This was Barbara Henning, Alan Henning’s wife, as she appealed for his release earlier this week.

She said: “Surely those who wish to be seen as a state will act in a statesman like way by showing mercy and provided clemency,” she said.

“I ask again for Islamic State, supported by voices from across the world, to spare Alan’s life.”


MrHenning’s apparent death will no doubt be heartbreaking for his family and will provoke outrage across the world.

MP George Galloway has just tweeted this following news of the beheading.

The ISIS murder of Alan Henning is a depraved Satanic act committed by devils in human form. It is a desecration of all that is holy.

— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) October 3, 2014

10.00 pm

Foreign Office: “We are aware of the video and are working urgently to verify the contents. If true, this is a further disgusting murder. We are offering the family every support possible; they ask to be left alone at this time.”


Mrs Henning revealed she had received an audio message of her husband pleading for his life, and had been told that a Sharia court had found him innocent of being a spy.

She told BBC News: “We are at a loss why those leading Islamic State cannot open their hearts and minds to the truth about Alan’s humanitarian motives for going to Syria and why they continue to ignore the verdicts of their own justice system.

“Surely those who wish to be seen as a state will act in a statesmanlike way by showing mercy and providing clemency. I ask again, supported by the voices across the world, for Islamic State to spare Alan’s life.”


Earlier this week Mr Henning’s wife Barbara pleaded for him to be freed.

She said: “I ask Islamic State please release him, we need him back home.”

She added: “Some say wrong time, wrong place. Alan was volunteering with his Muslim friends to help the people of Syria. He was in the right place doing the right thing.”


His wife Barbara made a direct, emotional appeal to his captors begging them to release him.

She was joined by Muslim leaders from across the world who have condemned the actions.

Whilst residents in his hometown decorated the streets in yellow ribbons as a show of support to his family.

Dominic Salter
Yellow ribbons tied near the home of hostage Alan Henning
Yellow ribbons tied near the home of hostage Alan Henning

Tonight, a Rochdale-based Muslim organisation described Mr Henning as ‘British Hero’ and said his death would appal all those of the Islamic faith.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said: “I am appalled at the brutal murder of Alan Henning by the evil ISIS, this barbaric killing is an attack against all decent people around the world.

“For weeks now the world has tried to appeal to these murderers to do the decent thing but they have no compassion or respect for human life.

“Alan Henning was a British hero, he put others first and we salute him and his life of service for others. My thoughts and condolences to Alan’s family and friends.

“British Muslims stand with Alan’s family and vow to defeat this evil ideology and barbaric organisation.

“Islam not only condemns these crimes but forbids them, those that carry them out are committing crimes against Islam.”

We’ve got a few more details here.


If the video is found to be authentic, he will become the fourth western hostage to be killed by the group.

The Foreign Office said they could not confirm the reports but said they were currently investigating them.

The dad-of-two, known as ‘Gadget’ to his friends and family because of his fondness for technology, travelled to Syria to work with charity Al-Fatiha Global last year.


Mr Henning, a former taxi driver from Salford, was last seen at the end of a video released last month following the murder of fellow British captive David Haines.


Many people had appealed for his release from the Islamic State group. Vigils and services had been held around Greater Manchester. Here, you can see the amount of people in Eccles town hall, where Alan lived, praying for his return.

Gary Louth
Prayers in Eccles Town hall for Alan Henning

In the video, Alan Henning is shown alive. Later in the video, his body appears to be shown.


PA have released a short line, saying a video showing the murder of British hostage Alan Henning, who was kidnapped by IS militants, has been released on the internet.


The video was released on Friday evening by Islamic State terrorists, and appears to show Alan Henning.

Posted in UKComments Off on Alan Henning: Latest updates as tributes continue to pour in for murdered Salford cabbie

Yep, the Strawmen Do Keep Coming


Investment in renewable energy is key, but that doesn’t mean “the market” can be trusted to do the work that needs to be done. (Photo: Mohamed Ali / flickr / cc)

Recently, people have been telling me that capitalists are investing lots of money in renewable energy, or that some companies have decided to reduce their environmental impact out of self-interest.

Thanks for the info, guys.

But again, I thought it might be useful to point these people to my book — y’know, since they clearly haven’t read it yet.

For example, this part beginning on page 100:

Solar and wind companies are already bringing clean energy to many millions of consumers around the world, including through innovative leasing models that allow customers to avoid the upfront costs of purchasing their own rooftop solar panels. But despite these recent successes, the market has proved extremely volatile and according to projections from the International Energy Agency, investment levels in clean energy need to quadruple by 2030 if we are to meet emission targets aimed at staying below 2 degrees Celsius of warming.

It’s easy to mistake a thriving private market in green energy for a credible climate action plan, but, though related, they are not the same thing. It’s entirely possible to have a booming market in renewables, with a whole new generation of solar and wind entrepreneurs growing very wealthy—and for our countries to still fall far short of lowering emissions in line with science in the brief time we have left. To be sure of hitting those tough targets, we need systems that are more reliable than boom-and-bust private markets.

It’s one thing to say that forward-thinking businesses can make a positive contribution to solving the climate crisis (surely they can). But it’s quite another thing to say that voluntary initiatives can get us to zero carbon in a couple decades.

As I’m the first to admit, one of the most promising approaches to climate action has even been championed by a corporate titan: Virgin founder Richard Branson, who says we have a moral responsibility to take the profits from burning fossil fuels and channel them into the green transition. It’s just that as the Branson example shows (and as I discuss at length in my book), sometimes the capitalist drive for ever more short-term profit and growth gets in the way, and the green dreams end up on the back burner.

Really, that shouldn’t surprise anyone, and we should have never expected billionaires to police themselves: that’s what governments are for. So if they aren’t up to the job, let’s do something about it.

Posted in HealthComments Off on Yep, the Strawmen Do Keep Coming

Why Must Gaza Wait in the Dark?


A Palestinian girl lights a candle inside her house during a power cut in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip November 17, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

When I asked my colleague in Gaza about her biggest dream, her answer made an impression on me: “I dream of what life would be like with 24-hour electricity.” This was the answer of a single, mid-career, western educated, professional woman who lives in the more affluent part of Gaza City. Her response suggests the depth of despair among Palestinians throughout Gaza.

Day-to-day life in Gaza between Israeli attacks is unworthy news for Western mainstream media. As a result, few people are aware that electricity in Gaza is a luxury, with blackouts lasting 16-18 hours—every day. This bitter reality has warped people’s lives for years now, as they must plan their daily activities around the 4-6 hours when they anticipate electricity, even if that means waking up to put laundry in the washing machine in the middle of the night.

Contrary to common belief, the severe undersupply of electricity in Gaza is not new, and not a result of the latest military aggression. Gaza has not had uninterrupted electricity since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994. In an attempt to compensate for the Israeli disruption of Gaza’s power supply, the Palestinians established their first power generation plant in 2004. Ever since, Israel has regularly limited the supply of electricity and industrial fuel needed to operate this only power plant in Gaza. Israel’s ability to deny families in Gaza the energy they need is nothing less than collective punishment of Palestinians—punishment whereby an entire community is made to pay for the acts of a few.

Separating Gaza’s electricity supply from the political conflict is a step long overdue. Access to electricity—a basic necessity that much of the world, including Israeli citizens can take for granted—should not be conditional upon outcomes of future negotiations. Continued darkness in Gaza serves no one.

During Israel’s military aggression on Gaza this past summer, Israel again bombed the sole power plant in Gaza. (Israel bombed the same plant on June 28, 2006.)  In a July 29, 2014 article about the latest destruction, the Guardian quoted Amnesty International which stated, “the crippling of the power station amounted to collective punishment of Palestinians.” Amnesty went on to note that, “the strike on the plant will worsen already severe problems with Gaza’s water supply, sewage treatment and power supplies to medical facilities.”

On September 14, 2014, less than 50 days after the Israeli strike on the plant and less than a month after the cessation of fighting, the Middle East Monitor reported that the CEO of the Gaza Electricity Company, Walid Sayel, announced that Gaza’s power plant was ready to work, pending fuel supply. “The Turkish minister of energy,” the item continued, “had said that his country is ready to send a floating 100 megawatt power plant to Gaza after obtaining the necessary permits [from Israel].” As Palestinians in Gaza try to move on, none of the players involved in the latest debacle, foremost among them Israel, is being held accountable.

The barrier is not simply being without fuel for the power plant. The issue is much more complex and calculated. If Turkey were serious about helping, their floating power station would already be in Gaza’s territorial waters even if they had to face down the Israeli navy and risk an international incident to bring electricity to Gaza. If the Palestinian Authority were serious, we would not have to witness the CEO of a Palestinian power plant begging for the funds needed to get the power plant running. And most importantly, Israel has the capacity to provide Gaza with continuous electricity immediately. According to international law, as the occupying power, Israel has sole responsibility to remedy this issue immediately.

To the governments and leaders who just returned to Cairo for another round of ceasefire negotiations with no timeline or end in sight, I challenge them to first focus on this basic and humane step: Give the people of Gaza access to electricity. It would be a basic step in easing the stresses of life in Gaza where loved ones can’t check in with one another when cell phones can’t get charged, email and Skype calls are not predictable, and having back-up generators for hospitals is literally a matter of life and death.

As what was intended to be a five-year peace process crawls into its third decade, an entire generation of Palestinian children in Gaza who were born in the early 1990s are now turning 16, 18, 20 years old. Their generation has never known a time that didn’t require candles to be able to study after dark due to intermittent electricity.

Israel has the capacity to stop power interruptions today. Sympathetic nations have the influence to insist that Israel does this. If international leadership cannot agree that providing electricity to the people of Gaza — a very achievable goal — should be an immediate priority, how can we possibly imagine that the larger political issues can be resolved anytime soon?

Posted in Palestine Affairs, ZIO-NAZI, GazaComments Off on Why Must Gaza Wait in the Dark?

White House Losing Ground in Bid to Keep Guantanamo Bay Abuse Secret


Federal judge rejects Obama administration request for secret trial and demands partial public release of videos showing force-feeding abuse of Guantanamo captive

Protest at the White House against torture and abuse in Guantanamo Bay and Bagram U.S>.military prisons February 27, 2009. (Photo:mike.benedetti/flickr/cc)

Update 3:00 PM EST:

Federal Judge Gladys Kessler on Friday ordered the U.S. government to publicly release videos showing the force-feedings of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian man held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. However, Kessler ruled that, before releasing the videos, the U.S. government may redact “identifiers of individuals in the videotapes,” including “faces other thatn Mr. Dhiab’s, voices, names, etc.” According to Reprieve, this amounts to approximately 11 hours of redacted tape.

“This may well be the most significant court decision on Guantanamo Bay in years,” said Alka Pradhan, Reprieve attorney to Mr Dhiab. “No longer does the American public have to rely on propaganda and misinformation, but can finally watch the videotapes and judge for themselves whether this terrible prison should continue to be the image America projects to the world, or whether we should reclaim our values and shut it down for good.”


A federal judge on Thursday rejected an Obama administration effort to shut the public out of the first-ever trial for abuse and torture at Guantanamo Bay, slamming the White House push for secrecy as “deeply troubling.”

Judge Gladys Kessler of the Washington DC district court wrote, “With such a long-standing and ongoing public interest at stake, it would be particularly egregious to bar the public from observing the credibility of live witnesses, the substance of their testimony, whether proper procedures are being followed, and whether the court is treating all participants fairly.”

Kessler criticized the Justice Department for filing a motion last Friday to hold the trial almost completely behind closed doors, arguing that the request “appears to have been deliberately made on short notice.” She continued, “[O]ne of the strongest pillars of our system of justice in the United States is the presumption that all judicial proceedings are open to the public whom the judiciary serves.”

The case pertains to Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Syrian man currently who has been held at the U.S. military’s offshore prison since 2002, despite being cleared for release in 2009. Dhiab, who has been on hunger strike off and on for years to protest the conditions of his confinement, is suing the Obama administration for torturous force-feeding practices, which include: forcible removal from his cell to force-feedings by a squad of soldiers donning riot gear; painful tube insertions; and use of a painful restraint chair for the process, according to a statement from Reprieve, the UK-based legal charity representing him. Dhiab’s hearing is slated to take place next Monday and Tuesday in Washington, DC, and expert witnesses are to testify on the man’s abuse.

The government argues that the trial must be held completely behind closed doors, except for opening statements, to protect “national security.” But Dhiab’s lawyers say this argument reeks of a cover-up. “The was a brazen attempt by the Obama Administration to shut the American people out of their own courtroom,”  said Cori Crider, Reprieve director and one of Mr. Dhiab’s attorneys. “And how sad to see our Justice Department deliberately undermining one of the central pillars of our democracy: open justice.”

This is not the first time the U.S. government has sought to hide information about Dhiab’s case. The White House has fought to hide video recordings of the force-feedings of Dhiab and other men held captive at Guantanamo. Dhiab was the first of these prisoners to legally challenge the Obama administration on the videos, resulting in a partial win: Dhiab’s lawyers from Reprieve were permitted to view the tapes, but their content remains classified, effectively gagging the tapes’ viewers. Kessler has agreed with the government’s argument that these videos can remain hidden from the public, which, in the words ofGuardian journalist Spencer Ackerman, means “the most graphic depictions of the force-feedings will remain hidden from view.”

Sixteen major media organizations filed suit in June calling for the public release of the videos on first amendment grounds. In a recent article, Dhiab’s wife Umm Wa’el joined in the call for disclosure of the tapes. She wrote:

America was shocked by the images from Abu Ghraib. These films from Guantanamo threaten to do the same. The American people should be given the chance to see them, and to decide whether they accept what is being done daily to my husband. I am certain that if they are given the chance, they will see the reality: the simple desperation of an innocent man, held without charge or trial, using the only means at his disposal to get back to his wife and children.

Posted in USA, Human RightsComments Off on White House Losing Ground in Bid to Keep Guantanamo Bay Abuse Secret

Violence Erupts in Hong Kong as Counter-Protesters Storm Sit-In


Anti-democracy protesters fight Occupy Central activists, other demonstrators as Umbrella Revolution continues

Anti-democracy protesters stormed the Occupy Central camps late Friday, causing violent clashes. (Photo: Twitter/AP)

Anti-democracy protesters stormed the Occupy Central camps late Friday, causing violent clashes. (Photo: Twitter/AP)

About 1,000 counter-protesters who support Chinese rule stormed a pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong’s Mongkok district on Friday, ripping down banners and starting violent scuffles with about 100 activists who had staged a sit-in in the highly populated district.

The counter-protesters spit and threw water bottles at the pro-democracy activists until police formed a human chain between the two groups to settle the clashes. The Beijing supporters shouted at police for failing to remove the other activists, some of whom held umbrellas for the officers as rain started to fall. As word of the clashes spread, more pro-democracy activists arrived to the camp. Three ambulances were called to the scene to attend to injured people.

“I am a little bit scared. I haven’t seen anything like this before,” a protester told CNN after the standoff. “We’ll do our best to stay calm here, do what we can.”

The area’s Superintendent Mok Hing-wing told reporters at a press conference that police will begin dismantling barriers and ordering protesters to disperse; anyone who remains at the site will be arrested, he warned.

But organizers responded with their own ultimatum, promising to remain vigil in their sit-in and other actions. In a statement addressed to authorities, organizers from Occupy Central, the Hong Kong Federation Of Students, and Scholarism said, “If the government does not immediately prevent the organized attacks on supporters of the Occupy movement, the students will call off dialogue on political reform with the government.”

South China Morning Post reported that anti-Occupy sentiments are rising in the region, as residents and business owners fed up with the large crowds blocking traffic and slowing down business also clashed with protesters holding out in Causeway Bay and Admiralty as well as Mongkok.

In Causeway Bay, a group of about 30 men wearing masks stormed another, larger camp and began removing barricades there, although they left the scene after officers formed another human blockade to separate the men from the activists, who were joined by another influx of demonstrators after news of the clashes spread on social media.

Alex Chow, Secretary General of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said the violence was caused by people “with the intention to cause chaos to allow police to clear activists there.”

“All supporters of Occupy will abide by the principles of nonviolence,” he said. “The chaos is not caused by advocates of Occupy, but by the opposing groups.”

The protests began last month after the Chinese government reneged on a promise to allow universal suffrage in Hong Kong’s next election for their government representative. Breaking their vow to grant full democratic elections, Beijing instead said it would limit voters’ choice for representative to a small pool of candidates that has first been vetted by a pro-establishment committee.

Follow the ongoing demonstrations under the hashtag #OccupyCentral here.

Posted in ChinaComments Off on Violence Erupts in Hong Kong as Counter-Protesters Storm Sit-In

Students, Teachers Turn Out in Force Against Censorship of History


Hundreds pack Colorado school board meeting, voicing their discontent and winning a partial victory

While hundreds squeezed into the school board meeting room, others gathered with signs outside. (Photo: @Ed4Colorado/Twitter)

While hundreds squeezed into the school board meeting room, others gathered with signs outside. (Photo: @Ed4Colorado/Twitter)Several hundred students, community members, and educators packed a Jefferson County Board of Education meeting in suburban Denver on Thursday night, lambasting the conservative-majority board’s proposal to censor the district’s history curriculum.

The proposal—to establish a committee that would review course materials to ensure they promote patriotism and avoid encouragement of “civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law”—was the catalyst for two weeks of student walk-outs and teacher ‘sick-outs,’ the latter of which closed several high schools on two days in September.

Since September 19, thousands of high-schoolers have taken to the streets with signs reading, “How will we learn from our mistakes if you don’t teach us about them?” and “Keep your politics out of my education.”

They were similarly vocal during a two-hour public comment period Thursday evening. TheDenver Post reports:

Students were first to take to the microphone. Many decried board president Ken Witt’s characterization of the students as “pawns” of teachers and their union after thousands walked out of class over the last couple of weeks to protest the proposed committee.

“We find it insulting that you say that we are pawns of anyone else,” said Chatfield High senior Ashlyn Maher. “It is our education that is at stake.”

Two students from Standley Lake High presented the board with boxes filled with 40,000 signatures gathered online from people opposed to the curriculum committee concept.

While board member Julie Williams, who has cited the Texas Board of Education as a model, refused to recall the proposal entirely, the protests appeared to have brought about a partial victory.

Early Thursday morning, in advance of the board meeting, superintendent Dan McMinimee sent a letter (pdf) to board members proposing a compromise: rather than establish a new committee, McMinimee suggested reorganizing existing curriculum review groups in the district to involve more student, teacher, and community voices.

That compromise proposal—stripped of the controversial section about patriotism and civil disorder—was successful Thursday night. But not everyone viewed it as a win.

According to the Associated Press:

As the board voted 3-2 Thursday night to expand the membership on two existing curriculum review committees to include students, parents and administrators, some in the audience yelled “resign” and “recall, recall.”

The two women on the board who oppose the panel’s conservative majority held their heads in their hands after losing a bid to delay the vote so they could have more time to study the plan.

Many students and parents remain dissatisfied with the board’s actions.

“Last night, Witt, Newkirk, and Williams bought some time,” an anonymous blogger wrote at the highly critical JeffCo Board Watch site, referring to the three conservative school board members. “Time, they hope, for the furor to die down. Time, they hope, for the press to go away. Time, they hope, for you to forget the fact that they want the ability to indoctrinate our children.”

JeffCo Board Watch is calling for community members to join and help build a network that would monitor the board and eventually launch a recall effort.

JeffCo parents were planning additional protests on Friday. According to a local ABC News affiliate, “The parent organizing the protest said… it was against this ‘board majority—who time and time again—refuses to listen to their constituents and disrespects students/parents/teachers. These board members should believe in the institution they were elected to represent—clearly they don’t.'”

Indeed, many have observed that this fight is about much more than curriculum changes.

“The controversy over a history curriculum in Colorado is an argument over a very much bigger issue,” public education expert Jeff Bryant wrote Thursday at the Education Opportunity Network blog. “It’s about how we’re treating our nation’s youngest citizens with a substandard form of education that emphasizes fiscal efficiency over learning opportunity and standardization over individual needs and interests. And it’s about how we treat students as learners, imposing education as something done to them rather than withthem.”

Posted in USAComments Off on Students, Teachers Turn Out in Force Against Censorship of History

Transitional times or the end times?

People power

By Graham Peebles

Given the violent turmoil raging throughout large parts of the world and the devastating impact of man-made climate change, many fear humanity and the planet are on the verge of destruction.

The religiously inclined, particularly those sitting on the far right of the spectrum, point towards various passages in the scriptures which they believe accurately describe these times and proclaim them to be “the end times”.

This is apocalyptically understood, through the prism of doctrine, to be not simply the annihilation of a sin-drenched humanity which, according to the “judgment of the just”, deserves its fate, but the obliteration of planet Earth itself.

Such doom-laden interpretation of events cultivates fear, suffocates hope and fails to recognise the good among the black flags and chaos.

People power

Fortunately, there is an alternative, sunnier view of the present time, a common-sense albeit controversial vision that creates hope, not fear and despair. It is a quieter voice which remains largely buried under the worldwide blanket of anxiety and insecurity. It says these are not “the end times” but transitional times; that we are not witnessing the “end of the world” or the slow demise of humanity, but the final cries of a crumbling civilisation in terminal decline. A civilisation built over the last 2,000 years or so in response to certain conditioning influences promoting specific values and ways of living.

That there is great resistance to change is clear. Those who have benefited most under the present socio-economic model, fearful of lost privilege, seek to tighten their grip on power and silence those troublesome radicals demanding social justice, freedom, environmental responsibility and democratic participation.

The responses of regimes to social revolutions throughout North Africa, and the violent suppressions of protests in Turkey, Brazil, Thailand and Venezuela, are examples of governments’ unyielding brutal response to the united cries of the people. They are cries that have echoed throughout the world over the past 30 or so years, in an unprecedented movement of popular activism to claw back rights and liberties, confront government corruption and demand social justice, as well as confronting corporate development plans and environmental abuse.

Huge numbers have marched, demonstrated and rallied: “people power” is perhaps the brightest spark of optimism in the world and is one of the clearest signs of the times – times of change, of transition, of action and of opportunity and hope.

Perennial values rediscovered

Sitting at the decaying heart of the present socio-political structures, aggressively dominating all areas of contemporary life, is neo-liberal capitalism (or market fundamentalism). A product of the ideological environment of the time, it has cultivated materialistic values that promote individual success and ambition, and encourage greed, selfishness and social division.

Deep within the festering ground of inequality and division, the seeds of conflict and turmoil, watered by despair and exclusion, flourish. Nations, regions as well as individuals are forced to compete against one another, feeding nationalism, separation and conflict. Ideologically driven division has fuelled totalitarianism and extremism: political, economic, social and, perhaps the darkest and most dangerous manifestation, religious – as current events in Iraq reveal.

Die-hard devotees of the individualistic values of division – from which ideologies of all kinds have flowed – proclaim them to be the outcome of human nature. Sown into the genetic fabric of mankind, they are inevitable, have always driven and always shall drive humanity and, consequentially, neither materialistic values nor their elite exponents can be challenged, let alone changed, so the argument goes.

If one looks beneath the chaos and surface detritus, if one connects the diverse movements, developments and actions, the embryonic signs of a new time, of peaceful potential and of unity can be seen.

These believers, many of whom profit handsomely from the system, have sought to close down the intellectual space, to stifle debate and tarnish dissenting voices as naive idealists who lack the strength of character to compete with the high-octane sharp shooters.

Life has been defined in increasingly unimaginative material terms that insist on conformity, encourage the pursuit of pleasure, champion selfish desire, dismiss wonder and mystery dismissed, and ignore the unexplained.

Nowhere is this more evident than in education. As Noam Chomsky says, “the whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on – because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions”. Institutions – both state and corporate – that know well the dangers of independent thinking and imagination.

The nature of modernity itself needs redefining, the purpose of life re-evaluating, a new civilisation built. If one looks beneath the chaos and surface detritus, if one connects the diverse movements, developments and actions, the embryonic signs of a new time, of peaceful potential and of unity can be seen.

They herald a new and just civilisation, one rooted in altogether different values to the existing, ideologically-driven paradigm, ones based on perennial values of peace, solidarity, freedom, justice, tolerance, cooperation and understanding.. Nothing radically revolutionary, but ideals reassessed, rediscovered, understood and pragmatically applied to our society.

Posted in PoliticsComments Off on Transitional times or the end times?

Iraq: Here come the boots, ignoring the consequences


Soldiers in the 1st Infantry Division, soon to be back occupying Iraq less than three years after they left.

James Circello also contributed to this article. Prysner and Circello are former non-commissioned officers in the U.S. Army, who served together in the 173rd Airborne Brigade during the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. 

As Iraq war veterans, it is almost surreal watching the rapid unfolding events that has brought us, again, into an occupation of Iraq, with no public discussion about the potential consequences for soldiers and our families.

The deployment of regular Army “boots on the ground” has begun—and looks poised to grow.

The Pentagon announced on Sept. 25 that the Headquarters element of the 1st Infantry Division is now staged in Kuwait, under orders for a one-year deployment to Baghdad, Irbil and possibly other cities in Iraq. This is just the first of many future rotations.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said of the deployment “The complexity of the environment that we have to operate in now, and probably the next 10 to 15 to 20 years, we need these headquarters.” With that, this general who built his career on the 2003 war, set the stage for people not even born yet to be sent to occupy Iraq.

The 1st Infantry Division, a tank unit, was also sent to Iraq as one of the advance elements prior to the U.S. ground invasion in March 2003. Their initial deployment was extended by six months to fight an armed uprising by the Iraqi people, completely unanticipated by the generals and politicians.

Around 500 regular Army soldiers (increased from 130 announced the day before, in true Washington fashion), will be leaving their families for 12 months to return to the site of the U.S. government’s most blood-drenched foreign policy disaster since the war on Vietnam.

Fort Riley, from which the 1st Infantry Division is deploying, lost 140 soldiers and had thousands wounded in “Operation: Iraqi Freedom.”

What could happen

The complete carelessness and belligerence with which we are being thrown back into Iraq is beyond alarming.

Has there been any public discussion or debate by our so-called representatives about what this could mean for soldiers and our families? Has there been any scrutiny at all over the fact that U.S. soldiers could again be targeted and blown up in large numbers by a wide variety of Iraqi groups that oppose Islamic State but also refuse to be occupied by the United States?

The 500,000-strong Mahdi Army, under the command of prominent cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has already vowed to take a break from their war against Islamic State to attack U.S. troops if they return. Other broad sectors of the population, which fought for years to drive out the U.S. military, could very well follow suit. But that potentially major combat scenario is completely absent from the speeches given by the Pentagon.

Even if the Generals give us the flimsy assurance that this Division Headquarters will just be a base supporting Iraqi and Kurdish troops doing all the front-line fighting, thousands of casualties were inflicted on U.S. soldiers holed-up on big fortified bases by suicide bombers, rocket and mortar attacks, “insider attacks” and car bombs.

But there is no discussion, or even feigned concern, about what could possibly happen to the young men and women who are being rushed back to the place where so many of us left in coffins and wheelchairs.

The Pentagon just announces that we’re going. We’re expected to trust them, as if we’ve all forgotten about what a catastrophe the last Iraq war was for soldiers, our families and Iraqis.

Brave words from the Generalsthe safest soldiers in Iraq

1st Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen Paul Funk—who commands but does not participate in battle—said “we stand ready to deploy anywhere in the world to protect the United States of America.” Except, the Pentagon says quite openly that there is no intelligence indicating that Islamic State poses a threat to people in the United States.

He went on to say “we are ready for anything because we know we have the whole nation behind us.”

Why, then, did the President and his staff have to repeat on television over and over that “there will be no boots on the ground in Iraq”? That doesn’t sound like the words of a commander who thinks the whole nation would be behind such a decision.

The Pentagon’s trend

The White House has skirted around the admission of “boots on the ground” because those boots are worn by U.S. Special Forces soldiers, Marine Corps security guards, drone operators and Apache pilots.

Those boots, which apparently don’t count, increased in number periodically since June, going from under 200 authorized and deployed to around 2,000.

Sending a Division Headquarters sets the stage to have other elements of the Division follow behind.

Should we believe that the generals are sending a command and control operations center without the intention of sending the Army units that it commands and controls?

If the past three months are any indicator, it would not be surprising if this new 500 soldier deployment, too, was incrementally increased.

What the U.S. government wants in Iraq

Their stated goal is to “degrade and destroy ISIL.” But whatever their stated goal is, there is no doubt that the U.S. government seeks to establish a permanent military presence in Iraq—just like it did at the end of the Iraq war, but was unable to secure in the midst of a political crisis.

The U.S. government wants permanent bases in Iraq. It wants permanent bases in Syria. It wants permanent bases everywhere, because that’s how this system works.

The three-piece suits in Washington serve and protect the interests of big banks, oil giants and corporations. Key to their doctrine of being the world’s leading economy is the projection of military power wherever there are resources to be gobbled up. That is how the United States functioned from its birth, and the foundation on which it rests today. The Middle East is home to two-thirds of the world’s oil.

President Obama didn’t withdraw troops from Iraq because he believed it was best for U.S. service members, their families and the Iraqi people. He did so because he, like many in a certain sector of the political and military establishment, believed the U.S. occupation to be politically counter-productive to its geopolitical strategy.

But now that political situation has changed. The widely-hated and brutally sectarian Iraqi government is now begging for the U.S. military to come back, unlike its posturing three years ago.

The White House and its parade of military generals featured in the U.S. media have established a fear-based narrative that this will be nothing like the last war, but a limited humanitarian mission to simply destroy a vile terrorist group, leaving out all the many haunting details of what could really happen if Iraq is re-occupied.

We are now in a new Iraq war. Just like the last one, it could have devastating effects on people who are not our enemies. Just like the last one, it’s based on lies, false-rationales, and a complete disregard for the grave consequences that face the troops they say they support so much.

The best way soldiers can really serve the people of the United States is by refusing to take part in this new rush to war by politicians and officers drunk with power and arrogance.

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