Archive | December 19th, 2014

Who are the Cuban Five? ”Video”


Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem, Sr

Are Amazing story that the US news media is hiding in plain sight

Hidden in plain sight. Three of the Cuban Five were just released. Who are these guys? Why were they in jail and why have they been in jail for so long? The answer is unbelievable… CIA-allied terrorists have targeted Cuba for years with acts of real violence – bombings resulting in numerous deaths and serious injuries.

After asking the US repeatedly to do something to stop these attacks and the US ignoring them, Cuba sent five men to infiltrate tanti-Castro terrorist groups so they could warn the Cubans of future attacks. So what did the US do when it caught these “dangerous” men. It put them in prison – for life. That’s the story of the Cuban Five that you are not hearing from the lame stream media.


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America and the forgotten futility of torture

US torture

By Lawrence Davidson

It has long been known that torture does not work. One can go back to the Enlightenment.

In 1764 Cesare Beccaria published his groundbreaking work, On Crimes and Punishments. Beccaria had examined all the evidence available at that time and concluded that individuals under torture will tell their interrogator anything they want to hear, true or not, just to get the pain to stop. Beccaria’s book led to a temporary waning of the state-ordered torture.

Nonetheless, the United States has used torture repeatedly. Indeed, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release of its report (five years in the making) on the Bush administration’s use of torture testifies to only the most recent in a long line of such incidents. For instance, torture was used against prisoners during and immediately following the Spanish-American War, particularly in the Philippines. More recently the US (and its adversary) used torture during the Vietnam War.

… “victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it”. (Senator John McCain)

Confirming Beccaria’s judgment, the consensus among US military personnel who examined the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the latest euphemism for torture) against Viet Cong and North Vietnamese prisoners was that it did not work. This conclusion has been supported by Senator John McCain (Republican, Arizona) who was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for over five years. He has repeatedly said that he knows, from personal experience, that “victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it”.

Who in the executive branch of the US government remembers, or even care about, this history? President Obama gave his blessings to the 11 December 2014 television appearance of John O. Brennan, the present head of the CIA, so that he could tell the nation that, following the 9/11 tragedy, tortured prisoners provided “useful and valuable” information. The Senate Intelligence Committee report calls such claims “exaggerated if not utterly false”. Based on the evidence from Beccaria’s time to the present, the committee report’s position in this regard is the one to go with.


Torture was made illegal in 1950 under the Third Geneva Convention, and this was reaffirmed in 1985 by the United Nations Convention against Torture. Both of these conventions were signed and ratified by the United States, making them the law of the land. Torture is also illegal under US domestic laws such as the War Crimes Act of 1996.

Unfortunately, these laws and treaty obligations were called into question in 2002 by the Bush administration. To create a counterposition to them, the administration’s Justice Department produced what are now known as the “torture memos”. These postulated that the war against terrorism that followed 9/11 was a unique situation that nullified all the standing laws preventing torture. These memos were self-serving interpretations of the president’s powers during war and time of emergency. Contrived as they were, they served as Bush’s legal justification for his administration’s policy of waterboarding, “rectal hydration”, sleep deprivation and other forms of physical abuse. As Dick Cheney, Bush’s pugnacious vice president, recently said, this was no rogue operation. “This programme was authorised” by the memos. The question of how one legitimately “authorises” what has already been determined to be illegal, immoral and degrading seems never to have occurred to Cheney.

Former Vice-President Dick Cheney said the CIA’s torture programme had been “authorised” even though it is illegal under US law

When we weigh the authority of the “torture memos” against international law, treaty obligations and indeed US domestic law, we must conclude that Bush’s policy of torture was illegal. Let me put the consequences of that reasonable conclusion in plain English: President George W. Bush and everyone else in his administration involved in formulating, justifying and carrying out the policy of torture are criminals. So why hasn’t Mr Bush (to say nothing of the rest of this gang) been brought to trial for his crimes?

One possible reason harks back to 1972-73, when the infamous Watergate scandal was revealing President Richard Nixon’s criminality. At that time the main line of argument was that you don’t want an American president going to jail. This would constitute just too much of a national embarrassment. Therefore, the pardon Nixon received was the best solution to a messy problem. Being of a contrary nature even back then, this writer went about saying that it was precisely because Nixon was the president that you wanted him on trial and, when convicted, put in jail. You wanted that precedent set because it would shape, for the better, the behaviour of future presidents.

Of course, this course of action was never followed, and so when it came to George W. Bush, there was no such precedent to provoke any second thoughts. Perhaps he would not have hesitated in any case. We will never know.

The present debate

At present, the debate within the Beltway is not over the Bush administration’s culpability for illegal acts, but rather over the wisdom of releasing the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report detailing the CIA use of torture on the president’s orders. In other words, the wisdom of making public the evidence of Bush’s criminality. Many feel that the report will make some foreigners so angry that they will attack Americans abroad. But then those folks already knew about US torture and don’t need the details to make them angry.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the present chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is the one who decided to release the report on torture. She did so because she is determined to “foreclose any prospect that the United States might contemplate such tactics again”. She did not believe arguing about the morality of torture would achieve that goal and so she “set out to prove [through the released report] that they [techniques of torture] did not work”. There are two things wrong with Feinstein’s reasoning in this regard:

First, Feinstein too appears ignorant of the fact that the futility of torture has been established for hundreds of years. And, just because torture has long been demonstrated not to work, what is the probability that a restatement of this fact will prevent the US from using it again in the future? As was the case in the Philippines, Vietnam and in the war on terror, future American leaders will remain ignorant of or just forget about torture’s futility.

The groundwork for this is already being laid. The incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr (Republican, North Carolina), says he will not hold hearings on what the report reveals or follow up on it in any way. “Put this report down to a footnote in history,” he says. Burr also dismisses the torture revelations as an attempt to “smear the Bush administration” – as if the facts of the matter were just contrived by political enemies to provoke a scandal.

The incoming Republican chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Richard Burr, has promised not to follow up the outgoing committee’s report on CIA torture

Second, as former CIA analyst Ray McGovern suggests, it is quite possible that most in the Bush administration did not care whether torture really worked or not. McGovern tells us that what the White House wanted was a justification for an invasion of Iraq. “Evidence” suggesting a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda would do just fine here. The pressure was on the CIA to produce that link and so they tortured al-Qaeda prisoners until they told them what President Bush wanted to hear. This seems a tempting gambit for use by future presidents who might share George W. Bush’s character.

Thus, if Dianne Feinstein wants to make sure that the US government will not use torture in the future, just demonstrating (once more) that it does not work won’t do. The only thing that has a chance of achieving her goal is the strict enforcement the law against torture: take Bush and his accomplices and put them on trial for the crimes we all know they committed. Then, put the whole gang in jail for long enough to make a deep impression. With that precedent set, you have a shot at preventing US-sanctioned torture in the future.

President Obama actually had an opportunity to set this precedent but, as we all know, he has declined to do so. One can imagine his advisers telling him that all presidents break the law in one way or another and to charge Bush with a crime would open Pandora’s Box – from that point on it would be open season on every future president. Yet, is it necessarily true that all presidents must go around breaking the law? And, if so, why should any of us find this acceptable?


Despite the revelations of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report, the chances are pretty good that Bush and his operatives will get away with their crimes. And that means that the chances are just as good that it will all happen again. The public’s awareness of the facts is at best unreliable. According to a Pew poll just reported on 15 December 2014, half of the American public even now believes that the use of torture was both justified and provided worthwhile intelligence. It is probable that the opinion of most elected officials is no different.

No one has yet been able to secure a meaningful place for relevant and accurate historical knowledge either in the mind of the general public or in the deliberations of policy makers. However, in both cases, ignorance and false assumptions seem secure in their positions of influence.

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Republic of Korea: Imminent Threat To Political Expression and Civil Rights


Product Details

Global Research

Global Research, Montreal, December 18, 2014


A path breaking decision which will have far reaching impacts on civil and political rights in the Republic of Korea (ROK) is forthcoming.

A decision from the Constitutional Court in South Korea regarding the dissolution of the Unified Progressive Party (UPP) is imminent.

On November 5, 2013, the South Korean government requested that the Korean Constitutional Court initiate dissolution proceedings against the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), the third largest political party in Korea, following the arrest of one if its members, the parliamentarian Lee Seok-Ki.

Representative Lee (image right) was accused (allegedly on trumped up charges) and later convicted of violating South Korea’s national security law and for planning a future incitement of violence. The incitement of violence charge was reversed by the ROK Court of Appeals. His case is now pending on appeal before South Korea’s Supreme Court.

A vote in favor of dissolution of the UPP by the Constitutional Court would carry significant implications for political expression and civil rights in South Korea. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, South Korea is obligated under international law to protect freedom of assembly and expression. After a year of hearings into the matter, there is little or no evidence that the UPP is a “threat” to the South Korean constitutional or legal order, and there is a risk that dissolution would be little more than an attempt by the government to chill political speech with which it disagrees.

As part of its efforts to avoid dissolution, the UPP consulted with American lawyers and secured a legal opinion from the law office of Comar Law in San Francisco, which submitted legal opinions both to the Korean Constitutional Court as well as to the United Nations, asking that the judges side in favor of the rule of law and freedom of political expression.

For Media inquiries

Inder Comar, Esq., Comar Law, San Francisco, California, [email protected]

Michel Chossudovsky, Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal, [email protected]

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The Fukushima Endgame: The Radioactive Contamination of the Pacific Ocean


Video : NDTV visits quake-hit American nuclear plant

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research

Nuclear radiation resulting from the March 2011 Fukushima disaster which threatens life on planet earth is not front page news in comparison to the most insignificant issues of public concern, including the local level crime scene or the tabloid gossip reports on Hollywood celebrities.

The shaky political consensus both in Japan, the U.S. and Western Europe is that the crisis at Fukushima has been contained.

The truth is otherwise. Known and documented, the ongoing dumping of highly radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean constitutes a potential trigger to a process of global radioactive contamination.

Tthis water contains plutonium 239 and its release into the Ocean has both local as well as global repercussions. A microgram of plutonium if inhaled, according to Dr. Helen Caldicott, can cause death:

Certain isotopes of radioactive plutonium are known as some of the deadliest poisons on the face of the earth. A mere microgram (a speck of darkness on a pinhead) of Plutonium-239, if inhaled, can cause death, and if ingested, radioactive Plutonium can be harmful, causing leukemia and other bone cancers.

“In the days following the 2011 earthquake and nuclear plant explosions, seawater meant to cool the nuclear power plants instead carried radioactive elements back to the Pacific ocean. Radioactive Plutonium was one of the elements streamed back to sea.”(

It would appear that the radioactive water has already penetrated parts of the Japanese coastline:

Environmental testing of shoreline around the nuclear plant (as well fish, especially Tuna) showed negligible amounts of Plutonium in the seawater. The Plutonium, from what little is reported, sank into the sediments off the Japanese coast.” (Ibid)

A recent report suggests that the Japanese government is intent upon releasing the remaining radioactive water into the Ocean. The proposed “solution” becomes the cause of radioactive contamination of both the Japanese coastline as well as the Pacific Ocean, extending to the coastline of North America.

While the chairman of the Nuclear Radiation Authority recognizes that the water in the tanks is heavily “tainted”, a decision has nonetheless been taken to empty the tanks and dump the water into the Ocean:

The head of Japan’s nuclear watchdog said contaminated water stored at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant should be released into the ocean to ensure safe decommissioning of the reactors.

Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, made the comment Dec. 12 after visiting the facility to observe progress in dismantling the six reactors. The site was severely damaged in the tsunami generated by the 2011 earthquake.

“I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of tanks (holding water tainted with radioactive substances),” Tanaka told reporters, indicating they pose a danger to decommissioning work. “We have to dispose of the water.”

With regard to expected protests by local fishermen over the discharge, Tanaka said, “We also have to obtain the consent of local residents in carrying out the work, so we can somehow mitigate (the increase in tainted water).”

Tanaka has said previously that to proceed with decommissioning, tainted water stored on the site would need to be released into the sea so long as it had been decontaminated to accepted safety standards.

“While (the idea) may upset people, we must do our utmost to satisfy residents of Fukushima,” Tanaka said, adding that the NRA would provide information to local residents based on continuing studies of radioactive elements in local waters.

The inspection tour was Tanaka’s second since he became NRA chief in September 2012. He last visited in April 2013.

During his visit, Tanaka observed work at a trench on the ocean side of the No. 2 reactor building, where highly contaminated water is being pumped out. He also inspected barriers set up around the storage tanks to prevent leaks of tainted water.

Tanaka praised the completion in November of work to remove all spent nuclear fuel from the No. 4 reactor building, as well as changes to work procedures that he said allows for the completion of the work at the No. 2 reactor trench. Hiromi Kumai , NRA Head Signals Massive Release of Tainted Water to Help Decommission Fukushima Site Asahi Shimbun December 13, 2014

The contradictory statements of the NRA chief avoid addressing the broader implications, by giving the impression that the issue is local and that local fishermen off the Fukushima coast will be consulted.

Additional articles and videos on Fukushima and Nuclear Radiation are available at Global Researchs Dossier on The Environment


Nuclear Radiation: Categorization

At Fukushima, reports confirm that alpha, beta, gamma particles and neutrons have been released:

While non-ionizing radiation and x-rays are a result of electron transitions in atoms or molecules, there are three forms of ionizing radiation that are a result of activity within the nucleus of an atom. These forms of nuclear radiation are alpha particles (α-particles), beta particles (β-particles) and gamma rays (γ-rays).

Alpha particles are heavy positively charged particles made up of two protons and two neutrons. They are essentially a helium nucleus and are thus represented in a nuclear equation by either α or . See the Alpha Decay page for more information on alpha particles.

Beta particles come in two forms:  and  particles are just electrons that have been ejected from the nucleus. This is a result of sub-nuclear reactions that result in a neutron decaying to a proton. The electron is needed to conserve charge and comes from the nucleus. It is not an orbital electron. particles are positrons ejected from the nucleus when a proton decays to a neutron. A positron is an anti-particle that is similar in nearly all respects to an electron, but has a positive charge. See the Beta Decay page for more information on beta particles.

Gamma rays are photons of high energy electromagnetic radiation (light). Gamma rays generally have the highest frequency and shortest wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum. There is some overlap in the frequencies of gamma rays and x-rays; however, x-rays are formed from electron transitions while gamma rays are formed from nuclear transitions. See the Gamma Rays for more (SOURCE: Canadian Nuclear Association)

A neutron is a particle that is found in the nucleus, or center, of atoms. It has a mass very close to protons, which also reside in the nucleus of atoms. Together, they make up almost all of the mass of individual atoms. Each has a mass of about 1 amu, which is roughly 1.6×10-27kg. Protons have a positive charge and neutrons have no charge, which is why they were more difficult to discover. (SOURCE: Neutron Radiation)

Many different radioactive isotopes are used in or are produced by nuclear reactors. The most important of these are described below:

1. Uranium 235 (U-235) is the active component of most nuclear reactor fuel.

2. Plutonium (Pu-239) is a key nuclear material used in modern nuclear weapons and is also present as a by-product in certain reprocessed fuels used in some nuclear reactors. Pu-239 is also produced in uranium reactors as a byproduct of fission of U-235.

3. Cesium (Cs-137 ) is a fission product of U-235. It emits beta and gamma radiation and can cause radiation sickness and death if exposures are high enough. …

4. Iodine 131 (I-131), also a fission product of U-235, emits beta and gamma radiation. After inhalation or ingestion, it is absorbed by and concentrated in the thyroid gland, where its beta radiation damages nearby thyroid tissue (SOURCE: Amesh A. Adalja, MD, Eric S. Toner, MD, Anita Cicero, JD, Joseph Fitzgerald, MS, MPH, and Thomas V. Inglesby MD, Radiation at Fukushima: Basic Issues and Concepts, March 31, 2011)

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When ‘Good Jews’ Get Arrested



Upon leaving the bright hall of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Thursday, Lehava chairman Bentzi Gopshtain stated adamantly that he will not change any of the methods of operation used by the organization he heads.

Judea-Samaria police raided the homes of members of the activist group Tuesday morning, including Gopshtain’s home, and arrested the members on suspicion of incitement and calls to commit acts of violence and terror against Arabs.

The Israel Security Agency also recently arrested three Lehava activists on suspicions of being involved in the arson of a bilingual kindergarten in Jerusalem earlier this month.

“The prosecution of the State of Israel thinks that it is forbidden to speak here. I want to find the prosecutor, Shai Nitzan, and tell him it is not the KGB here, this is the State of Israel,” Gopshtain said.

“We will talk and no one will silence us. We will continue to fight against assimilation – that is Judaism, not racism. I urge everyone not to be silent – today it’s me, tomorrow it’s you.”

According to Gopshtain, “When you say [the blessing] ‘Thank God for not making me a gentile’ they can arrest you; do not be quiet about this!”

Gopshtain added, “the only reasonable suspicion [prosecutors have] are those things I said in the media. Tomorrow they will investigate me for things I just said. I will continue to talk to the media and no one will shut my mouth.”

He then turned to rabbis asking for their support. “I call on every rabbi to raise his voice and say that this arrest against the war on assimilation is a disgrace. No rabbi can tell me it should not happen. We cannot remain silent.”

Judge Yaron Minkevich of the Jerusalem Magistrate Court extended Gopshtain’s detention, and that of two other Lehava members arrested this week, by one day on Thursday.

The police wanted to extend their detention to seven days, but Minkevich rejected the request, stating that since no significant developments in the investigation have arisen the longer extension is unwarranted.

If the police do not submit another request to extend their detention, Gopshtain and the two others will be released from custody on Friday, for three days of house arrest and with the prohibition of contacting each other for three more days.

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Opposition leader claims that Jews don’t pay taxes


Wanted Poster for tax 50

During an interview with Greek Ant-1 TV, Independent Greeks president Panos Kammenos claimed that Jews in Greece don’t pay taxes, enraging the Jewish community.

He was slammed by Jewish communal leaders, who called on Kammenos to officially apologize for his “serious anti-Semitic act”.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece said it categorically refutes the accusation, noting that Jewish institutions in the country had the same tax regulations as Christian ones.

“It is a disgrace that a leader of a party in Parliament does not know that Greek Jews are equal citizens and subject to the all the rights and obligations of every citizen,” the statement read.

Kammenos’s comments come just days after a drive-by shooting at the Israeli embassy in Athens, an act condemned as terrorism by the Greek government and alleged to have been the work of left-wing extremists.

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Torah Tidbits and Amalek’s spiritual heirs



OCDG: This is a “clarification” of another article… even when trying to whitewash and backpedal, they make an even bigger mess and reveal for all their true intentions:

Eisav’s hatred and Amalek’s are not purely genealogical. The actual nation of Amalek does not exist today. I was not making a claim that today’s Arabs are Amalek. I said that their hatred of Israel and the Jews is Amalek-like in character. I was not suggesting that we attack Arabs, as they attack us. I was urging caution and diligence to the situation we are in.

Read and re-read the quote above until it starts to sink in and makes sense. This is their “clever” way of trying to deny the obvious. The only logical conclusion is that they think all Arabs are amalek… even if they use weasel-words to obfuscate the issue. For if in their view, Arabs/Muslims are behaving in an “amalek-like” way, then you’d still have to deal with them as if they were amalek. The story this judas relates, is the one of Esau and Jacob… how it endures generation after generation.

We, the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, should not have to watch every bulldozer that passes us in the street, wondering if it is going to swerve and hit us. We should not have to avoid crowded bus stops or supermarkets that serve a wide range of customers. Our children should not have nightmares or get nervous every time a siren sounds. And the list goes on and on.

Actually it does, for at least 2 reasons. The foremost is that you have invaded a land which is not yours and the legal residents have a right to fight back. This isn’t even mentioning that God Himself has forbidden you to have a nation of your own. Those who steal and murder, should expect resistance.

2nd,  you are lucky to be allowed to live on this Earth at all… God has exiled you permanently… which is extremely lenient given your nature. Instead of this being a humbling experience, you are ever more arrogant and stiff-necked. You have destroyed nation upon nation and countless lives… there is no torment enough on Earth for your transgressions. Vengeance is God’s but we will do our part to make sure justice is done.

Times Of Israel

Firstly, let me thank Times of Israel and its ops & blogs editor for inviting this op-ed in response to a blog post from the other day.

Secondly, let me make it clear — as is stated on page 3 of every issue of Torah Tidbits — that OU Israel and Torah Tidbits do not endorse the political or halachic positions of its editor, columnists, or advertisers…

Thirdly, the editor referred to in the previous paragraph is I, Phil Chernofsky. Aside from Sedra Stats, the Sedra Summary, Word of the Month, Towards Better Davening and Torah Reading, TTriddles, ParshaPix, and various other parts of Torah Tidbits, I write the Lead Tidbit, which is often (though not always) like an editorial or an op-ed piece.

This includes the Lead Tidbit of TT1114, Parshat Vayishlach, which was entitled HALACHA B’YADU’A… (roughly translated as, ‘IT IS A FACT OF JEWISH LIFE’) — which was the subject and focus of the blog.

I wrote that piece and I am solely responsible for its content. Neither OU Israel nor the Orthodox Union in New York approved it, or even saw it in advance of publication.

When an Arab goes on a suicide drive-by of the light rail and kills a 3 month old baby whose parents had waited an agonizing 13 years to be blessed with, then we have a manifestation of hatred of the Jewish people by an Arab.

When (as reported by the Times of Israel) 80% of the Arabs in Israel favor such ‘lone wolf attacks’, then we have an even greater manifestation of hatred of the people of Israel.

We, the Jewish People in the Land of Israel, should not have to watch every bulldozer that passes us in the street, wondering if it is going to swerve and hit us. We should not have to avoid crowded bus stops or supermarkets that serve a wide range of customers. Our children should not have nightmares or get nervous every time a siren sounds. And the list goes on and on.

So far, we are dealing with current events. But, as I attempted to point out, we have a long, long history of such anti-Jewish, anti-Israel behavior. And I’m not just referring to the history of the last number of decades. I was connecting it to the turmoil that Rivka Imeinu felt during her pregnancy with Yaakov and Eisav, to the events that followed during their lifetime, and to the behavior of Eisav’s grandson and the nation he founded — Amalek.

As I wrote in that Lead Tidbit — It is a Law (fact) of Jewish Life, that Eisav hates Yaakov.

Further in the Torah, G-d states that the threats and battles from Amalek will be with us from one generation to the next.

Eisav’s hatred and Amalek’s are not purely genealogical. The actual nation of Amalek does not exist today. I was not making a claim that today’s Arabs are Amalek. I said that their hatred of Israel and the Jews is Amalek-like in character. I was not suggesting that we attack Arabs, as they attack us. I was urging caution and diligence to the situation we are in.

It is not racism to be leery or suspicious of Arabs. It would be racism to hold accountable and punish one Arab for what another Arab does or did. Not at all what I had in mind and not at all what I wrote.

I’ll repeat: The hatred that is being taught in many Arab schools, and has been taught for many years; the hatred preached in sermons in many Mosques; the call for violence and ‘days of rage’ by Arab leaders; the rockets, mortars, shootings, stabbings, hacking… even rock-throwing – all display the EISAV HATES YAAKOV scenario.

All of them? Certainly not. But way too high a percentage to ignore as fanatic extremists.

Here’s an interesting point I did not write about: Back in the days when there was a distinct Amalek nation, if an Amalekite wanted to convert to Judaism, he could be accepted — provided that he had never fought against Israel.

Non-Jews, including Arabs and Moslems are halachically welcome to live in Eretz Yisrael, provided they do so in peace and abide by the Laws of the Land. Acts of violence and hatred should not be tolerated.

I repeat — a person or people who desire to harm or kill Jews are the spiritual heirs of Eisav and Amalek.

Rather the Arabs should emulate the ancestor from whom they claim to descend. Yishmael, says our Tradition, repented his ways in his later years. Eisav and Amalek did not.

I do not incite against Arabs, cautiously, codedly, or otherwise. I do condemn the hatred and violence, not the people.

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U.S. to Restore Full Relations With Cuba, Erasing a Last Trace of Cold War Hostility



WASHINGTON — President Obama on Wednesday ordered the restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba and the opening of an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century as he vowed to “cut loose the shackles of the past” and sweep aside one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.

The surprise announcement came at the end of 18 months of secret talks that produced a prisoner swap negotiated with the help of Pope Francis and concluded by a telephone call between Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro. The historic deal broke an enduring stalemate between two countries divided by just 90 miles of water but oceans of mistrust and hostility dating from the days of Theodore Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill and the nuclear brinkmanship of the Cuban missile crisis.


Obama on Change to U.S.-Cuba Relations

Obama on Change to U.S.-Cuba Relations

The president outlined the steps the United States would take to “end an outdated approach” and begin to normalize relations with Cuba.

Video by AP on Publish DateDecember 17, 2014. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times.

In doing so, Mr. Obama ventured into diplomatic territory where the last 10 presidents refused to go, and Republicans, along with a senior Democrat, quickly characterized the rapprochement with the Castro family as appeasement of the hemisphere’s leading dictatorship. Republican lawmakers who will take control of the Senate as well as the House next month made clear they would resist lifting the 54-year-old trade embargo.

“This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie, the lie and the illusion that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people,” said Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida and son of Cuban immigrants. “All this is going to do is give the Castro regime, which controls every aspect of Cuban life, the opportunity to manipulate these changes to perpetuate itself in power.”

For good or ill, the move represented a dramatic turning point in relations with an island that for generations has captivated and vexed its giant northern neighbor. From the 18th century, when successive presidents coveted it, Cuba loomed large in the American imagination long before Fidel Castro stormed from the mountains and seized power in 1959.

Mr. Castro’s alliance with the Soviet Union made Cuba a geopolitical flash point in a global struggle of ideology and power. President Dwight D. Eisenhower imposed the first trade embargo in 1960 and broke off diplomatic relations in January 1961, just weeks before leaving office and seven months before Mr. Obama was born. Under President John F. Kennedy, the failed Bay of Pigs operation aimed at toppling Mr. Castro in April 1961 and the 13-day showdown over Soviet missiles installed in Cuba the following year cemented its status as a ground zero in the Cold War.


Students celebrated in Havana after news that Washington had released three Cuban spies in a prisoner exchange. CreditRoberto Morejon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

But the relationship remained frozen in time long after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, a thorn in the side of multiple presidents who waited for Mr. Castro’s demise and experienced false hope when he passed power to his brother, Raúl. Even as the United States built relations with Communist nations like China and Vietnam, Cuba remained one of just a few nations, along with Iran and North Korea, that had no formal ties with Washington.

Mr. Obama has long expressed hope of transforming relations with Cuba and relaxed some travel restrictions in 2011. But further moves remained untenable as long as Cuba held Alan P. Gross, an American government contractor arrested in 2009 and sentenced to 15 years in a Cuban prison for trying to deliver satellite telephone equipment capable of cloaking connections to the Internet.

After winning re-election, Mr. Obama resolved to make Cuba a priority for his second term and authorized secret negotiations led by two aides, Benjamin J. Rhodes and Ricardo Zúñiga, who conducted nine meetings with Cuban counterparts starting in June 2013, most of them in Canada, which has ties with Havana.

Pope Francis encouraged the talks with letters to Mr. Obama and Mr. Castro and had the Vatican host a meeting in October to finalize the terms of the deal. Mr. Obama spoke with Mr. Castro by telephone on Tuesday to seal the agreement in a call that lasted more than 45 minutes, the first direct substantive contact between the leaders of the two countries in more than 50 years.

How America’s Relationship With Cuba Will Change

Which travel and trade restrictions will be eased or eliminated.


On Wednesday morning, Mr. Gross walked out of a Cuban prison and boarded an American military plane that flew him to Washington, accompanied by his wife, Judy. While eating a corned beef sandwich on rye bread with mustard during the flight, Mr. Gross received a call from Mr. Obama. “He’s back where he belongs, in America with his family, home forHanukkah,” Mr. Obama said later.

For its part, the United States sent back three imprisoned Cuban spies who were caught in 1998 and had become a cause célèbre for the Havana government. They were swapped for Rolando Sarraff Trujillo, a Cuban who had worked as an agent for American intelligence and had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years, according to a senior American official. Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap, officials said, but was released separately on “humanitarian grounds,” a distinction critics found unpersuasive.

The United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking, while Cuba will allow more Internet access and release 53 Cubans identified as political prisoners by the United States. Although the embargo will remain in place, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it, which would require an act of Congress.

Mr. Castro spoke simultaneously on Cuban television, taking to the airwaves with no introduction and announcing that he had spoken by telephone with Mr. Obama on Tuesday.

Pope Francis played a vital role in the rapprochement. CreditFranco Origlia/Getty Images

“We have been able to make headway in the solution of some topics of mutual interest for both nations,” he declared, emphasizing the release of the three Cubans. “President Obama’s decision deserves the respect and acknowledgment of our people.”y

Only afterward did Mr. Castro mention the reopening of diplomatic relations. “This in no way means that the heart of the matter has been resolved,” he said. “The economic, commercial and financial blockade, which causes enormous human and economic damages to our country, must cease.” But, he added, “the progress made in our exchanges proves that it is possible to find solutions to many problems.”

Mr. Obama is gambling that restoring ties with Cuba may no longer be politically unthinkable with the generational shift among Cuban-Americans, where many younger children of exiles are open to change. Nearly six in 10 Americans support re-establishing relations with Cuba, according to a New York Times poll conducted in October. Mr. Obama’s move had the support of the Catholic Church, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Human Rights Watch and major agricultural interests.

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Why Hamas should not heed calls to amend charter


Flag of Hamas.svg

By Ibrahim Al-Madhoun

Al Resalah 

The Hamas Charter is considered by the movement’s supporters as a key and stand-alone historical document pertaining to Hamas’s political and social ideology. In the event that this document is altered or amended, it would cause a state of undue and untimely confusion and tension within the ranks of the Hamas supporters. It would also be seen as a concession to international and Israeli pressures, even if the changes made to the charter were not substantial or even if the new charter was more extreme in crucial issues such as the recognition of Israel or dealing with international proposals. As long as such amendments form part of international demand or foreign advice, then any response to these demands will be seen as a concession and a weakness in the eyes of both Hamas’s supporters and the movement’s political opposition. It will also send a message to international forces that soft pressure on the movement actually works.

In addition to this, no amendment to the charter would sufficiently please the international community beyond altering the core of the Hamas’s political thought. No changes to the charter would satisfy Western forces unless they explicitly recognise the two-state solution and clearly accept the legitimacy of the continued existence of the Israeli state on Palestinian territories, while shunning the Palestinian national struggle in all its forms. From a strategic regional and international perspective, unless making concessions to these specific points there is no point in changing the charter, as such change may ultimately crack the intellectual infrastructure of Hamas and cause severe repercussions affecting its survival.

Palestinians still remember Fatah’s ill-fated political acquiescence, particularly the amendment of the organisation’s charter under the supervision of Yasser Arafat in 1996 to appease Bill Clinton. Although Fatah changed the PLO Charter under US pressure, it did not reap the fruits of this change and it ultimately did not serve the Palestinian cause. Instead, it caused disappointment and decline; a fate which may well befall Hamas if it makes the same mistake.

Although it may be true that some of Hamas’s positions need to be clarified, the best way to do this would not be to change the existing charter but to issue a new document explaining the movement’s strategic vision over a specified period of time. However, this document must be clear and understandable, devoid of any extra words and without any dense literary jargon. It must be focused on the clear political matters at hand and keep pace with social and political developments in the Palestinian arena, allowing for changes over the next five to ten years.

All political entities have their literatures and philosophies that serve to carry and propagate their core values and that cannot be altered; they must remain as a foundation stone and intellectual inheritance for all new recruits. Such entities can later be developed through practice, conflict, and building relationships, but their core values always remain the same. No one truly believes that changes to Hamas’s charter would bring respect, acceptance and understanding from the international community. This community only understands the language of power and force through the ability to raise some voices and silence others. And Hamas must not allow itself to be covertly silenced in such a way.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, GazaComments Off on Why Hamas should not heed calls to amend charter

Journalist Faces Sentencing Today


Daring to Investigate Government Insiders

By Andrew Meyer | PINAC 

Barrett Brown faces eight and a half years in prison today for the crime of being a journalist. For any U.S. media outlet that claims to practice journalism, this story should be front page news.

Officially, Brown is charged with three crimes: (1) transmitting a threat in interstate commerce, (2) obstructing the execution of a search warrant, and (3) being an accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access to a protected computer.

Unofficially, Brown is being prosecuted for founding Project PM, a WikiLeaks-like website which dares to investigate “the intelligence contracting industry, the PR industry’s interface with totalitarian regimes, the mushrooming infosec/’cybersecurity’ industry, and other issues constituting threats to human rights, civic transparency, individual privacy, and the health of democratic institutions.”

On March 6, 2012, FBI agent Robert Smith raided Brown’s apartment and Brown’s mother’s house, supposedly looking for information on the hack of intelligence firm HBGary. Agent Smith took away Brown’s computers, which contained Brown’s research into contractors who spy or conduct information warfare on behalf of government and corporate clients.

Following the raid, Barrett Brown faced 100 years in prison for sharing a link on the leaked Stratfor emails, emails which revealed that Stratfor (called the “shadow CIA” by some) had allegedly partnered with a former Goldman Sachs director and other informants in order to profit from insider trading, among other dirty laundry. After prosecutors dropped the 11 charges related to Brown’s sharing a link, the only “crimes” the government had left to charge Brown with resulted from the raid on Brown’s apartment, where Brown allegedly hid his own laptops (aka obstructing the execution of a search warrant) and tried to protect Jeremy Hammond , now in prison for hacking Stratfor, from getting caught (being an accessory after the fact to an unauthorized access to a protected computer). As the FBI held on to his computers, Brown posted a pissed-off YouTube video lashing out at Agent Smith (transmitting a threat in interstate commerce).

While the government would argue that Brown is not being politically prosecuted, the government has taken many actions that say otherwise. Beyond seeking 100 years of jail time for Brown, the government has prosecuted Brown’s mother for obstruction (resulting in six months probation and a $1,000 fine), tried to seize Brown’s legal defense fund, obtained a gag order preventing Brown from speaking about his own case, tried to identify contributors to the website where Brown and others researched links between intelligence companies and governments, and argued that Brown seeks to overthrow the U.S. government.

For anyone horrified that the government would equate researching intelligence companies with trying to overthrow the government, today’s sentencing of Barrett Brown is a major event. Barrett Brown has already spent two years in prison for daring to be a real journalist.

The question now is, how much longer will the First Amendment be locked in a jail cell?

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