Archive | March 17th, 2015

Saudi woman sentenced to 70 lashes for insulting man on Whatsapp

Article Three of the Saudi Anti-Cyber Crime Law states that whoever defames or inflicts damage upon others through various information technology devices "shall be subject to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding SR500,000 or to either punishment." — AFP/File
Article Three of the Saudi Anti-Cyber Crime Law states that whoever defames or inflicts damage
upon others through various information technology devices “shall be subject to imprisonment for
a period not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding SR500,000 or to either punishment.”

Zio-Wahhabi  court in on Tuesday sentenced a woman to 70 lashes and a fine of 20,000 Saudi Riyals (SR) for insulting a man on instant-messaging application WhatsApp, said a report published on Gulf News.

According to a source at the criminal court in Al Qatif, the court announced the verdict after it transpired that the 32-year-old woman was guilty of tarnishing the reputation of the plaintiff on WhatsApp, local daily Okaz has reported on Monday.

The complainant filed the suit after an argument with the woman. The source did not disclose the nature of the disagreement between the two; however, the defendant admitted she had insulted the man but reportedly rejected the court ruling.

Article Three of the Zio-Wahhabi Anti-Cyber Crime Law states that whoever defames or inflicts damage upon others through various information technology devices “shall be subject to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding SR500,000 or to either punishment.”

In another incident in July 2014, two women in Jeddah were sentenced to 20 lashes and 10 days in jail for insulting each other on WhatsApp.

The case reached court after one of the women sued the other for allegedly slandering her reputation and insulting her. The judge had issued the verdict after viewing the exchange of messages between the two women who are reportedly cousins.

The judge had sought to end the strife between the two cousins, however neither wanted to apologise.

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Four Numbers that Show the Beating Down of Middle America


(Photo: Chris Devers/flickr/cc)

There’s something perversely wrong with a society that creates $30 trillion in new wealth while putting six million more children on food stamps.

The mainstream media rarely publishes facts like this. The super-rich keep building up their own numbers, as quietly as possible. And our leading members of Congress have little need for numbers, except for budget cuts and the strings of zeros at the end of their campaign contributions.

But numbers have the power to reveal the dramatic fall of the middle class over the past 35 years.

1. 138,000 Kids Were Homeless while 115,000 Households Were Each Making $10 Million Per Year 

Recent data has shown that the richest .1% (115,000 households) have each increased their wealth by an astonishing $10 million per year. As they counted their money on a frigid night in January, 138,000 children, according to the U.S. Department of Housing, were without a place to call home.

2. The Average U.S. Household Pays $400 to Feed and Clothe Walmart, McDonalds, and Other Low-Wage Workers 

The Economic Policy Institute reports that $45 billion per year in federal, state, and other safety net support is paid to workers earning less than $10.10 an hour. Thus the average U.S. household is paying about $400 to employees in low-wage industries such as food service, retail, and personal care.

Walmart’s well-advertised $1 raise will cost the company about $1 billion a year. Its profits last year were about $25 billion.

The sordid tale gets even worse, as told by a PBS report: Walmart has spent about $6.5 billion per year on stock buybacks to enrich investors, approximately the same total annual amount billed to taxpayers for food stamps, Medicaid, housing, and other safety net programs for the company’s underpaid employees.

3. As $30 Trillion in New Wealth was being Created, the Number of Kids on Food Stamps Increased 70%

Before the recession, 12 out of every 100 American children got food stamps. After the recession, 20 out of every 100 American children got food stamps.

That’s nearly a 70 percent increase, from 9.5 million kids in 2007 to 16 million kids in 2014, at the same time that U.S. wealth was growing by over $30 trillion. Even with that incomprehensible increase in wealth our nation was not able to ensure food security for millions of its most vulnerable citizens.

4. Despite the Decline in Food Security, the Food Stamp Program was Cut by $8.6 Billion and the Money Paid to Corporate Agriculture 

As more and more children go hungry, the largest agricultural firms continue to take taxpayer money to supplement their billions in profits. The 2014 farm bill cut $8.6 billion (over the next ten years) from the food stamp program, of which nearly half of all participants are children. Meanwhile, $14 billion is annually paid out to the largest 10 percent of farm operators.

Beaten Up, Broken Down 

The mainstream media highlights the resurgent economy, the booming stock market, and the drop in unemployment. But the stock market has enriched only about ten percent of America, handing them millions of dollars since the recession, while the newly available jobs are well below the skill levels of college-trained adults and often without health care and retirement benefits. Too many once-prosperous Americans are beaten up and broken down, waiting in vain for our elected leaders to stop the redistribution of our national wealth.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses’ silencing techniques


As Terrifying as child abuse

Elders in my congregation knew that there was a predator in our midst. But they threatened to punish those who spoke out

 Candace Conti as a child. Photograph: Candace Conti

Candace Conti was the first child sexual abuse victim to win a jury trial against Watchtower

Growing up in a Jehovah’s Witness family is different. As a child, I didn’t celebrate birthdays, Christmas or July 4. Nor did I, or anyone I knew, mix with non-Witness families in Little League or Girl Scouts. Instead, I spent much of my time sharing the “good news.” I used to go door-to-door on my own with a big, strong, well liked man in my congregation, named Jonathan. I was just 9 and 10 when he repeatedly sexually abused me.

It is really hard for kids to speak up when they’re abused. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses make it a lot harder.

They have a “2 Witness” rule, which says that anyone who accuses an adult of abuse must have a second witness. If there is no second witness, the accuser is punished for a false accusation – usually by ordering that no Witness may talk with or associate with the “false” accuser. This is called dis-fellowshipping. For a kid raised only with other Witnesses, it was horrifying. Even your parents would have to ignore you. It was more terrifying than Jonathan.

It was the elders of my congregation who had assigned Jonathan to team up with me. When we separated from the others, he forced me into his pick-up truck and drove us to his house. Then he would say “Let’s play”. It happened too many times. Like everyone else in the congregation, my parents liked “Brother” Jonathan and trusted him in our family.

My parents were consumed with some really huge problems in those years, and later divorced. I was emotionally alone – and wanted to be the best Jehovah’s Witness I could be. That’s why I went out to field service – the door to door ministry that Witnesses are known for.

What my parents didn’t know, was that Jonathan had sexually molested another girl in our congregation. The elders knew this and had kept it a secret. They were following orders from Watchtower leaders, based in the world headquarters in New York, who in 1989 had issued a top-secret instruction to keep known child sex abusers in the congregations a secret. This instruction became Exhibit 1 at my civil trial.

The elders and the Governing Body all knew that child molesters hide in religious groups and often are people who are likeable and friendly – like Jonathan. They knew molesters would likely do it again. But they chose to ignore the safety of the kids, in favor of protecting their image – and their bank account – from lawsuits. It was all in that 1989 letter.

A recent report by the Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that they have continued to issues directives urging silence around child abuse. Last November, elders were instructed to avoid taking criminal matters like child abuse to the authorities. Instead, they were told to handle them internally in confidential committees. The report also showed that Jehovah’s Witnesses evoke the First Amendment to hide sex abuse claims.

It took me learning about Jonathan’s other victims for me to speak up. In 2009, I looked on California’s Megan’s Law website, the state’s official list of registered sex offenders. There, I found he had been convicted a few years before for sexually abusing another 8-year-old girl. I felt horribly guilty that I hadn’t spoken up about him earlier. Now, I need to stop predators from doing this again.

The only way to end this abuse is by lifting this veil of secrecy once and for all.

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How Thatcher’s Government Covered Up a VIP Pedophile Ring


Image result for Thatcher’ PHOTO

Now that most of the major figures are dead, the truth is emerging about the systematic sexual abuse of children by members of the British government.
LONDON — A newspaper editor was handed startling evidence that Britain’s top law enforcement official knew there was a VIP pedophile network in Westminster, at the heart of the British government. What happened next in the summer of 1984 helps to explain how shocking allegations of rape and murder against some of the country’s most powerful men went unchecked for decades.Less than 24 hours after starting to inquire about the dossier presented to him by a senior Labour Party politician, the editor was confronted in his office by a furious member of parliament who threatened him and demanded the documents. “He was frothing at the mouth and really shouting and spitting in my face,” Don Hale told The Daily Beast. “He was straight at me like a raging lion; he was ready to knock me through the wall.”

Despite the MP’s explosive intervention, Hale refused to hand over the papers which appeared to show that Leon Brittan, Margaret Thatcher’s Home Secretary, was fully aware of a pedophile network that included top politicians.

The editor’s resistance was futile; the following morning, police officers from the counter-terror and intelligence unit known as Special Branch burst into the newspaper office, seized the material and threatened to have Hale arrested if he ever reported what had been found.

More than 30 years later, an inquiry into allegations of child sex abuse rings, murder, and cover-ups has been launched by the British government after Scotland Yard detectives said they believed statements by victims who claimed they were systematically abused as young boys at sex abuse parties attended by judges, politicians, intelligence officers, and staff at the royal palaces.

In 1983, a controversial MP, Geoffrey Dickens, had made a series of incendiary claims about active pedophiles in the corridors of power. He handed a file containing the names of alleged perpetrators to Leon Brittan; publicly the authorities shrugged off the claims and no trial or prosecution would follow. The dossier mysteriously disappeared.

More than 30 years later, an inquiry into allegations of child sex abuse rings, murder, and cover-ups has been launched by the British government.

Decades later, Brittan claimed he had simply handed the papers to his subordinates to investigate and heard no more about it. Last year, he was forced to clarify his statement when it emerged that he had later written to Dickens to say the initial investigation had been deemed “worth pursuing” by investigators.

It is now claimed that confidential Home Office papers collated by Baroness Castle of Blackburn and passed to Don Hale, editor of her local newspaper, the Bury Messenger, claimed that Brittan had played an active role in overseeing the investigation into the pedophile network. “Leon Brittan was mentioned in everything you picked up, his fingerprints were over everything, he was the instigator,” Hale said. “He really had his finger on the pulse, he wanted to know everything about it; all the documents were cc’d back to Leon Brittan or it was an instruction directly from Leon Brittan.”

Brittan, a protégé of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, had been promoted to Home Secretary at the age of 43, making him the youngest person to preside over Britain’s domestic law enforcement and national security apparatus since Winston Churchill before the First World War.

Brittan, who died in January, has been accused of raping a woman and sexually abusing boys. He denied the allegations and was never charged, although police investigations have continued after his death.

Baroness Castle, then Barbara Castle, a Labour member of the European parliament, told Hale she did not trust Brittan to investigate the allegations thoroughly. “Barbara never said he was a pedophile, she was just very, very hostile about him. ‘He’s the last person you want this to go to,’ she said, which inferred that he was somehow involved,” Hale explained.

Worried about the integrity of the Home Office investigation, Castle had tried to interest the major newspapers in the classified documents but she turned to Hale when they rejected her overtures. “She was saying, ‘I’ve been everywhere else, I’ve been to the nationals, nobody would touch it with a barge pole, but what do you think?’” Hale recalled. “As a journalist of course I was interested.”

Great Britain’s notoriously tough libel laws insured that obviously he couldn’t repeat the allegations included in the Home Office papers that about 16 MPs and members of the House of Lords, and 30 high-profile figures from the Church of England, private schools, and big business, were members of, and advocates for, the Paedophile Information Exchange. The shadowy group, which operated partly in the open, campaigned for the age of consent to be abolished and incest to be legalized. It also allowed pedophiles to send each other secure mail and to meet in person.

Instead, Hale planned to run a story explaining that the Home Office was actively investigating these men and repeat some of the concerns voiced to him by Castle, who died in 2002. He set about contacting some of the men named in the papers, and the Home Office, for their response. The very next morning he was surprised to see the 400-pound figure of Cyril Smith, the Liberal Party MP for nearby Rochdale, arrive at the office. “I’d interviewed him probably four times, and when he came in I was like, ‘Oh, hello, Cyril.’ And he was, ‘Never mind all that.’ And he was straight at me,” Hale said.

“He said to me quite clearly, ‘I know who’s given you this, it’s Barbara Castle.’ I wouldn’t say who it was, but it was pretty obvious he knew. He’s a hell of a sized guy, he’s over six feet tall and he’s huge; took up three seats. He’s not a guy you could deal with easily, he was a horror.”

Hale managed to stonewall Smith but the following morning, he had more visitors. “That’s when Special Branch turned up,” he said.

Three vehicles pulled up to the newspaper offices and about 15 men barged inside. Two pushed him up against a wall and brandished a search warrant and something they described as a “D-notice.” The D-notice system was established in 1912 and was supposed to be used on very rare occasions when national security could be threatened by a news story.

The rest of the men were searching for the files, which they described as stolen, confidential Home Office papers. “These bully boys come storming in, they said, ‘We’re not here to negotiate. Hand them over or we’ll arrest you now.’ I couldn’t argue, because as soon as you opened the files it had got ‘Not to be removed’, ‘Confidential’ and ‘For your eyes only’—all these sort of things on them. I wouldn’t have had a hope in hell legally. I would have ended up in prison and the story would have gone nowhere,” he said.

The story went nowhere for a generation.

A new breed of backbench politician began to reopen these issues in the last couple of years. Simon Danczuk, MP for Rochdale since 2010, focused on one of his parliamentary predecessors. In a book published last year, he revealed that Sir Cyril Smith, the man who “had steam coming out of his ears” as he remonstrated with Don Hale, was himself allegedly a predatory pedophile with more than 140 complaints filed against him. Throughout his life he had been protected from prosecution.

Among the retired police officers Danczuk interviewed, one recalled the time Special Branch officers forbade them from asking a victim about Smith. Others remembered the day Smith was allowed to walk out of a police station without charge despite indecent images being found in his car after an unexplained telephone call from London.

It wasn’t just Special Branch that seemed keen to keep MPs out of the clutches of the law. In a candid interview for the BBC in 1995, Tim Fortescue, a former Conservative Party chief whip, described the grubby calculations routinely applied within elite political circles:

“Anyone with any sense who was in trouble would come to the whips and tell them the truth, and say now, ‘I’m in a jam, can you help?’ It might be debt, it might be a scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal which a member seemed likely to be mixed up in, they’d come and ask if we could help. And if we could, we did. We would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points. That sounds a pretty nasty reason but one of the reasons is, if we can get a chap out of trouble, he’ll do as we ask forever more.”

Fortescue’s callous words could have come directly from the script of House of Cards, the original British version of which was first broadcast in 1990.

There is growing evidence that MI5 and MI6, Britain’s security services, took a similar view. MI5 is alleged to have repeatedly blocked investigations into a sex abuse ring at the Kincora children’s home in Northern Ireland in order to protect its intelligence-gathering operation.

The longtime deputy director of MI6, and former High Commissioner in Canada, Peter Hayman was himself allegedly a pedophile, and was ultimately named as such in parliament by Geoffrey Dickens. Hayman had been caught with explicit material in 1978 but no charge was brought. Secret files discovered at the National Archives this year revealed that the attorney general at the time believed it wasn’t in the public interest for Hayman to be prosecuted. Prime Minister Thatcher ordered his depravity to be concealed from the public.

Thatcher must also have known about the allegations against her Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, because 1984’s most explosive gossip had appeared on the pages of the scurrilous Private Eye newspaper. Her bodyguard Barry Strevens now says he personally warned her that another of her most trusted lieutenants, Sir Peter Morrison, had also abused underage boys. She appointed Morrison to run her 1990 re-election campaign regardless.

Time and again crimes were reported but voices from above silenced the complaints before they came to court. Carl, who does not wish to give his second name, told The Daily Beast that this culture of secrecy, which had apparently paralyzed the British legal system, helped to scare off victims who wanted to report their powerful abusers.

Carl was abused by a pedophile ring from the age of 7, and the emotional and physical torture went on for nine years. Some of his attackers, he says, were men with influence and authority. “The authority is not what stops people from speaking out, it’s the fear that is instilled by these people,” he said. “It appears the cover-ups did happen and it makes survivors very wary because you don’t know who you can have confidence in to report.”

One of the people who dedicated their lives to amplifying the voices of the victims, trying to ensure the powerful would be held to account, was Liz Davies. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, she was a social worker in Islington, North London, with an unusual problem: Teenage boys, usually so reluctant to seek help, would line up outside her office on Hornsey Road waiting to come inside.

She would later discover that the international office of the Paedophile Information Exchange was just a few hundred yards from her desk, and her patch was home to a host of prolific child attackers linked into a network of powerful abuse rings that stretched from Westminster to Northern Ireland, Wales, and the island of Jersey in the Channel.

In 1990, she raised concerns at a local council meeting that a large number of boys in the area were showing signs of abuse. She claimed that Margaret Hodge, then leader of Islington council and later the Minister for Children under Tony Blair, ignored her warnings. It was 2014 before Hodge would apologize for her “shameful naivety in failing to properly investigate the claims of abuse. She is now chair of the Public Accounts Committee, which is responsible for oversight of all government spending.

Determined to continue her own investigation into the abuse, Davies began working with a colleague in the police force to gather more evidence. “We started interviewing a lot of the boys. With this being a small area, I knew them, I knew their families, I’d helped their parents, so I wasn’t seen as a bad person,” she told The Daily Beast. “They didn’t like the police because they were always nicking them for things but I would get them to speak to the police officer.”

They started putting maps up around the office, linking the boys, listing those affected and those suspected of abusing them. “We were breaking a lot of ground,” she said.

Then came a call from the regional headquarters. Davies and her boss, and her police counterpart and his boss were summoned for a meeting. “We were both told to drop all our investigations, that we had no evidence and we had no right to be interviewing the boys,” she said.

It was a heartbreaking moment, but this mini-abuse fighting team vowed to continue their work. “We made an agreement that we would carry on under the radar and that’s what we did,” she said.

In 1991, their investigations led to the conviction of a fire official called Roy Caterer. When police officers raided his home they found exactly what her boys had described, along with albums and albums of indecent photos.

Davies thought her work would finally be taken seriously by the authorities; she was wrong.

She had amassed evidence of abuse perpetrated against 61 victims, but she claims council officials continued to tell her to stop causing trouble. A year later she finally quit social services when she says she discovered that the boys she had been trying to save were being sent back into the Islington care home system only to suffer yet more sexual abuse. “I was networking these children into another network which was running within the care homes. I was handing over the most vulnerable, sexually exploited children to more pedophiles,” she said. “I have to live with that.”

Davies took a suitcase stuffed with evidence, including graphic photographs, to the Metropolitan Police. She said the well-intentioned superintendent looked at her haul and mournfully confessed that powerful figures still controlled what might be exposed. “I won’t be able to investigate here at Scotland Yard,” he said.

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UK: Establishment child abuse


Council staff feared civil servant was murdered for planning to expose colleagues, report claims

Staff reportedly feared a civil servant was killed as a possible outcome for anyone who ‘asked too many questions’

Police investigating a historic sex abuse ring in Westminster are attempting to uncover whether a man was murdered in the Nineties because he planned to expose child abuse at a London council.

An unpublished internal investigation into abuse by staff within Lambeth council seen by Sky News reveals claims that a civil servant was planning to expose how council property was used to carry out sexual assaults.

Bulic Forsythe was beaten to death at his flat in 1993 after he reportedly told a colleague that he knew about a sex ring operating at children’s homes.

The case featured on a Crimewatch reconstruction, in which police appealed for help in tracking down three smartly dressed men who left the flat the day after the murder, but the case remains unsolved.

The report alleges that Forsythe died three days after he told a colleague he planned to report members of staff, and it was feared he was killed as a possible outcome for anyone who “asked too many questions.”

Other shocking allegations detailed in the document include senior Lambeth civil servants using council premises to carry out rapes, with one female staff member claiming she was raped alongside children and animals by senior council staff.

Although the report recommends a criminal investigation, its findings were not formally investigated by police at the time, but culprits were dismissed from their posts.

Detective Inspector Sean Crotty told Sky News: “This report provides the context to people who were abused in Lambeth.

“What we need is for people who were children at the time and who were abused to come forward.”

A council spokesman said: “Lambeth council has been supporting Operation Trinity – Scotland Yard’s investigation into historic abuse cases in the borough. This is a renewed police investigation which opened in November 2012.

“Council officers have been working closely with specialist police investigators and providing documents requested to support their work. This investigation is ongoing and several people have been charged.

“Lambeth council is determined to do all that we can to support this renewed push to tackle the issue, and ensure that offenders who had previously escaped justice are now held to account.”

The revelations come after Labour MP John Mann last year called on police to investigate the suspicious deaths of Forsythe and an unnamed whistleblower who was said to have obtained videos of child sex “parties”.

Last month, Theresa May’s tumultuous search for a judge to head an investigation into historic sex abuse in the British Establishment saw her appoint Justice Lowell Goddard, who sits in the New Zealand high court and will be given tough new powers to force witnesses to appear.

The Home Secretary’s previous choices were forced to resign over concerns with their links to establishment figures.

The inquiry was announced last summer in the wake of a series of child-abuse scandals and claims a paedophile ring operated at Westminster in the 1980s. It will also delve into sex abuse allegations dating before 1970, with Justice Goddard compelling witnesses to appear and hand over relevant documents.

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What Do Zionist Voters Say About Gaza? Not A Lot

With media fixated on where Netanyahu falls in the polls, you don’t hear much about last summer’s war that left more than 2,100 Gazans dead.

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The first election in Israel since Operation Protective Edge will take place on March 17.

But while media has made much of the fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party is behind in the polls, one thing you don’t hear much about is the 51-day war last summer, which left more than 2,100 Gazans dead.

The war sparked an international outcry as the death toll rose and rose. Meanwhile, as Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza launched rockets at Israel, domestic support for the campaign grew ever stronger.

Seven months later, large swathes of the Gaza Strip still look as though an earthquake hit days before.

Yet across the border in Israel, with election campaigns in full swing, the war — Israel’s longest and by far its most violent with Gaza — is hardly mentioned.

Candidates at times use Gaza to snipe at one another and impugn one another’s security records. The right frequently implies that if the left-wing Zionist Union — a fusion of Israel’s once-dominant Labour party with the centrist HaTnuah led by Tzipi Livni — comes to power, they will be soft on Gaza, despite Livni’s hawkish record on the issue.

“If they are elected, who will take care of Hamas and the Islamic State?” said Netanyahu at a meeting with his Likud party in January.

But for normal Israelis, the situation in Gaza seems far off.

“Nobody cares,” said Erez Lewin, 53. “Most of the people in Israel feel like we can’t change anything in Gaza and we just have to live with it. Not everything has a solution.

Even for those who can picture a solution to the peace process, Gaza can be out of sight, out of mind.

Andy Kohlenberg, who works in publishing and moved from the US to Israel in the 1980s, identified peace with the Palestinians as his top voting priority. But for him, Gaza has nothing to do with an eventual solution to the conflict.

“When I think about a one-state solution, I don’t think about Gaza,” says Kohlenberg.

Since Israel withdrew from the territory in 2005, some Israelis suggest that Gaza is no longer Israel’s problem.

“Gaza is already out,” he says, “ask the president of Egypt. I don’t think it’s Israel’s responsibility,” he added, before reminiscing about a hotel he used to stay at when the Gaza Strip was under Israeli control. “I’ll never be able to go back.”

However, since Islamist group was democratically elected and then seized full control by force in 2007, Israel has enforced a heavy land, air and sea blockade on the territory. Leaving has become extremely difficult for Gazans, particularly since the border with Egypt is mostly sealed. Everyday items as well as construction materials, crucial now for rebuilding, are not allowed in and rarely come in illegally anymore as Egypt has cracked down on an intricate network of tunnels connecting the two countries.

Others say this summer’s offensive did not go far enough.

“It was not hard enough,” says Eran Bayajo, 27, “because now Hamas is building the tunnels again. We did nothing after all. You don’t want them to have the power to hurt you.”

Voters across the political spectrum say they have no choice regarding Israel’s policies in Gaza.

On the left, many are more concerned about domestic social issues than what happens on the other side of the fence.

Shirah Roth, 33, has two jobs: she works as a musician and pays the rent by working in a clothing boutique during the day. She was raised in the south of Israel where rockets launched from Gaza are more likely to land, and used to before the US-bought Iron Dome system went into effect.

She identifies as left and plans to vote for the Joint List, an alliance of four Arab parties that was formed in the leadup to this election.

“I would like the Arabs to be a part of the conversation,” Roth says.

But even among her friends, Gaza doesn’t come up when they talk politics, she says.

“The only thing that really concerns them is how to develop themselves and stay here. How can I stay alive and not give up on myself?”

Meanwhile aid workers in Gaza all say the same thing: Gazans too must be given reasons not to give up on themselves; they have to have something to lose.

The role of wars in Gaza in Israeli elections is difficult to predict. Despite widespread condemnation from the international community, Bibi, as Netanyahu is called in Israel, seems to have avoided any major fallout at home.

But since the underlying issues between the two have yet to be resolved, many in Israel and in Gaza say that another war is likely on the horizon, a prospect that frightens both sides.

Meanwhile, in Gaza where only 5 percent of the pledged $5.4 billion in aid has been disbursed, chronic homelessness and PTSD keep memories of the offensive very much alive.

For one group in Israel, too, the Gaza offensive feels closer to home.

“It was like always when Israel bombs Gaza,” says Hanaa Ammoury, political activist and member of a joint Arab-Jewish social movement called Tarabut.

“We are really sad, we are really frustrated. We demonstrated daily and weekly and used all the civil tools we have … to at least show that there is a voice objecting to the war inside Israel.”

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ACLU Targets Obama with New Lawsuit Over Drone Wars, ‘Kill List’

‘Public should know who the government is killing, and why it’s killing them,’ says legal director Jameel Jaffer.
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President Barack Obama working with senior staff on Air Force One in this file image.

The American Civil Liberties Union will file a new lawsuit against the Obama administration over continued secrecy surrounding its controversial use of armed drones to carry out lethal strikes and assassinations across the globe, the Guardian reports on Monday.

According to journalist Spencer Ackerman, who was given advance notice of the suit, the ACLU is seeking disclosure from the White House of legal documents and internal memos relating to Obama’s use of drones, with specific attention to how individuals end up on what has become known as the president’s “kill list.”

Though the ACLU has filed previous lawsuits and requests for disclosures regarding the administration’s drone program—operated largely by the CIA but also the military’s Joint Special Operations Command—the latest effort to obtain legal justification for the program follows continued secrecy and ongoing “stonewalling” by White House lawyers and other agencies.

“Over the last few years, the US government has used armed drones to kill thousands of people, including hundreds of civilians. The public should know who the government is killing, and why it’s killing them,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the ACLU, told the Guardian.

The new lawsuit, reports Ackerman, describes how numerous agencies under Obama’s authority—including the State and Justice Departments, the Pentagon, as well as the CIA—have been stonewalling the ACLU for nearly 18 months.

While lawyers for the Obama administration have argued that national security prevents further disclosures and President Obama has said that internal changes have enhanced the safeguards surrounding the selection of targets and the execution of drone strikes, the ACLU argues the level of secrecy around a program of such profound importance is simply unacceptable in a representative democracy.

Jaffer told the Guardian there could be no “legitimate justification” for persistent official stonewalling on civilian casualties and the procedures by which people, including U.S. citizens, can find themselves on a secret government “kill list.”

“The categorical secrecy surrounding the drone program doesn’t serve any legitimate security interest,” Jaffer told the Guardian. “It serves only to skew public debate, to obscure the human costs of the program, and to shield decision-makers from accountability.”

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Kerry Says The US Is Willing To Negotiate With Assad

Meanwhile the State Dept continues to deny any negotiation with Assad will happen.
Image result for Syria’s President Bashar Assad is sworn for his third PHOTO
Syria’s President Bashar Assad is sworn for his third, seven-year term, in Damascus, Syria. Despite years of diplomacy and a CIA operation to vet and train moderate Syrian rebels, the U.S. finds itself without a credible partner on the ground in Syria as it bombs the Islamic State group there, exposing a gaping hole in the Obama administrationís strategy to ultimately defeat the militants. Photo: SANA/AP

In an interview today with CBS News, Secretary of State John Kerry said his goal is the push the Syrian government until President Bashar Assad is willing to negotiate with him, with an eye on a post-war transition.

Though the comments were couched as being part of a transition of power away from the current Syrian government, the implication of such negotiations is that Assad’s ouster is not an immediate precondition.

That implication is also apparent in recent comments from pro-US opposition factions, with reports over the weekend that they intend to discuss the possibility of leaving Assad in power for at least the next two years as part of the “transition” process.

Kerry’s comments put the US more directly in line with that position, though it isn’t clear if the administration intended that to be the case, with the State Department quickly disavowing Kerry’s comments.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf insists that there was always an intention to negotiate with a “representative” for Assad, but that no US government official would ever be willing to negotiate with Assad himself.

This conflict between the two statements is likely part of the administration’s ongoing policy of deliberate vagueness on the war, trying to satisfy conflicting interests with conflicting statements, while their exact policy often remains very much a mystery.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back Since Selma And Vietnam

It’s been 50 years since the march on Selma and U.S. Marines landing in South Vietnam. Yet little has changed, as domestic issues take a backseat to American-led wars being fought farther and farther from our shores.

March saw the 50th anniversary of two momentous events in U.S. history: the famous civil rights march on Selma and, a day later, the landing of U.S. Marines in South Vietnam. Of the two events, the march on Selma is much better known today, recently benefitting from a critically-acclaimed movie and President Obama’s visit there and participation in a memorial march across the bloody bridge where Alabama state troopers confronted peaceful demonstrators. Rightly, too, as the event is seen as a pivotal turning point in the African-American struggle for voting rights in the old Jim Crow South and equality nationwide.

Commemoration of the landing of U.S. Marines in South Vietnam, however, was much more subdued. No president flew in on Air Force One and American media outlets were mostly silent as the day passed, choosing instead to concentrate on the Selma anniversary story and the latest on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private email scandal. The beach that once swarmed with two battalion’s worth of troops, about 3,500 Marines, is now a tourist draw with a hotel nearby. Nowhere is there a sign that the biggest American foreign policy disaster in the 20th century got started there.

That one of these events should be remembered and celebrated and not the other shouldn’t be surprising. After all, Selma has entered our history as a victory not just for black people, but for all Americans. True, institutionalized racism is still with us, as the recent revelations about Ferguson, Missouri, make clear. In terms of the larger advance of liberal rights, though, the events of that day in March 50 years ago surely represent a turning point toward justice. It was a dark moment in our history, but one that ultimately led to a brighter future for all Americans.

The legacy of Vietnam

Mark Salvatore, left, a homeless outreach nurse with the Veterans Administration talks with homeless Vietnam veteran William Joyce in Philadelphia, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007. A new report scheduled to be released Thursday shows nearly a half-million veterans were homeless last year.(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)Mark Salvatore, left, a homeless outreach nurse with the Veterans Administration talks with homeless Vietnam veteran William Joyce in Philadelphia. Photo: Matt Rourke/AP

Not so in Vietnam, where the landing of troops to protect an airfield from communist guerrillas quickly sucked in 185,000 troops by the end of 1965 and 536,000 by 1968. Of these men, some 58,200 eventually lost their lives in a war that was doomed almost from the very beginning. Worse, the disastrous war divided the country and America in a way that still haunts us today, as questions about service during wartime and one’s position on that long lost war remain relevant for political actors. The war ultimately made the Democrats gun shy on challenging America’s more warlike tendencies, and it created a malignant, dolchstoss myth on the right that it was the left and its opposition to the war — not the impossibility of combating a nationalist movement through force of arms — that led to debacle and defeat.

That the war was a clear defeat for American arms and the U.S. military should be clearly understood. Yet it is often glossed over in discussions of the war. True, every major battlefield encounter that the U.S. military participated in during that war was more or less won through America’s superior firepower, and the U.S. inflicted terrible punishment on North Vietnam via massive aerial bombardment campaigns the likes of which outclassed even those seen during the Second World War, but at no point did this matter. Month after month, year after year, the North and its soldiers, gleefully supported by Moscow and Beijing, were willing to trade unequal amounts of blood in order to outlast Uncle Sam.

Ho Chi Minh even predicted as much at the outset, pointing out that the North could lose 10 men for every one lost by America and still prevail because the U.S., like France before it, would eventually grow tired of it. Bogged down in what was called an unwinnable war by Walter Cronkite, who was arguably as influential among the American people then as Oprah Winfrey would be at the height of her TV career two decades later, Americans of all stripes began to protest the loss of blood and treasure. This unrest grew even more powerful, however, when the manpower needs of the war forced the end of student deferments in 1971, exposing for the first time America’s privileged middle classes to wartime service in that hellish place and laying bare the glaring inequalities that allowed some to be conscripted and killed in Vietnam while others, including future presidents and vice presidents, got away scot-free.

The ultimate lesson from Vietnam, unfortunately, was not that wars waged in faraway places for nebulous political goals should not be fought, but that they should be fought in such a way as to make Americans less likely to complain about them. Thus was born America’s all-volunteer force which, while superbly trained and of much higher quality than the old mass conscript military of the Vietnam era, had the desirable characteristic of being self-selected.

That being the case, Americans quickly got over their newly acquired taste for non-intervention in the years after Vietnam by sending people who ostensibly chose to be there to more and more wars in more and more far off places. No one of importance had kids who actually served, after all, so what did it matter if, as during the student deferral days in Vietnam, only working-class families and their children were kitted out and sent to fight in America’s post-Vietnam wars?

Drones and mercenaries, in turn, allow us to go even further down this route by making average Americans even farther removed from the hardships of war. It has gotten to the point where the biggest contribution an American can actually make to our current war efforts is to go shopping, which increases economic activity and tax revenue. Money, not blood, sweat, or tears, is the real way Americans fight nowadays. What we have created in the wake of Vietnam and the mass protests against it is a way of waging war that asks nothing of most members of American society except those who are most expendable and those we pay off with a glib “thank you for your service” and a treasure trove of government benefits. As a result, war without sacrifice becomes mere sport — one in which cheap, coffee klatch patriotism leads to rooting for the home team much as one would at the baseball park.

A dream deferred

FergusonHelen Shaw talks to people during a rally outside Greater Grace Church, Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, for Michael Brown Jr., who was killed by police, last Saturday in Ferguson, Mo.

Crueler still, Vietnam’s legacy did more than just create a military culturally and politically cut off from the people it ostensibly serves. The money poured into dropping bombs on thatch-roof hamlets in Southeast Asia also sucked the life out of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs just as they got going, effectively drowning the baby of root-and-branch social reform before it could grow strong enough to get out of the bathtub on its own. Starved of resources, Great Society programs only went to the poorest of the poor. As a result, they became a political cudgel for the right wing to use to goad the middle class into voting Republican.

The irony of course is that after his great victory in Selma, Martin Luther King Jr. eventually turned his attention to larger issues than just racial justice. During his final days he sought, like Lyndon Johnson who loved the Great Society but was forced to marry “that bitch, Vietnam,” to broaden his movement into one that would speak for all poor people, white and black alike, who struggled to put food on the table or suffered under the indignities of poverty and want. Unlike Johnson, however, King saw Vietnam for the useless and needless evil that it was and denounced it accordingly. History is replete with fateful moments, and it is poignant that just as King began to turn the vast moral authority he had gained while leading the black struggle for civil rights to the broader issues of the poor, Johnson and the country became increasingly distracted and bogged down by the war in Vietnam.

One wonders what might have happened if King had lived and the war had never gotten started. Unburdened by the need to feed the beast in Southeast Asia with ever more blood and treasure, how much could have been spent on Johnson’s vision of a Great Society? How much moral authority could King have brought in to support Johnson’s vision? Would the political coalition that Roosevelt had formed in the 1930s have been renewed and strengthened in the late 1960s as a result of the growing alliance between these two men, so different and yet in many way so much alike? Could the great turn to the right in the latter half of the century have been prevented by an alliance that never was because Vietnam got in the way?

History denied

We’ll never know, of course, because of what actually came to pass: defeat in Vietnam, the gutting of the Great Society, and the corresponding political collapse of liberal America’s political and ideological ascendancy at home. Still, the possibilities contained in those hours that passed between the events at Selma and the landing of the troops in South Vietnam, when change at home seemed so possible only to be snuffed out by the demands of war, is instructive.

What it tells us is that if Americans want deep, root-and-branch reform in ways that meaningfully address economic inequality, stagnant wages, a shrinking middle class and a host of other pressing social ills, the country must draw back from its deep, poisonous and ultimately ruinous adventures in the Middle East. Truly massive amounts of treasure are being spent there to absolutely no good effect, just as in Vietnam, but what is worse is the impact it is having on us here at home aside from all the money spent.

Put simply, the wars put the left on the defensive and give credence to those who think military power is the solution to all our problems. It drags everything in our country, from politics to economics to our very culture, further and further to the right, and has made America a fearful garrison state that constantly surveils its own people. Our politics are smaller as a result and we are all worse off because of it. Isolationism has become a dirty word in polite circles, but perhaps radicals need to dust off the phrase and try it on for size. After all, there can be no significant change unless and until America draws back from our policy of unending war abroad that stems from our desire to bring order to areas of the world that do not want us to police it.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Mint Press News editorial policy.

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Chávez Supporters Mobilize For Venezuela Amid Coup Reports And Fresh Sanctions

In addition to challenging the recent sanctions slapped on Venezuelan officials by President Obama, activists and political scientists criticize Human Rights Watch for “attacking Venezuela while turning a blind eye to abuses happening elsewhere.”
Image result for A supporter of Venezuela’ PHOTO
A supporter of Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro wearing a head band with the image of Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez’s eyes, waves a national flag during a rally outside of Miraflores Presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, March 12, 2015.

Shortly after demonstrators in Venezuela and several other countries marked the second anniversary of the death of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on March 5, the United States sanctioned seven officials in the government of his successor, President Nicolás Maduro, on March 9.

The events come less than a month after Maduro claimed his government had thwarted a military coup, which he said had been directed “from Washington.”

They also followed by days Venezuela’s adoption of a new visa requirement for U.S. visitors, a reduction of staff at the U.S. embassy, and a ban on the entry of five U.S. officials including former President George W. Bush and former Vice President Dick Cheney, whom Maduro called “terrorists,” and three members of Congress.

Announcing the measures on March 1, Maduro alleged his government had caught U.S. citizens involved in “espionage activities.”

“We have captured some U.S. citizens in undercover activities, espionage, trying to win over people in towns along the Venezuelan coast,” he said.

“The U.S. government has been working for ‘regime change’ in Venezuela since practically the first day that President Chávez took office over 15 years ago,” Chuck Kaufman, national co-coordinator of the Alliance for Global Justice, which helped organize the demonstrations in the U.S., told MintPress News.

“Our government and the Venezuela opposition see the current recession in Venezuela as the time to double down and depose democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro,” he added.

Maduro, elected after Chávez’s death in 2013, leads the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela, or PSUV), founded by Chávez from a coalition of existing parties that supported his successful reelection bid in 2006.

Venezuelan governments have faced opposition from successive U.S. administrations since Chávez’s initial election in 1999 due to their socialist economic policies, including the nationalization of private enterprises, and opposition to U.S. intervention in Latin America and elsewhere.

In 2002, a military coup deposed Chávez for about 48 hours before a popular uprising forced his reinstatement. During the brief administration, which imprisoned the elected president, the U.S. quickly recognized former oil executive Pedro Carmona, then head of the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce (Fedecámaras), as Venezuela’s interim president.

After reestablishing his elected government, Chávez claimed the U.S. had actively supported his ouster.

“I have written proof of the entries and exits of two military officers from the United States into the headquarters of the coup plotters,” he told the BBC. “I have their names, whom they met with, what they said, proof on video and on still photographs.”

Similar allegations came from figures including U.S. President Jimmy Carter and admitted coup participant and Venezuelan Rear Adm. Carlos Molina.

“We felt we were acting with U.S. support,” Molina told The Washington Post after he was placed under house arrest for planning the coup. “We agree that we can’t permit a communist government here. The U.S. has not let us down yet.”

“An anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist people”

Thousands rallied across Venezuela on March 5, the second anniversary of Chávez’s death.

“We say to the imperialists of the north and to the pro-imperialists of the [Venezuelan] Right: Venezuela declares itself an anti-imperialist and anti-colonialist people,” Maduro said at an afternoon rally in Caracas. “We’ve had enough of threats to Venezuela and America.”

Smaller groups gathered in U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere.

In New York, demonstrators came together on March 6 outside the Human Rights Watch (HRW) headquarters in the Empire State Building before marching to the nearby Consulate General of Venezuela.

Calling HRW a “weapon of the U.S. State Department,” they claimed the organization has “never denounced” violations by Venezuela’s political right, including the killings of 250 peasants, paramilitary participation in demonstrations against the elected government and the 2002 coup attempt.

“In recent decades, so-called human rights organizations have become increasingly and openly politicized,” George Ciccariello-Maher, professor of political science at Drexel University and author of “We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution,” told MintPress. “This is especially the case with Human Rights Watch, whose leadership spends a disproportionate amount of time attacking Venezuela while turning a blind eye to abuses happening elsewhere.”

“More recently, HRW’s director Ken Roth has thrown his lot openly in with a Venezuelan opposition that has proven itself to be profoundly undemocratic and violent in the past,” he continued. “HRW and other organizations play a key role in delegitimizing the Venezuelan government, to facilitate its overthrow.”

Likewise, Kaufman argues that HRW has “always had” a political and human rights agenda.

“They have always been more critical of enemies of the U.S. government than of its friends,” Kaufman said. “I haven’t believed a word they’ve written since their biased reports against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua in the 1980s.”

HRW did not respond to repeated requests for comment by MintPress.

“Political transitions by non-constitutional means”

Image result for Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro PHOTO

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro holds up a small copy on the constitution during a meeting with leaders of the opposition at Miraflores presidential palace in Caracas, Venezuela, Thursday, April 10, 2014.

“It is the government of the United States that is behind the plans of destabilization and coups against Venezuela,” Maduro said in a televised address on Feb. 12 about the alleged coup against his elected government. “I have come here to denounce it.”

The U.S. government has repeatedly denied his allegations.

“As a matter of long-standing policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a Feb. 13 press briefing.

The claim drew incredulous reactions from journalists. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Associated Press reported Matt Lee exclaimed. “The U.S. has a long-standing policy of not promoting – what did you say? How long-standing is that? In particular in South and Latin America, that is not a long-standing practice.”

Psaki quickly backtracked, denying the Venezuelan claims “without getting into history.” By Feb. 19, a press statement from her office referred only to the present: “The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means.”

Activists familiar with the U.S. government’s long history of supporting military takeovers in Latin America and elsewhere found the statement no more plausible.

“Like they denied being involved in the 1973 coup against Allende in Chile?” Kaufman responded rhetorically. “Like they denied being involved in the 1954 coup against Arbenz in Guatemala? Like they denied being involved in the 2002 coup against Chávez in Venezuela? Like they denied being involved in the 2009 coup against Zelaya in Honduras? U.S. government coup denials, I doubt, are believed by any informed person on earth outside the United States.”

The sanctions imposed by President Barack Obama against seven Venezuelan officials last week follow the “Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act of 2014,” which Obama signed into law on Dec. 18.

The bill sought “to impose targeted sanctions on persons responsible for violations of human rights of antigovernment protesters in Venezuela,” although it remained silent on the rights of those seeking to defend the elected government against further coup attempts.

After Obama signed an executive order implementing the new sanctions, the White House claimed that “a national emergency” involving an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” had necessitated them.

“A beacon of resistance”

“No one believes Venezuela is a national security threat to the United States,” Kaufman said. “The rest of the world is laughing at him, but it is not funny, because this is a signal that the U.S. is about to do something dramatic with regard to Venezuela.”

With few willing to argue that Venezuela actually threatens the U.S., several explanations of Obama’s actions have emerged.

“In essence, Venezuela is one of the very few countries with significant oil reserves which does not submit to U.S. dictates, and this simply cannot be permitted,” Glenn Greenwald wrote for the Intercept on Wednesday.

Others tie the move to the United States’ simultaneous normalization of relations with Cuba.

By launching a sanctions war against Caracas, Obama is “betting that playing hardball with Venezuela will blunt the Beltway condemnation on Cuba,” Tim Padgett wrote at WLRN on Thursday.

Applauding the sanctions as an attempt to play Cuba against Venezuela, Daniel Wilkinson, managing director of the Americas division at HRW, told Time magazine that “it’s really important for the U.S. government to be working with other democratic governments in the region to make this more of a collective.”

Kaufman told MintPress the U.S. government was reckoning, if mistakenly, on Venezuela’s economic challenges.

“They think Maduro has a weak hold on power due to the drop in oil prices, artificial food shortages and runaway inflation,” he said. “The U.S. government is miscalculating, though, if it thinks the grumbling of poor people who have to stand in long lines translates into support for the opposition. Previously marginalized people remember what Venezuela was like before 1999 and they know that the opposition does not have their interests at heart.”

“This is a very dangerous time for Venezuela,” he added. “The Obama administration thinks it is entering its ‘regime change’ end game.”

Ciccariello-Maher added that Venezuela’s ongoing “Bolivarian Revolution” poses a challenge to U.S. designs in Latin America, as well as the rest of the world.

“Venezuela stands as a beacon of resistance not only in the region, but also globally,” he said, “a country in the U.S.’s ‘backyard’ that has rejected the control of the hegemon, and has sought to pioneer creative alternatives to global capitalism.”

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