Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Don’t Let Fracking Companies Suppress Important Health Information


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• Petitioning American Petroleum Institute

Don’t Let Fracking Companies Suppress Important Health Information

1. Petition by
Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility
The oil and gas industry claims there's no proof that fracking harms human health, but it turns out they have worked to suppress important information through the use of non-disclosure agreements. These non-disclosure agreements require people to keep quiet about the harm caused by fracking in return for a payment of money.
We are calling on the American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) to ask its members to publicly disclose the number of these non-disclosure agreements, their location, and the reasons for each agreement. We are also asking them to allow those who have been silenced by these agreements to speak publicly about any concerns they may have about health-related issues.
The use of non-disclosure agreements is part of a larger strategy the industry is using to keep important information from the public on the health effects of unconventional natural gas development using fracking techniques. It is likely that API and ANGA members have signed hundreds, if not thousands, of these agreements with individuals whose water, health or property have been damaged by fracking.
For example, Bloomberg News, in its article, Drillers Silence Fracking Claims With Sealed Settlements, June 5, 2013, reports in that in “cases from Wyoming to Arkansas, Pennsylvania to Texas, drillers have agreed to cash settlements or property buyouts with people who say hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, ruined their water…. In most cases homeowners must agree to keep quiet.”
Here are two of the cases cited by Bloomberg News:
-- Laura Amos signed a confidentiality agreement with a drilling company as part of a financial settlement after she alleged a well blowout contaminated her family’s drinking water and sickened her. When the state’s oil and gas commission called her to testify about drilling-related tests, the drilling company she settled with threatened to sue her if she spoke to the commission.
-- Chris and Stephanie Hallowich claimed that nearby fracking operations poisoned their water with chemicals used in fracking. The drilling company paid the Hollowich’s $750,000, required them to sign an affidavit stating there was no medical evidence their illnesses were related to fracking, and prohibited them from ever speaking publicly about their experiences, as well as from ever speaking in opposition to hydraulic fracturing. The Hallowich’s had disputed the drilling company finding that fracking had not contaminated their water.
We urge you to support this petition so that scientists and health professionals can better study the health effects of unconventional gas development and production.
This petition is also supported by the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments, Maryland Clean Water Action and Earthworks.
American Petroleum Institute
America's Natural Gas Alliance
Jack N. Gerard, President and CEO
American Petroleum Institute
1220 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20005

Marty Durbin - President and CEO
America’s Natural Gas Alliance
701 8th Street NW, Suite 800
Washington, DC 20001

Dear Mr. Gerard and Mr. Durbin:

We are calling on you to ask your members to publicly disclose:

• The number of non-disclosure agreements they have signed with individuals who claim unconventional natural gas development or fracking has harmed their health, contaminated their drinking water, or otherwise damaged their property; and,

• The location, and the specific reasons for each agreement.

We are also asking you to require that your members allow those who have been silenced by these agreements to speak publicly about any concerns they may have about fracking and their health.

We are concerned that your industry is using these agreements to intentionally suppress important information about the risks posed by hydraulic fracturing.
[Your name]

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kentucky City Begins Operating New Municipally-Owned Gas Station

Published on Portside (

Kentucky City Begins Operating New Municipally-Owned Gas Station

Thomas Hanna

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Earlier this month, the small city of Somerset [1], Kentucky drew national attention when it opened a municipally-owned and -operated fuel center in an effort to drive down gas prices for local residents. As a result of its proximity to Lake Cumberland, a popular tourist destination, the city of 11,000 residents has long struggled with high fuel prices—especially during the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Under the leadership of Republican Mayor Eddie Girdler, the conservative-leaning city purchased [2] a fuel storage facility for $200,000 and spent $75,000 building the infrastructure to distribute gasoline to the public—including the installation of 10 pumps. The city now purchases gas from a local supplier (Continental Refining Company) and uses city employees who rotate in from other departments to operate the station.

In a city where gas prices at private stations can spike [2] 20 to 30 cents a gallon on weekends, the public station will not aim to turn a profit. Rather the mayor’s office intends to set prices in a way that the city breaks even on the cost of fuel plus operating expenses. However, an additional goal is to provide an incentive for motorists on their way to Lake Cumberland to stop in Somerset to refuel, thus generating additional business for—and greater tax revenues from—the city’s restaurants, shops, and other small businesses.

Gas station owners and their regional and national associations (such as the Kentucky Petroleum Marketers Association, the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, and the Kentucky Grocers Association and Kentucky Association of Convenience Stores) have cried socialism [2] and denounced [3] the city effort as an attempt to “interfere with the free market.” However, lower gas prices are proving very popular with local residents, and Mayor Girdler is showing no signs of backing down. “If government doesn't do it to protect the public, then who does it?” he told reporters [3]. “It's the role of government to protect us from big business.”

While Somerset’s publicly owned gas station is the first of its kind in a good many years, it draws upon a rich tradition in the United States of municipal enterprises that reduce costs for local residents, provide services for those underserved or exploited by private operators, and allow for community participation in economic decision-making. Historically, municipal ownership and operation of strategically important industries and services was commonplace in America’s cities. Often these included subways, trolleys, buses, power plants, power lines, telephone networks, water and sanitation systems, railroads, ice plants, bus and train stations, freight shipping facilities, grocery stores, coal distribution companies, lodging houses, and more.

One legacy of this approach is represented in the 2,000 municipally owned electric utilities, which, together with co-ops, supply more than 25 percent [4] of the nation’s electricity. Another is the longstanding and highly successful publicly-owned Bank of North Dakota [5], set up in 1919 (along with a state operated Mill and Elevator and a state insurance program) by the state’s governing Non-Partisan League in response [6] to the suffering of local farmers at the hands of out-of-state corporations.

As both history and the recent events in Somerset attest, support for public ownership and enterprise at the local, municipal level often cuts across political ideologies and affiliations. Of course, public ownership and operation of a gas station in order to reduce the cost of carbon-intensive, high-polluting fossil fuel raises important environmental and climate change-related questions. Ultimately, however, what is important is not the type of enterprise being owned and operated but rather the template that municipal ownership offers communities to regain direct control over the vital economic decisions that affect their daily lives. While today they have municipalized a gas station, perhaps in the future the citizens of Somerset—like their counterparts in Boulder [7], Colorado— will push for a public utility in order to achieve greater renewable energy generation. Mayor Girdler hints [2] at such a larger perspective. “We are one community that decided we’ve got backbone and we’re not going to allow the oil companies to dictate to us what we can and cannot do,” he said. “We’re going to start out small. Where it goes from here we really don’t know.”
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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Swiss Would Shield Snowden From 'Political' Extradition to US

Protesters supporting Edward Snowden, a contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), hold a photo of Snowden during a demonstration outside the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong June 13, 2013. (photo: Bobby Yip/Reuters)

Swiss Would Shield Snowden From 'Political' Extradition to US
By Katharina Bart and Mark Hosenball, Reuters
16 September 14

Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden could be granted safe passage in Switzerland if he helped a potential criminal inquiry into U.S. spying there, the Swiss public prosecutor's office said on Monday.

He would probably not be extradited to the United States if Washington asked, but it was also unlikely that he would be granted political asylum, according to a document laying out Switzerland's legal options if Snowden were to visit.

The prosecutor's office, which provided the document to Reuters, stressed the issue was "purely hypothetical" because Snowden had not been invited to come from his current refuge in Russia. It had no further comment.

The document was leaked last week and prompted a lively debate in the Swiss media.

Some German politicians have suggested inviting Snowden to Germany to testify about National Security Agency spying there, but Berlin has ruled that out to avoid a clash with Washington over extraditing him to the United States.

Michael McCaul, Republican head of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, reacted to the Swiss debate by telling the U.S.-based Foreign Policy magazine that Snowden should not be allowed to "trade our intelligence community's sources and methods for safe haven in other countries".

Geneve CIA Activities

According to the three-page Swiss document, "Edward Snowden could be assured of free movement by the federal prosecutor if he cooperated with a criminal investigation" into U.S. spy activities he says he learned about while working in Geneva.

Switzerland would not comply with a U.S. extradition request if he is accused of treason or divulging state secrets because such charges would have a "political character" under Swiss law, the document said.

The guarantee for Snowden's free passage in Switzerland could be trumped by "higher state obligations" such as a treaty, the document said, adding this required more study.

Marcel Bosonnet, Snowden's lawyer in Switzerland, did not comment on the document.
The prosecutors said Snowden was not likely to be granted asylum in Switzerland because he has already been given a three-year residency in Russia last month.
The decision on whether to grant Snowden asylum in Switzerland ultimately lies with the government and with justice officials.

Snowden worked as a computer technician for the Central Intelligence Agency in the U.S. mission to the United Nations in Geneva between 2007 and 2009.

He has told London's Guardian newspaper he had a "formative" experience in the Swiss city when the CIA deliberately got a Swiss banker drunk and encouraged him to drive home.

When he was arrested, a CIA operative offered to intervene and later recruited the banker, Snowden has claimed. Some Swiss officials have questioned if the incident ever happened.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Baltimore /Activist Alert - September 16 -18, 2014

27] National Day of Action to Protest U.S. Involvement in Wars in Iraq and Syria – Sept. 16
28] "Deal or No Deal: How To Negotiate Successful Nuclear Agreements" – Sept. 16
29] Philadelphia Peace Vigil – Sept. 16
30] No Drone Research at JHU – Sept. 16
32] Hear a peacebuilder – Sept. 16 & 18
33] Next Steps for the Israelis and Palestinians - Assessing the impact of the Gaza conflict – Sept. 17
34] Hearings on dealing with ISIS – Sept. 17 - 18
35] Constitution Project’s Constitutional Commentary Award Presentation – Sept. 17
36] Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association (MWPHA) 2014 Annual Conference – Sept. 17
37] "Iranian Attitudes on Nuclear Negotiations with the P5+1” – Sept. 17
38] Historically disenfranchised Alevi minority – Sept. 17
39] Buddhism and social justice – Sept. 17
40] Interfaith Service for Creation – Sept. 17
41] "Iran and Its Neighbors: Regional Implications for U.S. Policy of a Nuclear Agreement" – Sept. 17
42] Support Cambodian Workers – Sept. 17
43] "Groundswell Rising" – Sept. 17
44] Dan Ellsberg at MICA – Sept. 17
45] Jay Gillen at Red Emma’s – Sept. 17
46] Get Money Out - Maryland – Sept. 17
47] International Justice Mission and opportunities – Sept. 17
48] Protest at FERC – Sept. 18
49] Campaign Nonviolence press conference – Sept. 18
27] – Tuesday, September 16 is a National Day of Action to Protest U.S. Involvement in Wars in Iraq and Syria. Call 855-686-6927 or click here to email your member of the U.S. House and ask them to support House Concurrent Resolution 114 (read H Con Res 114 here). This resolution, introduced by Representatives Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, and Barbara Lee, calls on Congress to exercise its constitutional responsibility to debate and vote on any use of military force in Iraq and Syria. Additionally, Congressional House members Alan Grayson, Peter Welch, Peter DeFazio, Jim McGovern and Keith Ellison have also signed on.

You need to contact your House Representative as hearings are taking place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday hearings on the situation in Iraq and Syria. But why is Congress merely briefed, and ultimately left out of decisions to go to war? We must return Power to the People! Peace can only be achieved through humanitarian aid, careful diplomacy, and assistance with economic development. Tell your member of Congress to support humanitarian aid and diplomacy.

28] – On Tues., Sept. 17 from 2 to 4:30 PM, Dinshaw Mistry, University of Cincinnati, Robert Litwak, Wilson Center, Michael Krepon, Stimson Center, and Joel Wit, SAIS, will examine "Deal or No Deal: How To Negotiate Successful Nuclear Agreements" at Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Fifth Floor, WDC. RSVP at

29] – Each Tuesday from 4:30 - 5:30 PM, the Catholic Peace Fellowship-Philadelphia for peace in Afghanistan and Iraq gathers at the Suburban Station, 16th St. & JFK Blvd., at the entrance to Tracks 3 and 4 on the mezzanine. The next vigil is Sept. 16. Call 215-426-0364.

30] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 33rd & North Charles Sts. Join this ongoing vigil on Sept. 16 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Call Max at 410-366-1637.

31] – On Tues., Sept. 16 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM, see a screening of KORENGAL: THIS IS WHAT WAR FEELS LIKE followed by a conversation with filmmaker Sebastian Junger at New America Foundation, 1899 L Street NW Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036. . The documentary picks up where the Academy Award-nominated documentary RESTREPO left off. The film tells the gripping story of Battle Company 2/503 of the 173rd Airborne Brigade and their time in the remote Korengal Valley, the epicenter of the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan at the time (2007-2008). With new, never-before-seen footage from Afghanistan, as well as post-deployment interviews with the soldiers, KORENGAL gives audiences an intimate view of what it means to be at war -- and to come home from war.

Hosted by New America, the event will kick off with a reception at 5:30 PM and the screening will begin at 6:15 PM. Following the conclusion of the screening, New America Vice President Peter Bergen will moderate a conversation about the film. Also speaking will be Congressperson and veteran Jim McDermott, executive director of Team RWB Blayne Smith, and Command Sergeant Major Caldwell, who is featured in the film. In addition to raising awareness about the experiences of combat veterans, the event will benefit Team RWB and its community-based programs for veterans.

Donations are optional and proceeds will go to supporting programs, such as the Veteran Ambassador Program, Veteran Athletic Camps, and a Leadership Development Program, which give both veterans and the communities they live in the tools they need to reintegrate into all aspects of civilian life. RSVP at

32] – Paul K. Chappell graduated from West Point in 2002, was deployed to Iraq and left active duty in November 2009 as a captain. He is the author of the "Road to Peace" series, a seven-book series about waging peace, ending war, the art of living and what it means to be human. He serves as the Peace Leadership Director for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. A noted lecturer, Paul also teaches college courses and workshops on peace leadership, including a graduate-level course at the University of San Diego.

He grew up in Alabama, the son of a half-black, half-white father who fought in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and a Korean mother. Growing up in a violent household, Paul has sought answers to the issues of war and peace, rage and trauma, and vision, purpose, and hope. His website is His workshop is at

On Tues., Sept. 16 at 7:30 PM, Paul Chappell will speak on WHY PEACE IS POSSIBLE: EXPLORING THE ANATOMY OF WAR at Sokka Gakkai International, 3417 Massachusetts Ave. NW, WDC 20007. RSVP at cultureofpeacedc AT gmail. Com. Download a copy of the flyer at On Thurs., Sept. 18 from noon to 1:30 PM, he will focus on THE ART OF WAGING PEACE at the Faith Presbyterian Church, 5400 Loch Raven Blvd., Baltimore. See THE FLYER at

33] – On Wed., Sept. 17 at 9 AM, catch Next Steps for the Israelis and Palestinians - Assessing the impact of the Gaza conflict at New America Foundation, 1899 L St. NW, Suite 400, WDC 20036. The 50-day heightened hostilities in Gaza left an unprecedented scale of damage. The UN reports 2131 Palestinians were killed, 1473 identified as civilians, including 501 children. 108,000 persons are homeless and nearly half a million with inadequate water access. Gaza's economic sector also suffered major devastation, including the destruction or damage of hundreds of factories and thousands of acres of farmland. The IDF reports that 4,000 rockets were fired. 67 soldiers and 6 civilians were killed.

Beyond the human toll, lies a polarized, radical political landscape in both Israel and Palestine. In the West Bank, tensions run high with increased numbers of housing demolitions and arrest. While the open-ended ceasefire continues to hold, prospects for further escalation remains high amidst a huge recovery challenge. With the Kerry initiative at a dead-end and regional turmoil dominating headlines, is there any hope for a political process now? Join New America for this discussion with Hagai El-Ad, director of B'Tselem, and writer Samer Badawi, recently returned from the Gaza Strip. RSVP at

34] – There are hearings in Congress about the best way to deal with ISIS. CodePink is urging activists to pack these hearings and say that war is not the answer!!! On Wed., Sept. 17 at 10 AM, there is a House Homeland Security Committee Hearing: Worldwide Threats to the Homeland, with Witnesses Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, FBI Director James Comey and Matthew Olsen, Director of National Counterterrorism Center in 311 Cannon House Office Building. On Wed., Sept. 17 at 2:30 PM, be at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing: US Strategy to Defeat ISIL, with Witness John Kerry in Senate Dirksen office, Room 419.

On Thurs., Sept. 18 at 11:15 AM, get over to the House of Representatives Committee Repository, with Witness Secretary Hagel in 2118 Rayburn House Building. Stop Congress and the president from dragging us even deeper into war!!!! Email Anastasia from CODEPINK D.C. at to let her know which hearing you plan to attend.

35] – On Wed., Sept. 17, there is a reception at 11:30 AM with a program from noon to 2 PM at Arent Fox LLP, 1717 K St. NW, WDC. NRCAT is pleased to announce The Constitution Project’s Constitutional Commentary Award Presentation to Honor Creators of "Orange is the New Black" & Panel Discussion. The Netflix original series based on the memoir by Piper Kerman tells the story of the lives of women affected by mass incarceration and the interactions between race, gender, poverty, sexuality, and discrimination that undergird it. For Constitution Day 2014, please join The Constitution Project for a panel discussion on the unique justice concerns raised when women are incarcerated. The panelists are Kerman, author of "Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Woman's Prison," Brenda Smith, professor, Washington College of Law at American University; appointee to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission by the United States House of Representatives, Kathy Dennehy, former Superintendent of MCI Framingham, the oldest continuously operated women's prison in the U.S., and Vanessa Ruiz, senior judge, District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

In addition to the panel, The Constitution Project will present its annual Constitutional Commentary Award to the creators of "Orange is the New Black." RSVP at Contact Paz at or 202-547-1920.

36] – At the Barbara Jordan Conference Center, Kaiser Family Foundation, 1330 G St. NW, WDC, on Wed., Sept. 17 (all day), attend the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association (MWPHA) 2014 Annual Conference. This conference is designed for anyone interested in food systems, social justice, and/or community health whether you are a health care/public health professional, student, or community member. The goal is to educate, enable, and engage people to support food justice and sustainability. Registration and further details are at the following link

37] – On Wed., Sept. 17 from 10 to 11:30 AM, there is a forum entitled "Iranian Attitudes on Nuclear Negotiations with the P5+1" with Ebrahim Mohseni, Center for Public Opinion Research, University of Tehran, Steven Kull, Program for Public Consultation, Hillary Mann Leverrett, Senior Lecturer, American University, and Amb. John Limbert, former U.S. diplomat, in the Choate Room, 1st floor, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts, Ave. NW, WDC 20036. How do members of the Iranian public view ongoing negotiations with the P5+1? What limits are members of the Iranian public willing to accept on Iran's nuclear activities? What does the Iranian public expect from the P5+1 in return for Iran's concessions? The release of a new public opinion study, conducted by the University of Tehran Center for Public Opinion Research and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), will shed light on these questions and explore the role of Iranian public opinion in shaping negotiations.

38] – On Wed., Sept. 17 at 11 AM at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, ICC room 270, Georgetown University 3700 O St. NW, WDC, hear about the historically disenfranchised Alevi minority, which makes up somewhere between 10-15% of the population of Turkey. Dr. Ayfer Karakaya-Stump of William & Mary College will lead a briefing on the developments at the national and regional levels that have rendered bleaker than ever prospects for the success of the Alevis' democratic struggle for recognition and equal rights. A RSVP is required:

39] – On Wed., Sept. 17 from noon to 1:30 PM hear from a Buddhist Peacebuilder Arjun Sulak Sivaraksa about Fresh Challenges in Asia in the Berkley Center third floor conference room , 3307 M St. NW, Suite 200, WDC 20007. Buddhism, however, is far better known for its emphasis on inner peace, nonviolence, reflection, and moderation. Sivaraksa has a long association with Engaged Buddhist networks and is a passionate advocate for education and peace. He will reflect on recent violence and polarization of views within Southeast Asian Buddhist communities, especially in Myanmar and Sri Lanka, as well as Buddhist teachings on peacebuilding and how leaders in the region should respond to the current crises.

He is a Buddhist spiritual leader and humanitarian best known for his social criticism and grassroots organizing that uses spiritual models to advocate for sustainable change to better the lives of poor, rural Thais. For his activism and writings, he has been exiled from Thailand (1976-77 and 1991-94), jailed four times, and been accused of defaming the Thai monarchy. An RSVP is required:

40] – There is an Interfaith Service for Creation on Wed., Sept. 17 from 12:10 to 1:10 PM in the chapel of the United Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Ave. NE. Gather together to send blessings to all those gathering for the UN Summit on Climate Change. Email

41] – On Wed., Sept. 17 from 1 to 2:30 PM, former Amb. Thomas Pickering, former Amb. Frank Wisner, Paul Pillar, Georgetown University, and Barnett Rubin, New York University, will tackle "Iran and Its Neighbors: Regional Implications for U.S. Policy of a Nuclear Agreement" at the Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Sixth Floor Auditorium, WDC. RSVP at

42] – A coalition of Cambodian garment workers’ unions is calling on workers and labor rights supporters around the world to demand multinational apparel brands producing in Cambodia pay higher prices to factories and support a wage increase. Join the international day of action on Wed., Sept. 17 at 5:30 PM at H&M Baltimore Inner Harbor, 301 Light St., Baltimore 21202. RSVP at Call 703-344-4778 or email

In Cambodia, the women and men who sew clothes for Gap, H&M, and other major brands struggle to make ends meet. The legal minimum wage for garment workers is a miserable wage of $100 per month. Thousands of workers have fainted at their sewing machines as a result of malnutrition, overwork, heat, poor ventilation, and fumes from chemicals used in the manufacturing process. Earlier this year, when over 200,000 Cambodian workers stood up to demand a higher wage, authorities shot four workers dead in the streets and threw 23 union activists in jail. On Sept. 17, garment workers in Cambodia will demonstrate at their workplaces for a raise to $177 per month – the minimum needed to cover basic needs according to a government-appointed task force. Join the International Labor Rights Forum to demand justice for Cambodian workers!

43] – On Wed., Sept. 17 from 7 to 9 PM at the Friends Center, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia, see “Groundswell Rising,”, a new documentary film about what we can do to stop the risks to our health, and our clean air and water, by hydraulic fracking in Pennsylvania and across the US. The event is sponsored by the PA Coalition for Peace Action, and co-sponsored by a host of groups including the Brandywine Peace Community. Visit ll-rising.html .

44] – At the Brown Center’s Falvey Hall, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave., on Wed., Sept. 17 at 7 PM, Daniel Ellsberg, author, former U.S. military analyst and one of the most prominent political whistleblowers in U.S. history, will headline Constitution Day, a free annual symposium co-sponsored by the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland (ACLU–MD). The panel, moderated by WYPR’s The Signal producer and MICA faculty member Aaron Henkin, will also include Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty project at the ACLU of Massachusetts, and interdisciplinary artist Hasan Elahi, whose work has explored the implications and consequences of surveillance for more than a decade. Contact Meredith Curtis, ACLU of Maryland, at 410.889.8555 or

45] – On Wed., Sept. 17 at 7 PM @ Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201, will host the book release “Educating for Insurgency” with author Jay Gillen. The Baltimore Algebra Project has been one of the most important radical organizing bodies in Baltimore's recent history. Gillen, its primary adult mentor, has just released this dynamite book through AK Press, sharing with the world the lessons these young people have taught him about what it means to be an educator in times that clearly call for rebellion. Go to The event will also be a fundraiser for the Baltimore Algebra Project, though there is no entrance fee. Call 443-602-7585. Go to
46] – The next Get Money Out - Maryland Baltimore City meeting, headed by Hillary Kruh and Joe Adams, is set for Wed., Sept. 17 at 7 PM at the Govans Presbyterian Church, 5828 York Rd., Baltimore 21212. This is for Baltimore City residents (including all of District 44). Enter from York Road and bear to your right on the driveway to go behind the Church. Park in the lot behind the church (in front of the cemetery) or continue further south to the adjacent lot. Follow the sign to Sanctuary/Church Offices, walk up the ramp and make a U-turn. The door says, Church Office and Peace Study Center. Go to
47] – On Wed., Sept. 17 at 7:30 PM, there will be a meeting of interested residents of Maryland's Congressional Districts (others welcome too) to learn about the work of International Justice Mission and opportunities for engaging in the IJM mission. Email Peter Fagan or Gail Lambers (, as the meeting will be held at their home, 7660-2 Maple Lawn Blvd., Fulton, MD 20759. The meeting will be led by Seth Wispelwey, International Justice Mission Field Organizer for Government Relations & Advocacy. He will be sharing about the power of advocacy in achieving justice for the poorest victims of violence in our world, specific opportunities to join this movement, and the unique role Marylanders can have in having a profound transformational impact in this work. International Justice Mission ( protects the poor from violence by partnering with local authorities to rescue victims, bring criminals to justice, restore survivors, and strengthen justice systems.

48] – Get over to the FERC Headquarters, 888 1st St. NE, WDC, on Thurs., Sept. 18 from 9 to 11 AM for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s monthly Commissioners’ meeting. Join with folks from throughout the Marcellus Shale region and beyond to let FERC know that the fracking projects they green-light harm people, our air and water, and the climate. As a decision nears on Dominion’s application to build a fracked gas export terminal at Cove Point, show FERC that you’re watching, and demand that the commissioners reject all gas export proposals! Visit or contact

49] – Campaign Nonviolence will hold a press conference at the National Press Club, Broadcast Operations Center, 4th floor (Suite 480), 529 14th St. NW, WDC 20045, on Thurs., Sept. 18 from 10 to 11 AM. This newly formed movement to build a culture of peace through the practice of active nonviolence has 165 organizations signed on to the campaign. The press conference will be held in the Broadcast Operations Center, 4th floor, Suite 480. The launch event and press conference will feature former Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich, Ken Butigan (Pace e Bene), Nobel Peace Prize nominee John Dear (Pace e Bene), Rev. Lennox Yearwood (Hip Hop Caucus) and Marie Dennis (Pax Christi International), who represent just a handful of the 165 organizations that have signed on to the campaign.

Between September 21 and 27, over 165 endorsing NGO and peace organizations will coalesce to launch a week of nonviolent action in hundreds of cities in all 50 states. These actions are presented in collaboration with the People's Climate March, scheduled to take place in New York City on September 21. On Sept. 23 at 10 AM, there will be a protest at the White House. Activists will attempt to deliver a letter addressed to President Obama. Campaign Nonviolence's goals include an international treaty for swift action on climate change; ending the military drone program; establishing $15 minimum wage for all; and K-12 nonviolence education everywhere. More information about Campaign Nonviolence can be found at

To be continued. Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Is Freeing a Duck Terrorism?

Is Freeing a Duck Terrorism?

Monday, 03 February 2014 10:43 By Ryan Shapiro, Truthout | Op-Ed
(Photo: blmiers2)

A lawsuit filed today seeks to strike down the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Politicians, industry and law enforcement too long employed the rhetoric and apparatus of national security to counter effective animal advocacy, labeling those who exercise constitutionally protected rights "terrorists."

It is only by chance that I write this from behind a desk in Cambridge, Massachusetts, rather than from behind bars in a federal prison. In 2003, I helped coordinate an undercover investigation of notoriously cruel foie gras factory farms. We found ducks crammed inside cages so small they couldn't stand up, spread their wings, or turn around. As an act of civil disobedience, a group of us openly rescued a number of ducks from this abuse. We also made a short documentary film to educate the public about what was being hidden behind the closed doors of these factory farms. The images we captured played a crucial role in sparking national and international campaigns against foie gras and in the successful 2004 ballot initiative to ban the production of foie gras in California.

From the Boston Tea Party to the suffragettes to the civil rights movement, civil disobedience has a long and proud history in American politics. In this tradition, we did everything openly and took full responsibility for our actions. My fellow investigator Sarahjane Blum and I were eventually convicted of misdemeanor trespass and sentenced to community service. This was a reasonable and acceptable price to pay for bringing to light the realities of factory farming. However, even as we performed our community service, a series of legislative and law enforcement shifts began to make future activism far more dangerous.

In 2004, the FBI designated the animal rights and environmental movements the leading domestic terror threats in the United States. This is despite the fact that neither movement has ever physically injured a single person in their decades of existence in the US, while violence from the far right has proliferated. (Reports document approximately 190 injuries a year and 30 deaths between 2007 and 2012 due to right-wing violence, most of it carried out against ethnic and religious minorities and LGBTQ people.) Then, in 2006, under heavy lobbying from the pharmaceutical, animal agriculture and fur industries, Congress passed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). The AETA is designer legislation that targets political dissent directed at any business that uses or sells animals or animal products - or any company "connected to" such "animal enterprises." Simply hurting the profits of these businesses - by, for example, producing and screening a film that inspires people to boycott foie gras or other animal products - qualifies as a terrorist offense. Indeed, a distressingly high number of my closest friends have been convicted as terrorists for engaging in free speech and civil disobedience advocacy on behalf of animals.

As I watched my friends, classmates and roommates hauled off to federal prison, another industry-led attack on animal activists was gaining momentum. In recent years, Big Ag has pushed hard to enact state-level "ag-gag" bills to criminalize undercover investigations of factory farmsand slaughter plants. These laws would put an end to the exposés of stomach-churning violence to animals "raised" for food. The fierce ag-gag debate resumed this month, including right next door in New Hampshire where a proposed bill would severely curtail whistleblowers' ability to document animal abuse.

Ag-gag bills are based on legislation drafted by the corporate-dominated American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. As with the federal AETA, ALEC's model "Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act" seeks to turn speech critical of animal industries into "terrorism."

As intended, ag-gag laws and the federal AETA have cast a chill over the animal rights community. Many advocates, myself included, have begun tocensor themselves and refrain from speech that is protected by the First Amendment, or from peaceful civil disobedience in the tradition of some of America's greatest voices. These fears are well-grounded. Through the Freedom of Information Act, I've uncovered documents that reveal explicit FBI consideration of federal AETA charges against those who expose factory farming cruelty.

As a Ph.D. candidate at M.I.T.,my research explores the policing of dissent and the political functioning of national security. I have found that politicians, industry and law enforcement have long employed the rhetoric and apparatus of national security to counter effective animal advocacy. The AETA and ag-gag initiatives stand on the shoulders of a century of similar efforts to marginalize animal protectionists as threats to American security.

It is time to break with this shameful history. That's why I am in court today as a plaintiff in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights. We seek to have the federal AETA struck down as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech. Though I am now a scholar behind a desk, I just as easily could have found myself a "terrorist" behind bars. Corporate power should not dictate the limits of political dissent. It's time to do away with the undemocratic and unconstitutional AETA.

Copyright, Truthout.

Ryan Shapiro is a Ph.D. candidate in the program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS) at M.I.T.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Monday, September 15, 2014

US Threatened Yahoo With $250,000 Daily Fine if They Didn't Use PRISM

Yahoo attempted to refuse user data to the NSA and filed suit in the secretive Fisa court. (photo: Denis Balibouse/Reuters)

US Threatened Yahoo With $250,000 Daily Fine if They Didn't Use PRISM
By Craig Timberg, The Washington Post
12 September 14

The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications — a request the company believed was unconstitutional — according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the National Security Agency’s controversial PRISM program.

The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the NSA extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.

The ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other Silicon Valley companies that unprecedented data demands had been tested in the courts and found constitutionally sound. Eventually, most major U.S. tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and AOL, complied. Microsoft had joined earlier, before the ruling, NSA documents have shown.

A version of the court ruling had been released in 2009 but was so heavily redacted that observers were unable to discern which company was involved, what the stakes were and how the court had wrestled with many of the issues involved.

“We already knew that this was a very, very important decision by the FISA Court of Review, but we could only guess at why,” said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University.

PRISM was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year, prompting intense backlash and a wrenching national debate over allegations of overreach in government surveillance.

Documents made it clear that the program allowed the NSA to order U.S.-based tech companies to turn over e-mails and other communications to or from foreign targets without search warrants for each of those targets. Other NSA programs gave even more wide-ranging access to ¬personal information of people worldwide, by collecting data directly from fiber-optic connections.

In the aftermath of the revelations, the companies have struggled to defend themselves against accusations that they were willing participants in government surveillance programs — an allegation that has been particularly damaging to the reputations of these companies overseas, including in lucrative markets in Europe.

Yahoo, which endured heavy criticism after The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper used Snowden’s documents to reveal the existence of PRISM last year, was legally bound from revealing its efforts in attempting to resist government pressure. The New York Times first reported Yahoo’s role in the case in June 2013, a week after the initial PRISM revelations.

Both the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, an appellate court, ordered declassification of the case last year, amid a broad effort to make public the legal reasoning behind NSA programs that had stirred national and international anger. Judge William C. Bryson, presiding judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, ordered the documents from the legal battle unsealed Thursday. Documents from the case in the lower court have not been released.

Yahoo hailed the decision in a Tumblr post Thursday afternoon. “The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. Government’s surveillance efforts,” Ron Bell, the company’s general counsel, wrote in the post.

The Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence published their own Tumblr post Thursday evening offering a detailed description of the court proceedings and posting several related documents. It noted that both the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and the appeals court sided with the government on the main questions at issue, and added that a subsequent law added more protections, making it “even more protective of the Fourth Amendment rights of U.S. persons than the statute upheld by the [appeals court] as constitutional.”

At issue in the original court case was a recently passed law, the Protect America Act of 2007, that allowed the government to collect data for significant foreign intelligence purposes on targets “reasonably believed” to be outside of the United States. Individual search warrants were not required for each target. That law has lapsed but became the foundation for the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which created the legal authority for some of the NSA programs later revealed by Snowden.

The order requiring data from Yahoo came in 2007, soon after the Protect America Act passed. It set off alarms at the company because it sidestepped the traditional requirement that each target be subject to court review before surveillance could begin. The order also went beyond “metadata” — records of communications but not their actual content — to include the full e-mails.

A government filing from February 2008 described the order to Yahoo as including “certain types of communications while those communications are in transmission.” It also made clear that while this was intended to target people outside the United States, there inevitably would be “incidental collection” of the communications of Americans. The government promised “stringent minimization procedures to protect the privacy interests of United States persons.”

Rather than immediately comply with the sweeping order, Yahoo sued.

Central to the case was whether the Protect America Act overstepped constitutional bounds, particularly the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures without a warrant. An early Yahoo filing said the case was “of tremendous national importance. The issues at stake in this litigation are the most serious issues that this Nation faces today — to what extent must the privacy rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution yield to protect our national security.”

The appeals court, however, ruled that the government had put in place adequate safeguards to avoid constitutional violations.

“We caution that our decision does not constitute an endorsement of broad-based, indiscriminate executive power,” the court wrote on Aug. 22, 2008. “Rather, our decision recognizes that where the government has instituted several layers of serviceable safeguards to protect individuals against unwarranted harms and to minimize incidental intrusions, its efforts to protect national security should not be frustrated by the courts. This is such a case.”

The government threatened Yahoo with the $250,000-a-day fine after the company had lost an initial round before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court but was still pursuing an appeal. Faced with the fine, Yahoo began complying with the legal order as it continued with the appeal, which it lost several months later.

Stewart Baker, a former NSA general counsel and Bush administration Department of Homeland Security official, said it’s not unusual for courts to order compliance with rulings while appeals continue before higher courts.

“I’m always astonished how people are willing to abstract these decisions from the actual stakes,” Baker said. “We’re talking about trying to gather information about people who are trying to kill us and who will succeed if we don’t have robust information about their activities.”

The American Civil Liberties Union applauded Thursday’s move to release the documents but said it was long overdue.

“The public can’t understand what a law means if it doesn’t know how the courts are interpreting that law,” said Patrick Toomey, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

US Empire and Nationalist Illusions

Monday, September 15, 2014

US Empire and Nationalist Illusions
Lawrence Wittner

A U.S. Marine covers the face of a statue of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with a U.S. flag in Baghdad, on April 9, 2003. (File)

After thousands of years of bloody wars among contending tribes, regions, and nations, is it finally possible to dispense with the chauvinist ideas of the past?

To judge by President Barack Obama’s televised address on the evening of September 10, it is not. Discussing his plan to “take out” ISIS, the extremist group that has seized control of portions of Syria and Iraq, the president slathered on the high-flying, nationalist rhetoric. “America is better positioned today to seize the future than any other nation on Earth,” he proclaimed. “Our technology companies and universities are unmatched; our manufacturing and auto industries are thriving. Energy independence is closer than it's been in decades. . . . Our businesses are in the longest uninterrupted stretch of job creation in our history. . . . I see the grit and determination and common goodness of the American people every single day -- and that makes me more confident than ever about our country's future.”

This rhetoric, of course, is the lead-in to yet another American-led war in the Middle East. “American leadership is the one constant in an uncertain world,” he stated. “It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression. . . . It is America that helped remove and destroy Syria's declared chemical weapons so they cannot pose a threat to the Syrian people—or the world—again. And it is America that is helping Muslim communities around the world not just in the fight against terrorism, but in the fight for opportunity, tolerance, and a more hopeful future.”

America’s greatness, he added, carries “an enduring burden. But as Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead. From Europe to Asia—from the far reaches of Africa to war-torn capitals of the Middle East —we stand for freedom, for justice, for dignity. These are values that have guided our nation since its founding. Tonight, I ask for your support in carrying that leadership forward. I do so as a Commander-in-Chief who could not be prouder of our men and women in uniform.”

Can anyone acquainted with American history really take this nationalist drivel seriously? When contemplating the “freedom,” “justice,” and “dignity” that “have guided our nation since its founding,” is there no recollection of slavery, the seizure of a continent from its native people, lynching, child labor, the flouting of civil liberties, the exploitation of workers, legalized racial discrimination, and the war crimes committed by U.S. troops, most recently in Iraq?

Furthermore, all of this forgotten history is topped off with the ritualized “May God bless our troops, and may God bless the United States of America.” God, apparently, is supposed to ride shotgun for the U.S. military. Or is it really that the U.S. military and the nation are the emissaries of God?
In fairness to the president, it could be argued that he doesn’t actually believe this claptrap, but—like so many of his predecessors—simply dons a star-spangled uniform to sell his foreign policy to the American public.

But, in fact, the policy outlined in Obama’s speech is almost as nationalist as the rhetoric. Although the president promised that the United States would participate in a “broad coalition to roll back” ISIS, this would be a coalition that “America will lead.” Yes, there would be “partners” in American efforts “to address broader challenges to international order,” but not all the time—only “wherever possible.” In short, Americans should get ready for another Coalition of the Willing, led by the United States and, sometimes, limited to it alone.
Ironically, American “leadership” of military operations in the Islamic world has not only done much to spark the creation of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other extremist groups, but has destabilized and inflamed the entire region. American-led wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya—coupled with U.S. military meddling in Syria, confrontations with Iran, arming of Israel, and drone strikes in many nations—have left the region awash with anti-Americanism, religious strife, and weapons (many now directed against the United States).

Against this backdrop, the U.S. government would be well-advised to adopt a very low profile in the Middle East—and certainly not “lead” yet another war, particularly one against Muslims. This restraint would mesh nicely with the U.S. government’s signature on the UN charter, which prohibits the use of force by any nation except in self-defense.

The current situation provides a particularly appropriate time for the U.S. government to back off from yet another military crusade in the region. After all, ISIS is heartily disliked by a large number of nations. At the moment, it seems likely that the governments of Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia, and other lands would welcome the demise of ISIS and support UN action against it. Furthermore, this action need not be military. The United Nations could play an important role in halting the flow of financing and weapons to this terrorist group. The United Nations could restrict the movement of militias and foreign fighters across borders. The United Nations could resume negotiations to end the civil war in Syria. And, particularly in light of the hostility toward the United States that has developed in recent years among many Muslims, the United Nations could demand the disarmament and dismantling of ISIS with far greater effect that would similar action by the U.S. government.

But can a nation shed its belief that it is uniquely qualified to “lead” the world? It can, if its citizens are ready to cast aside their nationalist illusions and recognize their interdependence with the people of other nations.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License
Lawrence Wittner

Lawrence S. Wittner is professor of history emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is a satirical novel about the corporatization of higher education, 'What Going On at UAardvark?'

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

"Receiving Mothers and Children Traumatized by Border Experience"

"Receiving Mothers and Children Traumatized by Border Experience" by Caroline Hedel,
Houston CW, Sept 14, 2014

This summer, there has been an unprecedented increase in the numbers of women with children and unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. from Central and South America. At Casa Juan Diego, we are often asked how this change has affected us. Although we are not able to house children traveling alone, we do accept mothers with children and currently have three families living with us who were part of this recent surge. There was, however, another woman who passed through our house over a month ago, and her short stay was one we will never forget.

She had three children and was from an indigenous community in Guatemala. Her husband had been living in Seattle and had sent for his family. With her young children in tow, she had made her way across Mexico, somehow navigating the trails and the weather and the people lying in wait for vulnerable travelers. We never found out how long it took her or the specifics of the trials she must have endured on that journey. Upon crossing the U.S-Mexico border, she was apprehended by immigration officials and placed in detention with her children, like thousands of families and children in recent weeks.

After a wait there, they were put on a bus, presumably headed for Seattle. It was here, under circumstances alien to her and speaking not a word of English and very little Spanish, that she lost her way.

The bus stopped in Houston and she did not know how or when to get back on. She was found wandering in the street with her children under the midday sun, holding their bags. Someone called the police, who called us at Casa Juan Diego and attempted to get her into the police car to take her to the house. Terrified of police due to her experiences in Guatemala, and speaking only her indigenous language, it took her over an hour to get into their car.

She showed up at Casa Juan Diego just after noon on a Sunday with her children clinging to her legs. She was frightened of everything – of me and the other Catholic Workers, of the house, and of the street, where she said she had seen a man walking earlier. Several times she attempted to run away from us into that same street. After at least 30 minutes, with the police-men and myself pleading with her in Spanish and her husband on the phone urging her in their language, she walked through the door and sat in our entrance area. We were told that the husband was boarding a flight from Seattle and would arrive later in the afternoon.

The family looked hot and tired, so we brought some food- which they refused to touch- and tried to move them to the library, just ten feet away. At this point, she broke down completely. The children sobbed while their mother cried and repeated religious phrases over and over in Spanish- probably most of the Spanish that she knew. Madre, Jesús, ¿por qué murió?

W e managed to move her into the comedor, the dining room. One of our guests, a woman from El Salvador who had been through a harrowing border crossing herself, happened to be there and took the woman into an embrace on her lap, comforting her. This woman held the newcomer, along with her three children, for several hours and never moved or said a word about the discomfort.

The mother alternately clung to our hands and gripped her children so tightly that their shirts strained tightly around their necks. Her smallest boy, 4 years old, began sliding to the floor with his eyes rolling back in his head and closing. We tried to give him water, food, anything, but he wouldn’t take it and the mother only pushed it away from him. Not knowing when they had last eaten or had something to drink, we began to fear for his immediate health. He was so small and seemed to be fading. For this reason, Louise called 911 for medical attention, explaining that the mother was hysterical and could not be calmed.

Not only paramedics and firemen arrived, but several police officers as well. We think they must have been from the mental health unit of the HPD because they were helpful and appropriate, not forceful, in this difficult situation. It was quickly established that the mother was not thinking or behaving rationally, that she had been so traumatized by her trip and her experiences in the detention facility that she simply could not hold herself together any longer. The journey had been too exhausting, the detention stay too foreign and cold and miserable. The officers tried to ask her for the names and ages of her children, but she would only say “Saber, saber…” (Who knows?) and return to her religious phrases. The only break in those words came when she suddenly switched to her native language and spoke rapidly and intensely for almost ten minutes, looking directly at us.

Although none of us could under-stand her, we felt that she was telling us her story of all that she had been through in arriving here. I wondered what her children thought, hearing it all again.

Finally, the officers decided to peel the children off her, one by one, and sit them at the table. I brought some beans and rice, but the youngest boy was the only one who ate. He spooned food into his mouth so fast that he vomited after only a few minutes. The police asked again for the children’s information, and her middle son, only 6 years old, summoned bravery that many little boys could not have found in his situation. He told the policeman, in Spanish, his name and age and those of his sister and brother.

By this time hours had passed, and the mother continued to be unrespon-sive to any attempts at interaction and seemingly unaware of her children’s suffering. After discussion with the officers and medical team, they decided that the best decision was to have the mother placed in the hospital for psychiatric observation. The children would wait for her at Child Protective Services (CPS) until she could be evaluated further.

Bilingual police women came to join in the effort. The officers wanted to remove the mother first for fear that if she saw her children being taken away, she would become even more upset. This meant that we had to carry the children into a side room as they screamed for their mother. She was put into an ambulance and CPS workers came for the children. The middle boy was emotionless and nodded when asked if he was okay; the girl, 9 years old, had not stopped crying since she arrived at the house and kept asking for her papá. One of the police-women promised to contact the husband and father with information on his family’s whereabouts. The CPS car drove away, and the house was quiet but for the lady from El Salvador, weeping as the woman’s pain reminded her of her own.

Impossibly enough, this story turned out as well as it could have. The father arrived in Houston that evening and the next day picked up his wife (now calm) from the hospital and his children from the CPS office, and then came to Casa Juan Diego to collect their bags and papers. The father seemed overjoyed to be with his family, as they were with him. They were given food and clothing for the trip, and they went on their way to Seattle.

This family was a tiny piece of the flood of women and children who are mentioned daily on the news in alternately kind and disparaging terms. Please remember, when you hear these reports and read the numbers, that each person has a story – and please pray for them.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXXV, No. 4, September-October 2014

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Naomi Klein Breaks a Taboo

Published on Portside (

Naomi Klein Breaks a Taboo

Naomi Klein, John Tarleton

Friday, September 12, 2014
The Indypendent

The fact that global warming is man-made and poses a grave threat to our future is widely accepted by progressives. Yet, the most commonly proposed solutions emphasize either personal responsibility for a global emergency (buy energy-efficient light bulbs, purchase a Prius), or rely on market-based schemes like cap-and-trade. These responses are not only inadequate, says best-selling author Naomi Klein, but represent a lost opportunity to confront climate change’s root cause: capitalism.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, Klein’s much-anticipated new book, is both surprisingly hopeful and deeply personal as she deftly weaves in her story of struggling to conceive her first child while researching the potential collapse of the natural world. In the book, Klein challenges everyone who cares about climate change to strive for a seemingly impossible redistribution of political and economic power. This, she argues, is both necessary and offers the prospect of living in a more just and humane society than the one we know today.

John Tarleton: When it comes to the climate crisis, capitalism is often the elephant in the room that goes unacknowledged. Yet you zero in on it, starting with the title of your book. Why?

Naomi Klein: I put the connection between capitalism and climate change up front because the fact that the life support systems of the planet are being destabilized is telling us that there is something fundamentally wrong with our economic system. What our economy needs to function in a capitalist system is continuous growth and continuous depletion of resources, including finite resources. What our planet needs in order to avoid catastrophic warming and other dangerous tipping points is for humans to contract our use of material resources.

The science of climate change has made this fundamental conflict blindingly obvious. By putting that conflict up front, it breaks a taboo. And sometimes when you break a taboo, there’s sort of a relief in just saying it. And that’s what I’ve found so far: This is something that people know. And it’s giving permission to just name it. It’s a good starting point, so now we can have a real discussion.
Why has that taboo of talking about capitalism and climate change in the same breath become so entrenched here in the United States?

I think it’s primarily because capitalism is a religion in the United States. But also because the Left in the United States is extremely Keynesian, though Keynes himself questioned economic growth. But the translation of Keynesian thought we are seeing in this historical moment is a debate about the distribution of the spoils of economic growth. It’s not about some of the core facts about blanket economic growth.

In the book I talk about selective de-growth. There are schools of thought on the Left that dismiss all forms of growth. What I’m talking about is managing the economy. There are parts of our economy that we want to expand that have a minimal environmental impact, such as the care-giving professions, education, the arts. Expanding those sectors creates jobs, well-being and more equal societies. At the same time we have to shrink the growth-for-growth’s-sake parts of our economy, including the financial sector, which plays a large role in feeding consumption.

You say that the Left needs its own project for addressing climate change in a systematic and transformative manner that breaks with free-market orthodoxy. What would that look like?

The industrialized nations have to start cutting their emissions by about 8 to 10 percent per year, which is incompatible with capitalism. You cannot reconcile that level of emission reduction with an economic system that needs continual growth. The only time we have seen emissions reductions on that level was during the Great Depression of the 1930s. How we transition from our current status quo sets the parameters for how we want to organize society. A healthy transition would entail huge investments in the public sphere, public transit, housing, all kinds of infrastructure and services in order to prepare for the extreme weather that’s already locked in and also to lower our emissions.

Progressives should seize the reins of this project because it’s an opportunity to make this transition equitable and to have a better economy on the other side. You could also allow your economy to crash and burn, which is a terrible idea and would hurt enormous numbers of people.
The latter option would make a good starting point for a Hollywood movie.

It’s striking to me that when we envision the future it’s just a more brutally cleaved world between haves and have-nots than the one we have now. This is so much a part of our culture that we think all we’re capable of doing is becoming like the societies portrayed in Snowpiercer, Elysium or The Hunger Games. It’s actually not controversial to say this is where we are headed. The question is, can we imagine another way of responding to crisis other than one of deepening inequality, brutal disaster capitalism and mangled techno-fixes, because that seems to be where people agree we’re headed.

The alternative project you have in mind envisions a large role for the state. Yet, many on the Left have deep qualms about holding power of any kind, much less “seizing the reins,” as you say, to affect systemic changes.

There has been a backlash in our generation of leftists against the centralized state socialism of previous generations. This is for obvious and understandable reasons. Since the 2008 economic crash, I see more appetite among the younger generation to engage with policy and to try to change power. You see it with the Indignados movement in Spain forming its own party and running in elections, in Iceland post-crisis, with outsiders going inside on their own terms. You see it at the municipal level with the minimum wage in Seattle.

Where the pendulum swung really hard against any sort of engagement with formal politics, I see it swinging back where it’s like, “No, we’re not going to replicate those centralized structures but things are too urgent and too dire to ignore institutions of various kinds, including lawmaking. But we’re going to try to change it and build our belief in decentralization into the way we engage.“

Has this approach made a significant impact anywhere on energy and climate-related policies?

A really great example is the energy transformation that has been going on in Germany. Thirty percent of the electricity produced there is now coming from renewable resources, mostly wind and solar and mostly through decentralized, community-controlled ventures of various kinds, including hundreds of energy co-ops. You also have large cities like Munich voting to reverse their electricity privatizations and become part of this energy revolution.

What’s interesting about Germany is it really shows how you need strong policy to make a transition like that happen. It’s not about, “Hey, let’s start an energy co-op.” No. That kind of fetish for very small-scale initiatives won’t get us where we need to go. What Germany has is a bold national policy. That’s how you get to 30 percent renewable electricity in such a short time, and they may very well get to 50 to 60 percent by 2030.
It also shows you can design smart policy to systematically decentralize.

What got you started on this book? Was there a specific moment when you realized you wanted to write a book on climate change?

I decided that I was going to immerse myself in this subject in 2009 when I was covering a U.N. antiracism conference in Geneva. An earlier conference held in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001 saw a growing debate about whether the United States and Europe should pay reparations to African nations for the harm done by the slave trade and colonialism. The issue vanished from public discussion after 9/11 and it was clear by 2009 how much ground had been lost.

At that 2009 conference I met Angélica Navarro, a trade negotiator from Bolivia who was doing some really interesting work about climate and reparations and how to really push the concept of climate debt within the U.N. climate negotiations. And I had a moment in which I realized that the science is so clear on the historical responsibility for climate change that it could be used as a tool for realizing justice goals for which social movements had been fighting for a very long time.

Your book strikes a hopeful note on what can be a grim topic.

I find it really hard to write when I feel hopeless. It took me five years to write this book in part because initially I didn’t feel so hopeful. Then, there really started to be an explosion of resistance to extractive projects such as fracking and oil pipelines and coal export terminals. It’s being done in a truly global and networked manner that reminds me of the early days of the so-called anti-globalization movement.

That shift made me really excited that there is a growing movement and that the book can be part of that movement. I feel like we’re on the verge of a coming together of economic justice movements and a new sort of kick-ass grassroots anti-extractivism movement. When people are fighting fracking or they’re fighting a big pipeline, generally they’re not driven by concerns about climate, they’re driven by a love of place. Often the protection of water is the primary motivation, as well as concerns about the health of their kids. But climate change definitely adds another layer of urgency to keeping carbon in the ground and not putting it into the atmosphere.

You became a parent for the first time a couple of years ago. How did that experience affect the way you see climate change? Did the prospect of dire climate change taking effect in this century cause you to be hesitant about becoming a parent?

I was 38 when I decided I wanted to have kids and to start trying. That’s pretty late. I would have this conversation with my husband where I’d say that the more I read about climate change, the more I felt that having a child was condemning this kid to a Mad Maxian future of fighting with their friends for food and water. This was the sort of dystopic future that I was imagining. And I was having trouble imagining anything else.

I think that seeing some of these signs of hope were part of the process of me deciding to become a parent: being able to imagine other futures than the one playing on repeat at the moment. But I’m really wary of this sort of, “I care more about the future because I have a baby” thing. As somebody who didn’t have kids for a long time and had trouble getting pregnant, I really hated when people did that, because it felt really exclusionary to me. I understand, as a parent, why people say that, because when you hear that we’ll be at x degrees warmer by 2050, you can’t help but do these mental calculations of, “Okay, how old will he be then?” But I cared about the future before my son Toma was born just as some of the most caring people that I know don’t have kids. So I want to be careful about that.

There’s a tremendous organizing effort taking place here in New York for the People’s Climate March. Why do you think this particular protest matters, and what are the chances it will have an enduring impact?
Climate change has gone from being an issue that will affect our grandchildren to a right-now issue. The difference over the past few years is that the climate movement has jettisoned its astronaut’s “eye in the sky” view of a shimmering blue-and-white dot set against the darkness of space in which no people are visible, and it has come down to earth.

It’s connecting with people who are driven by basic justice demands such as clean air for their kids and water they can drink. The People’s Climate March will be much more diverse and it’s going to be angrier than previous climate protests. That anger is a really important and powerful tool. So I think we’re going to see a different kind of climate movement. It’s already there. I think Seattle 1999 was a coming-out party for the global justice movement, and I think this will be a coming-out party of sorts for a new climate movement.

There have been other moments over the past two decades, from the Rio Earth Summit to Al Gore’s movie to Hurricane Sandy, that have seen climate change briefly capture the public imagination only to fade out again.
In the past the climate movement was incredibly elitist. There really was a belief that you did not need a grassroots movement if you had all the celebrities and the billionaires and a former vice president like Al Gore on your side. I think that is what has made the issue so ephemeral. If your strategy is just to get a bunch of celebrities and billionaires on your side, guess what? They change their minds, and they move on to other things. Vanity Fair launches their annual green issue and it lasts for two years. Fashions change.

This is the first time climate change has had a grassroots movement behind it in North America. And that’s what is going to give it staying power. The whole point is that it has roots now. The problem with the top-down strategy is that it has no roots. And when you don’t have roots, you can blow away.

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Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Harvard Business School's Role in Widening Inequality

Economist, professor, author and political commentator Robert Reich. (photo: Richard Morgenstein)

Harvard Business School's Role in Widening Inequality
By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
13 September 14

No institution is more responsible for educating the CEOs of American corporations than Harvard Business School – inculcating in them a set of ideas and principles that have resulted in a pay gap between CEOs and ordinary workers that’s gone from 20-to-1 fifty years ago to almost 300-to-1 today.

A survey, released on September 6, of 1,947 Harvard Business School alumni showed them far more hopeful about the future competitiveness of American firms than about the future of American workers.

As the authors of the survey conclude, such a divergence is unsustainable. Without a large and growing middle class, Americans won’t have the purchasing power to keep U.S. corporations profitable, and global demand won’t fill the gap. Moreover, the widening gap eventually will lead to political and social instability. As the authors put it, “any leader with a long view understands that business has a profound stake in the prosperity of the average American.”

Unfortunately, the authors neglected to include a discussion about how Harvard Business School should change what it teaches future CEOs with regard to this “profound stake.” HBS has made some changes over the years in response to earlier crises, but has not gone nearly far enough with courses that critically examine the goals of the modern corporation and the role that top executives play in achieving them.

A half-century ago, CEOs typically managed companies for the benefit of all their stakeholders – not just shareholders, but also their employees, communities, and the nation as a whole.

“The job of management,” proclaimed Frank Abrams, chairman of Standard Oil of New Jersey, in a 1951 address, “is to maintain an equitable and working balance among the claims of the various directly affected interest groups … stockholders, employees, customers, and the public at large. Business managers are gaining professional status partly because they see in their work the basic responsibilities [to the public] that other professional men have long recognized as theirs.”

This view was a common view among chief executives of the time. Fortune magazine urged CEOs to become “industrial statesmen.” And to a large extent, that’s what they became.

For thirty years after World War II, as American corporations prospered, so did the American middle class. Wages rose and benefits increased. American companies and American citizens achieved a virtuous cycle of higher profits accompanied by more and better jobs.

But starting in the late 1970s, a new vision of the corporation and the role of CEOs emerged – prodded by corporate “raiders,” hostile takeovers, junk bonds, and leveraged buyouts. Shareholders began to predominate over other stakeholders. And CEOs began to view their primary role as driving up share prices. To do this, they had to cut costs – especially payrolls, which constituted their largest expense.

Corporate statesmen were replaced by something more like corporate butchers, with their nearly exclusive focus being to “cut out the fat” and “cut to the bone.”

In consequence, the compensation packages of CEOs and other top executives soared, as did share prices. But ordinary workers lost jobs and wages, and many communities were abandoned. Almost all the gains from growth went to the top.

The results were touted as being “efficient,” because resources were theoretically shifted to “higher and better uses,” to use the dry language of economics.

But the human costs of this transformation have been substantial, and the efficiency benefits have not been widely shared. Most workers today are no better off than they were thirty years ago, adjusted for inflation. Most are less economically secure.

So it would seem worthwhile for the faculty and students of Harvard Business School, as well as those at every other major business school in America, to assess this transformation, and ask whether maximizing shareholder value – a convenient goal now that so many CEOs are paid with stock options – continues to be the proper goal for the modern corporation.

Can an enterprise be truly successful in a society becoming ever more divided between a few highly successful people at the top and a far larger number who are not thriving?

For years, some of the nation’s most talented young people have flocked to Harvard Business School and other elite graduate schools of business in order to take up positions at the top rungs of American corporations, or on Wall Street, or management consulting.

Their educations represent a substantial social investment; and their intellectual and creative capacities, a precious national and global resource.

But given that so few in our society – or even in other advanced nations – have shared in the benefits of what our largest corporations and Wall Street entities have achieved, it must be asked whether the social return on such an investment has been worth it, and whether these graduates are making the most of their capacities in terms of their potential for improving human well-being.

These questions also merit careful examination at Harvard and other elite universities. If the answer is not a resounding yes, perhaps we should ask whether these investments and talents should be directed toward “higher and better” uses.

© 2014 Reader Supported News

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Can you sign on to the letter to Rep. Sarbanes? Can you help deliver it on Sept. 17 at 4:30 PM?


Let me know if you can sign on to the letter to Rep. Sarbanes. Can you help deliver it on Sept. 17 at 4:30 PM? Thanks.



Rep. John Sarbanes
600 Baltimore Ave.
Suite 303
Towson, MD 21204

September 17, 2014

Dear Representative Sarbanes:

This month, we celebrated Labor Day—honoring the contributions of working people, as well as Constitution Day—commemorating the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787. Members of the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore are voters and supporters of Progressive Democrats of America, and we ask you to join us celebrating these holidays by cosponsoring the following legislation, (if you haven't already):

HR 5280: the Employee Empowerment Act, to strengthen protections under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), desperately needed by hard-working Americans. Please direct your staff to contact Rep. Keith Ellison’s office: 202-225-4755 to cosponsor.

HJ Res 44: a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the US Constitution to protect the right to vote. As Election Day approaches, this basic right is at risk. Please direct your staff to contact Rep. Mark Pocan’s office: 202-225-2906 to cosponsor.

HJ Res 113: a joint resolution to remove the deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and help end discrimination on account of sex. Please direct your staff to contact Rep. Jackie Speier’s office: (202) 225-3531 to cosponsor.

HR 1010: the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, legislation to phase in stepped increases to the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and then link it to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Please direct your staff to contact Rep. George Miller’s office: 202-225-2095 to cosponsor.

HR 292: the New Columbia Admission Act, legislation that to set forth procedures for admission into the United States of the state of New Columbia, including elections to Congress of two Senators and one Representative. Please direct your staff to contact Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s office: (202) 225-8050 to cosponsor.

HJ Res 119: a joint resolution proposing the Democracy for All Amendment to the Constitution, to restore Congress’ and the states’ ability to address unlimited, clandestine campaign donations. Please direct your staff to contact Rep. Ted Deutch’s office: 202-225-3001 to cosponsor.

Finally, we are seeking an end to the use of killer drone strikes, which we believe to be illegal and unconstitutional. We ask you to speak out against this assassination program, which ignores any veneer of due process. Consider as well a request for the full, unclassified release of information surrounding the administration’s drone policy.

We look forward to your response. And when you are ready, we would like to meet with you, preferably in Baltimore. But if necessary, we will travel to your D.C. office. We thank you for your consideration regarding these critically important issues, and look forward to ongoing discussion and engagement with you in the coming months.


Max Obuszewski, on behalf of Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore/Fund Our Communities
Apt. 206, 431 Notre Dame Lane, Baltimore 21212

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs

Israeli Intelligence Veterans Refuse to Serve in Occupied Territories

Published on Portside (

Israeli Intelligence Veterans Refuse to Serve in Occupied Territories

Peter Beaumont

Friday, September 12, 2014
The Guardian

Forty-three veterans of one of Israel’s most secretive military intelligence units – many of them still active reservists – have signed a public letter refusing to serve in operations involving the occupied Palestinian territories because of the widespread surveillance of innocent residents.

The signatories include officers, former instructors and senior NCOs from the country’s equivalent of America’s NSA or Britain’s GCHQ, known as Unit 8200 – or in Hebrew as Yehida Shmoneh-Matayim.

They allege that the “all-encompassing” intelligence the unit gathers on Palestinians – much of it concerning innocent people – is used for “political persecution” and to create divisions in Palestinian society.
The largest intelligence unit in the Israeli military, Unit 8200 intercepts electronic communications including email, phone calls and social media in addition to targeting military and diplomatic traffic.

The signatories say, however, that a large part of their work was unrelated to Israel’s security or defence, but appeared designed to perpetuate the occupation by “infiltrating” and “controlling” all aspects of Palestinian life.

Written in uncompromising language the letter states: “We, veterans of Unit 8200, reserve soldiers both past and present, declare that we refuse to take part in actions against Palestinians and refuse to continue serving as tools in deepening the military control over the Occupied Territories.”

They add: “The Palestinian population under military rule is completely exposed to espionage and surveillance by Israeli intelligence. It is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself. In many cases, intelligence prevents defendants from receiving a fair trial in military courts, as the evidence against them is not revealed.”

Accompanying the letter – published in the Israeli media on Friday, and organised several months before the recent Gaza war – are a series of testimonies provided by the signatories to Yedioth Ahronoth and shared with the Guardian.

A common complaint, made in both the testimonies and in interviews given by some of the signatories, including to the Guardian this week, is that some of the activities the soldiers were asked to engage in had more in common with the intelligence services of oppressive regimes than of a democracy.

Among allegations made in the statements are that:

• A significant proportion of the unit’s Palestinian objectives “are innocent people unconnected to any military activity. They interest the unit for other reasons, usually without having the slightest idea that they’re intelligence targets.” According to the testimonies those targets were not treated any differently from terrorists.

• Personnel were instructed to keep any damaging details of Palestinians’ lives they came across, including information on sexual preferences, infidelities, financial problems or family illnesses that could be “used to extort/blackmail the person and turn them into a collaborator.”

• Former members claim some intelligence gathered by the unit was not collected in the service of the Israeli state but in pursuit of the “agendas” of individual Israeli politicians. In one incident, for which no details have been provided, one signatory recalls: “Regarding one project in particular, many of us were shocked as we were exposed to it. Clearly it was not something we as soldiers were supposed to do. The information was almost directly transferred to political players and not to other sections of the security system.”

• Unit members swapped intercepts they gathered involving “sex talk” for their own entertainment.
The letter has been sent to the chief of staff of Israel’s armed forces and also the head of military intelligence.

Unit 8200 is one of the most prestigious in the Israeli public’s mind, with many who serve in it going on to high-flying jobs after their military service, many in Israel’s hi-tech sector.

According to an article this year in Haaretz, former unit members include a supreme court justice, the director general of the finance ministry, an internationally successful author, the chief executive of one of Israel’s largest accountancy firms and the economy ministry’s chief scientist.

Operating a signals interception base, the unit is also at the front of Israel’s cyberwar capabilities. According to some reports – never confirmed – it was involved in developing the Stuxnet virus used to attack Iran’s nuclear programme.

Most of those who signed the letter have served in the unit in the last decade – as recently as three years ago in full-time military service – with the majority still on the active reserve list, meaning they can be called up at any time.

All of those who spoke to the Guardian said they were “highly motivated” to join the unit and had volunteered to serve extra time in it beyond their national service.

Although there have been “refusenik” letters before – most famously more than a decade ago when a group of reserve pilots refused to participate in targeted assassinations – such detailed complaints from within Israel’s intelligence services are highly unusual.

Three of those involved, two sergeants and a captain who gave interviews to the Guardian and a handful of other foreign media before the letter was released this week, were at pains to make clear they were not interested in disclosing state secrets. They had engaged a high-profile lawyer to avoid breaking Israeli law – including by identifying themselves in public. Copies of the letter sent to their unit commander, however, use their full names.

Those involved told the Guardian they were proud of some of the work they had done, which they believed had contributed to Israel’s security.

In their interviews, they described a culture of impunity where soldiers were actively discouraged in training lessons from questioning the legality of orders, and of being deliberately misled by commanders about the circumstances of a case in which one member of their unit refused to cooperate in the bombing of a building with civilians in it in retaliation for an attack in Israel.

They added that there were in effect “no rules” governing which Palestinians could be targeted and that the only restraint on their intelligence gathering in the occupied territories was “resources”.

“In intelligence – in Israel intelligence regarding Palestinians – they don’t really have rights,” said Nadav, 26, a sergeant, who is now a philosophy and literature student in Tel Aviv. “Nobody asks that question. It’s not [like] Israeli citizens, where if you want to gather information about them you need to go to court.”

He said: “The intelligence gathering about Palestinians is not clean. When you rule a population that does not have political rights, laws like we have, [then] the nature of this regime of ruling over people, especially when you do it for many years, [is that] it forces you to take control or infiltrate every aspect of their life.”

“D”, a 29-year-old captain who served for eight years, added: “[That] question is one of the messages that we feel it is very important to get across mostly to the Israeli public.

“That is a very common misconception about intelligence … when we were enlisting in the military [we thought] our job is going to be minimising violence, minimising loss of lives, and that made the moral side of it feel much easier.”

He added: “What the IDF does in the occupied territories is rule another people. One of the things you need to do is defend yourself from them, but you also need to oppress the population.

“You need to weaken the politics. You need to strengthen and deepen your control of Palestinian society so that the [Israeli] state can remain [there] in the long term. We can’t talk about specifics … [but] intelligence is used to apply pressure to people to make them cooperate with Israel.

“It’s important to say, the reason I decided to refuse – and I decided to refuse long before the recent [Gaza] operation. It was when I realised that what I was doing was the same job that the intelligence services of every undemocratic regime are doing.

“This realisation was what made me [realise] personally that I’m part of this large mechanism that is trying to defend or perpetuate its presence in the occupied territories.”

The last major refusenik episode in Israel to grab the public’s attention was in 2002 when 27 reserve pilots published a letter refusing to fly assassination sorties over Gaza after 14 civilians, including children, were killed alongside Salah Shehade, the leader of Hamas’s military wing, in a bombing.

Nadav made a reference to the killing – and the outcry that surrounded it. “When you look at what happened this summer, when building after building were destroyed and the inhabitants and hundreds of innocent people were killed and no one raised an eyebrow, as opposed to just one decade ago when the killing of a family of a commander of Hamas shocked people. It was a huge story in Israel.”

Replying to the refusenik letter and the allegations, a spokesman for the Israel Defence Forces criticised the soldiers for making their complaints public, and attempted to cast doubt on the claims.

“The intelligence corps has no record that the specific violations in the letter ever took place. Immediately turning to the press instead of to their officers or relevant authorities is suspicious and raises doubts as to the seriousness of the claims.

“Regarding claims of harm caused to civilians, the IDF maintains a rigorous process which takes into account civilian presence before authorising strikes against targets.”

Peter Beaumont is the Guardian's Jerusalem correspondent. The winner of the George Orwell Prize for his reports from Iraq, he is the author of The Secret Life of War: Journeys Through Modern Conflict.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218. Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs