Wednesday, July 23, 2014

George Will's Column About the Supreme Court's Decision on Union Fees Misleads Readers

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/25081-george-wills-column-about-the-supreme-courts-decision-on-union-fees-misleads-readers

George Will's Column About the Supreme Court's Decision on Union Fees Misleads Readers

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 11:36 By Ann Hodges, Truthout | News Analysis

George Will (Photo: Scott Ableman / CC)

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George Will's widely published early July column about the Supreme Court's decision allowing home care providers to avoid paying fees to the union chosen by a majority of their fellow workers is misleading at best. The column omits important facts and uses language that confuses the reader regarding others.

Contrary to Will's declaration that the workers were "herded into unions" by government "fiat," the Illinois law, initiated by gubernatorial executive order but subsequently enacted by the state legislature, merely allowed home care workers to unionize. A majority of the workers then voted to be represented by the Service Employees International Union. Like political voters who are represented by the winning candidate regardless of their personal vote, the plaintiff in the case, Harris, was bound by her fellow workers' majority vote for union representation. Under Illinois law, she was required to pay the cost of representation (though not required to join the union), just as those who vote against a winning political candidate must still pay taxes.

Will's column omitted the fact that the law requires the union to represent Harris even though she chooses not to join the union. The Supreme Court's decision identified improved conditions for the home care workers that include a substantial wage increase, a state funded health insurance plan, a training program, workplace safety measures, and a grievance procedure for employees. Harris, by law, benefited from each of these improvements negotiated by the union. The union could not legally negotiate improvements only for its members. Thus, the law required Harris to pay the union part of the cost of obtaining these benefits and administering the contract that contained them. Further, if Harris files a grievance under the contract, the union must provide her the same representation it offers union members. The Supreme Court's decision now allows Harris to take advantage of these benefits paid for by her fellow workers without contributing to them herself.

In praising the decision, Will referred to it as "campaign finance reform," suggesting that the union used Harris' fee payments for political purposes. That is quite clearly not the case. Harris' complaint challenged only the collection of fees for representation. The law already prohibited the union from using her fee payments for anything other than representation. Thus the case had absolutely nothing to do with campaign funds.

Will made some of these same errors in a column about the case written prior to the Supreme Court's decision. They were debunked at that time by Charlotte Garden, writing in The Huffington Post. Why persist with the same distorted arguments? Many readers have limited experience with unions. Thus, they may not be aware of the actual facts, or the nuances of the law and the decision. As a result, they may be persuaded by Will's arguments regardless of the inaccuracies.

There is a campaign by conservative groups to discredit and defund unions, which support, at least some of the time, progressive political candidates as well as the interests of workers, consumers and others with less power in our political system.

By portraying Harris as a woman caring for a disabled son being taken advantage of by a big union, Will's column supports this campaign. In reality, Harris and other workers received significant benefits as a result of unionization. While we can certainly sympathize with her difficult circumstances, her desire to avoid paying for the representation that gained her these benefits is not deserving of sympathy.
Harris is free to try to persuade her fellow workers to remove the union representative. The union can be voted out in the same way it was voted in by the workers. Harris is also free to communicate her personal views to the state that pays her wages, even if those views differ from those of the union. What she should not be permitted to do is to take the benefits of unionization without paying the cost. And that is what the Supreme Court's decision allows.

Requiring unions to represent all the workers while receiving payment only from some of them reduces unions' ability to engage in effective representation and limits their power. Further, it becomes more difficult to convince even committed workers to pay the union when others get the benefits for free. While the legal challenge to union fees is framed as a constitutional objection, it is hard to conclude that the ultimate goal is anything other than weakening unions.

Copyright, Truthout.

Ann Hodges is professor of law at the University of Richmond where she teaches and writes in the areas of labor and employment law. Prior to joining the faculty, she practiced labor and employment law in Chicago and worked for the National Labor Relations Board as a field examiner.

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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] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"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 Provides Israel the Weapons Used on Gaza

http://truth-out.org/news/item/25109-us-provides-israel-the-weapons-used-on-gaza

US Provides Israel the Weapons Used on Gaza

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 10:12 By Ken Klippenstein and Paul Gottinger, Truthout | News Analysis

Israel Air Force (Photo: The Israel Project / Flickr)

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The United States exported to Israel a substantial amount of the same types of weapons Israel is using to kill Gazans, a new analysis of US Census Bureau export data reveals. For example, in 2013, the United States sent Israel at least $196 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters, a category that includes F-16 fighter jets and Apache helicopters, both of which Israel is currently using to attack Gazan homes, offices and farmland. Between January and May 2014, the United States had already exported $92 million in parts for military airplanes and helicopters.

The military airplanes and helicopters that the United States sent comprise the largest category, in dollar terms, of all weapons exports to Israel that are publicly available via the US Census Bureau (see charts).

The United States also sent Israel parts for armored fighting vehicles and ammunition cartridges. For example, between January and May 2014, the United States exported $39 million in parts of armored fighting vehicles, a category that includes M109 Doher Howitzers, which Israel has used against targets in Gaza. As for the ammunition cartridges, the United States shipped well over $9 million of these during the same time period.

Even as the US government claims to want to broker a ceasefire, it continues facilitating weapons exports to Israel. On July 14, the same day President Obama vowed that "We're going to continue to do everything we can to facilitate a return to the 2012 ceasefire," the State Department approved a possible $544 million sale of AIM-9x sidewinder missiles and associated support services to Israel. These missiles can be used by F-16s to hit ground targets.

Official US military aid to Israel stands at about $3 billion per year due to a 10-year, $30 billion military aid package originally signed by former President George W. Bush and upheld under President Obama. This figure doesn't, however, include the $504 million in funding dedicated to missile defense.

Truthout asked Andrew Feinstein, former Member of Parliament in South Africa and currently an Open Society Institute fellow, to elaborate on the accuracy of official aid estimates. He replied:

In reality, published military aid figures tend to be significant understatements. "Official" military aid figures tend to be the obvious direct aid given for military purchases, which usually have to be purchased from the donor country. They tend to exclude various other forms of aid that are linked to defense, such as training; maintenance, repairs and spare parts funding; research and development support; weaponry for special actions; black ops payments (as used, for example, to arm the mujahedeen in Afghanistan for many years); internal security funding; and a range of unspecified funding from a variety of departments.

Israel is the only country allowed to use its US military aid to build its domestic military industry, a privilege that includes developing indigenous weapons systems based on US designs and using US grants to purchase materials, as well as research and development, from Israeli firms. Additional US funds are spent on joint military research and production. Israel also enjoys "fast-track" status for weapons sales, meaning it can make deals directly with manufacturers in the US without having to go through the Pentagon.

The billions of dollars in US military aid to Israel have bought a stunning array of US weapons and military hardware for the IDF, including 226 F-16 fighter jets, more than 700 M-60 tanks, 6,000 armored personnel carriers, scores of transport planes, attack helicopters and utility and training aircraft, not to mention innumerable bombs and tactical missiles of all kinds.
Israel has come under criticism for bombing medical facilities and news media buildings, and also for its failure to prevent civilian casualties. Truthout asked Richard Falk, former UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, what he thought an appropriate response from the international community might be. He replied:

[Israel] shows no sign of respecting the wishes of the international community at this time for an immediate ceasefire. So I think that the only way the world can show that it's at all serious about protecting vulnerable peoples - in this case the Palestinians - would be to impose an arms embargo.

Falk also pointed out that the US weapons exports to Israel violate the Arms Control Act of 1976. "There's no legal, political or moral argument that would uphold the claim that Israel is acting in legitimate self-defense," Falk said. "Gaza, from an international law point of view, is not a foreign state, but an occupied territory. It's not clear that you can exercise self-defense in relation to a territory that you are responsible for administering in accordance with international humanitarian law."

The United States also provides substantial weapons aid to Egypt's new military regime, led by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who has exacerbated the crisis in Gaza. Sisi, who rose to power after a military coup in July 2013, quickly oversaw the destruction of approximately 80 percent of tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt. These tunnels are an economic lifeline for Gazans, who rely on them for medicine, fuel, food and other necessities; furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of the Gazan government's revenue flows through these tunnels. The destruction of the tunnels is thought to be contributing to serious shortages of medical supplies and crucial medicines, since Israel's bombing of Gaza began on July 8. During Israel's 2012 offensive the tunnels served as an important way for medical supplies to be brought into Gaza.

"The Sisi government is determined to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood and they view Hamas as an extension of the Brotherhood," Falk said. "So [the Sisi government is] in a certain way on the same side as Israel on this particular confrontation."

Copyright, Truthout.

Paul Gottinger is a journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, whose work focuses on the Middle East. He can be reached via Twitter @paulgottinger or email: paul.gottinger@riseup.net.

Ken Klippenstein is a freelance journalist based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, whose work focuses on US foreign policy. He can be reached via Twitter @kenklippenstein or email: ken.klippenstein@riseup.net.

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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] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"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, July 22, 2014

Iron Dome: the Public Relations Weapon

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)

Iron Dome: the Public Relations Weapon
http://thebulletin.org/iron-dome-public-relations-weapon7308

John Mecklin

Thursday, July 10, 2014
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

With the latest rounds of rocket fire from Hamas fighters in the Gaza strip, Israel's missile defense system, known as Iron Dome, is getting a lot of press again, much of it positive. As with much reporting on missile defense, however, the Iron Dome coverage has lacked context and misconstrued reality.

A CNN article [1], for example, carried the headline "How Iron Dome blocks rockets from Gaza, protects Israelis" and described a system that had knocked down 56 rockets fired out of Gaza at a string of Israeli cities. The article suggests that the system is accurate and used "only against rockets headed toward populated areas." It does not suggest that there is any question about the system's effectiveness.

The New York Times, noted for its authoritative reporting, wrote that the Israeli Army contended Iron Dome "intercepted about 27 percent of all the rockets fired between Monday night and midday Wednesday." But the Times did not indicate how many missiles had been targeted, leaving the efficiency of the Iron Dome system in this conflict unclear, even as the newspaper reported that "Israel has said that the system has a success rate of nearly 90 percent in intercepting the missiles it is meant to thwart." The Times also put a headline over its online story—"A Growing Arsenal of Homegrown Rockets Encounters Israel’s Iron Dome" [2]—that could be read as suggesting Israel's missile defense was, overall, as effective as its name implies.
And less rigorous news outlets were, of course, less rigorous in their analysis. The New York Post, for instance, reported that "Israel foiled Hamas terrorist attacks from the air and sea." [3]

Ted Postol, an MIT-based missile defense expert and frequent Bulletin contributor, provided a dose of context to the Iron Dome coverage [4] in a National Public Radio interview Wednesday. "We can tell, for sure, from video images and even photographs that the Iron Dome system is not working very well at all," Postol said. "It—my guess is maybe [it hits a targeted missile] 5 percent of the time—could be even lower. ... And when you look—what you can do in the daytime—you can see the smoky contrail of each Iron Dome interceptor, and you can see the Iron Domes trying to intercept the artillery rockets side on and from behind. In those geometries, the Iron Dome has no chance, for all practical purposes, of destroying the artillery rocket."
Regular readers of the Bulletin are well aware of the long history of inflated claims of missile defense efficiency.

Late in 2012, MIT researcher Subrata Ghoshroy brought some reality to hyperbolic claims about Iron Dome's performance in an earlier Israel-Hamas clash [5]: "Israel seems to have shared little information to date, and so there is no way for observers outside the Israeli defense forces to know how successful Iron Dome actually was."

More important, perhaps, Ghoshroy noted that appraisals of Iron Dome should not be misinterpreted as vindication of defense systems that aim to protect against sophisticated, long-range missiles of the type designed to carry nuclear weapons. His analysis is worth quoting at length: "First, let's debunk the myth that Iron Dome—even if as successful as advertised in the Gaza conflict—constitutes proof that missile defense, writ large, works. Terminology is important here. Iron Dome is primarily a rocket defense system, and rockets are fundamentally different from missiles. Rockets do not have a guidance system; missiles do. Rockets follow a trajectory that is determined by the position and angle of the launcher and the propellant. ... While destroying a rocket in this way is a great technical feat, it is not the `hit to kill' system on which the US missile defense effort has been premised, and the Iron Dome system is not intended to work against larger ballistic missiles."

(Many, many Bulletin articles--including a remarkable knockdown, written by Postol and Cornell University researcher George N. Lewis, of a 2012 National Academies missile defense assessment [6]—have chronicled the long, abysmal record and extraordinary cost of the United States' efforts to create a system that could shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles in mid-flight. Among other things, those articles have noted over time an enduring reality: Simple, cheap decoys and other countermeasures will likely be able to fool the tracking systems for the mid-flight missile defense platforms the United States has largely focused on developing.)

So if Iron Dome says little about the state of true missile defense, and if its effectiveness against short-range rockets is at best unclear and likely overstated, why does the system seem to take center stage whenever Hamas and Israel clash? The answer to that question seems to lie in the public relations arena.

As Postol noted in his public radio interview, Hamas rocket attacks are part of an "intended game." Hamas fires its relatively small, generally inaccurate, and largely ineffective rockets into Israel from Gaza, knowing from past experience that Israel's response will likely involve air strikes that will, despite the accuracy of Israel's high-tech weaponry, kill innocent civilians and, Hamas hopes, make Israel seem a callous oppressor in the eyes of the world.

Meanwhile, the Israeli government presents Iron Dome's performance as part of a sophisticated public relations effort that aims to persuade the broader public that Hamas is a heartless and calculating terrorist organization and Israel's defense forces are decent, determined, and effective. It's an effort that includes, for example, idfnadesk [7], the YouTube page for the Israel Defense Forces, which offers a video titled "Iron Dome Intercepts Rockets Over Ashdod," among many videos highlighting purported Hamas cruelty and Israeli "pinpoint" and "precision" weapons.

To the extent it fills news cycles with reports on Hamas rocket attacks and Iron Dome's supposed technologically advanced method of intercepting them, this PR effort also deflects attention from the human consequences of Israeli bombing strikes in Gaza.

Iron Dome is high-tech. So is the public relations campaign around it, a reality that more of the world news ecosystem could beneficially take note of.
Source URL: https://portside.org/2014-07-21/iron-dome-public-relations-weapon

Links:
[1] http://www.cnn.com/2014/07/09/world/meast/israel-palestinians-iron-dome/
[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/10/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-missiles-iron-dome.html?_r=0
[3] http://nypost.com/2014/07/08/rocket-aimed-at-tel-aviv-intercepted-by-israels-iron-dome-report/
[4] http://www.npr.org/2014/07/09/330183774/the-rockets-from-hamas-and-the-iron-dome-that-could-use-patching
[5] http://thebulletin.org/iron-dome-behind-hoopla-familiar-story-missile-defense-hype
[6] http://thebulletin.org/astonishing-national-academy-sciences-missile-defense-report-0
[7] https://www.youtube.com/user/idfnadesk

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

"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master

TRAGEDY IN NICARAGUA

On Mon, Jul 21, 2014 at 12:11 AM, Barbara Larcom wrote:

Sadly, I learned some new Spanish words today: the words for "mourning," "to fire a machine gun," "coffins." I regret to inform you what I have learned via a message from Leonardo Silva of Limay, followed by reading in El Nuevo Diario [national Nica newspaper], followed by a phone conversation with Olidia Corea and her son Edwin in Limay.

Leonardo's messages were as follows (his original Spanish is found at the very bottom of all this):

"Hello Barbara, there is mourning in Limay, two women dead. They fired machine guns at the buses when they were coming from the caravan of the celebration of July 19 [the 35th anniversary of the Sandinista Triumph over the dictator Somoza]. This was on the stretch of highway between Ciudad Dario and Sebaco." And: "There are four dead in total and 26 wounded."

Two buses were attacked. The first attack was on the Pan American highway, near Puertas Viejas, before the town of Sebaco where buses diverge toward either Esteli or Matagalpa. This bus, on which four people were killed, would have headed toward Esteli and later Limay. The second bus had gone to, and then through, the city of Matagalpa and was on a rural road near San Ramon. One person was killed on this second bus. The most gravely wounded people on both buses were transported to the hospital in Matagalpa, and other wounded were taken to the health center in Ciudad Dario.

Here is a link to an article in El Nuevo Diario (including a picture of one of the buses):
http://www.elnuevodiario.com.ni/sucesos/325273-policia-ejercito-de-matagalpa-investigan-caso-de-buses-rafagueados

El Nuevo Diario also has a video for a police press conference, in which they announce that they are holding four suspects related to this case, and the investigation is ongoing.

The names of the two murdered women from Limay are not exactly the same in the article and the press conference, so I have listed the press-conference version of each in brackets. These are Vilma González Martínez [Vilma Gomez Benavides, age 48] and Lidia Esther Barrera Vásquez [Esther Lidia Gomez Barrera, age 28]. The two women were transported back to Limay today in coffins.

The other persons killed on the first bus are Germán Adrian Martínez Méndez, age 24, from Cusmapa (not far from Limay) and Yader Francisco Saenz Potoy, age 22, from San Ramon in the Matagalpa department. The person killed on the second bus is Yeltsin Talavera Galeano, age 20, also from San Ramon.

Olidia says the town of Limay is very torn up that these two women were killed; each left children behind. People are also afraid, rightly or wrongly, that this might be the beginning of another Contra war; in their anxiety, they are remembering the last one.

I haven't yet reached the other Limay committee members. I will try again tomorrow, and I'll let you know if I learn anything else of importance.

Barbara

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 12:27 AM
Hello,

Here's an update from Limay and Nicaragua generally. I spoke with Tranquilino Garmendia (coordinator of the Limay committee of Casa Baltimore/Limay) this evening.

The funeral and burial of the two Limay women was held this morning. The younger of the two, Esther Gómez Barrera, left a 3-year-old daughter behind; the family is very poor, but the government is reportedly stepping in to do something to help them. Tranquilino promised to let us know if there is a special need of the families which we might help with.

In the meantime, he thanked us for our solidarity and concern for the vulnerable in Nicaragua. He asked us to do whatever we can to promote peace. As he pointed out, and we already know in our hearts, violence begets violence. We need to stop the cycle in whatever ways are possible. There may be some US policies we can address in that regard!

He said people in Limay are feeling fearful, because they don't know what provoked this attack; but they are awaiting the results of the police investigation.

A reading of today's El Nuevo Diario newspaper online yielded additional news, detailed below. Here is a photo of the funeral procession in Limay:
http://www.elnuevodiario.com.ni/nacionales/325353-sepultan-a-victimas-de-ataque-armado. Those of you who have visited Limay may recognize the street headed toward the cemetery on the west side of town.

The newspaper reports that there was a huge mobilization of people attending the funeral from other towns in the area, including Esteli, Condega and Pueblo Nuevo. The FSLN political secretary for the Esteli department also attended, as did the mayor of Esteli, Francisco Valenzuela. Everyone was demanding that the police investigate and capture the assassins.

The older of the two women, Vilma Gómez Benavides, left behind a grown daughter who works for Enacal, the water and sewer agency, in Limay.

Many officials and church leaders across the country issued statements condemning the attack. These included President Daniel Ortega, Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, and Monsignor Silvio Jose Baez of Managua. The Catholic church is asking local parishes across the country to hold special masses this Thursday for the victims. The US Embassy also issued a condemnation.

The army has intensified its patrolling of the northern part of Nicaragua, in coordination with Nicaraguan police; they have issued a statement of their determination to keep Nicaraguans safe.

Four suspects had been detained by the police in connection with the attacks. One of these, a youth, was released today. This young man is the nephew of two of the other men; the fourth is a neighbor. Their families went to Cenidh (human rights agency) today, emphatically stating that the suspects did not do this crime; the four men had reportedly attended the celebration in Managua and are ardent Sandinista supporters. A Cenidh spokesman conjectured that the other three men will also be released.

“Justice is what love looks like in public.” – Cornel West

LEONARDO'S ORIGINAL MESSAGES:
hola barbara, hay luto en limay dos mujeres muertas, rafaguearon los buses cuando venían de la caravana de la celebración del 19, eso fue en el tramo de la carretera de Dario - sebaco
hay cuatro muertos por todo y 26 heridos

Baltimore Activist Alert - July 22 - 24, 2014

24] Support airport workers – July 22
25] U.S. Policy Today for Africa Tomorrow – July 22
26] Philadelphia Peace Vigil – July 22
27] No Drone Research at JHU – July 22
28] Banner making to prepare for Palestinian support demo – July 22 & 24
29] US Africa Network – July 22
30] Film “Bury the Hatchet” – July 22
31] Pray for Peace – July 22
32] Tipped workers need a living wage – July 23
33] No to Cove Point – July 23
34] "The Future of WMD in 2030" – July 23
35] Environmental scorecard – July 23
36] Film “Kids For Cash” – July 23
37] Join Project Bridge at Red Emma's – July 23
38] Occupy Congress over massacre of Gaza – July 24
---
24] – On Tues., July 22 at 11 AM, SUPPORT WORKERS AT THE BWI AIRPORT by gathering at the BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport Observation Gallery. UNITE/HERE will host a Community Forum on Worker Retention. The We Deserve Better Workers Assembly and Peoples Power Assembly will be mobilizing for this event. A group will leave at 10 AM sharp from 2101 N. Charles St. If you need transportation please call 410-218-4835 to reserve a seat. This will be an opportunity to hear firsthand from workers about the consequences of lack of job security at the state-owned airport and the dire need for a worker retention program that enables BWI food and retail workers to continue to support themselves and their families. The community forum will also feature an expert panel that will make recommendations about how job security can be improved at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport and submit these recommendations to the Maryland Aviation Administration.

25] – On Tues., July 22 from 2 to 3:30 PM, hear about U.S. Policy Today for Africa Tomorrow: A Conversation with Ambassadors Carson, Lyman, and Moose at the U.S. Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Ave. NW, WDC 20037. RSVP at http://www.eventbrite.com/e/us-policy-today-for-africa-tomorrow-tickets-12136048247.

Home to burgeoning economies and brutal civil conflicts - sometimes coexisting in the same country - Africa is increasingly prominent in the foreign policy agendas of world powers. In early August, President Obama will convene most of the heads of state of the 54 nations of Africa in Washington, D.C. for the first-ever summit between U.S. and African leaders. There will be no shortage of issues to discuss, from how to harness Africa's economic growth and lift large sections of its population out of poverty, to growing trade between the U.S. and Africa, to concerns about closing political space in some countries, among many other topics.

26] – 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 July 22. Call 215-426-0364.

27] – Vigil to say "No Drone Research at JHU" each Tuesday at 33rd & North Charles Sts. Join this ongoing vigil on July 22 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. Call Max at 410-366-1637.

28] – On Tues., July 22 at 6 PM, near Charles Village, there will be a banner making gathering to prepare for the Thursday demo to condemn the massacre ongoing in Gaza. Email for the address. Bring your paint, cardboard, spray paint and good ideas. On Thurs., July 24 from 5:30 to 7 PM, there will be a demo at 33rd & St. Paul St. with Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine.

29] – Get over to 1916 10th St. NW, WDC 20001 between U & T Sts. on Tues., July 22 from 6:30 to 9 PM and hang out with other lefties/progressives, learn about the US Africa Network, and support the launch of their Indiegogo campaign for a major event they're hosting in D.C. on August 4th. Food, drinks, and music will be provided. Are you interested in connecting with activists from Africa, learning from one another, and working together on shared struggles? That’s what the new US Africa Network is all about!

From 8 to 9 PM, there will be optional phone banking. On August 5 and 6, President Obama will host a summit for about 50 African heads of state to discuss trade, investment, security and democratic development. In response, the U.S. Africa Network and its partners are hosting an alternative forum on August 4 at Howard University to present progressive perspectives on issues impacting Africa and the United States, strengthen our relationships, and reach the media. The Empowered Africa Dialogue will bring together grassroots citizen-activists, scholars, progressive NGOs and community organizers from Africa and the United States. Contact EmpoweredAfrica2014@gmail.com.

30] – At Bloombars, 3222 11th St. NW on Tues., July 22 from 7 to 9 PM, see the film “Bury the Hatchet” (2010, 86 min) by Aaron Walker, a documentary which portrays three Big Chiefs of the Mardi Gras Indians of New Orleans, who are descendants of runaway slaves taken in by Native Americans of the Louisiana bayous. The film presents a dynamic portrait of the unique and endangered culture of New Orleans they represent--as bearers of tradition, as artists and as musicians. Go to http://tinyurl.com/burythehatchet-trailer.

The discussion will be lead by Khalil Shahyd, from New Orleans. He masked with the Northside Skull and Bone Gang for 5 years, participating in the Black "Mardi Gras" Indian traditions in New Orleans. He is currently a PhD candidate in Urban Political Ecology and a Program Manager in the Urban Solutions program with the Natural Resources Defense Council. The suggested donation is $10, which includes free organic popcorn. Proceeds will support BloomBars. Free organic popcorn. Following these Black Indian Chiefs of Mardi Gras, the audience will get to experience the vulnerability of the black community in New Orleans--from the destruction of middle class African-American neighborhoods to make way for an interstate highway, to the violence that once defined their culture, to police crackdowns, the reality of aging and death, and finally the absolute devastation of their community following Hurricane Katrina. Yet despite their setbacks, the Mardi Gras Indians display an overwhelming sense of determination and vitality in their dedication to their communities. BloomScreen Indie Film Night is a weekly series of independent and foreign films, accompanied by discussions with filmmakers, experts and other guests. Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1442653502672521/.

31] – The Interfaith Peace Partners will meet to Pray for Peace at 7:30 PM on Tues., July 22 at the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 8501 Lock Raven Blvd. in Towson at the corner of Lock Raven and Putty Hill Road. Email ccloughen@episcopalmaryland.org or call 410-321-0199.

32] – The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC) invite you to an important forum on tipped workers to be held Wed., July 23 on 9:15 to 11 AM at 1333 H St. NW, Suite 300, East Tower. There will be several speakers including EPI research associate Sylvia Allegretto and economic analyst David Cooper, authors of “Twenty-Three Years and Still Waiting for Change: Why It’s Time to Give Tipped Workers the Regular Minimum Wage.” See https://www.eventbrite.com/e/has-the-time-come-for-tipped-workers-to-receive-the-full-minimum-wage-registration-12289005747.

33] – On Wed., July 23 at noon at mini-rally and press event, tell Gov. Martin O’Malley to do the right thing on Cove Point. The governor will be present at a meeting from 1 to 2 PM regarding one of the many permits Dominion needs before it can start construction on this fracked gas export facility. The state Board of Public Works, on which Gov. O’Malley sits, is considering a permit Dominion needs to build a new pier on the Patuxent River. This meeting will mark the first time that Governor O’Malley will be present at a public hearing on Cove Point.

Meet at Lawyer’s Mall, across from the State House in Annapolis, Bladen St. and College Ave. The hearing will be in the Governor's Reception Room in the State House, 100 State Circle. Stand with your Maryland neighbors living next to Cove Point by being present at this public meeting. At noon, Calvert citizens will be holding a press conference to call on Gov. O’Malley to order a minimum review of the human safety risks that this liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility will pose to nearby neighborhoods. See http://org.salsalabs.com/o/423/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=82366.

In 2007, Gov. O’Malley testified in Congress against an LNG import facility proposed in Sparrow’s Point, Baltimore. He had this to say: The proposed LNG project at Sparrow's Point represents a threat to our homeland security, a threat to our environment and Chesapeake Bay and a threat to the families of eastern Baltimore County. Gov. O’Malley’s outcry was part of the reason that that dangerous and polluting facility has never been built. Yet, he’s been conspicuously silent on Dominion Resources’ proposed $3.8 billion fracked gas export facility at Cove Point -- despite massive regional grassroots pressure against the plant and despite even greater threats to nearby families and our environment.

34] – On Wed., July 24 from noon to 1:30 PM, John Caves and Seth Carus, National Defense University, will tackle "The Future of WMD in 2030" at the National Defense University, Lincoln Hall, Room 1119, Fort McNair, WDC. RSVP by email Nima.Gerami@ndu.edu.

35] – Join the Maryland League of Conservation Voters for the release of its 2014 Environmental Scorecard on Wed., July 23 from 5 to 7 PM at the Silver Spring Civic Center, 1 Veterans Plaza, Silver Spring 20910. For over 35 years, the non-partisan Maryland League of Conservation Voters has served as the independent political voice for the environment in Maryland. It advocates for sound conservation policies, promotes environmentally responsible candidates, and holds individual elected officials accountable through scorecards. RSVP at https://www.thedatabank.com/dpg/288/personal2.asp?formid=mdlcvelect&c=6308032&aacwc=371562889112534049362152203102.

36] – At the New Organizing Institute, 1133 19th St. NW, Suite 850, on Wed., July 23 at 6:30 PM see “Kids For Cash,” a documentary that examines the notorious judicial scandal that rocked the nation. Beyond the millions paid and high-stakes corruption, the film exposes a shocking secret. Starting in the wake of the shootings at Columbine, the people of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania celebrate a charismatic judge who is hell-bent on keeping kids in line, until one parent decides to question the motives behind his brand of justice. In the end, Judge Mark Ciavarella was accused of accepting money from Robert Mericle, builder of two private, for-profit juvenile facilities, in return for imposing harsh sentences on juveniles to increase the number of inmates in the detention centers. This real life thriller reveals the untold stories of the masterminds at the center of the scandal and the chilling aftermath of lives destroyed in the process. Contact Jessica Mitchell, NOI, at info@neworganizing.com.

37] – Join Project Bridge at Red Emma's Bookstore Cafe, 30 W. North Ave., Baltimore 21201for Baltimore's Science Café on Wed., July 23 at 7 PM. This month features Dr. Gul Dolen, assistant professor from Johns Hopkins University who will discuss the complex story of autism. Join the conversation about this disorder from the perspective of history, policy, and science. RSVP at www.projbridge.com. Project Bridge is a student organization at Johns Hopkins aimed at connecting science with the community and foster public interest in science research. Call 443-602-7585. Go to http://www.redemmas.org.

38] – On Thurs., July 24 from 9 AM to 5 PM, as the violence in Gaza continues to escalate, CODEPINK is calling for all to take part in an urgent national day of action. Please join anytime during the day in Congress to lobby representatives and senators to stop the bombing and advocate for the human rights of the Palestinians! This event is being done with the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and other organizations. ADC will hold a pre-meeting briefing in the Rayburn House Office Building Room 2456 at 9 AM and a debriefing at 4:30 PM. CODEPINK will also be working from the Rayburn Cafeteria between these briefing times.

Contact your legislators to request meetings for Thursday between 10 AM and 4 PM. Ask to meet with the legislative assistant or staffer who handles foreign affairs. Also consider going to offices of members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. RSVP to Tyra Walker at tyra.j.walker@gmail.com or at 917-208-0266.

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] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/.

"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, July 21, 2014

Saudi Arabia's Role in the Conflict Between Shia and Sunni

Published on Portside (https://portside.org)

Saudi Arabia's Role in the Conflict Between Shia and Sunni
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/15/saudi-complicity-in-the-rise-of-isis/

Patrick Cockburn

Tuesday, July 15, 2014
CounterPunch

How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world?

Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.

There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

Dearlove’s explosive revelation about the prediction of a day of reckoning for the Shia by Prince Bandar, and the former head of MI6′s view that Saudi Arabia is involved in the Isis-led Sunni rebellion, has attracted surprisingly little attention. Coverage of Dearlove’s speech focused instead on his main theme that the threat from Isis to the West is being exaggerated because, unlike Bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida, it is absorbed in a new conflict that “is essentially Muslim on Muslim”. Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.

The forecast by Prince Bandar, who was at the heart of Saudi security policy for more than three decades, that the 100 million Shia in the Middle East face disaster at the hands of the Sunni majority, will convince many Shia that they are the victims of a Saudi-led campaign to crush them. “The Shia in general are getting very frightened after what happened in northern Iraq,” said an Iraqi commentator, who did not want his name published. Shia see the threat as not only military but stemming from the expanded influence over mainstream Sunni Islam of Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia that condemns Shia and other Islamic sects as non-Muslim apostates and polytheists.

Dearlove says that he has no inside knowledge obtained since he retired as head of MI6 10 years ago to become Master of Pembroke College in Cambridge. But, drawing on past experience, he sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes.

• First, they are convinced that there “can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam’s holiest shrines”.
• But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be “deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom”.

Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.

The difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis can be overstated: when Bin Laden was killed by United States forces in 2011, al-Baghdadi released a statement eulogising him, and Isis pledged to launch 100 attacks in revenge for his death.

But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa’ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar’s approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.

He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence “literally shouting at me across his office: ’9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.’” In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.

Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia “militancy” is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.” She said that, in so far as Saudi Arabia did act against al-Qa’ida, it was as a domestic threat and not because of its activities abroad. This policy may now be changing with the dismissal of Prince Bandar as head of intelligence this year. But the change is very recent, still ambivalent and may be too late: it was only last week that a Saudi prince said he would no longer fund a satellite television station notorious for its anti-Shia bias based in Egypt.

The problem for the Saudis is that their attempts since Bandar lost his job to create an anti-Maliki and anti-Assad Sunni constituency which is simultaneously against al-Qa’ida and its clones have failed.

By seeking to weaken Maliki and Assad in the interest of a more moderate Sunni faction, Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, as happened previously in its Syrian capital Raqqa, potential critics and opponents are disarmed, forced to swear allegiance to the new caliphate and killed if they resist.

The West may have to pay a price for its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, which have always found Sunni jihadism more attractive than democracy. A striking example of double standards by the western powers was the Saudi-backed suppression of peaceful democratic protests by the Shia majority in Bahrain in March 2011. Some 1,500 Saudi troops were sent across the causeway to the island kingdom as the demonstrations were ended with great brutality and Shia mosques and shrines were destroyed.

An alibi used by the US and Britain is that the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family in Bahrain is pursuing dialogue and reform. But this excuse looked thin last week as Bahrain expelled a top US diplomat, the assistant secretary of state for human rights Tom Malinowksi, for meeting leaders of the main Shia opposition party al-Wifaq. Mr Malinowski tweeted that the Bahrain government’s action was “not about me but about undermining dialogue”.

Western powers and their regional allies have largely escaped criticism for their role in reigniting the war in Iraq.

Publicly and privately, they have blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for persecuting and marginalising the Sunni minority, so provoking them into supporting the Isis-led revolt. There is much truth in this, but it is by no means the whole story. Maliki did enough to enrage the Sunni, partly because he wanted to frighten Shia voters into supporting him in the 30 April election by claiming to be the Shia community’s protector against Sunni counter-revolution.

But for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. “I guess they just didn’t believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad,” said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.

Of course, US and British politicians and diplomats would argue that they were in no position to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. But this is misleading. By insisting that peace negotiations must be about the departure of Assad from power, something that was never going to happen since Assad held most of the cities in the country and his troops were advancing, the US and Britain made sure the war would continue.

The chief beneficiary is Isis which over the last two weeks has been mopping up the last opposition to its rule in eastern Syria. The Kurds in the north and the official al-Qa’ida representative, Jabhat al-Nusra, are faltering under the impact of Isis forces high in morale and using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army. It is also, without the rest of the world taking notice, taking over many of the Syrian oil wells that it did not already control.

Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control.

The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open. As Kurdish-held border crossings fall to Isis, Turkey will find it has a new neighbour of extraordinary violence, and one deeply ungrateful for past favours from the Turkish intelligence service.

As for Saudi Arabia, it may come to regret its support for the Sunni revolts in Syria and Iraq as jihadi social media begins to speak of the House of Saud as its next target. It is the unnamed head of Saudi General Intelligence quoted by Dearlove after 9/11 who is turning out to have analysed the potential threat to Saudi Arabia correctly and not Prince Bandar, which may explain why the latter was sacked earlier this year.

Nor is this the only point on which Prince Bandar was dangerously mistaken. The rise of Isis is bad news for the Shia of Iraq but it is worse news for the Sunni whose leadership has been ceded to a pathologically bloodthirsty and intolerant movement, a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, which has no aim but war without end.

The Sunni caliphate rules a large, impoverished and isolated area from which people are fleeing. Several million Sunni in and around Baghdad are vulnerable to attack and 255 Sunni prisoners have already been massacred. In the long term, Isis cannot win, but its mix of fanaticism and good organisation makes it difficult to dislodge.

“God help the Shia,” said Prince Bandar, but, partly thanks to him, the shattered Sunni communities of Iraq and Syria may need divine help even more than the Shia.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

Source URL: https://portside.org/2014-07-19/saudi-arabias-role-conflict-between-shia-and-sunni

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

"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

FBI Entrapment Created 'Illusion' of Terrorist Plots: Report

Published on Monday, July 21, 2014 by Common Dreams

FBI Entrapment Created 'Illusion' of Terrorist Plots: Report

A close look at government counter-terrorism tactics reveals that many people convicted would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.
- Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

Federal officials and law enforcement agents are treating American Muslims like "terrorists-in-waiting," according to a new report released Monday by Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School's Human Rights Institute.

The FBI, under pressure to appear effective and worthy of its $8.4-billion budget, has "targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism 'sting operations' based on religious and ethnic identity"; sent informants to mosques to "troll for leads"; and in some cases encouraged or even paid individuals to undertake terrorist acts, the report (pdf) reveals.

"The FBI's proclaimed success in convicting alleged terrorist conspirators has come with serious and unnecessary costs to the rights of many of those prosecuted and convicted, to their families and communities, to the public, and to the rule of law."

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

The study, entitled Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in U.S. Terrorism Prosecutions, examines 27 federal terrorism cases (of more than 500 since September 11, 2001) from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement, finding infractions at every turn.

By preying on vulnerable individuals, utilizing questionable legal tactics, and subjecting citizens to harsh and disproportionate confinement conditions, the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI show disregard for civil rights and "may be creating terrorists out of law-abiding citizens," report co-author Tarek Z. Ismai writes at Just Security.

In fact, Illusions of Justice details how such practices are counterproductive, sowing seeds of mistrust within the American Muslim community:

The law enforcement practices described in this report have alienated the very communities the government relies on most to report possible terrorist threats and diverted resources from other, more effective ways, of responding to the threat of terrorism. Its proclaimed success in convicting alleged terrorist conspirators has come with serious and unnecessary costs to the rights of many of those prosecuted and convicted, to their families and communities, to the public, and to the rule of law.
This report is just one of several current examinations of the FBI's shady tactics.

On Sunday, Al Jazeera's Investigative Unit released a film and multimedia piece—called Informants —that details how undercover operatives (who are often not government agents but "criminal offenders attempting to avoid prison time through their cooperation with the government") regularly target innocent citizens and set about to ensnare them in conspiracies.

It's not just American Muslims who are targeted. In an Al Jazeera opinion piece published Monday, scholar and author Abdullah Al-Arian, of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar, declared:

Perhaps most worrisome...is the ways in which the FBI has exploited the endemic poverty and social problems from drug use to lack of education that are prevalent within some black communities across the US in order to construct the perception of a terrorist threat.

An HBO documentary premiering Monday night documents an illustrative case of exactly that, in which an FBI informant recruited four African-American Muslim men into a terrorist plot (presenting them with the idea, offering them a sizeable chunk of change, and supplying them with the weapons to carry it out). The men are now serving 25 years in prison.

In an interview with the ACLU's Blog of Rights, the director of The Newburgh Sting notes:

The FBI was able to entice four destitute African Americans with no particular prospects in life, with $250,000, to do some bad deeds. The FBI is trying to sell this as a terrorist case, when really all you’ve got is proof that you can wave money at people who are desperate and poor and get them to “commit crimes.”

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) "welcomes" the increased dialogue about post-9/11 counter-terrorism practices, said Haris Tarin, director of MPAC's Washington, D.C. office. With its Safe Spaces initiative, it is attempting to foster better communication between law enforcement officials and the American Muslims—something Tarin stressed will necessitate debate on Capitol Hill as well as on the community level.

As Tarin told Common Dreams, "You can't treat us as suspects and partners at the same time."
_____________________
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/07/21-6

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

"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, July 20, 2014

Federal Court: No Execution Unless Arizona Reveals Drug Source

http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/24872-federal-court-no-execution-unless-arizona-reveals-drug-source

Kiefer writes: "The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Saturday that Arizona must divulge information about the drugs and executioners it will use to put a man to death Wednesday or the execution will not go forward."

A gurney used for executions. (photo: AP)

Federal Court: No Execution Unless Arizona Reveals Drug Source
By Michael Kiefer, Arizona Republic

20 July 14

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Saturday that Arizona must divulge information about the drugs and executioners it will use to put a man to death Wednesday or the execution will not go forward.

Joseph Wood, who killed his estranged girlfriend, Debra Dietz, and her father, Eugene Dietz, in Tucson in 1989, is scheduled to die July 23.

But his attorneys at the Federal Defender's Office in Phoenix filed suit claiming he had a First Amendment right to know who supplied the drugs that will be used to kill him and the qualifications of the executioners who will carry it out.

Two of the judges in a panel of three sided with Wood; the third dissented.

At issue is a new drug combination that Arizona has turned to because it cannot obtain the drugs it normally uses for executions. That combination, and one of the drugs in particular, a Valium relative called Midazolam, has caused apparent "flawed executions," as the court called them, in Ohio and Oklahoma.

The state argued that the information is protected by state law shielding the identity of executioners, and that there is no mandate to turn over all information held by the government.

A judge in the U.S. District Court in Phoenix agreed, prompting Wood's attorneys to take the case to 9th Circuit. It was argued in San Francisco on Friday and the 9th Circuit issued its opinion late Saturday afternoon.

The court said "... the State's argument ignores the ongoing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in this country, and the importance of providing specific and detailed information about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered."

The opinion mentioned problems over the past several years in obtaining lethal injection drugs. In 2010, The Arizona Republic reported that Arizona had sidestepped federal laws to obtain lethal injection drugs from overseas.

The U.S. District and Appeals Courts in Washington, D.C., ruled that the laws had been violated, but Arizona officials have steadfastly denied that the state violated them, placing responsibility on the federal agencies regulating the drugs.

The 9th Circuit took note.

"We, and the public, cannot meaningfully evaluate execution protocol cloaked in secrecy," the majority wrote. "It is in the public's interest that Wood's injunction be granted."

The Arizona Attorney General's Office, which represents the Department of Corrections in the matter, told The Republic that it will ask the court to reconsider the decision en banc, meaning that it wants a larger panel of judges to evaluate the question.
Wood's attorney, Dale Baich of the Federal Public Defender's Office, said, "The court correctly recognized the importance of the information Mr. Wood seeks. There is a continuing and intensifying debate over lethal injection in the country, and the court said it's important that specific and detailed information be provided so the public can know about how safely and reliably the death penalty is administered."

In its arguments, the state noted that public attention to the sources of the lethal injection drugs has already led to drug manufacturers refusing to sell to prisons for executions.

Judge Jay Bybee agreed in his dissent, saying, "...the disclosure of certain kinds of information also hobbles the state's ability to carry out its legitimate functions. When disclosure inhibits the effectiveness of the process at issue without producing substantial benefits, then public access to the information does not "play a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question."

But the majority issued a preliminary injunction that can be lifted by Wednesday if the state turns over the information. If not, the warrant for Wood's execution will expire by Thursday morning.

"We will be asking the full court to consider this opinion," said Assistant Arizona Attorney General Jeffrey Zick. "Judge Bybee's dissent correctly points out that there is no First Amendment violation here."

If the court refuses to do so, the state can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and whether Wood is executed Wednesday could go down to the last minute.

© 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] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"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

The Human Price of Neocon Havoc

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/24843-focus-the-human-price-of-neocon-havoc

Parry writes: "Neocons are the 'masters of chaos' as they destabilize disfavored governments around the world."

Neocons - Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol and Richard Perle. (photo: unknown)

The Human Price of Neocon Havoc
By Robert Parry, Consortium News
17 July 14

Whether the tragedy is four boys getting blown apart while playing on a beach in Gaza or nearly 300 killed from a suspected missile strike on a Malaysian Airliner over Ukraine or the thousands upon thousands of other innocent victims slaughtered in Iraq, Syria, Libya and other recent war zones, the underlying lesson is that the havoc encouraged by America’s neocons results in horrendous loss of human life.

While clearly other players share in this blame, including the soldiers on the ground and the politicians lacking the courage to compromise, the principal culprits in the bloodshed of the past dozen years have been the neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” allies who can’t seem to stop stirring up trouble in the name of “democracy” and “human rights.”
Rather than work out reasonable – albeit imperfect – compromises with various foreign leaders, the neocons and their liberal allies insist on ratcheting up demands to such unrealistic levels that conflict becomes inevitable and the outcomes are almost always catastrophic.

In Iraq in 2003, the neocons and many liberal fellow-travelers insisted that the only acceptable solution was the violent removal of Saddam Hussein through an unprovoked U.S. invasion. Though Hussein was ousted and hanged, the collateral damage included hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, including many children, along with the complete destabilization of the country.
In Syria and Libya, many of the same U.S. actors – although in this case led by the liberal “responsibility-to-protect” crowd – pushed for the overthrow of the existing governments, supposedly to save lives and spread democracy.

In Libya, the U.S.-led air war did cause Muammar Gaddafi to be overthrown and murdered but the ensuing chaos has led to many more deaths, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, plus the spread of Islamic militancy across the region.

In Syria, the U.S.-backed “regime change” bid failed to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad but the resulting chaos has left more than 100,000 people killed and has given rise to an ultra-violent jihadist group called the Islamic State, which first emerged from the U.S.-created war in Iraq and has now boomeranged back onto Iraq as the jihadists have seized major cities and spurred more sectarian killings.

But there may be a method to the apparent neocon madness. The neocons have always been committed to protecting Israel and enabling its oppression of Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza. Indeed, one can understand pretty much every confrontational policy pushed by the neocons as being designed to serve Israeli interests.

These “regime change” schemes can be directly traced to the work of prominent U.S. neocons on Benjamin Netanyahu’s 1996 campaign for Israeli prime minister. Rather than continuing inconclusive negotiations with the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s neocon advisers – including Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David Wurmser and Mevray Wurmser – advocated an aggressive new approach, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”

Essentially, the neocon thinking arose from Israeli frustration over negotiations with the Palestinians. The Israelis were angry at Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and the militant group Hamas as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. So the “clean break” scratched negotiations and replaced talking with “regime change” in countries supporting those groups, whether Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Syria under the Assad dynasty or Iran, a leading benefactor of Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Two years later, in 1998, came the neocon Project for the New American Century’s call for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. PNAC was founded by neocon luminaries William Kristol and Robert Kagan. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mysterious Why of the Iraq War.”]

Helpful Chaos

Though many of the neocon plans have not worked out as advertised – the promised “cakewalk” in Iraq turned into a bloody slog – the neocon strategy could still be labeled a success if the actual intent was to destabilize and weaken Middle Eastern countries that were perceived as threats to Israel.

Through that lens, it’s not entirely bad that old sectarian hatreds have been revived, pitting Sunni against Shiite and ripping apart societies such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. In the end, the regional chaos has helped Prime Minister Netanyahu starve the Palestinians of the financial support that they once had, supposedly making them more susceptible to whatever demands the Israelis choose to make. And it has given Netanyahu a freer hand to engage in periodic slaughters of Gazan militants, a process that Israelis call “mowing the grass.”

When the 1.7 million Palestinians packed into the Gaza Strip lash out at their Israeli oppressors – as they periodically do – the neocons who remain very influential in Official Washington are quick to dominate the U.S. media, justifying whatever levels of violence that Netanyahu chooses to inflict. But raining bombs down on this densely populated area is sure to kill many children and other innocents.

On Wednesday, the Israeli military targeted a shed on the beach in Gaza. According to reports, the first missile hit the shed and killed one small boy playing in the vicinity. When three other boys began running, the Israelis blew them away with a second rocket. New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks explained the events this way:

“A small shack atop a sea wall at the fishing port had been struck by an Israeli bomb or missile and was burning. A young boy emerged from the smoke, running toward the adjacent beach. I grabbed my cameras and was putting on body armor and a helmet when, about 30 seconds after the first blast, there was another. The boy I had seen running was now dead, lying motionless in the sand, along with three other boys who had been playing there.”

Presumably, the Israeli pilots or whoever targeted the missile deserve the immediate blame for this atrocity. But the far-worse criminals are the Israeli leaders who refuse to address the longstanding injustices inflicted on the Palestinian people. Also, sharing in this crime are the American neocons who justify whatever Israel does.

Similarly, it has been the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” allies who have been stoking the crisis in Ukraine in part out of a desire to drive a wedge between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has assisted Obama in defusing crises in Syria and Iran, two areas where the neocons hoped to engineer more “regime change.”

By last September, leading neocons, such as National Endowment for Democracy President Carl Gershman, had identified Ukraine as the geopolitical instrument for punishing Putin. Gershman deemed Ukraine “the biggest prize” and hoped that grabbing it for the Western sphere of influence might undercut Putin at home as well.

Gershman’s NED funded scores of Ukrainian political and media organizations while Assistant Secretary of State Victorian Nuland estimated that the U.S. government had invested $5 billion in the cause of pulling Ukraine into the West. Nuland, a neocon holdover who had been a top adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, is the wife of PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan.

Nuland went so far as to show up at mass demonstrations in Kiev’s Maidan Square passing out cookies to the protesters, while neocon Sen. John McCain stood with the far-right Svoboda Party – under a banner honoring Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera – to urge on the protesters to challenge elected President Viktor Yanukovych. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What the Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]

Wreaking Havoc

The political crisis in Ukraine reached a boiling point Feb. 20-22 as the demonstrations turned increasingly violent and the death toll among police and protesters mounted. On Feb. 21, three European foreign ministers reached an agreement with Yanukovych in which he agreed to limit his powers and accept early elections to vote him out of office. He also pulled back the police, as Vice President Joe Biden had demanded.

At that point, however, well-trained neo-Nazi militias – organized in brigades of 100 – took the offensive, seizing government buildings and forcing Yanukovych’s officials to flee for their lives. Instead of trying to enforce the Feb. 21 agreement, which would have safeguarded Ukraine’s constitutional process, the U.S. State Department cheered the unlawful ouster of Yanukovych and quickly recognized the coup regime as “legitimate.”

The Feb. 22 coup set in motion a train of other events as “ethnically pure” Ukrainians in the west were pitted against ethnic Russians in the east and south. The crisis grew bloodier as the ethnic Russians resisted what they regarded as an illegitimate regime in Kiev.
Meanwhile, the U.S. mainstream press – always enthralled to the neocons – pushed a false narrative about Ukraine that put nearly all the blame on Putin, though he clearly was reacting to provocations instigated by the West, not the other way around.

Still, the neocons achieved one of their chief goals, alienating Obama from Putin and making the two leaders’ collaboration on Syria, Iran and other trouble spots more unlikely. In other words, the neocons have kept alive hope that those problems won’t be resolved through compromise, but rather might still lead to more warfare.
While some Machiavellians might admire this neocon “always-say-die” determination, the human consequences can be quite severe. For instance, the violence in eastern Ukraine may have led to the Thursday crash of a Malaysian Airliner flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with all 295 people onboard killed.

It was not immediately clear which side in the fighting – if any – was responsible for the suspected shoot-down of the plane. The various parties to the conflict all denied responsibility. But it would not be the first time that an international conflict has contributed to the destruction of a civilian airliner.

On July 3, 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf, killing all 290 people onboard, after apparently mistaking the airliner for a warplane.

While Ukraine’s new President Petro Poroshenko was quick to call the crash “a terrorist act” – and implicitly blame the ethnic Russian rebels – the reality is almost assuredly that it was an accident (assuming that a missile did bring down the airliner). Presumably, the same is true about the Israeli twin missile strikes killing those four boys on a beach in Gaza. The Israeli military most likely misjudged their ages.

But the overriding lesson from these tragedies should be that the real villains are people who opt for chaos and war over progress and peace. And, in the case of the Middle East and Ukraine, the greatest purveyors of this unnecessary warfare are America’s neocons.

© 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] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/

"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

Activists Organize 'Standing Our Ground Week' Ahead of High-Stakes Marissa Alexander Hearing

Published on Alternet (http://www.alternet.org)

AlterNet [1] / By Alyssa Figueroa [2]

Activists Organize 'Standing Our Ground Week' Ahead of High-Stakes Marissa Alexander Hearing

July 18, 2014 |

Ninety-three years old. That’s how old Marissa Alexander will be when she’s released from prison if she receives the 60-year prison sentence [3] she's facing for firing a warning shot to ward off her abusive husband.

But before a Florida trial that could impose that lifetime sentence begins this fall, another even more important hearing will take place. On Friday, Aug. 1, the same judge will take testimony and rule if Alexander is entitled to a hearing to decide if she is immune from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

The stakes are tremendous. The rest of Alexander’s life hangs in the balance. But there’s also the deeply disturbing question of whether “Stand Your Ground” laws apply mostly to often-paranoid men wielding guns but not women fighting off domestic abusers. Outside the courtroom, activists have been busy raising these issues and others, as Florida’s legal system, its institutional racism and politics come into the spotlight.

The Free Marissa Now campaign [4], which is working for Alexander’s release, has joined forces with key local and national reproductive justice, anti-domestic violence and anti-mass incarceration organizers to hold a “Standing Our Ground Week” to highlight the racist and sexist prejudices at play in the criminal justice system. Sponsors of this week-long event, from July 25 to Aug. 1, include the Jacksonville chapter of the New Jim Crow Movement and the National Congress of Black Women [5], while representatives from Planned Parenthood and the National Organization of Women will also be in attendance.

The gathering comes on the one-year anniversary of George Zimmerman’s exoneration for the murder of Trayvon Martin in what’s arguably the country’s most notorious Stand Your Ground case. After the jury freed Zimmerman, seasoned lawyers said that Florida prosecutors never intended [6] to convict him. Now, the question is, will the same law free a black female abuse victim?

“What we really want to do is to promote the politics of black lives matter,” said Alisa Bierria, member of the Free Marissa Now campaign. “We believe that in the prosecution of George Zimmerman, we did not see the value of black lives matter as that prosecution unfolded. And we didn’t see the value of black lives matter in the prosecution of Marissa Alexander. And that’s the main thing that pulls these two cases together.”

The events in Jacksonville will see hundreds gather at what Bierria said will be a “warm and beautiful convergence” filled with creativity and art as well as political discussions. It includes various panels, legal rights training, a march, a candlelight vigil, and a “court watch” on Aug. 1, to attend Alexander’s hearing. Solidarity events [7] will be held in Chicago and New Orleans. The Free Marissa campaign has a list of ways [7] people everywhere can participate.

Championing Alexander’s plight and showing how Florida’s twisted laws work has been anything but simple, Bierria said. “It’s really challenging, but also educational for us to learn how to organize around a system that you have no control over,” she said. “And it’s been very educational for me to really see how people’s lives depend on other people’s schedules. If the judge is taking a vacation, if the prosecutor is not available, that means your trial is pushed for another six months or so. I do think there’s a kind of violence in that bureaucracy.”

Duval County Circuit Judge James Daniel made the most recent delay in Alexander’s retrial, from July 28 to Dec. 8, saying he wanted to evaluate how a new Florida law, dubbed the “Warning Shot” bill, would affect the case. Signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in June with Alexander’s case in mind [8], it extends Florida’s Stand Your Ground law to include self-defense protections for those using the threat of deadly force, not just deadly force itself.

While prosecutors argue that the new law can’t be used retroactively—underscoring their desire to imprison Alexander for life—Bierria said it might give Daniel room to issue a new interpretation of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But the new law, sponsored by the National Rifle Association, mostly appears to re-enforce Florida’s pro-gun laws. And Bierria isn’t optimistic that Florida’s institutional racism is about to disappear.

“When Zimmerman was acquitted for murdering a child, we saw that Marissa Alexander was not only found guilty in just a few minutes, but received a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years,” Bierria said, highlighting the hypocrisy of these laws. “We could see right there, the ways in which this judicial system operates.”
If Daniel does grant Alexander a Stand Your Ground hearing and a judge decides she did act in self-defense, Alexander will be exonerated. She will not have to go to trial in December, where she may face a 60-year prison sentence. State Attorney Angela Corey announced [3] she would seek to have Alexander serve her sentence consecutively; 20 years for each of the three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

Bierria said the campaign hopes Alexander, a mother of three who is currently under house arrest, would be freed as soon as possible. Alexander has incurred $250,000 in legal fees—and that’s with a pro bono legal team. Her ankle monitor costs $105 a week. She has to post a bond payment of $500 every other week. And she has her family responsibilities.

Marissa Alexander’s life was complicated enough before this legal battle. The incident that led to her arrest happened on Aug. 1, 2010, when her husband started to strangle her in the bathroom after seeing texts on her cell phone to her ex-husband. Minutes later he charged Alexander in rage while threatening to kill her. That’s when she fired the warning shot—which injured no one. Alexander’s initial hearing for a Stand Your Ground case was denied because a different judge stated [9] that Alexander’s actions were “inconsistent with a person who is in genuine fear for his or her life.”

At her trial in May 2012, the jury found her guilty in 12 minutes, sentencing her to 20 years under Florida’s 10-20-life mandatory minimum law. But in September 2013, Alexander won her appeal because the judge erroneously instructed her jurors. Free Marissa Now members organized a letter-writing campaign to urge the prosecutor to drop the case. Instead, State Attorney Corey decided to pursue a new trial.

Alexander’s lawyers sought another Stand Your Ground hearing prior to the retrial, arguing that the full evidentiary record was previously ignored by the court. They also say the previous court was presented with bad lawyering—a case addressing the wrong statute of the Stand Your Ground law.

Bierria has no insight into what Judge Daniel will decide on Aug. 1. What she does know, she says, “is that the criminal punishment system has consistent bias against black women.… We want to highlight the ways it incarcerates black women disproportionately and doesn’t believe them when they tell them they’re experiencing violence in their lives.”

Crime statistics confirm that women of color are disproportionately impacted [10] by domestic violence, which one in four [11] adult women in the United States will experience in their lifetime. Bierria said it would be a tragic commentary about the value of women’s lives if their capacity to protect themselves is threatened by incarceration.

“A life sentence for self-defense,” she sighed. “If we don’t make sure Marissa gets free, it will be such a historic moment that speaks volumes about women’s rights to defend our lives.”

More information on the Jacksonville Standing Our Ground Week as well as a livestream of the events can be found here [12]. For information on the Chicago and New Orleans events as well as ways to participate nationwide, click here [12].
[13]

Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/activism/activists-organize-standing-our-ground-week-ahead-high-stakes-marissa-alexander-hearing

Links:
[1] http://alternet.org
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/alyssa-figueroa
[3] http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/meet-florida-state-attorney-who-vindictively-wants-send-marissa-alexander-jail-60
[4] http://www.freemarissanow.org/
[5] http://nationalcongressbw.org/
[6] http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/10-reasons-lawyers-say-floridas-law-enforcement-threw-ryan-zimmermans-case-away.
[7] http://www.freemarissanow.org/standing-our-ground-everywhere.html
[8] http://abcnews.go.com/US/florida-extends-stand-ground-include-warning-shots/story?id=24244906
[9] http://www.scribd.com/doc/89763280/Order-Denying-Defendants-Motion-for-Immunity-and-Motion-to-Dismiss
[10] http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/10/22/2818051/women-color-domestic-violence/
[11] http://www.thehotline.org/is-this-abuse/statistics/
[12] http://www.freemarissanow.org/standing-our-ground-week.html
[13] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on Activists Organize 'Standing Our Ground Week' Ahead of High-Stakes Marissa Alexander Hearing

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

"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 July 19 – July 21, 2014

Baltimore Activist Alert July 19 – July 21, 2014

"I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Friends, this list and other email documents which I send out are done under the auspices of the Baltimore Nonviolence Center. Go to www.baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com. If you appreciate this information and would like to make a donation, send contributions to BNC, 325 East 25th Street, Baltimore, MD 21218. Max Obuszewski can be reached at 410-366-1637 or mobuszewski [at] verizon.net.

Tune into the Maryland Progressive Blog at http://mdprogblog.org.

1] Books, buttons & stickers
2] Web site for info on federal legislation
3] Join Nonviolent Resistance lists
4] Buy coffee through HoCoFoLa
5] Free adoptions in July
6] Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity – through Aug. 31
7] VIOLENCE AND CONTEMPLATION-ANNUAL PEACE RETREAT – July 20 – 25
8] Addiction – July 20
9] Peace and Pancakes – July 20
10] Rally to end assault of Gaza – July 20
11] Paid sick days canvas – July 20
12] Christians and Social Justice – July 20
13] Women's narratives in the Middle East – July 20
14] Support the Palestinians – July 20 – 21
15] Pentagon Vigil – June 30 – July 21
16] Marc Steiner on WEAA – July 21 – 25
17] "Iran’s Nuclear Chess: Calculating America’s Moves" – July 21
18] Discussion on the present condition of LBGT rights – July 21
19] Support Central American Children – July 21
20] Respect the workers – July 21
21] Premiere of "America's Secret Fukushima" – July 21
22] "Southern Flows: Pragmatic Approaches to Multidimensional Security in the Americas" – July 21
23] Pledge of Resistance/Fund Our Communities meeting – July 21
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1] – Buttons, bumperstickers and books are available. “God Bless the Whole World, No Exceptions” stickers are in stock. Donate your books to Max. Call him at 410-366-1637.

2] – To obtain information how your federal legislators voted on particular bills, go to http://thomas.loc.gov/. Congressional toll-free numbers are 888-818-6641, 888-355-3588 or 800-426-8073. The White House Comment Email is accessible at http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/.

3] – THE ORGANIZING LIST will be the primary decision-making mechanism of the National Campaign of Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR]. It will be augmented by conference calls and possibly in-person meetings as needed. It will consist of 1 or 2 representatives from each local, regional, or national organization (not coalitions) that wishes to actively work to carry out the NCNR campaign of facilitating and organizing nonviolent resistance to the war in Iraq. To join the ORGANIZING List, please send your name, group affiliation, city and email address to mobuszewski at Verizon dot net. Different local chapters of a national organization are encouraged to subscribe.

THE NOTICES LIST will include only notices of NCNR actions and related information and is open to any interested person to subscribe. It will be moderated to maintain focus & will include periodic notices about getting involved in NCNR national organizing. To join the NOTICES List, send an email message to mobuszewski at Verizon dot net.

4] – You can help safeguard human rights and fragile ecosystems through your purchase of HOCOFOLA Café Quetzal. Bags of ground coffee or whole beans can be ordered by mailing in an order form. Also note organic cocoa and sugar are for sale. For more details and to download the order form, go to http://friendsoflatinamerica.typepad.com/hocofola/2010/02/hocofola-cafe-quetzal-order-form-2010.html. The coffee comes in one-pound bags.

Fill out the form and mail it with a check made out to HOCOFOLA on or before the second week of the month. Be sure you indicate ground or beans for each type of coffee ordered. Send it to Francine Sheppard at 5639B, Harpers Farm Rd., Columbia 21044. The coffee will arrive some time the following week and you will be notified where to pick it up. Contact Francine at 410-992-7679 or FrancineMSW@aol.com.

5] – The Maryland SPCA has wonderful companions waiting for you! Adopt one of them this July during the Summer Lovin' event! For the entire month, the adoption fees for all adult cats (regularly $55) and large, adult dogs (regularly $125) are waived. The $17 Pet ID Package and all regular adoption procedures still apply. Visit http://www.mdspca.org/adopt/howto/.

6] – See the exhibit Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity, which
delves into the various ways technology affects lives through the perspective of inventors, futurists and 40 plus visionary artists. The intent is to bring new thoughts on artificial intelligence, robotics, genetics, nanotechnology, 3D printing, and big data, and you can see it through August 31 at the American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Hwy. Call 410-244-1900. Go to http://avam.org. A ticket costs $20.

7] – This is a great retreat for peacemakers, in a really beautiful place, at a very reasonable price: VIOLENCE AND CONTEMPLATION-ANNUAL PEACE RETREAT takes place from Sun., July 20 through Fri., July 25 at the Pyramid Life Center, Pardox NY. The cost is $130. Using scripture, the texts of their lives and reflections on current events, the two will lead periods of study, discussion and contemplation, with the aim of inspiring deeper witness and closer community. The presenters are Elizabeth McAlister and Frida Berrigan. Go to http://www.pyramidlife.org/programs/. Contact Linda LeTendre at or 518-330-7693.
• 8] - Usually, the Baltimore Ethical Society, 306 W. Franklin St., Suite 102, Baltimore 21201-4661, meets on Sundays, and generally there is a speaker and discussion from 10:30 AM to noon. On Sun., July 20 Ronit Klemens will discuss addiction. Almost all recovering addicts return to addiction within one year after successfully completing any number of recovery treatment programs. This unsolved problem is a result of our inability to agree on the nature of the problem. Recovering addicts fall between the cracks of psychology, medicine, and the law. Prisons and recovery programs take advantage of the lack of initiative of the different responsible agencies. Instead of resolving the problem, addicts are simply housed in prisons that seek addicts as customers. I will explain the problem from a psychological, medical, and legal perspective, and offer my opinion on how to start solving this problem. Call 410-581-2322 or email ask@bmorethical.org.
9] - Join the Kadampa Meditation Center for Peace and Pancakes on Sundays at 10:30 AM at KMC Maryland, 2937 North Charles St. All are invited to participate in guided meditation and chant praying for world peace. There will be a talk based on Buddhist thought followed by brunch. Call 410- 243-3837. Brunch is $5.

10] – Rally and March to End the Siege of Gaza on Sun., July 20 @ 3PM at the U.S. State Department, 2201 C St NW, WDC 20520. March at 4 PM to the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW. Demand an immediate halt to the Israeli bombardment of besieged Gaza, an end to the siege and an immediate halt to US military funding to Israel. Contact Don Bryant at 216.285.0223 or don@immigrantsupportnetwork.org. Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, calls for an immediate halt to the Israeli bombardment and further military invasion of besieged Gaza and an immediate halt to US military funding to Israel.

11] – Join a canvas on Sun., July 20 at 3 PM at the Shaw Library, 1630 7th St. NW, to confirm that workers are getting paid sick days, as legislated by a law passed in February. Help make sure that the law is being properly implemented and all workers are getting the sick leave they deserve. Go restaurant to restaurant on U St. NW, offering information and resources about implementation and model policies. Go to http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/5483/p/salsa/event/common/public/?event_KEY=71530.

12] – On Sun., July 20 at 3 PM at the Peace House, 1233 12th St. NW, hear a two hour lecture about the role that Christians are called to take within social justice. Points such as LGBT acceptance, racism, sexism, classism and the relationship between Christianity and other religions/non-religion will be evaluated and discussed through Biblical arguments to deconstruct the popular religious arguments and clarify the true meaning behind the passages often cited to promote discrimination and faith-based laws. Go to https://www.facebook.com/events/1450056831946502/.

13] – There is a Meet and Greet with refreshments at 5 PM at 1940 Calvert St. NW. The program will start at 5:30 PM, and it will explore women's narratives in the Middle East focusing on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There will also be a feminist discourse about hot topics concerning gender issues in the Middle East. The event is organized by the Women's Institute for Freedom of the Press. RSVP at ourmediademocracy@gmail.com.

14] – Join CODEPINK on Sun., July 20 and Mon., July 21 and stand in solidarity with Palestine during this time of extreme humanitarian crises in Gaza. Demonstrate in front of the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Conference on July 20 from 6 to 8 PM in front of the Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Pl. NW, WDC 20001 as the convention opens and July 21 from 8 to 9 AM as people enter.
Then demonstrate in front of the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Conference on July 21 from 6 to 7:30 PM. Show CUFI attendees (including Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer) who the real victims are in this terrible conflict. As the violence accelerates, the death toll has reached 230 casualties in Gaza, including over 45 children. Bring pots, pans, drums, musical instruments, and whistles to make as much noise as possible! Protest co-sponsors include CODEPINK and the Jewish Voices for Peace. RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/335376749959397/?ref_notif_type=plan_mall_activity&source=1.

15] -- There is a weekly Pentagon Peace Vigil from 7 to 8 AM on Mondays, since 1987, outside the Pentagon Metro stop. The next vigil is Mon., July 21, and it is sponsored by the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker. Email artlaffin@hotmail.com or call 202-882-9649. The vigil will be outside the Pentagon's south Metro entrance and in the designated "protest zone" behind bicycle fences across from the entrance to the Metro. By Metro, take Yellow Line and get out at the "Pentagon" stop. Do not go to the Pentagon City stop! Go up south escalators and turn left and walk across to protest area. By car from D.C. area, take 395 South and get off at Exit 8A-Pentagon South Parking. Take slight right onto S. Rotary Rd. at end of ramp and right on S. Fern St. Then take left onto Army Navy Dr. You can "pay to park" on Army Navy Dr., and there is meter parking one block on right on Eads St. Payment for both of these spots begin at 8 AM. No cameras are allowed on Pentagon grounds. Restrooms are located inside Marriott Residence Inn on corner of S. Fern and Army Navy Dr.

16] – The Marc Steiner Show airs Monday through Friday from 9 to 11 AM on WEAA 88.9 FM, The Voice of the Community, or online at www.weaa.org. The call-in number is 410-319-8888, and comments can also be sent by email to steinershow@gmail.com. All shows are also available as podcasts at www.steinershow.org.

17] – On Mon., July 21 from noon until 1:15 PM, Robert Litwak, Wilson Center, Mitchell Reiss, Washington College, and David Sanger, New York Times, will take on "Iran’s Nuclear Chess: Calculating America’s Moves" at the Wilson Center, Fifth Floor, Reagan Building, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, WDC. RSVP at http://pages.wilsoncenter.org/72114IranNuclearChessFINAL_06232014-TheIranianNuclearDeal.html.

18] – Get over to the UDC David A. Clarke School of Law, 4340 Connecticut Ave. NW, Room 505, on Mon., July 21 from 6 to 7:30 PM for a discussion on the present condition of LBGT rights, the issues this community is facing, and where the struggle goes from here. The panel is hosted by Chai R. Feldblum, who has served as a Commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission since 2010. Prior to her appointment to the EEOC, Commissioner Feldblum was a Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center where she has taught since 1991.

19] – Join a Vigil in Support of Central American Children Fleeing Violence at 16th and H Sts. NW at 6:30 PM to continue to pressure President Obama and Congress to follow the law and respect human rights. Bring a candle. See https://www.facebook.com/events/269275806614042/.

20] – Respect DC invites you to join the Coalition at the Florida Ave. Baptist Church, 623 Florida Ave. NW on Mon., July 21 at 6:30 PM to keep the momentum going from June's huge march on the H Street Wal-Mart. Communities can unite against corporate giants, and in D.C. with the Large Retailer Accountability Act, there is an $11.50 minimum wage for DC and regional workers PLUS paid sick days for all DC workers. Email info@dcjwj.org.

21] – Busboys and Poets, 5th & K St. NW, will show the premiere of "America's Secret Fukushima" on Mon., July 21 at 7 PM. Afterwards there will be a panel discussion about the Clean Up the Mines campaign. The short documentary was filmed in April of this year after a tour through South Dakota as the filmmakers learned about the impact of thousands of abandoned uranium mines from the Cold War Uranium Rush era. This secret Fukushima is poisoning the environment and communities throughout the Great Plains and Western U.S. Most people are not aware of it, but the radiation and toxic metals enter our waterways and food system. The abandoned uranium mines are another part of the extreme energy extraction economy that is hurting our health and the planet. Email Margaret Flowers at mdpnhp@gmail.com.

22] – Want to go solar at home? Join the Interfaith Solar Co-ops! This summer, caring homeowners from congregations in Baltimore are coming together to form a solar purchasing co-op. If you've ever wanted to go solar at home, now is your chance to do so in good company! Based on the same principle as buying in bulk, the group will go through the process of purchasing home solar systems together. Guided by the Community Power Network, which has successfully organized several such co-ops previously, the group will select a single contractor to install systems on all of the homes. Each participant will own their system and will sign their own contract with the chosen installer, but everyone will get the group discount.

By going solar as a group, participants will save up to 30% off the cost of a solar electricity system, and will have the support of the co-op throughout the process instead of having to go it alone. These buying groups are being sponsored by Interfaith Power & Light and are open to any Northern Virginia or Baltimore-area homeowner. There is an information session to learn more about the basics of solar and how the co-op works on Mon., July 21 at 7:30 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Towson, 1710 Dulaney Valley Rd. in Lutherville. RSVP at https://www.facebook.com/events/1503747233190554/.

23] – The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore usually meets on Mondays at 7:30 PM, and the meetings take place at Max’s residence. The next meeting will be on Mon., July 21. The proposed agenda will include the appeal of the conviction of the CIA Five, anti-drone activities, including the arraignment of the NSA, the release of Mary Anne Grady, and the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Commemoration. Call 410-366-1637 or email mobuszewski at verizon.net for directions.

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] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/.

"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