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Trans-Atlantic abuses and protests

Police Brutality Unites Demonstrations In Paris and DC


Protests against rampant police brutality occurred recently in the respective capitals of France and the United States – two nations that proclaim strict fidelity to the rule of law yet two professed democracy-loving nations where officials routinely condone rampant lawlessness by law enforcers.

The 20th Anniversary of the 1995 Million Man March – captioned “Justice Or Else” – took place in Washington, DCk with a core complaint being police brutality. During that protest rally held outside the U.S. Capitol building and along the National Mall relatives of police brutality victims were invited speakers. Those relatives included the father of Michael Brown, killed in 2014 by a policeman in Ferguson, Missouri and a sister of Sandra Bland, who died in a Texas police station this past summer following a flawed and brutal arrest for an alleged minor traffic violation.

On the same Saturday as the “Justice Or Else” rally in DC, protestors gathered outside the Gare de Nord train station in Paris to demonstrate against the death earlier this year of Amadou Koumé. That 33-year-old father of three died during an encounter with police at a bar in Paris when he was put in a choke-hold while being handcuffed. The Paris protestors demanded a judicial inquiry into the death of Koumé, rejecting what they contend has been a cover-up by police and prosecutors in Paris regarding his death.

While nearly 4,000-miles separate Washington, DC and Paris, the issue of police brutality connects the two capitals through a chain of similarities surrounding police brutality, for example the fact that the principle targets of police brutality in France and across America are persons of color.

 Amadeu Koumé in Paris, France and Tamir Rice in the Cleveland, OhioTrans-Atlantic Police Murders: Amadeu Koumé in Paris, France and Tamir Rice in the Cleveland, Ohio

Kunduz hospital slaughter was no mistake:

US Used AC-130 Airborne Gunship Equipped with Anti-Personnel shells in Deadly Attack


Evidence continues to mount that the US committed a monstrous war crime in attacking and destroying a fully operational hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on the night of Oct. 3, killing at least 22 people including at least 12 members of the volunteer medical staff of Medicine Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the Swiss-based international aid organization that operated the hospital.

This even as the US desperately tries to bury the issue of its perfidy by offering “condolence payments” to victims of the attack, though without accepting blame beyond saying it was a “tragic mistake.”

The “mistake” claim looks increasingly shameless as it becomes clear that this was not, as the US corporate media continue to incorrectly report, a “bombing” gone wrong, but rather was a prolonged hour-long attack by an AC-130 gunship, the deadliest killing machine in the US Air Force’s weapons roster of airborne mayhem. The aircraft, equipped with the latest night-vision sighting equipment, reportedly made five 15-minute assaults on the hospital’s main building housing the emergency operating room and recovery rooms, firing its array of howitzer cannons, 30-millimeter machine canons and other heavy weapons whose standard ammunition includes both high-explosive tips and anti-personnel rounds designed to scatter death in a wide pattern.

This is, in other words, not a precision targeting weapon, but a weapons system designed to spread death over a wide swath.

It explains why the building itself was not leveled, the typical outcome when, for example, a drone fires Hellfire missiles at a building or a plane drops a bomb. Rather, the still standing hospital was deliberately set ablaze by incendiary weapons, and those people inside not incinerated were killed or grievously wounded by a shower of bullets and anti-personnel flechettes.

Horrific enough to attack a hospital, but to attack it with a weapons system designed to slaughter as many people as possible is almost beyond comprehension.

The hospital in Kunduz was a well-known and long-established institution with a distinctive shape operating in a city that until recently was under full government control. That the US/NATO command did not clearly know the function of that structure is inconceivable, despite US government efforts to claim that a specific provision of the hospital’s coordinates to US forces by Medicine Sans Frontieres days before the attack “must have” gotten waylaid somewhere along the way. (see aerial photo of the hospital in Kunduz).

The Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz is large and unique in shape, easily distinguished from the air, even at hight altitude, giving the lie to official claims that the US attack was a "mistake" and not a war crimeThe Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz is large and unique in shape, easily distinguished from the air, even at high altitude, giving the lie to official claims that the US attack was a "mistake" and not a war crime

Of scientists and charlatans:

Noted Argentine Chemist Warns of Climate Disaster


Republican presidential aspirants Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Rick Santorum all describe themselves as devout Catholics and, like most Republican candidates, they argue that religion should play an expanded role in American politics and government. However, on matters related to global warming, Messrs. Bush and Rubio both agree with Mr. Santorum, stating that we should, “...leave science to the scientists.”
Fortunately for these Republican candidates, Jorge Bergoglio, a chemist from Argentina, has stepped forward to address the concerns of those who think that global warming issues should be only confined to scientists. Recently, Bergoglio, analyzed the available data and produced a most remarkable treatise titled “Care for Our Common Home.” His book is well worth reading.

Bergoglio has an interesting past. In 1929 his family fled fascism in Mussolini’s Italy and migrated to Argentina, where he was born in 1936. He is well credentialed. He attended Wilfrid Barón de los Santos Ángeles, a school of the Salesians of Don Bosco, in Ramos Mejía, Buenos Aires, and entered the technical school Escuela Técnica Industrial #27. After graduation he began work as a chemist at Hickethier-Bachmann Laboratory in Buenos Aries (to finance his education, he also worked as a bouncer in an Argentine bar). 
Thanks to a most magnificent, almost lyrical writing style Bergoglio's book should be be easily understandable by the general public — and even by politicians. His words are firm. He resolutely reflects on the general state of our environment, and particularly on the contribution of modern society to environmental degradation. He writes:

Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.” He continues, saying that society creates a  “… pollution that effects everyone, caused by transport, industrial fumes, substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and agrotoxins in general. 

Seeing little hope in industrial technology as a solution, he states:

Technology, which linked to business interests, is presented as the only way of solving these problems, in fact proves incapable of seeing the mysterious network of relations between things and so sometimes solves one problem only to create another.

As global warming melts Greenland's massive ice cap, its surface exposes centuries of soot and ash, becoming ever darker and melting ever faster -- just one of myriad vicious climate change circles.As global warming melts Greenland's massive ice cap, its surface exposes centuries of soot and ash, becoming ever darker and melting ever faster -- just one of myriad vicious climate change circles.

Mainstreaming the Preferential Option For the Poor

Pope Francis Drops a Bomb on Washington

A political society endures when it seeks, as a vocation, to satisfy common needs by stimulating the growth of all its members, especially those in situations of greater vulnerability or risk.
                              - Pope Francis speaking to the US Congress
Pope Francis' speech to the US Congress struck me as a message with strains long demanded in the corrupt halls of our government. It was a message that took me back 30 years to my travels in Central America during the Reagan years, which was a pivotal moment in modern US history for the rise of a money class and the problems of inequity we currently face.

Pope Francis arriving by Fiat and speaking in front of VP Joe Biden and House Speaker John BoehnerPope Francis arriving by Fiat and speaking in front of VP Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner

I was raised an atheist by a right-wing militarist. As a little boy, when my father worked in research for a pharmaceutical company in suburban New York, there came a time he aspired to enter the corporate end of the business. So I was sent to Sunday school for a brief period. There I learned that Jesus Christ was this cool guy in robes who loved people and was nice to them.

My father’s honeymoon with the corporate side of the company did not last long. I imagine it was a bitter affair, because soon enough he collected his wife and three sons and moved to a house in the truck farming area of south Dade County below Miami. I recall him saying he was going “bohemian.” He got a job lecturing in physiology at the University of Miami Medical School and he set up our rural property as an amateur nursery, where he worked a hobby of botany, treating seeds aimed at the creation of strange new versions of sub-tropical plants.

You might say dear old Dad was a bit eccentric. He had been a PT boat captain in the Solomon Islands, Peleliu and Okinawa for a couple years and, though it wasn’t an issue then, he must have had some variant of PTSD that contributed to his eccentricities. He and I fought most of our lives over politics, me taking a critical, leftist line, especially following my stint in Vietnam. Still, he was a complicated man and I recall him saying about me in public more than once, “Sometimes, at night, I wonder whether you might be right.” The one thing we saw absolutely eye-to-eye on was a disbelief in some kind of supernatural deity who knew or cared what we humans were thinking and doing. What he believed in was biology.

One of the things we regularly fought over was Ronald Reagan. “If I could I’d vote for him five more times,” he said at the end of Reagan’s second term. I once responded to him by saying, “When you were in your PT boat hiding in terror in the mangrove from the Japanese, some starlet was rubbing suntan oil on your hero Ronald Reagan’s ass beside a pool.” He grimaced and said, “You really know how to hurt a guy.”

Worst president ever?

History Should and Probably Will Judge President Obama Harshly


President Barack Obama is on track to go down in history as one of the, or perhaps as the worst and most criminal presidents in US history.

He started out, campaigning in 2008, as someone would would restore the rule of law in US international affairs and here at home after eight years of criminality during the Bush and Cheney administration, as saying he would end America’s wars and bring back an era of international cooperation and negotiation, and as saying that he would confront the dire threat of global climate change.

On the basis of that promise, he won a dramatic election victory, raising hopes across the country and across many voting blocks. On that basis, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize -- the first time the award was given before anything had been done by the laureate being honored. And on the basis of that promise, people expected action on climate change and on ending America's wars.

But the president began backpedaling almost instantly. Instead of restoring the rule of law, he almost immediately announced that he would not permit his Justice Department to engage in any prosecutions of CIA, FBI, military of Bush/Cheney administration personnel for violations of international law or of US law (that, for the record, is one of the supreme crimes under the Nuremberg Principles later codified into the UN Charter, to which the US is a signatory). He introduced new secrecy rules, launched a record number of prosecutions of government whistleblowers, including an international manhunt to arrest or kill NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden which included the forcing down of a presidential aircraft carrying Bolivian President Evo Morales, wrongly suspected of flying Snowden from Russia to that Latin American country, and a secret espionage indictment against Wikileaks founder Julien Assange, who has thus been trapped for years in the little UK embassy of Ecuador where he's been granted asylum. And most egregiously, Obama sabotaged the first international meeting on climate change held in Copenhagen, and has ducked every opportunity since then to have the US lead on reaching an international agreement to seriously reduce global carbon emissions.

During the three Congressional electoral cycles and his re-election campaign in 2012, Obama studiously avoided campaigning on any of these key issues, and especially on climate change. His position == “all of the above” -- for energy development, has seen the US move, not towards carbon emission reductions, but towards expanded production of gas, oil and even coal extraction, making the US the largest oil producer in the world, and a major provider of dirty coal to both US electric companies and large coal using countries abroad, including China.

Obama in Alaska talking about the urgency of fighting climate change, while Shell's arctic ocean drill platform heads north to search for more oil in the arctic sea floor, with White House approvalObama in Alaska talking about the urgency of fighting climate change, while Shell's arctic ocean drill platform heads north to search for more oil in the arctic sea floor, with White House approval

We need peace officers, not pinkertons

What’s Wrong with Police in America


Americans got a glimpse of what policing is like in a more humane and civilized society last year when four young Swedish cops, on vacation in New York City and riding on a subway, found themselves faced with a bloody fight in the aisle by two angry black men.

A subway car full of New Yorkers watched in stunned disbelief as the four Scandinavian cops, all in civvies and unarmed, leapt into action. They used non-lethal techniques to pin the two combatants without hurting either one and then began trying to talk them down, calmly, never raising their voices, and avoiding any swearing or verbal abuse. Neither man was hit by any of the officers despite their struggling. As the Swedish cops waited for New York’s Finest to arrive, they gently rubbed and patted the distressed captives and spoke to them reassuringly.

It was not the way that situation would likely have gone down had it been four off-duty New York cops in that car. First of all, they would almost certainly have had guns on them. Second, they would have been shouting and upping the tension level. Third, they might well have applied chokeholds instead of arm restraints, and would have had the men pinned face down, with knees in their backs. Quite possibly punches would have been thrown along with kicks and stomping in a gang-banging frenzy. Given the history of prior such incidents, it’s conceivable that shots might even have been fired, and that passengers could have been hit by stray police bullets (as happened in a Times Square incident not long ago). One or both of the fighters might well have been injured or even killed.

Instead a violent incident was peacefully halted...incredibly with nobody hurt.

That’s how policing is done in much of Europe, where police shootings are almost unheard of. It’s how it should be done here.

But the whole concept of policing in the US is quite different from what prevails in most democratic countries. For one thing, abroad police are not ubiquitous in most places. I was in Finland, Austria and southern Germany last year, as well as in Quebec, and it’s actually hard to find a cop in any of those places when you’re looking for one. I walked for two hours in Montreal and didn’t see a single police officer, on foot or in a patrol car. Not so in New York, Philadelphia, Boston or even my local community of Upper Dublin, PA, where it’s easy to pass two or three cop cars just while driving the three miles between my house and the train station.

New York's Finest busting up a legally protected protest during the Occupy Movement in 2011New York's Finest busting up a legally protected protest during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street Movement

The most draconian information-gathering law yet!

The Senate Wants to Make Internet Companies and Providers Spies

How much noise does the other shoe make when it drops? If the shoe is a law that would complete the development of a police surveillance state in the United States, it's almost silent.

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee quietly sent a bill to the Senate that would require Internet companies (like Twitter and Facebook) and on-line Internet content and service providers (from giants like Comcast to more specialized providers like May First/People Link) to literally become part of the country's intelligence network by turning over to the government -- without any government request -- any posts on their systems related to "terrorist activities" and the identities of the posters.

News about the bill only became public when Reuters noticed and reported on it.

Turning the Magnifying Glass on UsTurning the Magnifying Glass on Us - original

The provision, Section 603 of Senate Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, is terse, simple and frightening. If passed, it could force Internet companies and providers to turn over information on organizations, activists, journalists, researchers and even interested commenters whose posts touch on "terrorist activity": the over-used under-defined term that drives so much of our contemporary legislation. It would also encourage these services to monitor their systems for any material that could possibly be considered relevant to "terrorism".

Not only does the provision chill communications but it turns the Internet into a law enforcement agency and that would fundamentally change its character and the society it serves.

The full Senate will now debate the law and it will probably sail through in the Fall. The House hasn't announced a similar measure but, given who runs the House, such a companion bill is very likely.

A moment of silence for Cecil


Cecil the lionCecil the lion

Let’s have a moment’s
Silence for Cecil (Ses’-al),
But not yet.
During that silence
Let us think about why
Cecil’s life matters.
Was it because his trust was betrayed
And we felt a little responsible?
Or are we just so upset with what is happening
To the whole planet
In our name
That when something so patently disgusting
And immoral happens to an icon
Like Cecil,
We gladly wrap our minds around it,
Sign petitions, and inwardly set up a howling?
Getting mad when you know you are right
Is very cleansing.
So, in our moment’s silence
We can thank Cecil
For stirring our conscience.
It feels good to feel!
And before we get back to business as usual,
And during our moment of silence,
Let us think some more about
Why we’re so pissed
That such a perfectly handsome animal
Was murdered and decapitated.
What was the button
That Cecil’s murder pushed
That set off the alarm?

We’re the heroin business!

US Lost in Afghanistan, But Did Manage to Make Afghanistan the World's Top Heroin Exporter


Afghan Brigadier General Abdul Sama was accused recently of smuggling over 40 pounds of heroin.

It should come as no surprise that an Afghan general was caught smuggling heroin, the surprise is that any high official in that country should be charged with a crime for profiting from the trade in illegal drugs while under the watchful eye of American forces.

Under American occupation, Afghanistan quickly became the world's leader in opium production, producing over 90% of the world's supply. The Taliban had almost shut down opium production prior to the US invasion in 2001 to the chagrin of international drug runners, and no doubt the international banking industry, which earns big profits laundering billions of dollars in illegal drug money annually. Illegal drugs account for about 8% of all international trade.

Few Americans are aware of the long history of the CIA's running illegal drugs internationally, thanks to the untiring efforts of the mainstream press. Were citizens aware, few would be surprised that heroin production has skyrocketed under US occupation of Afghanistan.

The tragic case of journalist Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News is a case in point, and represents perhaps the widest-known attempt at suppressing the story of CIA drug-running endeavors, with the mainstream US press shamelessly and dutifullly attacking Webb for attempting to expose the inconvenient truth.
Afghan harvests opium as US Troops ignore him (or protect him?)Afghan harvests opium as US Troops ignore him (or protect him?)

A pariah in his home state

Storm Smashes Chris Christie's Presidential Candidacy


If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has any chance of gaining traction in his bid to become the 2016 Republican candidate for president he has to maintain support in suburban communities like East Greenwich Township, a small, predominately white, upper middle income area located about fifty miles south of Trenton, NJ’s capital city.

Republican Christie received 71.5 percent of the votes in East Greenwich Township when he won a landslide reelection in 2013, up nearly twenty points from his 2009 victory margin in that community where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans.

Today however, the most likely thing Christie would get from East Greenwich Township is a chorus of boos and a mass wave of middle fingers because he was notably MIA (Missing In Action) during the aftermath of a recent storm that tore through large sections of southern New Jersey. The 85 mph winds in that storm sent trees crashing into houses and cut electric service to tens of thousands of homes and small businesses for days.

Residents of East Greenwich Township and other Gloucester County communities pummeled by that storm are fuming because Christie, a self-proclaimed Hands-On Manager, ignored their pleas for help. Residents across sections of four South Jersey counties hit hard by that powerful storm are bitter that their state’s governor campaigned heavily during past weeks in Iowa and New Hampshire but couldn’t find time to at least tour their storm ravaged communities.

Dale Archer, the Republican mayor of East Greenwich Township, told reporters that, “I have lost all respect for our governor. Most importantly…he’s lost my vote.”
Chris Christie's running for president, but would be hard-pressed to win dog-catcher these days in his home state of New JerseyChris Christie's running for president, but would be hard-pressed to win dog-catcher these days in his home state of New Jersey

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