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Number of posts: 18,630
Better Believe It
Jeremy Scahill: US Has Become 'Nation of Assassins'
US Peace conference puts face to drone victims
by Common Dreams staff
April 30, 2012
Peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights hosted the first International Drone Summit as a way to build an organizing strategy against the growing use of drones, call an end to airstrikes that kill innocent civilians, and to prevent the potentially widespread misuse both overseas and in the United States.
"Drone victims are not just figures on a piece of paper, they are real people and that’s why it is important to see what happens on the ground when a missile hits a target," said Pakistani attorney Shahzad Akbar, according to the Pakistani newspaper DAWN. “We have to see what exactly is happening on the ground, what is happening to the people,” he told the Washington conference.
During his speech, journalist Jeremy Scahill, who has done in-depth reporting on the US drone program in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen, questioned the Obama Administration's policy of assassination. "What is happening to this country right now?" asked Scahill after noting that recent legislation in the US Congress opposing the assassination of US citizens abroad without due process received only six votes in the House of Representatives. "We have become a nation of assassins. We have become a nation that is somehow silent in the face of -- or embraces, as polls indicate -- the idea that assassination should be one of the centerpieces of US foreign policy. How dangerous is this? It's a throwback to another era -- an era that I think many Americans thought was behind them. And the most dangerous part of this is the complicity of ordinary people in it."
Scahill was emphatic in his talk that the drone and assassination programs have received wide bi-partisan support and lamented those in the US who ceased to voice their concern over such policies as soon as President Bush left office. "President Obama has shown us in a very clear way that when it comes to the premiere national security policy of this nation, there is not a dime's worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans."
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Peace conference puts face to drone victims
by Anwar Iqbal |
April 29, 2012
WASHINGTON: Drone victims are not just figures on a piece of paper, they are real people and that’s why it is important to see what happens on the ground when a missile hits a target, argues Pakistani attorney Shahzad Akbar.
“We have to see what exactly is happening on the ground, what is happening to the people,” he told a Washington conference on drones.
Akbar told an audience of about 300 people from across the United States that it was important to put faces on the drone victims; otherwise people will not understand their plight.
“They feel this imminent threat of being attacked from the sky. And they feel helpless because they have no other place to relocate. Many have no skills, no education, so they cannot relocate to other parts of Pakistan,” he said. Advocate Akbar showed a photo of a teenager named Saadullah, who was helping his mother in the kitchen when a drone hit their home in Fata in 2009. He woke up in a hospital three days later without his legs.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2012
ACLU Credits White House for Drone Strike Transparency, but Says Program Still Unlawful
ACLU National Security Experts Warn Program Flouts Constitution
NEW YORK - April 30 - President Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser today publicly confirmed that the United States conducts targeted killings of suspected terrorists using drones.
In a speech this afternoon at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, John Brennan insisted the targeted strikes are a “wise choice” and “legal” and within the boundaries of international law. However, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer said Brennan’s statement did not go far in explaining how the program passed constitutional muster.
“This is an important statement – first because it includes an unambiguous acknowledgement of the targeted killing program and second because it includes the administration’s clearest explanation thus far of the program’s purported legal basis.” Jaffer said.
“But Mr. Brennan supplies legal conclusions, not legal analysis. We continue to believe that the administration should release the Justice Department memos underlying the program – particularly the memo that authorizes the extrajudicial killing of American terrorism suspects. And the administration should release the evidence it relied on to conclude that an American citizen, Anwar al-Aulaqi, could be killed without charge, trial, or judicial process of any kind.”
Brennan maintained the Obama administration was committed to transparency when it came to deciding who would be subject to lethal drone strikes. But Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said the program is both unconstitutional and overly broad.
“We continue to believe, based on the information available, that the program itself is not just unlawful but dangerous. This statement makes clear that the administration is treating legal restrictions on the use of force as questions of preference. Moreover, it is dangerous to characterize the entire planet as a battlefield,” Shamsi said.
“It is dangerous to give the President the authority to order the extrajudicial killing of any person – including any American – he believes to be a terrorist. The administration insists that the program is closely supervised, but to propose that a secret deliberation that takes place entirely within the executive branch constitutes ‘due process’ is to strip the Fifth Amendment of its essential meaning.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Posted by Better Believe It | Mon Apr 30, 2012, 10:45 PM (174 replies)
Ann Romney Sticks Her Silver Foot In Her Mouth Again
By Vita Brevis
April 28, 2012
Far be it from me to give helpful advice to either Romney but they keep going back to the .... adage about when you're in a hole stop digging.
Would you like more cake with that let them eat cake? What does that even mean "I love the fact that there are women out there who don't have a choice...."
Let's be clear. She had the choice and the financial means to enable her to make the choices she did. Fine and dandy. But when are they going to realize that for many to most families, this choice isn't one, and that her husband's economic policies don't positively impact families and further that goal? Because until then ( and I'm not holding my breath) it just comes across as indulgent, fake, and clueless.
Posted by Better Believe It | Sun Apr 29, 2012, 10:16 PM (14 replies)
Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds
Those who think more analytically are less inclined to be religious believers than are those who tend to follow a gut instinct, researchers conclude.
By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
April 26, 2012
Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane — for skeptics and true believers alike.
The study, published in Friday's edition of the journal Science, indicates that belief may be a more malleable feature of the human psyche than those of strong faith may think.
The cognitive origins of belief — and disbelief — traditionally haven't been explored with academic rigor, said lead author Will Gervais, a social psychologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
According to one theory of human thinking, the brain processes information using two systems. The first relies on mental shortcuts by using intuitive responses — a gut instinct, if you will — to quickly arrive at a conclusion. The other employs deliberative analysis, which uses reason to arrive at a conclusion.
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Posted by Better Believe It | Fri Apr 27, 2012, 11:24 PM (51 replies)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 27, 2012
Shame on Obama Administration for Sacrificing Children to Keep Agribusiness Happy
Statement of Dr. Sammy Almashat, Researcher, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group
WASHINGTON - April 27 - The Obama administration on Thursday once again sided with industry instead of workers on regulations and withdrew the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed rules that would have restricted child workers from the most dangerous tasks in agriculture.
Agriculture is the last remaining industry in which children as young as 12 are allowed to work, thanks to a 75 year-old loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act. It also is the most dangerous industry for workers, with child fatality rates four times that of youth in other industries. The new rules would have finally addressed this urgent issue.
This isn’t the first time the rules have been undercut by the White House. The proposed rules already were delayed by the White House for nine months before it finally permitted their release last August. And in an extraordinary move, the administration stated yesterday that its decision to withdraw the rules “was made in response to thousands of comments expressing concerns about the effect of the proposed rules on small family-owned farms,” despite the fact that family farms were explicitly exempted from the rules.
Industry critics of the rules, and their allies in Congress, constantly invoked the image of an idyllic family farm to conceal the reality that the rules were meant to address large, corporate farms where the majority of child laborers work and die. The White House not only caved to industry pressure, but also parroted its false argument as the reason for the rules’ withdrawal.
In siding with the agricultural industry at the expense of the children it employs, the Obama administration has let industry preferences take precedence over the lives and health of child workers. More children will collapse from heat exposure, more will suffer from acute nicotine poisoning while picking tobacco leaves and more will be crushed to death in grain augers or tractor accidents – thanks to the Obama administration’s reversal.
The administration constantly invokes cost-benefit analysis to justify its inaction on regulations. Apparently, the administration considers these children’s lives and health a small cost to pay to win a few extra points from big agribusiness.
Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.
Posted by Better Believe It | Fri Apr 27, 2012, 11:16 PM (45 replies)
OR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 27, 2012
San Francisco Democratic Party Calls on Obama to End Medical Marijuana Attacks
Democrats seek to re-open closed dispensaries & call for passage of statewide regulations
SAN FRANCISCO - April 27 - The San Francisco Democratic Party adopted a resolution yesterday demanding that President Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag "cease all Federal actions in San Francisco immediately, respect State and local laws, and stop the closure of City-permitted medical cannabis facilities." The resolution was co-sponsored by 21 members of the party's Central Committee (DCCC) including: its author Gabriel Haaland, Assembly member Tom Ammiano, State Senator Leland Yee, Supervisor David Campos, Supervisor David Chiu, former State Senator Carole Migden, and former Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
At least 5 permitted San Francisco dispensaries have been forced to close in the last few months as a result of the Obama administration's heightened attack in California. The operators and landlords of these and several more dispensaries were threatened with federal criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture in an effort to shut down access points for the city's tens of thousands of qualified patients. San Francisco has been especially hard hit since October, when California's four U.S. Attorneys escalated an already vigorous federal campaign against medical marijuana.
The DCCC argues that, "the U. S. Attorneys in California are not targeting individuals and organizations that are operating outside of the law, but instead are aggressively persecuting a peaceful and regulated community, wasting Federal resources in using a series of threatening tactics to shut down regulated access to medical cannabis across the state of California." The DCCC also accuses the federal government of "depriving...the State of California much needed tax revenue."
The DCCC resolution comes as President Obama deflects concern and anger over his aggressive enforcement practices in today's issue of Rolling Stone. Backpedaling, President Obama is claiming that "there haven't been any prosecutions" of medical marijuana patients, but he has ignored the broader negative effects of his campaign and the need to treat medical marijuana as a public health issue. "With a highly contentious bid for the White House, Obama should think twice about being out of step with his party and the 80 percent of Americans who support safe and legal access to medical marijuana," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, which is part of the SF United campaign.
The passage of yesterday's resolution also comes on the heels of a rally held earlier this month, attended by hundreds of medical marijuana patients and supporters. Since then, the coalition San Francisco United for Safe Access has lobbied legislators to stand up to federal intimidation and coercion. In response to this effort, the DCCC is coming to the aid of city dispensaries by seeking to "establish an emergency plan to expedite the re-permitting of any medical cannabis dispensaries."
The DCCC also endorsed Assembly Bill 2312, a statewide regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry in California, and called on their fellow Democrats to do the same. Last week, the Assembly Public Safety Committee passed AB 2312, which is now set to be heard by Assembly Appropriations within the next two weeks. "It's irresponsible for the federal government to dismantle established and responsible regulations in California," said the resolution's author and DCCC member Gabriel Haaland. "Hundreds of thousands of patients will be forced into the illicit market, creating unnecessary public safety issues that will affect us all."
Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.
Posted by Better Believe It | Fri Apr 27, 2012, 11:11 PM (31 replies)
Why Is Mitt Romney So Incredibly Weird?
Everything you need to know about Willard Mitt Romney. An excerpt from Salon's new e-book, "The Rude Guide to Mitt"
By Alex Pareen
April 24, 2012
Mitt Romney is weird. When the Obama reelection campaign early in the cycle made the mistake of indicating that its strategy would be to imply that Mitt Romney is weird by repeatedly telling Politico that it planned on calling Mitt Romney weird, Romney’s camp countered by causing a brief and not particularly sincere media brouhaha over whether “weird” is code for “Mormon.” Plenty of Americans think Mormons are weird, yes, but in this case, the simple fact is Mitt Romney is weird, entirely apart from his religion.
He seems incapable of natural conversation and frequently uncomfortable in his own skin. He’s simultaneously dorkily earnest and ingratiatingly insincere. He suggests a brilliantly designed politician android with an operating system still clearly in beta. He once tied a dog to the roof of his car and drove for hundreds of miles without stopping and some years later thought that was an endearing story. All video of him attempting to interact with normal humans is cringe-inducing, as a cursory YouTube search quickly demonstrates. (Martin Luther King Day, Jacksonville, Fla., 2008: Mitt poses for a picture with some cheerful young parade attendees. As he squeezes in to the otherwise all-black group, he says, apropros of nothing, “Who let the dogs out? Woof, woof!”) He seems to have been told that “small talk” is mostly made up of cheerfully delivered non sequiturs.
Even the stories of Romney’s supposed temper are ridiculous. He was arrested, in June of 1981, for disorderly conduct while attempting to launch his family boat in Cochituate State Park. He got in a heated argument with a cop who noted that the boat was not displaying its registration. Romney was hauled in in his swim trunks. Charges were dropped when he threatened to sue for false arrest. At the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics Romney got in a public confrontation with a volunteer police officer directing traffic outside an Olympic venue. Police allege Romney said “fuck” multiple times while berating the cop. Romney declined to apologize to the cop, Shaun Knopp, and while the public berating did happen — he mentions it in his book — Romney made a big point of specifically denying that he used a bad word. (In fact, Romney insisted at the time that he specifically said “H-E double hockey sticks.” Like a child. A remarkably well-behaved child speaking in earshot of his second grade teacher.) He told the Boston Globe that he had two witnesses to corroborate his denial. “I have not used that word since college — all right? — or since high school,” he said.
Romney recently told People magazine, “I tasted a beer and tried a cigarette once, as a wayward teenager, and never did it again.” I’m not sure we should believe him. There’s no way in hell I can imagine Mitt Romney loosening up enough to have a beer.
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Posted by Better Believe It | Fri Apr 27, 2012, 10:59 PM (92 replies)
How Obama Became a Civil Libertarian's Nightmare
Obama has expanded and fortified many of the Bush administration's worst policies.
by Steven Rosenfeld
April 18, 2012
When Barack Obama took office, he was the civil liberties communities’ great hope. Obama, a former constitutional law professor, pledged to shutter the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and run a transparent and open government. But he has become a civil libertarian’s nightmare: a supposedly liberal president who instead has expanded and fortified many of the Bush administration’s worst policies, lending bipartisan support for a more intrusive and authoritarian federal government.
President Obama now has power that Bush never had. Foremost is he can (and has) order the killing of U.S. citizens abroad who are deemed terrorists. Like Bush, he has asked the Justice Department to draft secret memos authorizing his actions without going before a federal court or disclosing them. Obama has continued indefinite detentions at Gitmo, but also brought the policy ashore by signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which authorizes the military to arrest and indefinitely detain anyone suspected of assisting terrorists, even citizens. That policy, codifying how the Bush treated Jose Padilla, a citizen who was arrested in a bomb plot after landing at a Chicago airport in 2002 and was transferred from civil to military custody, upends the 1878’s Posse Comitatus Act’s ban on domestic military deployment.
One of Bush’s biggest civil liberties breaches, spying on virtually all Americans via their telecommunications starting in 2003, also has been expanded. Congress authorized the effort in 2006. Two years later, it granted legal immunity to the telecom firms helping Bush—a bill Obama voted for. The National Security Agency is now building its largest data processing center ever, which Wired.com’s James Bamforth reports will go beyond the public Internet to grab data but also reach password-protected networks. The federal government continues to require that computer makers and big Web sites provide access for domestic surveillance purposes. More crucially, the NSA is increasingly relying on private firms to mine data, because, unlike the government, it does not need a search warrant. The Constitution only limits the government searches and seizures.
The government’s endless wartime footing is also seen in its war on whistleblowers. Obama has continued cases brought by Bush, such as going after the "leaker" in the warrantless wiretapping story broken by the New York Times in 2005, as well as the WikiLeaks case, prosecution of Bradley Manning, and others for allegedly mishandling classified materials related to the war on terrorism. Its suppression of war-related information given to journalists extends overseas, where the State Department this month has blocked a visa for a Pakistani critic from speaking in the U.S. The White House also recently pressured Yemen’s leader to jail the reporter who exposed U.S. drone strikes. Meanwhile, the administration has stonewalled Freedom of Information Act requests, particularly the Justice Department, which has issued the secret wartime memos.
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Posted by Better Believe It | Fri Apr 20, 2012, 09:44 AM (66 replies)
Posted by Better Believe It | Thu Apr 19, 2012, 04:43 PM (4 replies)
Obama's Refusal To Sign Anti-Discrimination Executive Order Slammed By LGBT Activists
by Michelangelo Signorile
April 15, 2012
In separate interviews, two prominent LGBT activists slammed President Obama for refusing to sign an Executive Order "at this time" barring federal contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Tico Almeida, president of Freedom to Work, was among the LGBT activists in a White House meeting with senior advisor Valerie Jarrett earlier in the week who were told the order would not be signed. He said the White House rationale
was “weak,” “shallow,” “unpersuasive” and “embarrassing.” Paul Yandura, a gay former Clinton White House aide and a Democratic strategist, criticized some gay leaders in addition to the president, saying that groups like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), “weren’t advocating on our behalf.”
A similar Executive Order preventing discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of race, gender and religion was signed by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965. The White House said instead it would try to rally support in Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), though a vote on any gay rights measure is highly unlikely in the GOP-controlled House, and that it would urge the private sector to support non-discrimination.
“It was weak, it was shallow, it was unpersuasive,” said Almeida of White House arguments made against signing the order, appearing on my radio program on SiriusXM OutQ. “It floated back and forth between different reasons. It wasn’t even consistent. There were a few younger, junior staffers who made some arguments that were just laughable. Really embarrassing.”
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LGBT Activists Plot Grassroots Campaign to Confront Obama Over Anti-Discrimination Executive Order
By: David Dayen
April 16, 2012
Since the White House dropped an expected executive order preventing workplace discrimination against LGBT employees by federal contractors, I was wondering how the gay rights community would react. They didn’t sit on their hands when the Administration tried to slow-walk Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal past the 2010 elections, and their efforts arguably got the White House to change course and hastily pass the repeal during that lame duck session. Now, activists have commenced a “We Can’t Wait”, campaign, co-opting a slogan the White House has used in recent executive branch announcements.
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Posted by Better Believe It | Tue Apr 17, 2012, 01:30 PM (3 replies)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 17, 2012
PFAW: Romney Should Rebuke NRA Board Member Ted Nugent for Extreme and Violent Rhetoric
WASHINGTON - April 17 - People For the American Way today urged presidential candidate Mitt Romney to rebuke longtime NRA board member Ted Nugent for remarks he made at the NRA annual convention on Saturday. Nugent, who endorsed Romney in early March, called on NRA members to vote for Romney and denounced the “vile, evil, America-hating” Obama administration. He finished his remarks with a call to cut off the heads of Democrats this fall:“We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”
Nugent’s comments, which were first reported by People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, came one day after Romney himself addressed the convention. Nugent’s endorsement was touted by Tagg Romney in early March.
“We don’t expect moderation from Ted Nugent,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way. “But we do expect a major presidential candidate like Mitt Romney to rebuke a prominent supporter for spewing hate-filled and violent rhetoric against the President of the United States.”
People For the American Way is dedicated to making the promise of America real for every American: Equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote that counts. The American Way. Our vision is a vibrantly diverse democratic society in which everyone is treated equally under the law, given the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams, and encouraged to participate in our nation’s civic and political life. Our America respects diversity, nurtures creativity and combats hatred and bigotry.
Posted by Better Believe It | Tue Apr 17, 2012, 12:13 PM (9 replies)