MintPress News Independent, non-partisan journalism Tue, 22 Jul 2014 18:15:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Independent, non-partisan journalism Mint Press News clean Mint Press News (Mint Press News) All Rights Reserved Independent, non-partisan journalism MintPress News Even China And India Are More Energy Efficient Than The US, A New Report Says Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:55:22 +0000 The US is 13th among 16 major economies. Who's on top? Continue reading

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The United States ranks 13th out of the world’s 16 largest economies when it comes to energy efficiency, according to a new report.

Even China and India — two of the world’s biggest polluters — fared better.

The nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy looked at how the 16 economies, which account for 81 percent of the world’s gross domestic product and 71 percent of its energy usage, fared in 31 areas covering policies like fuel economy standards and measures of performance.

The United States was slammed for its low use of public transportation and inefficient vehicles.

US commercial and residential sectors are still using too much energy, according to the report, and America lacks energy savings targets and efficiency standards now common in most developed nations.

Only Russia, Brazil and Mexico scored lower.

India came in two spots above the United States at 11th. South Korea was 12th.

“There’s really no excuse for the United States lagging behind other nations on energy efficiency,” Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., told USA Today. “There’s bipartisan common ground on this issue in Congress.”

Yet Congress has not passed a major energy bill since 2007, and a bipartisan bill to boost energy efficiency collapsed in the Senate earlier this year.

Here’s a look at five countries that are doing some things right. Maybe the United States could learn a thing or two?


1. Germany


Germany is in the middle of completely restructuring its energy policies, moving away from nuclear and fossil fuels in favor of wind power and other renewable energy. It’s a nationwide policy known as Energiewende. The country has set goals to cut energy consumption by 20 percent within six years, and halve it by 2050, compared to 2008 levels. Energy efficient building codes are also mandatory in Germany.

2. Italy


While many countries have adopted stringent fuel efficiency standards, only Italy and the UK have hit the impressive 38.4 miles-per-gallon mark for passenger vehicles. Vehicle miles traveled per capita is also lower in Italy than any other European country, and a new incentive program called Conto Termico gives incentives for retrofits and energy efficient improvements to commercial and residential buildings.

3. China (tied with France)


Residential buildings in China consume less energy per square foot than any other country analyzed by the ACEEE. Commercial buildings have the second-lowest energy consumption per square foot. The country is home to the world’s largest high-speed rail network, hence public transportation use is high, and the number of vehicle miles traveled per person is very low. Where China runs into problems is its industry sector, which ranked second in energy consumption among the 16 economies studied. Spending on energy efficiency research also remains low.

3. France (tied with China)


France has made a major commitment under the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive to reduce energy consumption by more than 17 percent within four years. It’s already cut its total energy consumption by 50 percent in the past decade. Commercial and residential buildings consume a large amount of energy per sqare foot, but building codes passed in 2012 known as Reglementation Thermique are expected to improve efficiency among new buildings.

5. Japan


Japan has committed more spending on energy efficiency per capita than any other economy analyzed by ACEEE. The country has also set the highest fuel economy standards for passenger vehicles (55 miles per gallon by 2020) and is one of just four countries with such standards for heavy-duty trucks.

                        This article was published by Global Post.

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“Cease Fire Is Not Near”: Over 100 Children Among 600 Dead in Gaza Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:51:13 +0000 Bombardment off sealed-off enclave shows no sign of easing. Continue reading

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Mideast Palestinians Children Killed

In this Wednesday, July 16, 2014, file photo, Palestinians mourn over the lifeless bodies of four boys from the same extended Bakr family, covered with yellow flags of Fatah movement, in the mosque during their funeral in Gaza City. Minors make up almost one-fifth of those killed in Israel’s 11-day bombardment of Hamas targets in densely populated Gaza, where half the population is under the age of 18. Israel says it’s trying its utmost to avoid harming civilians, but just this week a trio of cousins was killed by shrapnel while feeding pigeons on a rooftop and four young boys from another family were struck by a missile from a navy boat while playing on the beach.

Israel’s Justice Minister Tzipi Livni on Tuesday declared that a “cease fire is not near” as heavy shelling of the Gaza Strip continued alongside an increasing number of dead and wounded.

International outrage over the “disproportionate” assault by Israel has done little or nothing to stem the violence and latest figures put the death toll inside Gaza at nearly 600 people, with well over 3,000 injured and more than 100,000 now seeking refuge in UN shelters.

“The past 24 hours marked the deadliest period since the current escalations of violence began, with 107 Palestinians killed, including 23 women and 35 children,” the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said in its most recent briefing. “Tragically, the total number of children killed in the current conflict has now passed 100 and represents almost one quarter of all Palestinian fatalities.”

Ten Israeli human rights organizations on Monday wrote to the nation’s justice ministry, charging that the assault on Gaza is in violation of international law and an affront to the human rights of Palestinians. The letter sent by the groups questioned the legality of Sunday’s assault on the neighborhood of Shujai’iya, in which more than one hundred civilians were reportedly killed, calling it “a potential violation of the fundamental principles of the laws of war, specifically the principle of distinguishing between combatants and civilians.”

Twenty-five members of a single family were reported killed in Khan Younis late Monday after their home was leveled by a missile strike that arrived with no warning.

A statement from the Israeli Defense Forces on Tuesday said that 27 of its soldiers have been killed so far in fighting and also confirmed that one of its soldiers has been taken prisoner by Hamas.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo on Tuesday, meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri to discuss the situation. In comments to the reporters, Kerry once again offered only mild criticism of Israel’s military campaign—which many are calling “war crimes”—as he placed the onus for the death of innocent Palestinians bombed in their homes on Hamas.

Kerry characterized Israel’s bombardment of Gaza as an “appropriate and legitimate effort” to defend itself and added that “only Hamas now needs to make the decision to spare innocent civilians from this violence.”

Though Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, has put forth a clear five-point set of terms for an immediate and lasting cease-fire, neither Egypt nor Israel have shown any interest in the deal.

As Reuters notes:

Egypt was key to securing an end to a previous bout of Gaza fighting in 2012, but the country’s new leadership is openly hostile to Hamas, potentially complicating the negotiations.

“We hope (Kerry’s) visit will result in a ceasefire that provides the necessary security for the Palestinian people and that we can commence to address the medium and long-term issues related to Gaza,” Shukri said.

Israel has signaled it is in no hurry to achieve a truce before reaching its goal of crippling Hamas’s militant infrastructure, including rocket arsenals and networks of tunnels threatening Israelis living along the Gaza frontier.

Hamas has said it will not cease hostilities until its demands are met, including that Israel and Egypt lift their blockade of Gaza and its 1.8 million people, and that Israel release several hundred Palestinians detained during a search last month for three Jewish teenagers later found dead.

The Guardian catalogs some of the latest violence as of Tuesday and a call for an end to the bombardment that has now claimed nearly 600 lives in Gaza:

Seven people, including four women from one family, were killed in an air strike early on Tuesday, according to Gaza paramedics.

On Monday, 25 members of the Abu Jame’ family were killed when Israeli forces struck a house near Khan Younis, apparently without warning, the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem said. A Hamas militant was also killed.

The dead included 18 children and five women, three of whom were pregnant. The family was eating iftar, the meal that breaks the Ramadan fast.

B’Tselem called for an immediate ceasefire, saying: “Horrific developments in Gaza have reached intolerable heights: Israel is bombing houses with people in them, entire families have been buried under rubble, and streets lie in ruins. Hundreds have been killed so far, dozens in the last 24 hours only, many of them women and children. The number of refugees is rising: tens of thousands of people have nowhere to go and no safe haven.”


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Lawyer: UK Officials ‘Dodging’ Accountability On Rendition, Torture Tue, 22 Jul 2014 14:13:41 +0000 Government is seeking 'impunity from its own courts,' says lawyer of victims. Continue reading

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Abdel Hakim Belhaj

As Abdel Hakim Belhaj appeals the ruling that barred him from suing MI6 for its role in his rendition and torture in 2004, his lawyer told a British court that UK government officials are trying to evade responsibility and prevent the case from continuing.

Richard Hermer QC, who represents Belhaj, told the judges of UK’s high court on Monday that government officials want “immunity from accountability… irrespective of the illegality of the act.”

“The [British] government is really scraping the legal barrel with this latest attempt to dodge accountability for the UK’s alleged part in one of the most notorious crimes of the rendition program. This makes a mockery of the law. How are courts ever to investigate allegations of rendition if governments are simply going to play the ‘act of state’ card?” —John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International

Belhaj is suing MI6, MI5, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, and other UK intelligence agencies and officials for their collusion in his and his wife’s abduction and rendition to Libya, where they were tortured by security forces of Muammar Gaddafi. Belhaj’s wife, Fatima Boudchar, was pregnant at the time. Belhaj, a prominent Libyan dissident, was a leader of the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and the Libyan al-Watan party.

The initial case was thrown out in December of last year when a high court ruled that pursuing legal action would damage Britain’s “national interests” and its relations with the U.S. government. The judge in the case, however, said Belhaj had a “well-founded claim” and that he was giving his ruling “with hesitation.” Belhaj won permission to appeal earlier this year.

Belhaj and Boudchar were seized in China in 2004 in an MI6/CIA operation, deported to Malaysia, and flown to Thailand. They were first tortured in a CIA “black site” in Bangkok and then finally taken to Tripoli, where they were jailed for six years. Throughout that time, Belhaj was regularly chained, hung from walls, and beaten, while Boudchar was punched, bound, and denied medical care.

Also named in the case is former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who was in office at the time and allegedly involved in authorizing Belhaj’s kidnapping. Lawyers for Straw have said that he and the other accused agencies should be protected under the “foreign act state of doctrine.”

The lawyers claim the doctrine protects the UK government from prosecution when it acts in coordination with foreign governments — that because Belhaj’s rendition and torture happened outside of the UK, Straw and the British intelligence agencies involved should not be held responsible.

Legal charities such as Reprieve, Justice, and Amnesty International have joined the case as well. “The UK government is desperately trying to make sure its role in the Belhaj-Boudchar renditions never sees the light of day,” Reprieve strategic director Cori Crider said in a statement. “The Prime Minister was once fond of saying ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’ — is this really what he had in mind?”

Amnesty International director John Dalhuisen said, “The government is really scraping the legal barrel with this latest attempt to dodge accountability for the UK’s alleged part in one of the most notorious crimes of the rendition program. This makes a mockery of the law. How are courts ever to investigate allegations of rendition if governments are simply going to play the ‘act of state’ card?”

The UK-based human rights organization Justice called the “state of doctrine” ruling overly broad and a violation of other international laws, such as the right to a fair trial. “The doctrine has previously been applied in limited circumstances,” the organization wrote in a press release. “In those circumstances where it applies, clear exception has been made for claims involving clear violations of fundamental human rights law.”

Hermer told the court that Belhaj’s case has “profound and far-reaching implications for the rule of law,” and that the government is seeking “impunity from its own courts.” Simon’s ruling last year determined that UK officials “can participate in a conspiracy to abduct and torture but avoid liability,” Hermer said.

The case became more complicated earlier this month when the Foreign Office claimed that several key documents on the government’s involvement in the rendition program were destroyed due to “water damage” from heavy rainfall in June. The announcement came as the U.S. Senate prepares a report likely to identify Diego Garcia, a British-controlled island in the Indian Ocean, as a location of a secret CIA prison built with “full cooperation” of the UK government. Belhaj and Boudchar’s plane to Libya may have landed at the site.

The UK was first found to be involved in Belhaj’s abduction in 2011 after the fall of Gaddafi’s regime. A cache of government documents showed MI6′s head of counterterrorism, Sir Mark Allen, mentioning Belhaj and Boudchar’s arrival in Libya and arranging the now-infamous Bedouin “tent meeting” between Gaddafi and former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2004.


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Ukraine Violence Again Spikes As Accusations Fly Over Flight MH17 Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:55:22 +0000 Victims remains are on their way to international investigators as UN Security Council heads toward vote. Continue reading

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Ukraine Plane

Pro-Russian fighters guard the site of a crashed Malaysia Airlines passenger plane near the village of Rozsypne, Ukraine, eastern Ukraine Friday, July 18, 2014.

Violence in eastern Ukraine is again flaring on Monday as an international team of investigators and forensic experts were examining the crash site of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 that crashed last week after it was apparently shot down by anti-aircraft fire in the contested region.

A train carrying the remains of many of the disaster’s victims reportedly left a local station, headed for the city of Kharkiv. According to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday, the remains aboard the train will given over to Dutch authorities and other investigators. 193 of the total 298 victims on board Flight 17 were from the Netherlands.

According to the Guardian‘s live blog on the ongoing situation:

Razak says Alexander Borodai, a rebel leader, has spoken with him and agreed to hand over both MH17 black boxes and remains of 282 bodies, my colleague Kate Hodal reports from Kuala Lumpur.

Razak told reporters that he has made personal contact with rebel leader Alexander Borodai, who has agreed to both hand over the black boxes to Malaysian authorities and send the remains of 282 bodies to Kharkiv, and then on to the Netherlands.

“The remains of 282 people, currently in Torez, will be moved by train to Kharkiv, where they will be handed over to representatives from the Netherlands,” he said.

“Train with the bodies of those who were lost in MH-17 plane crash started its movement from the area of the disaster,” Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko confirmed in a statement, saying the train would be under constant guard as it moved through Donetsk towards Kharkiv.

As high-level accusations fly over who exactly downed the commercial aircraft, the international political tensions continue to grow as new violence between the Ukraine army and separatists on the ground.

U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned Ukrainian separatists who maintain control over the crash site and accused them of hampering attempts to investigate the scene.

“What exactly are they trying to hide?” Obama asked.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday indicated that Russia should be held responsible for the catastrophe, though others challenged his case based on circumstantial evidence and innuendo.

Independent journalist Robert Parry cautioned against the coverage provided by many U.S.-based and other western media outlets. What too many Americans are seeing, Parry wrote on Sunday, ” is the major U.S. news outlets, led by the Washington Post and the New York Times, publishing the most inflammatory of articles based largely on unreliable Ukrainian officials and on the U.S. State Department which was a principal instigator of the Ukraine crisis.”

Fighting on Monday was again underway in the city of Donetsk, approximately 40 kilometers from the crash site, as the Ukrainian military resumed its campaign against militarized factions who control the city and have rejected the authority of the Kiev government and declared autonomy.

Al-Jazeera reports:

A Ukrainian military spokesman confirmed that the operation was in progress but would not comment on reports of troops entering Donetsk. “The active phase of the anti-terrorist operation is continuing. We are not about to announce any troop movements,” said Vladyslav Seleznyov.

Donetsk is at the heart of a rebel uprising against rule by Kiev, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to retake the city as part of what Kiev calls its “anti-terrorist operation” against the separatists.

Against a background of international horror over the fate of the remains of the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines disaster, the first international investigators reached eastern Ukraine on Monday.

Three members of a Dutch disaster victims identification team arrived at a railway station near the crash site where rebels say 247 bodies have been stored in refrigerated wagons. More than half of the crash victims were Dutch.

The head of the team inspected the storage of the bodies in the rail cars and, despite an overwhelming stench of decomposition when the doors were opened, said it was fine.

“The storage of the bodies is of good quality,” said Peter van Vliet, whose team went through the wagons dressed in surgical masks and rubber gloves.

On Monday, the UN Security Council is expected to hold a vote on a resolution, put forth by Australia, that will condemn the downing of the airliner and demand backing for a full investigation that will lead to bringing the perpetrators to justice.

According to Reuters:

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of fueling a pro-Russian uprising that threatens to break up the former Soviet republic of 46 million people. Russia denies orchestrating the unrest and says Ukraine’s attempts to end it by military force are making the situation worse.

Moscow denies any involvement in shooting down the airliner and has blamed the Ukrainian military. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry put forward on Sunday the most detailed accusations so far that Russia provided insurgents with the sophisticated anti-aircraft systems used to down the aircraft.

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine to cooperate and insisted that an international investigation must not leap to conclusions.

The draft U.N. resolution “demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability” and “calls on all states and actors in the region to cooperate fully in relation to the international investigation of the incident.”


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Detroit Protesters Win Temporary Reprieve From Water Shut-Offs Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:51:34 +0000 Detroit residents warn that 15-day suspension of disconnections is not a long term fix and will not restore water to thousands already cut-off. Continue reading

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Detroit rally against water shut-offs July 18. (Photo: Detroit Water Brigade)

The city of Detroit is putting a 15-day moratorium on water shut-offs to thousands of households following escalating public protests against what critics charge is a mass-scale human rights violation.

“There is no question this is the result of all of the pressure that has come to the city of Detroit,” Shea Howell of the People’s Water Board and Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management told Common Dreams.

Darryl Latimer, deputy director for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, announced the temporary suspension of disconnections to Detroit’s bankruptcy judge, Steven Rhodes, in federal court on Monday, according to numerous media reports. He said that the pause in disconnections—ostensibly aimed at identifying and providing assistance to hardship cases—will not affect the city’s push to collect payments from people who have fallen behind on their bills.

“Everyone shut-off needs to be turned back on.”
—Shea Howell, People’s Water Board, Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management

Rhodes has previously condemned the water shut-offs for generating “bad publicity” for the city but has fallen short of ordering a halt.

The announcement coincided with a lawsuit filed Monday with the bankruptcy court charging that the shut-offs violate Detroiters’ constitutional rights. “Water service to private residences is the most basic and essential utility service, and is necessary for the health and safety of the residents,” the filing reads, according to media reports.

The moratorium follows rising public outrage after DWSD announced last month it is implementing a plan to escalate the number of delinquent households to be shut-off to at least 3,000 a month. Nearly half of all Detroit residents are behind on their water payments, and at least 7,000 people were disconnected in June alone. The pool of people unable to pay is likely to expand as the city continues to cut public services, including welfare and public pensions, while in the midst of foreclosure and unemployment crises.

Many residents of this majority black city suspect that the disconnections are part of a larger plan, backed by emergency manager Kevyn Orr, to privatize the DWSD and, ultimately, displace poor communities of color to make way for gentrification.

Thousands of people from across the state and country marched through Detroit last week to demand an end to the water shut-offs and an immediate restoration of services. The mass rally followed two direct actions, in which local residents blocked the entrance to Homrich Inc.—the company contracted by the city to shut off water to homes—leading to arrests. Residents have organized watering stations, rapid response teams, a Water Rights Hotline, and local canvassing efforts to help each other cope.

“DWSD must take this time to fundamentally reconsider its use of draconian water shutoffs as a means of strong-arming residents who cannot afford to pay their water bills.” —Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch

The shut-offs have garnered condemnation from around the world, including UN officials, who slammed the denial of water as a “violation of human rights.” Later this week, the Windsor chapter of the Council of Canadians will send a convoy of water to Detroit to show solidarity with residents “[u]nable to cook, bathe, or brush their teeth.”

Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, declared in a Monday press statement that the temporary moratorium “is only a small step toward rectifying the problem in Detroit.” Hauter urged, “DWSD must take this time to fundamentally reconsider its use of draconian water shutoffs as a means of strong-arming residents who cannot afford to pay their water bills.”

“Looking forward, we call on the DWSD to indefinitely suspend all residential shutoffs, restore service to those families already turned off, and immediately begin work to implement an income-based Water Affordability Plan,” declared the Detroit Water Brigade in response to the moratorium.

While Howell commended the temporary reprieve, she expressed concern that the DWSD has expressed no indication that they are willing to turn disconnected households back on or discuss long-term solutions.

“Everyone shut off needs to be turned back on,” she said. “We want to make sure the Detroit water system doesn’t become privatized and a source of profit.”


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FBI Entrapment Created ‘Illusion’ Of Terrorist Plots: Report Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:48:24 +0000 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. Continue reading

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The Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in New York City. (Photo/Paul Lowry via Flickr)

The Masjid Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in New York City. (Photo/Paul Lowry via Flickr)

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.”


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‘Silence Is Consent’: Thousands Worldwide March For Gaza Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:45:00 +0000 Demonstrations held in condemnation of Israel's 'war crimes' and complicity of international governments. Continue reading

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Morocco Palestine

Moroccans demonstrators hold banners and shout slogans, in Rabat, Morocco, Sunday, July 20, 2014, during a demonstration to protest against the Israeli army’s shelling in the Gaza strip.

As the world watches in horror Israel’s ongoing bombardment of the Gaza strip—which as of Monday has killed over 550 Palestinians trapped in the sealed-off territory—a unified call for an end to the assault has come in the form of worldwide demonstrations because, as one protester wrote, “silence is consent.”

“People across the world are coming out in condemnation of Israel’s crimes and in condemnation of U.S. support for those crimes,” said Hatem Abudayyeh with the Chicago Coalition for Justice. Abudayyeh was one of tens of thousands of Chicago-area residents who took to the streets on Sunday in an outpouring of support and solidarity for those in Gaza.

Many of the global protests were held by citizens frustrated by what they see as their own government’s complicity in Israel’s military bombardment that has now last two weeks. Observers note that the massive crowds clearly contradict comments made by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that there is “very strong support within the international community for the activity that the IDF is doing.”

Hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered outside the U.S. State Department headquarters in  Washington D.C. on Sunday, demanding an end to the violence in Gaza and criticizing the U.S. government’s continued and “unconditional” support of Israel while ignoring the plight and suffering of Palestinians living under occupation.

“The U.S. is the primary patron of Israel and provides unequivocal diplomatic and military support,” Noura Erakat, a Palestinian lawyer and professor at George Mason University, told reporters with the Washington Post. “It’s a complicit third party in what amounts to a massacre of the Palestinian population entrapped within the Gaza strip.”

Sixty-four notable figures—including seven Nobel laureates—published a letter on Friday calling on the United Nations and “governments across the world” to implement an arms embargo on Israel. “Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world,” the statement read.

In London on Saturday, tens of thousands marched from Downing Street to the Israeli embassy to denounce what they said was Israeli “apartheid.” Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said the demonstration gave people from “across the country the chance to say enough is enough, Israel’s siege of Gaza and its occupation of Palestinian land has to end now.”

Up to 5,000 protesters marched to the national parliament building in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday where hundreds laid down in the streets in a massive ‘die-in’ to show solidarity with the people in Gaza and to symbolize the number killed during the Israeli assault.

In Los Angeles, traffic along busy Wilshire Boulevard was halted Sunday as a crowd of hundreds marched on the Israeli consulate.

“There’s two sides to every story and unfortunately only one side gets told here,” protester Jamal Barakat told local news channel KPCC. “If you’re 7, 8 years-old in Gaza, this is the third major airstrikes you’ve lived through. Imagine the kind of effects that has on a population.”

In the West Bank, national and religious institutions called for a Monday general strike in condemnation of the “massacres” suffered by the people in Gaza. Palestinian leaders living inside Israel are taking part in the strike, as well.

Other protests were held in Amman, Jordan; Santiago, Chile; and in cities across France. Mashable has this round-up of images from the worldwide demonstrations.


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Blockade At First Tar Sands Site In US Challenges ‘Brazen Disregard For Climate Crisis’ Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:42:18 +0000 Happening now: Activists target construction at PR Spring tar sands site in Utah Continue reading

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Utah TS

A banner unfurled at the Utah tar sands site earlier this year. (Photo: Utah Tar Sands Resistance)

Scores of climate justice activists are staging a blockade on Monday to thwart construction of the first tar sands mine in the United States—a project they say will cause irreparable damage to water and land.

According to a statement from Utah Tar Sands Resistance, roughly 80 people are involved in the action, some of whom have locked themselves to equipment and are being processed for arrest.

The plans for the extraction in the Book Cliffs of Utah in an area located just outside the Northern Ute Ouray Reservation by Calgary-based US Oil Sands have drawn years of resistance from land defenders.

Monday’s action challenging the company’s PR Spring project comes at the tail end of a week-long Climate Justice Summer Camp, which takes place at a permanent protest vigil organized by Utah Tar Sands Resistance and Peaceful Uprising.

“US Oil Sands perfectly demonstrates capitalism’s brazen disregard for the climate crisis, human and tribal rights and rights of the planet itself to be free of dangerous corporate parasites,” stated Jessica Lee, a spokesperson for the climate justice groups.

This article was published by Common Dreams.

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You’ve Heard About ISIS. You Haven’t Heard About These Guys Tue, 22 Jul 2014 13:18:41 +0000 While the Islamic State, previously known as ISIS or ISIL (for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), is the group the media associate with the Sunni uprising in Iraq, they are in reality one of six main groups that make up the coalition that seized control of a large chunk of western and central Iraq last month. Continue reading

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Fighters of the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) parade in the northern city of Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo)

KIRKUK, Iraq — Doctor Sadoon al Obeidi used to be a member of the Mujahadeen Army, a Sunni militant group founded in Iraq a decade ago. Now he fights alongside the Islamic State — the extremist group that split off from Al Qaeda earlier this year and has swept through Syria and northern Iraq in the past month, declaring a new cross-border caliphate.

Thousands of Iraqis like Obeidi have likewise joined the ranks of a coalition working with this Sunni extremist group.

“Long term we have different goals,” Obeidi said. “But we formed this alliance with IS for tactical reasons.”

While the Islamic State, previously known as ISIS or ISIL (for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), is the group the media associate with the Sunni uprising in Iraq, they are in reality one of six main groups that make up the coalition that seized control of a large chunk of western and central Iraq last month.

These groups range from extremist forces like Ansar al Islam, who share a similar ideology to IS, to more nationalist-minded Islamic groups like the Mujahedeen Army and the Naqshbandi Order (JRTN), which was established by former generals from Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. These forces have swelled in numbers as local citizens and tribal groups have joined their ranks.


The birth of a Sunni coalition

Deep divides along sectarian lines — specifically between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam — have a long history in this region, but most point to recent history, not ancient, when discussing the reasons for this latest conflict. In an interview last week in Kirkuk, Arab tribal leader Abu Abdullah said for years following the US invasion — and the fall of Saddam Hussein and his Sunni Baath Party, giving Shias the upper hand in Iraq — Sunni Arabs have been seeking a formal power-sharing deal with the Iraqi government. He himself was one of many Arab representatives that took part in years of negotiations. But Nouri al-Maliki, who became prime minister in 2006, has taken a hard line against Sunnis, and last year this turned violent.

Abu Abdullah was one of the key organizers of anti-government protests in the Kirkuk region in 2013. The government conducted a brutal raid on a protest encampment in Hawija in April, killing dozens. That, he says, was when negotiations between these various Sunni militants and IS first began.

“The local groups wanted to oust the government from the region, but they couldn’t move forward alone,” he said. “They did not have the strength or financial backing.”

Strength and financial backing is exactly what IS has. But what they lacked was the local support held by the tribal leaders and local Sunni militant organizations. So, Abu Abdullah said, IS was “welcomed” to the fold.

Austin Long, of the Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University, described IS as “extraordinarily well organized” not only in a fighting sense, but also in a business sense.

“They understand as well as anybody that you run wars on money,” Long said. “You can see this in the way they are targeting key economic sectors and assets like the oil industry and oil fields. These are guys who are sophisticated at making money in protection rackets and elaborate business setups and converting those resources into combat power.”

While in Syria the majority of IS fighters are believed to be foreigners, Obeidi said in his region, which stretches from Tikrit to Salahaddin, IS fighters are predominantly Iraqis.


How Mosul was taken

IS’s organizational strength translated quickly to military successes in Iraq. While the capture of Mosul last month may have taken the Iraqi government and the world by surprise, Dr. Bassil, a plastic surgeon working in a government hospital, said in fact local residents were well aware of an IS presence in the city prior to the formal invasion.

Bassil and other Mosul residents said representatives of the group had been operating like a local mafia, siphoning payments from government contracts and local business owners.

The taking of Mosul was therefore largely carried out from within. Abu Abdullah said 1,500 IS fighters were planted in Mosul in preparation for the invasion, in addition to local fighters already living in the city.

Mosul resident Zain Abdeen confirmed that many families had secretly hosted IS fighters in their homes, and western Mosul was already largely under IS control.


Division of labor in a new Sunnistan

Although only accounting for what Abu Abdullah estimates to be from 8-10 percent of the coalition fighters, IS has dominated state and international media.

“The media do not have access to these areas so they rely on government reports that use the name of IS to label the Sunni’s terrorists and rally international support,” Abu Abdullah said.

Though there are drawbacks to IS being the face of the Sunni coalition, their name does instill fear in the Iraqi army and has worked to the broader coalition’s advantage so far, Abu Abdullah added.

Far from the media eyes, labor is divided among coalition members somewhat more equitably, according to Sunni organizers. With their varying strengths and weaknesses, each group has taken on different tasks.

“Some groups have taken charge of media and recruitment,” Obeidi said. “The nationalists, with their local influence and support, are taking care of the masses in the cities while tribal leaders control the villages. IS are the most experienced and effective fighters, so they take the lead on the front lines.”

But Obeidi said currently IS has little control over the enforcement of civil laws and is limited in their dealings with the public.

Within days of taking control of Mosul, IS publically announced a list of new Islamic laws, but civilians from Mosul told GlobalPost these are not yet being fully enforced despite rumors to the contrary.

“Even if IS has intentions to enforce their ideas, the people will not accept it,” Obeidi said.

Abu Abdullah said in the cities under Sunni coalition control, the old government departments and the law system are still in place and functioning much the same as before the recent takeover. However, IS has assigned representatives to work within each ministry as “consultants.”

Bassil, the plastic surgeon, said only the government army and police had been replaced. Employees of other government departments, including himself, are still working as before. The central government announced they would slash public service wages this month by two-thirds in Sunni militant held territory, but Bassil said Thursday an IS representative visited the hospital promising all government wages would be paid in full by the new state.


I say secular Sunnistan, you say Islamic caliphate: Let’s call the whole thing off after taking Baghdad

But tensions within the coalition are on the rise. Earlier this month, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared himself caliph — religious and civil leader — of this jointly held territory.

“The only group that is fine with this announcement is the Baath party,” said Abu Abdullah, referring to JRTN and its ex-Baath party leaders. “They need the fighting power of IS, but when they reach Baghdad they think they can kick them out.”

Abu Abdullah said the other groups are more skeptical.

“The tribal forces are wary of handing too much control to IS,” he said. “We have sometimes suffered from their extreme views. They have killed people and acted without group consent.”

Obeidi had another, perhaps surprising, observation about IS members: “The one thing I have noticed is that most of them do not have enough religious education to be involved with such a movement,” he said. “It seems they have joined IS to fight the government rather than from a religious conviction. This makes people even more afraid of them because without a proper religious grounding and understanding of Islam they can be even more radical, violent and unpredictable.”

Obeidi said IS fighters have been responsible for many executions of government soldiers, particularly members of elite groups including army SWAT teams. A recent report by Human Rights Watch outlined evidence of at least 190 such executions carried out in Tikrit.

In addition, while the coalition has managed to remain united so far, the groups’ long-term goals may differ as much as their tactics.

IS and the more radical elements of the coalition seek first to establish a Sunni caliphate in Syria and Iraq and then to expand this throughout the Islamic world. Obeidi said other groups are more pragmatic. Their focus is on establishing a somewhat secular Sunni-led state in Iraq.

For the time being, all groups have a united focus on taking Baghdad. This is why, according to Abu Abdallah, even those groups unsure about the alliance with IS are refraining from a power struggle at present.

“But it’s getting harder the longer we wait,” Obeidi said. “The initial fight was swift. We caught them off guard. But now [the government forces] have had time to regroup and gather supplies and allies.”

Beyond Baghdad, doubts are rising that such a union can hold.

“We are afraid of a repeat of Syria here,” Obeidi said referring to the vicious infighting between various Syrian rebel groups. “For the moment we have approached this as one unit and achieved more unity than in Syria. But yes, we are afraid IS may try to take more control in the future.”

Because IS is a minority, albeit a more brutal and extreme group than the others, he believes they can be kept in check.

But Long, who spent several years as an analyst and advisor on Iraq, expressed doubts in the ability of Iraq’s Sunni groups to fight IS if they did choose to turn on the extremist elements of their coalition.

“This is a group who have been able to fight the Assad Army, the Maliki government, the Free Syrian Army, Al Nusra Front and the Kurds, all at the same time and still have success,” Long said. “The fact that they have been able to do that is testament to how capable they really are.”

This article was published by Global Post.

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Abbas’s Collaborative Efforts Against Palestinian Resistance Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:50:00 +0000 With his history of collaborating with settler-colonialist and imperialist dictates, Mahmoud Abbas must be applauding himself for every victim in the ongoing tragedy.
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Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas listens to Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby, during their meeting at his residence in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. Talks focused on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.

Despite the atrocities inflicted upon Palestinians in Gaza since Israel’s genocidal Operation Protective Edge started on July 8, and despite Israel’s deadliest assault on Gaza over the weekend, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is steadfast in upholding his history of collaborative efforts with settler-colonialist and imperialist dictates.

The earliest plans for a Zionist colonization of Palestine date back to 1882 and culminated in the Nakba of 1948, when thousands of Palestinians were massacred and displaced in order to establish Israel’s settler-colonialist state we see today — an expansionist ideology and implementation in perfect accordance with plans for imperialist domination in the region.

As the horrors of mutilated bodies in Gaza unfold for all to behold, and with international impunity bequeathed to Israel looming in the background, Abbas seems intent on thwarting Palestinian resistance.

Abbas remains completely opposed to resistance — despite its legitimacy. “What are you trying to achieve by sending rockets? We prefer to fight with wisdom and politics,” he said recently in a Palestinian TV broadcast without explicitly naming Hamas.

Any claims to alleged wisdom should be seriously questioned within the parameters of historical concessions and recent history. Just as the creation of Zionist settler-colonialism initiated a prolonged process, the gradual deterioration of Palestinian resistance as a unifying component — particularly in the post-Oslo period — translated into a series of extended negotiations that facilitated both privilege among the settler population as well as colonial expansion.

As recognition from both Israel and the hostile international community took precedence over the liberation of historic Palestine, Abbas sought to further the Israeli narrative through evocations of “painful concessions” and the repeated denial of Palestinians’ rights.

“Painful concessions” — the clichéd metaphor that stands in for willing acquiescence — has wrought havoc upon the Palestinian population, irrespective of location and experience. Abbas has contributed greatly to the turmoil. In November 2012, the Palestinian Authority president publicly renounced his right to return to his birthplace, Safed, during an interview on Israel’s Channel 2.

“I visited Safed before once,” Abbas said. “It’s my right to see it but not to live there”

“I am a refugee, but I am living in Ramallah. I believe that the West Bank and Gaza is Palestine and the other parts are Israel.”

During the recent U.S.-brokered negotiations that resulted in trading the lives of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli colonial expansion, Abbas actually ridiculed the right of return for all Palestinians. The return of all Palestinians back to Palestine is “a joke,” according to Abbas, who added that it was not his intention to disrupt the demography and character of the Zionist entity.

Aside from Abbas endorsing Israel’s decades-long policy of displacing Palestinians through the repudiation of their right of return, security coordination with Israel is often evoked as a favorable operation that allegedly provides stability in the West Bank. Enshrined in U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194, the Palestinian right of return applies to all Palestinians displaced since 1948, as well as their descendents.

However, the non-binding nature of U.N. resolutions has rendered the right of return  as a point of contention, as well as an opportunity for manipulation, by Israel, which has outrightly refused the concept due to the obvious demographic changes that would necessarily result if the resolution were ever implemented in its entirely. The joint collaboration financed by the U.S. is an oppressive network in which Palestinian Authority security forces collaborate with Sherut Habitachon Haklali — or Shin Bet, Israel’s internal intelligence unit — in their quest to eliminate Palestinian resistance. Throughout the fast-paced formation of the so-called “unity government” on June 2 — a compromise of establishing a hypothetical state based upon the 1967 borders, thereby acquiescing to colonial and imperialist demands — Abbas has reiterated the sanctity of security coordination throughout discussions, declaring that the collaboration would be a continuous process.

This featured prominently again during the violent rampage in the West Bank after the remains of the three Israeli settlers were discovered on June 30. During this chaos, many prisoners released under the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange agreement were re-arrested.

The above recapitulation of recent willing subjugation on the part of Abbas takes on a dangerous precedent in light of Protective Edge and his calls to place Palestinians under international protection. The process translates directly into seeking U.N. protection, despite sufficient evidence that through its imperialist policies, the organization supports the atrocities committed in Gaza by Israel. In a recent statement, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon persisted in condemning rocket fire from Hamas, while also summoning images of terrified Israelis in shelters, thus ignoring  the carnage that stands as testimony to Israel’s gruesome massacre in Gaza. By resorting to the U.N., Abbas is willing to further his collaborative oppression by undermining the legitimate right to armed resistance against colonialism, as stipulated in international law.

As the death toll authored by Israel’s precision strikes increase, the U.N. continues to endorse Israel’s fabricated right to defend itself, while condemning the resistance embodied by Hamas and other Palestinian factions. Abbas has also called on France to lobby Hamas’ allies — purportedly Qatar and Turkey, according to the Agence France-Presse — in order to negotiate a truce with the settler-colonial state. Hailed as comprehensive efforts toward seeking a solution, Abbas’ grovelling at leaders whose priority lies in safeguarding Israel is evidence of his blatant betrayal of the people he claims to represent.

Before turning to France, Abbas had sought to negotiate with Egypt’s Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi to broker a ceasefire. He did this despite the country’s work with Israel to destroy the Gaza tunnels, which provided Palestinians with some degree of mobility amid travel restrictions and border closures, as well as a means of importing goods and medicine. (Israel maintains that the tunnels are used primarily for “terrorist” purposes — the mainstream manipulation commonly used to detract from the right to legitimate resistance endorsed by Hamas.)

If further proof of Abbas’ capitulation was necessary, U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro stated Saturday that the U.S. was also seeking to establish Abbas’ rule over Gaza.

Shapiro, as quoted in the Times of Israel, said, “At the end of this conflict, we’ll seek to help the moderate elements among the Palestinians to become stronger in Gaza. They might be able to run Gaza more effectively than Hamas, a terror organization.”

The statement reflects potential plans to further security coordination with Israel in Gaza to eliminate resistance, based on the U.S.’s unfounded assumptions of the military and political deterioration of Hamas. Further, the rhetoric represents the U.S. government’s negation of Hamas’ legitimacy as a democratically-elected government — particularly as Hamas has persistently upheld the right to resistance and the liberation of Palestine.

The victims of Protective Edge, meanwhile, are no more a source of concern for Abbas than they are for Israel. Ostensibly to promote the image of a leader concerned about his people, a three-day mourning period was declared after tragedy unfolded in Shujaiyya — the Gaza suburb where nearly 100 civilians were slaughtered by Israeli shelling over the weekend. Abbas’ credibility, however, is constantly tarnished by the intense efforts to ensure a continuation of the history that started during the Nakba of 1948.

Taken within an historical perspective, Protective Edge is the continuation of an historical trend toward murder, forced displacement, the creation of refugees, the attempted eradication of Palestinian resistance, and a gradual extermination that reflects the bloodbath that consolidated the establishment of the settler-colonial state.

In this scenario, however, Israel can safely rely on Abbas as a collaborator in ensuring a swift implementation of the latest phase. Abbas’ unwillingness to terminate security coordination with Israel reveals an unyielding rejection of tangible Palestinian independence.

If Abbas maintains the internal oppression of Palestinians as a priority, it is little wonder that gestures such as allegedly seeking international protection and begging for political reinforcement against Palestinians would take precedence over support for the resistance. The death toll signifies recognition of the successful, preliminary phase of Palestinian Authority’s collaboration in the West Bank during Operation Brother’s Keeper, the Israeli Defense Forces’ operation that came in response to the alleged kidnapping of the three Israeli teens and paved the way for Protective Edge.

With each victim of colonial violence, Abbas must be applauding himself.

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