Hillary Clinton Pledges to Defend Israeli Apartheid & Fight BDS Movement in Letter to Mega-Donor

Hillary Clinton - June Campaign Photo

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sent a letter to media mogul Haim Saban, a mega-donor, assuring him that she would make countering the global Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel a priority. She invoked a recent terrorist attack against Jews in Paris to condemn BDS and specifically sought Saban’s advice on how to fight back.

“I am writing to express my alarm over the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, or ‘BDS,’ a global effort to isolate the State of Israel by ending commercial and academic exchanges,” Clinton wrote [PDF]. “I am seeking your advice on how we can work together—across party lines and with a diverse array of voices—to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel.”

Clinton expressed serious concern over comparisons between Israel and South African apartheid.

“Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival,” Clinton asserted. “Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world—especially in Europe—we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people. After all, it was only six months ago that four Jews were targeted and killed in a Kosher supermarket in Paris as they did their Sabbath shopping.”

The invoking of a terrorist attack against Jews in Paris is a nasty attempt to cast the growing nonviolent BDS movement as anti-Semitic. In fact, to read Clinton’s letter in its entirety, one has to believe Israel is engaged in no acts of occupation or oppression against the Palestinians and a movement is mobilizing out of hatred or baseless assumptions about Israel.

In a column for the Los Angeles Times published in May 2014, Saree Makdisi, a UCLA professor and author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, explained that apartheid is not merely used to inflame tensions. It very specifically has legal meaning, as outlined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. (Note: The UN General Assembly adopted the convention in 1973 and most UN member states except for Israel and the United States have ratified the convention.)

From Makdisi’s column:

According to Article II of that convention, the term applies to acts “committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” Denying those others the right to life and liberty, subjecting them to arbitrary arrest, expropriating their property, depriving them of the right to leave and return to their country or the right to freedom of movement and of residence, creating separate reserves and ghettos for the members of different racial groups, preventing mixed marriages — these are all examples of the crime of apartheid specifically mentioned in the convention.

Israel engages in all of these actions against Palestinians. In fact, as Gil Maguire has shown, Israel “created an apartheid system and became an apartheid state at the end of the 1967 war.”

One of Clinton’s arguments in her letter is that BDS seeks to “punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict.” She indicates she supports a two-state solution and that can only be achieved through “direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians—it cannot be imposed from the outside or by unilateral actions.”

If anything, it is Israel which seeks to unilaterally impose a resolution and that resolution is protect and even expand apartheid.

Former President Bill Clinton shared in 2011 the reason why the “peace process” failed. According to Foreign Policy, Clinton claimed it was because of the reluctance of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration to “accept the terms of the Camp David deal” and a “demographic shift in Israel” that made the Israeli public “less amenable to peace.” (more…)

Senate Measure Would Expand FBI’s Power to Target Internet Thought Crimes Under Guise of Fighting Terrorism

FBI Director James Comey

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence approved a measure in the 2016 intelligence authorization bill, which would require social media websites and email services to flag “terrorist activity” for the FBI and other law enforcement and security agencies.

According to the Washington Post, the measure would not “require companies to monitor their sites if they do not already do so.” It would apply to “electronic communication service providers,” and ensure they report videos or other content posted by “suspected terrorists.”

The expansion of power, which would increase the government’s power to undermine freedom of expression, is supposedly not supported by “industry officials” from companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

From the Post:

…“Asking Internet companies to proactively monitor people’s posts and messages would be the same thing as asking your telephone company to monitor and log all your phone calls, text messages, all your Internet browsing, all the sites you visit,” said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the provision is not yet public. “Considering the vast majority of people on these sites are not doing anything wrong, this type of monitoring would be considered by many to be an invasion of privacy. It would also be technically difficult.”…

Government officials may claim it is necessary for the fight against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups. However, what the measure would do is increase the capability of the United States security state to engage in preemptive prosecution—to target and prosecute individuals or organizations who have beliefs, ideology, or a religious affiliations which make them a person of interest for the government.

For example, consider the case of Tarek Mehanna, who is currently serving a seventeen and a half-year prison sentence after he was convicted of material support for terrorism in December 2012.

Mehanna was “born in the United States to Egyptian immigrant parents and grew up outside of Boston. He became a devout Muslim who was fiercely critical of US foreign policy, especially in Muslim countries,” Amna Akbar wrote for The Nation. “He believed deeply in the right of Muslims living in Muslim-majority countries to defend against foreign occupation. And he talked about it. He subtitled “jihadi” videos; he translated an archaic oft-translated Arabic text 39 Ways to Serve and Participate in Jihad [by Anwar Al-Awlaki]; and he engaged in religious and political debate online through instant messages, emails and web postings.”

Mehanna took a trip to Yemen in 2004 for “religious and language instruction.” The government has conceded there were no terrorism training camps in Yemen. Still, the government maintained he traveled to Yemen to train with a terrorist group.

The FBI began to spy on him in 2005 and attempted to turn him into an informant. When Mehanna refused, the FBI pledged to make his life difficult. Mehanna continued to translate texts, including various works about jihad by Afghan and Iraqi scholars. He posted them to his website, along with poetry and other writings. Mehanna was arrested in 2008 and charged with “conspiracy to give material support to terrorism by translating radical Arabic writings into English and posting them on his website,” according to the Project for the Support and Legal Advocacy of Muslims (Project SALAM).

Mehanna never acted under the direction of Al Qaeda yet the government insisted in court that his work had been intended to “inspire others to engage in violent jihad.” In fact, as Akbar noted, at no point did the government present evidence that Mehanna had provided support to any designated terrorist organization. There was no evidence that his translations caused harm. There was no evidence that his translation had incited “imminent criminal conduct.” What he was convicted of committing was inspiring others to “support opinions the United States government finds objectionable,” particularly opinions related to radical Islamic thought.

In 2013, Mehanna’s appeal was denied, which further solidified the power government prosecutors have to target people for speech and expression deemed dangerous. He is serving his sentence in a “communications management unit” in a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, which means he is living in conditions of solitary confinement and confined to a cell 23 hours a day.

Mehanna’s postings would undoubtedly fall in the category of activity the FBI and other security agencies would want internet companies to flag, even though there was no explicit intent to incite any violence whatsoever. (more…)

Over Easy: Monday Science

Make soup out of me? I don't THINK so!
Make soup out of me? I don’t THINK so!
Greetings!

Well, it was a great 4th here…unless you were a pet. A nearby display drove our dogs into hiding and they were still behind the couch when I went to bed. The cats couldn’t care less.

Fukushima Update:

There is a new robot for Fukushima. This is a new design, specially hardened, and intended to look for fuel amongst the debris. The hope is that it will last 10 hours or so in the high radiation environment. If they are looking for fuel anywhere but the area beneth the reactor, it means that they think either the core exploded (#3) or the SFP is compromised.

TEPCO has been held responsible for a suicide linked to the accident and ordered to pay $27M yen (About $220,000). This is the second loss for a suicide for TEPCO and there are 69 others that TEPCO could potentially be sued for so far. These could add up, but the courts are holding the payouts low it seems.

TEPCO has been granted loans of over $2.1B by major Japanese banks. This is considered a show of confidence, but anybody who thinks it was not done under EXTREME government pressure isn’t paying attention.

Nearly 1/3 of bass spawned as females turn males. No word yet if bass will be banned from Southern Baptists households.

Large number of black holes found, with the implication that there are a LOT more then we thought. Are there enough to disprove dark matter?

Micro-organisms COULD explain the features we see with Rosetta on the comet. So could a lot of other things, but it’s an interesting theory.

Ceres is providing surprises. We may be able to identify the bright spots on the next pass.

New Horizons had a hiccup, but all is well.

Bee soup, anyone?

Boxturtle (When choosing between evils, I always try the one I haven’t tried before – M. West)

Greeks vote to reject Eurozone bailouts conditioned on austerity measures

The polls closed in Greece (at noon EST) with various Greek television stations projecting “No” to be the winner. The referendum asks voters to approve (Yes) or to disapprove (No) of tough austerity measures that the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are requiring the Greek government to impose on its citizens as a condition of receiving additional bailout money. The government is recommending a “No” vote. All Greek citizens are required by law to vote, although that law has not been enforced for many years.

A majority of Greek citizens have decided that the austerity demanded by the money lenders is just another word for debt slavery that they are no longer willing to accept. I support the “No” vote because I am opposed to idea of central bankers conditioning loans on the elimination safety nets that consist of financial assistance programs that protect those who are least able to survive financial disadvantage; namely, the unemployed, the poor, the mentally ill and the marginalized.

The central bankers support neoliberal economic theory that promotes balancing budgets on the backs of the poor, a policy that I despise and repudiate. The “No” vote probably will result in Greece getting kicked out of the Eurozone.

Anxiety Over Possible ISIS Attacks in US Expected to End When CNN Grows Bored with Fear

Screen capture of CNN newscast inviting all Americans to be very, very afraid for no good reason at all
Screen capture of CNN newscast inviting all Americans to be very, very afraid for no good reason at all

All throughout the week prior to the Fourth of July in the United States, CNN, as well as other media outlets, incessantly repeated vague threats about ISIS launching terrorism attacks during the holiday.

On June 30, CNN quoted unnamed US officials who claimed “symbolic July 4th celebrations coinciding with the Islamic holy month of Ramadan will further embolden ISIS supporters in the US to unleash attacks.” The media organization, as well as other outlets, spread the contents of a bulletin from the Department of Homeland Security and FBI, which warned law enforcement agencies of the potential for attacks in advance of the holiday.

The bulletin was titled, “Holiday Celebrations Remain Attractive Target.” It was sent to 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States and warned Independence Day celebrations and activities that “appear to defame the prophet Mohammed” would “likely result in threats or plans to conduct violent extremist acts.”

It is July 5, the day after “lone offenders” were expected to strike a decisive blow somewhere in the so-called home of the brave.

Former FBI assistant director Thomas Fuentes, who now works as a CNN law enforcement analyst, said this morning, “I think there have been a lot of people hyper ventilating over the last couple of weeks of what was to happen.”

Fuentes added:

…[T]he fact that some crazy ISIS follower chose not to grab a butcher knife and go out the door and attack somebody is not because they chose not to, not because of the measures that were taken. All the security measures are designed to contain an attack, minimize it, but really are going to be in response to an attack. So, if someone or a small group of someone carries out an attack, the police are there to stifle it so that no further attack is made. But people are still vulnerable up to that point.

So, yes, we’re not going to be able to stop, we’re going to be talking about this next year on July 4th and the year after that and the year after that, because we can’t contain the message ISIS puts out and the ability of people to track that message on the Internet and then the ability in their crazy brains to follow it…

Essentially, no matter how many bombs the US-led coalition drops against ISIS in Iraq, no matter how many sting operations are launched by the FBI against alleged ISIS supporters, the US cannot stop ISIS propaganda from spreading. So long as the propaganda can reach individuals on the internet, there is a potential for someone to launch an attack. (Note: Some of ISIS’s propaganda calls out US atrocities against Muslims and security officials likely recognize that resonates with some people because the propaganda contains a few grains of truth.) (more…)

Sunday Food: Greek Lamb

Dish of roast lamb
Dish of roast lamb

(Picture courtesy of Kal Hendry at flickr.com.)

Cannot resist taking the day of the Greek referendum on whether or not to cave to EU demands that it sacrifice its economy, for the offering of that sacrificial lamb cooked up in Greek fashion.   This takes a twist on the usual lemon flavoring, and goes with the Orange is the New Black theme too.

While I’m treating the situation with humor, this is a classical tragedy for the people whose ability to make a living by doing the honorable work available to them has been taken away.   It is fraud by deception to offer one thing, in this case a working economy, and give another for the exchange value.   The Greek workers have not been treated honestly by banksters, or the former leaders who made this bad bargain on their behalf.

Greek Orange Roast Lamb:

Ingredients
Serves: 4 

  • 1 half leg of lamb

  • 10 to 12 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm pieces

  • 5 cloves garlic

  • 4 tablespoons dark french mustard

  • juice of one large orange

  • 1 tablespoon oregano

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Method
Prep:30min  ›  Cook:1hr  ›  Ready in:1hr30min 

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4. In large bowl, whisk together the orange juice, mustard, olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper.
  2. Once combined, add potatoes to bowl and coat thoroughly with mixture. Transfer the potatoes to a large roasting tin.
  3. Next, cut 2cm deep slits into the lamb, and stuff the garlic cloves into the slits. Place the lamb into the bowl with the remaining orange juice mixture; coat thoroughly and transfer to roasting tin on top of potatoes. If any of the orange juice mixture remains in the bowl, pour over the lamb and potatoes.
  4. Bake uncovered until potatoes are done and lamb is medium / medium-well (approximately 60 minutes). Check every 20 to 30 minutes while baking, and add a bit of hot water if you find the potatoes are drying out.

Cook’s note

If you prefer, use the juice of two lemons instead of the orange for another traditional preparation.

This should be delicious, as the result of the referendum may also prove to be.

(Picture courtesy of Sharon Mollerus at flickr.com.)

Carrying water for the EU
Carrying water for the EU

We must rely on science to inform us about climate change and its causes

The existence or non-existence of climate change and global warming can only be determined by empirical observation and interpretation of data. These activities are scientific in nature, not religious. Scientists have been collecting and interpreting the data for many years. Studies analyzing the data have been published and reviewed in peer reviewed professional journals for many years leading to consensus in the community of climate scientists that due to human activity, climate change and global warming have been occurring at an accelerating rate since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

Science consists of asking questions and forming theories that answer those questions that can be proven or disproven. Religion, on the other hand consists of asking questions that cannot be answered by empirical observation. Instead, answers ultimately depend on faith. For example, we cannot prove the existence or nonexistence of God.

Climate change deniers generally base their doubts on religious ideas such as a belief in God’s stewardship of the planet and his promise to preserve it until he returns. However, religious ideas by their very nature cannot prove or disprove the existence of climate change or global warming and they cannot identify a cause.

For these reasons, politicians who question climate change and global warming by relying on religious ideas are merely proving their own ignorance. Their opinions are irrelevant and should be disregarded.

Resource: Can Religion and Science Coexist?

Democrats and Republicans are headed in opposite directions

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are improving in the polls while everyone else appears to be treading water. Sanders has been drawing large crowds with his common sense populist message and he has raised $15 million in the past two months. The Huffington Post is reporting that he is rising in the polls in Iowa and starting to catch up to Hilary Clinton. He likely has a broader base of supporters than she does even though she has raised $45 million. For example,

His campaign reported receiving 400,000 contributions during the past two months from 250,000 total contributors. Nearly 87 percent of the total amount raised during the quarter came from the donors who contributed $250 or less.

According to the Clinton campaign, 91 percent of its donations were $100 or less in value. But they declined to say how many individual people contributed to Clinton’s campaign.

In addition, the media appears to be laying off the false accusation that he cannot be elected because he is a socialist. That old red-baiting maneuver worked 30 years ago, but it doesn’t appear to carry much weight today. All this is good news for Sanders and progressives as we head into the July 4th weekend.

Meanwhile, Trump’s hate message about immigrants from Mexico appears to be gaining traction among white Republican voters who hate LGBT people, same-sex marriage and the immigrants. The silence from most of the other Republican candidates reflects unfavorably on the Republican Party. The other candidates are not helping their brand by refusing to criticize his appeal to hatred and prejudice.

Therefore, the Democrats and the Republicans are headed in different directions and that is good news too.

Have a safe and happy July 4th weekend.

WikiLeaks Performs Valuable Service By Liberating Key Documents from Lesser-Known But Still Major Trade Deal

WikiLeaks TISA graphic

In the past two days, WikiLeaks has released drafts from a lesser-known trade agreement being negotiated between 52 nations called the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). The publication comes just before the next round of negotiations, which will begin on July 6.

The “Core Text” of TISA, as well as chapters from negotiations on “Electronic Commerce,” “Telecommunications Services,” “Financial Services,” and “Maritime Transport Services,” were published.

WikiLeaks describes the “Core Text” of the agreement that they released from the “largest ‘trade deal’ in history” a “modern journalistic holy grail.” The media organization is not exaggerating.

Edward Alden, who used to be a reporter for the newsletter Inside US Trade, wrote in a post for the Council on Foreign Relations that WikiLeaks’ sources are “impressive.” Alden recalled how he worked in the “pre-digital age” to “encourage leaks of trade negotiating positions. “But, with the exception of the Clinton administration’s proposal for the NAFTA labor and environmental side agreements in 1993, we rarely got our hands on the texts themselves.”

In a time when corporations are being aided by governments, which are negotiating sweeping trade deals like TISA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with complete secrecy, WikiLeaks has ensured that governments do not finish negotiations without the public having some idea about this conspiracy unfolded behind closed doors.

Deputy US Trade Representative Michael Punke previously described TISA as an agreement that “would encompass all service sectors and modes of supply and impose a high standard for liberalization.” By liberalization, Punke means deregulation.

Quite aggressively TISA seeks to establishes rules that would tie the hands of TISA governments, preventing them from being able to craft their own regulations to protect people from exploitation by businesses or corporations. And, the very rules, which have been adopted since the 2008 economic crisis, to protect against future financial meltdowns would likely come under attack as a result of this trade deal.

Ben Beachy of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch put together an analysis [PDF] of the “Financial Services” chapter and found sweeping rules for “market access,” which “would expose governments to legal challenges before extrajudicial tribunals for banning risky financial services or products, such as the complex derivatives that fueled the financial crisis. The same rule threatens proposals to limit the size of banks so that they do not become ‘too big to fail.'”

Yet another rule opening up the world to financial risk would challenge policies, which prevent banks from being able to “hold consumers’ deposits from engaging in hedge-fund-style trading of high-risk securities.” It would be prohibited to restrict “financial inflows—used to prevent rapid currency appreciation, asset bubbles and other macroeconomic problems—and financial outflows, used to prevent suddent capital flight in times of crisis.”

“Despite increasing concerns about data privacy, sparked by revelations of the US National Security Agency’s dragnet spying, TISA would require that financial firms be permitted to transfer consumers’ personal financial data overseas, where it could be exposed to unwanted surveillance,” Beachy warns.

In some instances, TISA countries may have to roll back regulations if they were inhibiting the business of a foreign firm. (more…)

Legal Organization Representing WikiLeaks Submits Report for UN Official’s Review of Whistleblower Protections

CCR Logo
Center for Constitutional Rights Logo

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a legal organization based in New York which represents WikiLeaks and its editor-in chief Julian Assange, has submitted a report to help United Nations Special Rapporteur David Kaye complete his review on the global issue of whistleblowers and the protection of sources.

Kaye serves as the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. The review addresses how human rights law should protect journalists from having to disclose their sources and how whistleblowers are or are not protected, especially after exposing human rights violations, corruption or other abuses.

Part of the review includes a kind of survey of all governments in the world asking them how journalists are protected from being compelled to reveal sources and how whistleblowers are afforded protections. It also asked for non-governmental organizations to share their views and studies.

CCR is uniquely positioned to provide insights, given that it represents a media organization which has endured an ongoing and unprecedented investigation by the United States government into the publication of documents provided by US military whistleblower Chelsea Manning.

The legal organization asserts in its submission [PDF], “States have an obligation to protect whistleblowers, a vulnerable group that faces systematic stigmatization as a result of exercising fundamental rights to access and obtain information.”

State governments also “have a positive obligation to promote freedom of expression through cyber laws, and must not use technical violations to punish whistleblowers,” CCR argues.

“There is a serious risk that cyber laws will displace secrecy laws as a tool to prosecute whistleblowers on basis of their activities accessing and obtaining information. In the United States, the cases of Chelsea Manning, NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake, and WikiLeaks reveal the application of “unauthorized access” computer laws to punish whistleblowers and publishers.”

The legal organization adds, “Today significant amounts of access to information, particularly by whistleblowers, is enabled by computers. Whistleblowers must not be punished for using a computer to blow the whistle. Cyber laws sanctioning whistleblowers or sources who already have access to computers, purely based on their intent to blow the whistle, raise serious problems for freedom of expression.”

The US government has prosecuted whistleblowers for violating the Espionage Act and disseminating information. In these cases, the intent of the whistleblower does not matter to prosecutors and judges. What matters is that a secrecy agreement was breached.

CCR kept close watch as the court-martial of Manning unfolded, even bringing a lawsuit on behalf of media organizations and journalists (including this one) to force the US military to be more transparent and make court-martial records available to the press. It struggled against secrecy, but one military court denied a request for relief, a military appeals court claimed to lack jurisdiction, and a federal court refused to hear the case. Finally, the military decided to start publishing documents to an online “reading room” that the press and public could access.

As an example of how whistleblowers are vulnerable to abuse, CCR recalls how UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Méndez decided “Manning was subject to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment while detained in pretrial custody.”

Manning wrote about her time in pretrial detention in Kuwait:

“At the very lowest point, I contemplated castrating myself, and even – in what seemed a pointless and tragicomic exercise, given the physical impossibility of having nothing stable to hang from – contemplated suicide with a tattered blanket, which I tried to choke myself with,” she recounted for The Guardian. (more…)