Member since: Wed Dec 26, 2012, 08:06 PM
Number of posts: 149
Number of posts: 149
Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians from U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan
Executive Summary and Recommendations
In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts.
This narrative is false.
First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians. In public statements, the US states that there have been “no” or “single digit” civilian casualties.” It is difficult to obtain data on strike casualties because of US efforts to shield the drone program from democratic accountability, compounded by the obstacles to independent investigation of strikes in North Waziristan. The best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes are provided by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization. TBIJ reports that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children. TBIJ reports that these strikes also injured an additional 1,228-1,362 individuals. Where media accounts do report civilian casualties, rarely is any information provided about the victims or the communities they leave behind. This report includes the harrowing narratives of many survivors, witnesses, and family members who provided evidence of civilian injuries and deaths in drone strikes to our research team. It also presents detailed accounts of three separate strikes, for which there is evidence of civilian deaths and injuries, including a March 2011 strike on a meeting of tribal elders that killed some 40 individuals.
Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school. Waziris told our researchers that the strikes have undermined cultural and religious practices related to burial, and made family members afraid to attend funerals. In addition, families who lost loved ones or their homes in drone strikes now struggle to support themselves.
President Obama’s Escalation of the Drone Program
When President Bush left office in January 2009, the US had carried out at least 45 drone strikes according to the New America Foundation, or 52 according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), inside Pakistan. Since then, President Obama has reportedly carried out more than five times that number: 292 strikes in just over three and a half years. This dramatic escalation in the US use of drones to carry out targeted killings has brought with it escalating tensions between the US and Pakistan, as well as continued questions about the efficacy and accuracy of such strikes.
Posted by JReed | Fri Jan 18, 2013, 11:11 AM (7 replies)
Farmers Rally at White House to Protest Monsanto's GMO Empire
As court hears pivotal case for small farmers and organic seed growers, opponents to industrial agriculture speak out
- Jon Queally, staff writer
Hundreds of small farmers and advocates for organic seed growers gathered outside the White House Thursday, calling on President Obama and other lawmakers to come to their aid as they continue their fight against Monsanto, one of the world's largest, most powerful—and to them sinister—industrial agriculture corporations.
The farmers and citizens assembled demanded the end of Monsanto's "campaign of intimidation against America's family farmers" and their relentless push for GMO (or genetically engineered-GE) crops. The rally followed a court hearing earlier in the day in the ongoing and landmark Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al. v. Monsanto case, in which OSGATA and other plaintiffs sued the biotech firm for its continual and aggressive harassment of organic farmers and independent seed growers.
"Family farmers need and deserve the right to farm. We have a right to grow good food and good seed for our families and our communities without the threat of trespass and intimidation," Jim Gerritsen, an organic potato farmer from Maine and President of OSGATA, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, told the enthusiastic crowd.
Since 1997, Monsanto has sued, or brought to court, more than 844 family farms over "patent infringement" after their GMO seeds spread to nearby farms. The legal battles are more than most small farmers can battle, and Monsanto's size and financial muscle make it nearly impossible for individual farmers to fight back. Many are forced to settle and submit to Monsanto sanctions.
Posted by JReed | Fri Jan 11, 2013, 10:09 AM (2 replies)
President Barack Obama plans to name White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew tomorrow as his choice for Treasury secretary, replacing Timothy F. Geithner, a person familiar with the process said.
Lew, 57, who also has served as director of the Office of Management and Budget, has been offered the Treasury post by Obama, according to the person, who asked for anonymity to discuss personnel matters.
Geithner, 51, the only remaining member of Obama’s original economic team, has told White House officials he doesn’t want to serve in a second term and intends to leave the job by the end of the month.
Lew’s nomination as Treasury secretary is subject to Senate confirmation. While his relations with congressional Republicans have been at times strained, he’s successfully been through the Senate process before.
Flashback: Lew's Time at Citi And Other Disappointments
—By Siddhartha Mahanta
Mon Jan. 9, 2012 1:12 PM PST
... it's worth revisiting Shahien Nasiripour's blow-by-blow of Lew's brief, less-than-illustrious stint at a unit of Citigroup that made money by betting against the housing market as it prepared to implode:
Multi-Adviser Hedge Fund Portfolios LLC was a unit of Alternative Investments' Hedge Fund Management Group, the 36th-largest such "fund of hedge funds" in the world when Lew came aboard, according to a ranking by Alpha magazine, a publication that covers the hedge fund industry.
That Multi-Adviser fund in particular had $407 million by the end of 2007, a week before Lew was named as Alternative Investments' chief operating officer…At that time, it had $18 million invested in Paulson Advantage Plus LP, worth $26.4 million, comprising about 6.5 percent of the Multi-Adviser fund's total capital.
The Paulson fund was run by hedge fund king John Paulson, the man who made billions off the deterioration of the housing industry by making bearish bets on securities tied to home mortgages—particularly subprime home mortgages.
Jacob Lew, Obama Nominee And Former Citigroup Executive, Doesn't Believe Deregulation Led To Financial Crisis
Lew was asked Thursday during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Budget Committee by Sen. Bernie Sanders whether he believed that the deregulation of Wall Street, pushed by people like Alan Greenspan Robert Rubin, contributed significantly to the disaster we saw on Wall Street.
Lew . . . told the panel that the problems in the financial industry preceded deregulation and after discussing those issues, added that he didn't personally know the extent to which deregulation drove it, but I don't believe that deregulation was the proximate cause.
Posted by JReed | Wed Jan 9, 2013, 10:57 PM (2 replies)
Banks Win Mortgage Settlement From Regulators
Tuesday January 8, 2013 6:32 am
In what can only be described as a slap to the face of victims of the housing crisis and an insult to even the vaguest notion of the rule of law, the banks responsible for the mortgage meltdown and subsequent financial crisis and recession have once again escaped justice. After criminal cases were dropped despite massive evidence the civil cases are now settled with regulators and its a slam dunk for the banks. Total victory:
In two of the biggest civil settlements since the financial crisis, the nation’s biggest banks agreed Monday to cough up nearly $19 billion to resolve federal allegations of mortgage misdeeds.
Bankers saw the settlements as a major step in providing more certainty for their balance sheets and possibly foreshadowing an end to the era of billion-dollar mea culpas and open-ended regulatory probes.
In one case, 10 banks settled with regulators for $8.5 billion. In the second, Bank of America Corp. agreed to pay almost $10.4 billion to Fannie Mae, the giant loan buyer that the U.S. seized and propped up with tens of billions of taxpayer dollars.
The deals come three years after prosecutors dropped criminal investigations against such subprime-mortgage kingpins as Countrywide Financial Corp.’s Angelo Mozilo in favor of pursuing civil fines.
US Banks Win Mortgage Fraud Settlement, Borrowers Lose
by Pratap Chatterjee
Ten major U.S. banks settled charges of illegally kicking people out of their homes for pennies on the dollar, under two agreements with the government announced this week. The biggest beneficiary is Bank of America which will win a get-out-of-jail free card for selling fraudulent loans to two government-sponsored mortgage finance companies.
Bank of America sold bad mortgages that led to numerous foreclosures via subprime mortgage lenders Countrywide Financial Corporation and Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. that it acquired in 2008. “Through a program aptly named ‘the Hustle,’ Countrywide and Bank of America made disastrously bad loans and stuck taxpayers with the bill,” said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York when he sued the company for $1 billion on behalf of the government last October.
Under the new settlement Bank of America will buy back $6.75 billion in residential mortgage loans sold to the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) and give the government an additional $3.6 billion in cash. The other banks - which include Citigroup Inc, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo - will pay out $3.3 billion in direct payments to people who lost their homes plus another $5.2 billion to others who are threatened with possible eviction for not being able to pay their loans. This is in addition to the $26 billion that many of the same banks agreed to pay out last February under a separate deal with 49 state attorneys general, the Justice Department and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Despite the large sums involved, most consumer advocates say that the settlements are far too little for those who lost the most. “Communities of color were particularly hard hit by abusive mortgage practices,” said Debby Goldberg, special project director at the National Fair Housing Alliance. "The $8.5 billion and other settlements are not comparable to the trillions of dollars in wealth sucked from communities," added Sasha Werblin, senior program manager at the Greenlining Institute.
Posted by JReed | Wed Jan 9, 2013, 10:27 AM (1 replies)
Family Farmers Mobilize in Ongoing Battle Against Monsanto
Group heads to federal appeals court to be free from "legal threats and intimidation" from genetically modified giant
- Andrea Germanos, staff writer
A group of family farmers is headed to a federal appeals court on Thursday in their ongoing battle against genetically modified seed giant Monsanto.
The group's suit, first filed by lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) in March 2011, argues (.pdf) that farmers who want nothing to do with genetically modified (transgenic) seed could have their crops unwillingly contaminated by it and "could quite perversely also be accused of patent infringement by the company responsible for the transgenic seed that contaminates them."
The was dismissed in February 2012 by Federal Judge Naomi Buchwald, but attorney Dan Ravicher of the not-for-profit Public Patent Foundation said, "The District Court erred when it denied the organic seed plaintiffs the right to seek protection from Monsanto's patents."
Posted by JReed | Tue Jan 8, 2013, 11:31 PM (8 replies)
Obama to Nominate John Brennan, 'Kill List' Architect, as New CIA Chief
John Brennan's career spans from the dark days of Bush's torture program to Obama's secretive 'kill list'
- Jon Queally, staff writer
The Associated Press is reporting Monday morning that Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan—who has also been Obama's right hand man when it comes to governing the administration's program of extrajudicial assassinations known as the 'kill list'—will now be nominated to head the CIA.
According to AP, the "president will announce Brennan's nomination during an event Monday afternoon."
Brennan was previously considered for the top CIA position by Obama at the beginning of the his presidency in 2009, but that consideration was withdrawn after voices of opposition raised substantial concern about Brennan's involvement with the CIA's torture program which flourished during the presidency of George W. Bush.
Posted by JReed | Mon Jan 7, 2013, 11:02 AM (27 replies)
What is Neoliberalism?
A Brief Definition for Activists
by Elizabeth Martinez and Arnoldo Garcia, National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
"Neo-liberalism" is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.
"Liberalism" can refer to political, economic, or even religious ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing. Economic liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate "liberals" -- meaning the political type -- have no real problem with economic liberalism, including neoliberalism.
"Neo" means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. So what was the old kind? The liberal school of economics became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an Scottish economist, published a book in 1776 called THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation's economy to develop. Such ideas were "liberal" in the sense of no controls. This application of individualism encouraged "free" enterprise," "free" competition -- which came to mean, free for the capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.
The main points of neo-liberalism include:
1) THE RULE OF THE MARKET...
2) CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES...
Posted by JReed | Wed Jan 2, 2013, 12:06 AM (2 replies)
The reality is that when banks load the economy down with debt, this leaves less to spend on domestic goods and services while driving up housing prices (and hence the cost of living) with reckless credit creation on looser lending terms. Yet on top of this debt deflation, bank lobbyists urge fiscal deflation: budget surpluses rather than pump-priming deficits. The effect is to further reduce private-sector market demand, shrinking markets and employment. Governments fall deeper into distress, and are told to sell off land and natural resources, public enterprises, and other assets. This creates a lucrative market for bank loans to finance privatization on credit. This explains why financial lobbyists back the new buyers’ right to raise the prices they charge for basic needs, creating a united front to endorse rent extraction. The effect is to enrich the financial sector owned by the 1% in ways that indebt and privatize the economy at large – individuals, business and the government itself.
Shifting the tax burden onto labor and industry is achieved most easily by cutting back public spending on the 99%. That is the root of the December 2012 showdown over whether to impose the anti-deficit policies proposed by the Bowles-Simpson commission of budget cutters whom President Obama appointed in 2010. Shedding crocodile tears over the government’s failure to balance the budget, banks insist that today’s 15.3% FICA wage withholding be raised – as if this will not raise the break-even cost of living and drain the consumer economy of purchasing power. Employers and their work force are told to save in advance for Social Security or other public programs. This is a disguised income tax on the bottom 99%, whose proceeds are used to reduce the budget deficit so that taxes can be cut on finance and the 1%. To paraphrase Leona Helmsley’s quip that “Only the little people pay taxes,” the post-2008 motto is that only the 99% have to suffer losses, not the 1% as debt deflation plunges real estate and stock market prices to inaugurate a Negative Equity economy while unemployment rates soar.
Today’s financial war against the economy at large
Today’s economic warfare is not the kind waged a century ago between labor and its industrial employers. Finance has moved to capture the economy at large, industry and mining, public infrastructure (via privatization) and now even the educational system. (At over $1 trillion, U.S. student loan debt came to exceed credit-card debt in 2012.) The weapon in this financial warfare is no larger military force. The tactic is to load economies (governments, companies and families) with debt, siphon off their income as debt service and then foreclose when debtors lack the means to pay. Indebting government gives creditors a lever to pry away land, public infrastructure and other property in the public domain. Indebting companies enables creditors to seize employee pension savings. And Indebting labor means that it no longer is necessary to hire strikebreakers to attack union organizers and strikers.
The open question now is whether neofeudalism will be the end stage. Austerity deepens rather than cures public budget deficits. Unlike past centuries, these deficits are not being incurred to wage war, but to pay a financial system that has become predatory on the “real” economy of production and consumption. The collapse of this system is what caused today’s budget deficit. Instead of recognizing this, the Obama Administration is trying to make labor pay. Pushing wage-earners over the “fiscal cliff” to make them pay for Wall Street’s financial bailout (sanctimoniously calling their taxes “user fees”) can only shrink of market more, pushing the economy into a fatal combination of tax-ridden and debt-ridden fiscal and financial austerity.
Posted by JReed | Tue Jan 1, 2013, 11:17 AM (5 replies)
“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,” stated Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF.
As early as August 19, 2011, the FBI in New York was meeting with the New York Stock Exchange to discuss the Occupy Wall Street protests that wouldn’t start for another month. By September, prior to the start of the OWS, the FBI was notifying businesses that they might be the focus of an OWS protest.
The FBI’s Indianapolis division released a “Potential Criminal Activity Alert” on September 15, 2011, even though they acknowledged that no specific protest date had been scheduled in Indiana. The documents show that the Indianapolis division of the FBI was coordinating with “All Indiana State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies,” as well as the “Indiana Intelligence Fusion Center,” the FBI “Directorate of Intelligence” and other national FBI coordinating mechanisms.
Documents show the spying abuses of the FBI’s “Campus Liaison Program” in which the FBI in Albany and the Syracuse Joint Terrorism Task Force disseminated information to “sixteen (16) different campus police officials,” and then “six (6) additional campus police officials.” Campus officials were in contact with the FBI for information on OWS. A representative of the State University of New York at Oswego contacted the FBI for information on the OWS protests and reported to the FBI on the SUNY-Oswego Occupy encampment made up of students and professors.
Posted by JReed | Sun Dec 30, 2012, 07:10 PM (0 replies)
Oversight Amendments to FISA Crumble in US Senate: Obama, Democrats Push to Make Bush Spying Laws Permanent
Even modest attempts to reign in domestic spying law fail as Senators defend sweeping powers for NSA
- Jon Queally, staff writer
Four separate amendments designed to install oversight mechanisms into the National Intelligence Agency's vast spying capabilities enshrined in the 2008 FISA Amendments Act all failed Thursday with the majority of US Senators insisting that secrecy continues to trump civil liberties in the post 9/11 era.
With a final vote for full passage of the bill expected Friday, the defeat of the amendments spells near complete legalization of domestic spying practices which would have previously been found criminal. First uncovered during the Bush years and slammed by Democrats, the FISA law passed in 2008 gave retroactive immunity to the Bush era abuse and strove to codify the program going forward.
Though he ran against such measures during his first run for president, the secret spying laws have now been embraced fully and championed by President Obama.
Rights groups and advocates of the amendments voiced outrage with the votes.
Posted by JReed | Fri Dec 28, 2012, 09:44 AM (57 replies)
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