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Judi Lynn

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Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 86,663

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UN failed to save 'hundreds of thousands of lives'

Source: Channel 4 News

Friday 22 August 2014 World

UN failed to save 'hundreds of thousands of lives'

In her final speech to the UN security council, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay says a focus on short-term interests stopped the group from preventing large scale human suffering.

In a stinging address to the 15-member body, Ms Pillay criticised the group's indecision and failure to act.

"Short term geopolitical considerations and national interests, narrowly defined, have repeatedly taken precedence over intolerable human suffering and grave breaches of and long term threats to international peace and security," she said.

"I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives."

It was her final briefing after six years in her role as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and she said that crises in Syria, Afghanistan, Central African
Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Gaza, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Ukraine "hammer home" the international community's failure to prevent conflict.

Read more: http://www.channel4.com/news/united-nations-failure-cost-lives-navi-pillay-video

War’s Facilitators

Weekend Edition August 22-24, 2014
Richard House’s "The Kills"

War’s Facilitators


Richard House’s colossal novel, The Kills, is composed of four separate novels, augmented by additional material (videos and extended passages) on line. It’s utterly brilliant, sui generis, compelling (except for one small lapse), and totally disturbing for what it says about America’s Iraq “experience.” No more devastating account of the war has been written, yet the focus is not on the military or soldiers but the contractors, non-combatants, employed by the thousands to support the military: build roads, bridges, entire cities, and bring in all the goods necessary to feed, clothe, and provide shelter for the fighters. Think of Dick Cheney’s beloved Halliburton Corporation and the way he hyped the need to invade Iraq in order to line his pockets and those of his friends. In short, the Iraq war was a business venture from day one, nothing else.

In Book I, “Sutler,” non-combatants are in the early stages of constructing “one of the largest engineering projects ever attempted. A new city in the desert…the gateway to the world’s largest oil reserve. It was supposed to make up for the failures of Baghdad (but) the plan was so large, so extraordinary, that no one had their eyes on him,” (Sutler, the man brought in to build the project). Sutler has 53 million dollars at his disposal, yet barely has the project begun—it’s near the end of the war—before he’s told to close it down. What’s been implemented is a series of burn pits, huge holes in the sand, large enough that there isn’t anything that can’t be destroyed: entire vehicles, “chemical, human, and animal waste,” including body parts, and—later—government documents. In essence, covering up the evidence.

Then the directive comes that the entire site must be destroyed; the project is aborted, and Sutler (who has been in Iraq on a fake passport and given a pseudonym) is told to get out of the location immediately and he’ll be rewarded with enough money in foreign bank accounts that he’ll be adequately compensated. The plan backfires; there’s an explosion, people are killed or injured, Sutler flees, and his puppeteers believe he has access to most of the 53 million. Much later, in Part II, another character puts all these events into context: “This is how government works. They make decisions, they appoint money to those decisions, and they expect others to bid and take on those projects. There’s a whole complicated structure for this which has government agencies and private businesses at each other neck and neck. It’s in everyone’s interest to have the money used up before it gets sucked back. That’s how it works around here. “ Except that is this case the money was barely used.

Most of the rest of Book I segues into an elaborate plan to track Sutler down, as he flees overland, into Turkey eventually and beyond. Sutler is robbed on one occasion, loses the codes for the bank account transfer of the money rightfully his, and that richard_house_the-killsincident and its aftermath introduce several new characters in pursuit of him, with bodies strewn along the way, implying that his employer for the whole project, HOSCO International, operates outside of the law not only within Iraq but beyond. The intrigue, the pursuit, takes on the aura of the best espionage novel, with numerous tense scenes and cliffhangers, as chapters abruptly end and the narration shifts to another character.


Beyonce and Jay Z’s 2013 Cuba trip declared legal

Beyonce and Jay Z’s 2013 Cuba trip declared legal

By CNN • Published on August 21, 2014

A nine-page report released on Wednesday by the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General states that the power couple, whose legal names are Beyonce Knowles-Carter and Shawn Carter, did not violate any U.S. sanctions laws during their visit to Cuba last year.

Their April 2013 trip, around the time of their fifth wedding anniversary, was highly criticized. It sparked discussion that the two might have engaged in tourist activities that are illegal under the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Under current law and regulation, travel to the island nation is only permitted under license.

The report states that the couple’s trip to Cuba was properly licensed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control under the “people-to-people” educational exchange program. The license was issued to a nonprofit organization that has a mission to promote education in the fields of art, architecture and the decorative arts.

There were concerns that the two might have abused the terms of the license by engaging in too many tourist activities such as a welcome dinner, a walking tour of various Cuban neighborhoods and visits to see student artwork and theater performances. But, the report concludes that all activities followed the terms of the license.

“We believe OFAC’s determination that there was no apparent violation of U.S. sanctions with respect to Jay Z and Beyonce’s trip to Cuba,” the report states.


Venezuela to create fingerprinting system to limit food smuggling

Venezuela to create fingerprinting system to limit food smuggling
CARACAS Thu Aug 21, 2014 10:01am EDT

Aug 21 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the creation of a fingerprinting system in stores that sell food to limit smuggling of subsidized staple products to neighboring countries.

The system, announced late on Wednesday, is meant to ease chronic shortages of consumer products ranging from cooking oil to toilet paper by preventing shoppers from buying large quantities of the same goods.

"(We will) create a biometric system ... in all distribution and retail systems, public and private," Maduro said during a televised broadcast in which he also created several anti-contraband commissions.

He did not say if the system would be set up in the entire country or only in border states.

Price controls and heavy subsidies allow Venezuelans to buy groceries, drive them across the border to Colombia, and resell them for a handsome profit. They have also created black markets within Venezuela in which informal vendors resell scarce products at a steep markup.

Maduro says product shortages, which create long lines and at times leave store shelves bare, are driven by smuggling that diverts at least 40 percent of food and medicine to other countries.


Mexico arrests 13 at water-rate protest by Mayas

Aug 21, 5:30 PM EDT

Mexico arrests 13 at water-rate protest by Mayas

Associated Press

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- Police on Mexico's Caribbean coast arrested 13 activists during a demonstration by Maya Indians against water rate hikes.

The Mayas were the original inhabitants of the area, south of the resort city of Cancun. But they have been pushed into poor, dry farmland inland as resorts pop up along the coast.

Households in Felipe Carrillo Puerto, the most important remaining Indian-majority town, had long paid a flat $5.20 monthly fee for water.

But the state water authority began installing water meters last year and started charging households more for water use of over 10 cubic meters (2,640 gallons) per month per family.


Creationist's Noah's Ark Theme Park Gets $18 Million Tax Break, Won't Hire Gays, Atheists

by David Badash
August 19, 2014 9:01 AM

Creationist's Noah's Ark Theme Park Gets $18 Million Tax Break, Won't Hire Gays, Atheists

A Noah's Ark theme park created by famous evolution-denier Ken Ham has just received an $18 million tax break from the citizens of Kentucky, many of whom will be prohibited from being employed there.

Creationist Ken Ham has very strict standards when it comes to hiring people -- not so strict standards when it comes to accepting donations.

His Ark Encounter theme park late last month was unanimously approved for an $18 million tax break -- paid for by the citizens of Kentucky, thanks to the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority -- and after many years of trying to get his second creationist-motivated museum moving, he says they have secured financing and broken ground. What Ham doesn't say much about is a reported donation worth $1 million from the leader of a certified white supremacist hate group.

"The project is slated to include a facsimile of Noah’s Ark and the Tower of Babel, and will proselytize Christian evangelicalism to patrons, an Answers in Genesis spokesman said," reports an NPR affiliate.

But Daniel Phelps, the president of the Kentucky Paleontological Society and vice president of Kentuckians for Science Education, isn't pleased. In an op-ed at the Lexington Herald-Leader, "Non-Christians need not apply," Phelps explains his concerns.


The US War Culture Has Come Home to Roost

August 20, 2014
From Fallujah to Ferguson

The US War Culture Has Come Home to Roost


Police violence in the United States should not surprise anyone. In Ferguson, Missouri, we have witnessed the use against US citizens of Iraq-tested war technologies. On August 17, 2014, a police force using armored vehicles and military tactics fired rubber bullets and tear gas canisters at peaceful protesters who had been demanding justice against Darren Wilson, a killer cop who took the life of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. According to an autopsy, Michael Brown was shot six times, including twice in the head; one of the bullets that penetrated his head came from above him, which could indicate an “execution style” for the killing attributed to Wilson. A return to violent tactics rather than the community policing promised by the authorities to the people of Ferguson, and a decision by Governor Jay Nixon to call up the National Guard were very much part of an escalation.

For decades and all over the world, the US has worked to spread ”freedom and democracy” via warfare. As long as this was being done in the towns of Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq, ordinary Americans often applauded the endeavor, lured by the disinformation, but mostly they ignored the crimes being committed in their names, because these were not in their own backyard. As the streets of Ferguson look more and more like those of Fallujah, it is impossible to dismiss that the US’ best exports, warfare and civilian repression, have come home to roost. When the war machine runs out of places to occupy abroad, it mutates into an occupying force at home, starting in Black or Latino neighborhoods, and it manifests itself as police violence, curfews and a state of emergency. This is what happens when the military-industrial complex becomes the cornerstone of an economy.

The US economy is a war economy. Together with fostering warfare aboard, a climate of insecurity at home has become a necessary business model for the growth of the war and security business. Between 2001 and 2014, US military spending has more than doubled to exceed the staggering level of $700 billion dollars a year. This represents about 20 percent of the overall federal budget despite not including retirement and medical care for veterans, which represent an additional 3.5 percent of the budget. Furthermore, this 23.5 percent of the budget per year does not include emergency and supplemental bills for the specific wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nor does it include moneys for the vast domestic “security” apparatus that comprises the Department of Homeland Security, FBI counter-terrorism or NSA intelligence gathering.

To give a sense of the gargantuan size represented by a more than $700 billion expenditure on defense per year, consider the fact that the US spends more on its military per year than on benefits for federal retirees, transportation infrastructure, education, and scientific research combined. Or if you prefer, consider the fact that the US spends more on its military budget per year than the military expenditures of China, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, India, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Australia and Canada combined.


How the Pentagon Militarized the US Police Force

August 20, 2014

How the Pentagon Militarized the US Police Force


“Have no doubt, police in the United States are militarizing, and in many communities, particularly those of color, the message is being received loud and clear: ‘You are the enemy,’” writes Tom Nolan, who worked for 27 years in the Boston Police Department. “Many communities now look upon police as an occupying army, their streets more reminiscent of Baghdad or Kabul than a city in America.”

This is no coincidence; much of the equipment used by police forces on the streets of America today is in fact directly from the US military.

From a weaponization bonanza enabled by a little-known Pentagon program, to an escalation in SWAT team deployments, the militarization of the US police force poses an increasing threat to the American public, as recently exhibited in Ferguson, Missouri.

Behind this militarization is the Pentagon’s “1033 program,” created in the National Defense Authorization Act for 1997, which enables the Defense Department to provide surplus military equipment at a highly reduced cost to local police departments. The program was expanded after 9/11, and has led to the distribution of $4.2 billion in equipment. Police departments across the country now utilize some 500 military aircraft, 93,763 assault weapons and 432 Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected military vehicles – which cost around $700,000 new, and are being sold to police departments for as low as $2,800.


The Man Who Ran Contra Propaganda for Reagan Is Guatemala’s New DC Lobbyist

The Man Who Ran Contra Propaganda for Reagan Is Guatemala’s New DC Lobbyist
—By Ian Gordon
| Tue Aug. 19, 2014 2:45 PM EDT

Roberto Candia/AP

In late July, with child migrants still surging across the US-Mexico border, President Obama met with Central American leaders to discuss a response to the crisis. Not satisfied with Obama's plans, Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina took his agenda to the media, writing a Guardian op-ed criticizing the United States for the lasting legacy of both the Cold War and the drug war in his country.

Around the same time, Guatemala hired a lobbyist to help push its interests in Washington, DC. Given Pérez Molina's sharp criticism of the United States' history in the region, his choice—former Reagan official and noted Cold War propagandist Otto Reich—was a shocker.

If you've forgotten about the Reich, check out this 2001 profile from The American Prospect, this 2002 New Yorker piece, or his National Security Archive page. Highlights of his Latin American misadventures include:

◾Running the Reagan-era Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean (OPD), which, as historian Greg Grandin wrote in Empire's Workshop, "was officially charged with implementing a 'new, nontraditional' approach to 'defining the terms of the public discussion on Central American policy.'" What it actually did was work to ensure US support of the Nicaraguan Contras in their offensive against the Sandinistas.

◾Overseeing OPD's "white propaganda" program, which placed pro-Contra op-eds in the mainstream media without acknowledging their links to the Reagan administration.

◾Confronting and intimidating those journalists Reich believed were sympathetic with the Sandinistas or the Salvadoran rebels. This included a memorable trip to the NPR office in DC—Reich referred to NPR as "Moscow on the Potomac"—during which he alerted reporters that OPD was listening to and transcribing their Central American reporting.

◾Helping write the Helms-Burton Act (which tightened the Cuban embargo) as well as lobbying for Bacardi to eliminate Cuban trademark rights so the rum maker could pilfer Cuba's official Havana Club brand. (Reich is Cuban American and staunchly anti-Castro.)


Mexico's ruling party proposes cutting seats from Congress

Mexico's ruling party proposes cutting seats from Congress
MEXICO CITY Wed Aug 20, 2014 5:48pm EDT

(Reuters) - Mexico's ruling party on Wednesday proposed holding a referendum next year to reduce the size of Congress, which could strengthen its own hand and streamline legislative decision-making.

Mexico's Congress is made up of the lower house with 500 members and a Senate with 128 members. Both houses have a minority of lawmakers elected through proportional representation and the rest by a relative majority, in which the candidate with the most votes wins

The idea is to slash the number of lower house legislators elected by proportional representation to 100 from 200, said Cesar Camacho, the head of President Enrique Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). "We think there are too many (lawmakers). This would reduce public spending, make agreements easier and make Congress more efficient," Camacho told a news conference.

Pena Nieto proposed reducing the number of lower house deputies to 400 from 500 during his 2012 election campaign.

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