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Supreme Court Rules a Suspect’s Silence during Police Interrogation Can be Used against Him

By Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman | AllGov | June 20, 2013

Remaining silent during questioning by police can be used against a person in a court of law, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled (pdf) in a startling reinterpretation of Fifth Amendment rights.

A narrow majority ruled 5-to-4 in Salinas v. Texas that it was permissible for authorities to present at Genovevo Salinas’ trial that he refused to answer the police’s questions about a fatal shooting because Salinas had already answered some questions prior to being arrested and read his Miranda rights.

Salinas voluntarily spoke with police about the December 1992 murders of Juan and Hector Garza in Houston. But when asked whether the shells found at the scene would match a shotgun found in his home, the defendant went silent and refused to answer.

A ballistics test subsequently showed the shells were fired from Salinas’ weapon. Prosecutors used the fact that Salinas did not respond to the question about the shells, and appeared nervous, as a further argument to convince jurors of his guilt. Also presented was testimony from a witness who said Salinas took credit for the killings.

Salinas’s first trial ended in a mistrial. A second trial resulted in his being convicted and sentenced to 20 years to life in prison.

He later appealed, arguing that prosecutors had violated his right to stay silent. Salinas’ silence as evidence of possible guilt should have been omitted from the trial, claimed his lawyer, citing the Fifth Amendment’s protection against self-incrimination.

Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts disagreed with Salinas’ argument and validated his conviction. Their ruling states that Salinas would have to have voluntarily invoked his Fifth Amendment right in order to be protected by it.

Critics claim that this ruling damages the spirit of the Fifth Amendment and will hereafter give law enforcement an incentive to delay the reading of Miranda warnings—the right to remain silent—to criminal suspects.

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | 1 Comment

Intelsat suspends satellite services to Iranian TV channels

Press TV – June 19, 2013

Communications satellite services provider Intelsat has announced the suspension of its services to the channels launched from Iran as the West’s campaign against free speech intensifies.

On Wednesday, the Luxembourg-based company said it will no longer provide services to Iranian channels including Press TV. The decision has been made under the pretext of the company’s abiding by illegal sanctions against the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) – that’s Iran’s national broadcasting corporation.

Intelsat noted that it has been ordered by the US government to avoid extending IRIB’s license, noting that it will stop providing services as of July 1st.

Press TV and other Iranian channels have come under an unprecedented wave of attacks by European governments and satellite companies since January 2012.

They have been taken off the air in several Western countries, including Britain, France, Germany and Spain.

European companies say they are abiding by anti-Iran sanctions. However, EU foreign policy chief’s spokesman, Michael Mann, has told Press TV that sanctions do not apply to media.

In the meantime, the French-Israeli CEO of Europe’s satellite giant, Eutelsat, has written letters to several satellite companies, asking them to stop cooperating with Iranian channels.

The Israeli lobby in the United States has also publicly supported European attempts to shut down Press TV.

Media activists call the attacks on Iranian channels a campaign against free speech launched by the same European governments that preach freedom of expression.

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Intelsat suspends satellite services to Iranian TV channels

Venezuela Promotes Breastfeeding over Baby Food, Corporate Media Spins Out of Control

By Tamara Pearson | Venezuelanalysis | June 20, 2013
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A Venezuelan public media journalist breastfeeds as she works. Public breastfeeding is fairly accepted in Venezuela (blog.chavez)

Venezuela’s national assembly is debating a reform to its breastfeeding law which could see baby food companies like Nestle fined in certain situations. The corporate media have reacted hysterically to the law, claiming that President Nicolas Maduro is “taking bottles from babies’ mouths”.

Though breastfeeding is widely promoted by the Venezuelan government, and public breastfeeding is relatively de-stigmatised, a study by Venezuela’s National Nutrition Institute (INN) between 2006 and 2008 showed that only 55% of mothers exclusively breastfed when their baby was born, going down to 20% when their baby was three months old, and 11% by six months.

The percentages have probably increased since then, with broad educational campaigns in public schools and health centres, and actions such as mass public breastfeeding in plazas, organised by the INN.

However, the low figures reflect the low confidence some mothers have in their ability to breastfeed, as well as the power of multinational infant formula companies in health centres. It is common practice to give infant formula to babies from the moment they are born, without the consent of parents, according to LactArte, a pro-breastfeeding collective in Venezuela. Companies give gifts and other promotions to health workers and health centres in order to create alliances with them, and give free samples of the products to new mothers, thereby creating dependent consumers of new born babies, or at least discouraging exclusive breast feeding.

What the law actually says

In 2007 Venezuela’s national assembly passed the Law of Protection, Promotion, and Support for Breastfeeding. The law regulates the way baby formula and baby food companies advertise and label their products, and how they interact with hospitals and clinics. However, the companies have been ignoring the law, as it doesn’t specify penalties. The reform to the law currently being discussed is looking at penalties of US$600 – $50,000, and also training for health professionals. Once the reform is passed in first discussion by the assembly, it will be subject to “street parliament” – discussion by collectives and Venezuelan citizens, to then be passed by the national assembly in second discussion.

The 2007 law argues that breastfeeding provides babies with “all the necessary nutrients” in their first six months, as well as “protecting them and immunising them from illness and contributing to the development of their breathing and gastrointestinal capacity”. It states that “mothers have the right to breastfeed their children, with the support and collaboration of the fathers… [who] should provide all the support necessary so that mothers can provide this human right… The state, with solidarious participation from organised communities, will promote, protect, and support exclusive breastfeeding…of children under six months of age and breastfeeding with complementary food … until the age of two”.

Concretely under the law, health workers and health centres must help mothers start breastfeeding within the first half hour of birth, and guarantee that the newborn is always near the mother after birth, except in exceptional medical situations. They should also educate mothers, fathers, and the family on the issue, and abstain from providing babies under the age of 6 months with food other than breast milk, except when there is a specific medical need. Health centres must create human milk “banks”.

Baby food and formula products must be in Spanish or Venezuelan indigenous languages (Nestle products for example, often aren’t), and they should inform of the risks of including such food in the baby’s diet too early. Publicity or labelling can’t create the impression that such food is equal to breast milk, and publicity of any kind discouraging breastfeeding is not allowed.

All food aimed at children under three must include labelling that clearly states its ingredients, including any GMO products, and milk formulas must including a warning that “breast milk is the best food for children under two years old”.

Samples, prizes, and promotions of baby food and formula are prohibited. Likewise, companies are prohibited from donating toys, books, posters or other products which promote or identify their company to health centres, and they are also prohibited from donating “gifts” to health centre workers and from sponsoring events or campaigns aimed at pregnant or breastfeeding women, fathers, health professions, families, and communities.

Breastfeeding rights in Venezuela

Last year, with the passing of the new labour law, women’s breastfeeding rights were further expanded. Post-natal leave was extended to six months, and articles 344-352 state that mothers have the right to two half hour breaks per day to breastfeed. If there is no breastfeeding room provided by the work place, that is extended to two 90 minute breaks, and all employers of more than 20 workers must maintain a nursery centre with a breastfeeding area.

For Luisa Calzada and Kaustky Garcia, of LactArte, breastfeeding is also an act of food sovereignty – that is, third world productive or economic independence from greedy transnationals. Garcia argued that such sovereignty has been “sabotaged” in Venezuela by the “transnational industry dedicated to the business of infant formulas”. Indeed the industry is huge here – visit any supermarket or corner shop and you’ll see full aisles or shelves of powdered baby milk formula and compote.

LactArte supports a boycott of Nestle, one of the main powdered milk formula companies here, producing the infamous Cerelac since 1886. They argue that there is“collusion” between the baby food industry and the medical industry, with the food transnationals enlisting an “army of health professionals” to sell baby formula.

According to Business Insider, infant formula is an $11.5 billion market. The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) claims that Nestle, apart from distributing free samples of its products in maternity wards, also uses “humanitarian aid” to create markets, and offers gifts and sponsorship to influence health workers to promote its products. According to a 1982 New Internationalist article, Nestle makes mostly third world mothers dependent on its formula in three ways: “Creating a need where none existed, convincing consumers the products are indispensable, and linking products with the most desirable and unattainable concepts- then giving a sample”.

What the corporate media are saying

The 2007 law and the draft reforms do not ban the production or sale of baby food or formula, as national and international media have alleged, nor do they apply any fines to mothers or penalise any choices regarding her body that a mother may make. The penalties are only for health care centres and their workers, and baby food and formula companies.

However the corporate media over the last two weeks has completely distorted the issue. Fox News Latino headlined “Venezuela Wants To Ban Baby Bottles To Promote Breast-Feeding” and stated that “Motherly love has become a state affair in Venezuela”.

Growing Your Baby also headlined “Venezuela considering baby bottle ban”, and opened with the utterly misinformed and misleading question, “What would you do if you woke up one morning and learned that baby bottles were no longer being made or sold in your country? This question may become a reality for Venezuelan moms who may not have planned on breastfeeding”.

Reuters won the prize however for manipulation and sensationalism, with the headline “Venezuela considers taking bottles from babies’ mouths”, while other agencies have carried similar titles along the “banning” theme, with CNN’s article “Venezuela considering a ban on baby bottles” and Huffington Post ‘Venezuela considers baby bottle ban to encourage breastfeeding’. Al Jazeera went as far as to argue in its piece that “some mothers don’t want the government telling them how to feed their children”. If Al Jazeera had bothered to read the 2007 law, it would have discovered that is actually the point of the law – to stop companies interfering, through misleading information and other gimmicks, in the breastfeeding process.

Venezuelan corporate press and other Spanish language media have been equally manipulative. Here is a small selection of their headlines: EFE: “Venezuela is debating a law to prohibit baby bottles”, Semana: “Baby bottle and dummy: the new enemies of Chavismo”, El Pais: “The Venezuelan government wants to oblige mothers to breastfeed”, El Popular: “Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro wants to eliminate the use of baby bottles”, Noticias24 “They’ll prohibit baby bottles in health centres of Venezuela in order to force breastfeeding”, El Mundo, “Venezuela declares war on the baby bottle”, and Entornointeligente, “Goodbye to baby bottles for stimulating breastfeeding”.

Garcia argued that the media campaign to demonise the law and the proposed reforms is being pushed by the milk formula industry. She said it has had an impact in Venezuela, with “many women, even those not using baby bottles, feeling scared”.

“They are worried that the government is going to try to help them to breastfeed, that the government will take away their baby bottles and infant formulas, and is going to prohibit them from feeding their infants with baby bottles, but that’s absolutely false. First of all it’s unpractical, and secondly it is this government which has most given freedom and provided information so that families can freely chose the path they desire for their children,” she said.

The World Health Organisation recommends that babies be exclusively breast fed during the first six months, and in 1981 the 34th World Health Assembly adopted a resolution which included the International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes. Funnily enough, it stated that food companies shouldn’t promote their products in hospitals, give free samples to mothers, or provide misleading information. One wonders if these international bodies were also accused of “stealing the bottle from babies mouths”, or is that sort of rubbish reserved for countries like Venezuela where a revolution is trying to get some justice at the expense of the poor transnationals?

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Venezuela Promotes Breastfeeding over Baby Food, Corporate Media Spins Out of Control

Spying by the Numbers

By BILL QUIGLEY | CounterPunch | June 20, 2013

Thanks to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden many more people in the US and world-wide are learning about extensive US government surveillance and spying.  There are publicly available numbers which show the reality of these problems are bigger than most think and most of this spying is happening with little or no judicial oversight.

Hundreds of Thousands Subject to Government Surveillance

The first reality is that hundreds of thousands of people in the US have been subject to government surveillance in each of the last few years. Government surveillance of people in the US is much more widespread than those in power want to admit.   In the last three years alone about 5000 requests have been granted for complete electronic surveillance authorized by the secret FISA court.  The FBI has authorized another 50,000 surveillance operations with National Security Letters in the last three years.  The government admits that well over 300,000 people have had their phone calls intercepted by state and federal wiretaps in the last year alone.  More than 50,000 government requests for internet information are received each year as reported by internet providers. And, remember, these are the publicly reported numbers so you can be confident there is a whole lot more going on which has not been publicly reported.

Courts Almost Never Deny Government Requests for Surveillance

The second reality is that there is little to no serious oversight or accountability by the courts of this surveillance.  Government spy defenders keep suggesting the courts are looking carefully and rigorously at all this and only letting a tiny number of really bad people be spied on.  Not true.  Despite thousands of requests by the federal government to look deeply into people’s lives, the secret federal FISA court turned down no requests at all in the last three years.  The state and federal courts report on wiretap applications document over 2000 applications annually for surveillance which authorize the interception of hundreds of thousands of calls and emails.  The courts have turned down the government two times in the most recent report.  FBI national security letters do not even have to be authorized by a court at all.  The lack of Congressional oversight is plain to see but the lack of any judicial review of many of these surveillance actions and the very weak oversight where courts do review should concern anyone who cares about government accountability.

Let’s break down the surveillance by the authority for spying.

In FISA Court Government Always Wins  

The US government has tried to say the public should not worry about government scooping up hundreds of millions of phone calls and internet activities because no real information is disclosed unless it is authorized by what is called the FISA court.  Therefore, you can trust us with this information.

The FISA Court, actually called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, is made up of ten federal judges who deliberate and decide in secret whether the government can gather and review millions of phone and internet records.  This court, though I know and respect several of its members, cannot, be considered an aggressive defender of constitutional rights and civil liberties.

Government lawyers go to these FISA judges in secret.  Government lawyers present secret evidence in secret proceedings with no defense lawyer or public or press allowed and asks for secret orders allowing the government to secretly spy on people.  Its opinions are secret.  The part the public knows is a one paragraph report which is made every year of the number of applications and the number of denials by the court.

What is worse is that the judges in this secret court never turn the secret government lawyers down.

Over the last three years, the government has made 4,976 requests to the secret FISA court for permission to conduct electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes. But the really big FISA number is zero.  Zero is the number of government requests to conduct electronic surveillance the FISA court has turned down in the last three years.

In 2012, the government asked for permission from the judges of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) 1,789 times to conduct electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes.  There were zero denials.  One time the government withdrew its request.

In 2011, the government asked FISA judges 1,676 times to conduct electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence services.  There were zero denials.  The government withdrew two requests.

In 2010, the government asked FISA judges 1,511 times to conduct electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes.  There were zero denials.  The government withdrew five requests.

Not a bad record, huh?  Nearly five thousand victories for those who want surveillance powers and no defeats is a record that should concern everyone who seeks to protect civil liberties.

FBI National Security Letters Scoop Up Information No Court Approval Even Needed

With a NSL letter the FBI can demand financial records from any institution from banks to casinos, all telephone records, subscriber information, credit reports, employment information, and all email records of the target as well as the email addresses and screen names for anyone who has contacted that account.  The reason is supposed to be for foreign counterintelligence.  There is no requirement for court approval at all.  The Patriot Act has made this much easier for the FBI.

According to Congressional records, there have been over 50,000 of these FBI NSL requests in the last three years.  This does not count the numerous times where the FBI persuades the disclosure of information without getting a NSL.  Nor does it count FBI requests made just to find out who an email account belongs to.

These reported NSL numbers also do not include the very high numbers of administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI which only require approval of a member of the local US Attorney’s office.

In 2012, the FBI issued 15,229 national security letter requests for information concerning US citizens.

In 2011, the FBI made 16,511 national security letter requests for information concerning US persons.

In 2010, the FBI made 24,287 national security letter requests for information on US citizens.

Since there is no court approval needed, there are no denials.  The NSL record is even better than the FISA record at 56,027 wins and no losses for Team Surveillance.

Thousands of Wiretaps Each Impacting Over One Hundred People Authorized Two Denied

According to the latest report to Congress by the US Courts, there were 2,732 applications for wiretaps submitted to all federal and to half of the state courts in 2011.  Half the states did not report on their numbers, so these numbers are certainly quite much too low.  Also, the term wiretap is out of date as this process currently covers providing information on conventional phone lines, cell phones, secret microphones, texts, fax, paging, and email computer transmissions.

For the year 2011, out of 2,732 applications, only two were denied.  Two losses out of 2700 tries is a comparatively poor win loss record for the surveillance folks.

On average, each wiretap intercepted the communications of 113 people, thus over three hundred thousand people had their calls intercepted.

The most prevalent reason reported for the wiretaps was drug offenses.  The average length of the wiretap was 42 days.  One federal wiretap in Michigan resulted in intercepting over 71,000 cellular messages extending over 202 days.  A New York state wiretap intercepted 274,210 messages over 564 days.

 Company Reports on Spying Show Tens of Thousands of Requests

It is well known that user accounts at Google, Apple and others contain a treasure trove of information on the customer’s basic information including searches, likes and dislikes, purchases, friends, and the like.  Government investigators seek this information tens of thousands times each year as the reports from the companies show.

Apple reported receiving 4,000 to 5,000 government requests for information on customers in just the last six months.  From December 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013 Apple received law enforcement requests for customer data on 9-10,000 accounts or devices.  Most of these requests are from police for robberies, missing children, etc.

Facebook reported that in a six month period ending December 31, 2012, it received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests from the US government for user data on 18,000 to 19,000 accounts.

Google reported it received over 15,000 requests for data by US government officials in 2012 for information on over 30,000 accounts.  It produced some data 88% of the time.

Microsoft (including Skype) reported 75,378 law enforcement requests for information on 137,424 accounts world-wide for the year 2012.  In over 11,000 cases, they could find no data to respond to the requests.  Microsoft disclosed non-content information in 56,388 cases, mostly to the US, UK, Turkey, Germany and France. In the US, Microsoft received 11,073 requests from law enforcement for information on 24,565 accounts.  Microsoft rejected 759 requests or 6.9% on legal grounds.  Microsoft provided user content in 1544 cases and subscriber/transactional data in 7,196 cases.

Yahoo said that in the last six months of 2012 it received between 12,000 and 13,000 requests for user data from law enforcement.

In a democracy, transparency and public participation are critical.  This is not just about “the terrorists.”  This is about civil liberty and government accountability.  Hundreds of thousands of people are being spied upon every year by our own government’s public admissions.  There is little oversight by judges and even less by Congress.  If the government admits this much, you can certainly assume there is more to come out.  It is time to wake up.  These secret subpoenas and secret courts and secret processes should be abolished or fundamentally changed.  Otherwise, change the slogan on the dollar to “In Secrecy We Trust.”

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law.  Bill also works with the Center for Constitutional Rights.  A longer version of this article with full sources is available.  You can reach Bill at quigley77@gmail.com

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Spying by the Numbers

European Court vindicates rule of law; US courts, not so much

By Cyrus Safdari | Iran Affairs | June 19, 2013

According to Reuters, Iranian companies which have been blacklisted due to EU sanctions are winning in their legal fight against the sanctions in European courts. This is indeed a vindication for the rule of law — and how ironic is it that in this nuclear dispute. the “rogue” and “pariah” Iran is the one insisting on observing the law whilst the US and EU states, self-designated as “the international community” are the ones violating the law.

The article goes on to mention the procedure used in the UK to present classified information as evidence in the court whilst minimizing the risk of disclosure by allowing the judge to see the “secret’ evidence privately. In this case the judge was apparently not terribly impressed by the quality of this evidence since he still ruled in favor of Iran.

The US has a similar procedure ( limited to criminal prosecutions) but I don’t know if any such lawsuits in US court would be as successful, for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the State Secrets Privilege, which once invoked by the govt has the effect of ending all lawsuits because the govt can prevent the disclosure of any evidence during the trial that it claims would risk exposure of national security secrets. All the govt lawyers have to do is say “State Secrets Privilege” and usually that’s the end of the case since crucial information is then prevented from being considered by the court. The government doesn’t have to justify their claim in any way — the judge is not qualified to second-guess the govt decision to make the State Secrets claim. A great number of perfectly valid, legitimate cases against the US — particularly against Bush and Rumsfeld and his friends — have been summarily tossed out of courts this way, which is why Bush and Rumsfeld are still walking around as free men rather than being in prison as war criminals as I have written before.

So do you think such a legal principle which has the effect of denying justice to plaintiffs on national security grounds is open to abuse by the government who uses the legal principle to hide its misdeeds instead of actual secrets? Well, let me tell you a story!

The legal concept of “State Secrets Privilege” was first developed by the US Supreme Court in a case called US v. Reynolds, which dated from the early 1950s, during the Cold War.  A US military plane crashed and a civilian contractor employee on board, named Reynolds, was killed.  His relatives filed a lawsuit against the US military and government, claiming that the accident was due to the negligent maintenance and operation of the military airplane. They demanded to see the accident report. The US government refused to disclose the accident report, and replied that because the airplane and Reynolds were involved in some super-secret electronics experiment, the disclosure of the accident report may risk exposing national security secrets. The courts ruled that in such cases, where national security is at stake, then the government can withhold information and evidence that it would otherwise have to present to the court and the plaintiff. Without an accident report, there was no case. The government gave some money to the relatives and sent them away.

Years later, one of Reynold’s daughters was cruising the web, and found the accident report. It has been declassified released to the owner of a website who had a hobby of collecting information about airplane accidents and presenting them on his website, even though throughout the years the government had denied the requests by Reynolds’ relatives to get a copy of the same accident report.

And more importantly, the accident report showed that the accident was indeed due to an engine fire and negligence. While the report mentioned the presence of secret electronics, it in no way described them. In other words, the government’s claim that a release of the accident report could compromise national security was just a cover-up for its own negligence that had resulted in the deaths of several people on the plane.

So Reynolds’ relatives went back to court. And lost.Why? Because the courts still refuse to question government decisions on what is or is not secret, basically. So if the government *says* the accident report contains secret info, that’s all there is to it, essentially. The government doesn’t have to justify its decision to classify information as secret to the judge. Hell, the judge is not even allowed to see the information.

As a result, today in the US it is perfectly legal of the government to take innocent people from their daily, law-abiding lives, place them inside “black site” prisons, and send them to repressive countries to be abused and tortured in their dungeons. And if they are so lucky as to survive all this and somehow manage to make it back, they have no legal claim. If they try to sue, they’ll get the State Secrets beelAkh. And if you think I’m joking or exaggerating, meet Mr Masri and others (And no, this was not just a Bush administration thing. Nor is there any liklihood that the US courts will ever allow a legal challenge to such “anti-terrorism” laws to occur.)

This is America in the 21st Century folks. It wasn’t always like this… or was it?

 

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , , , | Comments Off on European Court vindicates rule of law; US courts, not so much

UK Supreme Court votes to lift sanctions on Iranian bank

Tehran Times | June 19, 2013

LONDON – The UK Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Bank Mellat, Iran’s largest private bank, in a result which will see it removed from the United Kingdom’s sanction list.

The appeal was heard by nine out of the Supreme Court’s twelve judges after the UK’s highest court was forced to enter closed session for the first time in its history, in order to receive secret evidence from the security services.

Her Majesty’s Treasury imposed sanctions against the bank in 2009 alleging that the bank’s activities supported the Iranian nuclear program, but Wednesday’s ruling found no evidence to support this claim. The UK Supreme Court result follows similar success for the bank at the European Court in January of this year in respect of sanctions which had been imposed on the bank by the EU Council.

The ruling is a blow to the controversial system of “secret courts” which have allowed the security services to provide evidence to the Supreme Court behind closed doors for the first time in its history.

The Supreme Court reluctantly entered into closed session in March, effectively barring the bank from accessing the evidence against it. Zaiwalla & Co Solicitors, the London-based international law firm representing the bank, had argued against the imposition of closed courts on the grounds that it contravenes the British common law principle of open justice. The failure of the Treasury to produce compelling evidence, despite the controversial new powers, puts the spotlight back on the Justice and Security Bill, which expanded the system of closed courts to civil cases.

The ruling sends a strong message to the UK government that political expediency is not a sufficient legal justification for sanctions placed against Iranian private businesses which operate out of Iran. The Supreme Court is now expected to order the British government to pay Bank Mellat all of its legal costs and damages for the wrongful listing of Bank Mellat.

After initial failure to challenge sanctions before the English High Court and the Court of Appeal, Bank Mellat turned to Zaiwalla & Co in 2010 and has since gone from strength to strength in the European and now Supreme Court. The firm, led by Sarosh Zaiwalla, have shown that even in cases of national security, the UK government must abide by the rule of law, with the some of the justifications for the sanctions considered “arbitrary”, “discriminatory” and even “irrational”.

Sarosh Zaiwalla, senior partner at Zaiwalla & Co said, “Today’s ruling is a victory for the rule of law as much as it is for Bank Mellat.

“The judgment will put enormous confidence in the independence of the British judiciary and sets an example that even controversial disputes can be resolved by applying the principle of rule of law through the British courts.

“Nevertheless, the reading of the closed judgment clearly contravenes the British principle of open justice, the bank’s success demonstrates just how unjustified closed sessions are.”

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , , , | Comments Off on UK Supreme Court votes to lift sanctions on Iranian bank

Russia mocks Obama

The News | June 20, 2013

MOSCOW – Russia’s deputy prime minister poured cold water Wednesday on US President Barack Obama’s proposal to reduce nuclear stockpiles by a third, saying it could not be taken seriously while the United States is developing its missile defence system.

“How can we take seriously this idea about cuts in strategic nuclear potential while the United States is developing its” capabilities to intercept Russia’s weapons, Dmitry Rogozin asked. “Clearly, (Russia’s) political leadership cannot take these assurances seriously,” said Rogozin, who oversees the defence sector and the nuclear industry, according to the state-owned Itar-TASS news agency.

“The offence arms race leads to a defence arms race and vice versa,” he said, speaking after a government meeting in Saint Petersburg that focused on Russia’s defence sector. His remarks followed the call on Russia by the US president in Germany to reduce strategic nuclear weapon stockpiles by up to a third, taking them to the 1,000 weapon mark.

The previous ground-breaking cut was agreed by United States and Russia in 2010 as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that Obama signed together with then-president Dmitry Medvedev. The treaty restricts the former Cold War foes to a maximum of 1,550 deployed war heads each.

Putin and Obama had a frosty meeting at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland on Monday, and while Putin made no direct reaction to Obama’s proposal, he said Wednesday that Russia would not allow “the system of strategic deterrence to be disturbed”.

“We cannot allow the balance of the system of strategic deterrence to be disturbed or the effectiveness of our nuclear force to be decreased,” Putin said in televised remarks at the Saint Petersburg government meeting.

Disagreements over the missile shield over Europe have plagued Russia-US relations for years. Moscow sees it as directly undermining its own capabilities despite Washington’s assurances that the system focuses on regional threats like Iran and North Korea.

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 2 Comments

Obama’s Speech at Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate: Shameless Hype, Irony, Lies and Hypocrisy

Doug E. Steil | Aletho News | June 20, 2013

bkn-20130619221631149-0619_00902_001_01bWhile last visiting Berlin five years ago, candidate Obama gave a speech at a central monument in Berlin amidst a huge crowd, of mainly young folks, that had been seduced through the local media projecting the notion that the new Messiah had arrived. Obama’s handlers wanted to stage that event at the Brandenburg Gate, the recognized symbol for the fall of Communism, but the request was denied by German Chancellor Merkel.

Yesterday Obama was back in town again, with his family, and staged a propaganda event at the Brandenburg Gate amidst extremely tight security that annoyed much of the local population. Beforehand, the media had announced, he would be presenting a landmark speech. Purportedly, just hours before, he was still working on the details. It’s true, imagery of the Brandenburg Gate conveys significant symbolism in the context of 20th century history, so it was not completely unreasonable to anticipate the possibility of a major political announcement, say, perhaps even a complete withdrawal of US military forces and nuclear missiles from German territory, that would surely divert attention from the numerous political scandals surrounding Obama’s regime in the past few weeks.

What Obama presented instead was nothing monumental or historic, but merely the standard repertoire of cheap platitudes, cliches, and “happy talk” that cynics and skeptics have heard far too often already. Political observers understand that, not unlike Ronald Reagan, Obama is merely a puppet for the Jewish Power Establishment, whose common interests and agenda issues he thus represents, under the clever guise of an elected figurehead, who is well trained in the art of Teleprompter delivery, small-talk, back-and-shoulder slapping his political counterparts, thus deceiving the population or lulling the people into a sense of passive complacency.

The essence of yesterday’s speech at the Brandenburg Gate, as the media duly reported, was that his regime would set a “goal” of reducing the number of active nuclear weapons (presumably in western Europe) by “up to” (i.e. no more than) one third. Very “wishy-washy” indeed! Would this even be in the news a week from now? It was evident from the various comments in the German media immediately after the speech, though polite, that prior expectations of substance had not been fulfilled. How many more times can people endure the standard references to gay and lesbian aspirations or agenda related “concerns” regarding the imaginary threat of “Climate Change” (formerly “Global Warming”)?

Particularly annoying was the manner in which Obama shamelessly elevated the now unified Berlin to a new symbol of “freedom”. The irony was inescapable, in light of recent public revelations concerning pervasive NSA spying. In 1989 the people of Eastern Germany had shaken off an odious regime that was particularly notorious for prying into the personal lives of a large segment of the population, who were deemed untrustworthy. By contrast, thanks partly to the misuse of improved technology, the Obama regime spies on the entire population, and in far greater detail, than those running the East German “Stasi” apparatus could have ever imagined. Referring to the former separation wall between east and west, he invoked the word “freedom”, amidst applause:

“No wall can stand against the yearning of justice, the yearnings for freedom, the yearnings for peace that burns in the human heart.”

Well, if that is the case — which it obviously is — then why does his regime continue funding and politically supporting the Israeli built wall, which relegates much of the Palestinian population in the West Bank in small and manageable enclaves and separates them from the rest of their territory? During his rhetorical delivery, Obama then proceeded to utter the word “freedom” sixteen additional times.

Yet, aside from that hypocrisy, one need only imagine how German efforts to attain unification during the early months of 1990 would have been handled by an Obama puppet regime, had it been in power at the time. That process of political unification, which ultimately took nearly eleven months, was triggered by the breaching of the Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate spearheaded by Helmut Kohl and facilitated by President George H. W. Bush, but was not warmly received at all by leaders Thatcher, Mitterrand, or even Gorbachev and widely opposed by the Jewish Power Establishment, through editorials and other efforts, behind the scenes. This is very easy to imagine because in the past year, still fresh in our minds, Americans have been witnessing or personally experiencing the continued and thorough erosion of the basic freedoms enumerated in the Bill of Rights in conjunction with the zealous pursuit of virtually every foreign policy initiative concocted and promoted by Obama’s puppet masters, over the general objections of a general population whose opinions and interests do not seem to matter.

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 2 Comments

New wall construction to surround Azzun Atma

International Solidarity Movement | June 20, 2013

Azzun Atma, Occupied Palestine – On the 18th of June, two bulldozers arrived with Israeli forces in the village of Azzun Atma, southeast of Qalqilya, and began to work on the land  behind the village’s school, to what is believed to be the construction of the new wall.

Accompanying the bulldozers to the village was the Israeli army and border police, including the local Israeli army commander who said the action was based on a High Court decision by the Israeli government. He said it was in order to protect their citizens, and if anybody tried to stop the construction, they would then close the gate to the village, the only way in and out.

Two weeks prior to this, the Israeli army put up signs stating that this is where the construction of the new wall would begin. The villagers fear that this new construction is being done in order to replace the current two metre barbed mesh fence that surrounds the village from all sides and separates it from the settlements nearby, with the concrete wall. The wall’s existence and constant deviation from the Green Line is justified by the Israeli authorities by citing security concerns for its citizens, in this case the illegal settler colonisers in the area.

Azzun Atma is located two kilometres east of the Green Line and encompassed on three sides by the current wall, constructed in 2002, which leaves the village within a settlement block and separates it from the rest of the West Bank. The only way in and out of the village is through a military checkpoint with a small gate.  The village is thus stranded in the “seam zone” between the Green Line and the wall, surrounded by settlements, placing it under full Israeli military control. Access to the village, therefore, is dictated by the Israeli military and the checkpoint is regularly closed, denying the villagers their right to freedom of movement. The villagers thus live under the constant threat of the gate being closed and work permits for the other side of the Green Line being denied.

Palestinians living in the “seam zone” require permanent resident permits from the Israeli authorities to live in their own homes and work on their land. There are often few health and education services available in the “seam zone”, and those living inside it have to rely on checkpoints being open to reach workplaces and essential services.

The school where the construction is taking place has provided education for 300 children in Azzun Atma and a neighbouring village since 1966. Every day, the current wall and checkpoint restricts the freedom of movement of teachers and students. The school has so far lost one dunum of land to the wall and the septic system faces demolition orders.

When the second wall is constructed, Azzun Atma will be isolated from the rest of the West Bank by the already existing wall (see the red line on the map) and the new wall which will further close off the village from the settlement block and the rest of the West Bank (see the black line on the map).

Azzun Atma (Map by OCHA)

Azzun Atma (Map by OCHA)

In 1982, the Israeli authorities established two illegal settlements: Oranit to the northwest and Sha’are Tiqva to the northeast of Azzun Atma. The settlements have expanded over the years, and more than 2500 dunums of the village’s land have been stolen by them. Sha’are Tiqva now comes within metres of Azzun Atma, and since 2005, villagers have been subject to verbal harassment from settlers. The wall, though purported to be a security measure, is essentially another way for the Israeli government to steal land from their Palestinian owners and isolate villages and cities from each other, turning them into easily controllable cantons.

Isolating people and making daily life as hard as possible under occupation is a tactic used by the Israeli authorities to force villagers to leave their land and homes. However, residents of Azzun Atma remain steadfast in their land and will continue to resist the land theft, isolation and deprivation of their lives by organising protests.

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Video | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Snowden: Don’t mention the I-Word!

By Steve Sailer | June 18, 2013

The New York Times’  “public editor” writes a little piece that asks an interesting question in the title:

Following Up on the N.S.A. Revelations: Were They Really ‘Confirmations’?
By MARGARET SULLIVAN

She lists various articles over the last eight years that recounted much of what Edward Snowden said. For example, James Bamford has been covering the NSA since his 1982 book The Puzzle Palace. Bamford regularly discloses interesting information in Wired, such as the revelations of the more central NSA whistleblower William Binney.

And there were plenty of disclosures about telephone metadata snooping going back to Carl Cameron’s four-part Fox series in 2001.

No doubt there are lots of reason Snowden got so much publicity, but let me mention a subtle one. Unlike Bamford, Binney, Cameron and many others who have looked into snooping in America, Snowden, as far as I can tell, has never mentioned the I-Word: Israel.

Generally, anybody who looks into NSA questions pretty quickly notices that the NSA outsourced some spying on Americans to Israelis, and that, by now, the question of which country is the dog and which country is the tail has gotten murky. For example, here’s a 2012 Wired article by Bamford:

Shady Companies With Ties to Israel Wiretap the U.S. for the NSA

But that’s not the kind of thing that the media or, to be frank, the great majority of the American public wants to think about. We’ve all been socialized to shut our brains off when it comes to this tail wagging the dog question. Cameron got to keep his job at Fox, for example, but his series got erased from the official record.

Snowden, in contrast, has kept things nice and neat for people. Everybody seems to have a nice strong opinion about Snowden in part because he hasn’t set off the mental shutdown process that the I-Word provokes in well-trained Americans.

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , | 3 Comments

In Palestine, Peace is Not Just Absence of Violence, But Presence of Justice

By Hasan Afif El-Hasan | Palestine Chronicle | June 19, 2013

Members of the messianic Jewish settler groups Gush Emunim explain the 1967 Israeli victory as the work of ‘God’. They insist that they were rectifying a world-historical wrong by uniting the two halves of the ‘land of Israel’ which represents the necessary first stage for the redemption of the Jewish people and ultimately, for universal redemption. To give up the ‘land of Israel’, they argue, would be to reject the mandate of ‘God’. They seem to mistake unrestrained Israeli planning to expand, corruption of Arab regimes and inter-Arab quarrels for ‘God’s will’.

To support their plans to expand and annex Arab lands, Israel’s policy has been to maintain a qualitative military edge over all potential adversaries and guaranteed access to US technology. It is highly unlikely that Israel’s influence in Washington will diminish or that the US military and political support would not be provided when needed. In its ‘offensive-minded defense posture’, Israel has demonstrated preparedness to use its military strength and willingness to advance its Zionist obligations and live with the tensions in the wider region that such actions may cause. When considering the declared policies of the Israeli governments since 1967, it is hard not to wonder if Israel today is still fighting the 1948 war. Is Israel planning to hunker down behind walls and live at war with the Palestinians forever?

What have been taking place in the occupied lands after the 1967 war are not actions by pietistic settlers with intimacy to the ‘ancient land’ whom successive governments somewhat naively tolerated. To focus only on the settlers’ post 1967 fanaticism is to evade the implications of Israel’s most enduring consensus of colonizing Palestine, Zionism. Settlers’ ideals and the settlements energy did not grow out of thin air. It emerged inexorably from the Zionist ideology, Zionist financial institutions and the powerful Zionist bureaucracy. The Israelis, young and old, religious and secular have been drawn to the newly occupied lands, roamed freely and planned for settlements, following the footsteps of the first generations of Zionist colonialists. Moshe Dayan, the 1967 secular Israeli minister of defense said among other things, ‘We know that to give life to Jerusalem we must station the soldiers and armor of the IDF [Israel Defense Force] on the Shechem [City of Nablus] mountains, and on the bridges over the Jordan.’

The 1967 occupation provided a new and enlarged geography for the Zionist course that had been set almost a century ago after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, to redraw a new frontier. The Zionist movement had many sources of power even before Israel was recognized by the United Nations: a land bank (the Jewish National Fund) for settling collective farms; dozens of exclusively union-owned industrial enterprises; competing Zionist parties; the Jewish Agency, a world organization to represent and raise funds for Palestinian Jews; a Jewish defense force; and Labor Zionist schools, newspaper, cultural institutions, and much more.

The settlements have been established so effortlessly after 1967 because the Zionist institutions that built them, and the laws and culture that drove them, had been going full throttle long time before the 1967 war within the Green Line. Zionism created institutions, mechanism, laws and different forms of violence against the Palestinians to implement the projects articulated by the regime. The labor federation (Histadrut) public corporations built and serviced settlements and brought their produce into distribution channels. State-owned banks and other enabling institutions provided credit and tax breaks for settlers. They were flush with money, owing to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of American Jewish philanthropy especially after the Six-Day War. There are the Law of Return that encourages World-wide Jews to settle in Palestine, the regulations supporting the abiding conception of Jewish national rights and the mechanisms for appropriating and distributing Palestinian lands.

Settlements and Jerusalem take-over are part of a grand premeditated national project. It was due to decisions made in Zionist offices to continue putting families formally defined as Jewish in and around where Arabs lived. Soon after 1967, boundaries simply disappeared and there were new settlements everywhere. The key was to establish facts on the ground, so that, again, a provisional border would harden into an international border. The former president of Israel, Yitzhak Navon, said in a speech: “Territorial compromise means ‘as much land as possible, and as few Arabs as possible’.” Who knew how many more Palestinians would have to be displaced to make room for Jews; and who knows exactly how big Israel would have to be while the Zionist project continues? The Palestinians have been struggling against enormous odds since Zionist settlers came to Palestine at the start of the last century under the auspices of Britain, an imperial power.

The Israeli political scientist Meron Benvenisti asserts that the Arab-Israeli conflict that was a region-wide interstate conflict at one time has shrunk to its original core of Israeli-Palestinian inter-communal strife. Yes! The Palestinians today are on their own. They should give up on the notion of pan-Arab confrontation with Israel in support of their cause. The commitment of the Arab leaders in support of the Palestinians has never been wholehearted anyway. They demonstrated their reluctance to aid the Palestinians during the intifada or the confinement of Arafat in his head-quarters or the annexing, Judaization and ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, or the building and expanding of settlements in the West Bank or the siege and destruction of Gaza. Arab states have taken a low profile on the subject of Israel, attaching higher priority to their dealings with their own problems before and after the ‘Arab Spring’. The Palestinian cause has not upset an increasingly stable equilibrium between Israel and the Arab states. Israel’s military superiority and the abundant political and moral support by the US deter Arab states from attempting to compel Israel to withdraw from the West Bank or Jerusalem. The Israelis are not prepared to compromise on the issues of sovereignty over Jerusalem or the right of return for the Palestinians dispossessed in 1948 and 1967.

Peace is not just the absence of violence; it is the presence of justice. The Palestinian people are unlikely to be reconciled to the prospect of peace within an inherently unjust and unequal relationship with Israel. The imbalance has produced impediments to reach peace with justice. In the absence of justice, Israel will remain an enemy state in Palestinian eyes simply because ‘the moment you take a man out of his home, he doesn’t care about history where Abraham walked or what the prophets said. It is his home! He will want to come back to his home!’

Hasan Afif El-Hasan is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead?

June 20, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on In Palestine, Peace is Not Just Absence of Violence, But Presence of Justice