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US hospital bills man for rectal search he was forced to undergo by police

RT | November 5, 2013

A minor traffic stop went nightmarishly wrong for a New Mexico man who was detained by police and forced to undergo a series of anal probes and other medical examinations against his will.

David Eckert had just finished shopping at Walmart in Deming, New Mexico when an officer pulled him over for failing to make a complete stop at a stop sign. According to the local KOB TV station, federal documents claim that police noticed Eckert clenching his buttocks when they asked him to step outside of the car, indicating that he may have been carrying drugs in his anal cavity.

After detaining Eckert and requesting a search warrant from a judge, police took him to a local hospital for doctors to perform a search. The doctor refused, saying the search was unethical. Police then took Eckert to the Gila Regional Medical Center, where doctors agreed to cooperate.

The doctors then performed a wide array of procedures, all without the consent of Eckert, who protested each one. First, doctors took an X-Ray of his abdomen, which revealed no narcotics hidden inside the body. Then, doctors performed two anal exams with their fingers, both of which failed to uncover any drugs.

After the failure of these searches, Eckert underwent three different enemas and was forced to defecate in front of doctors and police officers. He watched as each stool search failed to uncover any narcotics.

Another X-Ray was taken, and, finally, doctors sedated Eckert and performed a colonoscopy. Again, no drugs were found.

“The thought that they could do this to a man in our country is terrifying,” Shannon Kennedy, Eckert’s attorney, said to KOB. “Our community should be outraged … This is like something out of a science fiction film, anal probing by government officials and public employees.”

According to Kennedy, not only was the issued search warrant overly broad and lacking in probable cause, but it was also only valid in Luna County, where Deming is located and Eckert was arrested. After the first hospital refused to perform the anal search, police took Eckert to Gila, which is located in a separate county altogether. If that is the case, then doctors performed all eight of the previously mentioned procedures illegally and without the consent of the patient.

To make matters worse, the search warrant expired at 10 p.m. while doctors didn’t even begin prepping Eckert for the colonoscopy until 1 a.m. the next morning, when the warrant had been expired for hours.

The hospital even billed Eckert for the procedures and is threatening to take him to collections if he doesn’t pay.

Deming Police Chief Brandon Gigante refused to comment on the incident due to a pending lawsuit, but said, “We follow the law in every aspect and we follow policies and protocols that we have in place.”

Eckert is suing the city of Deming, Hidalgo County, the police officers behind the incident, the deputy district attorney, and the Gila Regional Medical Center, including Robert Wilcox, M.D. and Okay Odocha, M.D.

“If the officers in Hidalgo County and the City of Deming are seeking warrants for anal cavity searches based on how they’re standing and the warrant allows doctors at the Gila Hospital of Horrors to go in and do enemas and colonoscopies without consent, then anyone can be seized and that’s why the public needs to know about this,” Kennedy said.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Barack Obama, enemy of equality

By Charles Davis | False Dichotomy | November 5, 2013

According to the president of the United States, “we’re all created equal and every single American deserves to be treated equally in the eyes of the law.”

Of course, Barack Obama, like other US politicians, does not actually believe we, the people of Earth, are all created equal. That’s clear enough from his exclusion of non-Americans when he describes who “deserves” equal treatment before the law. As a conservative nationalist, Obama believes some nationalities are more entitled to legal protections than others. Born in America, he might deign to give you a trial; born in Pakistan, he won’t even bother identifying the remains left in the wake of a Predator drone.

But Obama wasn’t talking about state-sanctioned murder. Instead, in a blog  for the Huffington Post, he was condemning the continued, legal discrimination on the part of employers against LGBT employees.

“It’s offensive,” an Obama staffer presumably wrote. “It’s wrong. And it needs to stop because, in the United States of America, who you are and who you love should never be a fire-able offense.”

This is a great bit of rhetoric that’s ready to be slapped on a photo of a happy gay couple and shared 83,000 times on Facebook. It’s also incredibly disingenuous.

Barack Obama, right now, without needing to convince any bad mean stupid Republicans in Congress, could sign an executive order banning federal contractors from engaging in discrimination based on perceived sexual orientation. He could have done that yesterday. He doesn’t need legislation: he could have ended that discrimination instead of blogging, instantly providing greater job security to the tens of thousands of people working right now for the private contractors who effectively provide government services any more.

But he didn’t because Obama and the Democratic Party run a neat little scam, whereby they set themselves up as 0.05 percent more progressive than the GOP — for which they expect accolades and tribute — and then rely on the public’s ignorance of process to explain away why they’re not actually doing anything to make things even 0.05 percent better. In this case, John Boehner and his gang of angry white homophobes in the House get blamed for setting back Progress; discrimination against LGBT people continues; and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee then sends out a mailer with that happy gay couple meme on it asking if you will please donate to help defeat the forces of darkness.

And then they laugh and they laugh and they laugh.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Johnson & Johnson To Pay $2.2 Billion To Settle Deceptive Marketing Claims

By Chris Morran | Consumerist | November 4, 2013

For nearly a decade, various state and federal agencies have been looking into Johnson & Johnson’s marketing of the drugs Risperdal, Invega, Natrecor, and others, claiming the company was putting consumers at risk by paying kickbacks to doctors and pharmacists to suggest these drugs to patients and for pushing unapproved uses for these medications. Today, the Justice Dept. announced that J&J will pay out more than $2.2 billion to settle these claims.

The DOJ alleges that Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals violated the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by introducing the anti-psychotic drug Risperdal — which had only been approved for the treatment of schizophrenia — into the market for unapproved uses, like the treatment of dementia and other non-schizophrenic conditions.

Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals are also accused of promoting Risperdal and another anti-psychotic, Invega, to doctors and nursing homes as a way to control behavioral disturbances in elderly dementia patients, children, and the mentally disabled. The drug makers allegedly failed to mention — or downplayed — possible side effects of Risperdal, like the risk of stroke in elderly patients.

Additionally, the DOJ accuses the companies of paying kickbacks to doctors in order to urge them to prescribe these drugs, while also kicking back money to the nation’s largest long-term care pharmacy in order to get pharmacists to recommend off-label use of Risperdal for nursing home patients who exhibited behavioral symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.

In addition to this being against the law and unethical, it meant that millions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid payments were being paid out on prescriptions that should never have been written.

“Through these alleged actions, these companies lined their pockets at the expense of American taxpayers, patients, and the private insurance industry,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement. “They drove up costs for everyone in the health care system and negatively impacted the long-term solvency of essential health care programs like Medicare.”

Holder says that J&J and Janssen will plead guilty to misbranding Risperdal, and will pay $400 million in criminal fines and forfeitures, in addition to $1.2 billion to resolve their civil liability under the False Claims Act. Johnson & Johnson will pay an additional $149 million to resolve claims relating to alleged kickbacks to a long-term care pharmacy.

But wait. There’s more.

Another J&J subsidiary, Scios, has been accused of promoting the heart drug Natrecor for off-label use without credible scientific evidence that it would have any health benefit. Scios pleaded guilty in 2009 to misbranding Natrecor and paid a criminal fine of $85 million, and along with J&J has agreed to pay an additional $184 million to resolve the latest allegations.

“Put simply, this alleged conduct is shameful and it is unacceptable,” says Holder. “It displayed a reckless indifference to the safety of the American people. And it constituted a clear abuse of the public trust, showing a blatant disregard for systems and laws designed to protect public health.”

“Today we reached closure on complex legal matters spanning almost a decade. This resolution allows us to move forward and continue to focus on delivering innovative solutions that improve and enhance the health and well-being of patients around the world,” said Michael Ullmann, Vice President and General Counsel, Johnson & Johnson, in a statement.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Opening Up Clinical Trials Data Is Good For Pharma Companies Too

By Glyn Moody | Techdirt | November 5, 2013

Earlier this year we wrote about how AbbVie, the pharma company spun out of Abbott Laboratories, had gone to court to stop the European Medicines Agency (EMA) from releasing clinical trials information about one of its drugs. Despite what AbbVie claimed, this was not commercially sensitive in any way, but simply basic data about safety and efficacy.

It’s often overlooked that this data is mostly obtained by testing new drugs on volunteer members of the public who take the medicines in order to establish their safety. By definition, these volunteers are putting themselves at risk. They selflessly offer to do that in order to advance medicine and confer benefits on society as a whole. That means the clinical data obtained from such tests belongs to the public that made them possible, at least from a moral viewpoint.

If a company seeks to prevent the free dissemination of that safety data, as AbbVie is doing in Europe, it is breaking the implicit compact it made with the people who agreed to try out its drugs. Those invited to take part in future trials of AbbVie’s drugs might then begin to ask why they should endanger their health and even lives purely to boost one company’s profits.

But even if AbbVie is resistant to the argument that it has a moral obligation to allow the clinical trials data to be released, and is not concerned that the public might think that it has something to hide, perhaps it will be won over by a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine, written by four people from the EMA. This puts forward a quite different argument, that releasing test data will directly benefit pharma companies themselves, and offers a number of reasons why.

First, access to the full data sets of completed studies will lead to improvements in the design and analysis of subsequent trials.

Basically, the more information that drug companies have about what works and what doesn’t, the better they can design their future tests.

Second, lessons from past trials about the heterogeneity of treatment effects not only will streamline drug development but also may enhance a drug’s value in the marketplace. Identification of a population with high unmet need in which a new treatment may be more cost-effective than other available treatments can aid sponsors during reimbursement negotiations.

Again, the more information companies have about how different groups of patients responded to a drug, the easier it will be to spot particular sub-groups in the population who derive particular benefit. Selling products for that sub-group will be both easier, more profitable and more ethical than simply trying to sell to everybody, since the drug may be ineffective or even inappropriate for many of the general population.

Third, since several possible treatments for one medical condition are often available, comparative-effectiveness information is important to patients, prescribers, and sponsors seeking to position their products.

For a given condition, there may be several possible treatments. Making clinical test data available allows them to be compared, and the best one selected for future drug development, instead of investing huge sums in what may well be a relatively ineffective approach.

Finally, one of the inherent inefficiencies of data secrecy is the repetition of trials and projects that are doomed from the outset; drug developers may continue to pursue a given target even though clinical trials conducted by others have demonstrated the effort’s futility.

In many ways this is the most important reason. If the results of clinical trials are kept secret, companies run the risk of repeating the mistakes already made by others. Not only is that a waste of time and money that could be better spent on more fruitful avenues, it is putting test subjects at risk unnecessarily. As the NEJM points out:

In at least one documented case, the availability of data from completed trials could have spared trial subjects a potential health risk and saved millions of research dollars.

The article concludes:

A managed-release environment that allows sharing of patient-level data while ensuring patient privacy would create a level playing field for all stakeholders. What is sometimes labeled as “free riding” may ultimately pay dividends for innovative companies and for public health. It is ironic that the organizations that most resist wider access to data are the ones that stand to benefit so much from greater transparency.

In fact, this is no mere theoretical possibility. We know this approach works, because it is precisely what we see in the field of open source. Sharing the code freely creates a level playing-field that allows companies to innovate faster because they can build on the work of others. The rise of a multi-billion dollar software industry based around such sharing, and the unprecedented rate of innovation this drives, are yet more reasons that companies like AbbVie should be striving to promote, not prevent, the release and dissemination of clinical trials information as open data.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to the United Police States of America

By John W. Whitehead | Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity | November 5, 2013

“There are always risks in challenging excessive police power, but the risks of not challenging it are more dangerous, even fatal.”

-Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century

BearcatNo longer is it unusual to hear about incidents in which police shoot unarmed individuals first and ask questions later. What is unusual is our lack of outrage, the relative disinterest of our elected representatives, the media’s abysmal failure to ask questions and demand answers, and our growing acceptance of the status quo in the United Police States of America-a status quo in which “we the people” are powerless in the face of the heavy-handed tactics employed by the government and its armed agents.

However, as I document in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, it’s all part of the larger police state continuum. Thus, with each tragic shooting that is shrugged off or covered up, each piece of legislation passed that criminalizes otherwise legal activities, every surveillance drone that takes to the skies, every phone call, email or text that is spied on, and every transaction that is monitored, the government’s stranglehold over our lives grows stronger.

We have been silent about too many things for too long, not the least of which is the deadly tendency on the part of police to resort to lethal force. However, as Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”

For the sake of 13-year-old Andy Lopez, we can be silent no more. The Santa Rosa teen was shot dead after two sheriff’s deputies saw him carrying a toy BB gun in public. Lopez was about 20 feet away from the deputies, his back turned to them, when the officers took cover behind their car and ordered him to drop the “weapon.” When Lopez turned around, toy gun in his hand, one of the officers-a 24-year veteran of the force-shot him seven times. The time span between the deputies calling in a suspicious person sighting and shooting Lopez was a mere ten seconds. The young boy died at the scene. Clearly, no attempt was made to use less lethal force.

Rationalizing the shooting incident, Lt. Paul Henry of the Santa Rosa Police Department explained, “The deputy’s mindset was that he was fearful that he was going to be shot.” Yet as William Norman Grigg, a commentator for LewRockwell.com, points out, such a “preoccupation with ‘officer safety’ … leads to unnecessary police shootings. A peace officer is paid to assume certain risks, including those necessary to de-escalate a confrontation with someone believed to be a heavily armed suspect in a residential neighborhood. A ‘veteran’ deputy with the mindset of a peace officer would have taken more than a shaved fraction of a split-second to open fire on a small male individual readily identifiable as a junior high school student, who was carrying an object that is easily recognizable as a toy-at least to people who don’t see themselves as an army of occupation, and view the public as an undifferentiated mass of menace.”

Unfortunately, this police preoccupation with ensuring their own safety at all costs-a mindset that many older law enforcement officials find abhorrent in light of the more selfless code on which they were trained-is spreading like a plague among the ranks of police officers across the country, with tragic consequences for the innocent civilians unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet the fatality rate of on-duty patrol officers is reportedly far lower than many other professions, including construction, logging, fishing, truck driving, and even trash collection. In fact, police officers have the same rate of dying on the job as do taxi drivers.

Nevertheless, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 400 to 500 innocent people are killed by police officers every year. That does not include the number of unarmed individuals shot and injured by police simply because they felt threatened or feared for their safety. This is the danger of having a standing army (which is what police forces, increasingly made up of individuals with military backgrounds and/or training, have evolved into) that has been trained to view the citizenry as little more than potential suspects, combatants and insurgents.

Consider what happened in Cleveland, when two police officers mistook the sounds of a backfiring car for gunfire and immediately began pursuing the 1979 Chevrolet Malibu and its two occupants, a woman driver and a man in the passenger seat. Within 20 minutes, more than 60 police cars, some unmarked, and 115 officers had joined the pursuit, which ended in a full blown-out firefight in a middle school parking lot that saw 140 bullets fired in less than 30 seconds. Once the smoke cleared, it quickly became evident that not only had the officers been mistakenly firing at each other but the “suspects”-dead from countless bullet wounds-were unarmed. As the Plain Dealer reports:

Despite varying levels of experience, all 13 officers who fired their guns-and many who did not-told investigators they thought deadly force was needed to stop a violent encounter with two suspects who they believed were armed. “I’ve never been more afraid in my life,” said Officer Michael Brelo, who fired 49 shots that night. “I thought my partner and I were being shot and that we were going to be killed.”

Incredibly, no officers were injured in the shooting. Nor was any apparent effort made to resolve the situation using less lethal force. Sixty-three of the officers involved in the fatal shooting have since been suspended.

I doubt the police officers involved in this massacre are bad cops in the sense of being corrupt and on the take, or violent and abusive, or bloodthirsty and trigger happy. Nor are they any different from most of the cops who patrol communities large and small across the country. Just like you and me, these officers have spouses and children to care for, homes to maintain, bills to pay, and worries that keep them up at night. Like most of us, they strive to do their jobs as best as they know how, but that’s where the problem arises, because they have clearly been poorly trained in how to distinguish what is a real threat. They have also been indoctrinated into the mindset that they have a right to protect themselves at all cost and empowered to shoot first and ask questions later with a veritable arsenal of military artillery, much of which has been provided by the federal government.

These shootings are occurring with such frequency now that they are quickly forgotten, lost in the morass of similarly heartbreaking, tragic incidents. It was barely a month ago, for example, that police in Washington, DC, shot and killed 34-year-old Miriam Carey after she collided with a barrier leading to the White House, then fled when pursued by a phalanx of gun-wielding police and cop cars. Carey’s 1-year-old daughter was in the backseat. Seventeen gun shots later, Carey was dead and her toddler motherless. It was what is known as a “bad shoot.” As James Mulvaney, a professor of law and police science, explains: “A ‘good shoot’ in police lingo is one in which officers use deadly force to prevent a suspect from inflicting serious harm. A ‘bad shoot’ is one in which there might have been a nonlethal alternative.”

Even the suggestion that there are nonlethal alternatives is misleading. Nonlethal weapons such as tasers, stun guns, rubber pellets and the like, introduced with a government guarantee of safety for the public and adopted by police departments across the country purportedly because they would help restrain violent individuals, have resulted in police using them as weapons of compliance more often and with less restraint-even against women and children-and in some instances, even causing death.

These “nonlethal” weapons also enable police to aggress with the push of a button, making the potential for overblown confrontations over minor incidents that much more likely. Case in point: the fact that seven-months pregnant Malaika Brooks was tased three times for refusing to sign a speeding ticket, while Keith Cockrell was shot with a taser for jaywalking.

Researchers have discovered that dehumanizing weapons like guns or tasers, which do not require the aggressor (police) to make physical contact with his victim, are aggression-eliciting stimuli. One study found that simply showing an image of a gun to students caused them to clench their fists faster (a sign of aggressive effect) when presented with an aversive situation. If a simple handgun can noticeably increase violent behavior, one can only imagine what impact the $500 million dollars’ worth of weapons and armored vehicles (provided by the Pentagon to local police in states and municipalities across the country) have on already tense and potentially explosive situations.

So what is the answer?

How should we as a society respond when we hear about the Las Vegas police officer who shot an unarmed man at a convenience store whom he “thought” was a homicide suspect, or the Los Angeles cop who shot an unarmed man seen leaving a convenience store where an ATM had been robbed of $40 or the DC cops who killed a young mother in a hail of gunfire? As John Grant notes for Counterpunch: “The ignominious and unnecessary public killing of Miriam Carey should be a human marker that triggers our cultural meaning machine to honestly consider what’s wrong with the picture of a howling pack of cops shooting down a troubled young mother … like a dog.”

The current practice is to let the police deal with it themselves by suspending the officer involved with administrative pay, dragging out the investigation until the public forgets about the incident, and then eventually declaring the shooting incident justified based on the officer’s fear for his safety, and allowing him to go back to work as usual. Meanwhile, the epidemic of police violence continues to escalate while fear of the police increases and the police state, with all its surveillance gear and military weaponry, expands around us.

If ever there were a time to de-militarize and de-weaponize local police forces, it’s now. The same goes for scaling back on the mindset adopted by cops that they are the law and should be revered, feared and obeyed. As for the idea that citizens must be compliant or risk being treated like lawbreakers, that’s nothing more than authoritarianism with a badge. As Grant points out: “As the public killing of Miriam Carey should make clear, a significant part of the problem is cops and the pack mentality they too often resort to. These men and women are encouraged to see themselves on “the front line” protecting us, the people. They are pumped up with post-911 fears and adrenaline and, when it hits the fan, relentlessly determined to get their man or woman. A lot of reality can get lost in this process.”

In other words, it’s time for a reality check, for both the police and the citizens of this nation, and a good place to start is with the words of that gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who warned: “Coming of age in a fascist police state will not be a barrel of fun for anybody, much less for people like me, who are not inclined to suffer Nazis gladly and feel only contempt for the cowardly flag-suckers who would gladly give up their outdated freedom to live for the mess of pottage they have been conned into believing will be freedom from fear.”

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Nicaragua: CIA-Contra Drug Charges Resurface

Weekly News Update on the Americas | November 3, 2013

The torture death of US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique (“Kiki”) Camarena near Guadalajara in the western Mexican state of Jalisco in February 1985 was linked to drug running by the US-backed “contra” rebels seeking to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua, according to two former DEA agents and a former pilot for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Camarena was kidnapped by criminals working for Rafael Caro Quintero, a founder of the so-called Guadalajara Cartel, and was executed at one of Caro Quintero’s ranches. According to the US, the cartel targeted Camarena because he had uncovered Caro Quintero’s marijuana growing and processing operation. Under pressure from the US, the Mexican government eventually captured Caro Quintero and sentenced him to 60 years in prison for Camarena’s murder.

The new allegations appeared on an Oct. 10 broadcast by the rightwing US-based Fox television network and in an Oct. 12 article published by the left-leaning Mexican weekly Proceso. Both reports were based on interviews with Phil Jordan, an ex-director of the DEA’s El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC); former DEA agent Héctor Berrellez, who said he directed the investigation of Camarena’s death; and Tosh Plumlee, who worked as a pilot for SETCO, a CIA-linked airline that flew military supplies to the contras. It isn’t clear why Fox chose to air the allegations now, but attention on the Camarena murder increased after a Mexican judge released Caro Quintero from prison on a technicality on Aug. 9 of this year.

According to the Fox and Proceso reports, CIA operatives had infiltrated Mexico’s now-defunct Federal Security Directorate (DFS), many of whose agents provided protection for Caro Quintero’s criminal activities in the 1980s, including the Camarena kidnapping and murder. CIA infiltrators were present when the DEA agent was killed, the reports allege. “I was told by Mexican authorities… that CIA operatives were in there,” Jordan said to Fox News. “Actually conducting the interrogation. Actually taping Kiki.” Ex-DEA agent Berrellez gave Proceso the name of at least one CIA operative he claimed was involved. “Two witnesses identified Félix Ismael Rodríguez,” he said.

The Cuban-born Rodríguez was a long-time US agent who was active in the Bay of Pigs invasion, in the Vietnam war and in the October 1967 execution of Argentine revolutionary Ernesto (“Che”) Guevara in Bolivia. In the middle 1980s Rodríguez was in El Salvador working with another Cuban-born agent, Luis Posada Carriles, supplying contra operations [see Update #1185]. According to the Proceso report, Rodríguez introduced the Honduran drug trafficker Juan Matta Ballesteros to the Guadalajara cartel. Matta allegedly used his Colombian connections to supply cocaine to the cartel, with the complicity of the CIA, which received part of the money and used it to supply arms and other military equipment to the contras. The reason for Camarena’s murder, according to Proceso, was that Camarena had “discovered that his own government was collaborating with Mexican narco trafficking in its illicit business.”

The CIA denies the accusations. “[I]t’s ridiculous to suggest that the CIA had anything to do with the murder of a US federal agent or the escape of his killer,” a CIA spokesperson told Fox News on Oct. 10.

A number of sources reported in the 1980s and early 1990s that the contras were funded in part through drug sales with the help or complicity of the CIA. In 1998 CIA Inspector General Fred Hitz told Congress that the CIA “worked with a variety of … assets [and] pilots who ferried supplies to the contras, who were alleged to have engaged in drug trafficking activity.” The “CIA had an operational interest” in the contras and “did nothing to stop” the drug trafficking, Hitz said. Mainstream US media generally avoided the subject. In 1996 the Mercury News of San Jose, California, ran a series linking the contras to the sale of crack in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s, but the paper later repudiated the articles. The reporter, Gary Webb, lost his job at the Mercury News and was never employed by a major newspaper again. He died in December 2004, an apparent suicide [see Update #777]. (Fox News 10/10/13; Proceso 10/12/13; El País (Madrid) 10/15/13)

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

State Law Breakers

By KEVIN CARSON | CounterPunch | November 5, 2013

I just read that the parents of an autistic high school student arrested in a drug sting operation in Temecula, California last December have filed suit against the school district. The parents were “initially happy their son had made his first and only friend last year at school,” but became suspicious when his “school friend” kept making excuses for not coming over. The “friend,” actually Riverside County Sheriff’s Deputy Daniel Zipperstein, “pressured their lonely and vulnerable son with more than 60 text messages over about three weeks into buying half a joint from a homeless man.”

The very existence of “sting operations,” by which law enforcement personnel solicit illegal activity — in other words, perform acts which are illegal on their faces in the course of their official duties — speaks volumes about the nature of the state and its laws. When the first professional police forces were created in London and New York in the early 19th century, they were regarded as simply hired functionaries who got paid to perform the same “posse comitatus” functions (preserved in the archaic practice of “citizen’s arrest”) within the competency of all citizens. The proposition that professional police be granted special status over and above that of their fellow citizens would never have been tolerated.

I’ve never understood the logic by which someone in uniform can commit an act that’s defined as illegal by statute, in the course of a sting operation, without themselves breaking the law. If it’s illegal for a citizen to offer drugs or sexual acts for sale, or to solicit their sale from others, how is it legal for a cop to offer to buy or sell drugs from a citizen?

The answer, of course, is that the state cannot operate on the same logic as its citizens. I once told a coworker that, when it came to drug and sex work sting operations, cops should be subject to the same anti-solicitation laws they’re enforcing on us. Her response: “But then how would they catch people who do that stuff?”

Good question. Obviously, they couldn’t. The state simply can’t function unless it gives its own functionaries, with a wink and a nudge, an exemption from the laws that everyone else is supposed to obey.

The state couldn’t enforce laws against drugs, sex work, or any other consensual activity if it were literally bound by laws like the due process guarantees in the Bill of Rights. Imagine how the Drug War would fare if the Fourth Amendment were enforced literally, without any of the “reasonable expectation of privacy” or “probable cause” or “good faith” lacunae the courts have read into it — if cops actually had to have a warrant specifying the place and what they were looking for before they could set foot on your property? Imagine if civil forfeiture were treated as a violation of the Fifth Amendment, and the state couldn’t take your possessions without first charging you with a crime and persuading a jury to convict you. Under those terms, it wouldn’t matter if the substantive restrictions on drugs were as harsh as those in Singapore — they would be dead letters in practice because they were unenforceable.

Civil forfeiture was first introduced in the revenue collecting arms of government, because it was understood from the beginning that a literal interpretation of the common law prohibition on seizure of property without due process of law would render the tax laws unenforceable. Going through the ordinary criminal law process to collect from tax evaders would cost more than the revenue was worth.

Civil forfeiture by an administrative law body, based on a preponderance of the evidence, was originally a form of prerogative law in England. Prerogative courts like Star Chamber derived their procedural rules from the Roman civil law, as it was codified under Justinian. The proliferation of prerogative courts under the Stuarts was among the things that led to both Charles I and James II losing their thrones. But even after the accession of William and Mary, it was understood that customs and revenue were an exception to the common law’s “universal” due process requirements.

It was customs officials, operating under Admiralty law, who rubbed American colonials the wrong way and helped bring on the American Revolution. But even after the ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, it was quickly established in case law that the prohibition against seizing property without a jury trial didn’t apply to customs and revenue — because it couldn’t.

So in the end, it doesn’t matter what the law says, or even how it explicitly restrains the state on paper. If government needs an unwritten exemption from the law to do what it wants, It will get it.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calls for dividing Al-Aqsa temporally and spatially between Muslims and Jews

Palestine Information Center – 05/11/2013

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowments and Heritage said Israeli groups seek to enact laws and regulations aiming at partitioning the Aqsa Mosque between Muslims and Jews, and defining times and areas where collective and individual Jewish prayers can be held.

The Foundation said in a statement that Israeli ministers, MKs and party members, in addition to Israeli organizations and decision-makers, are seeking to reach a political and religious consensus to change the status quo in the Aqsa Mosque, and turn it into a Jewish holy site under the occupation authority.

It stated that the Knesset Interior Committee held a session on Monday in this regard, attended by Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Eli Ben Dahan who called on the new “Chief Rabbinate” to issue an advisory opinion allowing Jews to pray at Al-Aqsa Mosque.

For her part, the head of the Knesset Interior Committee, Likud party member Mary Rigab, pointed out that the aim of holding the consecutive sessions is to enact regulations that will define the times and areas where Jewish prayers will be held in the “Temple Mount”, regardless of the opinion of the “Chief Rabbinate”, and regardless of the threats of a third intifada.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkish patrol seizes over a ton of chemicals from smugglers attempting to enter Syria

RT | November 4, 2013

Turkish border guards seized three vehicles loaded with over 1,000 kg of chemicals as they tried to illegally cross the border into Syria. One of the smugglers was arrested, while others managed to escape.

The Turkish General Staff reported that the chemicals were seized after a convoy of three vehicles refused to stop and attempted to illegally cross the border near the southeastern Turkish town of Reyhanli on Saturday.

Paramilitary police were ordered to shoot out the tires of the vehicles to stop them. As the tires caught on fire, the three drivers jumped out and fled in the direction of Syria. One of them was arrested.

The vehicles contained 20 bags of sulphur, weighing about 50 kg each, and eight sealed barrels. Their contents were not immediately known.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) chairman Faruk Logoglu said in a statement on Monday that the barrels are suspected to contain chemical material. “Traffic was from Turkey to Syria,” he added.

The arrested suspect’s nationality has not been made public. He was taken into custody after interrogation by the Reyhanli district gendarmerie headquarters and is to be sent to the prosecutor’s office.

Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defense (CBRN) units from the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency have started examining the seized material, Logoglu’s statement said.

The Republican People’s Party has also criticized the release of a primary suspect in a similar case, saying that closing the investigation would be “a shame for Turkey,” Hurriyet newspaper reported, citing CHP’s deputy.

In May 2013, Turkish police seized a group of people after being informed that Syrian rebel groups were looking to obtain materials that could be used to produce chemical weapons.

A two -kilogram cylinder with what initially was suggested to be sarin gas was seized while searching the homes of Syrian militants from the Al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra Front following their detention.

Some of the suspects accused of establishing a connection with a network in Turkey to convey chemical materials were released after lab tests proved that the seized chemicals were not sarin gas.

The alleged use of sarin – considered one of the world’s most dangerous chemical warfare agents – in a Damascus suburb on August 21 provoked an international outcry which nearly led to a US military strike against the Syrian regime, as Western countries assumed it was the Assad government who used the chemical weapons.

However, while a UN investigation proved that sarin was used near Damascus, it did not say who was behind the attack. At the same time, Russia also analyzed samples taken in the Syrian town of Aleppo, where chemical weapons were allegedly used in March. Experts concluded that rebels – not the army – were behind the Aleppo sarin attack.

In September, Syria agreed to comply with Moscow’s offer to put its chemical weapons under international control for subsequent destruction, in order to avert a possible military strike. Damascus declared the possession of 1,300 tons of chemicals and precursors needed for chemical weapons production, as well as over 1,200 empty chemical munitions.

On Thursday, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said that Syria’s entire declared stock of chemical weapons has been placed under seal.

The organization acknowledged that Damascus has complied with the watchdog’s requirement, adopted on September 27, for the complete elimination of chemical weapons and production units in Syria before November 1.

The process of eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons stocks has a target finish date of mid-2014.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Arab ‘Thugs’ Steal Olives from Poor, Downtrodden Israeli Settlers

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | November 4, 2013

Every now and then we run across stories in the Jewish media that are amusing for their unintended humor. Several days ago the Jewish Press published an article about West Bank Palestinians who crept into a Jewish-owned olive grove, apparently in the night, and stole a number of bushels of olives, breaking off tree branches in the process.

The story—a total of five paragraphs—is written by Yori Yanover, who, in common with most Israelis, refers to Palestinians not as Palestinians but as “Arabs,” and who additionally applies the word “thugs” to the particular thieves in question. (Truly a masterpiece of journalistic objectivity). We also are informed the theft took place at a Jewish-owned farm located between the West Bank settlements of Shiloh and Eli:

Someone should alert Philip Gordon – the US Middle East Czar who was so adamant in his condemnation of those pesky Jewish settlers out to ruin Arab olive trees, he should express at least the same amount of rage at what has taken place today in the Eretz HaTzvi farm, between the towns of Shiloh and Eli.

According to a report by the Tazpit news agency, Jewish farmers who arrived Thursday at the olive grove belonging to Eretz HaTzvi, discovered that Arab thugs had stolen bushels of olives and broke off tree branches. The damage is estimated in tens of thousands of dollars.

Note: we are talking about Jewish farmers who decided to grow their olive trees on stolen Palestinian land—and who now feel put upon because the people they stole the land from pilfered some of their olives. But that angle to the story seems to escape Yanover.

The author also goes on to quote one of the farmers, who speaks of “telltale signs” left by “Arab fruit thieves,” thus arousing our sympathy by letting us know that he, poor fellow, has had to deal with this sort of heinous thievery in the past:

“I arrived at the grove a short while ago, and from the highway I recognized the telltale sign of Arab fruit thieves – Jute sacks that were spread on the ground. Walking around the grove I identified many broken branches and a large amount of olives that fell out of the thieves’ sacks.”

Again note: we’re talking about some broken branches. Nothing is mentioned about whole trees being uprooted or destroyed. In fact, here is one of the photos that accompany the story. You’ll notice, of course, that a limb has been broken from a tree but that the tree itself is still standing:

oliveheist1

And here is a second photo that accompanies the article. Again notice, a few broken limbs in the foreground, with unharmed, whole trees standing in the background.

oiveheist2

I want to be clear: I do not think theft is ever justified, whether it be a single olive or an entire parcel of land. But at the same time it can be useful to us to put things into perspective. I have posted numerous articles about Palestinian olive groves that have been attacked and vandalized by Jewish settlers (see here, here, here, here, here, and here ). In many of these instances, whole trees have been uprooted or destroyed, and in some cases the number of trees destroyed was in the hundreds. But apparently many Jews are incapable of seeing things from the perspective of their victims. Here is a sampling of comments that accompanied the Jewish Press article:

commentsjp

The commenters seem almost out of touch with reality in a certain sense. But in the interest, again, of perspective, here’s a little dose of reality. The following comes from a report published last year entitled “When Settlers Attack,” by Yousef Munayyer for the Palestine Center:

Executive Summary

  • Israeli settler violence presents a direct and consistent threat to Palestinian civilians and their property in the occupied West Bank and instances of Israeli settler violence are on the rise.
  • From 2010 to 2011 there was a 39 percent increase in incidents of Israel Settler violence. In the five year period from 2007 through 2011 there has been a 315 percent increase. Conversely, over the same 5-year period, there has been a 95 percent decrease in Palestinian violence in the West Bank.
  • There is a noticeable shift in the proportion of violence as it occurs geographically in the West Bank. In the past, the southern part of the West Bank saw the largest number of instances but in recent years the northern part of the West Bank is becoming increasingly targeted and has overtaken the southern part of the West Bank in terms of number of attacks.
  • The period of the olive harvest annually brings a peak in violent settler activity. The presence of Palestinian civilians in olive groves, where they are easy targets for unrestrained and violent Israeli settlers, is the main reason why this occurs on an annual basis.
  • There is a noticeable increase in the frequency and proportion of arson attacks employed by violent settlers. This suggests that violent settlers are increasingly choosing this method of violence and will continue to do so. The percentage of arson among all attack types in 2005 was 6 percent and has risen to 11 percent in 2011.
  • While minimal variation in Israeli settler violence over time can be explained as a response to Israeli state actions against settlements, like the dismantlement of outposts, the vast majority of Israeli settler violence is not responsorial but rather structural and symptomatic of occupation.
  • Over 90 percent of all Palestinian villages which have experienced multiple instances of Israeli settler violence are in areas which fall under Israeli security jurisdiction.

To View the Full Report as PDF (2.8 MB)

At the top of this piece I referred to Yanover’s article as providing us with “unintended humor,” and so it does. But what I also detect in it is an element of self pity.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

America’s Moment of Truth on Iran

By Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | The Diplomat | November 4, 2013

America’s Iran policy is at a crossroads.  Washington can abandon its counterproductive insistence on Middle Eastern hegemony, negotiate a nuclear deal grounded in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and get serious about working with Tehran to broker a settlement to the Syrian conflict.  In the process, the United States would greatly improve its ability to shape important outcomes there.  Alternatively, America can continue on its present path, leading ultimately to strategic irrelevance in one of the world’s most vital regions—with negative implications for its standing in Asia as well.

U.S. policy is at this juncture because the costs of Washington’s post-Cold War drive to dominate the Middle East have risen perilously high.  President Obama’s self-inflicted debacle over his plan to attack Syria after chemical weapons were used there in August showed that America can no longer credibly threaten the effective use of force to impose its preferences in the region.  While Obama still insists “all options are on the table” for Iran, the reality is that, if Washington is to deal efficaciously with the nuclear issue, it will be through diplomacy.

In this context, last month’s Geneva meeting between Iran and the P5+1 brought America’s political class to a strategic and political moment of truth.  Can American elites turn away from a self-damaging quest for Middle Eastern hegemony by coming to terms with an independent regional power?  Or are they so enthralled with an increasingly surreal notion of America as hegemon that, to preserve U.S. “leadership,” they will pursue a course further eviscerating its strategic position?

The proposal for resolving the nuclear issue that Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, presented in Geneva seeks answers to these questions.  It operationalizes the approach advocated by Hassan Rohani and other Iranian leaders for over a decade:  greater transparency on Iran’s nuclear activities in return for recognizing its rights as a sovereign NPT signatory—especially to enrich uranium under international safeguards—and removal of sanctions.  For years, the Bush and Obama administrations rejected this approach.  Now Obama must at least consider it.

The Iranian package provides greater transparency on Tehran’s nuclear activities in two crucial respects.  First, it gives greater visibility on the conduct of Iran’s nuclear program.  Iran has reportedly offered to comply voluntarily for some months with the Additional Protocol (AP) to the NPT—which it has signed but not yet ratified and which authorizes more proactive and intrusive inspections—to encourage diplomatic progress.  Tehran would ratify the AP—thereby committing to its permanent implementation—as part of a final deal.

Second, the package aims to validate Iran’s declarations that its enrichment infrastructure is not meant to produce weapons-grade fissile material.  Iran would stop enriching at the near-20 percent level of fissile-isotope purity needed to fuel the Tehran Research Reactor and cap enrichment at levels suitable for fueling power reactors.  Similarly, Iran is open to capping the number of centrifuges it would install—at least for some years—at its enrichment sites in Natanz and Fordo.

Based on conversations with Iranian officials and political figures in New York in September (during Rohani and Zarif’s visit to the UN General Assembly) and in Tehran last month, it is also possible to identify items that the Iranian proposal almost certainly does not include.  Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has reportedly given President Rohani and his diplomats flexibility in negotiating a settlement—but he has also directed that they not compromise Iran’s sovereignty.  Thus, the Islamic Republic will not acquiesce to American (and Israeli) demands to suspend enrichment, shut its enrichment site at Fordo, stop a heavy-water reactor under construction at Arak, and ship its current enriched uranium stockpile abroad.

On one level, the Iranian package is crafted to resolve the nuclear issue based on the NPT, within a year.  Iran’s nuclear rights would be respected; transparency measures would reduce the proliferation risks of its enrichment activities below what Washington tolerates elsewhere.  On another level, though, the package means to test America’s willingness and capability to resolve the issue on this basis.  It tests this not just for Tehran’s edification, but also for that of other P5+1 states, especially China and Russia, and of rising powers like India and South Korea.

America can fail the Iranian test in two ways.  First, the Obama administration—reflecting America’s political class more broadly—may prove unwilling to acknowledge Iran’s nuclear rights in a straightforward way, insisting on terms for a deal that effectively suborn these rights and violate Iranian sovereignty.

There are powerful constituencies—e.g., the Israel lobby, neoconservative Republicans, their Democratic “fellow travelers,” and U.S.-based Iran “experts”—that oppose any deal recognizing Iran’s nuclear rights.  They understand that acknowledging these rights would also mean accepting the Islamic Republic as an enduring entity representing legitimate national interests; to do so, America would have to abandon its post-Cold War pretensions to Middle Eastern hegemony.

Those pretensions have proven dangerously corrosive of America’s ability to accomplish important objectives in the Middle East, and of its global standing.  Just witness the profoundly self-damaging consequences of America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, and how badly the “global war on terror” has eviscerated the perceived legitimacy of American purposes in the Muslim world.

But, as the drama over Obama’s call for military action against Syria indicates, America’s political class remains deeply attached to imperial pretense—even as the American public turns away from it.  If Washington could accept the Islamic Republic as a legitimate regional power, it could work with Tehran and others on a political solution to the Syrian conflict.  Instead, Washington reiterates hubristic demands that President Bashar al-Assad step down before a political process starts, and relies on a Saudi-funded “Syrian opposition” increasingly dominated by al-Qa’ida-like extremists.

If Obama does not conclude a deal recognizing Iran’s nuclear rights, it will confirm suspicions already held by many Iranian elites—including Ayatollah Khamenei—and in Beijing and Moscow about America’s real agenda vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic.  It will become undeniably clear that U.S. opposition to indigenous Iranian enrichment is not motivated by proliferation concerns, but by determination to preserve American hegemony—and Israeli military dominance—in the Middle East.  If this is so, why should China, Russia, or rising Asian powers continue trying to help Washington—e.g., by accommodating U.S. demands to limit their own commercial interactions with Iran—obtain an outcome it does not actually want?

America can also fail Iran’s test if it is unable to provide comprehensive sanctions relief as part of a negotiated nuclear settlement.  The Obama administration now acknowledges what we have noted for some time—that, beyond transitory executive branch initiatives, lifting or even substantially modifying U.S. sanctions to support diplomatic progress will take congressional action.

During Obama’s presidency, many U.S. sanctions initially imposed by executive order have been written into law.  These bills—signed, with little heed to their long-term consequences, by Obama himself—have also greatly expanded U.S. secondary sanctions, which threaten to punish third-country entities not for anything they’ve done in America, but for perfectly lawful business they conduct in or with Iran.  The bills contain conditions for removing sanctions stipulating not just the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, but also termination of Tehran’s ties to movements like Hizballah that Washington (foolishly) designates as terrorists and the Islamic Republic’s effective transformation into a secular liberal republic.

The Obama administration may have managed to delay passage of yet another sanctions bill for a few weeks—but Congressional Democrats no less than congressional Republicans have made publicly clear that they will not relax conditions for removing existing sanctions to help Obama conclude and implement a nuclear deal.  If their obstinacy holds, why should others respect Washington’s high-handed demands for compliance with its extraterritorial (hence, illegal) sanctions against Iran?

Going into the next round of nuclear talks in Geneva on Thursday, it is unambiguously plain that Obama will have to spend enormous political capital to realign relations with Iran.  America’s future standing as a great power depends significantly on his readiness to do so.

Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett are authors of Going to Tehran:  Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran (New York:  Metropolitan, 2013) and teach international relations, he at Penn State, she at American University.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment