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US makes first step toward banning trans fats

RT | November 7, 2013

The Food and Drug Administration announced on Thursday that it would require the food industry to phase out the use of artificial trans fats in its products.

The FDA said it has made a preliminary determination that the primary source of trans fat – partially hydrogenated oils – is no longer “generally recognized as safe,” and that it plans to ban their use in the market. Some trans fat is naturally generated in meat and dairy products, and the ban will only apply to trans fat added to foods.

According to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, the decision could potentially prevent 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths.

Over the last decade, American consumption of trans fat has declined significantly. In 2006, the average citizen was consuming 4.6 grams of trans fat a day, while the number decreased to roughly one gram a day in 2012. Still, Hamburg said they “remain an area of significant public health concern,” according to NBC News.

Many companies began eliminating the use of trans fat when the FDA required them to list the ingredient on nutritional labels in 2006, but it can still be found in common products like frozen pizza, microwave popcorn, margarine, coffee creamer, and various desserts.

“The artery is still half clogged,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said to the New York Times. “This is about preventing people from being exposed to a harmful chemical that most of the time they didn’t even know was there.”

“It’s quite important,” he added, referring to the FDA’s new proposal. “It’s going to save a huge amount in health care costs and will mean fewer heart attacks.”

Numerous studies have shown that there is virtually no health benefit to consuming trans fat. It lowers the level of “good” cholesterol and raises levels of “bad” cholesterol, clogging the arteries and increasing the risk of heart attacks.

The FDA did not lay out a timetable for the ban. It will open its proposal to public comment for 60 days while it formulates a schedule that gives food manufacturers enough time to cooperate with the new rule.

“We want to do it in a way that doesn’t unduly disrupt markets,” Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, said to the Associated Press. At the same time, he said the food “industry has demonstrated that it is by and large feasible to do.”

Public health groups have welcomed the FDA’s proposal, which the agency has been collecting data for since 2009.

Should the FDA move forward with its plan, the United States will join other nations such as Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland, in banning the ingredient.

Still, there are numerous other ingredients that have been outlawed in various countries while still being sold in the U.S. An, article by BuzzFeed over the summer noted that brominated vegetable oil, which has been linked to birth defects and organ damage, continues to be used in sports drinks and the popular soda Mountain Dew. It’s been banned in more than 100 countries.

Meanwhile, synthetic hormones rGBH and rBST, linked to cancer and infertility, continue to be given to cows and show up in dairy products that aren’t labeled otherwise. They’ve been banned in Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the European Union.

Earlier this month, the FDA banned three out of the four brands of arsenic-laced animal feed that was being given to chickens, turkeys, and pigs. The decision came four years after the Center for Food Safety called on the FDA to remove the feed, but one brand remains on the market.

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Senate committee approves funding for NSA, witch-hunt on leakers

RT | November 6, 2013

Congress has taken the first step towards expanding the abilities of the United States intelligence community by advancing a draft bill that will ensure the government’s spy budget stays intact into next year.

A Senate commitee approved the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act during a closed door session on Tuesday, a bill that if signed into law will allow the US National Security Agency and other departments to keep receiving funding amid an international scandal that has caused calls for reform and even abolishment of the NSA both in the US and abroad in recent months.

Notwithstanding the backlash brought on by an array of secret NSA documents disclosed to the media by contractor-turned-leaked Edward Snowden since June, the Senate Intelligence Committee passed the draft bill by a 13-2 vote. Next, the full chamber will weigh in on the matter before it is reconciled with a sister act by way of the House of Representatives and sent to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

If approved with all of its current provisions in place, the law will let the government continue to fund programs operated for purposes of counterterrorism and nuclear weapon proliferation prevention, authorizing initiatives within more than a dozen federal departments, including the NSA and others that deal in covert, intelligence-gathering operations.

In a press release issued Tuesday by the committee, however, its members also acknowledged that the bill expands certain intelligence community operations, including in particular the very programs enacted to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

The bill, the committee wrote, “includes important provisions to enhance the conduct, accountability and oversight of the intelligence activities of the United States,” such as one intended “to protect against insider threats by adding necessary funds to deploy information technology detection systems across the intelligence community.”

The bill would also empower the Director of National Intelligence to “improve the government’s process to investigate . . . individuals with security clearances to access classified information,” while at same time “Instituting new statutory protections that protect the ability of legitimate whistleblowers to bring concerns directly to the attention of lawmakers, inspectors general and intelligence community leaders.”

Since the identity of the NSA leaker was revealed to be 30-year-old Edward Snowden, opponents of his actions have suggested that alternative, legal routes to questions the intelligence community’s tactics could have been taken, such as appealing to an inspector general. History, however, suggests that recent whistleblowers before him had a nearly impossible time doing as much, including Thomas Drake, a former senior NSA executive who was charged under the Espionage Act after he attempted to draw attention to waste, fraud and abuse within his agency years earlier. Speaking at an anti-NSA rally in Washington last month, Drake told a crowd of a couple thousand, “Any domestic surveillance legislation must include whistleblower protection for the credibility and enforcement of any reform effort, otherwise secrecy enforced by repression will turn into a faux reform passed into simply an honor system” for the NSA.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia said, “This year’s intelligence authorization bill achieves both objectives by providing clear guidance and appropriate resources to the intelligence community, while enhancing the committee’s oversight of vital intelligence activities.”

If signed into law, the act will allow for funding to continue with regards to a number of intelligence-gathering operations conducted not just by the likes of the NSA, but also the Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, Energy and Justice, among others.

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How America was lost

By Paul Craig Roberts | Press TV | November 7, 2013

“No legal issue arises when the United States responds to a challenge to its power, position, and prestige.” Dean Acheson , 1962, speaking to the American Society of International Law.

Dean Acheson declared 51 years ago that power, position, and prestige are the ingredients of national security and that national security trumps law. In the United States democracy takes a back seat to “national security,” a prerogative of the executive branch of government.

National security is where the executive branch hides its crimes against law, both domestic and international, its crimes against the Constitution, its crimes against innocent citizens both at home and abroad, and its secret agendas that it knows that the American public would never support.

“National security” is the cloak that the executive branch uses to make certain that the US government is unaccountable.

Without accountable government there is no civil liberty and no democracy except for the sham voting that existed in the Soviet Union and now exists in the US.

There have been periods in US history, such as President Lincoln’s war to prevent secession, World War I, and World War II, when accountable government was impaired. These were short episodes of the Constitution’s violation, and the Constitution was reinstated in the aftermath of the wars. However, since the Clinton regime, the accountability of government has been declining for more than two decades, longer than the three wars combined.

In law there is the concept of adverse possession, popularly known as “squatters’ rights.” A non-owner who succeeds in occupying a piece of property or some one else’s right for a certain time without being evicted enjoys the ownership title conveyed to him. The reasoning is that by not defending his rights, the owner showed his disinterest and in effect gave his rights away.

Americans have not defended their rights conveyed by the US Constitution for the duration of the terms of three presidents. The Clinton regime was not held accountable for its illegal attack on Serbia. The Bush regime was not held accountable for its illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Obama regime was not held accountable for its renewed attack on Afghanistan and its illegal attacks on Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen, and by its proxies on Syria.

We also have other strictly illegal and unconstitutional acts of government for which the government has not been held accountable. The Bush regimes’ acts of torture, indefinite detention, and warrantless spying, and the Obama regime’s acts of indefinite detention, warrantless spying, and murder of US citizens without due process. As the Obama regime lies through its teeth, we have no way of knowing whether torture is still practiced.

If these numerous criminal acts of the US government spread over the terms of three presidents pass into history as unchallenged events, the US government will have acquired squatters’ rights in lawlessness. The US Constitution will be, as President George W. Bush is reported to have declared, “a scrap of paper.”

Lawlessness is the hallmark of tyranny enforced by the police state. In a police state law is not a protector of rights but a weapon in the hands of government. [see Roberts & Stratton, The Tyranny of Good Intentions] The accused has no recourse to the accusation, which does not require evidence presented to a court. The accused is guilty by accusation alone and can be shot in the back of the head, as under Stalin, or blown up by a drone missile, as under Obama.

As a person aware of the long struggle against the tyrannical state, I have been amazed and disheartened by the acceptance not only by the insouciant American public, but also by law schools, bar associations, media, Congress and the Supreme Court of the executive branch’s claim to be above both law and the US Constitution.

As Lawrence Stratton and I show in our book about how the law was lost, liberals and conservatives chasing after their favorite devils, such as child abusers and drug pushers, and prosecutors, judges, and police devoted to conviction and not to justice, have gradually eroded over time the concept of law as a protection of the innocent, With the atmosphere of threat created by 9/11, the final destruction of the protective features of law was quickly achieved in the name of making us safe from terrorists.

The fact that we are no longer safe from our own government did not register.

This is how liberty was lost, and America with it.

Can liberty be regained? Probably not, but there is a chance if Americans have the necessary strength of character. The chance comes from the now known fact that the neoconservative Bush/Cheney regime took America and its puppet states to war in Afghanistan and Iraq entirely on the basis of lies. As all evidence proves, these wars were not the results of mistaken intelligence. They were the products of intentional lies.

The weapons inspectors told the Bush regime that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Despite this known fact, the Bush regime sent Secretary of State Colin Powell to the UN with fabricated evidence to convince the world that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” and was a threat to the world. Even if such weapons had existed in Iraq, many countries have them, including the US and Israel, and the presence of weapons does not under the Nuremberg Laws justify unprovoked aggression against the possessor. Under the Nuremberg Laws, unprovoked military aggression is a war crime, not the possession of weapons that many countries have. The war crime was committed by the US and its “coalition of the willing,” not by Saddam Hussein.

As for the invasion of Afghanistan, we know from the last video of Osama bin Laden in October 2001, attested by experts to be the last appearance of a man dying of renal failure and other diseases, that he declared that he had no responsibility for 9/11 and that Americans should look to their own government. We know as a reported fact that the Afghan Taliban offered to turn over Osama bin Laden to Washington if the Bush regime would provide the evidence that indicated bin Laden was responsible. The Bush regime refused to hand over the (non-existent) evidence and, with support of the corrupt and cowardly Congress and the presstitute media, attacked Afghanistan without any legal justification. Remember, the FBI has stated publicly that it has no evidence that Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11 and that that is why the crimes for which the FBI wanted bin Laden did not include responsibility for the 9/11 attack.

The war propaganda campaign was well prepared. Yellow ribbon decals were handed out for cars proclaiming “support the troops.” In other words, anyone who raises the obvious questions is not supporting the troops. Still today insouciant Americans sport these decals on their cars unaware that what they are supporting are the murder of foreign women, children and village elders, the death and physical and mental maiming of American soldiers, and the worldwide destruction of the reputation of the United States, with America’s main rival, China, now calling for a “de-Americanized world.”

A country with a population as insouciant as Americans is a country in which the government can do as it pleases.

Now that we have complete proof that the criminal Bush regime took our country to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq solely on the basis of intentional lies, how can the legal institutions, the courts, the American people possibly tolerate the Obama regime’s ignoring of the obvious crimes? How can America simply accept Obama’s statement that we mustn’t look back, only move ahead? If the US government, which has committed the worst crimes of our generation, cannot be held accountable and punished, how can federal, state, and local courts fill up American prisons with people who smoked pot and with people who did not sufficiently grovel before the police state.

Doubtless, the Obama regime, should it obey the law and prosecute the Bush regime’s crimes, would have to worry about being prosecuted for its own crimes, which are just as terrible. Nevertheless, I believe that the Obama regime could survive if it put all the blame on the Bush regime, prosecuted the Bush criminals, and desisted from the illegal actions that it currently supports. This would save the Constitution and US civil liberty, but it would require the White House to take the risk that by enforcing US law, US law might be enforced against its own illegal and unconstitutional acts by a succeeding regime.

The Bush/Cheney/John Yoo neoconservative regime having got rid of US law, no doubt the Obama regime thinks it is best to leave the situation as it is, rid of law.

Without accountability, America is finished. Not only will Americans live in a police state with no civil liberties, but the rest of the world is already looking at America with a jaundiced eye. The US is being reconstituted as an authoritarian state. All it takes is one failure of accountability for the police state to become entrenched, and we have had numerous failures of accountability. Does anyone really believe that some future government is going to make restitution to persecuted truth-tellers, such as Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowdon, as was done for Japanese Americans?

Now that we know for a certain fact that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq were based on propaganda and lies, Congress and the world media should demand to know what was the real secret agenda. What are the real reasons for which Afghanistan and Iraq were invaded?

No truthful explanation for these wars exists.

Paul O’Neill, the Bush regime’s first Treasury Secretary, is on public record stating that at the very first cabinet meeting, long prior to 9/11, the agenda was a US attack on Iraq.

In other words, the Bush regime’s attack on Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11.

What was the Bush regime’s secret agenda, kept secret by the Obama regime, that required an illegal, war criminal, attack on a sovereign country, an action for which officials of Hitler’s government were executed? What is the real purpose of Washington’s wars?

It is totally and completely obvious that the wars have nothing to do with protecting Americans from terrorism. If anything, the wars stir up and create terrorists. The wars create hatred of America that never previously existed. Despite this, America is free of terrorists attacks except for the ones orchestrated by the FBI. What the fabricated “terror threat” has done is to create a thorough-going domestic police state that is unaccountable.

Americans need to understand that they have lost their country. The rest of the world needs to recognize that Washington is not merely the most complete police state since Stalinism, but also a threat to the entire world. The hubris and arrogance of Washington, combined with Washington’s huge supply of weapons of mass destruction, make Washington the greatest threat that has ever existed to all life on the planet. Washington is the enemy of all humanity.

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Liberals should stop and frisk Bill de Blasio

By Charles Davis | False Dichotomy | November 7, 2013

Over at The Nation, a debate is raging over whether students at Brown University acted inappropriately when they shouted down New York police chief Ray Kelly, preventing him from delivering an undoubtedly dull lecture about the power and glory of stopping and frisking brown people in New York City with no more probable cause then, “they’re brown and shifty eyed.”

Columnist Katha Pollitt is one who thinks the students Went Too Far. Her particularly patronizing entry in the debate, “Campus Leftists, Use Your Words,” begins by creating a false choice between heckling assholes like Ray Kelly and “informational picketing, holding a teach-in or other counter event, [and] campaigning for a speaker’s of one’s own.” One can do all of those things, actually, while still heckling assholes like Ray Kelly.

But Pollitt’s broader point is that “campus leftists” – children – didn’t win any converts by appearing to bully a poor police chief. It may have been emotionally satisfying, but radical tactics like those only suggest the left lacks for ideas. So what should have those college hot heads done? Vote Democrat and write letters to the editor and good wholesome stuff like that:

It’s fashionable on the left to mock liberalism as weak tea—and sometimes it is. But you know what is getting rid of stop-and-frisk? Liberalism. A major force in the campaign against stop-and-frisk was the NYCLU, which carries the banner of free speech for all. And Bill de Blasio, who just won the mayoral election by a landslide, has pledged to get rid of the policy and Ray Kelly too. Those victories were not won by a handful of student radicals who stepped in with last-minute theatrics. They were won by people who spent years building a legal case and mobilizing popular support for change.

This is wrong and I don’t just say that as a radical leftist who thinks liberalism is weak tea compared to my anarcho-espresso. It is factually wrong. Bill de Blasio, the next mayor of New York City, has not in fact “pledged to get rid of the policy” of stop-and-frisk. What he has pledged to do is rather different. And very liberal.

Under the heading, “Fighting for Meaningful Stop-and-Frisk Reform,” de Blasio’s campaign website informs us that he “has pushed for real reforms in stop-and-frisk” and called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg “to immediately end the overuse and abuse of this tactic.” So de Blasio isn’t looking to “get rid” of anything but, if we’re being cynical – and since we’re dealing with politicians we should be – the public anger over stop-and-frisk. His issue is that the tactic is being overused and abused, not that it’s being used at all. He also boasts that he backed an initiative “which significantly expanded the number of NYPD officers on the streets.” Anyone know what the NYPD’s been up to lately?

Like other successful politicians, de Blasio campaigned in such a way that supporters of all stripes could see what they wanted. If you don’t like stop-and-frisk, you maybe read his condemnations of its “abuse” as a condemnation of the program as a whole – and he took advantage of that, benefiting from a public sick of Mike Bloomberg the same way Barack Obama took advantage of a public sick of George Bush, his mere election seen as repudiation of what came before. By now, we really ought to know better; we ought to know we should wait for concrete action before celebrating a promise; we ought to know those promises, even as weak as they may be, are made to be broken.

Meanwhile, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay that aren’t stuck inside being force-fed can expect partly cloudy skies and highs in the upper 80s over the next week, with a slight chance of rain.

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Neoliberal Myths

Why Ray Kelly Protesters Did the Right Thing

By ANDREW TILLETT-SAKS | CounterPunch | November 7, 2013

Every few years, protestors shout down a conservative speaker at an American University. Every few years, rancorous debate ensues. Every few years, the warring sides yell past one another; the opponents of the ‘shout-down’ uphold the sanctity of ‘free speech’ while the protestors decry the awful ‘real world impact’ of the conservative speaker’s message.

In the wake of the Brown University shout-down of Ray Kelly, champion of the NYPD’s racist stop-and-frisk policy and racial profiling in general, the debate has resurfaced. Rather than talking past the anti-protestors’ arguments, they need to be addressed directly. The prototypical argument in denouncing the protestors is not a defense of Ray Kelly’s racism. It is twofold: First, that a free-flowing discourse on the matter will allow all viewpoints to be weighed and justice to inevitably emerge victorious on its merits. Second, that stopping a bigot from speaking in the name of freedom is self-defeating as it devolves our democratic society into tyranny.

The twofold argument against the protestors stems from two central myths of neoliberalism. The argument for free discourse as the enlightened path to justice ignores that direct action protest is primarily responsible for most of the achievements we would consider ‘progress’ historically (think civil rights, workers’ rights, suffrage, etc.), not the free exchange of ideas. The claim that silencing speech in the name of freedom is self-defeating indulges in the myth of the pre-existence of a free society in which freedom of speech must be preciously safeguarded, while ignoring the woeful shortcomings of freedom of speech in our society which must be addressed before there is anything worth protecting.

Critics of the protest repeatedly denounced direct action in favor of ideological debate as the path to social justice. “It would have been more effective to take part in a discussion rather than flat out refuse to have him speak,” declared one horrified student to the Brown Daily Herald. Similarly, Brown University President Christina Paxson labeled the protest a detrimental “affront to democratic civil society,” and instead advocated “intellectual rigor, careful analysis, and…respectful dialogue and discussion.” Yet the implication that masterful debate is the engine of social progress could not be more historically unfounded. Only in the fairy tale histories of those interested in discouraging social resistance does ‘respectful dialogue’ play a decisive role in struggles against injustice. The eight-hour workday is not a product of an incisive question-and-answer session with American robber barons. Rather, hundreds of thousands of workers conducted general strikes during the nineteenth century, marched in the face of military gunfire at Haymarket Square in 1886, and occupied scores of factories in the 1930’s before the eight-hour work day became American law. Jim Crow was not defeated with the moral suasion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches. Rather, hundreds of thousands marched on Washington, suffered through imprisonment by racist Southern law enforcement, and repeatedly staged disruptive protests to win basic civil rights. On a more international scale, Colonialism, that somehow-oft-forgotten tyranny that plagued most of the globe for centuries, did not cease thanks to open academic dialogue. Bloody resistance, from Algeria to Vietnam to Panama to Cuba to Egypt to the Philippines to Cameroon and to many other countries, was the necessary tool that unlocked colonial shackles. Different specific tactics have worked in different contexts, but one aspect remains constant: The free flow of ideas and dialogue, by itself, has rarely been enough to generate social progress. It is not that ideas entirely lack social power, but they have never been sufficient in winning concessions from those in power to the oppressed. Herein lies neoliberal myth number one—that a liberal free-market society will inexorably and inherently march towards greater freedom. To the contrary, direct action has always proved necessary.

Yet there are many critics of the protestors who do not claim Ray Kelly’s policies can be defeated with sharp debate. Instead, they argue that any protest in the name of freedom which blocks the speech of another is self-defeating, causing more damage to a free society by ‘silencing’ another than any potential positive effect of the protest. The protestors, the argument goes, tack society back to totalitarian days of censorship rather than forward to greater freedom. The protestors, however well intentioned, have pedantically thwarted our cherished liberal democracy by imposing their will on others.

The premise of this argument is neoliberal myth number two—that we live in a society with ‘freedom of speech’ so great it must be protected at all costs. This premise stems from an extremely limited conception of ‘freedom of speech’. Free speech should not be considered the mere ability to speak freely and inconsequentially in a vacuum, but rather the ability to have one’s voice heard equally. Due to the nature of private media and campaign finance in American society, this ability is woefully lopsided as political and economic barriers abound. Those with money easily have their voices heard through media and politics, those without have no such freedom. There is a certain irony (and garish privilege) of upper-class Ivy Leaguers proclaiming the sanctity of a freedom of speech so contingent upon wealth and political power. There is an even greater irony that the fight for true freedom of speech, if history is any indicator, must entail more direct action against defenders of the status quo such as Ray Kelly. To denounce such action out of indulgence in the neoliberal myth of a sacrosanct, already existing, freedom of speech is to condemn the millions in this country with no meaningful voice to eternal silence.

Every few years, an advocate of oppression is shouted down.  Every few years, the protestors are denounced. They are asked to trust open, ‘civil’ dialogue to stop oppression, despite a historical record of struggle and progress that speaks overwhelmingly to the contrary. They are asked to restrain their protest for freedom so to protect American freedom of speech, despite the undeniable fact that our private media and post-Citizens United political system hear only dollars, not the voices of the masses. Some will claim that both sides have the same goal, freedom, but merely differ on tactics. Yet the historical record is too clear and the growing dysfunctions in our democracy too gross to take any such claims as sincere. In a few years, when protestors shout down another oppressive conservative, we will be forced to lucidly choose which side we are on: The oppressors or the protestors. The status quo or progress.

Andrew Tillett-Saks is an organizer with UNITE HERE Local 217. He can be reached at:  atillett-saks@unitehere.org.

Ray Kelly At Brown (Full Inside Event Coverage)

Video by Emily Kassie | www.brownpoliticalreview.org

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Video | , , , , | Leave a comment

In Bed with the Bully—Consensual U.S. Surveillance in Mexico

By Peter Watt | NACLA | November 7, 2013

The revelations leaked by Edward Snowden that the NSA committed acts of espionage against top Mexican officials and the president himself have so far provoked only mild indignation from the Mexican political class. Secretary of Foreign Affairs José Antonio Meade appeared to be reassured by President Obama’s ‘word’ that he would launch an investigation into the workings of the U.S. government. Notwithstanding the incongruity that any government investigating its own internal wrongdoing would have any interest in publicizing conclusive evidence of its own criminal activity, President Peña Nieto has been reluctant to push the Obama administration further on the issue, presumably for fear of undermining Mexico’s position as a staunch U.S. economic and political ally.

Ex-president Vicente Fox, meanwhile, enthusiastically endorsed U.S. spying on Mexican politicians, claiming he knew the U.S. spied on him while he was president. Indeed, Fox took comfort in the fact that the world’s superpower monitored his every move and his phone calls, evoking the ominous adage reminiscent of all authoritarian political institutions: one has nothing to be concerned about so long as one has nothing to hide and done nothing wrong. “Everyone will do better if they think they’re being spied on,” he noted, at once reinforcing the dubious entitlement of the U.S. government to act as the world’s police force while simultaneously apologizing for the illegal activities of the NSA. Mr. Fox seems unable to comprehend the basic moral and legal truism that merely because many are involved in committing criminal activities, the moral and legal implications do not simply vanish into thin air. A reasonable observer might instead conclude that the greater the number of international government institutions that are involved in criminal activity, the more serious the problem, not the reverse. “It’s nothing new that there’s espionage in every government in the world, including Mexico’s,” Fox observed. Flummoxed as to why Snowden’s revelations have provoked outrage among the Mexican populace and investigative journalists (if not in government itself), he declared, “I don’t understand the scandal.”

One document obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University details Janet Napolitano’s (then Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) official meeting with President Peña Nieto in July 2013. According to Napolitano’s briefing, avoiding discussion of NSA spying on the upper echelons appears to be a Mexican, not solely U.S., initiative. The Mexicans, the document claims, wanted to ‘put to bed’ the issue of NSA intrusions. Indeed, nowhere in the summary of their meeting does the issue arise. Instead, discussions focus on maintaining and increasing border security in order to protect commercial interests and on reducing the number of undocumented migrants entering the United States.

The listless and at times surreal reaction to NSA surveillance by Mexico’s political class demonstrates their level of craven subordination to their U.S. counterparts. One can only begin to imagine the response of the U.S. political class and media pundits were they to discover that Mexican intelligence had repeatedly intercepted the electronic communications and tapped the phones of the Commander in Chief himself.

The Mexican reaction to NSA snooping on the inner circle of government stands in stark contrast to that of Brazil’s. Snowden’s leaks provoked fury within the government of President Dilma Rousseff. She blasted the NSA tapping of her phone and interception of government communications in a fiery speech clearly aimed at President Obama at the UN General Assembly. She lambasted the NSA for spying on millions of Brazilian citizens, tapping the phones of Brazilian embassies, and spying on the country’s partly state-owned petroleum giant, Petrobras. Interestingly, she remarked that the bulk of NSA spying in Brazil was not designed to thwart potential terrorists or to undermine the activities of transnational criminal organizations, but instead, to further U.S. business interests through both international economic and commercial spying. As a result, Rousseff cancelled her planned diplomatic visit to Washington, called for an international conference on data security, began setting up a protected governmental electronic communications system, and proposed changing underwater cables so that international Brazilian internet traffic would no longer pass through U.S. territory.

Brazil’s position, of course, is a reflection of the changing nature of U.S.-Latin American relations more generally. Brazil, the emerging regional power and now less of a fixture of Uncle Sam’s backyard, can afford to take an increasingly independent stance from Washington. Several countries in the region are integrating with each other politically and economically and establishing firm trade links with China, India, and South Africa—an unprecedented dynamic which has had the effect of undermining U.S. hegemony in the region.

Mexico, however, dependent on the U.S. market for 80% of its exports, is much less able to stand up to the superpower. Indeed, Mexico’s traditional position as a subordinate and reliable ally of its northern neighbor is becoming all the more crucial in maintaining the waning U.S. empire, increasingly defensive and militaristic as it reasserts its influence over the region. With a myriad of uncertainties lying ahead for U.S. power in a region that has witnessed the birth of new left-wing social movements that have had considerable success at the ballot box, it is becoming imperative for the United States to uphold and preserve its political, economic, and military alliances as per Mexico and Colombia. In Mexico, U.S. funding for the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ has provided a convenient pretext for heavy militarization throughout the country and a clamping down on political dissent and organized popular movements. Spying and surveillance programs are key to achieving the U.S. objective of continuing and reinforcing a status quo that now sees well over half the population in Mexico living in poverty and unparalleled levels of economic inequality.

As in Brazil, U.S. spying in Mexico seems less to do with the ‘War on Terror’ and the ‘War on Drugs’—two key rhetorical tenets of U.S. interventionism—and more to do with the realpolitik of ensuring that a pliant and subservient political class, personified by Fox, Calderón, and Peña Nieto, guard the current transnational dynamics—a socio-economic system that rewards the powerful moneyed neoliberal elites on both sides of the border and keeps the poor and marginalized in their place.

There is a further aspect to the Mexican response to NSA spying which warrants scrutiny. Throughout the Cold War, the CIA and its Mexican counterpart, the DFS, shared all manner of material and intelligence on dissidents (Marxists, communists, students, guerrillas, trade unionists, peasant activists, feminists, etc.) who were often incarcerated or liquidated because, as the authoritarian and paternalistic President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz claimed, they were a threat to ‘national security.’

The current partnership between the U.S. and Mexican governments allows for a level of surveillance of which Mexico’s Cold Warriors could only dream. In collaboration with telecommunications giants, the U.S. and Mexican governments provide the wherewithal and funding for large-scale spying on the Mexican citizenry. Indeed, Mexico’s Federal Ministerial Police (PFM) has recently designed a system of total surveillance and increased storage of electronic communications. In a climate in which there exist widening socio-economic disparities, a grave security crisis, and a growing disillusionment with the status quo, both the U.S. and Mexican governments have a shared interest in forestalling the development of a widespread popular political revolt and a potential ‘Mexican Spring.’ Were there any mystery as to why the Mexican response to Snowden’s revelations was so moderate, one would only need to recall Vicente Fox’s unintentionally shrewd observation that all governments have an interest in spying on one another and on their own citizens. The lackluster reaction from Los Pinos to the NSA revelations is reflective of the extent to which Mexican elite politicians acquiesce in the intrusions, largely because they themselves use domestic spying to further their own sectional interests in a country in which, little more than a decade after the ‘transition to democracy,’ the majority of the population are excluded from meaningful political participation.

Peter Watt teaches Latin American Studies at the University of Sheffield. He is co-author of the book, Drug War Mexico. Politics, Violence and Neoliberalism in the New Narcoeconomy (Zed Books 2012).

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Economics, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Gitmo a black hole where no laws apply’ – former detainee David Hicks

RT | November 7, 2013

Australian citizen David Hicks suffered torture and brutal beatings at the hands of guards at Guantanamo prison. Breaking the gag order that was a condition of his release, Hicks spoke to RT about his ordeal and how he was coerced into pleading guilty.

38-year-old David Hicks spent over five years in Guantanamo Prison accused of aiding terrorists. He was eventually convicted under the 2006 Military Commissions Act for “providing material support to terrorism” and released in 2007 after pleading guilty. Hicks has filed to have the convictions overturned, alleging his plea was made under duress and he had no other choice but to confess.

During his six years at Guantanamo, Hicks says he was subjected to both mental and psychological torture, forced to take injections and brought to the brink of suicide by the prison staff.

“Myself and everyone else were tortured on a daily basis,” Hicks said. “That ranges from typical physical beatings to a whole range of psychological ploys. There was medical experimentation that was very scary to be subjected to.”

The staff at Guantanamo forced inmates to take pills and injections, and they would face beatings if they resisted, Hicks said. The prisoners were never informed as to the nature of the drugs they were made to take.

Hicks said that being white and Australian gave him a privileged position in the prison, allowing him to avoid some of the physical abuse that went on.

“Being white and, more importantly, English being my first language, that allowed me to communicate with the guards and probably talk my way out of being beaten and tortured more – this is the guards, so it’s separate to interrogation – versus some of the Arabs and Afghans, who couldn’t speak English at all.”

He described the guards as having “no patience” and when they were frustrated they would beat the inmates until their “bones were broken.”

“Once the detainee was beaten and removed, they’d have to use hoses and scrubbing brushes to remove the blood from the cement floor,” Hicks said.

After almost five years of imprisonment in Guantanamo, Hicks said he had lost the ability “to fight, to have hope, to believe that justice would prevail” and was contemplating suicide.

“Guantanamo is sort of this black hole where supposedly no laws apply except what they decide.”

Setting the record straight

When he was finally offered the chance to leave the prison it came with a price. Australian Prime Minister John Howard sent a message to Hicks’ lawyer, saying that “under no circumstances” would the Australian government allow him to return without entering into some sort of plea.

Hicks was subsequently given the opportunity to sign an Alford Plea – a piece of US legislation that allows a defendant to plead guilty, but without admitting guilt to a particular crime. Upon agreeing to the plea, Hicks was told he would be freed in 60 days.

“I ended up taking that deal, knowing that I could get out in 60 days and back to Australia and deal with it,” said Hicks, who still maintains his innocence.

When he returned to Australia he was put into isolation in an Adelaide prison and had a gagging order placed on him, forbidding him from talk about his experience in Guantanamo.

Six years on, however, Hicks is moving to set the record straight and clear his name of the charges that he claims are legally invalid.

Hicks referred to the case of Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni national also charged with providing material support to terrorists who had the charges overturned after an appeal in a federal court. The court ruled in his favor on the basis that the 2006 Military Commissions Act, under which the charges were made, was flawed and unconstitutional.

“Material support for terrorism is not a recognized crime and if it was, it was applied retroactively anyway,” said Hicks, describing his appeal as a “formality.”

The Northern Alliance in Afghanistan captured David Hicks in 2001 and handed him over to American jurisdiction for a $1,000 bounty. Hicks, a convert to Islam, admitted that he had trained in an al-Qaeda paramilitary camp during his time in Afghanistan, but maintains he never participated in terrorist activities.

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rousseff slams US failure to apologise over spying

BRICS POST | November 7, 2013

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said Wednesday that Washington’s refusal to tender an apology for the spying led to her cancelling her crucial state visit to the United States.

“I was going to travel. We said there was only one way to solve the problem, and it was an apology for what happened and a promise that it would not happen again,” she said in a local radio interview.

The trip was initially scheduled to begin on October 23.

The lack of apology from Washington created an impasse, she said, adding that she did not want to run the risk of having a new spying scandal break during her visit, which would be an embarrassment for both sides.

Rousseff also reiterated her charges against the US, saying the NSA surveillance program is economic espionage borne out of commercial and strategic interests.

She said reports of the NSA intercepting communication of state-oil giant Petrobras have belied US claims of the PRISM program being directed to thwart terrorism.

In Wednesday’s interview, Rousseff also responded to a recent story in the Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo, accusing Brazil’s intelligence agency of spying on diplomats from Russia, Iran and Iraq in 2003 and 2004.

She said the agency’s operations did not involve privacy violations as no phone calls or emails were tapped.

Rousseff had attacked the United States in her opening speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September.

“Brazil, Mr President, knows how to protect itself. We reject, fight and do not harbour terrorist groups,” she said.

“As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country,” she added.

Earlier on Tuesday Brazil made public a draft bill that will allow the government to prevent internet companies like Google and Facebook from storing data about Brazilian citizens outside the country.

Simultaneous revelations regarding the UK embassy housing a secret listening post in Berlin made Germany summon the British Ambassador to respond to the allegations.

With inputs from Agencies

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment