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Israel stands behind travel restrictions for Palestinian football players

RT | June 11, 2014

Israel’s sports minister has defended the country’s travel restrictions against Palestinian football players in a letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter, citing security concerns.

Tel Aviv indicates potential attacks by Palestinian militants as the pretext for the prohibitive travel rules that affect most Palestinians, including athletes. Israel has barred travel between the West Bank and Gaza – territories located on opposite ends of Israel which Palestinians seek to include in a future state.

Israeli sports minister Limor Livnat said to Blatter in the letter that Israel would allow Palestinian athletes to “exit and enter for the purpose of sports, excluding occasions in which there are attempts to make use of sports in order to injure or threaten the security of our citizens.”

Livnat said Israel detained Palestinian national team player Sameh Maraabeh in April based on suspicion over a meeting with a “military activist” of the Islamic militant group Hamas during his team’s training in Qatar. She alleged that Maraabeh took funding, a mobile phone, and a written message from the activist. He remains in detention.

“I am confident you will find this information worrisome and constituting clear evidence of the misuse of sports in a fashion that threatens the security of Israeli civilians,” Livnat wrote, according to AP.

The Palestine Football Association had previously called on the FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) Congress to suspend Israel from FIFA until it relieves the restrictions on Palestinian players.

FIFA is to meet in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Tuesday and Wednesday this week ahead of the World Cup tournament beginning Thursday.

In May, Blatter attempted to bring the two sides together during a trip to Jerusalem and the West Bank. He has called on the parties to “separate politics and sports” and to find a way to allow Palestinian players to travel.

In her letter to Blatter, Livnat also accused Jibril Rajoub, head of the Palestinian Football Association, of incitement against Israel.

Rajoub has described Israel as the “bully of the neighborhood,” and called on FIFA to levy sanctions against Tel Aviv for policies toward Palestinians.

Those policies include delaying or preventing visiting athletes and sports delegations from entering the West Bank and blocking some Palestinian players from leaving Gaza, according to Palestinian officials.

Jamal Mahmoud, head coach of the Palestinian national team, said he is not aware of a meeting between Maraabeh and Hamas during the team’s training in Qatar.

“If he did talk to a member of Hamas, it was his own individual decision,” Mahmoud said.

Palestinian football officials are trying to secure a location for training before the 2015 Asian Cup. The final location depends on Israeli permission based on movements of players in and between Palestinian territories.

“The hope from these discussions is that Israel treats our Palestinian players and those responsible for our Palestinian players by the national law and the charter per the agreement with FIFA,” said Ghassan Jaradat, media director for the Palestine Football Association.

June 10, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hamas-Fatah Reconciliation

By Jonathon Cook | Dissident Voice | June 10, 2014

Nazareth – In the celebratory atmosphere last week as the Palestinian unity government was sworn in, ending a seven-year feud between Fatah and Hamas, it was easy to overlook who was absent.

Hamas had agreed to remain in the shadows to placate Washington, which is legally obligated to refuse aid to a government that includes a designated terrorist group. The new Palestinian cabinet looked little different from its predecessor; Hamas’ input was limited to three independents, all in low-level ministerial positions.

And because this transitional government is still operating within the confines of Israeli occupation, the three ministers from Gaza were refused permits to travel to the West Bank for the swearing-in ceremony on June 2.

The appointment of a temporary government of technocrats is likely to be the easiest phase of the reconciliation agreed in late April. The deal has endured so far – unlike earlier agreements – because Hamas, in even more desperate straits than its rival, Fatah, has capitulated.

For that reason, the United States and most of the world hurried to offer their blessing. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, made dire warnings about the “strengthening of terror” and okayed 3,300 settler homes to punish the Palestinians.

A far trickier stage is still to come: the Palestinian cabinet under President Mahmoud Abbas needs to oversee a bitterly contested national election between Fatah and Hamas expected early next year.

The elections are seen as vital. Palestinians have had no say in who rules them since 2006, when Hamas was victorious. A year later, after brief and vicious fighting, Hamas and Fatah created separate fiefdoms in Gaza and the West Bank. Both need to prove their legitimacy at the ballot box.

Should voting take place, and Hamas win again, the US and others can be expected to boycott the new government – withdrawing desperately needed aid – as they did back in 2006.

But far more likely, Israel will not allow the elections to take place.

Eight years ago, in the months prior to voting, Israel initiated a wave of arrests of Hamas leaders in an attempt to stymie the democratic process. Israel also hoped to block voting in occupied East Jerusalem, which it considers part of its “eternal, indivisible” capital. But the White House – realising a ballot without Jerusalem would lack credibility – pressured Israel into grudging acquiescence.

Less well remembered is that Fatah quietly conspired with Israel to try to postpone the national vote. Fearing that Hamas would sweep the board, Fatah hoped to use Israeli intransigence in Jerusalem as the necessary pretext to delay the wider elections to a time more favourable to its candidates.

Netanyahu has already announced that he will not allow an election in East Jerusalem, as well as indicating that Hamas will be barred from running elsewhere. That is hardly surprising: Israel has spent the past eight years eradicating Hamas from Jerusalem by jailing its leaders or expelling them to the West Bank.

But Fatah’s behaviour in 2006 hints at an even bigger obstacle to consummating the reconciliation. The reality is that Hamas and Fatah have entered the process only out of mutual despair.

Hamas’ political and geographical isolation in Gaza has plumbed new depths since the Egyptian regime turned hostile. Blockaded on all sides, Hamas has seen its support erode as the enclave’s economic crisis has deepened. A deal with Fatah seems the only way to open the borders.

The credibility of Fatah and Abbas, meanwhile, has been steadily undermined by years of cooperation with Israel – all while the settlements have expanded – in the hope of extracting a concession on statehood. With little to show for it, Fatah is increasingly seen as Israel’s craven security contractor.

Abbas’ new strategy – creating a momentum towards statehood at the United Nations – requires that his government-in-waiting establish its democratic credentials, territorial integrity, and a national consensus behind the diplomatic option.

The priority for Netanyahu is not only to void the elections but to weaken the two sides’ commitment to unity by punishing them for their insolence. He can do so given Israel’s control over all aspects of Palestinian life.

Israel has begun not only with another glut of settlement building, but by declaring war on the Palestinian economy, refusing to accept shekel deposits from Palestinian banks, and by imposing collective daily blackouts on Palestinians for unpaid bills to Israel’s electricity company.

Abbas, now responsible for paying the salaries of tens of thousands of public employees in Gaza each month, will be even more vulnerable to Israeli threats to refuse to transfer tax and customs revenues. On Monday it was reported that Israel had also been lobbying foreign capitals to ensure the Palestinian president is held directly responsible for any rockets fired from Gaza.

Hamas faces a no less difficult period ahead. If it strays too far from Fatah’s dictates, it will be blamed for destroying the unity pact; but if it adheres too close to Fatah, it will lose its identity and risk being outflanked by more militant groups like Islamic Jihad.

Samah Sabawi, a political analyst, observed of the unity government: “What we need more than ministries and authorities is resistance and liberation.” The unity government – whether of technocrats or elected officials – will still operate within the limitations imposed by Israel’s occupation.

In fact, the unity government simply breathes new life into the illusion – created by the Oslo accords of two decades ago – that good governance by the Palestinian Authority can change the Palestinians’ situation for the better. In practice, such governance has entailed submitting to Israel’s security demands, a Palestinian obligation Abbas termed “sacred” last week.

As Sabawi suggests, an occupied people needs not better rubbish collection or street lighting but an effective strategy for resistance.

Palestinians will not benefit from a PA that polices the occupation simply because it becomes more “unified”. Rather, their struggle to attain real freedom will grow that bit more daunting.


June 10, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Maduro Unveils Policy to Eradicate Extreme Poverty in Venezuela


By Ewan Robertson | Venezuelanalysis | June 9, 2014

Mérida – Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro unveiled a new policy to focus on the needs of the least well off as part of his pledge to eradicate extreme poverty in the country by 2018.

The policy involves creating almost 1,500 special attention points that group together various social programs in areas where extreme poverty still prevails, in order to meet the basic needs of these communities.

The attention points, called Social Mission Bases, will house government social programs such as free community food kitchens, subsidised food stores, and free medical clinics. They will be spread out over the 255 of the country’s 1163 local districts where households experiencing extreme poverty still exist.

Venezuela’s National Institute of Statistics estimates that 5.5% of Venezuelan households still experience extreme poverty. This is calculated using the regionally based Unsatisfied Basic Needs (UBN) structural poverty indicator, which considers as extremely poor those homes where two or more basic needs, such as access to basic services, adequate living conditions, or schooling, are not met.

The percentage of households in extreme poverty has decreased steadily over the previous decade from 12.7% in 2003 to 5.5% currently. In the same period, overall structural poverty has decreased from 30.5% to 19.6%.

President Nicolas Maduro has vowed to eliminate extreme poverty altogether by 2018, the end of his current term of office, as well as to continue to reduce overall structural poverty.

“In the year 2018 I’ll be…able to say that we’ve achieved the goal of zero misery in Venezuela… the Bolivarian revolution must end poverty to establish a system of equality [and] justice,” he said as the first Social Mission Base was founded in the coastal state of Miranda.

Maduro also informed the country that the Social Mission Bases will be complemented with multidisciplinary teams of social program workers, such as community doctors, sports therapy trainers and cultural promoters, who will visit deprived communities house by house to assess living conditions and attend to differing needs.

“The great battalion [multi-disciplinary team] … won’t have another objective but to fight a strong battle along with our people to eradicate extreme poverty,” the president said, while also encouraging supporters to participate in the work of the Social Mission Bases.

The policy announcements come amid a debate over poverty in Venezuela, with government critics pointing to an increase in income-based poverty between the second half of 2012 and the first half of 2013, in the context of a sharp increase in annual inflation.

“The days when poverty was a winning issue for chavismo are over. Official statistics now show that poverty is rising rapidly,” wrote anti-government blogger Juan Nagel for Foreign Policy magazine recently.

Nevertheless income-based poverty actually decreased in the second half of 2013 to lower than it was in early 2012, and in keeping with the level of income-based poverty recorded in recent years, at 32.1%, down from 62.1% a decade earlier.

The Social Mission Bases policy also comes not long after Maduro announced reforms to the country’s national system of welfare programs, in order to improve their performance and reduce bureaucracy and overlapping functions.

The programs, known as “missions”, include free health clinics, free educational programs, subsidised food outlets, and the construction of heavily subsidised housing. They are held as one factor behind the large reduction in poverty since the Bolivarian government was elected to power in 1999.

June 10, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Former NSA Lawyer Asks Google To ‘Forget’ All Of Techdirt’s Posts About Him

By Tim Cushing | Techdirt | June 9, 2014

Former NSA counsel and surveillance/security state hypeman Stewart Baker has had just about enough of Techdirt making “distorted claims” about his statements for the “purposes of making money.” To counter this, he’s sent a “right to be forgotten” request to Google stating the following:

Reason this link violates the right to be forgotten:

This link is inappropriate. It compiles stories making many distorted claims about my political views. Political views are a particularly sensitive form of personal data. The stories are written by men who disagree with me, and they are assembled for the purpose of making money for a website, a purpose that cannot outweigh my interest in controlling the presentation of sensitive data about myself.

Baker’s certainly not hoping for Techdirt’s posts on him to be de-listed (although I imagine he’d indulge in a chuckle or two if they went down). He’s mocking the ridiculousness of the “right to be forgotten” ruling Google is now attempting to comply with. He has submitted other requests as well over such things as outdated photos and “inaccurate” statements as the kickoff to an informal “hack” of a bad law.

I feel bad for Google, which is stuck trying to administer this preposterous ruling. But that shouldn’t prevent us from showing quite concretely how preposterous it is.

I propose a contest. Let’s all ask for takedowns. The person who makes the most outrageous (and successful) takedown request will win a “worst abuse of privacy law” prize, otherwise known as a Privy.

Stewart’s takedown request targeting Techdirt is mostly tongue-in-cheek, but it does highlight the sort of abuse that should be expected when government bodies attempt to force the internet to bend to their will. Granting a “right to be forgotten” pretty much ensures that a majority of the requests will be no more legitimate than Baker’s.

Multiple advocates for the law have compared it with the infamous DMCA takedown notice, something that has also been routinely abused. But at least the DMCA takedown carries with it the (almost never enforced) charge of perjury for issuing bogus takedowns. The RTBF form simply asks for a copy of the submitter’s identification. There’s nothing in it to discourage abuse of the system. If you don’t like something someone has said about you on the web, just fill out a webform.

While we at Techdirt disagree with most of what Stewart Baker says, at least his position on privacy remains consistent. His “Privys” — an “award” given to the worst or most hypocritical abuser of privacy laws — have generally been awarded to worthy recipients, usually people who tend to think these laws exist to save them from their own embarrassments.

As for the “right to be forgotten,” it appears as though requests may be forwarded to Chilling Effects. On June 6th, this test post showed up in the database.

A request has been made to remove one or more links from a search page under European “right to be forgotten” rules, following Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos, Mario Costeja Gonzalez.

The body of the post contains nothing but the word “TEST” but this seems to indicate that an attempt will be made to publish takedown attempts. At this point, it’s impossible to say how much information will be redacted, or if the European Commission will even allow this sort of transparency. Google is also toying with appending messages to the bottom of search results pages indicating that link(s) may have been removed due to “RTBF” requests. If this works like DMCA requests do, then a link to Chilling Effects database will be provided. These measures won’t necessarily deter abuse, but they will make it much easier to track.

June 10, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Federal Agencies with Guns: Weather Service, Social Security, Railroad Retirement Board

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | June 10, 2014

Thousands of federal government employees are armed with handguns and even semiautomatic and automatic weapons as part of their jobs for agencies that are not traditional law enforcement operations.

These gun-toting civil servants include those performing missions that involve Social Security, delivering the mail, predicting the weather, and overseeing railroad pensions. Others authorized to carry firearms conduct audits for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Social Security Administration has sought to purchase 174,000 rounds of hollow-point bullets, while at least nine agencies have their own SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams, including the Office of Personnel Management, the Department of Labor, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the Fish and Wildlife Service.

With the increase of federal regulatory criminal laws being passed, the number of law-enforcement personnel attached to agencies has gone up as well.  But the traditional law enforcement agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Marshals Service have been unable to handle all of the demand to execute potentially dangerous investigations, searches and arrests, leading officials at these other departments to develop their own police forces, according to an analysis by Candice Bernd of Truthout.

These forces can take their jobs too seriously. In 2003, Department of Fish and Wildlife agents stormed into the home of George and Kathy Norris of Houston. George Norris imported and sold orchids. He was subsequently accused of smuggling a certain variety of the plant into the United States. Although it was later found that he had only made a few paperwork errors, he ended up pleading guilty to seven counts of violating the Endangered Species Act and served 17 months in prison.

Some lawmakers are starting to think it might be time to scale back on federal criminal codes. Last year, the Over-Criminalization Task Force (part of the House Judiciary Committee) convened for the first time to consider ways to shrink the number of laws and provisions on the books.

To Learn More:

USDA and Submachine Guns: Latest Example of Mission Creep as Federal Policing Expands (by Candice Bernd, Truthout)

Orchid Kingpin? Mistake Lands Elderly Gardener in Prison (by John Jessup, CBN News)

June 10, 2014 Posted by | Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Violent Crime Down Since Colorado Legalized Marijuana

By Noel Brinkerhoff | AllGov | June 10, 2014

When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana, critics of the idea warned it would lead to more crime throughout the state. But the impact has been just the opposite so far in the state’s largest city, which has seen violent crime go down.

Crime data for Denver, the hub of legal pot sales in the state, shows murders, assaults, rapes, burglaries and other violent crimes declined during the first three months of the year, compared with the same period for 2013.

Homicides went down from 17 to 8 (a 53% drop), automobile break-ins from 2,317 to 1,477 (down 36%) and sexual assaults from 110 to 95 (down 14%). Overall, violent and property crimes dropped more than 10% from last year to this year during the first quarter.

Two types of property crime did go up—arson from 20 incidents to 47 (a 135% jump) and larceny from 2,133 to 2,287 (up 7%).

Meanwhile, marijuana sales across the state increased during the first three months of 2014, from $14 million to $19 million, according to Vox. “For all three months, Denver County made up about half that revenue,” German Lopez reported, noting the city is host to nearly 60% of Colorado’s licensed retail pot stores. Disappointed opponents of legal marijuana pointed out that there has been no connection shown between the drop in the crime rate and the increase in marijuana sales.

Some opponents say the criminal effect of decriminalizing marijuana won’t be felt for several years. “This is a great opportunity for us to find out what happens when you legalize a substance like marijuana,” Tom Gorman, director of Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, told Vox before the police statistics came out. “Just wait and watch what happens in these labs, and then you can make a decision based on data and facts and not rhetoric.”

June 10, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

School witch-hunt fuels UK Islamophobia

By Finian Cunningham | Press TV | June 10, 2014

An official British probe this week into alleged “Islamic extremism” in schools is replete with rumor, hearsay and sensationalist accusations.

But, as it turns out, the government report is based on scant factual evidence.

What this amounts to is a “witch-hunt” against British Muslims fuelled at the highest level of government.

This exercise in fear mongering not only denigrates Muslim communities; it recklessly adds to an already hostile climate of Islamophobia in British society, where ordinary citizens are being targeting by racism and hate crimes.

This week the British government’s regulatory body, Ofsted, released a report into more than 20 schools in the midlands city of Birmingham, where it has been alleged that there is a secret plot to infiltrate the education system with “Islamic extremism.”

Six of the schools investigated have been accused of promoting “intimidation” and “intolerance” of non-Muslims. The British government has now placed the schools on a watch-list, which will involve future no-warning snap inspections.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed “a robust response to protect children” with “an extremism taskforce” that will from now on promote “British values” in schools.

The Birmingham establishments in question may now see their governors and staff sacked, and replaced by government-vetted personnel.

The local education trust that runs the facilities in Birmingham has flatly rejected the Ofsted report and the “baseless allegations.”

A senior member of Parkview Trust, which governs three of the schools investigated, said the government probe has found no evidence to support its claims. Trust chairman David Hughes said:

“This report has been conducted in a climate of suspicion… Ofsted inspectors came to our schools looking for extremism, looking for segregation, looking for proof that our children have religion forced upon them as part of an Islamic plot. The Ofsted reports find absolutely no evidence of this because this is categorically not what is happening at our schools.”

So, what is going on here? The whole affair into alleged extremism in the Birmingham schools, both secondary and primary, began some four years ago when an anonymous teacher supposedly wrote a letter to the British government claiming that there was a “Trojan Horse” plot operating in schools in majority Muslim communities across Birmingham.

That plot was said to involve the takeover of teaching staff at the schools and the infiltration of students with extremist ideology.

The letter has since been widely seen as a hoax. Even right-wing British newspapers, such as The Daily Mail, have acknowledged that the document and its accusations therein are fabrications.

Nevertheless, the allegations have taken on a life of their own and have gained credibility, largely due to incessant media vilification of the schools and Muslim communities in general.

Reprehensibly, senior British government ministers have heightened this climate of fear and the ensuing Islamophobia by giving these groundless claims of extremism credence.

Last week, the interior minister Theresa May and education minister Michael Gove engaged in a bizarre public row, accusing each other of “being soft on Islamic fundamentalism.” Then Conservative party leader David Cameron stepped in to the war of words – not to dismiss the damaging allegations against Muslim majority schools, but to merely discipline his ministers for their public bickering.

There is more than a suspicion that the Conservative ministers, May and Gove, are each exploiting the issue as a way of garnering personal publicity and to further their ambitions for taking over the party leadership from the hapless Cameron. For his part, Cameron seems to be reacting in a heavy-handed way to shore up his image as a “tough leader” instead of being seen as the lame duck premier that he is increasingly appearing to be.

With the release of the Ofsted report this week, Cameron has not challenged the dubious premise of the probe, but has instead promised a “robust response,” thus giving its claims a veneer of veracity.

Teachers, parents and community leaders in Birmingham have roundly condemned the “political agenda” of the government’s so-called probe into Islamic extremism.

Lee Donaghey, a principal at the now black-listed Parkview Academy, said the accusations were “absolutely untrue,” adding: “This is a normal state school, like thousands of others across Britain – 98 percent of our pupils just happen to be Muslims. British Muslims.”

As several local people also pointed out, the schools being targeted by the British government report have staff of different religious faiths, including Muslim and Christian. Some are agnostic.

One parent, Arshad Malik, said the conclusions of the Ofsted report claiming the existence of extremism were “completely alien” to him.

“The only thing extreme about our school is the excellence of student achievement in exams,” he added, saying that Park View had been turned around from an academically failed school into an award-winning one in recent years, thanks to the resilient efforts of the teaching staff.

What forms the basis of the British government probe is nothing but a litany of hearsay and unfounded rumor, which has been pursued with prejudice among the government school-regulators. That is a symptom of the worrying trend of increasing Islamophobia in British society at large, not the existence of “hard-line Islamic” influence in schools.

This very real and unconscionable Islamophobia is now being further whipped up at senior government level for self-serving political reasons that bear no relation to alleged problems.

Furthermore, what is even more deplorable is that the government fuelled anti-Muslim attitude in Britain is placing the lives of ordinary Muslims, including young students, at grave risk. Already, there is disturbing evidence of a soaring number of physical attacks, some of them lethal, on Muslim citizens across Britain. In the mindset of racist street thugs, all Muslims are dehumanized as “terrorists.”

What the British government is doing with its scaremongering reports of “extremist plots” at schools in Muslim communities is setting the stage for even more hate crimes.

Ironically, the one entity that can be most associated with so-called Islamic extremism is the British government itself, with its covert support for terrorists in Syria and Libya, as well as its long-held cozy relationship with the Wahhabi rulers of Saudi Arabia.

Tragically, Muslim communities across Britain are at risk of paying an even bigger price of human suffering for the reckless policies of the British government and its so-called “British values.”

June 10, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Islamophobia, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Video | | 2 Comments