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AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Schoolchildren exposed to teargas seven of the last eight days

CPTnet | February 25, 2014

Israeli soldiers have shot teargas and sound grenades at children who cross checkpoints 29 and 209 on their way to school in the morning on seven of the last eight school days.

International observers and human rights workers in Hebron have witnessed Israeli soldiers repeatedly firing grenades and sound bombs into the streets near these checkpoints while children are walking to school.  The children attend several schools located both in the Old City and in the area of Hebron designated as H2, on the other side of the checkpoints, and include preschool students as young as four.  Depending on where they live and which school they attend, children must cross these checkpoints in both directions to reach schools both inside the old city and in H2.

Because the Israeli military does not allow buses that transport younger children to preschool and kindergarten classes in H2 to cross the checkpoints, very young children living in the Old City must walk through these checkpoint areas in order to reach their school buses.

At times, the use of teargas by soldiers has been in response to several children throwing stones, but internationals have also witnessed soldiers firing teargas canisters without provocation.  In any event, because so many children pass through the same area to reach school at the same time, hundreds of children, many of them in primary grades, suffer the effects of gas on an almost daily basis. Additionally, because the agents used to manufacture teargas are actually solids, they remain inside shops, on clothing, and in the streets where children walk and play throughout the day.

Although the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) prohibits the use of teargas and pepper spray in warfare, domestic police and state forces are allowed to use these weapons on people as “riot control” agents.

Tear gas is a non-lethal chemical weapon that stimulates the corneal nerves in the eyes to cause tears, pain—which can be extreme, immediate and severe nausea, and even blindness. Longer term effects include persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and other lung-related problems (heightened in people who already have lung problems), heart and liver damage, delayed menstruation, and an increase in miscarriages and stillbirths in women exposed to the gas. The NGO Physicians for Human Rights believes that “‘tear gas’ is a misnomer for a group of poisonous gases which, far from being innocuous, have serious acute and longer-term adverse effects on the health of significant numbers of those exposed.”

In addition to the effects of the gas, the teargas cartridges fired by soldiers can cause serious injury and even death if they strike people, especially if soldiers fire the cartridges straight into crowds rather than into the air.  Internationals and Palestinians report having seen soldiers fire teargas straight into the roads near these checkpoints.

The teargas used on school children in Hebron comes primarily from the United States and is manufactured primarily by Combined Systems Inc. of Jamestown, Pennsylvania and Defense Technology of Casper, Wyoming. Combined Systems Inc. (CSI)—often manufacturing under the brand name Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) are owned by Point Lookout Capital and the Carlyle Group.  CSI is the primary supplier of tear gas to the Israeli military as well as a provider to Israel’s police (and border police) for use in occupied Palestine.

Defense Technology is headquartered in Casper, Wyoming. Along with U.S. company Federal Laboratories, with which it shares a product line, it has links to the U.K. arms giant BAE Systems through BAE’s ownership of U.S. arms company Armor Holdings.

The War Resisters League has launched a campaign to abolish teargas, and to encourage people who have been impacted by its use to tell their stories.  The campaign seeks “the global ban of tear gas by first ending the sale, manufacture, and shipment of tear gas made in the US through organizing and applying grassroots pressure on

To learn more about teargas in Palestine and throughout the world, or to add your story to the campaign, visit facingteargas.org

February 25, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Comments Off on AL-KHALIL (HEBRON): Schoolchildren exposed to teargas seven of the last eight days

Corporatizing National Security: What It Means

By Ralph Nader | June 20, 2013

Privacy is a sacred word to many Americans, as demonstrated by the recent uproar over the brazen invasion of it by the Patriot Act-enabled National Security Agency (NSA). The information about dragnet data-collecting of telephone and internet records leaked by Edward Snowden has opened the door to another pressing conversation—one about privatization, or corporatization of this governmental function.

In addition to potentially having access to the private electronic correspondence of American citizens, what does it mean that Mr. Snowden—a low-level contractor—had access to critical national security information not available to the general public? Author James Bamford, an expert on intelligence agencies, recently wrote: “The Snowden case demonstrates the potential risks involved when the nation turns its spying and eavesdropping over to companies with lax security and inadequate personnel policies. The risks increase exponentially when those same people must make critical decisions involving choices that may lead to war, cyber or otherwise.”

This is a stark example of the blurring of the line between corporate and governmental functions. Booz Allen Hamilton, the company that employed Mr. Snowden, earned over $5 billion in revenues in the last fiscal year, according to The Washington Post. The Carlyle Group, the majority owner of Booz Allen Hamilton, has made nearly $2 billion on its $910 million investment in “government consulting.” It is clear that “national security” is big business.

Given the value and importance of privacy to American ideals, it is disturbing how the terms “privatization” and “private sector” are deceptively used. Many Americans have been led to believe that corporations can and will do a better job handling certain vital tasks than the government can. Such is the ideology of privatization. But in practice, there is very little evidence to prove this notion. Instead, the term “privatization” has become a clever euphemism to draw attention away from a harsh truth. Public functions are being handed over to corporations in sweetheart deals while publicly owned assets such as minerals on public lands and research development breakthroughs are being given away at bargain basement prices.

These functions and assets—which belong to or are the responsibility of the taxpayers—are being used to make an increasingly small pool of top corporate executives very wealthy. And taxpayers are left footing the cleanup bill when corporate greed does not align with the public need.

With this in mind, let us not mince words. “Privatization” is a soft term. Let us call the practice what it really is—corporatization.

There’s big money to be made in moving government-owned functions and assets into corporate hands. Public highways, prisons, drinking water systems, school management, trash collection, libraries, the military and now even national security matters are all being outsourced to corporations. But what happens when such vital government functions are performed for big profit rather than the public good?

Look to the many reports of waste, fraud, and abuse that arose out of the over-use of corporate contractors in Iraq. At one point, there were more contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan than U.S. soldiers. Look to the private prisons, which make their money by incarcerating as many people as they can for as long as they can. Look to privatized water systems, the majority of which deliver poorer service at higher costs than public utility alternatives. Visit privatizationwatch.org for many more examples of the perils, pitfalls and excesses of rampant, unaccountable corporatization.

In short, corporatizing public functions does not work well for the public, consumers and taxpayers who are paying through the nose.

Some right-wing critics might view government providing essential public services as “socialism,” but as it now stands, we live in a nation increasingly comprised of corporate socialism. There is great value in having public assets and functions that are already owned by the people, to be performed for the public benefit, and not at high profit margins and prices for big corporations. By allowing corporate entities to assume control of such functions, it makes profiteering the central determinant in what, how, and why vital services are rendered.

Just look at the price of medicines given to drug companies by taxpayer-funded government agencies that discovered them.

(Autographed copies of my new book Told You So: The Big Book of Weekly Columns are available from Politics and Prose, an independent book store in Washington D.C.)

June 21, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , , | Comments Off on Corporatizing National Security: What It Means

The advantages of knowing everything

Xymphora | June 16, 2013

Here we go:  “NSA admits listening to U.S. phone calls without warrants”:

“A requirement of the 2008 law is that the NSA “may not intentionally target any person known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States.” A possible interpretation of that language, some legal experts said, is that the agency may vacuum up everything it can domestically — on the theory that indiscriminate data acquisition was not intended to “target” a specific American citizen.”

Gathering everything is OK.  Also:

“Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell indicated during a House Intelligence hearing in 2007 that the NSA’s surveillance process involves “billions” of bulk communications being intercepted, analyzed, and incorporated into a database.
They can be accessed by an analyst who’s part of the NSA’s “workforce of thousands of people” who are “trained” annually in minimization procedures, he said. (McConnell, who had previously worked as the director of the NSA, is now vice chairman at Booz Allen Hamilton, Snowden’s former employer.)”

As far as the NSA is concerned, gathering everything without warrants is legally permitted, and once they have it, NSA analysts who are ‘trained’ to NSA standards are legally allowed to listen to whatever they want.  Gathering everything is actually better than getting a FISA warrant for a particular target.

PRISM is going to take over the entire discussion, and, lo and behold, it is not that bad.  Get  a few more keys for the ‘lockbox’, and all will be deemed to be well.

The three big questions concerning Total Information Awareness are:

  1. economic – can we pay to store all this information?;
  2. technical – can we develop search engines that will allow us to handle all this information without becoming paralyzed by the sheer volume of it (remember that Simon’s big straw man was the ridiculousness of having FBI agents listen to all the conversations!!!), the traditional problem with totalitarian states?; and
  3. legal – in a country with constitutional protections for basic liberties, how is any of this allowed?

The NSA believes it has an answer to the first two of these problems, and just needs to fool Americans into believing that the presence of those scary Moooooooslims under their beds justifies a bit of bending of the constitution to finesse the legal problem.  Some tinkering will be done to PRISM, and everybody will go back to sleep.

The final step will be to continue to expand the exploitation of the information as a method of social control using blackmail or something like blackmail – even the awareness that there is information out there that could be used for blackmail will start to influence behavior, particularly repressing any kind of political protest (not that there is much of that anyway) – and to use the insider information to siphon up whatever wealth is not yet in the hands of the 1% (it is a fun fact that Booz Allen is owned by the Carlyle Group).

June 16, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment