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Florida Passes Bill Suppressing Free Speech on Israel, Palestine

Florida Governor Ron De Santis during his recent tour of Israel. (Photo: via Social Media)
Palestine Chronicle | June 17, 2019

Israel has been granted protection from its critics by the state of Florida in recent amendments to the Florida Educational Equality Act (FEEA) that suppresses free speech.

Under new definitions of anti-Semitism adopted by the American state, limits have been placed on discussions of the plight of the Palestinian people and underscoring the brutality of Israel’s occupation.

The bill is likely to open the door for criminal charges to be leveled against human rights activists and critics that advocate a single democratic state in which Israeli Jews, Palestinians, and all others are granted full, equal rights.

Supporters of the Palestine cause face the prospect of being silenced on the grounds that calls for equality under a single democratic state is deemed to be an attempt to deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination and that such a call for non-discrimination questions Israel’s right to exist.

Florida signed the bill while its governor, Ron DeSantis, was on tour of Israel and the occupied territories.

DeSantis, who has called Florida “the most Israel-friendly state in the country”, visited the US embassy in Jerusalem to ceremonially sign the new law. He also paid a visit to Ariel University, located in an illegal settlement, to receive an honor for “his dedication, leadership, and commitment to the State of Israel.”

Reports also confirm that he had met with Sheldon Adelson, a top funder of the Republican Party and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

June 17, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 6 Comments

Israel-based meeting of Florida cabinet triggers scandal & suit

RT | May 29, 2019

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his cabinet kicked off controversy after conducting an official meeting on Israeli soil, prompting a flurry of criticism from watchdog groups and constituents alike.

DeSantis and his cabinet met Wednesday at the US Embassy in Jerusalem to proclaim support for the Jewish state and sign a bill prohibiting anti-Semitism in Florida’s public schools. DeSantis, who has promised to be the “most pro-Israel governor in America,” called the meeting “historic.”

The Florida First Amendment Foundation, joined by four media outlets, however, say the meeting violated state legislation known as the “Sunshine Law,” which requires government meetings to be open to the public.

“Holding a meeting at this distance in such a facility violates the constitutional and statutory rights of Florida citizens (and the news media) to personally observe the workings of, and for the public to offer comment to, their state’s highest officials,” the organizations wrote in a complaint filed earlier this week.

Though state officials assured the public the meeting would be “ceremonial” in nature, and would be livestreamed on Florida public television, critics argued it did not qualify as an open proceeding.

“There are legitimate concerns regarding the constitutionality of holding a Cabinet meeting that Floridians cannot attend,” First Amendment Foundation president Barbara Petersen said in a statement.

The initial complaint was dismissed by a Florida judge on Tuesday, but the governor’s office, through a spokesperson, said it intended to comply with Florida law and defend against the allegation. The spokesperson declined to comment further on “pending litigation.”

Some of the governor’s constituents chimed in on social media, many unhappy that state resources were used on the trip.

“Pretending to play secretary of state will do nothing for you in the mind of your constituents,” wrote one Floridian. “Get back home and do something for your citizens.”

Another resident said the state did not need “public funds going towards #DeSantisIllegalVacation in a state accused of apartheid,” adding “our resources need to STAY in FL.”

The DeSantis trip isn’t the only recent collision of US and Israeli politics. In late April, after a months-long legal battle, a Texas judge struck down legislation that banned Texas state employees from engaging in boycotts of Israeli products, arguing the measure sought to “manipulate debate through coercion rather than persuasion.”

The bill was one among several introduced this year to combat the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the US, an organized effort to rein in Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

May 30, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 4 Comments

America’s Most Pro-Israel Governor: Ron DeSantis Will Send More Florida Money to Israel

Governor Ron DeSantis Announces Actions to Affirm Florida’s Support of Israel. Credit: flgov.com
By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | May 18, 2019

Ron DeSantis, Florida’s new governor, should be really proud of himself. He recently recalled that when he ran for governor “… [he] promised to be the most pro-Israel governor in America and that the first delegation [he] would lead would be to the state of Israel.” When he confirmed that he would be taking his entire cabinet with him as part of a 75-person delegation scheduled to leave for Israel on May 25th, he boasted that “Today I’m pleased to report that I’m keeping that promise. Our delegation will bring business, academic and political leaders to help strengthen the bond between Florida and Israel.” DeSantis has promised to hold a meeting of his Cabinet in the American Embassy in Jerusalem during his visit, the first time that such a meeting has ever been held by a state government on foreign soil. During the meeting he will ostentatiously sign a legislative bill “combating anti-Semitism.”

DeSantis has been playing the Israel and anti-Semitism cards throughout his political career. Last year, as a Congressman running for governor, he attacked his opponent Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum during their gubernatorial race as not being a “friend of Israel.” He based his charge on reports that Gillum had received support from the Dream Defenders, a group favoring Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, as well as once having given a speech welcoming members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to his city. DeSantis claimed in a video clip that “I can find anti-Semites around him, but it’s almost like ‘we don’t want to discuss that.’”

As a Congressman, DeSantis sponsored in 2013 the Palestinian Accountability Act which called for the withholding of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority until it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. In 2017, he co-founded the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus, saying “Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East, as we share common national interests and possess similar national values. Israel is not the problem in the Middle East; it is the solution to many of the problems that bedevil the region. American policy must ensure that Israel emerges victorious against those who deny or threaten her existence.” Earlier this year, DeSantis drafted a proposal calling on the U.S. to recognize Syria’s Golan Heights as an ‘integral part’ of the State of Israel.

DeSantis boasted about his presence in Jerusalem when the U.S. Embassy was moved to that city one year ago and has promised that on his upcoming trip he will visit Israel’s illegal settlements on the West Bank, which he refers to by the preferred Israeli usage as “Judea and Samaria.” He has threatened critics that “If you boycott Israel, the state of Florida will boycott you” and threatened to “sanction” the holiday rental company Airbnb when it refused to offer properties located in the illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank. DeSantis was also the driving force behind recently enacted legislation in his state to punish BDS supporters. The legislation is regarded as the most extreme among U.S. states, including explicit equation of criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. Another bill pending in Florida will enable citizens to sue teachers or government employees who in any way criticize Israel.

DeSantis, a former U.S. Navy lawyer, has demonstrated that he reveres Israel even more than his former comrades in arms. In his congressional district there were a number of survivors of the U.S.S. Liberty, which was attacked in international waters by Israel on June 8, 1967, killing 34 crewmen and injuring 171 more. They report that DeSantis has been completely unsympathetic to their requests that a commission of inquiry finally be convened to determine what actually happened on that day.

Regarding the upcoming visit, a local Florida radio station conducted an interview with Israeli Consul General in Miami Lior Haiat, who emphasized the economic benefits to be derived from the strong bilateral relationship, who said “The fact that the huge delegation is going from Florida to Israel is just a symbol that the outcome of this delegation will be seen in the relationship between Israel and Florida for years to come. Because this is just the beginning. We’re signing over 10 memorandums of understandings and agreements between Israeli companies and universities and the Floridian companies and universities. This is a huge bridge that Gov. DeSantis is building. We are happy to be part of it.”

Consul General Haiat also noted that “There is a lot of new technology based in Israel that is very relevant to Florida both on the red tide and algae, and we are already connecting Israeli companies with local authorities in able to find what is the most useful technology for that part.  But it’s also for the greening of oranges. This is a huge problem here. I think that the connection between Israel and Florida has a lot of potential since Israel has a lot of agricultural technology based on knowledge, and Florida has a huge sector of agriculture that can use that technology.”

The six days De Santis led boondoggle in Israel is funded by taxpayers. A public records request filed by a local newspaper seeking information on how much the trip would cost has not been responded to by the governor’s office. And the idea that the state of Florida and its citizens will benefit materially from the trip is largely an illusion. This mixing of politics and business interests is essentially corrupt and inevitably leads to abuses that do not serve the public interest, particularly as American citizens who stand to benefit both, directly and indirectly, are quite openly promoting the interests of a foreign nation.

The Florida trip is a perfect example of how Israel’s friends go about setting up mechanisms that will benefit the Jewish state. Israel will be selling its products and services to Florida, enabled by a government in place that is promoting the process and will steer contracts in its direction. In return, Florida will get little or nothing as Israel is a tiny market and has no particular need of anything that the Sunshine State produces.

All such trade agreements are designed to enrich Israel. The 1985 United States free trade agreement with Israel has benefitted the Jewish state by $144 billion, which is the U.S. deficit on the trade between 1985 and 2015. An interesting example of how this works at the state level and the abuse that it can produce has recently surfaced in Virginia, where a so-called Virginia-Israel Advisory Board (VIAB) has actually been funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia taxpayers to promote and even subsidize Israeli business in the state, business that currently runs an estimated $500 million per annum in favor of Israel. Grant Smith’s Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRMEP) has done considerable digging into the affairs of VIAB, which was ostensibly “created to foster closer economic integration between the United States and Israel while supporting the Israeli government’s policy agenda” with a charter defining its role as “advis[ing] the Governor on ways to improve economic and cultural links between the Commonwealth and the State of Israel, with a focus on the areas of commerce and trade, art and education, and general government.” Smith has observed that “VIAB is a pilot for how Israel can quietly obtain taxpayer funding and official status for networked entities that advance Israel from within key state governments.”

Florida does not yet have an equivalent of Virginia’s VIAB, but it probably does not need one as the pandering to Israel will be run right out of the governor’s office. So if you want to create jobs and exports for a foreign country at a cost to your own citizens, by all means, follow the DeSantis Florida model and send an expensive trade mission over to Jerusalem to sing the praises of Benjamin Netanyahu and his band of war criminals while also promoting “buy Israel.” But just maybe it would be a better idea to stop shilling for a foreign country. Floridians should insist on keeping the travel money here at home where it might actually do some good while also putting a little pressure on DeSantis, who was elected to serve the people of his state, to stop his unseemly boasting about being the “most pro-Israel governor in America.”

May 18, 2019 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 3 Comments

Florida bill would censor info on Israel-Palestine in schools, colleges

By Alison Weir | If Americans Knew | January 25, 2019

Three Florida state lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill that uses a new, Israel-centric definition of “anti-Semitism” that experts say would censor information about Israel-Palestine in Florida public schools and colleges.

The bill’s sponsor is Republican Mike Caruso of Palm County. The co-sponsors are Democrat Michael Grieco of Miami Beach and Republican Anthony Sabatini of Lake County.

Israel partisans are promoting such bills around the United States at both the state and federal level. The bills are part of an international effort to use an Israeli created redefinition of anti-Semitism to prohibit and even at times criminalize the dissemination of negative facts about Israel.

Entitled “HB 371 Discrimination In Florida K-20 Public Education System,” the bill contains a section on what it calls “anti-Semitism” that is virtually identical to a bill already passed in South Carolina.

Legislation using using the same Israel-centric definition has been introduced in the U.S. Congress.

Section #7 of the Florida bill states that “a public K-20 educational institution must take into consideration anti-Semitism when determining if a practice or act was discrimination on the basis of religion. For purposes of this section, the term ‘anti-Semitism’ means all of the following…” The bill then lists 13 actions that are “anti-Semitic.” Nine of them concern Israel.

The standard, dictionary definition of anti-Semitism, discrimination or hostility against Jews, says nothing about Israel.

The new, Israel-centric definition of anti-Semitism was first formulated by an Israeli government minister in 2004. The official then assisted in procuring the adoption of this formulation in the United States. Israel partisan Hannah Rosenthal adopted it in the U.S. State Department in 2010.

‘Poses threat to free speech’

Numerous analysts oppose the bills on the basis that they violate freedom of speech and academic inquiry.

The Miami New Times reports that the  ACLU of Florida plans to track the bill’s progress to ensure that it doesn’t silence political speech. An ACLU Florida spokesperson said that addressing anti-Semitism and all forms of religious discrimination “is crucial, but it does not justify silencing constitutionally protected speech. All Floridians have the right to free speech without the threat of government interference.”

The national American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has a record of opposing such legislation, stating that it poses “a serious threat to the First Amendment free speech rights of those on campus who may hold certain political views.”

In a letter of opposition to the federal bill, the ACLU stated: “The First Amendment prevents the federal government from using its great weight to impose severe penalties on a person simply for sharing a political viewpoint critical of Israel.”

An ACLU analysis points out that “anti-Semitic harassment is already illegal under federal law.” The new legislation “does not change that fact, but its overbreadth makes it likely that it will instead silence criticism of Israel that is protected by the First Amendment.”

The article, entitled “The Latest Attack on Free Speech in the Israel-Palestine Debate,” states that there is a “disturbing surge of government-led attempts to suppress the speech of people on only one side of the Israel-Palestine debate. The trend manifests on college campuses, in state contracts, and even in bills to change federal criminal law, but the impact is the same: Those who seek to protest, boycott, or otherwise criticize the Israeli government are being silenced.”

The authors conclude: “These efforts to censor criticism of the Israeli government and advocacy for Palestinian rights do a disservice to the real problem of anti-Semitism in the United States.”

‘Affront to academic freedom’

One of the individuals who helped write the Israel-centric definition, attorney Kenneth Stern, has written that imposing it on campuses is “unconstitutional and unwise.” According to Stein, applying the definition to colleges “is a direct affront to academic freedom.”

Mike Caruso, sponsor of the Florida bill, is serving his first term in the Florida legislature after an extremely close election, winning with a 32-vote margin out of about 80,000 votes cast.

He represents Palm Beach County, known as a particularly pro-Israel area of Florida; approximately one third of the residents are Jewish and there are frequent pro-Israel events in the area. The local Jewish Federation website features a prominent announcement for the 2019 convention of the Israeli American Council, which advocates for Israel.

Recent related legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month passed a bill that would force President Trump to appoint a special envoy who would monitor criticism of Israel.

The position was created in 2005 as part of the effort for the U.S. to adopt the Israel-centric definition. The bill has not yet gone to the Senate.

The first Senate bill of 2019, S.1, would finalize a $38 billion package to Israel, the largest military aid package in U.S. history. Attempts to move the bill to a quick vote have stalled while Congress debates the government shutdown.

The bill is sponsored by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whose major backers include pro-Israel advocates Norman Braman, a Florida businessman, Paul Singer, and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

A companion bill, H.R.336, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.


Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.

January 25, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Israeli Minister Urges US Governors to Punish Airbnb for Settlement Delistings

Sputnik – November 28, 2018

Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who heads the government’s response to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, wrote a letter to five US governors asking them to take action against the home-renting service Airbnb after the company removed listings on its platform for properties in the illegally occupied West Bank.

Israeli listings in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, which are also illegally occupied, were left in place.

Erdan responded almost immediately to Airbnb’s decision by condemning it as “racist.”

“US law permits companies like Airbnb to engage in business in these territories,” the company said in a statement at the time. “At the same time, many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.”

“It is thanks to the hard work of activists in this coalition and around the world that Airbnb will no longer be profiting from Israeli apartheid in the West Bank,” Ariel Gold, national co-director of the anti-war group Codepink and pro-BDS activist, told Sputnik News following Airbnb’s announcement. “Israeli settlements are not only illegal under international law, but they contribute directly to the daily human rights abuses Palestinians face.”

Airbnb’s move came just one day before Human Rights Watch was scheduled to release a report on home rentals facilitated by Airbnb and Booking.com in the West Bank, which the UN considers to be illegally occupied by Israel.

Erdan called on former hosts on the platform to band together and sue Airbnb following the announcement of the company’s decision. He also promised to complain to senior officials in the US and ask them to check whether Airbnb’s move violates laws against boycotting Israel that “exist in over 25 states,” Sputnik News reported.

In Erdan’s letter to the governors of Illinois, New York, Florida, Missouri and California, he said Airbnb had adopted “the anti-Semitic practices and narrative of the boycott movement.” Of the five states the governors represent, four have laws against the BDS movement, the exception being Missouri. Airbnb is headquartered in California.

According to the Israeli TV news outlet Kan, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner requested the state’s investment board to consider divesting from Airbnb, while Florida’s incoming Governor Ron DeSantis vowed to take similar action.

Erdan’s letter forebears a government-wide Israeli response to the de-listings from an inter-ministerial committee comprising officials from Erdan’s Strategic Affairs Ministry as well as the ministries for foreign affairs, tourism, justice, finance and economy.

While Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called last week for a “special and high tax” on Airbnb, such an action could wind up hurting the owners of the 22,000 Israeli homes that are allowed to continue renting on the platform, something officials would prefer to avoid.

Meanwhile, lawyers in Israel have already heeded Erdan’s call, filing a class action lawsuit against the company last Thursday on behalf of illegal West Bank settlers.

November 28, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trump-Putin Summit Meets Expectations: Reviving Hopes for Better Future

By Andrei AKULOV | Strategic Culture Foundation | 17.07.2018

There is no doubt that the Trump-Putin summit in Helsinki is a significant step forward. As expected, there were no breakthroughs and the tide was not exactly turned but guardrails to the bilateral relationship were restored to pave the way for substantial progress.

Evidently, only a full-fledged summit could stop further deterioration of the bilateral relations and it happened. True, it was too brief to produce strides but it created a positive atmosphere for launching the process of repairing the damage. The meeting met the expectations of those who wanted the bilateral ties to improve.

The importance of cooperation between the militaries was emphasized. No doubt, it will become closer and more intensive from now on. National security teams will revive the much-needed dialogue on a range of burning issues, including separate talks on cyber security. The fate of the New START Treaty will be addressed to prevent the erosion of arms control. This is a very important and timely development. The parties will coordinate their actions in Syria. President Putin stressed the need to resume public diplomacy to boost contacts between the peoples. These are tangible results. As President Trump said at the news conference, the relationship was at the rock bottom but it has changed now.

The lawmakers’ support is a must for implementation of the president’s plans. Will Donald Trump have congressional backing for his “hit it off with Putin” policy? It brings to the fore the issue of GOP prospects for the US midterm elections on November 6, which are a kind of referendum on Donald Trump’s performance. On this date, Americans will answer the question whether they trust President Trump, including his Russia policy.

Alabama already held its primary run-off elections on July 17 launching the countrywide process to last till mid-September. The party in power normally loses seats in Congress as a result of midterm elections. That’s what Democrats are banking on. Since the days of the Civil War (1861-1865) the incumbent president’s party has lost ground in 36 out of 39 midterm elections to the House. Over the past 21 midterm elections, the GOP has gained seats in both houses only twice.

If Democrats score a win to get a majority in one of the houses, the “election meddling story” will be a drag on the development of the relationship. With Democratic majority in Senate, treaties with Russia will have a slim chance to be ratified and new snags on the way of normalizing the relationship may be codified, even if it means encroachment on president’s prerogatives.

Today, the GOP has the 236-193 majority in the House and the 51-47 majority in the Senate. Two senators are independent. They tend to side with Democrats. According to the Cool Political Report issued just a few days ago, Republicans have a good chance to win the House. There are lower chamber 36 seats in the “toss up” or “lean” category. Another report published this month says the GOP will preserve the current majority in the Senate. Republicans can afford a loss of only one Senate seat to preserve the lead. Democrats have 26 seats in the Senate for re-election out of 35. This is a chance to increase the advantage. The GOP candidates are leading in North Dakota and Florida. A Republican victory would give a chance for Senate’s approval of Trump-nominated Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice to strengthen the president’s position.

Indeed, a GOP success will be unprecedented but it looks quite achievable at present. Many things can sway the public opinion but today most Americans want to see the relations with Russia improved. They see it as a feather in President Trump’s cap. Despite all the ballyhoo raised about “election meddling” and other things, the percentage of all Americans who view Russia is an ally or friendly to the US rose to 31% from 26% in 2014. There has been no change in the percentage of Americans identifying Russia as an enemy or unfriendly to their country. The number of Republicans who say Russia is an ally or a friendly state rose from 22% to 40% since 2014.

The economic outlook under Trump is positive to increase the Republican chances. “Over the first half of this year, overall economic activity appears to have expanded at a solid pace,” the Federal Reserve concluded in its recent report.

With a Republican majority in Congress, President Trump could do much more for improving the relations with Moscow. A GOP win would pave the way for arms control and security agreements to be approved by Senate.

Hopefully, the summit results are not just a flash in the pan to disappear with another president taking office. The facts adduced above indicate the main thing – Donald Trump is far from being a lamp duck. He is a serious interlocutor who can advance his cause and do it with solid support in Congress and among voters. Improving the relations with Russia was Donald Trump’s pre-election promise given to American people who voted for him. As one can see, the US president remains true to his word.

July 17, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , | Leave a comment

US Lawmakers Pushing to Cancel Lorde’s Upcoming Florida Shows

Lorde in concert. (Photo: Lorde’s twitter account)
Palestine Chronicle | February 11, 2018

American Lawmakers in Florida are trying to cancel Lorde’s upcoming shows in the state after the Kiwi songstress and superstar called off her performance in Israel.

Lorde cancelled her Tel Aviv concert in December, following pressure from fans and activists in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is making a stand against Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

The decision has seen Republican state Rep. Randy Fine this week pushing for Miami and Tampa to cancel Lorde’s April shows, the Orlando Weekly reported.

Fine based his actions on a Florida law which barred companies that received state funds from doing business over $1 million with organisations associated with BDS.

“When Lorde joined the boycott in December, she and her companies became subject to that statute,” Fine told Orlando Weekly.

“The taxpayers of Miami and Tampa should not have to facilitate bigotry and anti-Semitism, and I look forward to the Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority and the Tampa Sports Authority complying with the law and cancelling these concerts.

“Florida has no tolerance for anti-Semitism and boycotts intended to destroy the State of Israel.”

Florida is one of 20 states with a law in place to deal with businesses that boycott Israel.

In a statement released in December last year Lorde said that “the right decision at this time” was to cancel her June 2018 concert in Tel Aviv.

The Grammy-award winner said that after having “lots of discussions” about the matter, she was “not too proud to admit I didn’t make the right call on this one,” referring to her initial decision to hold the concert.

The cancellation was welcomed by members of the BDS movement.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel posted a statement on Twitter thanking the artist for “heeding appeals from your fans against Israel’s art-washing of its brutal oppression of Palestinians.”

Other artists to have boycotted Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians included Roger Waters, Lauryn Hill and Elvis Costello.

February 11, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 7 Comments

Many States Out of Step with the Constitution on the Use of Force by Police

By José-Antonio Orosco | CounterPunch | July 18, 2016

Recently, President Obama held a town hall meeting to address the growing tension between minority communities and police forces after the shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the police officers in Dallas.  He urged police officers to forge trust with communities and recommended better training and more resources.

Many groups around the country have been asking for better training programs, mandatory body cameras, and other reforms. These may indeed help to reduce shootings of civilians, but a deeper concern has to do with the laws surrounding the use of deadly force by law enforcement. What legal standards exist that police officers can use to defend their actions after the fact?

Last year, Amnesty International conducted an investigation into the legal standards for the use of deadly force by police officers in the United States, comparing them with current Supreme Court rulings and international human rights standards, and found enormous disparities.

* It turns out that nine states and the city of Washington, DC have absolutely no legal standards about when officers may use deadly force in arresting suspects.

* There are no states in the country that comply with international law enforcement standards. The current United Nations standard is that police officers should only use deadly force when it is a last resort, and then, only to prevent grave harm or imminent death to themselves or another person.

* What is even more astounding is that there are 13 states that that do not even comply with current constitutional standards set by the US Supreme Court.  In the 1985 case of Tennessee v. Garner, the Court ruled that police officers may only use deadly force if they have probable cause that the suspect poses significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officers or others.

My home state of Oregon is one of these places out of step with the Constitution, along with the very populated states of New York, New Jersey, Florida, and California.  In Oregon, for instance, police officers are allowed to shoot to kill if the police officers have a reasonable belief that a fleeing suspect has committed a kidnapping, arson, burglary, or indeed, any felony at all, even if the suspect is not posing an immediate threat of death of physical harm. Oregon law does not require that a suspect be given a warning of the use of deadly force, even though such a warning is an international legal standard. Up to 20 states allow police officers to kill a suspect simply for trying to escape prison or jail.

Given this legal framework, incidents of police shootings will not be reduced by body cameras or better training alone since it is the law itself that licenses wide discretion on whom and when police can kill.

This year, at least one state, Missouri, has started working to change that. After the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the protests that followed, legislators looked at the use of force provisions (which allowed officers to kill suspects who they believed had committed a felony) and found that it was out of step with the Garner standard.

Everyone who is concerned about the tension in the country and the grievances of the Black Lives Matter movement should press their state lawmakers to ensure that law enforcement officials in their states are at least upholding the US Constitution.

July 18, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Florida shatters records with 346 inmate deaths in 2014

RT |January 20, 2015

Nearly 350 inmates in Florida prisons died in 2014, shattering the record for most number of prisoner deaths in a single year. Many of the cases involve suspicious circumstances and involve allegations of harsh abuse by guards, which has prompted the firings of dozens of security officers and a large-scale Department of Justice investigation into the state’s correction system. RT’s Nicholas Sanchez O’Donovan is in Miami with more details.

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July 27, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Video | , , | 2 Comments

Florida Death Camps? Record 346 Inmates Died While Locked in Florida Prisons in 2014

By Jay Syrmopoulos | The Free thought Project | March 29, 2015

Tallahassee, Fla. – The U.S prison industrial complex is spiraling out of control as the prison crisis in America grows to pandemic proportions. While accounting for slightly less than 5 percent of the total global population, the U.S. incarcerates roughly 25 percent of people imprisoned worldwide.

What this means is that the U.S. has by far the highest incarceration rate in the world, the largest total number of prisoners and the most citizens with criminal records of any country in the world.

Startling statistics from a nation that proclaims to be “the home of the free.”

The Prison Policy Initiative reports:

The U.S. incarcerates 716 people for every 100,000 residents, more than any other country. In fact, our rate of incarceration is more than five times higher than most of the countries in the world. Although our level of crime is comparable to those of other stable, internally secure, industrialized nations, the United States has an incarceration rate far higher than any other country.

Nearly all of the countries with relatively high incarceration rates share the experience of recent large-scale internal conflict. But the United States, which has enjoyed a long history of political stability and hasn’t had a civil war in nearly a century and a half, tops the list.

If we compare the incarceration rates of individual U.S. states and territories with that of other nations, for example, we see that 36 states and the District of Columbia have incarceration rates higher than that of Cuba, which is the nation with the second highest incarceration rate in the world.

Now, what we are learning is that the United States is not just imprisoning people at an outrageous pace, but that men and women are dying in these prisons at all-time highs, often at the hands of guards, in the most awful and brutal ways imaginable. The state of Florida, it appears, is ground zero for the deaths of prisoners, and the crisis is so deeply corrupt and out of hand that it needs immediate national intervention.

Florida, in 2014, recorded an all-time high of 346 inmate deaths inside of their prisons. Although the prison population has remained relatively steady the past five years, the death toll of prisoners reached an all-time high for the state in 2014.

Hundreds of these deaths inside of prison walls, from 2014 and previous years, are now being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice due to the suspicious and systemic nature of the deaths, almost all at the hands of law enforcement officers.

This past September, thirty two law enforcement officials, including prison guards and officers, were fired across the state due to dozens of cases of negligence, abuse, corruption, and death, according to Reuters.

Simply losing ones job over allegations of poisoning, gassing, and beating inmates to death is not justice. These rogue law enforcers need to have an example made out of them. They should not only lose their jobs but they should be indicted, convicted of murder and given the maximum penalty allowed.

These agents of the state, given a great responsibility, have shown themselves to willingly prey upon the most vulnerable in our society and must be held accountable for their actions for justice to be served.

March 29, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

How Zimmerman Could – and Should – Have Been Convicted Under Florida Law

By Rob Hager | Black Agenda Report | July 31, 2013

Many people are troubled by the idea that someone can willfully follow another person down the street, right to the person’s own home, have malicious intent, put the followed person in fear or apprehension, kill the person, and then not be held guilty of some criminal offense that includes at least some responsibility for the killing, even if perhaps unintended.

Juror B29 in the Trayvon Martin murder trial has expressed the feeling on behalf of the jury that many of us are also experiencing: “in our hearts we felt he was guilty,” she said. “George Zimmerman got away with murder … [But] the law couldn’t prove it.”

On the facts the jury knew, shouldn’t there be a law that can “prove it?”

Actually, there is such a law. In Florida: “A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows [or] harasses … another person and makes a credible threat to that person commits the offense of aggravated stalking, a felony of the third degree.” Fla. Stat. § 784.048.

“Willfully [and] maliciously” are evidenced by Zimmerman’s own words to the police dispatcher. The word “repeatedly” is not defined in the Florida statue. But the statute does define the similar term, “course of conduct,” “[which] means a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose.” So “repeatedly” as used in the statute might simply mean “continuously” or “sustained.” George Zimmerman did sustain his following of Trayvon Martin “over a period of time, however short, which evidence[d] his continuity of purpose” in targeting Trayvon Martin to challenge his presence in the neighborhood. Indeed he repeated his following of Martin even after the dispatcher told him he did not need to do that.

Such stalking may be motivated to get the targeted person out of the neighborhood, to bully, to feel physically superior to another person for an ego boost, to look for a fight or confrontation, or any other reason. If it was intended to and did credibly threaten a 17 year old who is on the street alone at night, that is a felony in Florida. Zimmerman apparently had sufficient experience with such matters to know the effect his behavior would have.

Each state has different laws covering this issue. Before stalking or felonious menacing laws were enacted this offense would come within the general meaning of assault. Acts that are intended to and do put another person in reasonable apprehension of immediate physical harm constitute the common law crime and tort of assault. Following someone in a threatening way that puts them in fear or apprehension is one way of committing an assault.

Ohio’s stalking law contains additional detail that identifies the specific aggravating circumstances that generally concern people about the Trayvon Martin case.

Ohio law provides:

“2903.211 Menacing by stalking.

“(A) (1) No person by engaging in a pattern of conduct shall knowingly cause another person to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the other person.
“B)(2) Menacing by stalking is a felony of the fourth degree if any of the following applies: …

(d) The victim of the offense is a minor.

(e) The offender has a history of … other violent acts toward … any other person.

(f) While committing the offense … the offender had a deadly weapon on or about the offender’s person or under the offender’s control.”

This pretty well describes the specifics of the wrong that many are concerned that George Zimmerman actually did commit. Criminal law is intended to protect not just victims, but society’s interests. Society does not want people with a known propensity for violence going about the streets armed and stalking minors. This is independent of what he or the victim knew about these aggravating circumstances.

Felonious menacing or stalking may not be a serious enough crime to suit the circumstances of loss of life. But in Florida there is a very strict felony murder law that is designed to address just that concern, that when life is unnecessarily lost, even if unintentional, there should be heightened responsibility.

Felony murder laws assure that if Zimmerman started something unlawful – namely felonious stalking – that got out of control for whatever reason, resulting in loss of life, he must take some responsibility for that loss of life.

In Enmund v. Florida, 458 U.S. 782 (1982) the U.S. Supreme Court thought Florida set the level of that responsibility too high. In that case a robbery get-away driver was convicted under Florida’s felony murder law although he did not pull the trigger, did not touch a murder weapon, was not present at the murder scene, did not know about or discuss the prospect of the murders until after they happened, and so had no intent to kill. In the U.S. Supreme Court, four Republican dissenters would have allowed Florida to execute the driver for felony murder anyway, even though all he did was drive and had no intent to kill. But the majority preferred him to have actually participated in the killing in some way if he was to be executed for it, but also would not require evidence of intent to kill.

In Florida, aggravated stalking furnishes a predicate for felony murder. Fla. Stat. § 782.04(1)(a)(1.n) punishes any “killing of a human being … committed by a person engaged in the perpetration of, or in the attempt to perpetrate … aggravated stalking.”

By repeatedly following and then confronting Trayvon Martin, was George Zimmerman attempting to communicate a credible threat to Martin, perhaps that Martin should leave what happened to be his own neighborhood?

Many people think that, whatever his motive, this is what Zimmerman did. Unless there is a civil suit or a retrial on this criminal charge, it will be difficult to determine whether this felony, more likely than not, did happen.

The criminal trial jury was not asked to decide that question. It was led astray by being asked to focus on the end rather than the beginning of the fatal encounter. As juror B29 said about the charges, “a lot of us that wanted to find something bad, something that we could connect to the law, because for myself he’s guilty. … But as the law was read to me if you have no proof that he killed him intentionally you can’t say he’s guilty. … As much as we were trying to find this man guilty…there was nothing that we could do about it.” Distraught about voting to acquit Martin’s killer, she said “I feel I killed him,” but pointed to “the choices that they gave us” as responsible.

If the criminal trial jurors had been given the choice to decide whether Zimmerman was engaged in or attempting felonious stalking prior the fracas that the jurors were asked by the prosecutors to decide upon, then exactly what happened during that fracas that caused the killing, which is not really knowable beyond a reasonable doubt in any event, becomes irrelevant. The purpose of felony murder is to attach responsibility for a killing not because of the killer’s intent or how the killing took place but because it was committed by a killer who was “engaged in” a felony like aggravated stalking. There can be no question that without Zimmerman’s original stalking neither the fracas nor the killing would have happened.

If Zimmerman had been charged with, and convicted of aggravated stalking he would also have been guilty of first degree felony murder, a capital offense in Florida. In that event, in our hearts we along with the jurors, could feel justice had been done. Instead we, like the jurors as reported by Juror B29, are left with the false impression that the law on the books is not written to protect us from a murderer who got a way with it.

But it seems like it is more the judicial system that failed us and the jurors in this case by failing to use the laws on the books. If that failure means the civil right of Trayvon Martin to walk the streets was denied with impunity, a result which makes the civil rights of all of us less secure, then a federal prosecution or retrial on these new charges would be appropriate. For double jeopardy purposes, it is not clear that first degree capital felony murder is a lesser included offense of manslaughter or second degree murder, particularly since stalking was not an element of the latter offenses.

Rob Hager is a public-interest litigator who filed a Supreme Court amicus brief in the 2012 Montana sequel to the Citizens United case, American Tradition Partnership, Inc. v. Bullock, and has worked as an international consultant on law reform and anti-corruption issues.

Rob can be contacted at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=132806564HYPERLINK “http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=132806564&trk=hb_tab_pro_top”&HYPERLINK “http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=132806564&trk=hb_tab_pro_top”trk=hb_tab_pro_top

July 31, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Comments Off on How Zimmerman Could – and Should – Have Been Convicted Under Florida Law