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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

Israeli settler appointed as Consul General in New York after being rejected in Brazil

Palestinian Information Center – March 28, 2016

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appointed Monday morning the former head of Yesha settlement council Danny Dayan as Israel’s Consul General in New York after he failed to nominate him as an ambassador to Brazil.

In appointing Dayan, Netanyahu withdrew Dayan’s apportionment as Israel’s ambassador to Brazil after the Brazilian government refused to accept him due to his former role as a settler leader. Asked to comment, Dayan told Army Radio that he was not influenced by Brazil’s refusal. “There was no alternative but New York.”

Dayan was earlier nominated to be Israeli ambassador to Brazil, but Brazil strongly refused his appointment due to his ties to Israeli illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Dayan headed the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank between 2007 and 2013.

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

NY protest slams mayor over pro-Israel policy, police brutality

Press TV – October 30, 2015

American activists and protesters have staged a rally in New York City to condemn the stance of Mayor Bill de Blasio on Israel and police brutality in the US.

Pro-Palestine activists from the movement known as the ‘Black Lives Matter,’ likened US police forces in New York to Israeli soldiers in their violence and brutality against Palestinians.

They called for justice for Palestinians facing Israel’s aggression in the occupied territories.

The protesters rallied in front of the Sheraton Hotel in New York’s Times Square, where the city’s mayor was holding a re-election campaign.

At one point, about a dozen activists pushed their way into the lobby of the hotel before being repelled by security, local media reports noted.

The protesters were also angry over police brutality and their treatment of people of color.

Authorities in New York are under fire for the deaths of a number of unarmed citizens at the hands of US law enforcement officers. Most victims are usually African Americans.

Earlier in the day, the New York mayor dismissed the protesters as uninformed.

Blasio launched his re-election campaign toward the 2017 race on Thursday night, reportedly banking a million dollars during the hotel fundraiser, as other reports said the public opinion was evenly split on his job performance.

The event cost as much as some 5,000 dollars for each person in attendance.

October 30, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Corporate Welfare Fails to Deliver the Jobs

The Sad Case of Start-Up NY

By Lawrence S. Wittner | May 28, 2015

For several decades, state and local governments have been showering private businesses with tax breaks and direct subsidies based on the theory that this practice fosters economic development and, therefore, job growth. But does it? New York State’s experience indicates that, when it comes to producing jobs, corporate welfare programs are a bad investment. This should be instructive to state and local officials across the US.

In May 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, with enormous fanfare, launched a campaign to establish Tax-Free NY — a scheme providing tax-free status for ten years to companies that moved onto or near the state’s public college and university campuses. According to Cuomo, this would “supercharge” the state’s economy and bring job creation efforts to an unprecedented level. It was “a game-changing initiative,” the governor insisted, and — despite criticism from educators, unions, and some conservatives — local officials fell into line. Reluctant to oppose this widely-touted jobs creation measure, the state legislature established the program — renamed Start-Up NY and including some private college campuses — that June.

After that, Start-Up NY moved into high gear. A total of 356 tax-free zones were established at 62 New York colleges and universities, with numerous administrators hired to oversee the development of the new commercial programs on their campuses. New York State spent $47 million in 2014 — and might have spent as much as $150 million over the years — advertising Start-Up NY in all 50 states of the nation, with ads focused on the theme: “New York Open for Business.” Nancy Zimpher, the chancellor of the State University of New York, crowed: “Nowhere in the country do new businesses and entrepreneurs stand to benefit more by partnering with higher education than in New York State, thanks to the widespread success of Governor Cuomo’s Start-Up NY program. With interest and investment coming in from around the globe and new jobs being created in every region, Start-Up NY has provided a spark for our economy and for SUNY.” This was, she declared, a “transformative initiative.”

But how “transformative” has Start-Up NY been? According to the Empire State Development Corporation, the government entity that oversees more than 50 of the state’s economic development programs, during all of 2014 Start-Up NY generated a grand total of 76 jobs. Moreover, the vast majority of the 30 companies operating under the program had simply shifted their operations from one region of the state to another. The New York Times reported that, of the businesses up and running under Start-Up NY, just four came from out of state. Indeed, in some cases, the “new” businesses had not even crossed county lines. One company moved one mile to qualify for the tax-free program. Furthermore, when it came to business investment, there was a substantial gap between promises and implementation. As the Empire State Development Corporation noted, companies promised $91 million in investments over a five year period, but only invested $1.7 million of that in 2014. Thus, not surprisingly, during 2014 the companies operating under Start-Up NY created only 4 percent of the new jobs they had promised.

Actually, Start-Up NY’s dismal record is not much worse than that of New York’s other economic development programs. According to a December 2013 study by the Alliance for a Greater New York, the state spends approximately $7 billion every year on subsidies to businesses, including “tax exemptions, tax credits, grants, tax-exempt bonds, and discounted land to corporations, ostensibly in the name of job creation, economic growth, and improved quality of life for all New Yorkers.” But 33 percent of spending by the state’s Industrial Development Agencies resulted in no job promises, no job creation, or a loss of jobs. In fact, “with little accountability, businesses often take the money and run.”

A recent report by state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reached similar conclusions. According to DiNapoli, in 2014 the programs overseen by the Empire State Development Corporation cost the state $1.3 billion (not including the voluminous tax breaks granted to companies) and helped create or retain only 14,779 jobs — at a cost to taxpayers of $87,962 per job. The comptroller’s scathing report concluded that there was no attempt by the state agency to ascertain whether its programs “have succeeded or failed at creating good jobs for New Yorkers or whether its investments are reasonable.”

Of course, instead of shoveling billions of dollars into the coffers of private, profit-making companies, New York could invest its public resources in worthwhile ventures that generate large numbers of jobs — for example, in public education. In 2011, as a consequence of severe cutbacks in state funding of New York’s public schools and a new state law that capped local property tax growth — two measures demanded by Governor Cuomo — 7,000 teachers were laid off and another 4,000 teacher positions went unfilled. Overall, 80 percent of school districts reported cutting teaching positions. Today, with New York’s schools severely underfunded — more than half of them receiving less state aid now than they did in 2008-2009 — this pattern of eliminating teachers and closing down educational opportunities for children has continued. But what if the billions of dollars squandered on subsidizing private businesses in the forlorn hope that they will hire workers were spent, instead, on putting thousands of teachers back to work? Wouldn’t this policy also create a better educated workforce that would be more likely to secure employment? And wouldn’t this shift in investment have the added advantage of creating a more knowledgeable public, better able to understand the world and partake in the full richness of civilization?

It’s a shame that many state and local government officials have such a limited, business-oriented mentality that they cannot imagine an alternative to corporate welfare.

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Lawrence S. Wittner is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany and is syndicated by PeaceVoice. His latest book is a satirical novel about university corporatization and rebellion, What’s Going On at UAardvark?

May 28, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Where the Argentine Debt Case Stands Now, and Why it Still Matters

By Aldo Caliari – NACLA – 04/06/2015

In NML v Argentina, the world continues to witness a rare and surreal spectacle: the unpredictable consequences unleashed by a U.S. judge going rogue on the law. Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court validated a lower court ruling that granted investment group NML Capital the right to obtain payment of 100% of its claims against the Argentine government, setting a legal precedent whose impact  is just beginning to become clear.

NML’s actions against Argentina demonstrate why the firm is frequently described as a “vulture fund.” After initially acquiring Argentine sovereign debt bonds following the country’s 2002 default, the investment group refused to accept the terms of the agreement that Argentina reached with over 92% of bondholders, in 2005 and 2010. Then, NML sued in U.S. courts for payment of 100% of its bonds’ value, plus interest, aiming to get what amounts to a 1600% return on its original investment.

NML’s lawsuit was part of a carefully thought-out script during Argentina’s long debt restructuring process, a strategy that vulture funds have exploited in the past. First, buy the debt of a country in trouble, on the cheap. Second, systematically reject any offer of a deal worth less than the whole claim. Third, wait until the country’s circumstances improve, aided by a mix of debt relief granted by other creditors and the normal healthy impacts that such debt cancellation, if timely and sufficient, will have on the debtor country’s economy. Then, sue for the whole amount of the claim plus interest.

It is easy to see that if all creditors followed this playbook—waiting for the debtor to get better without sacrificing any part of their credit—the strategy would not work.

Unfortunately, at the international level and for nations issuing sovereign debt, there is no recourse to anything like bankruptcy, so they are exposed to rulings – even divergent ones – made by judges with jurisdiction over particular bonds.

In this particular case, U.S. Judge Thomas Griesa decided to depart from the traditionally accepted interpretation of the pari passu clause typically inserted in sovereign bonds. Whereas the standard pari passu clause is normally understood to grant equality of rank and treatment, Griesa extended the interpretation to forbid Argentina from making payments on its restructured debt without also paying the holdout bondholders.

Argentina went ahead and deposited the payment for its restructured bondholders with the banks the instruments designate as fiduciaries – in charge of collecting the payment and giving it to the bondholders. Since the banks took the judge’s order to mean they could not disburse those funds, an anomaly has emerged: a country complying with its debt obligations falling into default due to a foreign court preventing payment from being disbursed. Amazingly, the unusual nature of the ruling was only the beginning of a sui generis scenario that continues to unfold.

Holders of bonds that were restructured under European or Argentinean jurisdiction filed claims arguing that by blocking payment on their credits—even when made by U.S. banks—Judge Griesa had overstepped his jurisdiction. In fact, the judge has already granted several “one-and-only-time” exceptions so the fiduciary banks could make payments to certain non-U.S. bondholders. When one of the banks, Citi, requested that the injunction be lifted for those payments, to avoid requesting an exception every time interest payments came due, the judge denied the request, only to later backtrack on his own decision. But while agreeing to give Citi this maneuvering room, the judge expanded the initial order – and the jurisdiction overstep – by ruling that future debt under Argentine law, if it will or can be paid in U.S. dollars, qualifies as external debt. So, financial entities helping Argentina make any such payments would be prevented from doing so by the court order.

An English court, in one of these cases, ruled that payments deposited with the fiduciary institution in New York are the property of the bondholders, and no longer belong to the debtor country. Therefore, they should not fall under the jurisdiction of a US judge. Indeed, therein lies another anomaly created by the judge’s ruling: His decision ignored the arrangement Argentina reached with 92% of creditors, but then issued measures that affect payments to these majority creditors—arguably bringing them coercively under his jurisdiction.

The Argentinean Congress also passed legislation according to which it will give non-restructured bondholders – such as NML – the same deal it granted to the restructured ones, but no more. To fulfill this commitment, the government has been depositing these payments in an Argentinean banking institution , which the “vulture funds” could claim at any moment if they so wished (so far they have not).

Some observers speculated that the Argentinean government would agree to settle with the vulture funds after expiration of the RUFO clause. RUFO stands for “right upon future offer” and is inserted in the restructured bonds to promise their holders they will have a right to be offered any better deal that other bondholders receive in the future. If Argentina had settled before the expiration of the clause, it could have faced immediate demands from majority bondholders for payments proportionally equal to those made to NML. But the expiration of the clause in January did not bring any change to Argentina’s offer to the vulture funds. These observers’ speculation failed to recognize that a settlement where NML gets paid the whole amount it demands—even in the absence of the “RUFO effects”—could invite lawsuits from other non-restructured bondholders. In fact, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling last June, some of those bondholders have already filed suit hoping to follow in the footsteps of NML. Since these investors hold claims to some $15 billion, this is hardly an advisable course of action for Argentina.

Regardless of what happens with Argentina, however, repercussions from Griesa’s decision reach much farther. The ruling continues a trend that, legal experts say, has seen holdouts increasingly better treated by courts, at the expense of the soundness of sovereign debt restructurings. What former IMF economist Anne Krueger characterized in 2003 as a gap in the international financial architecture is now wider than ever. By increasing the potential rewards of holdout behavior, this recent judicial precedent will make future debt crises harder to resolve, with unpredictable systemic consequences.

At the same time, creditors might opt for a jurisdiction where the traditional understanding of pari passu still holds – such as England– at the expense of New York’s current dominance as a preferential jurisdiction for issuing sovereign debt. Indeed, a large number of prominent economists warned of this possibility following Griesa’s ruling.

Last September, facing the United States and other countries’ continuing resistance to reach a consensus, developing countries voted to create a sovereign debt workout mechanism, and negotiations have begun on establishing such a legal framework at the United Nations. Even in the worst-case scenario—failure to get all countries on board—these negotiations would create a U.N.-endorsed standard for settling future sovereign debt crises. If history is any guide, there is one thing we know for sure: sooner or later there will be a country that needs to resort to it.


Aldo Caliari has been, since 2000, staff at the Washington DC-based Center of Concern where, since 2002, he has been Director of the Rethinking Bretton Woods Project, focusing on linkages between trade and finance policy, global economic governance, debt, international financial architecture and human rights in international economic policy. 

April 6, 2015 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

NYPD Spent Years Spying On Muslims, Generated Exactly Zero Leads

By Mike Masnick | Techdirt | August 21, 2012

We just wrote about yet another (in a long line) of manufactured terrorist plots, in which the FBI creates its own terrorist plot to arrest anyone who can be coaxed into going along for the ride, even if they had no interest or ability to push the plot forward on their own. In that case, it was even more ridiculous, because they couldn’t even find anyone willing to go along with the plot — and the main “suspect” actually alerted the FBI to the informant who was trying to coax him into taking part in a plot (which didn’t stop him from being arrested, even if the case was eventually dropped).

Of course, the FBI is not alone in its incredibly ham-fisted anti-terrorism efforts in which the focus seems to be much more about someone’s religious leanings, rather than any actual interest in creating terror. The NY Police Department got plenty of attention for deciding to build their own local versions of the FBI and CIA to try to catch terrorists. That link describes the NYPD as a sort of new “elite” intelligence agency, hiring people out of other intelligence agencies and then placing agents around the globe to try to beat the FBI and CIA at their own game.

Back at home, apparently this included following on the FBI’s tactic of assuming that “brown skin = terrorist.” As such, they’ve spent the past few years spying on “Muslim neighborhoods” throughout New York (with help from the CIA), sending undercover agents and informants into Muslim groups and organizations:

The Demographics Unit is at the heart of a police spying program, built with help from the CIA, which assembled databases on where Muslims lived, shopped, worked and prayed. Police infiltrated Muslim student groups, put informants in mosques, monitored sermons and catalogued every Muslim in New York who adopted new, Americanized surnames.

Police hoped the Demographics Unit would serve as an early warning system for terrorism. And if police ever got a tip about, say, an Afghan terrorist in the city, they’d know where he was likely to rent a room, buy groceries and watch sports.

How useful has it been? Apparently not at all. Not a single lead has come out of the program. Not one.

I know this is a crazy thought, but perhaps violating the privacy of tons of people just because of the color of their skin or their religion, isn’t the best (or even “a”) way to stop terrorists.

May 2, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Islamophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

NYPD Shutters Muslim Mapping Unit – But What About Other Tactics?

By Noa Yachot | ACLU | April 15, 2014

The New York Police Department is disbanding the unit that mapped New York’s Muslim communities, their places of worship, and businesses they frequent – based on nothing but their religious beliefs and associations. To this we say: Good Riddance.

But the end of the Zone Assessment Unit – better known by its former, more apt name, the Demographics Unit – doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the NYPD’s unconstitutional surveillance of New York’s Muslims.

The NYPD’s discriminatory spying program has many components, of which the Demographics Unit was just one. (The ACLU, along with the NYCLU and CLEAR Project at CUNY Law School sued the NYPD over the program – read about our case here.) Before we celebrate the end of bias-based policing, we need to ensure that the other abusive tactics employed by the NYPD meet the same fate as the unit. For example:

  • Use of informants: A wide network of NYPD informants have infiltrated community organizations, mosques, restaurants, bookstores, and more to monitor, record, and take notes on innocent people and innocuous conversations. This needs to stop.
  • Designation of entire mosques “terrorism enterprises”: The NYPD has used “terrorism enterprise investigations” against entire mosques to justify the surveillance of as many people as possible. That unmerited designation has allowed the police department to record sermons and spy on entire congregations.
  • Discriminatory use of surveillance cameras: Cameras have been set up outside mosques and community events – even weddings – to record community members’ comings and goings and collect license plate numbers of congregants and attendees.
  • Radicalization theory: The NYPD must disavow its debunked “radicalization” theory, on which discriminatory surveillance is based. This misguided notion, which we’ve described in detail here, treats with suspicion people engaging in First Amendment-protected activities including “wearing traditional Islamic clothing [and] growing a beard,” abstaining from alcohol, and “becoming involved in social activism” – meaning, basically, anyone who identifies as Muslim, harbors Islamic beliefs, or engages in Islamic religious practices.
  • Discriminatory surveillance by other units: The Demographics Unit’s discriminatory mapping activities shouldn’t be carried out by other parts of the NYPD and its Intelligence Division.

The Demographics Unit has sown fear and mistrust among hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers – creating “psychological warfare in our community,” Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York told the New York Times. Shutting it down is a welcome step, but it’s only the first one.  New York’s Muslims — and all its communities — deserve more and better from their police force than bias-based policing.

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Islamophobia, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 2 Comments

NY state steps up surveillance on…kids

New York state authorities are planning to step-up surveillance – this time, on school kids. The program, which is to be launched state-wide, is supposed to gather information on students starting from the age of five. And as RT’s Marina Portnaya reports, the move is finding little support among parents.

February 22, 2014 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | Leave a comment

New York State Senate passes bill targeting the American Studies Association

MEMO | February 3, 2014

The New York State Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill that targets the American Studies Association (ASA) for supporting an academic and cultural boycott of Israeli institutions. The bill is due to be discussed this week by the New York State Assembly’s Higher Education Committee, and if passed the bill would be voted on by the full assembly shortly thereafter. The governor also has to approve any bill before it becomes law.

Members of ASA voted in December 2013 to endorse the call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel. Shortly afterwards, the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association also announced its support for the boycott. Both follow the precedent set by the Asian American Studies Association in April 2013.

Al-Jazeera America reported that the New York bill, sponsored by Democratic Senator Jeff Klein, passed the state senate by a vote of 56-4 and would “prevent academic institutions from using state aid to pay for membership fees to organisations like the ASA or to reimburse state employees for travel or lodging associated with ASA travel.”

In a statement released by his office, Klein threatened that, “I will not allow the enemies of Israel or the Jewish people to gain an inch in New York.”

The Palestinians calling for the boycott, as part of the wider Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, are protesting the on-going Israeli occupation of Palestine.

According to Students for Justice in Palestine, the bill has wider ramifications than just targeting the ASA. The group said in an e-mail that: “If [the bill] becomes law it would prohibit public universities and colleges from using any taxpayer money on groups that support boycotts of Israel. For instance, such funds could not be used for travel or lodging for a faculty member attending a meeting of a group that supports a boycott of Israel.”

Dima Khalidi of the Palestine Solidarity Legal Support and Cooperating Counsel with the Centre for Constitutional Rights noted that the bill clearly aims to “discourage expressive activities such as boycotts based on the legislators’ personal disagreement with the content of the expression.” She added that: “Painting the ASA boycott resolution as discriminatory is not only inaccurate, but also distracts from the fact that its purpose is in fact to protest the human rights violations for which Israel is responsible, and the discriminatory policies and practices of the Israeli government. These bills would be both a violation of free speech and academic freedom, which the proposed legislation cynically purports to defend.”

February 3, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

FBI Arrests Michael Grimm’s Girlfriend; Meanwhile Another Congress Member Implicated

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Diana Durand (L) has been arrested in connection with illegal campaign contributions allegedly made to the 2010 campaign of New York Republican Congressman Michael Grimm (R)

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | January 18, 2014

Diana Durand, a Texas woman who apparently has been romantically involved with Congressman Michael Grimm, has been arrested and charged with illegally funneling money into the New York congressman’s 2010 campaign.

She is also accused of steering “straw donations” into the campaign of yet another congress member, Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL), according to the New York Daily News.

A straw donation is a donation to a political campaign made by one person, though under another person’s name. It is a way of getting around legal limits on the amount of money that can be contributed to political candidates.

Schock, like Grimm, is an avid supporter of Israel.

Durand is 47-years old and was arraigned in federal court in Houston on Wednesday. She has hired an attorney, Stuart Kaplan, who is a longtime associate of Grimm, both having served in the FBI.

Grimm left the FBI in 2006, was elected to Congress in 2010, and in 2012 the FBI opened an investigation into him over possible illegal campaign donations to his 2010 congressional campaign made by supporters of Israeli Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto.

Durand is free on $50,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on January 30. The following is from the New York Daily News account:

The single mother of one worked with Grimm before his election when he launched a trucking company near Houston. Records list her brother and sister-in-law as executives at the firm.

Sources said Durand and Grimm, 43, who is divorced, were involved romantically, and that she visited him in Washington after his election.

Durand was busted Friday, nearly five months after a Brooklyn judge first ordered her arrest. Feds spent the intervening months in an unsuccessful bid to win her cooperation in an ongoing probe into allegations that Grimm and supporters encouraged donors to make illegal contributions to his 2010 campaign, people with knowledge of the case said.

As I reported previously, campaign donations totaling more than $500,000 were reportedly solicited on Grimm’s behalf by a top Pinto aide, Ofer Biton, who was arrested in 2012 for immigration fraud and who pled guilty to that charge last August.

The FBI had sought to have Biton turn state’s evidence against Grimm, but he has refused, and apparently Durand intends doing likewise. Also as I repoted before, Grimm has friends in high places—Israel—where he reportedly maintains close ties to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and according to reports, the Israeli police have done their best to sabotage the FBI’s investigation.

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Grimm with Benjamin Netanyahu

Schock would appear to be the second congress member implicated in what seems to be a widening investigation. According to the Chicago Tribune:

Schock, 32, is a prolific fundraiser serving his third term in Congress. He had more than $2.9 million in his war chest in September, when the most recent campaign-finance reports were filed.

The House Ethics Committee has been examining Schock’s fundraising after reports that in 2012, he solicited $25,000 for a super PAC, in excess of a $5,000 limit for lawmakers asking for money for that kind of independent-expenditure group.

The Tribune also reports on a statement issued by Schock’s office in which a spokesperson said, “This literally is the first our office has heard of this issue.”

In March of 2010, Schock and 326 other members of Congress signed onto a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton affirming their “commitment to the unbreakable bond that exists between our country and the State of Israel and to express to you our deep concern over recent tension.”

The “recent tension” referred to by the signatories of the letter is an incident I referred to in my first article on the Grimm investigation. On March 9, 2010 the Israeli government announced the construction of 1,600 new homes, for Jews only, to be built in East Jerusalem. The announcement coincided with a state visit to Israel by US Vice President Joe Biden, and was viewed by many as insulting to America. Clinton referred to it as “deeply negative” for US-Israeli relations.

And as I also noted:

Coincidentally, simultaneous to the slight against Biden, the parents of Rachel Corrie were in Israel for the start of their civil trial charging the Israeli military in the wrongful death of their daughter.

Biden’s response to the announcement of the 1,600 new homes was to issue a servile statement in which he declared that “there is no space between the United States and Israel,” whereupon he boarded a plane and jetted home to America without offering any words of support to the Corrie family.

Schock and the other signers of the letter went on to state:

Our valuable bilateral relationship with Israel needs and deserves constant reinforcement. As the Vice-President said during his recent visit to Israel: “Progress occurs in the Middle East when everyone knows there is simply no space between the U.S. and Israel when it comes to security, none. No space.” Steadfast American backing has helped lead to Israeli peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. And American involvement continues to be critical to the effort to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

We recognize that, despite the extraordinary closeness between our country and Israel, there will be differences over issues both large and small. Our view is that such differences are best resolved quietly, in trust and confidence, as befits longstanding strategic allies. We hope and expect that, with mutual effort and good faith, the United States and Israel will move beyond this disruption quickly, to the lasting benefit of both nations.

Born of Morrocon Jews, Pinto is one of the richest rabbis in Israel and is viewed by some as a religious and financial “guru” and a “wonder rabbi.” His adherents in the past have included some of the wealthiest oligarchs in the world and also Israeli political leaders:

In Israel, the list of those seeking Rabbi Pinto’s advice reads like a high-society gossip column: Multi-millionaires Lev Leviev and Nochi Danker, opposition leader Tzipi Livni and former Industry Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer, who the rabbi supposedly brought out of a coma earlier this year. It is even rumoured that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu consults him.

Now, however, he seems to be in hotwater with Israeli police, who have charged him with attempting to bribe a police official—apparently in a bid to sabotage the FBI’s investigation of Grimm. The FBI is hoping to have Pinto testify against Grimm, and reportedly is in possession of a wiretap audio in which Israeli police can be heard threatening the rabbi.

And finally, as I reported yesterday, Grimm apparently isn’t the only Congress member who has accepted donations from Pinto’s wealthy followers. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is reported to have as well.

Cantor’s ties to Pinto have also been commented upon by blogger Richard Silverstein, who has written extensively on the FBI’s investigation of Grimm:

The key question is whether the techniques and solicitors used in Grimm’s campaign match those used by Cantor. If so, then the FBI is very interested in Cantor. If Cantor was smarter than Grimm and didn’t use mafiosi to collect cash as Grimm did, then he may not get into trouble. But the very fact that Cantor dipped into Grimm’s cookie jar so heavily is mighty suspicious. Who knows where it will lead?

Grimm, by the way, is not Jewish but of Italian descent, which makes us wonder why the Israelis are apparently so keen to protect him—and after all, there are plenty of Israel supporters in Congress. But as Silverstein notes, it’s insurance:

To be clear, I don’t have a smoking gun that points to Netanyahu involvement in sabotaging the FBI investigation.  But I do have a series of strong circumstantial evidence that leads in that direction.  But why would Bibi or Sara care about this enough to take such risky actions as agitating the FBI?  Let’s return to that grand strategy of electing even more Israel-friendly GOP members of Congress.  If Michael Grimm was their model to see whether Pinto was a new source of campaign cash, they needed to protect him if he might be going down.  Rather than lose their investment and shut down this conduit for millions in new campaign funding, they’d go to the mat to help Grimm.

More background on Bibi’s strategy in dealing with the U.S. political process: he’s found that presidents may not like him because they are slightly more independent than members of Congress.  But Congress is in his back pocket due to that campaign largess I mentioned earlier.  Bibi is hated in the White House but loved (or feared) in Congress.  When he can’t get an invitation to the White House, he goes over the president’s head and gets to address a Joint Session of Congress.

This is the same strategy he and the Lobby are following regarding the Iran sanctions legislation.  The president doesn’t want new sanctions.  Most sane members of Congress don’t want them either.  But the Lobby and Israel do.  They want a war with Iran.  So they want to sabotage Obama’s strategy of negotiating his way out of the impasse.  How best to do this?  Don’t confront Obama head-on because he’s an immovable object on this matter.  But do an end-around.  Activate all those pro-Israel IOUs in Congress.

So the more Michael Grimms there are in Congress, the more Israel has its own interests guaranteed in the halls of Congress.

And of course, there’s no shortage of money. In fact, in a manner of speaking, there’s money to burn:

 photo pinto_lev_zpsa6cdf727.jpg

Rabbi Pinto, center, surrounded by oligarchs, including Israeli diamond billionaire Lev Leviev, far right.

January 19, 2014 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

War From Above

By Richard Hugus | Aletho News | December 31, 2013

Drone aircraft, which we first heard of as weapons of war used by the United States in foreign lands, are now poised for a full-scale invasion of the skies above the US itself. On December 30, 2013 the US Federal Aviation Administration announced its choices for drone testing in six states around the country — Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia. These six states may in turn do their testing in more than one location, For example, according to the Anchorage Daily News, drone testing centered in Alaska at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks will be called “the ‘Pan-Pacific Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Range Complex.’ It includes six flight ranges in Alaska, four in Hawaii and three in Oregon.” According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser “the Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island, the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai and even the island of Niihau have been included in discussions of places where the testing could occur.” According to the East Oregonian, drone testing is likely to involve a former military base in Pendleton, Port of Tillamook, and Warm Springs. Likewise, the New York operation will be run from the former Griffiss Air Force base in Rome, NY and, according to the Cape Cod Times, will also include the former Otis Air Base on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The Times reports that “the Cape site had the support of the state’s congressional delegation, a statewide military asset commission and business leaders” and that “among the institutions involved in the bid are Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rochester Institute of Technology.”

What this story reveals is the creation of a huge web of DOD-connected Universities, businesses, corporations, defense contractors, and former and current Pentagon facilities spread all over the country. Included in this web are the many and various chambers of commerce, their boosters in the press, and numerous comprador “officials” anxious to bring federal money into their districts, at the expense of all the other people who live in them. Almost no news coverage has appeared that would imply the FAA decision was anything but a boon for the economy and the advent of a wonderful and inevitable new technology.

There is little news about the down side to hosting drones in all these areas of the country, each with a populace that has simply not been consulted. Drones first came to our attention at the beginning of “the war on terror.” We learned of them first as weapons for highly illegal, cowardly, and indiscriminate “targeted killings” in foreign lands. These weapons have murdered countless innocent people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia pursuant to “kill lists” drawn up every week by the CIA and Pentagon, and approved by the White House. These weapons fulfill the US Air Force’s fantasy of “death from above,” carried out by pilots working in the security and comfort of US bases who, acting as judge, jury, and executioner, destroy supposed enemies from computer consoles as if it were a video game. The cowardliness of wars of aggression being conducted against innocent people in dirt-poor lands by unseen “UAV pilots” in air-conditioned offices thousands of miles away cannot be over-emphasized. This is what unmanned aircraft have brought so far to the reputation of the United States – a new low in the entire universe of human ethics; murder abroad is but the advance of capitalism at home. Wedding parties in Afghanistan have been decimated so that Amazon can deliver CDs and smart phones to our door by drone.

Nor is there news about the introduction of drones domestically as yet another assault on privacy and the human right to be free from surveillance. Domestic law enforcement agencies are just as anxious to spy on the US population and target people they call criminals as the Pentagon and CIA have been to spy on the rest of the world and kill people they call terrorists. It isn’t enough that our phones and computers have been turned by the NSA into astounding instruments of surveillance, that everything we say and do on these instruments is being harvested and stored, and that surveillance cameras are mounted at almost every business and public space. Now the national security state wants to have remote-controlled cameras videotaping us full-time from the sky. The police hope to have drones able to fire “non-lethal weapons” at people they deem to be involved in criminal activity so that they too can play God. Without question, non-lethal weapons will soon become lethal weapons and the US will be trying and executing citizens at home as it has done elsewhere without even a hint of due process.

The domestic military bases which are being revived by this brave new technology originally went out of business because there was nothing for them to do in the fulfillment of their original purpose – defending the country. Otis Air Base, now called “Joint Base Cape Cod”, is a case in point. It used to patrol the skies for Russian aircraft along the northeast coast and ended up being a disaster for the community in which it was situated because it polluted the local groundwater and sole-source drinking water aquifer with untold gallons of dumped jet fuel and cleaning solvents. It sent fighter jets to intercept the two planes hijacked to New York on September 11, 2001, but ended up being part of a ploy to let those planes actually reach the twin towers before they got there. This base and many others have been parasites on the communities around them. They will continue in that role in their new incarnation as hosts to drone spying and drone warfare. The war has come home. The people orchestrating this war – the global elite — have no particular allegiance to the United States. From their point of view, its land and its people must also be brought under control, just like everywhere else. How sad it is to see the scramble to welcome them.

December 31, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News, Civil Liberties, Militarism | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boycott of Israeli universities angers NY lawmakers

Press TV – December 31, 2013

Two New York legislators say they will introduce a bill to strip state aid from universities that take part in a recent movement to boycott Israeli academic centers.

State Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat who is also a former member of the Jewish Defense League that was classified as a “terrorist group” by the FBI in 2001, say they want to cut off state aid to universities affiliated with the American Studies Association’s movement to boycott Israeli institutions.

Earlier this month, members of the ASA overwhelmingly voted to ban Israeli universities from collaborations with their campuses.

The organization said the reason behind its decision was that the Israeli institutions were “a party” to policies “that violate human rights” as Israel’s “violation of international law and UN resolutions” continues and the “impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students” is well-documented.

“The American Studies Association is carrying on a long and proud tradition of American academics by engaging in an academic boycott much like many professors did during apartheid South Africa,” Michael Shallcross, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at Temple University in Philadelphia, told Press TV.

However, the move, which is part of a larger international effort to win boycotts of Israeli institutions, angered some US politicians both at state and federal level.

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York) has urged the ASA to end the boycott, saying he was surprised by the organization’s decision.

And now, two pro-Israel Democrats in New York’s state legislature, Klein and Hikind, are trying to cut state aid to universities affiliated with the movement.

“[It] is a shameless attempt at censorship by powerful Zionist politicians in New York State by cutting off economic life lines that make higher education possible,” Shallcross said.

The ASA is the largest and oldest association involved in interdisciplinary studies of American culture and history.

December 31, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Video | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment