Monthly Archives: April 2015

Fight Over Domestic Spying Heats Up in Congress with ‘USA Freedom Act’

With Patriot Act reauthorization quickly coming down the pipe, fight over surveillance reform represented in competing congressional bills

by Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published April 29, 2015.

 

(Photo: EFF/flickr/cc)

(Photo: EFF/flickr/cc)

A bipartisan bill, designed to rein in the bulk collection of the private communications of American citizens, was introduced Tuesday by members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, ahead of an upcoming expiration date for key Patriot Act provisions that have given legal authority to some of the most controversial domestic surveillance practices revealed over the last two years.

With a June 1 expiration for Sections 206 and 215 of the USA Patriot Act, initially rammed through Congress in the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, the revisions contained in the new reform bill—submitted as the USA Freedom Act of 2015 (pdf)—would reauthorize certain aspects of that law while seeking to reform ways the government uses its spying capabilities. A similar reform bill was introduced last year in Congress, but ultimately did not gain enough support to pass. Continue reading

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Iran: Hypocrisy of Nuclear Proliferation Highlighted by Israel’s Undeclared Arsenal

Citing imminent humanitarian consequences, non-nuclear weapon states call for total elimination of stockpiles at NPT summit in New York

Written by Lauren McCall, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published April 28, 2015

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo by Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Photo by Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Speaking before the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty on Monday, Iran demanded that countries possessing nuclear weapons halt all plans to modernize their arsenals, while warning that the atomic stockpile of Israel, which is not a signatory, poses a “serious and continuous threat” to the Middle East.

Addressing the assembly in New York City, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, whose country is still undergoing negotiations over its development of nuclear power capabilities, told NPT signatories that nuclear-weapon states should “immediately cease their plans to further invest in modernizing and extending the life span of their nuclear weapons and related facilities.” Continue reading

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A Pause, Not An Ending

Today is my older sister Sue’s birthday. Usually I’d post something sappy to her wall, and call her when she got home from school (she’s a teacher) and rib her over the fact that she’s a year older, and therefore much more ancient than I am, even though only three years separate us. However, this year is different…

Last summer, she began to feel sick. She couldn’t hold down various foods, and others would pass right through her. Her doctor originally thought it might be a combination of celiac disease and a sudden dairy allergy, and recommended some changes in her diet. For a while, the changes seemed to work. Then, the symptoms came back. She went back to the doctor for more tests.

The results came back in November; she had cancer. Of course, this being Sue, it wasn’t any ordinary cancer, but a very rare neuroendocrine cancer that was untreatable and invariably fatal. The “good” news is that the patient usually has three to five years to live. Continue reading

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Move Over Shale, Solar Is Shining Brighter With Each Passing Day

Developments show how booming demand and support for solar is shaking up energy paradigm

Written by Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published April 26, 2015.

Solar panels at California solar ranch. Photo by Pacific Southwest Region from Sacramento, US (Solar Panels at California Valley Solar Ranch 1) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Solar panels at California solar ranch. Photo by Pacific Southwest Region from Sacramento, US (Solar Panels at California Valley Solar Ranch 1) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Move over dirty fossil fuels, the solar revolution is coming.

That, at least, is the buried headline contained in new reporting from Reuters on Sunday which looks at the ability of the solar industry to upend the world’s energy system in ways similar to recent innovations which allowed oil and gas companies to squeeze previously unattainable deposits from underground shale formations.

With a focus on Japan, Reuters catalogs how the rising capacity and falling prices of solar energy—even as it currently survives without contributions from a fleet of dormant nuclear plants —has led the country to turn off its “giant oil-fired power plants” one after another. Continue reading

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A tribute to Joan Kagezi: the murder of a human rights defender

Joan Kagezi was a lead prosecutor in high profile cases in Uganda, including against a former LRA commander and those accused of terrorism. She was shot dead in front of her children last month.

Joan Kagezi. Photo via Facebook

Joan Kagezi. Photo via Facebook

By Brigid Inder. Published April 25, 2015 by openDemocracy

On 30 March, at around 7.30pm, Joan Kagezi, Senior Principal State Attorney in Uganda, was murdered by unidentified assailants, who opened fire on her while she was driving home from work.

In the most ordinary of circumstances, Joan had stopped at a fruit stall on her way home when she was shot twice by gunmen on a motorcycle.  Three of her four children were in the car with Joan at the time of the attack and witnessed the brutal murder of their mother.

Joan was head of the Directorate of Public Prosecution’s (DPP) war crimes and anti-terrorism division and in this capacity she was, at the time of her death, the lead Prosecutor in a high profile terrorism case, involving suspects in the 2010 terrorist bombings in Kampala. The case was strong and Joan was formidable. Continue reading

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Collateral Damage – Why Drone Attacks In Pakistan Aren’t Good Policy

On Thursday, President Obama admitted that two al Qaeda hostages, an American and an Italian, were killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan in January. He also said that two other US citizens had been killed in a strike later that month.

Armed Predator drone firing Hellfire missile. Photo public domain.

Armed Predator drone firing Hellfire missile. Photo public domain.

The reaction in Congress to the news was predictable, especially among the presidential hopefuls in the Senate. Rand Paul called the deaths “a tragedy,” but refused to address the attacks in general. Ted Cruz called for an investigation (as did Obama), but placed the blame at the feet of al-Qaeda.

But, the most telling (and chilling) response came from Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina Senator said; “Collateral damage is part of war. I’ve got no problem at all with anything that happened other than my deepest sympathies for those that were killed after being held hostage by al-Qaeda… they can look and see what went wrong, but I am not for stopping this program.”

Along with the admission came an apology to the hostages’ families. We wonder why the President stopped there, because if we’re apologizing for innocent people being killed by our drones in Pakistan, those two are just a drop in the bucket. Continue reading

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100 Years Later, Armenian Genocide Remains Center of Controversy

“Denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide because it strives to kill the memory of the event; denial seeks to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators; denial creates what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton has called “a morally counterfeit universe for the survivors and their legacy.”

Peter Balakian

"THOSE WHO FELL BY THE WAYSIDE. Scenes like this were common all over the Armenian provinces, in the spring and summer months of 1915. Death in its several forms---massacre, starvation, exhaustion---destroyed the larger part of the refugees. The Turkish policy was that of extermination under the guise of deportation." Picture showing Armenians killed during the Armenian Genocide. Image taken from Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, written by Henry Morgenthau, Sr. and published in 1918.  Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“THOSE WHO FELL BY THE WAYSIDE. Scenes like this were common all over the Armenian provinces, in the spring and summer months of 1915. Death in its several forms—massacre, starvation, exhaustion—destroyed the larger part of the refugees. The Turkish policy was that of extermination under the guise of deportation.” Picture showing Armenians killed during the Armenian Genocide. Image taken from Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, written by Henry Morgenthau, Sr. and published in 1918. Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis describes it as “the first genocide of the 20th century.”

Turkey responded by recalling their ambassador to the Vatican.

One hundred years ago this month, the Ottoman Empire began carrying out a systematic plan to exterminate its minority Armenian population. Between 1 million and 1.5 million people were killed or died of starvation. On April 24, 850 intellectuals, doctors and writers of the Armenian community were rounded up in what was then Constantinople and later executed. That was just the beginning. Continue reading

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Recycling Earth Day

At a UNESCO conference in San Francisco in October, 1969, longtime activist John McConnell proposed a global holiday to celebrate Earth’s life and beauty, to advance peace, and to alert people about the need for preserving and renewing the threatened ecological balances upon which all life on Earth depends. . Yesterday marked the 46th celebration of McConnell’s vision; we call it Earth Day.

Earth Day flag. By John McConnell (flag designer) NASA (Earth photograph) SiBr4 (flag image) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Earth Day flag. By John McConnell (flag designer) NASA (Earth photograph) SiBr4 (flag image) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

McConnell’s original proposal called for Earth Day to be celebrated on the first day of spring. Indeed, the first Earth Day celebration was held March 21, 1970 in San Francisco. Gaylord Nelson, a former US Senator from Wisconsin, founded a second Earth Day on April 22 as an environmental teach-in.

Two thousand colleges and universities, roughly ten thousand primary and secondary schools, and hundreds of communities across the United States participated in the event that year. These days, Earth Day is an international event, and is celebrated in more than 192 countries each year. Continue reading

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Democratic Trade War: Obama Says Warren ‘Wrong’ on TPP as Reid Says ‘Hell No’ to Fast Track

Split among Democratic lawmakers front and center as push for corporate-friendly trade pact heads for key votes in Congress

At a labor rally last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said workers "have to fight back" against corporate-friendly deals like TPP. "I'm proud to be with you and I’m going to be with you all the way," she said. (Image: Screengrab/AFL-CIO)

At a labor rally last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said workers “have to fight back” against corporate-friendly deals like TPP. “I’m proud to be with you and I’m going to be with you all the way,” she said. (Image: Screengrab/AFL-CIO)

Written by Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published April 22, 2015.

President Obama on Tuesday evening said that progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) who have called out the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement for being a corporate-power grab and have vowed to defeat legislation designed to ram it through Congress are simply “wrong” when it comes to the pending deal between the U.S. and 11 Asian and Pacific nations.

Specifically singling out Sen. Warren for her steadfast opposition, Obama defended the TPP in an interview with MSNBC‘s Chris Matthews that aired Tuesday evening.

“I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues, but she’s wrong on this,” Obama said about the deal.

In op-ed earlier this year, Warren condemned the TPP for its inclusion of a provision known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS, which would allow private corporations to sue governments if they believe laws or regulations are impeding their ability to make profits or adequately compete in a market. “The name may sound mild, but don’t be fooled,” argued Warren. “Agreeing to ISDS in this enormous new treaty would tilt the playing field in the United States further in favor of big multinational corporations. Worse, it would undermine U.S. sovereignty.” Continue reading

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Be careful what you ask for: Reversing the Effects of ObamaCare

If politicians get their way, we would be horrified at what their words would mean.

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House. Photo by Pete Souza [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at the White House. Photo by Pete Souza [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Since the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “ObamaCare”) was signed into law in 2010, there has not been a more hated and controversial law as seen by the Republican party in American history. After echoing the words of political fear mongers such as Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, it did not take long for the Republican held- House to pass attempt after attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act to have it go nowhere in the Senate.

Now, as we watch the race for the 2016 Presidential election heat up, the latest battle cry, as stated by Senator Ted Cruz when announcing his bid in early April;  “Imagine a president who will repeal every word of ObamaCare… and reverse every effect of this law…” He later stated in an interview that it was time to “elect a new president who will reverse the course the nation is on under Obama.”

So let’s dare to imagine, just for a moment, what it might look like to repeal every word and reverse every effect of the Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

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