Monthly Archives: May 2015

Is US Trade Rep a Wall Street Crony? Groups Demand Transparency.

Public interest watchdogs say Americans deserve to know what US top trade negotiator Michael Froman ‘has been privately saying to big banks’

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published May 28, 2015

US Trade Representative Michael Froman, the groups note, “received a more than $4 million golden parachute from Citigroup upon leaving the large financial institution to join the Obama administration in 2009.” (Photo: US Institute of Peace/flickr/cc)

Noting deep ties between the country’s top trade negotiator and Wall Street banks, ten groups representing millions of Americans are calling on the White House to make public all communications between U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and the massive financial institutions that stand to benefit from proposed trade deals.

In a letter (pdf) addressed to Froman—lead champion of President Barack Obama’s corporate-friendly trade agenda—groups including National People’s Action, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and CREDO Action request “the prompt, voluntary, and proactive disclosure of all records of communication between yourself and representatives of the ten largest U.S. financial institutions—including lobbyists, employees, and trade associations—during your tenure as U.S. Trade Representative.”

Those financial institutions include JP Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup. Continue reading

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The Tragedy of Jason Rezaian’s Trial

Jason Rezaian and his wife Yeganeh Salehi are both correspondents who work for the Washington Post and the UAE-based National newspaper respectively, and they have licenses from the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance for their journalistic activities in Iran. Photo courtesy Iran Human Rights Watch.org.

Jason Rezaian and his wife Yeganeh Salehi are both correspondents who work for the Washington Post and the UAE-based National newspaper respectively, and they have licenses from the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance for their journalistic activities in Iran. Photo courtesy Iran Human Rights Watch.org.

Jason Rezaian is a journalist with the Washington Post and is a dual Iranian and American national who lives in Tehran.  On July 22, 2014, Jason and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, also a journalist, were arrested only one day after Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance renewed Rezaian’s press credentials, with the head of Iran’s judiciary stating simply that they had “been detained for some questions.” In October, Salehi was released on bail.

According to a press release from Human Rights Watch published December 3, “On November 18, 2014, authorities informed Rezaian that investigations against him are ongoing, and that his pretrial detention has been extended for another two months, a source familiar with his case told Human Rights Watch. Prosecutors have not allowed the lawyer hired by Rezaian’s family to defend him, to speak with him, or to review his case file, the source said. The source added that despite Rezaian’s inability to read or write Persian, authorities did not provide him with an official translator during his interrogation. With a judge’s approval, detaining authorities can, under Iranian law, hold a suspect indefinitely and deny him access to counsel.” Continue reading

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Minneapolis as the ‘New South’: Police Data Shows Severe Racial Disparities

‘In Minneapolis, the eyes of the law look at Blacks and Native Americans differently than whites,’ says ACLU

By Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published May 28, 2015

In Picking Up the Pieces, the ACLU “demonstrates how racial inequalities in the city extend to the way police enforce low-level offenses, which only increases the feelings of alienation many Minneapolis residents of color have towards state and local government more generally.” (Photo: Taber Andrew Bain/flickr/cc)

Black people and Native Americans in Minneapolis face “extreme racial disparities” at the hands of local law enforcement, with black residents nearly 9 times more likely than whites to be arrested for a low-level offense, according to a new analysis released Thursday.

“Minneapolis police show the same patterns of racial bias that we’re seeing across the country and that demand reform,” said Emma Andersson, staff attorney with the ACLU, whose Criminal Law Reform Project worked with the ACLU of Minnesota to examine more than 96,000 arrests made by Minneapolis police officers for low-level offenses—any offense with a fine of $3,000 or less and/or a year or less in jail—from January 2012 through September 2014.

“In Minneapolis,” Andersson continued, “the eyes of the law look at Blacks and Native Americans differently than whites. The resulting injustices—more fees and fines, more time in jail, more criminal records—hurt Minneapolitans and undermine public safety.” Continue reading

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A year of Modi Raj – India in crisis

Middle and upper class Indians see no crisis. The media fails to inform them that 75% upwards are too often suffering not only neglect but massive state violence and terror.

Written by N. JAYARAM.  Published 5-26-15 in OpenDemocracy.

By Christopher J. Fynn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Christopher J. Fynn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Almost two years ago, in an article for openDemocracy, this writer made a couple of predictions regarding the outcome of the general elections in 2014 that turned out to be wide of the mark.  The article made other assertions that, after what came to light later in 2013 and early last year, help explain why the predictions went awry.

I had predicted that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, “can hope for a maximum of 25 percent vote share nationally.” In the event his Bharatiya Janata (Indian people’s) Party got 31 percent of the votes polled nationally, resulting (thanks to the first-past-the-post system, as in Britain) in a comfortable majority for the BJP on its own, without having to depend on coalition partners. So the following prediction stood nullified: “Modi will have to make deals with several smaller parties, each claiming bigger pounds of flesh than their strength in terms of seats warrants.” Continue reading

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Threat of ‘Inevitable’ War Looms Between US and China Over Pacific Island Row

Chinese military white paper accuses US of ‘meddling’ in South China Sea

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published May 26, 2015

Spratly Islands. Map by the CIA (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Spratly Islands. Map by the CIA (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons

Tensions between China and United States continue to rise over the South China Sea as a Chinese government newspaper warns that war may be ‘inevitable’ if the U.S. and its allies do not back off from the heavily disputed territory.

Last week, the Chinese government condemned the actions of the U.S. military after the P8-A Poseidon, the US’ most advanced surveillance aircraft, was caught spying on Chinese naval activities in the Fiery Cross Reef.

The Chinese government has been accused of provoking its neighbors by actively building “artificial islands” in the Spratly archipelago, which is both a vital shipping corridor and an oil and gas rich territory, west of the Philippines. While China has claimed the right to most of the South China Sea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have competing interests in the highly-contested waters. Continue reading

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‘Historic Tactical Win Against Surveillance’ as USA Freedom Act Fails in Senate

“The failure of these bills to pass shows just how dramatically the politics of surveillance changed once the extent of the government’s surveillance programs became known to the public.”

By Nadia Prupis, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published May 23, 2015

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons

In a move that is being hailed by civil liberties advocates as a victory for privacy rights, the U.S. Senate on Friday rejected the USA Freedom Act, a bill that sought to rein in the National Security Agency’s (NSA) spying powers but that would have reauthorized some of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act.

By a vote of 57-42, the Senate did not pass the bill that would have required 60 votes to move forward, which means that the NSA must start winding down its domestic mass surveillance program this week. The Senate also rejected a two-month extension of the existing program by 54-45, also short of the necessary 60 votes. Continue reading

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Has Memorial Day become only a Memory?

A sea of graves spreads across the Fort Snelling National Cemetery landscape. (Photo author's own work.)

A sea of graves spreads across the Fort Snelling National Cemetery landscape. (Photo author’s own work.)

Across this country, today will see services at cemeteries as we observe Memorial Day. Most people will drive by a cemetery on their way to their recreation spot for the weekend, and that is about as much thought as they will give to the real reason the unofficial beginning of summer arrives with this day every year.

It all started in 1865 when black residents of Charleston, SC, decorated the unmarked graves of 257 buried soldiers, improved the landscape around the graves and brought honor to those who had been forgotten. Within a few years, nearly every state had their own observations during the same time of year, and by 1967 it became a federal holiday with the current name.

But there are some who remember. Some who actually memorialize the day by going to a cemetery. Some take their children, and begin teaching that this is important. To remember and honor brings respect to a family and to the next generation. Continue reading

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Get Ready: Protesters Vow to ‘Flood the System’ for Climate and Planetary Justice

Rising Tide North America calls for mass actions this fall ‘to shut down the economic and political systems threatening our survival’

Written by Sarah Lazare, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 5-21-15.

"Communities on the front lines of fossil fuel extraction are fighting back," said Ahmed Gaya, an organizer with Rising Tide Seattle.  Photo courtesy Rising Tide Seattle via Facebook.

“Communities on the front lines of fossil fuel extraction are fighting back,” said Ahmed Gaya, an organizer with Rising Tide Seattle. Photo courtesy Rising Tide Seattle via Facebook.

From the tar sands of Alberta to the Port of Seattle to the communities in the blast zone of oil trains, organizers across North America are calling for a “wave of resistance” this fall to “shut down the economic and political systems threatening our survival.”

Under the banner of “Flood the System,” the announcement was unveiled Wednesday by Rising Tide North America, part of an international climate justice network. The mass actions, slated for September and November, are timed to lead up to the United Nations COP21 climate negotiations slated to take place in Paris in November and December. Continue reading

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As Patriot Act Expiration Looms, Critics Hope for Sunset on Mass Surveillance

‘Together we will end the Patriot Act, and the sun can rise on a new day filled with freedom and privacy for all.’

Written by Nadia Prupis and Deirdre Fulton, staff writers for CommonDreams. Published 5-22-15.

With a deadline for the USA Patriot Act fast approaching, Congress has little time to decide how to proceed—but the call to 'sunset' the law is growing. (Photo: Dan Cook/flickr/cc/with overlay)

With a deadline for the USA Patriot Act fast approaching, Congress has little time to decide how to proceed—but the call to ‘sunset’ the law is growing. (Photo: Dan Cook/flickr/cc/with overlay)

With the fate of the USA Patriot Act still hanging in the balance late afternoon Friday—and lawmakers eager to leave Washington, D.C., for Memorial Day barbecues and campaign stops in their home states—the chance to see the sun go down on the controversial spying bill is still on the table.

The debate over the Patriot Act is centered around one of its key provisions, Section 215, which is set to expire on June 1 absent congressional action. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) previously relied on Section 215 to justify its mass phone data collection operation, but its expiration would force an end to that program. Continue reading

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‘We Will Win’: McDonald’s Worker Protests Stretch Into Second Day

At company’s annual shareholder meeting, activists deliver petition signed by 1.4 million Americans calling for higher pay

Written by Deirdre Fulton, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 5-21-15.

Less than 24 hours after 5,000 workers marched on McDonald’s corporate headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, the fast food giant’s cooks and cashiers returned on Thursday morning to bring their call for $15 an hour and union rights directly to the company’s shareholders at their annual meeting.

Chanting “We believe that we will win” and “We want change and we don’t mean pennies,” an estimated 3,000 workers gathered for the second day of protests on Thursday. A handful of those worker-activists—wearing their company uniforms—were permitted through a barricade in order to deliver a petition, bearing 1.4 million signatures, that calls on McDonald’s to “pay your people enough to survive.” Continue reading

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