Category Archives: National Security vs Police State

Israel’s war on Gaza could spark protests that shape entire region

While media focus is on pro-Palestine protests in the US, anger in North Africa and Western Asia could boil over

By Paul Rogers. Published 5-8-2024 by openDemocracy

Iraqi cleric Sadr mobilizes thousands at Baghdad pro-Palestinian rally. Screenshot: YouTube

Though many analysts feared an uncontrolled military escalation between Israel and Iran last month, this seems to have been avoided for now at least. Many states across the world are, however, witnessing a political escalation – not least those in North Africa and West Asia, which are often overlooked in conversations about protest.

The United States is the most obvious example of state-level controversy. Pro-Palestine protests and occupations are taking place at university campuses across the country – many of which have been met by violent police-led actions – as people take issue with Joe Biden’s enabling Israel in its horrific seven-month assault on Gaza.

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‘Argentina Stopped’: Unions Hold Second General Strike Over Milei Austerity

“It is a day of resistance and demand,” said trade groups that organized the action “in defense of democracy, labor rights, and the living wage.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 5-10-2024 by Common Dreams

Photo: vijay banga/X

Argentina’s primary trade union federation on Thursday held another nationwide general strike, the second called since President Javier Milei, a far-right economist, took office in December and began pursuing sweeping austerity and deregulation.

The South American nation’s unions organized the strike “in defense of democracy, labor rights, and the living wage,” according to a statement from the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), the Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA), and the Autonomous CTA.

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‘Unprecedented’: Belgian Police Blast Climate Defenders With Water Cannon

“The fact that national governments are subsidizing fossil fuels is akin to a crime against humanity,” said one Extinction Rebellion organizer.

By Brett Wilkins. Published 5-5-2024 by Common Dreams

Extinction Rebellion-led climate protesters block the Rue Belliard in Brussels, Belgium on May 4, 2024. (Photo: Wouter van Leeuwen/Extinction Rebellion Belgium/X)

The climate action group Extinction Rebellion Belgium on Saturday decried what it called “disproportionate police violence” against nonviolent demonstrators who were blasted with a water cannon during a protest in Brussels demanding an end to fossil fuel subsidies.

Hundreds of Extinction Rebellion-led climate defenders blocked Rue Belliard in the European Quarter, the de facto European Union capital, during EU Open Day, when agencies of the 27-nation bloc open their doors to the public. In what Extinction Rebellion called an “unprecedented police response,” officers used a truck-mounted water cannon on the protesters, some of whom were also allegedly struck with batons.

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Gaza Journalists Killed by Israel Honored on World Press Freedom Day

“To claim these deaths are accidental is not only incredulous, it is insulting to the memory of professionals who lived their lives in service of truth and accuracy,” said one expert.

By Jessica Corbett. Published 5-3-2024 by Common Dreams

World Press Freedom Day: Gaza journalists remember slain colleagues. Screenshot: YouTube

As the international community marked World Press Freedom Day on Friday, journalists and advocates across the globe mourned and celebrated those killed in Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has publicly identified at least 97 media workers killed since Israel launched its retaliatory war on October 7: 92 Palestinian, three Lebanese, and two Israeli reporters.

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Mistrial Declared in Abu Ghraib Torture Suit Against US Contractor

“This will not be the final word; what happened in Abu Ghraib is engraved into our memories and will never be forgotten in history,” one plaintiff vowed.

By Brett Wilkins. Published 5-2-2024 by Common Dreams

U.S. Army Spc. Charles Graner tortures hooded and handcuffed prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad, Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command)

The federal judge presiding over a case filed by three Iraqis who were tortured by U.S. military contractors in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison two decades ago declared a mistrial Thursday after jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict.

After eight days of deliberation—a longer period than the trial itself—the eight civil jurors in Alexandria deadlocked over whether employees of CACI conspired with soldiers to torture detainees. The Virginia-based professional services and information technology firm was hired in 2003 during the George W. Bush administration to provide translators and interrogators in Iraq during the U.S.-led invasion and occupation, conspired with soldiers to torture detainees.

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Violent Arrest of Emory Professor Spotlights Brutality of Police Crackdown on Campus Protests

“To sustain this level of blind support for Israel, the U.S. must erode its own democracy,” said one foreign policy expert. “And that is what we see happening on U.S. campuses now.”

By Julia Conley. Published 4-26-2024 by Common Dreams

Emory University economics professor Caroline Fohlin was pushed to the ground and subdued by police officers on April 25, 2024 after asking an officer why a student was being arrested, in Atlanta. Screenshot: CNN

Emory University economics professor Caroline Fohlin approached several police officers who were holding a student down on the ground on Thursday and demanded an explanation—but by the end of the day videos of her own arrest became some of the most widely circulated images of the rapidly spreading anti-war movement on college campuses across the U.S.

As she knelt down to ask the university officers, “What are you doing?” another law enforcement agent grabbed her arm and pushed her away before repeatedly ordering her to “get on the ground.”

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AI chatbots refuse to produce ‘controversial’ output − why that’s a free speech problem

AI chatbots restrict their output according to vague and broad policies. Image: CAPACOA/CC

By Jordi Calvet-Bademunt and Jacob Mchangama, Vanderbilt University. Published 4-18-2024 by The Conversation

Google recently made headlines globally because its chatbot Gemini generated images of people of color instead of white people in historical settings that featured white people. Adobe Firefly’s image creation tool saw similar issues. This led some commentators to complain that AI had gone “woke.” Others suggested these issues resulted from faulty efforts to fight AI bias and better serve a global audience.

The discussions over AI’s political leanings and efforts to fight bias are important. Still, the conversation on AI ignores another crucial issue: What is the AI industry’s approach to free speech, and does it embrace international free speech standards?

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Amid Spying Fight, House Passes Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act

“As FANFSA and the 702 reauthorization move to the Senate, lawmakers in that chamber need to take a stand for the rights of people in the United States,” said one advocate.

By Jessica Corbett. Published 4-17-2024 by Common Dreams

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act on April 17, 2024. Image: PickPik

While applauding the U.S. House of Representatives’ bipartisan passage of a bill to ensure that “law enforcement and intelligence agencies can’t do an end-run around the Constitution by buying information from data brokers” on Wednesday, privacy advocates highlighted that Congress is trying to extend and expand a long-abused government spying program.

The House voted 219-199 for Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act (FANFSA), which won support from 96 Democrats and 123 Republicans, including the lead sponsor, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio). Named for the constitutional amendment that protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, H.R. 4639 would close what campaigners call the data broker loophole.

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20 Years Later, Abu Ghraib Torture Victims Get Their Day in Court

“Meanwhile, the U.S. government STILL hasn’t provided compensation or other redress to people tortured by U.S. troops in Iraq,” said one observer. “These three men are the lucky few.”

By Brett Wilkins Published 4-15-2024 by Common Dreams

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Smith uses a dog to torture a terrified Iraqi detainee at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
 (Photo: U.S. Army)

Two decades after they were tortured by U.S. military contractors at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, three Iraqi victims are finally getting their day in court Monday as a federal court in Virginia takes up a case they brought during the George W. Bush administration.

The case being heard in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Al Shimari v. CACI, was first filed in 2008 under the Alien Tort Statute—which allows non-U.S. citizens to sue for human rights abuses committed abroad—by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of three Iraqis. The men suffered torture directed and perpetrated by employees of CACI, a Virginia-based professional services and information technology firm hired in 2003 by the Bush administration as translators and interrogators in Iraq during the illegal U.S.-led invasion and occupation.

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House Dems, GOP Team Up to Expand Warrantless Spying on Americans

“The House has voted to allow the intelligence agencies to violate the civil rights and liberties of Americans for years to come,” said the ACLU’s senior policy counsel.

By Jake Johnson. Published 4-12-2024 by Common Dreams

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaking with attendees at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s 2023 Annual Leadership Summit at the Venetian Convention & Expo Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.. Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

The U.S. House on Friday passed legislation to expand a major mass spying authority after voting down a bipartisan push to attach a search warrant requirement to the heavily abused surveillance law.

The bill to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for two years passed by a vote of 273-147, with 59 Democrats and 88 Republicans voting no. More Democrats voted for the bill than Republicans.

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