You are browsing the archive for 2015 March 02.

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Israeli Security Veterans Speak Out Against Netanyahu, Calling Him a 'Danger' to Israel

March 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Jonathan Cook, AlterNet

Former generals urge Netanyahu to cancel his speech to Congress before damaging U.S. relations even further.

In an unprecedented move, 200 veterans of the Israeli security services accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday of being a “danger” to Israel.

The new group, called Commanders for Israel’s Security, warned that Netanyahu was doing irreparable harm to the country’s relationship with Washington, just two days before he is due to address the US Congress.

The Israeli prime minister is expected to use the speech to try to undermine negotiations currently taking place between major world powers and Iran. He has claimed that any agreement reached at the talks’ conclusion, later this month, will leave Iran a “nuclear threshold state” hellbent on destroying Israel.

Half a dozen former generals spoke out at a press conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday, urging Netanyahu to cancel the speech before ties with the US deteriorate even further.

The White House is reported to be furious that Netanyahu arranged his appearance before Congress behind President Barack Obama’s back.

With an Israeli election less than three weeks away, Netanyahu has already faced attacks from centrist political rivals and parts of the Israeli media over his clashes with the White House on Iran.

But it is the first time he has faced a large-scale backlash from members of Israel’s security establishment – and the statement of the 200 is likely to be more damaging to Netanyahu’s popular image as a strong leader on security matters.

The group comprises retired officers and those serving in the reserves, all of whom held a rank equivalent to general. Many are household names.

Yaron Ezrahi, a politics professor at Hebrew University and expert on Israeli-US relations, said there was no precedent for what he termed a “rebellion” by so many former senior officials.

“This is a very powerful and distinguished group of former commanders, who are extremely worried about where Netanyahu is taking Israel right now,” he said.

“It is clear they are speaking not only for themselves but also on behalf of many active commanders who are not allowed to speak their …read more


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How a Father With a Twitter Account Stopped a White Supremacist Terrorist from Shooting a Bunch of School Kids

March 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Paul Rosenberg, Salon

9/11 truther spewed terrifying and hateful threats, and one dad could not let it go.

How do you stop a bad man with a gun? How about a good man with a Twitter account? That’s how things played out over the President’s Day weekend.


It began on Saturday night with a single tweet by Jonathan Hutson—linking to a New York Times story about that day’s deadly attacks at a free-speech event and synagogue in Copenhagen—and a torrent of hateful responses, including threats to kill schoolchildren and Jews. It ended with the arrest of a 28-year-old suspect, David Joseph Lenio, late Monday afternoon at Whitefish Mountain Resort, near Kalispell in Flathead County, Montana, just one county east of Idaho, immediately south of the Canadian border. In the interim, Lenio had retrieved two rifles from a storage locker, one a semi-automatic to add to his semi-automatic pistol. If it hadn’t been a three-day weekend, there’s no telling what he might have done before the police and the FBI caught up with him.

“He had motive, and he had means,” Hutson told Salon, “and one sheriff’s deputy told me, ‘Thank God it’s Presidents’ Day weekend; because of the holiday we have an extra day to track him down and try to catch him.’ And they did. They also had a plan for the schools, to go on soft lockdown, and have enhanced security. They took it very seriously.”

Lenio is now in jail on felony charges of malicious intimidation and criminal defamation, and on a half-million dollar bond. But it’s easy to see that it could have ended up like another Sandy Hook instead.

“I can tell you as a mom, and as one of two rabbis in the Flathead Valley, this event really rocked the community,” Rabbi Francine Green Roston told Salon. That placed her in the very center of those most targeted by his threats.

“Thank you, Jon. Really, deeply, thank you,” Antonia Malchik, the mother of Whitefish first-grader tweeted Hutson in gratitude.

“I was terrified. It sounds so overblown,” Malchik, a writer, told Salon. “I’m from this area, but we …read more


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City of Cleveland: 12-year-old Tamir Rice Caused His Own Death by Failing to ‘Avoid Injury’

March 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Scott Kaufman, Raw Story

Cleveland makes a bizarre argument to avoid taking responsibility.

According to court documents obtained by BuzzFeed’s Stephanie McNeal, the city of Cleveland, Ohio is claiming that 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s death — as well as the pain and suffering caused to his family by it — was his own fault. 

Tamir Rice was shot and killed while playing with a replica gun in a park last November. Rice had been playing with the replica in the park when rookie Officer Timothy Loehmann and his partner pulled up in a police cruiser and, within two seconds, shot him dead. 

The incident was captured on video, but neither Officer Loehmann nor his partner knew that when they gave investigators their initial statements, in which they claimed that Rice was with a group of young boys and was waving the gun around with the intention of shooting someone.

The investigation was transferred from the Cleveland Police Department to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department after Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said it required “an extra layer of separation and impartiality.”

Rice’s family filed a lawsuit against the city in December, and then another in January after hiring a new set of lawyers. 

The city responded to the second lawsuit by claiming that the 12-year-old’s death was his own fault, writing that “Plaintiffs’ decedent’s injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by the failure of Plaintiffs’ decedent to exercise due care to avoid injury.”

The suffering of Rice’s family is, likewise, Rice’s fault, as the city claims that “Plaintiffs’ injuries, losses, and damages complained of, were directly and proximately caused by their own acts, not this Defendant.”


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Noam Chomsky: Why Israel's Netanyahu Is So Desperate to Prevent Peace with Iran

March 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!

The distinguished professor lays bare Israel's motives.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in the United States as part of his bid to stop a nuclear deal with Iran during a controversial speech before the U.S. Congress on Tuesday. Dozens of Democrats are threatening to boycott the address, which was arranged by House Speaker John Boehner without consulting the White House. Netanyahu’s visit comes just as Iran and six world powers, including the United States, are set to resume talks in a bid to meet a March 31 deadline. “For both Prime Minister Netanyahu and the hawks in Congress, mostly Republican, the primary goal is to undermine any potential negotiation that might settle whatever issue there is with Iran,” says Noam Chomsky, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “They have a common interest in ensuring there is no regional force that can serve as any kind of deterrent to Israeli and U.S. violence, the major violence in the region.” Chomsky also responds to recent revelations that in 2012 the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, contradicted Netanyahu’s own dire warnings about Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear bomb, concluding that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AARON MATÉ: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived in Washington as part of his bid to stop a nuclear deal with Iran. Netanyahu will address the lobby group AIPAC today, followed by a controversial speech before Congress on Tuesday. The visit comes just as Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., are set to resume talks in a bid to meet a March 31st deadline. At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Netanyahu’s trip won’t threaten the outcome.

PRESS SECRETARY JOSH EARNEST: I think the short answer to that is: I don’t think so. And the reason is simply that there is a real opportunity for us here. And the president is hopeful that we are going to have an opportunity to do what is clearly in the best interests of the United States and Israel, …read more


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WATCH: John Oliver's Brilliant Rant—Even 'That Idiot' Donald Trump Knows We Have to Rebuild Our Infrastructure

March 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Janet Allon, AlterNet

The late-night comedian eviscerates our political leaders for their lack of action.

John Oliver ranted for more than 20 minutes on Sunday night about our country's crumbling infrastructure, and the shocking lack of concern and leadership our political representatives are demonstrating about it. Oliver began his “Last Week Tonight” segment by offering this definition of infrastructure: “Our roads, bridges, dams, levees, airports, power grids — basically anything that can be destroyed in an action movie.” 

Despite infrastructure's starring role in so many action movies, though, everyone has decided that roads, bridges, dams and tunnels are an unsexy topic. Not so, said Oliver.

Take dams, for instance: “Dams are amazing,” Oliver said. “They're the most powerful device we have for holding back liquid, aside from the idea of using a porta-potty.”

Whatever the f*ck is the difference.

Yes, even Donald Trump, whom Oliver calls, “That upside-down piece of candy corn in a wig made of used medical gauze,” thinks we have to rebuild our infrastructure.

So why aren't we doing it?

The Highway Trust Fund is about to run out of money, (May 31st) and the boneheaded, Republican-led Congress is pretty much fiddling as Rome burns. What it would take is raising the gas task, a move that even the White House is reluctant to make.

We're doomed! Doomed we tell you. Watch Oliver's brilliant rant: 

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Going Postal, Again

March 2, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The United States Postal Service (USPS) lost $5.5 billion last year. That is the eighth annual loss in a row and the third-highest ever. The only silver lining is that the loss was below the red-ink tsunami of $15.9 billion in 2012.

Why does the federal government deliver the mail? Why does it have a monopoly over delivering the mail?

Admittedly, the Postal Service is one of the few government programs with actual constitutional warrant. The Constitution authorizes Congress to establish post offices. And early American politicians rushed to take advantage of their opportunity, creating the Post Office Department in 1792.

Alas, one-time revolutionaries turned the system into a fount of federal patronage. Local postmasters became perhaps the president’s most important appointments, at one time accounting for three-quarters of all federal employees. The postmaster general actually was a member of the cabinet from 1829 to 1971.

The USPS is in the red for the eighth straight year.”

With politics rather than service as the post office’s priority, Congress took the next step and approved the Private Express Statutes, which prevented anyone from competing with the government in delivering first-class mail. And Uncle Sam enforced his monopoly, fining would-be competitors, including celebrated libertarian author Lysander Spooner.

The feds continue to prosecute anyone with the temerity to compete with the USPS, even threatening the Cub Scouts for once offering to deliver Christmas cards.

Believing that Americans existed to serve the USPS left the system ill-equipped to adapt to changing circumstances. In 1971, Congress turned the Post Office Department into the semi-independent USPS. That removed its direct role in politics, but the USPS still is exempt from taxes and regulations, including local parking restrictions. Congress retained its control over postal policies and, of course, preserved the system’s delivery monopoly.

But banning competition could not preserve the postal market. The number of pieces of mail peaked in 2001 and continues to fall despite a rising population. Mail pieces dropped from 213 billion in 2006 to 155 billion last year, and the number is expected to decline to 130 billion by 2020. The USPS’s last profitable year was 2006. Since then, losses have run between $2.8 billion and $15.9 billion. The Postal Service has maxed out its borrowing from Uncle Sam and missed four retiree program payments. With characteristic understatement, the Government Accountability Office observed, “Given its financial problems and outlook, USPS cannot support its current level of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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NATO's Latest Gambit: Membership Not Required

March 2, 2015 in Economics

By Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford

Gen. Philip Breedlove gave his annual report to the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday in his capacity as Commander of U.S. forces in Europe. As expected, the speech focused heavily on Russia.

But it also included a number of statements that seemed to lump together NATO members with nonmember states. His report is just the latest iteration of this semantic habit, common in official statements from Washington. But such fuzzy thinking about America’s allies can be harmful, diverting attention from necessary reforms inside NATO, and giving states like Russia the impression that the U.S. response to crises in Georgia and Ukraine may be representative of the U.S. response to any attack on a NATO ally.

Though officials never explicitly conflate NATO members with other Eastern European states like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova, they are often discussed in the same breath, or described en masse as the “transatlantic community.” In the case of Wednesday’s congressional hearing, Gen. Breedlove consistently used the term “NATO allies and partner countries” throughout, rarely addressing the needs of NATO members as unique.

Sorry, General Breedlove. NATO cannot save everyone.”

His prepared testimony frequently seemed to accord the security concerns of nonmembers more prominence than those of member states, including three different sections focusing on threats to Partnership-for-Peace countries (i.e., Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine), as well as a section on frozen conflicts in these states.

In contrast, actual NATO members in the Baltics and Eastern Europe were discussed in depth in only two sections. While Breedlove’s remit as the senior military commander in Europe necessarily means he should be concerned about all potential threats in Europe, the time spent detailing Ukraine and Georgia’s security concerns was excessive.

Unfortunately, this focus on states that aren’t NATO members is detrimental for several reasons, including perpetuating the long-held idea that Georgia and Ukraine will eventually become NATO members. Though Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine are indefensible, there is no denying that the unquestioning acceptance by U.S. leaders of future membership for Georgia and Ukraine is one root of the current crisis.

Given the events of the last year, there is no longer any realistic likelihood that these states will join NATO; they may be part of NATO’s Partnership-for-Peace program, but so is Russia. Yet officials continue to talk as if our relationship with these states were on par with that of full NATO members.

Of …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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The Bizarre Priorities of Trans-Pacific Partnership Proponents

March 2, 2015 in Economics

By K. William Watson

K. William Watson

If the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations ever conclude, the agreement will bring major benefits to the economies of 12 Pacific Rim countries, including the United States. It will do this by removing trade barriers that impede economic growth and globalization. Strangely, you wouldn’t know it from listening to the TPP’s most powerful supporters.

There are some great and simple arguments for free trade. Free trade improves quality of life for all Americans by making the things we buy less expensive. The TPP in particular will lower the prices Americans pay for shoes and automobiles.

Reducing barriers to trade at home and abroad also increases productivity. The TPP will decrease the cost of manufacturing in countless U.S. industries by opening up new sources of raw materials. The TPP will foster the creation of global supply chains that enable U.S. companies to specialize in more productive activities.

Supporters tout the benefits for just the few, when actually we all gain.”

All together, it means American businesses and workers will make more money that can be used to buy more stuff at lower prices.

But whether it’s the Obama administration, Congressional Republicans, or the U.S. business lobby, TPP proponents constantly focus on the narrow benefits the agreement will bring to special interests. The arguments we most often hear in favor of the TPP tout its enforceable labor rules, its strong intellectual property protections, and its potential to help exporters.

The worst offender in this regard is the president himself. According to the Obama administration, the TPP is “the most progressive trade agreement the world has ever seen” because it will “level the playing field for American workers by using the power of trade to raise the bar for labor and environmental protections.” Behind the President’s praise for the TPP is the implicit assumption that trade agreements actually harm American workers unless foreign countries change their regulations. That’s an argument against free trade.

Instead, the President could point out that labor conditions improve in line with economic growth and worker productivity. The TPP will have a positive impact on wages and working conditions removing barriers to trade that impede development. Stronger labor rules in the TPP will do the opposite by letting the United States maintain protectionist barriers until poor countries adopt costly, ineffectiveregulations.

Republicans and the business lobby aren’t much better. They seem to think the most important thing the United …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Extremely Graphic Video: L.A. Police Shoot Unarmed Homeless Man in Broad Daylight

March 2, 2015 in Blogs

By Terrell Jermaine Starr, AlterNet

There was an altercation, but was lethal force the only option?

Officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were captured on cellphone video shooting and killing a homeless man in the skid row area Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Times reports.

In the video, at least four officers are seen tussling with the man and they all eventually fall to the ground where the struggle continues.

Twenty-five seconds into the video, at least five shots are heard and the officers are seen standing up with their guns pointed at the motionless body of the man, who has yet to be identified. A taser can be heard being discharged during the struggle but it is unclear if it hit its intended target.

Commander Andrew Smith says the officers were called to the scene after responding to a 911 call over a robbery. The man began fighting and resisting the officers, he said.

“At some point in there, a struggle over one of the officer's weapons occurred,” Smith said. “At that point an officer-involved shooting happened.”

Two cops and a sergeant fired at the man; he was pronounced dead at the scene. At least one of the officers involved in the shooting was wearing a camera, Smith said.

Witnesses on the scene gave conflicting accounts of what happened, according The Times. They referred to him as “Africa.”

This is some of what the witnesses said, according to The L.A. Times:

Dennis Horne, 29, said Africa had been fighting with someone else in his tent when police arrived.

When Africa refused to comply with a police order to come out of the tent, officers used the Taser on him and dragged him out, Horne said. The officers tackled Africa to the ground, where he continued to fight, which led to the fatal shooting, according to Horne.

“It's sad,” Horne said. “There's no justification to take somebody's life.”

Another witness, Lonnie Franklin, 53, said five to six officers pulled up in three to four cars as Africa was lying face down on the sidewalk.

The officers …read more