You are browsing the archive for 2015 May 11.

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Another Violent Altercation for George Zimmerman in Florida Road Rage Shooting

May 11, 2015 in Blogs

By AlterNet Staff, AlterNet

In the third known violent episode since being acquitted, Zimmerman suffered injuries in a road rage incident in Florida.

George Zimmerman suffered “minor injuries” after a highway confirmation involving gunfire escalated Monday morning. According to WESH Orlando, Zimmerman “was hit in the face with glass and debris” but has since been released from the hospital. He has not been charged with a crime. 

Local Police are uncertain as to why the incident occurred, but Zimmerman and his alleged attacker Matthew Apperson apparently had a history of confrontations:

Lake Mary police said Zimmerman and Apperson have an ongoing dispute and were involved in an altercation in September, when Apperson accused Zimmerman of trying to kill him while on the road. Both men are waiting for legal counsel before speaking with police.

George Zimmerman, a police spokeswoman said, was not the shooter. The alleged shooter, Apperson, according to an unverified CNN account, approached a witness sitting in a car yelling, “I shot George Zimmerman”.  

According to this witness, Apperson asked for help calling 911 then went on to explain that he had three previous disputes with Zimmerman but this time “he shot him”.

Zimmerman has had several high-profile run-ins with the law since his 2013 acquittal in the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, including domestic abuse and other road rage incidents.

Several people took to twitter this afternoon to express their outrage. Some, according to a nutpicking piece in Mediaite, lamented that Mr. Zimmerman wasn’t killed.

In 2013, Zimmerman’s local police chief said over email that he believed Zimmerman was a “ticking time bomb” and “another Sandy Hook waiting to happen.”

…read more


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Hillary Clinton Has 1 Day to Take a Serious Stand on One of the Biggest Corporate Trade Deals in US History

May 11, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

So far Clinton has refused to say whether she supports granting Obama fast track authority.

The Democratic Party is now in an all-out war over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), with labor unions, environmentalists, and other public interest groups opposed to fast tracking the deal – which would allow it to have a vote with no amendments — battling corporations and President Obama who are for fast track. The big vote on TPP in the US Senate is on Tuesday.

One voice who has been silent in this internecine conflict is Hillary Clinton. Clinton has refused to say whether she supports granting Obama fast track authority, let alone whether she supports the overall agreement. Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, recently joked to some donors that he wishes the deal would just “go away.” She has basically one day to come out and show where she stands on this issue and influence the outcome of the vote.

Secretary Clinton wasn't always so shy about talking about where she really stands on trade agreements. In 1997, her husband then-President Bill Clinton attempted to gain fast track authority to normalize trade relations with China. He failed.

The following year, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton spoke at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland – the home of the “Masters of the Universe,” the world's economic elites.  

At one point, the topic of fast tracking trade with China arose, and Clinton acted as though she furious with corporate elites – not for pushing too hard for trade, but for not pushing hard enough. She lashed out at the “unusual alliance” between Republicans and Democrats that blocked fast track, and demanded that corporations increase their lobbying to pass it in the near future – like they did the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Here's a transcript from the archived Clinton White House website:

SCHWAB: In the same context, the fast-track trade legislation is very much at the top of the priorities of your husbands administration. What can you say also to the business …read more


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Everything You Thought You Knew About the Death of Osama Bin Laden Is Wrong

May 11, 2015 in Blogs

By Marcy Wheeler, Salon

A controversial report by Seymour Hersh leaves still more questions than answers, but it does make one thing clear.

Everything you know about Osama bin Laden’s killing is wrong.

 That’s the short version of a very long Seymour Hersh story, just published in the London Review of Books, which offers an alternative narrative of the killing of Bin Laden in 2011.

The slightly longer version is that two key Pakistani officials, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the Pakistan’s intelligence service, were in on the operation to kill Bin Laden and ensured U.S. helicopters could travel safely across the border from Afghanistan into airspace over key Pakistani security facilities. They did so, Hersh’s story goes, in exchange for both personal bribes and a resumption of US military funding to Pakistan. That part is all too easy to believe.

Hersh also offers a different narrative about the key tip-off in finding Bin Laden, which — depending on whether you ask torture apologists or not — ostensibly came from Hassan Ghul (an al Qaeda detainee captured in Iraq in 2004), either before or after CIA started torturing him, as well as a tip from a foreign partner. Instead, according to Hersh’s story, a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer actually approached the CIA station chief in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad, to offer up Bin Laden in exchange for part of the $25 million reward the U.S. offered. That source told the CIA that Bin Laden had been held captive by Pakistan’s intelligence service since 2006 as a kind of insurance policy against the Taliban. After that source went to the CIA, they did a series of checks, including obtaining DNA from a Pakistani doctor who was caring for the aging Bin Laden. It checked out. The U.S. decided to pursue Bin Laden, which is when they started bribing the Pakistanis to make it possible.

 The plan called for a stealth raid of the Abottabad compound, conducted with the assistance of Pakistan’s intelligence service, the ISI, which would assure that the Pakistani military did not interfere with the …read more


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Noam Chomsky: We Caused the Chaos in the Middle East

May 11, 2015 in Blogs

By Dan Falcone and Saul Isaacson, Jacobin

The scholar speaks about America's past foreign policy blunders and the failures of the mainstream media.

This article was first published at Jacobin, a publication offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture. Subscriptions start at $19.

Earlier this month, Dan Falcone and Saul Isaacson, both high school educators, sat down with Noam Chomsky in his Cambridge, MA office. In a brief conversation, edited and condensed here for clarity, they covered a wide range of topics – the projection of US power abroad and the stories told to justify it; COINTELPRO and domestic repression; the failures of the mainstream media; the West's posture toward Putin; and much more. As always, we're happy to publish Professor Chomsky's invaluable insights.

Dan Falcone: I was recently in correspondence with a good friend of yours, Richard Falk, and we were discussing Juan Cole's idea of “essentialism” as it pertains to the Muslim world. And this led me to think about how essentialism is present in liberal education.

For instance, take a good and appropriate cause like education for Muslim girls and how they face Taliban oppression. This is important to fight, obviously, but often the struggle is taught without the mentioning of American foreign policy or our own international crimes isolated from the entirety of the phenomenon.  This type of lesson planning in secondary education gets laudatory reviews. Could you help me in contextualizing this?

Noam Chomsky:Well take, say, the Taliban education that comes out of madrassas in Pakistan, and is funded by our main ally, Saudi Arabia, and was supported by the Reagan administration – because it was part of the support of Pakistan, primarily as a war against the Russians.

Well, the United States tried to keep the Russians in Afghanistan, and the goal was very explicitly stated by the CIA station chief in Islamabad, which got around the insurgency. What he said was, we don't care about the liberation of Afghanistan. We want to kill Russians. A large part of that was to also support the worst dictatorship in Pakistan, the General Zia-ul-Haq dictatorship, who was allowed …read more


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The U.S. Considers Itself a Human Rights Champion — The Rest of the World Begs to Differ

May 11, 2015 in Blogs

By Jamil Dakwar, ACLU

The Obama administration has a chance to right the wrongs and set a better example for other countries.

Starting Monday, the United States' human rights record will be subject to international scrutiny by the U.N. Human Rights Council. It may just be the perfect catalyst for the Obama administration to make good on past and present wrongs that should never be associated with a liberal democracy predicated on respect for human rights.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is part of a regular examination of the human rights records of all 193 U.N. member countries and will be the second review of its kind for the U.S. since 2010.  The review comes at a critical time when the U.S. human rights record has been criticized for falling short of meeting international human rights standards. From racially biased policing and excessive use of force by law enforcement to the expansion of migrant family detention and from the lack of accountability for the CIA torture program to the use of armed drones abroad, the U.S. has a lot to answer for.

But the U.S. review presents an opportunity for President Obama to shape his human rights legacy. He not only has the chance to continue to hold state and local governments in the U.S. accountable for abusive and biased policing practices, but he can also establish a positive policy at the federal level such as ending racial and ethnic profiling and holding federal agencies responsible for unlawful and discriminatory practices, including border killings and surveillance of Muslim communities.

The world will be asking hard questions of a country that considers itself a human rights champion, and, as the UPR represents the final human rights review of the Obama administration, it will be expecting meaningful answers and a concrete plan of action, including in the area of economic justice, which the U.S. submission to the Human Rights Council regrettably referred to as social and economic “measures” rather than the universally accepted framework and terminology of “rights.”

What human rights legacy will the president leave …read more


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Ukraine Fight Flares Again: U.S. Should Keep Arms and Troops at Home

May 11, 2015 in Economics

By Doug Bandow

Doug Bandow

The ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is under strain as Kiev presses the West for more financial and military aid. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko warns that full-scale war could explode “at any moment.” Yet many of his country’s young men are avoiding conscription into the no-win conflict. Americans’ sympathies should go to both Ukrainians and Russians suffering in Vladimir Putin’s deadly geopolitical games, but Washington should stay out of the battle.

A century ago Europe was enveloped in death and destruction. The “Great War” raged, killing millions, ravaging nations, impoverishing peoples, and wrecking empires. Out of that conflict came the loosening of Russia’s control over multitude subject peoples, including in Ukraine. The Bolsheviks soon reversed the process, but their Soviet-Russian empire disintegrated in 1991. Again Kiev escaped outside domination, this time hopefully permanently.

Independent Ukraine suffered mightily from internal divisions and poor governance. Politics was autocratic, abusive “oligarchs” dominated the largely unreformed economy. The country straddled the divide between Europe and Russia, with the Ukrainian people wanting greater Western integration without abandoning Russian ties. A strong majority rejected NATO membership, which Moscow would see as hostile.

Kiev now effectively is a Russian enemy, despite continuing cross-border ties. Putin obviously bears immediate responsibility, having seized Crimea and promoted separatist conflict in the Donbas. However, the West did much to antagonize someone who, though a one-time KGB officer, appeared to bear America no special animus when the U.S.S.R. collapsed. Moreover, Putin accepted Ukraine even when ruled by Russian antagonist Viktor Yushchenko, since Kiev did not join the Western bloc.

But Washington and Brussels consistently disregarded Russian security interests. The allies expanded NATO up to Russia’s borders; dismembered Serbia, historically linked to Russia; attempted to prevent Moscow’s participation in the post-war Kosovo settlement; pushed Ukraine to choose between East and West economically; and encouraged the ouster of an elected pro-Russian government in Kiev. Needless to say, Washington did not emphasize these factors when “countering Moscow’s deceptive propaganda with the unvarnished truth,” as explained the Obama administration’s 2015 National Security Strategy.

The U.S. may not have intended an anti-Russian campaign but that mattered far less than Moscow’s perception of events. As Henry Kissinger once observed, even paranoids have enemies. A coalition of Ukrainian nationalists and Western liberals taking power with the support of Europe and America in a country seen as extremely important if not vital to Russian security could not help but unsettle the Kremlin.

That still doesn’t justify …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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A Tax Reform We Can All Support

May 11, 2015 in Economics

By Chris Edwards

Chris Edwards

Tax reform will be a key Republican theme going into the 2016 elections, but Republicans divide over the needed changes. Pro-growth conservatives and libertarians favor broad-based tax rate cuts, while conservative and moderate “reformicons” favor expanded social policy breaks, such as child tax credits.

U.S. law overemphasizes helping favored groups with narrow tax breaks. Here’s a better idea.”

The tax divide is important because the next president will likely be a Republican, and he or she will probably push for a first-year tax cut, as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did. Reagan’s 1981 tax cuts were all pro-growth. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts were partly pro-growth and partly social policy, as were the 1997 tax cuts under Bill Clinton.

Looking ahead to 2016, one reform idea that should appeal to all types of Republicans—and even some Democrats—is universal savings accounts (USAs). Such accounts would be like Roth Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), but for all types of savings, not just retirement savings. People would contribute after-tax income to USAs, and then all earnings and withdrawals would be completely tax-free.

Consider Canadian and British Success

USAs would be great social policy, as they would help families build larger nest eggs, and they would be great economic policy, since savings fuels investment and growth. The accounts would be good politics, as well, as we have seen with the success of USA-style accounts in Canada and Britain.

Let’s look at Canada first. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government implemented Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) in 2009, and they are creating a broad-based savings revolution north or the border. Here are the key features of the accounts:

  • Annual contribution limit of $10,000. Portions of the contribution limit not used in a year can be carried forward to future years.
  • Tax-free earnings. All earnings are tax-free and withdrawals can be made at any time for any reason, with no taxes or penalties. This feature greatly simplifies the accounts and increases liquidity, both of which encourage added savings.
  • No income limits. All adults can contribute to the accounts and withdraw from them at any time during their lives.
  • Ease of saving. Accounts can be opened at any bank branch or online, and they can hold bank deposits, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other types of assets.

TFSAs are great for all types of saving—saving to buy a home or a car, or saving to cover health expenses, unemployment, or retirement. That is about as …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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An Economic Renewal Built on Optimism

May 11, 2015 in Economics

By Richard W. Rahn

Richard W. Rahn

Gdansk, Poland — Over the past 1,000 years, this city on the Baltic has gone through cycles of great prosperity and almost total destruction. This is the city where World War II began 76 years ago on Sept. 1, 1939. And this is the city where the fall of European communism began in 1980. This past week, several leaders of Eastern and Central European nations came to Gdansk to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II at the Monument to the Fallen Shipyard Workers of 1970, who were shot by the communists for merely peacefully protesting their conditions.

Gdansk has been at times a German city known as Danzig and at other times a Polish city. During the Middle Ages, it was at times a free German city and part of the Hanseatic League. It then became a Polish city until Poland was divided up between Russians, the Austria-Hungarians and the Germans in the late 1700s, whereupon it became the German city of Danzig again. After the first World War in 1918, Danzig became a free, independent, predominately German city. At the end of World War II, Gdansk was given back to Poland as the border was shifted westward, and the remaining German residents where shipped back to Germany. Gdansk was then repopulated with Poles, many of whom had lost their homes and property as part of what had been Poland was given to Belarus and Ukraine.

Much of Danzig-Gdansk was destroyed during World War II. The old part of the city has been rebuilt with many 17th century-style buildings that fit in perfectly with the ones that had not been destroyed or severely damaged, thus making it a delightful area filled with fine restaurants and other attractions for both the tourists and the locals.

In this last chapter in the renewal of Gdansk, all of Poland and Eastern Europe began with the movement for an independent (non-communist) union at the Gdansk shipyard in 1980, under the leadership of a 36-year old electrician by the name of Lech Walesa. The shipyard strike and protest spread to other factories and institutions throughout Poland under the name of Solidarity. Almost 10 million people joined the movement, but then in December 1981, the communist prime minister introduced martial law, outlawed Solidarity and undertook mass arrests of its leaders and other protesters. Solidarity went underground, and the Polish economy continued to shrink. By 1988, the government was forced to re-legalize Solidarity. Free Parliamentary elections were held in June 1989, which the communists lost. The largely nonviolent revolution in Poland quickly led to …read more

Source: OP-EDS