sedition

In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to … Continue reading

In law, sedition is overt conduct, such as speech and organization, that is deemed by the legal authority to tend toward insurrection against the established order. Sedition often includes subversion of a constitution and incitement of discontent (or resistance) to lawful authority. Sedition may include any commotion, though not aimed at direct and open violence against the laws. Seditious words in writing are seditious libel. A seditionist is one who engages in or promotes the interests of sedition.

Typically, sedition is considered a subversive act, and the overt acts that may be prosecutable under sedition laws vary from one legal code to another. Where the history of these legal codes has been traced, there is also a record of the change in the definition of the elements constituting sedition at certain points in history. This overview has served to develop a sociological definition of sedition as well, within the study of state persecution.

The term sedition in its modern meaning first appeared in the Elizabethan Era (c. 1590) as the “notion of inciting by words or writings disaffection towards the state or constituted authority”. “Sedition complements treason and martial law: while treason controls primarily the privileged, ecclesiastical opponents, priests, and Jesuits, as well as certain commoners; and martial law frightens commoners, sedition frightens intellectuals.”

In 1798, President John Adams signed into law the Alien and Sedition Acts, the fourth of which, the Sedition Act or “An Act for the Punishment of Certain Crimes against the United States” set out punishments of up to two years of imprisonment for “opposing or resisting any law of the United States” or writing or publishing “false, scandalous, and malicious writing” about the President or the U.S. Congress (though not the office of the Vice-President, then occupied by Adams’ political opponent Thomas Jefferson). This Act of Congress was allowed to expire in 1801 after Jefferson’s election to the Presidency.

Political cartoon by Art Young, The Masses, 1917.

In the Espionage Act of 1917, Section 3 made it a federal crime, punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $10,000, to willfully spread false news of the American army and navy with an intent to disrupt their operations, to foment mutiny in their ranks, or to obstruct recruiting. This Act of Congress was amended Sedition Act of 1918, which expanded the scope of the Espionage Act to any statement criticizing the Government of the United States. These Acts were upheld in 1919 in the case of Schenck v. United States, but they were largely repealed in 1921, leaving laws forbidding foreign espionage in the United States and allowing military censorship of sensitive material.

In 1940, the Alien Registration Act, or “Smith Act“, was passed, which made it a federal crime to advocate or to teach the desirability of overthrowing the United States Government, or to be a member of any organization which does the same. It was often used against Communist Party organizations. This Act was invoked in three major cases, one of which against the Socialist Worker’s Party in Minneapolis in 1941, resulting in 23 convictions, and again in what became known as the Great Sedition Trial of 1944 in which a number of pro-Nazi figures were indicted but released when the prosecution ended in a mistrial. Also, a series of trials of 140 leaders of the Communist Party USA also relied upon the terms of the “Smith Act”—beginning in 1949—and lasting until 1957. Although the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the convictions of 11 CPUSA leaders in 1951 in Dennis v. United States, that same Court reversed itself in 1957 in the case of Yates v. United States, by ruling that teaching an ideal, no matter how harmful it may seem, does not equal advocating or planning its implementation. Although unused since at least 1961, the “Smith Act” remains a Federal law.

There was, however, a brief attempt to use the sedition laws against protesters of the Vietnam War. On October 17, 1967, two demonstrators, including then Marin County resident Al Wasserman, while engaged in a ‘sit in’ at the Army Induction Center in Oakland, Ca., were arrested and charged with sedition by deputy US. Marshall Richard St. Germain. U.S. Attorney Cecil Poole changed the charge to trespassing. Poole said, “three guys (according to Mr. Wasserman there were only 2) reaching up and touching the leg of an inductee, and that’s conspiracy to commit sedition? That’s ridiculous!” The inductees were in the process of physically stepping on the demonstrators as they attempted to enter the building, and the demonstrators were trying to protect themselves from the inductees’ feet. Attorney Poole later added, “We’ll decide what to prosecute, not marshals.”[25]

In 1981, Oscar López Rivera, a Puerto Rican Nationalist and Vietnam war veteran, was convicted and sentenced to 70 years in prison for seditious conspiracy and various other offenses. He was among the 16 Puerto Rican nationalists offered conditional clemency by U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1999, but he rejected the offer. His sister, Zenaida López, said he refused the offer because on parole, he would be in “prison outside prison.” López Rivera is said to be “among the longest held political prisoners in the history of Puerto Rico and in the world.” He has been jailed for 32 years, 8 months, and 24 days.[26]

In 1987 fourteen white supremacists were indicted by a federal grand jury on charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice against a seditious conspiracy between July 1983 and March 1985. Some alleged conspirators were serving time for overt acts, such as the crimes committed by The Order. Others such as Louis Beam and Richard Butler were charged for their speech seen as spurring on the overt acts by the others. In April 1988, a federal jury in Arkansas acquitted all the accused of charges of seditious conspiracy.[27]

On October 1, 1995, Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine others were convicted of seditious conspiracy.[28]

Laura Berg, a nurse at a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in New Mexico was investigated for sedition in September 2005[29] after writing a letter[30][31] to the editor of a local newspaper, accusing several national leaders of criminal negligence. Though their action was later deemed unwarranted by the director of Veteran Affairs, local human resources personnel took it upon themselves to request an FBI investigation. Ms. Berg was represented by the ACLU.[32] Charges were dropped in 2006.[33]

On March 28, 2010, nine members of the Hutaree militia were arrested and charged with crimes including seditious conspiracy.

Sedition is a punishable offense under Article 94 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Volksverhetzung (“incitement of the people”) is a legal concept unique to Germany. It is sometimes loosely translated as sedition,[36] although the law bans the incitement of hatred against a segment of the population. Segment of the population meaning, for example, a race or religion.

 

The marriage of Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka

Published 07:13 18.08.14 Israel’s mixed marriage controversy: How low have we sunk? By Aeyal Gross That the marriage of Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka became a subject for public debate is embarrassing and testifies to how low we have sunk. … Continue reading

Published 07:13 18.08.14

Israel’s mixed marriage controversy: How low have we sunk?

By Aeyal Gross

That the marriage of Mahmoud Mansour and Morel Malka became a subject for public debate is embarrassing and testifies to how low we have sunk. Could we imagine a wedding between a Christian and a Jew becoming a national news item in any European country? Indeed, the Lehava organization that launched a public protest against this wedding is worthy of every condemnation. But we must remember that racism didn’t start with Lehava: Israeli law doesn’t permit marriages between people of different religions, and if Malka had not converted to Islam, the two could not have married in Israel, where marriage is subject to religious law.

Colorado’s marijuana market

Tina Griego for the Washington Post Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 19 August 2014 05.00 EDT That the black market bustles in the emerging days of legalisation is not unexpected. By some reckonings, it will continue as long as residents of other … Continue reading

for the Washington Post

Guardian Weekly, Tuesday 19 August 2014 05.00 EDT

That the black market bustles in the emerging days of legalisation is not unexpected. By some reckonings, it will continue as long as residents of other states look to Colorado – and now Washington state – as the nation’s giant cannabis cookie jar. And, they add, as long as its legal retail competition keeps prices high and is taxed by state and local government at rates surpassing 30%.

“I don’t know who is buying for recreational use at dispensaries unless it’s white, middle-class people and out-of-towners,” said Rudy Reddog Balles, a longtime community activist and mediator. “Everyone I know still has the guy on the street that they hook up with.”

This black market boom, the state argues, is a temporary situation. As more legal recreational dispensaries and growers enter the market, the market will adjust. Prices will fall. The illegal market will shrink.

In any case, these first curious months of the legal recreational market have laid bare a socioeconomic faultline. Resentment bubbles in the neighbourhoods where marijuana has always been easy to get.

The resentment goes something like: we Latinos and African Americans from the ‘hood were stigmatised for marijuana use, disdained and disproportionately prosecuted in the war on drugs. We grew up in the culture of marijuana, with grandmothers who made oil from the plants and rubbed it on arthritic hands. We sold it as medicine. We sold it for profit and pleasure.

Now pot is legalised and who benefits? Rich people with their money to invest and their clean criminal records.

Hobby Lobby

The decision, written by Justice Alito, is beyond disturbing. It essentially grants for-profit corporations a free pass not to follow laws by invoking their “religious rights” under RFRA. While Alito and his buddies said their ruling was narrow, nothing could … Continue reading

The decision, written by Justice Alito, is beyond disturbing. It essentially grants for-profit corporations a free pass not to follow laws by invoking their “religious rights” under RFRA.

While Alito and his buddies said their ruling was narrow, nothing could be further from the truth. The door is now wide open for corporations to run to court saying they can discriminate in a variety of ways.

Some key points about Hobby Lobby:

As Justice Ginsberg noted in her dissent, “‘Closely held’ is not synonymous with ‘small.’” America’s five largest “closely held” corporations alone employ more than 436,000 people — one of those companies being the $115 billion, 60,000-employee Koch Industries. And the Washington Post reported that, according to a 2000 study, “closely held” is a term that covers as much as 90 percent (or more) of all businesses, and studies from Columbia University and New York University showed that closely held corporations employed 52 percent of the American workforce.
The duplicitousness of pretending that limiting the ruling to “closely held” corporations really limits it substantially in scope goes beyond just the size and number of “closely held” corporations. In providing no actual reasoning as to why only “closely held” corporations would be afforded religious rights under RFRA, Justice Alito’s Hobby Lobby decision certainly could pave the way for all corporations — even publicly traded ones — to claim these rights.
Many on the Religious Right are already asserting employers’ right to discriminate against LGBT people. While Hobby Lobby states that employers cannot claim religious objections in order to discriminate based on race, it says nothing about sex or sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court ponders the contraceptive mandate

ON March 25th the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare”, was back before the Supreme Court. Two years ago the justices upheld most of the law. This week they heard oral arguments in Sebelius v Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v Sebelius. These two consolidated cases concern Obamacare’s “contraceptive mandate”—the requirement that businesses offering their employees health insurance must provide plans that cover all federally-approved contraception methods at no extra cost to their employees.

The legal merits of these cases revolve around the concept of  Corporate personhood


Corporations are NOT people. While it is true that what guides them is the human activity of their executives, boards of directors, managers and employees, all the human emotional factors of the people in the corporation pass through a “filter” created by the two basic rules:

  1. Maximize profit
  2. Do whatever is necessary to continue the business.

(Rule number 1 should be modified when it conflicts with rule 2)

It is a slippery road to give personal rights to corporations. The corporation is an amoral entity, i.e., not governed by human moral values. It lacks guilt for what it does, or empathy for those it harms. What’s worse, this “sociopathic” entity is given the rights of a human being, but not similar responsibilities. A corporation is particularly dangerous because of its great concentration of money, power, and political influence–which it uses freely to reach its goals.

To give a concrete example of the dangers of giving too much power to corporations to allow corporations to participate directly on political campaigns is a very serious threat to democracy.

Campaign finance law in the United States changed drastically in the wake of two 2010 judicial opinions: the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in SpeechNow.org v. FEC.[42] According to a 2011 Congressional Research Service report, these two decisions constitute “the most fundamental changes to campaign finance law in decades.” [43]

Citizens United struck down, on free speech grounds, the limits on the ability of organizations that accepted corporate or union money from running electioneering communications. The Court reasoned that the restrictions permitted by Buckley were justified based on avoiding corruption or the appearance of corruption, and that this rationale did not apply to corporate donations to independent organizations. Citizens United overruled the 1990 case Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, in which the Supreme Court upheld the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, which prohibited corporations from using treasury money to support or oppose candidates in elections.

Two months later, a unanimous nine-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit decided SpeechNow, which relied on Citizens United to hold that Congress could not limit donations to organizations that only made independent expenditures, that is, expenditures that were “uncoordinated” with a candidate’s campaign. These decisions led to the rise of “independent-expenditure only” PACs, commonly known as “Super PACs.” Super PACs, under Citizens United and SpeechNow, can raise unlimited funds from individual and corporate donors and use those funds for electioneering advertisements, provided that the Super PAC does not coordinate with a candidate.

One should not confuse the individuals working within a corporation with the corporation proper. To elaborate and clarify the point of freedom of speech and corporations let’s consider the case of Media corporations, those whose actual activity revolves around disseminating information and opinion. While journalist, writers, news anchors, and the like have 1st amendment rights, the corporations that they work for do not. This might be a subtle point but it is crucial. When corporations do have positions on some issues, and they always have an agenda, this is NOT freedom of speech, it is censorship. This censorship is exercised trough the firing or ostracizing of staff or source that go astray of the corporate line. Thus, to give corporations freedom of speech rights is actually antithetical of the spirit of the first amendment.

Corporations as such do not have national loyalties. Just as an example, Standard Oil supplied the German government during WW II as Coca Cola did.

The Standard Oil group of companies, in which the Rockefeller family owned a one-quarter (and controlling) interest,1 was of critical assistance in helping Nazi Germany prepare for World War II. This assistance in military preparation came about because Germany’s relatively insignificant supplies of crude petroleum were quite insufficient for modern mechanized warfare; in 1934 for instance about 85 percent of German finished petroleum products were imported. The solution adopted by Nazi Germany was to manufacture synthetic gasoline from its plentiful domestic coal supplies. It was the hydrogenation process of producing synthetic gasoline and iso-octane properties in gasoline that enabled Germany to go to war in 1940 — and this hydrogenation process was developed and financed by the Standard Oil laboratories in the United States in partnership with I.G. Farben.

Evidence presented to the Truman, Bone, and Kilgore Committees after World War II confirmed that Standard Oil had at the same time “seriously imperiled the war preparations of the United States.”2Documentary evidence was presented to all three Congressional committees that before World War II Standard Oil had agreed with I.G. Farben, in the so-called Jasco agreement, that synthetic rubber was within Farben’s sphere of influence, while Standard Oil was to have an absolute monopoly in the U.S. only if and when Farben allowed development of synthetic rubber to take place in the U.S.

Fanta is a global brand of fruit-flavored carbonated soft drinks created by The Coca-Cola Company. There are over 100 flavors worldwide. The drink originated in Germany in 1941.

Fanta originated as a result of difficulties importing Coca-Cola syrup into Nazi Germany during World War II due to a trade embargo.[2] To circumvent this, Max Keith, the head of Coca-Cola Deutschland (Coca-Cola GmbH) during the Second World War, decided to create a new product for the German market, using only ingredients available in Germany at the time, including whey and pomace – the “leftovers of leftovers”, as Keith later recalled.[2][3] The name was the result of a brief brainstorming session, which started with Keith exhorting his team to “use their imagination” (“Fantasie” in German), to which one of his salesmen, Joe Knipp, immediately retorted “Fanta!”[3]

While the plant was effectively cut off from Coca Cola headquarters during the war, plant management did not join the Nazi Party. After the war, the Coca Cola corporation regained control of the plant, formula and the trademarks to the new Fanta product — as well as the plant profits made during the war

The U.S. Federal tax system also helps corporations operate in this amoral way by allowing them to deduct from their profits, with some limitations, the cost of public relations campaigns to cover for the damage they cause, the compensation to victims, the cleanup operations, the cost of legal defense, legal damage awards, and the cost of lobbying to change the laws in their favor or gain exemptions from the law. In other words, if they are caught, corporations pay the costs of their destructive, illegal activities with tax-free money. (Tax free for one corporation = somebody else pays more taxes.)

In their current form, corporations are the most dangerous things on earth–because they threaten the survival of humankind and the entire planetary ecosystem.

Birth control does not mean abortion I am not in favor of abortion but I am against using this kind of complicated issues for political ends. How do one balance in black and white gun ownership and the statement that murder is wrong? In the same way that gun advocates justify killing a human being outside the womb (to themselves) by redefining murder according to the circumstances, others justify killing a human being inside the womb (to themselves) by redefining abortion according to the circumstances.

Tea Party types do believe that killing is proper under some conditions and are against governments interfering with the freedoms of people, so why be in favor of government regulations of any kind? Criminalizing behaviors is not a solution for social problems.

Republican Jodie Laubenberg, who co-authored Texas strict anti-abortion laws in 2013, (because she says she believes that “life begins at conception”) also opposed healthcare for newly developing fetuses. Laubenberg testified that the unborn should not be entitled to health care, because “they aren’t born yet.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) the single most important factor for a healthy pregnancy is a healthy mother. This means that every woman who is of child-bearing age should have regular health screenings, as well as access to services and medications which can help diagnose, prevent, treat or cure chronic or temporary health conditions.

According to the CDC (the only agency in the United States that has the ability to monitor and track abortion rates) in 2009 there were 15.1 abortions for every 1,000 live births. Of those abortion 91.7 percent were performed earlier than 13th week of pregnancy, and of those the majority, almost 70 percent, were performed prior to the 8th week of pregnancy. Additionally, statistics show that many of the abortions that occur later in pregnancy are performed for medical reasons.

In this highly informative article published on Patheos.com, the author explains the many reasons she lost faith in the right wing’s pro-life movement.

“Highly restrictive abortion laws are not associated with lower abortion rates. For example, the abortion rate is 29 per 1,000 women of childbearing age in Africa and 32 per 1,000 in Latin America—regions in which abortion is illegal under most circumstances in the majority of countries. The rate is 12 per 1,000 in Western Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds.”

There’s a circus of political shows with no other end that entertain and distract. Like for example that speech of a democrat meant to be an attack on Republican policies when Reagan had just passed an immigration amnesty, and now it is used for opposite purposes. Life is not as simple as good conservatives on the shadow of God against evil liberal lefties doing the devil’s work.

Facebook is not your friend.

Asked a Forbes.com blogger: “Is it okay for Facebook to play mind games with us for science? It’s a cool finding, but manipulating unknowing users’ emotional states to get there puts Facebook’s big toe on that creepy line.” Slate.com called … Continue reading

Asked a Forbes.com blogger: “Is it okay for Facebook to play mind games with us for science? It’s a cool finding, but manipulating unknowing users’ emotional states to get there puts Facebook’s big toe on that creepy line.”

Slate.com called the experiment “unethical” and said “Facebook intentionally made thousands upon thousands of people sad.”

Mr. Kramer defended the ethics of the project. He apologized for wording in the published study that he said might have made the experiment seem sinister. “And at the end of the day, the actual impact on people in the experiment was the minimal amount to statistically detect it,” he wrote on Facebook.

We are the product, not the customer

If you’re a Facebook user, some of your friends may have recently posted a status update titled “Privacy Notice.” It goes on to declare in legal-sounding language that since Facebook is now publicly traded it can make public use of your private content—and if you don’t repost the statement yourself, you are giving your implicit permission.

Sadly, you cannot protect your Facebook content with a reposted status update: It’s a hoax. But you can protect yourself by taking control of your privacy settings; see our step-by-step video on how to do just that.

Facebook commented on its own privacy page about the hoax:

We have noticed a recent status update that is being widely shared implying the ownership of your Facebook content has recently changed. This is not true and has never been the case. Facebook does not own your data and content.

Facebook privacy page


http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/andrewbrown/2010/may/14/facebook-not-your-friend
Continuar leyendo “Facebook is not your friend.”

The Islamic State

August 18, 2014 | 3:25 pm

The battle for Iraq’s largest dam continued today, even as officials claimed that government troops and Kurdish forces had regained control of the complex from hardline Sunni militant group the Islamic State, which seized it earlier this month.

Iraqi military spokesman Lt-Gen. Qassim Atta told state television today that Mosul Dam had been “fully cleansed” of militants by a joint force of Iraqi troops and peshmerga fighters from Iraqi Kurdistan backed by US and Iraqi aircraft. However, when VICE News visited the peshmerga front lines close to the dam, fighting was still clearly underway and medical staff reported a number of Kurdish and Iraqi casualties.


It is not true that the Middle East is inherently unstable. Human history is the history of conflict and the Middle East is the cradle of civilization. But it is not true that current conflict is just the continuum of thousand years of fighting. Muslims and Jews have lived in peace in the Middle East for hundreds of years. In Palestine they were well beyond tolerance into actual friendship. Even in the seventies anyone from any country could go to Beirut, Damascus, Kabul, and Bagdad and have a wonderful worry free time.

Most current conflict can be trace to imperialistic meddling. To point some highlights: the arbitrary partition of the Kurdish and Pashtun countries by the British; The creation of a European settler State in Palestine by the British; the placement in power of the aleut minority in Syria by the British; The coup de Etat by the CIA that put the Sha in power in Iran; The creation of the Taliban by the CIA; The unconditional support of Israel by the United States, even against the interest of the people and government of the US, and even after Israel has attacked US personnel in international waters.

The ISIS is a good example. Who supplies the money? Saudi Arabia with petrodollars; who supplies the weapons? The United States. Who provides the entry point for army grade weaponry? Israel; why? To weaken and destabilize Israel’s neighbors and pave the way to an all out assault on Syria and Iran.

Obama authorises US air strikes to help Iraqis besieged on mountain by Isis

Barack Obama has authorised targeted air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq, as the US military began an airborne operation to bring relief to thousands of minority Iraqis driven to a grim, mountain-top refuge.

Describing the threats against stranded Yezidi refugees as holding the potential for “genocide”, the president said he had authorised limited air strikes to help Iraqi forces, to assist in the fight to break the siege and protect the civilians trapped there.

“When we face a situation like we do on that mountain, with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale and we have a mandate to help – in this case a request from the Iraqi government – and when we have unique capabilities to act to avoid a massacre, I believe the United States cannot turn a blind eye,” the president said in a late-night statement from the White House.

“Earlier this week, one Iraqi said no-one is coming to help. Well, today America is coming to help,” he said.



(CNSNews.com) – A State Department official who just returned from a seven-week trip to Iraq, said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) is no longer just a terrorist group.

“ISIL is no longer simply a terrorist organization,” Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran at the U.S. Department of State, said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday. “It is now a full-blown army seeking to establish a self-governing state through the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in what is now Syria and Iraq.”



The US Congress’s National Defense Authorization Act contained an anti-Iran provision that went into effect July 1. It requires the US government to strong-arm the countries still purchasing Iranian oil to stop buying it. The boycott cut Iran’s oil sales in half in 2012 (though 2011 was a particularly lucrative year for the regime). At the same time, Saudi Arabia flooded the market by pumping extra petroleum, keeping the prices from rising astronomically. This economic blockade of Iran’s petroleum is unlikely to change the regime or its behavior, but it will likely kill the Iranian reform movement. And it could be a path for rising tensions and war between Iran and the United States.

Juan Cole


DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has obtained data from a U.S. intelligence drone that shows it was spying on the country’s military sites and oil terminals, Iranian media reported its armed forces as saying on Wednesday.
Iran announced on Tuesday that it had captured a ScanEagle drone belonging to the United States, but Washington said there was no evidence to support the assertion.

The incident has underscored tensions in the Gulf as Iran and the United States draw attention to their military capabilities in the vital oil exporting region in a standoff over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
“We have fully extracted the drone’s information,” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said in a statement on Wednesday, according to Iran’s English-language Press TV.
The drone was gathering military information and spying on the transfer of oil from Iran’s petroleum terminals, the IRGC statement said, according to Press TV. Iran’s main export terminal is at Kharg Island.
The U.S. government has focused on blocking Iran’s oil exports through sanctions to persuade Iran to give up its disputed nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies believe is aimed at developing a bomb, something Iran denies.
Israeli officials have threatened to strike Iran’s nuclear sites if sanctions and diplomacy fail to stop its program.
Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz – through which about 40 percent of the world’s seaborne crude oil is shipped – if it comes under attack. U.S. commanders have said they will not let that happen.
The compact ScanEagle drone had been flying over the Gulf in the last few days and was captured when it strayed into Iranian airspace, the IRGC said in a statement on Tuesday.
The U.S. military has been using Boeing Co ScanEagle spy planes since 2004 and they have become a relatively inexpensive way for the United States and others to conduct surveillance.
In November, the United States said Iranian warplanes shot at a U.S. surveillance drone flying in international airspace.
Iran said the aircraft had entered its airspace to spy on Iranian oil platforms and said it would respond “decisively” to any incursions.
In December 2011, Iran said it had captured a U.S. RQ-170 reconnaissance drone in eastern Iran which was reported lost by U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
Iranian commanders have since announced they have extracted valuable technology from the aircraft and were in the process of reverse-engineering it for their own defense industry.
(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati, Editing by William Maclean)


– CNN reports: Recent satellite photos show continued activity at a controversial Iranian military site that international weapons inspectors have repeatedly been denied access to, according to a Washington-based think tank.


By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON | Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:34am EST

(Reuters) – The Senate on Friday resoundingly approved new sanctions on trade with Iran’s energy, port, shipping and ship-building sectors, its latest effort to ratchet up economic pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

The new package builds on existing U.S. sanctions but maintains exemptions for countries that have made significant cuts to their purchases of Iranian crude oil.

Iran’s currency has plunged this year as its oil exports were slashed by U.S. and European sanctions aimed at pressuring the country’s leadership to stop pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. The United Nations’ nuclear chief said on Thursday his agency has made no progress in its year-long push to investigate whether Iran has worked on developing an atomic bomb.

“We must be clear to the Iranians that toughing it out and waiting it out is not an option, that it will only get worse,” Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said ahead of the vote.

Menendez co-authored the package with Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut.

Senators voted 94-0 to make the new sanctions part of an annual defense policy bill.

The Obama administration has not publicly commented on the proposals, but has privately raised concerns that it does not provide enough “waiver flexibility,” said Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin said those concerns may be addressed when the Senate and House of Representatives work out differences to finalize the massive defense bill. Both bodies will need to approve the defense bill before it would be given to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The new sanctions also include measures aimed at stopping the flow of gold from Turkey to Iran.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobby group, endorsed the measures, which they said would close a loophole in existing laws.

“In an effort to circumvent international sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, some purchasers of Iranian oil and natural gas have been using gold and other precious metals to pay for petroleum products,” AIPAC leaders said in a letter to senators ahead of the vote, urging support for the bill.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Vicki Allen)


Jonathan Saul and Marcus George
Reuters

5:27 a.m. CST, November 28, 2012

LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s food distribution system is in crisis even though Western sanctions do not directly target the market, badly hurting the poor and turning some staples into luxuries.

Private importers are shrinking away from deals made risky by turmoil in the rial currency, and many foreign banks are reluctant to finance even trade exempt from the sanctions for fear of drawing fire simply for doing business with Iran.

The result is that the Iranian state is under growing pressure to import and allocate more goods as it tries to avoid any social unrest due to shortages and soaring prices.

An increasingly shaky state apparatus will struggle to fill the gap often left by private companies, analysts say.

“If you are talking about the number of deals needed for a country of 75 million … you do not have an organized overall strategy for finance, purchase and distribution. I do not think they can cope with the challenge,” said Scott Lucas, a specialist in Iranian affairs at Birmingham University.

“Even if the sanctions were lifted, which is a huge if, the problems in the system are now so endemic I think they face real serious structural problems.”

Sanctions led by the United States and European Union, designed to halt Iran’s nuclear program, are strangling the economy and particularly energy exports, but so far Iranians do not face a widespread humanitarian crisis.

Nevertheless, many foreign foods are hard to find and high prices mean Iranians cannot always afford even basic items.

Hossein, a Tehran shopkeeper, described the problems faced particularly by the poor. “A few days ago an elderly woman came to my shop to buy 12 eggs, but when I told her how much she had to pay, she decided to just take five. I really felt bad because she is old and lives by herself,” he said by telephone.

The problems have become politically charged. Earlier this year Iran’s police chief urged television stations not to show people eating chicken to avoid fueling social tensions, as a jump in poultry prices has made it a rarity in many homes.

Even the relatively well-off are feeling the effects. “Not only have we had to cut back on less important things, we are also forced to purchase local products. I haven’t had real, good chocolate for a long time,” 25-year-old management student Sanaz said by phone from Tehran.

Iran is estimated to consume around 15.5 million tonnes of wheat a year and about 2.6 million tonnes of sugar.

The sanctions on the nuclear program – which Western governments fear is aimed at making weapons, despite Iranian denials – helped to push the rial into a nosedive earlier this year. The currency has since stabilized, but importers are finding it increasingly difficult to buy dollars for purchases, and are wary of getting caught out by another currency swing.

Instead, many commercial buyers are preferring to lock in their wealth in real estate or safe haven assets such as gold.


Lecture delivered by Matthew Machowski at the School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary, University of London.

This lecture introduce issues related to nuclear enrichment, nuclear weapons technology, international legal restrictions on nuclear technology and use, and the latest developments surrounding Iran’s nuclear energy and weapons programme.

There is no good evidence that Iran has a “structured” nuclear weapons program as opposed to a civilian nuclear enrichment program; the regime has not made a decision to build a nuclear warhead; and it may have decided (not clear) that it wants ‘nuclear latency’ or the ability quickly to weaponize if it feels threatened.

Machowski urges us to view the conflict with Iran as already a war in progress.


RT’s Marina Portnaya interviews former senior advisor to George W. Bush, Robert McNally.


Barack Obama’s second term is only just beginning – and he’s already making bold steps in the international arena.The U.S. has sent an air force detachment to service warplanes in Poland, which had pressed Washington for a security guarantee against Russia.

U.S. lawmakers are also reportedly preparing new sweeping sanctions against Iran, targeting its foreign business transactions. That’s on top of the latest round of restrictions imposed by Barack Obama just after he was re-elected to the White House.

Strains are widening between America and Iran – after The Pentagon revealed that Iranian jets fired at a U.S. drone flying off Iran’s coast last week. Political analyst Mohammad Marandi says it’s unlikely Tehran will bow down to Western pressure.


Jeremiah Goulka writes at Tomdispatch:
The Dogs of War Are Barking: Mitt Romney’s Team Wants to Let ‘Em Loose in Iran
It’s the consensus among the pundits: foreign policy doesn’t matter in this presidential election.  They point to the ways Republican candidate Mitt Romney has more or less parroted President Barack Obama on just about everything other than military spending and tough talk about another “American century.”
The consensus is wrong. There is an issue that matters: Iran.
Don’t be fooled.  It’s not just campaign season braggadocio when Romney claims that he would be far tougher on Iran than the president by threatening “a credible military option.”  He certainly is trying to appear tougher and stronger than Obama — he of the drone wars, the “kill list,” and Bin Laden’s offing — but it’s no hollow threat.
The Republican nominee has surrounded himself with advisors who are committed to military action and regime change against Iran, the same people who brought us the Global War on Terror and the Iraq War.  Along with their colleagues in hawkish think tanks, they have spent years priming the public to believe that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program, making ludicrous claims about “crazy” mullahs nuking Israel and the United States, pooh-poohing diplomacy — and getting ever shriller each time credible officials and analysts disagree.
Unlike with Iraq in 2002 and 2003, they have it easier today.  Then, they and their mentors had to go on a sales roadshow, painting pictures of phantom WMDs to build up support for an invasion.  Today, a large majority of Americans already believe that Iran is building nuclear weapons.
President Obama has helped push that snowball up the hill with sanctions to undermine the regime, covert and cyber warfare, and a huge naval presence in the Persian Gulf. Iran has ratcheted up tensions via posturing military maneuvers, while we have held joint U.S.-Israeli exercises and “the largest-ever multinational minesweeping exercise” there.  Our navies are facing off in a dangerous dance.
Obama has essentially loaded the gun and cocked it.  But he has kept his finger off the trigger, pursuing diplomacy with the so-called P5+1 talks and rumored future direct talks with the Iranians.  The problem is: Romney’s guys want to shoot.
Unlike Iraq, Iran Would Be an Easy Sell

Remember those innocent days of 2002 and 2003, when the war in Afghanistan was still new and the Bush administration was trying to sell an invasion of Iraq?  I do.  I was a Republican then, but I never quite bought the pitch.  I never felt the urgency, saw the al-Qaeda connection, or worried about phantom WMDs.  It just didn’t feel right.  But Iran today?  If I were still a Republican hawk, it would be “game on,” and I’d know I was not alone for three reasons.
First, even armchair strategists know that Iran has a lot of oil that is largely closed off to us.  It reputedly has the fourth largest reserves on the planet.  It also has a long coastline on the Persian Gulf, and it has the ability to shut the Strait of Hormuz, which would pinch off one of the world’s major energy arteries.
Then there is the fact that Iran has a special place in American consciousness.  The Islamic Republic of Iran and the mullahs who run it have been a cultural enemy ever since revolutionary students toppled our puppet regime there and stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.  The country is a theocracy run by angry-looking men with long beards and funny outfits. It has funded Hezbollah and Hamas.  Its crowds call us the “Great Satan.” Its president denies the Holocaust and says stuff about wiping Israel off the map.  Talk about a ready-made enemy.
Finally, well, nukes.
The public appears to be primed.  A large majority of Americans believe that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program, 71% in 2010 and 84% this March.  Some surveys even indicate that a majority of Americans would support military action to stop Iran from developing nukes.
That’s remarkable considering how much less certain most experts seem.  Take, for example, the National Intelligence Council, the senior panel that issues the government’s National Intelligence Estimates.  It continues to stick with its opinion that Iran once had such a program, but closed it down in 2003. U.S., European, and Israeli officials consistently say that Iran does not have an ongoing program and hasn’t even decided to pursue one, that at most the Iranians are hanging out near the starting line.  Iran’s supreme leader himself issued a fatwa against building nukes.  Why, then, is the American public so certain?  How did we get here?
There are three main reasons, only one of which is partially innocent.
What’s in a Name?
The first is linguistic and quite simple.  Say these words out loud: Iran’s civilian nuclear program.
Does that sound familiar?  Do those words look normal on the page?  Chances are the answer is “no,” because that’s not how the media, public officials, or political candidates typically refer to Iran’s nuclear activities.  Iran has a civilian nuclear power program, including a power plant at Beshehr, that was founded with the encouragement and assistance of the Eisenhower administration in 1957 as part of its “Atoms for Peace” program.  Do we hear about that?  No.  Instead, all we hear about is “Iran’s nuclear program.”  Especially in context, the implied meaning of those three words is inescapable: that Iran is currently pursuing nuclear weapons.
Out of curiosity, I ran some Google searches.  The results were striking.

  • “Iran’s disputed nuclear weapons program”: 4 hits
  • “Iran’s possible nuclear weapons program”: about 8,990 hits
  • “Iran’s civil nuclear program”: about 42,200 hits
  • “Iran’s civilian nuclear program”: about 199,000 hits
  • “Iran’s nuclear weapons program”: about 5,520,000 hits
  • “Iran’s nuclear program”: about 49,000,000 hits

Words matter, and this sloppiness is shaping American perceptions, priming the public for war.
Some of this is probably due to laziness.  Having to throw in “civilian” or “weapons” or “disputed” or “possible” makes for extra work and the result is a bit of a tongue twister.  Even people with good reasons to be precise use the shorter phrase, including President Obama.
But some of it is intentional.
The Proselytizing Republican Presidential Candidates
The second reason so many Americans are convinced that Iran is desperately seeking nukes can be attributed to the field of Republican candidates for the presidency.  They used the specter of such a weapons program to bash one another in the primaries, each posturing as the biggest, baddest sheriff on the block — and the process never ended.
The hyperbole has been impressive.  Take Rick Santorum: “Once they have a nuclear weapon, let me assure you, you will not be safe, even here in Missouri.”  Or Newt Gingrich: “Remember what it felt like on 9/11 when 3,100 Americans were killed. Now imagine an attack where you add two zeros. And it’s 300,000 dead. Maybe a half million wounded. This is a real danger. This is not science fiction.”
And then there’s Mitt Romney: “Right now, the greatest danger that America faces and the world faces is a nuclear Iran.”
The Regime-Change Brigade
Even if they’re not exactly excusable, media laziness and political posturing are predictable.  But there is a third reason Americans are primed for war: there exists in Washington what might be called the Bomb Iran Lobby — a number of hawkish political types and groups actively working to make believers of us all when it comes to an Iranian weapons program and so pave the way for regime change.  It should be noted that while some current and former Democrats have said that bombing Iran is a good idea, the groups in the lobby all fall on the Republican side of the aisle.
Numerous conservative and neoconservative think tanks pump out reports, op-eds, and journal articles suggesting or simply stating that “Iran has a nuclear weapons program” that must be stopped — and that it’ll probably take force to do the job.  Just check out the flow of words from mainstream Republican think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and AEI. (“It has long been clear that, absent regime change in Tehran, peaceful means will never persuade or prevent Iran from reaching its nuclear objective, to which it is perilously close.”)  Or take the Claremont Institute (“A mortal threat when Iran is not yet in possession of a nuclear arsenal? Yes…”) or neoconservatives who sit in perches in nonpartisan institutes like Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations (“Air Strikes Against Iran Are Justifiable”).
You can see this at even more hawkish shops like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, with its “campaign to ensure that Iran’s vow to destroy Israel and create ‘a world without America’ remains neither ‘obtainable’ nor ‘achievable.’”  (According to one of its distinguished advisors, a Fox News host, Iran has “nuclear weapons programs” — plural).  At the old Cold War group the Committee on the Present Danger, Iran is “marching toward nuclearization.”  Retired general and Christian crusader Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council even told Glenn Beck, “I believe that Iran has a nuclear warhead now.”
There are also two organizations, much attended to on the right, whose sole goal is regime change.  There’s the Emergency Committee for Israel, a militantly pro-Israel group founded by Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer that links the Christian right with the neocons and the Israel lobby.  It insists that “Iran continues its pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” and it’s pushing hard for bombing and regime change.
No less important is the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident cult group that was recently, amid much controversy, removed from the official U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.  The MEK brought Israeli intelligence about Iran’s then-active nuclear weapons program into the public eye at a Washington press conference in 2002.  Since then, it has peppered the public with tales of Iranian nuclear chicanery, and it ran a major lobbying campaign, paying dozens of former U.S. anti-terrorism officials — several of whom are now in the defense industry — to sing its praises.
It wants regime change because it hopes that the U.S. will install its “president-elect” and “parliament-in-exile” in power in Tehran.  (Think of Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, who played a similar role with the Bush administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.  They even have some of the same boosters.)
And then there are the groups who want war with Iran for religious reasons.  Take Christians United For Israel (CUFI), an End-Times politico-religious organization run by John Hagee, pastor of the Cornerstone megachurch in San Antonio.  As scholar Nicholas Guyatt shows in his book Have a Nice Doomsday, Hagee’s organization promotes the belief, common among fundamentalist Christians, that a war between Israel and Iran will trigger the Rapture.
Hagee’s own book, Countdown Jerusalem, suggests that Iran already has nuclear weapons and the ability to use them, and he aggressively advocates an attack on that country.  To many mainstream Americans, Hagee, his followers, and others with similar religious views may seem a bit nutty, but he is not to be discounted: his book was a bestseller.
The Supporting Cast
Republican-friendly media have joined the game, running blustery TV segments on the subject and cooking the books to assure survey majorities that favor military action.  Take this question from a March poll commissioned by Fox News: “Do you think Iran can be stopped from continuing to work on a nuclear weapons program through diplomacy and sanctions alone, or will it take military force to stop Iran from working on nuclear weapons?”  Absent priming like this, a majority of Americans actually prefer diplomacy, 81% supporting direct talks between Washington and Tehran.
And don’t forget the military-industrial complex, for which the fear of a nuclear-armed Iran means opportunity. They use it to justify that perennial cash cow and Republican favorite: missile defense (which the Romney campaign dutifully promotes on its “Iran: An American Century” webpage).  It gives the Pentagon a chance to ask for new bunker busting bombs and to justify the two new classes of pricey littoral combat ships.
If the U.S. were to bomb Iranian facilities — and inevitably get drawn into a more prolonged conflict — the cash spigot is likely to open full flood.  And don’t forget the potential LOGCAP, construction, and private security contracts that might flow over the years (even if there isn’t an occupation) to the KBRs, SAICs, DynCorps, Halliburtons, Bechtels, Wackenhuts, Triple Canopies, and Blackwater/Academis of the world.  (Too bad there aren’t meaningful transparency laws that would let us know how much these companies and their employees have contributed, directly or indirectly, to Romney’s campaign or to the think tanks that pay and promote the convenient views of professional ideologues.)
The Problem With Romney
All of this means that the public has been primed for war with Iran.  With constant media attention, the Republican candidates have driven home the notion that Iran has or will soon have nuclear weapons, that Iranian nukes present an immediate and existential threat to Israel and the U.S., and that diplomacy is for sissies.  If Obama wins, he will have to work even harder to prevent war.  If Romney wins, war will be all the easier.  And for his team, that’s a good thing.
The problem with Romney, you see, is that he hangs out with the wrong crowd — the regime-change brigade, many of whom steered the ship of state toward Iraq for George W. Bush.  And keep in mind that he, like Romney (and Obama), was an empty vessel on foreign affairs when he entered the Oval Office. Even if Iran has been nothing more than a political tool for Romney, regime change is a deep-seated goal for the people around him.  They actually want to bomb Iran.  They’ve said so themselves.
Take Robert Kagan.  His main perch is at the non-partisan Brookings Institution, but he has also been a leader of the neocon Project for a New American Century and its successor organization, the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI). “Regime change in Tehran,” he has written, “is the best nonproliferation policy.”
Kagan’s fellow directors at the FPI are also on Romney’s team: Bill Kristol, Eric Edelman (former staffer to Cheney and Douglas Feith’s successor at the Pentagon), and former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor, who has become Romney’s most trusted foreign policy advisor and a rumored contender for national security advisor.  The FPI’s position? “It is time to take military action against the Iranian government elements that support terrorism and its nuclear program. More diplomacy is not an adequate response.”
Or how about John Bolton, Bush’s U.N. ambassador and a frequent speaker on behalf of the MEK, who has said, “The better way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is to attack its nuclear weapons program directly and break their control over the nuclear fuel cycle,” and that “we should be prepared to take down the regime in Tehran.”
And the list goes on.
It is, of course, theoretically possible that a President Romney would ignore his neocon team’s advice, just as George W. Bush famously ignored the moderate Republican advice of his father’s team.  Still, it’s hard to imagine him giving the cold shoulder to the sages of the previous administration: Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.  Indeed, Romney is said to turn to the “Cheney-ites” when he seeks counsel, while giving the more moderate Republican internationalists the cold shoulder.  And Cheney wanted to bomb Iran.
In a Romney administration, expect this gang to lobby him hard to finish the job and take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, or at least to give Israel the green light to do so.  Expect them to close their eyes to what we have learned in Iraq and Afghanistan when it comes to “blood and treasure.”  Expect them to say that bombing alone will do the trick “surgically.”  Expect them to claim that the military high command is “soft,” “bureaucratic,” and “risk-averse” when it hesitates to get involved in what will inevitably become a regional nightmare.  Expect the message to be: this time we’ll get it right.
Kenneling the Dogs of War
No one likes the idea of Iran getting nukes, but should the regime decide to pursue them, they don’t present an existential threat to anyone.  Tehran’s leaders know that a mushroom cloud in Tel Aviv, no less Washington, would turn their country into a parking lot.
Should the mullahs ever pursue nuclear weapons again, it would be for deterrence, for the ability to stand up to the United States and say, “Piss off.”  While that might present a challenge for American foreign policy interests — especially those related to oil — it has nothing to do with the physical safety of Israel or the United States.
War with Iran is an incredibly bad idea, yet it’s a real threat.  President Obama has come close to teeing it up.  Even talk of a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities is delusional, because, as just about every analyst points out, we wouldn’t know if it had worked (which it probably wouldn’t) and it would be an act of war that Iran wouldn’t absorb with a smile.  In its wake, a lot of people would be likely to die.
But Romney’s guys don’t think it’s a bad idea.  They think it’s a good one, and they are ready to take a swing.
Jeremiah Goulka, a TomDispatch regular, writes about American politics and culture, focusing on security, race, and the Republican Party.  He was formerly an analyst at the RAND Corporation, a Hurricane Katrina recovery worker, and an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his website jeremiahgoulka.com.
Copyright 2012 Jeremiah Goulka
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Mirrored from Tomdispatch.eom


Around 12,000 troops from more than 19 nations are wrapping up a massive military training drill in the Middle East. But for some of those servicemen, these exercises might be just the beginning of something much bigger to come.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are just a sampling of the many countries — along with European allies — that have been involved in the nearly month-long Eager Lion 2012 exercise expected to end this week. Although much of the drills have been kept under wraps, it isn’t a secret that these states have spent the last month cooperating together through mock combat drills and comprehensive training. Some sources overseas report, however, that as many as 3,000 troops aligned with US forces have conducted a simulated landing and attack on Iran, preparing America and its allies for a war that becomes more likely by the day.

Intelligence sources speaking to Israel’s Debka news agency report that US troops and other forces aligned with America recently staged a landing on a Jordanian beach that was immediately followed by a military seizure of fortified mountain bases and command posts. The exercise was meant to emulate an attack on Iran and accompanies other drills that witnesses say show off just what America’s foes face if they continue to put the heat on the United States and its pals abroad.

Speaking of a drill assumed to be a mockup of a raid on Syria, Major General. Awni el-Edwan, Chief of staff of the Jordanian Operations and Training Armed Forces, says, “The exercise is not connected to any real world event,” reports CNN. “This has nothing to do with Syria. We respect the sovereignty of Syria. There is no tension between the Syrians and us. Our objectives are clear.”

Others, however, say that the intentions of the Eager Lion 2012 drills are obvious.

Gen. James Mattis, head of the US Central Command, visited both sections of the exercise led by American troops in Jordan, adds Debka. Should the US officially attack either Syria or Iran, Gen. Mattis will be the head of the military forces there. Additionally, intelligence sources speaking with the Israeli outlet reveal that Gen. Mattis has recently sought approval from US President Barack Obama to deploy a third aircraft carrier to the Middle East to increase America’s presence.

The United States currently has two massive aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf area, both the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Enterprise, and CNN adds in their report that the Air Force has sent six of the stealth F-22 fighter jets to the neighboring United Arab Emirates.

The US is believed to be engaged in exercises involving the Navy and Air Force in operations on the land, air and sea, with the US Special Operations troops also working in tandem with Jordanian special forces units in counterterrorism to put both teams on the same page.

Debka reports that, during Eager Lion 2012, a command post was also established by around 700 US Marines onboard the USS New York amphibious transport dock that was stationed in the Red Sea. The entire exercise there, they say, was “clearly visible” to observers in a neighboring Israeli port. Only days earlier, Debka reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told his country that “all options remain on the table” involving an attack on Iran, and that the Jewish state will strike first if necessary, even without the assistance of American forces.

“There is no need to tell us what to do, and we have no reason to panic. Israel is very, very strong, but we do know that the Iranians are accomplished chess players and will try to achieve nuclear capabilities,” said Barak.


If Israel goes from threats to military actions, “it is Israel who will be destroyed,” says a high-ranking Iranian general. This comes as a fresh twist in the war of words that has engrossed Israel and Iran in recent months.

­”If the Zionist regime takes any actions against Iran, it would result in the end of its labors,” Brigadier General Mostafa Izadi, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, told the Fars news agency.

Israel cannot harm Iran in the slightest, assured the top military official.

“If they act logically, such threats amount to a psychological war, but if they want to act illogically, it is they who will be destroyed,” he added.

The message is a response to Israel’s renewed calls for tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic. As Iran sat down to another round of nuclear talks with world powers last week, Israel issued more calls threatening Iran with military action. Tel Aviv believed Tehran did not take the threat of war seriously.

“The Iranians think this is just a warning. That people are not serious enough,”

Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview, as the talks kicked off in Moscow.

“If the Iranians understand seriously that this [military action] is an option, maybe we shall not need it. If they think this is a bluff, then it may lead to a war,” he added.

Israel and its Western allies suspect that Tehran is enriching uranium in a bid to secretly create nuclear warheads, though no evidence for such a claim has been presented and most Western experts say otherwise. Tel Aviv has also repeatedly said that it will bomb Iranian nuclear facilities before allowing it to build nukes. Iran insists that it needs enriched uranium for civilian uses.

The Moscow negotiations wrapped up with no breakthrough.

Western powers again demanded that Tehran scale down its nuclear work: to shut down the Fordo underground uranium enrichment facility and ship any stockpile out of the country. In return, Iran was offered enough fuel to meet the country’s medical needs, assistance in nuclear security and lift a ban on spare parts for Iran’s civilian planes.

Iran slammed the proposed deal for having too many demands while offering little in return. Tehran wanted to see relief from strangling economic sanctions, imposed by the EU and US, and an official acknowledgement of its right to enrich uranium before they considered scaling down nuclear activities.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled for July 3.



Here are some ways you can spread the word to make sure President Obama gets the message loud and clear.

If you are on Facebook, click here to post the petition to your Wall.

If you have a Twitter account, click here to automatically tweet:
Tell Pres. @BarackObama: We support diplomacy with #Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war. http://bit.ly/MqtlwH

You can also send the following e-mail to your friends and family. Spreading the word is critical, but please only pass this message along to those who know you — spam hurts our campaign.

Thanks for all you do.

–The CREDO Action Team

Here’s a sample message to send to your friends:


Subject: Tell President Obama: We support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war.
Dear Friend,

The next week is critically important for those of us who want to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran.

Iran has come to the table for negotiations about the future of its nuclear program, with the next round of multilateral negotiations scheduled to take place today and tomorrow in Moscow.

But the Obama administration is under tremendous pressure to abandon diplomacy with Iran, and follow a path that would make war inevitable. And much of the pressure is coming from warmongers like John Bolton (an ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush), who want the talks to fail.

We need to speak out now to ensure that President Obama knows the American people support diplomacy, not war.

I just signed a petition telling President Obama that we support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war.

I hope you sign the petition, too.

It’s easy to do so. Just click on the link below.

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/obama_iran/?r_by=41967-5154581-CDhpWCx&rc=confemail


The next few days are critically important for those of us who want to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran.
Iran has come to the table for negotiations about the future of its nuclear program, with the next round of multilateral negotiations scheduled to take place today and tomorrow in Moscow.
But the Obama administration is under tremendous pressure to abandon diplomacy with Iran, and follow a path that would make war inevitable. And much of the pressure is coming from warmongers like John Bolton (an ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush), who want the talks to fail.
We need to speak out now to ensure that President Obama knows the American people support diplomacy, not war.
Many in power seem to have learned nothing from the catastrophic mistake and tremendous moral failure that was the war in Iraq.
There is already dangerous momentum to begin a war of choice with Iran. And should the Moscow negotiations break down or bear no fruit, the drumbeat for war will only grow more intense.
Those who would welcome a war with Iran are trying to suggest that the window for a diplomatic solution is rapidly closing.
But both American and Israeli intelligence services agree that Iran neither has made a decision to build a nuclear bomb nor currently has the capacity to do so. So there is no short-term imperative to wage war.
To his credit, President Obama is clearly not rushing to start another war. But many members of Congress, including many Democrats, are pushing him to offer nothing meaningful to Iran until Iran gives the United States and its allies everything we want.
Fundamentally, this kind of negotiating strategy would set us up for failure.
While there is no easy solution to the challenges we face with Iran, it is imperative that we pursue diplomacy in good faith and give diplomatic solutions the time they need to bear fruit.
And that means being open to a slow but steady move away from the brink of war through mutual concessions.
In an election year, when many of President Obama’s traditional allies are either opposed or highly skeptical of his strategy, President Obama must know that there is full-throated support for diplomacy that can prevent an unnecessary war.
Tell President Obama: We support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for speaking out for diplomacy.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

WASHINGTON – The Russian military anticipates that an attack will occur on Iran by the summer and has developed an action plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic, according to informed Russian sources.

Russian Security Council head Viktor Ozerov said that Russian General Military Headquarters has prepared an action plan in the event of an attack on Iran.

Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, warned against an attack on Iran.

“Iran is our neighbor,” Rogozin said. “If Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security.” Rogozin now is the deputy Russian prime minister and is regarded as anti-Western. He oversees Russia’s defense sector.

Russian Defense Ministry sources say that the Russian military doesn’t believe that Israel has sufficient military assets to defeat Iranian defenses and further believes that U.S. military action will be necessary.

The implication of preparing to move Russian troops not only is to protect its own vital regional interests but possibly to assist Iran in the event of such an attack. Sources add that a Russian military buildup in the region could result in the Russian military potentially engaging Israeli forces, U.S. forces, or both.

Informed sources say that the Russians have warned of “unpredictable consequences” in the event Iran is attacked, with some Russians saying that the Russian military will take part in the possible war because it would threaten its vital interests in the region.

The influential Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper has quoted a Russian military source as saying that the situation forming around Syria and Iran “causes Russia to expedite the course of improvement of its military groups in the South Caucasus, the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.”

This latest information comes from a series of reports and leaks from official Russian spokesmen and government news agencies who say that an Israeli attack is all but certain by the summer.

Because of the impact on Russian vital interests in the region, sources say that Russian preparations for such an attack began two years ago when Russian Military Base 102 in Gyumri, Armenia, was modernized. It is said to occupy a major geopolitical position in the region.

Families of Russian servicemen from the Russian base at Gyumri in Armenia close to the borders of Georgia and Turkey already have been evacuated, Russian sources say.

Read more: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-04-09/news/31311454_1_russian-defense-ministry-military-action-dmitry-rogozin#ixzz1s2j7KMHO


Sheldon Richman

Published: Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.

When President Obama spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee some weeks ago, he admonished those who engaged in “loose talk of war” about Iran. Apparently, his secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, didn’t get the memo.

The Associated Press reported this week,

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made clear Saturday that time is running out for diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program and said talks aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon would resume in mid-April. With speculation over a possible U.S. or Israel military attack adding urgency to the next round of discussions in Istanbul set for April 13, Clinton said Iran’s “window of opportunity” for a peaceful resolution “will not remain open forever.”

She also expressed doubt about whether Iran has any intention of negotiating a solution that satisfies the U.S., Israel and other countries that believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

That’s another memo Clinton seems not to have received. Both American and Israeli intelligence say that Iran has neither started to build a nuclear weapon nor even decided to do so in the future. Both also regard the Iranian government as a “rational actor.” (The American news media occasionally reports this, but then goes back to stating, as though it were uncontroversial, that Iran is building a nuclear arsenal.)

So why the conflicting signals from the U.S. government? This conflict can be seen in Obama’s own statements. While he calls for diplomacy and warns against loose war talk, he has imposed harsh economic sanctions that make the daily lives of average Iranians miserable, has rejected “containment,” and boasted that he doesn’t “bluff.”

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command has trained operatives from an Iranian opposition group at a secret site in Nevada. Writing in The New Yorker, Hersh reports JSOC began training the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, in 2005, even though the group is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. The training included intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics. The training is said to have ended before President Obama took office. Last month, NBC reported members of the MEK have been involved in the assassinations of five Iranian

August 18, 2014 | 3:25 pm

The battle for Iraq’s largest dam continued today, even as officials claimed that government troops and Kurdish forces had regained control of the complex from hardline Sunni militant group the Islamic State, which seized it earlier this month.

Iraqi military spokesman Lt-Gen. Qassim Atta told state television today that Mosul Dam had been “fully cleansed” of militants by a joint force of Iraqi troops and peshmerga fighters from Iraqi Kurdistan backed by US and Iraqi aircraft. However, when VICE News visited the peshmerga front lines close to the dam, fighting was still clearly underway and medical staff reported a number of Kurdish and Iraqi casualties.


It is not true that the Middle East is inherently unstable. Human history is the history of conflict and the Middle East is the cradle of civilization. But it is not true that current conflict is just the continuum of thousand years of fighting. Muslims and Jews have lived in peace in the Middle East for hundreds of years. In Palestine they were well beyond tolerance into actual friendship. Even in the seventies anyone from any country could go to Beirut, Damascus, Kabul, and Bagdad and have a wonderful worry free time.

Most current conflict can be trace to imperialistic meddling. To point some highlights: the arbitrary partition of the Kurdish and Pashtun countries by the British; The creation of a European settler State in Palestine by the British; the placement in power of the aleut minority in Syria by the British; The coup de Etat by the CIA that put the Sha in power in Iran; The creation of the Taliban by the CIA; The unconditional support of Israel by the United States, even against the interest of the people and government of the US, and even after Israel has attacked US personnel in international waters.

The ISIS is a good example. Who supplies the money? Saudi Arabia with petrodollars; who supplies the weapons? The United States. Who provides the entry point for army grade weaponry? Israel; why? To weaken and destabilize Israel’s neighbors and pave the way to an all out assault on Syria and Iran.

Obama authorises US air strikes to help Iraqis besieged on mountain by Isis

Barack Obama has authorised targeted air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq, as the US military began an airborne operation to bring relief to thousands of minority Iraqis driven to a grim, mountain-top refuge.

Describing the threats against stranded Yezidi refugees as holding the potential for “genocide”, the president said he had authorised limited air strikes to help Iraqi forces, to assist in the fight to break the siege and protect the civilians trapped there.

“When we face a situation like we do on that mountain, with innocent people facing the prospect of violence on a horrific scale and we have a mandate to help – in this case a request from the Iraqi government – and when we have unique capabilities to act to avoid a massacre, I believe the United States cannot turn a blind eye,” the president said in a late-night statement from the White House.

“Earlier this week, one Iraqi said no-one is coming to help. Well, today America is coming to help,” he said.



(CNSNews.com) – A State Department official who just returned from a seven-week trip to Iraq, said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS or ISIL) is no longer just a terrorist group.

“ISIL is no longer simply a terrorist organization,” Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran at the U.S. Department of State, said at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Wednesday. “It is now a full-blown army seeking to establish a self-governing state through the Tigris and Euphrates Valley in what is now Syria and Iraq.”



The US Congress’s National Defense Authorization Act contained an anti-Iran provision that went into effect July 1. It requires the US government to strong-arm the countries still purchasing Iranian oil to stop buying it. The boycott cut Iran’s oil sales in half in 2012 (though 2011 was a particularly lucrative year for the regime). At the same time, Saudi Arabia flooded the market by pumping extra petroleum, keeping the prices from rising astronomically. This economic blockade of Iran’s petroleum is unlikely to change the regime or its behavior, but it will likely kill the Iranian reform movement. And it could be a path for rising tensions and war between Iran and the United States.

Juan Cole


DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran has obtained data from a U.S. intelligence drone that shows it was spying on the country’s military sites and oil terminals, Iranian media reported its armed forces as saying on Wednesday.
Iran announced on Tuesday that it had captured a ScanEagle drone belonging to the United States, but Washington said there was no evidence to support the assertion.

The incident has underscored tensions in the Gulf as Iran and the United States draw attention to their military capabilities in the vital oil exporting region in a standoff over Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
“We have fully extracted the drone’s information,” Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said in a statement on Wednesday, according to Iran’s English-language Press TV.
The drone was gathering military information and spying on the transfer of oil from Iran’s petroleum terminals, the IRGC statement said, according to Press TV. Iran’s main export terminal is at Kharg Island.
The U.S. government has focused on blocking Iran’s oil exports through sanctions to persuade Iran to give up its disputed nuclear program, which the U.S. and its allies believe is aimed at developing a bomb, something Iran denies.
Israeli officials have threatened to strike Iran’s nuclear sites if sanctions and diplomacy fail to stop its program.
Iran has repeatedly threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz – through which about 40 percent of the world’s seaborne crude oil is shipped – if it comes under attack. U.S. commanders have said they will not let that happen.
The compact ScanEagle drone had been flying over the Gulf in the last few days and was captured when it strayed into Iranian airspace, the IRGC said in a statement on Tuesday.
The U.S. military has been using Boeing Co ScanEagle spy planes since 2004 and they have become a relatively inexpensive way for the United States and others to conduct surveillance.
In November, the United States said Iranian warplanes shot at a U.S. surveillance drone flying in international airspace.
Iran said the aircraft had entered its airspace to spy on Iranian oil platforms and said it would respond “decisively” to any incursions.
In December 2011, Iran said it had captured a U.S. RQ-170 reconnaissance drone in eastern Iran which was reported lost by U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan.
Iranian commanders have since announced they have extracted valuable technology from the aircraft and were in the process of reverse-engineering it for their own defense industry.
(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati, Editing by William Maclean)


– CNN reports: Recent satellite photos show continued activity at a controversial Iranian military site that international weapons inspectors have repeatedly been denied access to, according to a Washington-based think tank.


By Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON | Fri Nov 30, 2012 11:34am EST

(Reuters) – The Senate on Friday resoundingly approved new sanctions on trade with Iran’s energy, port, shipping and ship-building sectors, its latest effort to ratchet up economic pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program.

The new package builds on existing U.S. sanctions but maintains exemptions for countries that have made significant cuts to their purchases of Iranian crude oil.

Iran’s currency has plunged this year as its oil exports were slashed by U.S. and European sanctions aimed at pressuring the country’s leadership to stop pursuing nuclear weapons.

Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. The United Nations’ nuclear chief said on Thursday his agency has made no progress in its year-long push to investigate whether Iran has worked on developing an atomic bomb.

“We must be clear to the Iranians that toughing it out and waiting it out is not an option, that it will only get worse,” Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said ahead of the vote.

Menendez co-authored the package with Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois and Senator Joseph Lieberman, an Independent from Connecticut.

Senators voted 94-0 to make the new sanctions part of an annual defense policy bill.

The Obama administration has not publicly commented on the proposals, but has privately raised concerns that it does not provide enough “waiver flexibility,” said Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Levin said those concerns may be addressed when the Senate and House of Representatives work out differences to finalize the massive defense bill. Both bodies will need to approve the defense bill before it would be given to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

The new sanctions also include measures aimed at stopping the flow of gold from Turkey to Iran.

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a powerful pro-Israel lobby group, endorsed the measures, which they said would close a loophole in existing laws.

“In an effort to circumvent international sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, some purchasers of Iranian oil and natural gas have been using gold and other precious metals to pay for petroleum products,” AIPAC leaders said in a letter to senators ahead of the vote, urging support for the bill.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Vicki Allen)


Jonathan Saul and Marcus George
Reuters

5:27 a.m. CST, November 28, 2012

LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s food distribution system is in crisis even though Western sanctions do not directly target the market, badly hurting the poor and turning some staples into luxuries.

Private importers are shrinking away from deals made risky by turmoil in the rial currency, and many foreign banks are reluctant to finance even trade exempt from the sanctions for fear of drawing fire simply for doing business with Iran.

The result is that the Iranian state is under growing pressure to import and allocate more goods as it tries to avoid any social unrest due to shortages and soaring prices.

An increasingly shaky state apparatus will struggle to fill the gap often left by private companies, analysts say.

“If you are talking about the number of deals needed for a country of 75 million … you do not have an organized overall strategy for finance, purchase and distribution. I do not think they can cope with the challenge,” said Scott Lucas, a specialist in Iranian affairs at Birmingham University.

“Even if the sanctions were lifted, which is a huge if, the problems in the system are now so endemic I think they face real serious structural problems.”

Sanctions led by the United States and European Union, designed to halt Iran’s nuclear program, are strangling the economy and particularly energy exports, but so far Iranians do not face a widespread humanitarian crisis.

Nevertheless, many foreign foods are hard to find and high prices mean Iranians cannot always afford even basic items.

Hossein, a Tehran shopkeeper, described the problems faced particularly by the poor. “A few days ago an elderly woman came to my shop to buy 12 eggs, but when I told her how much she had to pay, she decided to just take five. I really felt bad because she is old and lives by herself,” he said by telephone.

The problems have become politically charged. Earlier this year Iran’s police chief urged television stations not to show people eating chicken to avoid fueling social tensions, as a jump in poultry prices has made it a rarity in many homes.

Even the relatively well-off are feeling the effects. “Not only have we had to cut back on less important things, we are also forced to purchase local products. I haven’t had real, good chocolate for a long time,” 25-year-old management student Sanaz said by phone from Tehran.

Iran is estimated to consume around 15.5 million tonnes of wheat a year and about 2.6 million tonnes of sugar.

The sanctions on the nuclear program – which Western governments fear is aimed at making weapons, despite Iranian denials – helped to push the rial into a nosedive earlier this year. The currency has since stabilized, but importers are finding it increasingly difficult to buy dollars for purchases, and are wary of getting caught out by another currency swing.

Instead, many commercial buyers are preferring to lock in their wealth in real estate or safe haven assets such as gold.


Lecture delivered by Matthew Machowski at the School of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary, University of London.

This lecture introduce issues related to nuclear enrichment, nuclear weapons technology, international legal restrictions on nuclear technology and use, and the latest developments surrounding Iran’s nuclear energy and weapons programme.

There is no good evidence that Iran has a “structured” nuclear weapons program as opposed to a civilian nuclear enrichment program; the regime has not made a decision to build a nuclear warhead; and it may have decided (not clear) that it wants ‘nuclear latency’ or the ability quickly to weaponize if it feels threatened.

Machowski urges us to view the conflict with Iran as already a war in progress.


RT’s Marina Portnaya interviews former senior advisor to George W. Bush, Robert McNally.


Barack Obama’s second term is only just beginning – and he’s already making bold steps in the international arena.The U.S. has sent an air force detachment to service warplanes in Poland, which had pressed Washington for a security guarantee against Russia.

U.S. lawmakers are also reportedly preparing new sweeping sanctions against Iran, targeting its foreign business transactions. That’s on top of the latest round of restrictions imposed by Barack Obama just after he was re-elected to the White House.

Strains are widening between America and Iran – after The Pentagon revealed that Iranian jets fired at a U.S. drone flying off Iran’s coast last week. Political analyst Mohammad Marandi says it’s unlikely Tehran will bow down to Western pressure.


Jeremiah Goulka writes at Tomdispatch:
The Dogs of War Are Barking: Mitt Romney’s Team Wants to Let ‘Em Loose in Iran
It’s the consensus among the pundits: foreign policy doesn’t matter in this presidential election.  They point to the ways Republican candidate Mitt Romney has more or less parroted President Barack Obama on just about everything other than military spending and tough talk about another “American century.”
The consensus is wrong. There is an issue that matters: Iran.
Don’t be fooled.  It’s not just campaign season braggadocio when Romney claims that he would be far tougher on Iran than the president by threatening “a credible military option.”  He certainly is trying to appear tougher and stronger than Obama — he of the drone wars, the “kill list,” and Bin Laden’s offing — but it’s no hollow threat.
The Republican nominee has surrounded himself with advisors who are committed to military action and regime change against Iran, the same people who brought us the Global War on Terror and the Iraq War.  Along with their colleagues in hawkish think tanks, they have spent years priming the public to believe that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program, making ludicrous claims about “crazy” mullahs nuking Israel and the United States, pooh-poohing diplomacy — and getting ever shriller each time credible officials and analysts disagree.
Unlike with Iraq in 2002 and 2003, they have it easier today.  Then, they and their mentors had to go on a sales roadshow, painting pictures of phantom WMDs to build up support for an invasion.  Today, a large majority of Americans already believe that Iran is building nuclear weapons.
President Obama has helped push that snowball up the hill with sanctions to undermine the regime, covert and cyber warfare, and a huge naval presence in the Persian Gulf. Iran has ratcheted up tensions via posturing military maneuvers, while we have held joint U.S.-Israeli exercises and “the largest-ever multinational minesweeping exercise” there.  Our navies are facing off in a dangerous dance.
Obama has essentially loaded the gun and cocked it.  But he has kept his finger off the trigger, pursuing diplomacy with the so-called P5+1 talks and rumored future direct talks with the Iranians.  The problem is: Romney’s guys want to shoot.
Unlike Iraq, Iran Would Be an Easy Sell

Remember those innocent days of 2002 and 2003, when the war in Afghanistan was still new and the Bush administration was trying to sell an invasion of Iraq?  I do.  I was a Republican then, but I never quite bought the pitch.  I never felt the urgency, saw the al-Qaeda connection, or worried about phantom WMDs.  It just didn’t feel right.  But Iran today?  If I were still a Republican hawk, it would be “game on,” and I’d know I was not alone for three reasons.
First, even armchair strategists know that Iran has a lot of oil that is largely closed off to us.  It reputedly has the fourth largest reserves on the planet.  It also has a long coastline on the Persian Gulf, and it has the ability to shut the Strait of Hormuz, which would pinch off one of the world’s major energy arteries.
Then there is the fact that Iran has a special place in American consciousness.  The Islamic Republic of Iran and the mullahs who run it have been a cultural enemy ever since revolutionary students toppled our puppet regime there and stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.  The country is a theocracy run by angry-looking men with long beards and funny outfits. It has funded Hezbollah and Hamas.  Its crowds call us the “Great Satan.” Its president denies the Holocaust and says stuff about wiping Israel off the map.  Talk about a ready-made enemy.
Finally, well, nukes.
The public appears to be primed.  A large majority of Americans believe that Iran has an ongoing nuclear weapons program, 71% in 2010 and 84% this March.  Some surveys even indicate that a majority of Americans would support military action to stop Iran from developing nukes.
That’s remarkable considering how much less certain most experts seem.  Take, for example, the National Intelligence Council, the senior panel that issues the government’s National Intelligence Estimates.  It continues to stick with its opinion that Iran once had such a program, but closed it down in 2003. U.S., European, and Israeli officials consistently say that Iran does not have an ongoing program and hasn’t even decided to pursue one, that at most the Iranians are hanging out near the starting line.  Iran’s supreme leader himself issued a fatwa against building nukes.  Why, then, is the American public so certain?  How did we get here?
There are three main reasons, only one of which is partially innocent.
What’s in a Name?
The first is linguistic and quite simple.  Say these words out loud: Iran’s civilian nuclear program.
Does that sound familiar?  Do those words look normal on the page?  Chances are the answer is “no,” because that’s not how the media, public officials, or political candidates typically refer to Iran’s nuclear activities.  Iran has a civilian nuclear power program, including a power plant at Beshehr, that was founded with the encouragement and assistance of the Eisenhower administration in 1957 as part of its “Atoms for Peace” program.  Do we hear about that?  No.  Instead, all we hear about is “Iran’s nuclear program.”  Especially in context, the implied meaning of those three words is inescapable: that Iran is currently pursuing nuclear weapons.
Out of curiosity, I ran some Google searches.  The results were striking.

  • “Iran’s disputed nuclear weapons program”: 4 hits
  • “Iran’s possible nuclear weapons program”: about 8,990 hits
  • “Iran’s civil nuclear program”: about 42,200 hits
  • “Iran’s civilian nuclear program”: about 199,000 hits
  • “Iran’s nuclear weapons program”: about 5,520,000 hits
  • “Iran’s nuclear program”: about 49,000,000 hits

Words matter, and this sloppiness is shaping American perceptions, priming the public for war.
Some of this is probably due to laziness.  Having to throw in “civilian” or “weapons” or “disputed” or “possible” makes for extra work and the result is a bit of a tongue twister.  Even people with good reasons to be precise use the shorter phrase, including President Obama.
But some of it is intentional.
The Proselytizing Republican Presidential Candidates
The second reason so many Americans are convinced that Iran is desperately seeking nukes can be attributed to the field of Republican candidates for the presidency.  They used the specter of such a weapons program to bash one another in the primaries, each posturing as the biggest, baddest sheriff on the block — and the process never ended.
The hyperbole has been impressive.  Take Rick Santorum: “Once they have a nuclear weapon, let me assure you, you will not be safe, even here in Missouri.”  Or Newt Gingrich: “Remember what it felt like on 9/11 when 3,100 Americans were killed. Now imagine an attack where you add two zeros. And it’s 300,000 dead. Maybe a half million wounded. This is a real danger. This is not science fiction.”
And then there’s Mitt Romney: “Right now, the greatest danger that America faces and the world faces is a nuclear Iran.”
The Regime-Change Brigade
Even if they’re not exactly excusable, media laziness and political posturing are predictable.  But there is a third reason Americans are primed for war: there exists in Washington what might be called the Bomb Iran Lobby — a number of hawkish political types and groups actively working to make believers of us all when it comes to an Iranian weapons program and so pave the way for regime change.  It should be noted that while some current and former Democrats have said that bombing Iran is a good idea, the groups in the lobby all fall on the Republican side of the aisle.
Numerous conservative and neoconservative think tanks pump out reports, op-eds, and journal articles suggesting or simply stating that “Iran has a nuclear weapons program” that must be stopped — and that it’ll probably take force to do the job.  Just check out the flow of words from mainstream Republican think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and AEI. (“It has long been clear that, absent regime change in Tehran, peaceful means will never persuade or prevent Iran from reaching its nuclear objective, to which it is perilously close.”)  Or take the Claremont Institute (“A mortal threat when Iran is not yet in possession of a nuclear arsenal? Yes…”) or neoconservatives who sit in perches in nonpartisan institutes like Max Boot at the Council on Foreign Relations (“Air Strikes Against Iran Are Justifiable”).
You can see this at even more hawkish shops like the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, with its “campaign to ensure that Iran’s vow to destroy Israel and create ‘a world without America’ remains neither ‘obtainable’ nor ‘achievable.’”  (According to one of its distinguished advisors, a Fox News host, Iran has “nuclear weapons programs” — plural).  At the old Cold War group the Committee on the Present Danger, Iran is “marching toward nuclearization.”  Retired general and Christian crusader Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council even told Glenn Beck, “I believe that Iran has a nuclear warhead now.”
There are also two organizations, much attended to on the right, whose sole goal is regime change.  There’s the Emergency Committee for Israel, a militantly pro-Israel group founded by Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer that links the Christian right with the neocons and the Israel lobby.  It insists that “Iran continues its pursuit of a nuclear weapon,” and it’s pushing hard for bombing and regime change.
No less important is the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian dissident cult group that was recently, amid much controversy, removed from the official U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations.  The MEK brought Israeli intelligence about Iran’s then-active nuclear weapons program into the public eye at a Washington press conference in 2002.  Since then, it has peppered the public with tales of Iranian nuclear chicanery, and it ran a major lobbying campaign, paying dozens of former U.S. anti-terrorism officials — several of whom are now in the defense industry — to sing its praises.
It wants regime change because it hopes that the U.S. will install its “president-elect” and “parliament-in-exile” in power in Tehran.  (Think of Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress, who played a similar role with the Bush administration in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.  They even have some of the same boosters.)
And then there are the groups who want war with Iran for religious reasons.  Take Christians United For Israel (CUFI), an End-Times politico-religious organization run by John Hagee, pastor of the Cornerstone megachurch in San Antonio.  As scholar Nicholas Guyatt shows in his book Have a Nice Doomsday, Hagee’s organization promotes the belief, common among fundamentalist Christians, that a war between Israel and Iran will trigger the Rapture.
Hagee’s own book, Countdown Jerusalem, suggests that Iran already has nuclear weapons and the ability to use them, and he aggressively advocates an attack on that country.  To many mainstream Americans, Hagee, his followers, and others with similar religious views may seem a bit nutty, but he is not to be discounted: his book was a bestseller.
The Supporting Cast
Republican-friendly media have joined the game, running blustery TV segments on the subject and cooking the books to assure survey majorities that favor military action.  Take this question from a March poll commissioned by Fox News: “Do you think Iran can be stopped from continuing to work on a nuclear weapons program through diplomacy and sanctions alone, or will it take military force to stop Iran from working on nuclear weapons?”  Absent priming like this, a majority of Americans actually prefer diplomacy, 81% supporting direct talks between Washington and Tehran.
And don’t forget the military-industrial complex, for which the fear of a nuclear-armed Iran means opportunity. They use it to justify that perennial cash cow and Republican favorite: missile defense (which the Romney campaign dutifully promotes on its “Iran: An American Century” webpage).  It gives the Pentagon a chance to ask for new bunker busting bombs and to justify the two new classes of pricey littoral combat ships.
If the U.S. were to bomb Iranian facilities — and inevitably get drawn into a more prolonged conflict — the cash spigot is likely to open full flood.  And don’t forget the potential LOGCAP, construction, and private security contracts that might flow over the years (even if there isn’t an occupation) to the KBRs, SAICs, DynCorps, Halliburtons, Bechtels, Wackenhuts, Triple Canopies, and Blackwater/Academis of the world.  (Too bad there aren’t meaningful transparency laws that would let us know how much these companies and their employees have contributed, directly or indirectly, to Romney’s campaign or to the think tanks that pay and promote the convenient views of professional ideologues.)
The Problem With Romney
All of this means that the public has been primed for war with Iran.  With constant media attention, the Republican candidates have driven home the notion that Iran has or will soon have nuclear weapons, that Iranian nukes present an immediate and existential threat to Israel and the U.S., and that diplomacy is for sissies.  If Obama wins, he will have to work even harder to prevent war.  If Romney wins, war will be all the easier.  And for his team, that’s a good thing.
The problem with Romney, you see, is that he hangs out with the wrong crowd — the regime-change brigade, many of whom steered the ship of state toward Iraq for George W. Bush.  And keep in mind that he, like Romney (and Obama), was an empty vessel on foreign affairs when he entered the Oval Office. Even if Iran has been nothing more than a political tool for Romney, regime change is a deep-seated goal for the people around him.  They actually want to bomb Iran.  They’ve said so themselves.
Take Robert Kagan.  His main perch is at the non-partisan Brookings Institution, but he has also been a leader of the neocon Project for a New American Century and its successor organization, the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI). “Regime change in Tehran,” he has written, “is the best nonproliferation policy.”
Kagan’s fellow directors at the FPI are also on Romney’s team: Bill Kristol, Eric Edelman (former staffer to Cheney and Douglas Feith’s successor at the Pentagon), and former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor, who has become Romney’s most trusted foreign policy advisor and a rumored contender for national security advisor.  The FPI’s position? “It is time to take military action against the Iranian government elements that support terrorism and its nuclear program. More diplomacy is not an adequate response.”
Or how about John Bolton, Bush’s U.N. ambassador and a frequent speaker on behalf of the MEK, who has said, “The better way to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons is to attack its nuclear weapons program directly and break their control over the nuclear fuel cycle,” and that “we should be prepared to take down the regime in Tehran.”
And the list goes on.
It is, of course, theoretically possible that a President Romney would ignore his neocon team’s advice, just as George W. Bush famously ignored the moderate Republican advice of his father’s team.  Still, it’s hard to imagine him giving the cold shoulder to the sages of the previous administration: Cheney, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz.  Indeed, Romney is said to turn to the “Cheney-ites” when he seeks counsel, while giving the more moderate Republican internationalists the cold shoulder.  And Cheney wanted to bomb Iran.
In a Romney administration, expect this gang to lobby him hard to finish the job and take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, or at least to give Israel the green light to do so.  Expect them to close their eyes to what we have learned in Iraq and Afghanistan when it comes to “blood and treasure.”  Expect them to say that bombing alone will do the trick “surgically.”  Expect them to claim that the military high command is “soft,” “bureaucratic,” and “risk-averse” when it hesitates to get involved in what will inevitably become a regional nightmare.  Expect the message to be: this time we’ll get it right.
Kenneling the Dogs of War
No one likes the idea of Iran getting nukes, but should the regime decide to pursue them, they don’t present an existential threat to anyone.  Tehran’s leaders know that a mushroom cloud in Tel Aviv, no less Washington, would turn their country into a parking lot.
Should the mullahs ever pursue nuclear weapons again, it would be for deterrence, for the ability to stand up to the United States and say, “Piss off.”  While that might present a challenge for American foreign policy interests — especially those related to oil — it has nothing to do with the physical safety of Israel or the United States.
War with Iran is an incredibly bad idea, yet it’s a real threat.  President Obama has come close to teeing it up.  Even talk of a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities is delusional, because, as just about every analyst points out, we wouldn’t know if it had worked (which it probably wouldn’t) and it would be an act of war that Iran wouldn’t absorb with a smile.  In its wake, a lot of people would be likely to die.
But Romney’s guys don’t think it’s a bad idea.  They think it’s a good one, and they are ready to take a swing.
Jeremiah Goulka, a TomDispatch regular, writes about American politics and culture, focusing on security, race, and the Republican Party.  He was formerly an analyst at the RAND Corporation, a Hurricane Katrina recovery worker, and an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice. You can follow him on Twitter @jeremiahgoulka or contact him through his website jeremiahgoulka.com.
Copyright 2012 Jeremiah Goulka
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Mirrored from Tomdispatch.eom


Around 12,000 troops from more than 19 nations are wrapping up a massive military training drill in the Middle East. But for some of those servicemen, these exercises might be just the beginning of something much bigger to come.

The United States, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan are just a sampling of the many countries — along with European allies — that have been involved in the nearly month-long Eager Lion 2012 exercise expected to end this week. Although much of the drills have been kept under wraps, it isn’t a secret that these states have spent the last month cooperating together through mock combat drills and comprehensive training. Some sources overseas report, however, that as many as 3,000 troops aligned with US forces have conducted a simulated landing and attack on Iran, preparing America and its allies for a war that becomes more likely by the day.

Intelligence sources speaking to Israel’s Debka news agency report that US troops and other forces aligned with America recently staged a landing on a Jordanian beach that was immediately followed by a military seizure of fortified mountain bases and command posts. The exercise was meant to emulate an attack on Iran and accompanies other drills that witnesses say show off just what America’s foes face if they continue to put the heat on the United States and its pals abroad.

Speaking of a drill assumed to be a mockup of a raid on Syria, Major General. Awni el-Edwan, Chief of staff of the Jordanian Operations and Training Armed Forces, says, “The exercise is not connected to any real world event,” reports CNN. “This has nothing to do with Syria. We respect the sovereignty of Syria. There is no tension between the Syrians and us. Our objectives are clear.”

Others, however, say that the intentions of the Eager Lion 2012 drills are obvious.

Gen. James Mattis, head of the US Central Command, visited both sections of the exercise led by American troops in Jordan, adds Debka. Should the US officially attack either Syria or Iran, Gen. Mattis will be the head of the military forces there. Additionally, intelligence sources speaking with the Israeli outlet reveal that Gen. Mattis has recently sought approval from US President Barack Obama to deploy a third aircraft carrier to the Middle East to increase America’s presence.

The United States currently has two massive aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf area, both the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Enterprise, and CNN adds in their report that the Air Force has sent six of the stealth F-22 fighter jets to the neighboring United Arab Emirates.

The US is believed to be engaged in exercises involving the Navy and Air Force in operations on the land, air and sea, with the US Special Operations troops also working in tandem with Jordanian special forces units in counterterrorism to put both teams on the same page.

Debka reports that, during Eager Lion 2012, a command post was also established by around 700 US Marines onboard the USS New York amphibious transport dock that was stationed in the Red Sea. The entire exercise there, they say, was “clearly visible” to observers in a neighboring Israeli port. Only days earlier, Debka reported that Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told his country that “all options remain on the table” involving an attack on Iran, and that the Jewish state will strike first if necessary, even without the assistance of American forces.

“There is no need to tell us what to do, and we have no reason to panic. Israel is very, very strong, but we do know that the Iranians are accomplished chess players and will try to achieve nuclear capabilities,” said Barak.


If Israel goes from threats to military actions, “it is Israel who will be destroyed,” says a high-ranking Iranian general. This comes as a fresh twist in the war of words that has engrossed Israel and Iran in recent months.

­”If the Zionist regime takes any actions against Iran, it would result in the end of its labors,” Brigadier General Mostafa Izadi, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, told the Fars news agency.

Israel cannot harm Iran in the slightest, assured the top military official.

“If they act logically, such threats amount to a psychological war, but if they want to act illogically, it is they who will be destroyed,” he added.

The message is a response to Israel’s renewed calls for tougher sanctions against the Islamic Republic. As Iran sat down to another round of nuclear talks with world powers last week, Israel issued more calls threatening Iran with military action. Tel Aviv believed Tehran did not take the threat of war seriously.

“The Iranians think this is just a warning. That people are not serious enough,”

Israeli President Shimon Peres said in an interview, as the talks kicked off in Moscow.

“If the Iranians understand seriously that this [military action] is an option, maybe we shall not need it. If they think this is a bluff, then it may lead to a war,” he added.

Israel and its Western allies suspect that Tehran is enriching uranium in a bid to secretly create nuclear warheads, though no evidence for such a claim has been presented and most Western experts say otherwise. Tel Aviv has also repeatedly said that it will bomb Iranian nuclear facilities before allowing it to build nukes. Iran insists that it needs enriched uranium for civilian uses.

The Moscow negotiations wrapped up with no breakthrough.

Western powers again demanded that Tehran scale down its nuclear work: to shut down the Fordo underground uranium enrichment facility and ship any stockpile out of the country. In return, Iran was offered enough fuel to meet the country’s medical needs, assistance in nuclear security and lift a ban on spare parts for Iran’s civilian planes.

Iran slammed the proposed deal for having too many demands while offering little in return. Tehran wanted to see relief from strangling economic sanctions, imposed by the EU and US, and an official acknowledgement of its right to enrich uranium before they considered scaling down nuclear activities.

A follow-up meeting is scheduled for July 3.



Here are some ways you can spread the word to make sure President Obama gets the message loud and clear.

If you are on Facebook, click here to post the petition to your Wall.

If you have a Twitter account, click here to automatically tweet:
Tell Pres. @BarackObama: We support diplomacy with #Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war. http://bit.ly/MqtlwH

You can also send the following e-mail to your friends and family. Spreading the word is critical, but please only pass this message along to those who know you — spam hurts our campaign.

Thanks for all you do.

–The CREDO Action Team

Here’s a sample message to send to your friends:


Subject: Tell President Obama: We support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war.
Dear Friend,

The next week is critically important for those of us who want to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran.

Iran has come to the table for negotiations about the future of its nuclear program, with the next round of multilateral negotiations scheduled to take place today and tomorrow in Moscow.

But the Obama administration is under tremendous pressure to abandon diplomacy with Iran, and follow a path that would make war inevitable. And much of the pressure is coming from warmongers like John Bolton (an ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush), who want the talks to fail.

We need to speak out now to ensure that President Obama knows the American people support diplomacy, not war.

I just signed a petition telling President Obama that we support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war.

I hope you sign the petition, too.

It’s easy to do so. Just click on the link below.

http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/obama_iran/?r_by=41967-5154581-CDhpWCx&rc=confemail


The next few days are critically important for those of us who want to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran.
Iran has come to the table for negotiations about the future of its nuclear program, with the next round of multilateral negotiations scheduled to take place today and tomorrow in Moscow.
But the Obama administration is under tremendous pressure to abandon diplomacy with Iran, and follow a path that would make war inevitable. And much of the pressure is coming from warmongers like John Bolton (an ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush), who want the talks to fail.
We need to speak out now to ensure that President Obama knows the American people support diplomacy, not war.
Many in power seem to have learned nothing from the catastrophic mistake and tremendous moral failure that was the war in Iraq.
There is already dangerous momentum to begin a war of choice with Iran. And should the Moscow negotiations break down or bear no fruit, the drumbeat for war will only grow more intense.
Those who would welcome a war with Iran are trying to suggest that the window for a diplomatic solution is rapidly closing.
But both American and Israeli intelligence services agree that Iran neither has made a decision to build a nuclear bomb nor currently has the capacity to do so. So there is no short-term imperative to wage war.
To his credit, President Obama is clearly not rushing to start another war. But many members of Congress, including many Democrats, are pushing him to offer nothing meaningful to Iran until Iran gives the United States and its allies everything we want.
Fundamentally, this kind of negotiating strategy would set us up for failure.
While there is no easy solution to the challenges we face with Iran, it is imperative that we pursue diplomacy in good faith and give diplomatic solutions the time they need to bear fruit.
And that means being open to a slow but steady move away from the brink of war through mutual concessions.
In an election year, when many of President Obama’s traditional allies are either opposed or highly skeptical of his strategy, President Obama must know that there is full-throated support for diplomacy that can prevent an unnecessary war.
Tell President Obama: We support diplomacy with Iran, not an unnecessary and costly war. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for speaking out for diplomacy.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

WASHINGTON – The Russian military anticipates that an attack will occur on Iran by the summer and has developed an action plan to move Russian troops through neighboring Georgia to stage in Armenia, which borders on the Islamic republic, according to informed Russian sources.

Russian Security Council head Viktor Ozerov said that Russian General Military Headquarters has prepared an action plan in the event of an attack on Iran.

Dmitry Rogozin, who recently was the Russian ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, warned against an attack on Iran.

“Iran is our neighbor,” Rogozin said. “If Iran is involved in any military action, it’s a direct threat to our security.” Rogozin now is the deputy Russian prime minister and is regarded as anti-Western. He oversees Russia’s defense sector.

Russian Defense Ministry sources say that the Russian military doesn’t believe that Israel has sufficient military assets to defeat Iranian defenses and further believes that U.S. military action will be necessary.

The implication of preparing to move Russian troops not only is to protect its own vital regional interests but possibly to assist Iran in the event of such an attack. Sources add that a Russian military buildup in the region could result in the Russian military potentially engaging Israeli forces, U.S. forces, or both.

Informed sources say that the Russians have warned of “unpredictable consequences” in the event Iran is attacked, with some Russians saying that the Russian military will take part in the possible war because it would threaten its vital interests in the region.

The influential Russian Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper has quoted a Russian military source as saying that the situation forming around Syria and Iran “causes Russia to expedite the course of improvement of its military groups in the South Caucasus, the Caspian, Mediterranean and Black Sea regions.”

This latest information comes from a series of reports and leaks from official Russian spokesmen and government news agencies who say that an Israeli attack is all but certain by the summer.

Because of the impact on Russian vital interests in the region, sources say that Russian preparations for such an attack began two years ago when Russian Military Base 102 in Gyumri, Armenia, was modernized. It is said to occupy a major geopolitical position in the region.

Families of Russian servicemen from the Russian base at Gyumri in Armenia close to the borders of Georgia and Turkey already have been evacuated, Russian sources say.

Read more: http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-04-09/news/31311454_1_russian-defense-ministry-military-action-dmitry-rogozin#ixzz1s2j7KMHO


Sheldon Richman

Published: Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, April 9, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.

When President Obama spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee some weeks ago, he admonished those who engaged in “loose talk of war” about Iran. Apparently, his secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, didn’t get the memo.

The Associated Press reported this week,

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made clear Saturday that time is running out for diplomacy over Iran’s nuclear program and said talks aimed at preventing Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon would resume in mid-April. With speculation over a possible U.S. or Israel military attack adding urgency to the next round of discussions in Istanbul set for April 13, Clinton said Iran’s “window of opportunity” for a peaceful resolution “will not remain open forever.”

She also expressed doubt about whether Iran has any intention of negotiating a solution that satisfies the U.S., Israel and other countries that believe Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

That’s another memo Clinton seems not to have received. Both American and Israeli intelligence say that Iran has neither started to build a nuclear weapon nor even decided to do so in the future. Both also regard the Iranian government as a “rational actor.” (The American news media occasionally reports this, but then goes back to stating, as though it were uncontroversial, that Iran is building a nuclear arsenal.)

So why the conflicting signals from the U.S. government? This conflict can be seen in Obama’s own statements. While he calls for diplomacy and warns against loose war talk, he has imposed harsh economic sanctions that make the daily lives of average Iranians miserable, has rejected “containment,” and boasted that he doesn’t “bluff.”

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has revealed the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command has trained operatives from an Iranian opposition group at a secret site in Nevada. Writing in The New Yorker, Hersh reports JSOC began training the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, in 2005, even though the group is listed as a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department. The training included intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics. The training is said to have ended before President Obama took office. Last month, NBC reported members of the MEK have been involved in the assassinations of five Iranian nuclear scientists.


US President Barack Obama has approved the introduction of fresh sanctions on buyers of Iranian oil.

In a statement, Mr Obama said US allies boycotting Iranian oil would not suffer negative consequences because there was enough oil in the world market.

The move would allow the US to take measures against foreign banks that still deal with Iranian oil.

Iran is facing international pressure to address concerns over its nuclear enrichment programme.

Western countries suspect Iran of attempting to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran insists the programme is purely peaceful.

Mr Obama said in a statement that he would continue to monitor the global market closely to ensure it could handle a reduction of oil purchases from Iran.

The US president was required by a law he signed in December to determine by 31 March whether the market allowed countries to “significantly” cut their purchases from Iran.
‘On notice’

A statement from the White House acknowledged that “a series of production disruptions in South Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria and the North Sea have removed oil from the market” in the first months of 2012.

“Nonetheless, there currently appears to be sufficient supply of non-Iranian oil to permit foreign countries to significantly reduce their import of Iranian oil,” the statement says.

“In fact, many purchasers of Iranian crude oil have already reduced their purchases or announced they are in productive discussions with alternative suppliers.”

Under the law signed in December, countries have until 28 June to show they have significantly reduced the amount of crude oil they purchase from Iran or face being cut off from the US financial system.


By Michael McGehee:

Today the New York Times published a revealing page one article by Mark Mazzetti and Thom Shanker under the headline “U.S. War Game Sees Perils of Israeli Strike Against Iran.

The revelation is not so much that an Israeli attack on Iran would be illegal—there is, predictably, not one comment on the legality of such a “first strike.” Rather the revelation is the übermenschen mentality illustrating that what makes an attack “dire” or “perilous” is how it would affect us, not the untermenschen. The U.S. and Israel, by the laws of superior might, are people. By those same laws, anyone who happens to be the “enemy”—in this case, Iran—are unpeople. Therefore a war game which would “leave hundreds of Americans dead” and less than a thousand Israelis dead is perilous. What about Iran? There are no provided figures on Iranian casualties. They don’t matter.

We read that, “In December 2002, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, who was the top officer at Central Command, used Internal Look to test the readiness of his units for the coming invasion of Iraq.” At that time there was no concern about dire consequences. Apparently an American war that left more than one million unpeople dead is breaking a few eggs to make an omelete.

It was also troubling to read that,

The initial Israeli attack was assessed to have set back the Iranian nuclear program by roughly a year, and the subsequent American strikes did not slow the Iranian nuclear program by more than an additional two years. However, other Pentagon planners have said that America’s arsenal of long-range bombers, refueling aircraft and precision missiles could do far more damage to the Iranian nuclear program — if President Obama were to decide on a full-scale retaliation.

What the paragraph above implies is that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, and Israel is determined to stop them. The truth is that U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, various U.S. intelligence agencies, and even Israel’s Mossad has admitted the program is non-existent.

Times Editors let it slip by very slyly when reporters Mazzetti and Shanker tell Times’ readers that “American and Israeli intelligence services […] disagree on how much time there would be to prevent Iran from building a weapon if leaders in Tehran decided to go ahead with one.” However, the article quickly goes back to implying that is what Iran is moving towards: “With the Israelis saying publicly that the window to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb is closing, American officials see an Israeli attack on Iran within the next year as a possibility.”

The last part of Mazzetti and Shanker’s article deals with how “some military specialists in the United States and in Israel” disagree on how Iran might respond towards U.S. forces in the region because, “Their analysis, however, also includes the broad caveat that it is impossible to know the internal thinking of the senior Iranian leadership,” but, “…these specialists continue their work, saying that any insight on how the Iranians will react to an attack will help determine whether the Israelis carry out a strike — and what the American position will be if they do.”

Mazzetti and Shanker close their article noting that, “Israeli intelligence estimates, backed by academic studies, have cast doubt on the widespread assumption that a military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would set off a catastrophic set of events like a regional conflagration, widespread acts of terrorism and sky-high oil prices,” and “Defense Minister Ehud Barak” telling Israel Radio last November that, “The state of Israel will not be destroyed.”

An illegal war of aggression waged over a bogus pretext that the perpetrators have already admitted is bogus, and that has predictably “dire consequences”—which to the perpetrators means considerably low costs as compared to what it would mean for the victim—cannot even be called what it is in the “paper of record.” There is not one word on how criminal such a “first strike” would be, or how necessary it would be for the perpetrators to be hauled off to a war crimes tribunal. All we are treated with is the concern of what such an attack would mean for the übermenschen while being assured that Israel would not be destroyed for their wreckless and criminal behavior. The message is loud and clear: the U.S. and Israel are such rogue states that moral and legal considerations are not even entertained. For them all they are concerned with is whether or not they can get away with it, and at minimal costs.


Dear Friend,
The war in Iraq was a catastrophic mistake and a tremendous moral failure. But there is dangerous momentum to begin another war of choice, this time with Iran.
That is why Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced legislation that, in her words, “directs the President to appoint a Special Envoy for Iran to ensure that all diplomatic avenues are pursued to avoid a war with Iran and to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
Whether or not you think your representative will co-sponsor the bill, we need you to pick up the phone and make a call.
Unfortunately, while the American people are opposed to another war of choice, those pushing for war have been far more vocal and organized than the rest of us.
Our friends on the Hill have told us that congressional offices are hearing from people who want us to go to war, but not from those who would like to see a diplomatic solution.
We cannot allow those howling for war to be met with a deafening silence on our side.
Our allies in Congress need to know their constituents want them to remain steadfast. And we need to put other lawmakers on notice that their constituents reject the dangerous saber-rattling that might bring our nation to the brink of war.
While there are no easy solutions to addressing the challenges we face with Iran, it is imperative that we pursue diplomacy.
Yet right now, all options are on the table except direct negotiations. That’s a recipe for another needless war.
We can’t wait for the first bombs to drop. We need to speak out now.
Thank you for speaking out.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets


Dear Friend,
As we approach the ninth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, we once again see dangerous momentum for another irresponsible, unnecessary and costly war — this time with Iran.
Fear-mongering and propaganda aside, Iran is not an imminent threat to the United States — and we haven’t yet exhausted all avenues for diplomacy to ensure Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon.
But as a result of the Iranian Revolution over 30 years ago, current law makes it very difficult for American diplomats to talk directly to representatives of the Iranian government.
That is why Congresswoman Barbara Lee has introduced legislation that, in her words, “directs the President to appoint a Special Envoy for Iran to ensure that all diplomatic avenues are pursued to avoid a war with Iran and to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.”1
Whether or not you think your representative will co-sponsor the bill, we need you to speak out.
Unfortunately, while the American people are opposed to another war of choice,2 those pushing for war have been far more vocal and organized than the rest of us.
Our friends on the Hill have told us that congressional offices are hearing from people who want us to go to war, but not from those who would like to see a diplomatic solution.
Not only will your petition signature signal support for Rep. Lee’s bill, it will also ensure that those howling for war are not met with a deafening silence on our side.
Our allies in Congress will know their constituents want them to remain steadfast, and other lawmakers will be put on notice that their constituents reject the dangerous saber-rattling that might bring our nation to the brink of war.
We can’t afford to remain a silent majority. We must push back on the ever-increasing clamor for war.
While there are no easy solutions to addressing the challenges we face with Iran, it is imperative that we pursue diplomacy.
We know all too well the consequences of starting an unnecessary war.
The war in Iraq was a catastrophic mistake and a tremendous moral failure.
But right now with Iran, all options are on the table except direct negotiations. That’s a recipe for another needless war.
We can’t wait for the first bombs to drop. We need to speak out now.
Tell your member of Congress to co-sponsor Rep. Lee’s bill to avoid an unnecessary and costly war with Iran. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for speaking out to stop another needless war.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. Dear Colleague letter from Barbara Lee, dated 3-7-12
2. “Poll: Americans Favor Diplomacy Over Israeli Attack On Iran,” David Taintor, Talking Points Memo, 03-14-12.

Three reasons not to attack Iran
Five reasons to attack Iran

An attack on Iran and sanctions are both unworkable. A third option is to create a nuclear-free Middle East. Yes, it sounds far-fetched. But it actually meets the strategic needs of both Israel and Iran. One idea is to relocate Israel’s nukes elsewhere, rather than destroy them.

By Boaz Atzili / March 9, 2012

For half a century now, Israel’s regional nuclear monopoly has been its “Samson option,” the one weapon it can threaten to use if all else fails and Israel faces a real existential threat. As a scholar concentrating on the Middle East conflict, and also as a native of Israel, I am not comforted by the nuclear security blanket under which I was born.

Now that this monopoly is facing an increasingly possible challenge from Iran, Israel should reconsider its nuclear supremacy – as far fetched as this may sound. The argument in favor of such a radical shift is not moral, but strategic. Israel may well be better off in a Middle East with no nuclear powers than in one with – potentially – several of them.

Iran, too, would have its own reasons to support such an arrangement. And a secure path to a “no nukes” zone may be found not in dismantling Israel’s arsenal, but in relocating it. In the face of an apparently fast-advancing Iranian nuclear project, the two options mostly discussed are sanctions and military attack. Neither is very appealing. The first is unlikely to halt the Iranian program and the second will only postpone it temporarily while possibly creating a regional conflagration on a large scale.

When Israel developed its own nuclear program, apparently in the late 1950s, it made much strategic sense. Israel was a small country, with very limited human and material resources, surrounded by hostile neighbors. Nuclear arms could provide the ultimate guarantee of security.

But Israel is no longer so vulnerable. True, much of the region is still hostile (despite peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan). Yet Israel holds a profound conventional superiority over any potential rivals – a superiority that makes a nuclear-free Middle East a strong and effective second-best option after a nuclear monopoly.

Moreover, it’s unclear that Israel would sacrifice much in a nuclear-free Middle East. Its nuclear arsenal has not deterred Arab countries from launching conventional attacks against it (as in 1973) and it has not deterred asymmetric campaigns by nonstate actors.

The only role Israel’s nuclear arsenal may have played so far has been to deter attack from unconventional weapons, as in Iraq’s nonuse of chemical weapons against Israel during the 1991 Gulf War. But Israel’s air superiority and precision weapons could do that just as well.


Six major world powers and Iran are to hold fresh talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme, the EU has said.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she had replied to a letter from Iran on behalf of the five UN Security Council members plus Germany.

Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili sent the letter last month proposing talks. No date or venue has been set.

The move comes amid fresh speculation of a pre-emptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Iran insists there is no military element to its programme but Western powers fear it is constructing nuclear weapons.
Parchin access

The statement from Baroness Ashton said the EU hoped that Iran would “now enter into a sustained process of constructive dialogue which will deliver real progress in resolving the international community’s long-standing concerns on its nuclear programme.”

It added: “Our overall goal remains a comprehensive negotiated, long-term solution which restores international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.”


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Benjamin Netanyahu assured President Barack Obama on Monday that Israel has not made any decision on attacking Iran’s nuclear sites, sources close to the talks said, but the Israeli prime minister gave no sign of backing away from possible military action. With Obama appealing for more time to allow international sanctions to work against Tehran, the two men agreed to keep up their coordination on the issue, but differences remained on how to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. …

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told US President Barack Obama that Israel must always remain “master of its fate”.

Meeting the Israeli leader at the White House, Mr Obama said a nuclear Iran would be an “unacceptable” development.

On Sunday, Mr Obama told a pro-Israel conference in Washington there had been too much “loose talk” of war with Iran.

Israel fears Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, although Tehran insists its nuclear plans are peaceful.

“The bond between our two countries is unbreakable,” Mr Obama said, as the two leaders sat side-by-side in the Oval Office.

In November 2011, at a G20 summit, journalists overheard a private exchange between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Mr Obama in which Mr Sarkozy called the Israeli leader a “liar”.

Mr Obama replied: “You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day.”
‘No hesitation’

In his speech on Sunday to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), Mr Obama said the US “will not hesitate” to use force to stop Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

But he stressed that diplomacy could still succeed.

“Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment – I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” Mr Obama told the annual Aipac conference.

“And as I’ve made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.”

President Obama has said Iran must be stopped from “possessing” a nuclear weapon. That probably will not happen for a couple of years. The Israeli government’s red line is apparently when Iran has enough enriched uranium to make a bomb (and when they hide it deep underground). That could be later this year.

One Israeli journalist has written that the plan is to drag the US into a war just before the presidential elections in November. But this is not just about when to go to war. President Obama has stressed his reluctance to go to war at all. The US military feel this even more strongly.


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama warned that he is not bluffing about attacking Iran if it builds a nuclear weapon, but in an interview published Friday, Obama also cautioned U.S. ally Israel that a premature attack on Iran would do more harm than good.

In his most expansive remarks on the issue thus far, Obama told The Atlantic magazine that Iran and Israel both understand that “a military component” is among a mix of many options for dealing with Iran, along with sanctions and diplomacy. That is the most direct threat he has issued during months of escalating tension with Iran over its disputed nuclear development program.
His comments appeared aimed more at Israel and its supporters in the United States than at Iran. Obama addresses the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday and meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Monday at the White House. Netanyahu will also address AIPAC.

“I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don’t bluff,” he said in the interview. “I also don’t, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But (both) governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.”

Netanyahu, speaking Friday ahead of a meeting in Canada with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, called Iran’s nuclear ambitions a “grave threat to the peace and security of the world, and I think it’s important that the international community not allow this threat to materialize.”

“As for Israel, like any sovereign country, we reserve the right to defend ourselves against a country, against a country that calls and works for our destruction,” Netanyahu said.
Obama will try to convince Netanyahu to postpone any plans his government may have to unilaterally attack Iran’s nuclear facilities in coming months. An attack that soon would not carry U.S. backing, and the U.S. would probably not be involved in planning or executing it.
Nonetheless, it could force the United States into a new conflict and an arms race in the Middle East, as Obama made clear in the lengthy interview. It also could allow Iran to paint itself as the victim and draw new support that would undermine rather than enhance Israel’s security, Obama warned.
“At a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally (Syria) is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as a victim?” Obama said.
At the same time, Obama has consistently refused to renounce a military option for the United States down the road. The dispute with Israel is over the timing and efficiency of such a strike, not whether one is ever appropriate. The difference of opinion has quickly come to dominate the U.S.-Israeli relationship and the U.S. strategy for dealing with a nuclear Iran is a major issue for American Jewish voters in this election year.
Israeli leaders have strongly hinted that they want to hear clearer terms from Obama for what the United States would do if Iran crosses the threshold from nuclear energy to nuclear weapons. Until now, Obama has said a nuclear Iran is unacceptable but has not spelled out just what the U.S. would do or when.
In the interview, Obama did go further than he has before. He explicitly referred to the possible use of military force, and he firmly rejected the notion that the United States might settle for a strategy of deterring Iran from using a nuclear weapon.
“You’re talking about the most volatile region in the world,” he said. “It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon. Iran is known to sponsor terrorist organizations, so the threat of proliferation becomes that much more severe. “
He also pointed to economic turmoil in Iran and reiterated that sanctions against the Iranian regime are starting to bite.

In a series of recent meetings with Israeli leaders, administration officials are believed to have sought to persuade the Jewish state to give sanctions more time to work and to hold off on any military strike. Speaking Thursday to reporters, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Obama believes there is still “time and space” for those measure to persuade the Iranian regime to take a different course.
Israeli officials acknowledge the pain in Iran but have publicly expressed doubt those measures will ever cause Iran’s clerical leaders to change course.
Obama wasn’t so sure. “They’re sensitive to the opinions of the people and they are troubled by the isolation that they’re experiencing,” he told the Atlantic. “They know, for example, that when these kinds of sanctions are applied, it puts a world of hurt on them.”
Though Obama emphatically portrays himself as one of Israel’s best friends, touting military and other ties, his relationship with Netanyahu has at times been frosty. The two have sparred publicly over Jewish settlements on the West Bank, with Netanyahu pushing back on Washington’s efforts to move forward on peace talks with the Palestinians.
The Iran issue has risen to the forefront of his foreign policy. At a fundraiser in New York on Thursday night, an audience member shouted out, urging the president to avoid a war with Iran.
“Nobody has announced a war,” Obama cautioned. “You’re jumping the gun a little bit.”


Defense Minister Ehud Barak strongly criticized President Shimon Peres on Thursday, after a Haaretz report revealed that Peres is expected to tell U.S. President Barack Obama that he does not believe Israel should attack Iran in the near future.

The two presidents are due to meet in Washington, D.C., on Sunday March 4.

“With all due respect to various officeholders from the past and present, the rumor that there is [only] one government in Israel has also reached the United States,” Barak said sarcastically in private conversations, adding: “In the end, there is an elected [Israeli] government that makes the decisions and that is its responsibility.”

During Barak’s criticism of the Israeli president, he made reference to Peres’ conduct in the early 1980s when Israel attacked the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak, when Menachem Begin was prime minister.

“It’s the same Shimon Peres who in 1981 opposed the bombing of the reactor in Iraq,” the defense minister said.

“Peres argued then that Begin was leading us to a holocaust, and there are those who claim that, to this day, Peres thinks the attack on the reactor was a mistake. Imagine what would have happened if the Americans and their allies had attempted to get [Iraqi dictator] Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait if he had three atomic bombs. The Americans said in retrospect that Begin was farsighted,” Barak reportedly said.

Barak’s harsh criticism of Peres is unusual in that over the past three years, the defense minister has carefully accorded respect to Peres, even meeting with him every Sunday before cabinet meetings.

Nonetheless, tension between the two has been simmering for over a year on the Iranian issue, as far back as the tenure of former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi.

In Barak’s office, Ashkenazi – who opposed an assault on Iran – was thought to have enlisted Peres as a supporter of his stance during his dispute on the issue with Barak.

Thursday’s Haaretz report about Peres raised eyebrows in both the Prime Minister’s Office and in Barak’s bureau. Sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the premier was surprised to read Peres’ comments in the newspaper. They called the comments very disturbing, and added that although the president has the right to express an opinion, ultimately there is only one prime minister in Israel, and he’s the one who is responsible for making decisions.

Peres and Netanyahu are scheduled to meet on Friday, which will give them an opportunity to discuss the issue. Thursday morning, however, staff from the two offices were already on the telephone with each other in an effort to head off a crisis. Peres’ advisers denied the comments attributed to the Israeli president on the Iranian issue and also denied that he intended to convey such a message to President Obama.

After contact with Peres’ office from the Prime Minister’s Office and from Barak’s office, Peres committed to redress the situation in a speech later in the day to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, toeing Netanyahu and Barak’s line.

Peres delivered the speech on Thursday and underlined the fact that Israel is a sovereign country that has the right and the ability to defend itself. “When we say that all options are on the table on Iran, we really mean it,” he told his audience. The president called a nuclear Iran a threat not only to Israel but to the entire world.


Late last week, amid little fanfare, Senators Joseph Lieberman, Lindsey Graham, and Robert Casey introduced a resolution that would move America further down the path toward war with Iran.
The good news is that the resolution hasn’t been universally embraced in the Senate. As Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports, the resolution has “provoked jitters among Democrats anxious over the specter of war.” The bad news is that, as Kampeas also reports, “AIPAC is expected to make the resolution an ‘ask’ in three weeks when up to 10,000 activists culminate its annual conference with a day of Capitol Hill lobbying.”

In standard media accounts, the resolution is being described as an attempt to move the “red line”–the line that, if crossed by Iran, could trigger a US military strike. The Obama administration has said that what’s unacceptable is for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This resolution speaks instead of a “nuclear weapons capability.” In other words, Iran shouldn’t be allowed to get to a point where, should it decide to produce a nuclear weapon, it would have the wherewithal to do so.
By itself this language is meaninglessly vague. Does “capability” mean the ability to produce a bomb within two months? Two years? If two years is the standard, Iran has probably crossed the red line already. (So should we start bombing now?) Indeed, by the two-year standard, Iran might well be over the red line even after a bombing campaign–which would at most be a temporary setback, and would remove any doubt among Iran’s leaders as to whether to build nuclear weapons, and whether to make its nuclear program impervious to future American and Israeli bombs. What do we do then? Invade?
In other words, if interpreted expansively, the “nuclear weapons capability” threshold is a recipe not just for war, but for ongoing war–war that wouldn’t ultimately prevent the building of a nuclear weapon without putting boots on the ground. And it turns out that the authors of this resolution want “nuclear weapons capability” interpreted very expansively.

The key is in the way the resolution deals with the question of whether Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium, as it’s been doing for some time now. The resolution defines as an American goal “the full and sustained suspension” of uranium enrichment by Iran. In case you’re wondering what the resolution’s prime movers mean by that: In a letter sent to the White House on the same day the resolution was introduced, Lieberman, Graham and ten other senators wrote, “We would strongly oppose any proposal that recognizes a ‘right to enrichment’ by the current regime or for [sic] a diplomatic endgame in which Iran is permitted to continue enrichment on its territory in any form.”

This notwithstanding the fact that 1) enrichment is allowed under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; (2) a sufficiently intrusive monitoring system can verify that enrichment is for peaceful purposes; (3) Iran’s right to enrich its own uranium is an issue of strong national pride. In a poll published in 2010, after sanctions had already started to bite, 86 percent of Iranians said Iran should not “give up its nuclear activities regardless of the circumstances.” And this wasn’t about building a bomb; most Iranians said Iran’s nuclear activities shouldn’t include producing weapons.

Even Dennis Ross–who has rarely, in his long career as a Mideast diplomat, left much daylight between his positions and AIPAC’s, and who once categorically opposed Iranian enrichment–now realizes that a diplomatic solution may have to include enrichment. Last week in a New York Times op-ed, he said that, contrary to pessimistic assessments, it may still be possible to get a deal that “uses intrusive inspections and denies or limits uranium enrichment [emphasis added]…”

The resolution plays down its departure from current policy by claiming that there have been “multiple” UN resolutions since 2006 demanding the “sustained” suspension of uranium. But the UN resolutions don’t actually use that term. The UN has demanded suspension as a confidence-building measure that could then lead to, as one resolution puts it, a “negotiated solution that guarantees Iran’s nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes.” And various Security Council members who voted on these resolutions have made it clear that Iranian enrichment of uranium can be part of this scenario if Iran agrees to sufficiently tight monitoring.
Indeed, that Iran’s right to enrich uranium could be recognized under those circumstances is, Hillary Clinton has said, “the position of the international community, along with the United States.” If the Lieberman-Graham-Casey resolution guides US policy, says George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, that would “preclude” fulfillment of the UN resolutions and isolate the US from the international coalition that backed them.

The Congressional resolution goes beyond the UN resolutions in another sense. It demands an end to Iran’s ballistic missile program. Greg Thielmann of the Arms Control Association notes that, “Even after crushing Iraq in the first Gulf War, the international coalition only imposed a 150-kilometer range ceiling on Saddam’s ballistic missiles. A demand to eliminate all ballistic missiles would be unprecedented in the modern era–removing any doubt among Iranians that the United States was interested in nothing less than the total subjugation of the country.”

On the brighter side: Maybe it’s a good sign that getting significant Democratic buy-in for this resolution took some strong-arming. According to Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now, the resolution got 15 Democratic supporters only “after days of intense AIPAC lobbying, particularly of what some consider ‘vulnerable’ Democrats (vulnerable in terms of being in races where their pro-Israel credentials are being challenged by the candidate running against them).” What’s more, even as AIPAC was playing this hardball, the bill’s sponsors still had to tone down some particularly threatening language in the resolution.
But, even so, the resolution defines keeping Iran from getting a nuclear weapons “capability” as being in America’s “vital national interest,” which is generally taken as synonymous with “worth war.” And, though this “sense of Congress” resolution is nonbinding, AIPAC will probably seek unanimous Senate consent, which puts pressure on a president. Friedman says this “risks sending a message that Congress supports war and opposes a realistic negotiated solution or any de facto solution short of stripping Iran of even a peaceful nuclear capacity.”

What’s more, says Friedman, the non-binding status may be temporary. “Often AIPAC-backed Congressional initiatives start as non-binding language (in a resolution or a letter) and then show up in binding legislation. Once members of Congress have already signed on to a policy in non-binding form, it is much harder for them to oppose it when it shows up later in a bill that, if passed, will have the full force of law.”
No wonder Democrats who worry about war have the “jitters.”


TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran ordered a halt to its oil sales to Britain and France on Sunday in a move seen as retaliation against tightening EU sanctions, as a team of U.N. inspectors flew to Tehran to press the Islamic Republic over its disputed nuclear program.

The European Union enraged Tehran last month when it decided to impose a boycott on its oil from July 1. Iran, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, responded by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz, the main Gulf oil shipping lane.

On Sunday, its oil ministry went a step further, announcing Iran has now stopped selling oil to France and Britain altogether – a powerful yet largely symbolic message since neither European nation relies on Iranian crude imports.

“Exporting crude to British and French companies has been stopped … we will sell our oil to new customers,” spokesman Alireza Nikzad was quoted as saying on the ministry website.

Iran, which denies Western allegations that it is seeking to make nuclear weapons, has ramped up its rhetoric in recent weeks while also expressing willingness to resume negotiations on its nuclear program.

A five-member team from the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flew to Tehran late on Sunday for talks, although Western diplomats have played down any hopes of a major breakthrough in the two-day meeting.

“I’m still pessimistic that Iran will demonstrate the substantive cooperation necessary,” one envoy said in Vienna.

Yet the outcome of this week’s discussions is important and will be watched closely because it could either intensify the standoff or offer scope to reduce tensions.

The European Commission says the bloc would not be short of oil if Iran stopped crude exports as it has enough stock to meet its needs for around 120 days.

Industry sources said European oil buyers were already making big cuts in purchases from Iran months in advance of EU sanctions. France’s Total has stopped buying Iranian oil while debt-ridden Greece is most exposed to Iranian crude disruption among European countries.

MILITARY STRIKE?

Iran says its nuclear program is entirely peaceful but its refusal to curb uranium enrichment, which can have both military and civilian purposes, has raised concerns.

Western powers have not ruled out using force against Iran, and there has been an intense public discussion in Israel about whether it should attack Iran to stop it making a nuclear bomb.

However, on Sunday the top U.S. military officer said a military strike would be premature as it was not clear that Tehran would use its nuclear capabilities to build an atomic bomb.

“I believe it is unclear (that Iran would assemble a bomb) and on that basis, I think it would be premature to exclusively decide that the time for a military option was upon us,” said General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He said he believed the Iranian government was a “rational actor.”

The West has expressed some optimism over the prospect of new talks with Tehran, particularly after it sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton last week promising to bring “new initiatives” to the table.

“In these negotiations, we are looking for a way out of Iran’s current nuclear issue so that both sides win,” Iranian TV quoted Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi as saying on Sunday.

Oil is a major part of Iran’s export revenues and an important lifeline for its increasingly isolated economy. It has little refining capacity and has to import about 40 percent of its gasoline needs for domestic consumption.

Tightening sanctions, combined with high inflation, have squeezed the ability of working-class Iranians to feed themselves and their families, and this uncertainty forms the backdrop to a parliamentary vote on March 2.

“Everything’s become so expensive in the past few weeks,” said Marjan Hamidi, an Iranian shopper in Tehran, “But my husband’s income stays the same. How am I going to live like this?”

(Additional reporting by Parisa Hafezi and Ramin Mostafavi in Tehran, Susan Cornwell in Washington and Fredrik Dahl in Vienna; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Kevin Liffey)


Senior Israeli government official issues complete denial of Foreign Policy report that Mossad agents posed as CIA officers to recruit Pakistani terrorists to carry out attacks in Iran.

By Amir Oren Tags: Iran nuclear Israel spy Israel US Jonathan Pollard

A senior Israeli government official has called “absolute nonsense” a Friday report in Foreign Policy that Mossad agents posed as CIA officers in order to recruit members of a Pakistani terror group to carry out assassinations and attacks against the regime in Iran.

Quoting U.S. intelligence memos, Foreign Policy’s Mark Perry reported that the Mossad operation was carried out in 2007-2008, behind the back of the U.S. government, and infuriated then U.S. President George W. Bush.

Perry quoted a number of American intelligence officials and claimed that the Mossad agents used American dollars and U.S. passports to pose as CIA spies to try to recruit members of Jundallah, a Pakistan-based Sunni extremist organization that has carried out a series of attacks in Iran and assassinations of government officials.

Israel generally refrains for responding to reports on alleged Mossad activities. However, in the wake of Perry’s report as well as the official U.S. condemnation of the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran earlier this week, Israeli officials were quick to issue a complete denial of the report.

The concern was that leaving Perry’s report without a response would revive tensions that existed between the U.S. and Israeli intelligence communities following the Jonathan Pollard affair in the 1980s. Pollard was sentenced to life in a U.S. prison after being convicted of spying for Israel.

The senior Israeli government official said that if there were any truth the claims in Perry’s report, Meir Dagan, the head of the Mossad at the time of the alleged operation, would have been declared a persona non grata in the U.S. and that “Dagan’s foot would not have walked again in Washington”.


The US has condemned the killing of an Iranian nuclear scientist in a car bomb attack in north Tehran.

National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the US “had absolutely nothing to do” with the attack.

Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan, who worked at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility, died along with the driver of the car.

Several Iranian nuclear scientists have been assassinated in recent years, with Iran blaming Israel and the US.
Both deny any involvement.

Washington and its allies suspect Tehran of secretly trying to develop a nuclear weapons capacity but Iran insists its nuclear programme is peaceful.

“The United States had absolutely nothing to do with this. We strongly condemn all acts of violence, including acts of violence like this,” said Mr Vietor.
Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization described the killings as “a heinous act”.

Western intelligence sources told Time magazine on Friday that Israel’s Mossad is responsible for the latest assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist.

A magnetic bomb was attached to the door of 32-year-old Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan’s car during the Wednesday morning rush-hour in Tehran. His driver was also killed. Sources tell the magazine Israel was behind three previous assassinations of scientists.

Iran scientist - AP - January 13, 2011 The shrouded body of Mostafa Ahmadi-Roshan is seen prior to his burial in Tehran on January 13, 2012.
Photo by: AP 

A senior Israeli official told is quoted in the report as saying “yeah, one more… I don’t feel sad for him.”

On Saturday, Iranian state television said that Iran had evidence the United States was behind the latest assassination. We have reliable documents and evidence that this terrorist act was planned, guided and supported by the CIA,” the Iranian foreign ministry said in a letter handed to the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, state TV reported.

“The documents clearly show that this terrorist act was carried out with the direct involvement of CIA-linked agents.”

The Swiss Embassy has represented U.S. interests in Iran since Iran and the U.S. cut diplomatic ties shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Tension has mounted between Iran and the West as the United States and European Union prepare measures aimed at imposing sanctions on the Iran’s oil exports, its economic lifeblood.

The United States and Israel have not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the nuclear dispute.
Also on Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. has stepped up contingency planning in case Israel launches a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

According to the report, U.S. defense officials are becoming increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to carry out such a strike.

The U.S. military is reportedly preparing for a range of possible responses to an Israeli strike on Iran, including attacks by pro-Iranian Shiite militias against the U.S. Embassy in Iraq.

The report said that, largely as a deterrent to Iran, the U.S. has 15,000 soldiers in Kuwait and has moved a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf region.

Additionally, the U.S. has been pre-positioning aircraft and other military hardware and has accelerated arms transfers to U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf region.

According to the report, top U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have sent a series of private messages to Israeli leaders warning about the consequences of a strike on Iran. The U.S. reportedly wants to give sanctions and other measures more time, as part of efforts to compel Iran to abandon its alleged work to build nuclear weapons.

Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke by telephone on Thursday and General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will visit Israel next week.

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Two assailants on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to the car of an Iranian university professor working at a key nuclear facility, killing him and his driver Wednesday, reports said. The slayings suggest a widening covert effort to set back Iran’s atomic program.

The attack in Tehran bore a strong resemblance to earlier killings of scientists working on the Iranian nuclear program. It is certain to amplify authorities’ claims of clandestine operations by Western powers and their allies to halt Iran’s nuclear advances.

The blast killed Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, a chemistry expert and a director of the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, state TV reported. State news agency IRNA said Roshan had “organizational links” to Iran’s nuclear agency, which suggests a direct role in key aspects of the program.

TEHRAN, Nov 12 — A massive explosion at a military arms depot near the Iranian capital Tehran on Saturday killed 17 Revolutionary Guards and wounded 15, a spokesman for the elite fighting force told the semi-official Fars news agency.

Officials said the blast was an accident which happened as troops were moving munitions at a base in Bidganeh, near the town of Shahriar, some 45 km west of Tehran.

The explosion shook homes and rattled windows for miles around, at a time of mounting tension with Israel over Iran’s nuclear programme.

“Today at 13:30, (0900 GMT), an explosion happened in one of the Revolutionary Guards’ bases while a consignment of explosive devices was being moved out from the arsenal, besides that some munitions in the arsenal exploded which created a terrifying sound,” Revolutionary Guards spokesman Ramezan Sharif told state TV.

Sharif initially said 27 people had been killed but later revised that figure down to 17.

Residents in western suburbs of Tehran told Reuters they had felt the blast, some assuming it to be a moderate earthquake.

The explosion started a fire at the base which raged for hours. Surrounding streets were closed and reporters were kept away from the scene.

RISK

Some media reported there had been two explosions and the head of Iran’s Red Crescent organisation said there was a risk of further blasts.

Mahmoud Mozafar told the Mehr news agency that only six paramedics had been allowed into the Amir Al-Momenin military base and that thick smoke was hampering the rescue operation.

There were no reports linking the blast to any air strike or other attack. Tension has risen in recent weeks between Iran and its enemies Israel and the United States, which have not ruled out attacking facilities whose occupants they believe are working towards making nuclear weapons.

Sharif denied what he said was speculation in the Western media that the military base was linked to Iran’s nuclear programme.

“This blast is not related to any nuclear tests that some foreign media have reported,” he told Mehr.

Tehran denies Western accusations, that were given some credence by a report from the UN nuclear agency this week, that its nuclear programme has military ends.

On Oct. 12 last year a similar blast at a Revolutionary Guards munitions store killed and wounded several servicemen in Khoramabad, western Iran. Authorities said that explosion was an accident too.

Huge Explosion at Iranian Nuke Processing Plant; Second Explosion at Missile Site

The war against Iran’s nuclear program has already begun

A second Iranian nuclear facility has exploded, as diplomatic tensions rise between the West and Tehran

Read article in Hebrew: ?????? ???? ??? ????? ??????

Reports from Iran are that yet another “accident” may have occurred at a site involved in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions. Early reports from Iran claimed that there was a massive explosion in the city of Isfahar, where uranium for the country’s “peaceful nuclear plants” is processed. But later, those reports were yanked from Iranian news sites and the mullahs are in deny-it-ever-happened mode.
Ynet:

Less than two weeks after a mysterious explosion destroyed an Iranian missile base near Tehran, the Islamic Republic’s official news agency Fars reported Tuesday that a loud blast was heard in the city of Isfahan at 2:40 pm local time, but later removed the report.

According to the initial report, search and rescue teams called to the scene confirmed the blast, but reported no injuries….In a curious turn of events, shortly after the initial report was published, the item was removed from the news agency’s website, which is affiliated with the country’s Revolutionary Guard.

Two weeks ago another explosion at an Iranian military base killed 17.

Above photo  courtesy Muqata who says that Israeli news sources indicate a second explosion at an Iranian missile base today.

Satellite imagery seen by The Times confirmed that a blast that rocked the city of Isfahan on Monday struck the uranium enrichment facility there, despite denials by Tehran.

The images clearly showed billowing smoke and destruction, negating Iranian claims yesterday that no such explosion had taken place. Israeli intelligence officials told The Times that there was “no doubt” that the blast struck the nuclear facilities at Isfahan and that it was “no accident”.

The explosion at Iran’s third-largest city came as satellite images emerged of the damage caused by one at a military base outside Tehran two weeks ago that killed about 30 members of the Revolutionary Guard, including General Hassan Moghaddam, the head of the Iranian missile defence program.

Iran claimed that the Tehran explosion occurred during testing on a new weapons system designed to strike at Israel. But several Israeli officials have confirmed that the blast was intentional and part of an effort to target Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

On Monday, Isfahan residents reported a blast that shook tower blocks in the city at about 2.40pm and seeing a cloud of smoke rising over the nuclear facility on the edge of the city.

“This caused damage to the facilities in Isfahan, particularly to the elements we believe were involved in storage of raw materials,” said one military intelligence source.

He would not confirm or deny Israel’s involvement in the blast, instead saying that there were “many different parties looking to sabotage, stop or coerce Iran into stopping its nuclear weapons program”.

Iran went into frantic denial yesterday as news of the explosion at Isfahan emerged. Alireza Zaker-Isfahani, the city’s governor, claimed that the blast had been caused by a military exercise in the area but state-owned agencies in Tehran soon removed this story and issued a government denial that any explosion had taken place at all.

On Monday, Dan Meridor. the Israeli Intelligence Minister, said: “There are countries who impose economic sanctions and there are countries who act in other ways in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat.”

Major-General Giora Eiland, Israel’s former director of national security, told Israel’s army radio that the Isfahan blast was no accident. “There aren’t many coincidences, and when there are so many events there is probably some sort of guiding hand, though perhaps it’s the hand of God,” he said.

A former Israeli intelligence official cited at least two other explosions that have “successfully neutralised” Iranian bases associated with the Shahab-3, the medium-range missile that could be adapted to carry a nuclear warhead. “This is something everyone in the West wanted to see happen,” he added.

Iran has repeatedly denied the existence of a nuclear weapons program, and strongly condemned the International Atomic Energy Agency’s report last month that accused Iran of trying to build a nuclear weapon.

In June 2010, the press reported that the computer system operating the uranium enrichment centrifuges at Natanz had been infected with a virus. A deadly worm, known as Stuxnet, had infiltrated the controllers, manufactured by Siemens.

Two weeks ago, a huge blast ripped through a Revolutionary Guards military base 40 kilometers west of Tehran. The explosion could be heard as far away as the capital. Dozens of people were killed, including the head of Iran’s missile development project, General Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam. This week, there was a powerful explosion in Isfahan, Iran’s third-largest city, which has a uranium conversion plant on its outskirts. It is not yet clear what was damaged in the blast.

These incidents involved three key elements of Iran’s nuclear program. The first is uranium conversion (which comes after the mineral has been mined ), the second is enrichment, and the third is the delivery means.

Coupled with other incidents, including the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists, these events have worried the ayatollahs’ regime, causing reactions ranging from embarrassment to anger. The public response usually follows a pattern: first a sweeping denial, then a limp and stuttering admission that “something happened,” and finally the claim that it was an “accident.” This shows that the regime does not know exactly what to say, and that its voice is not uniform. It also reflects the fierce dispute within the regime’s top ranks. The leadership is divided, and the reactions come from a range of ministries, rival organizations and competing media outlets.

The kind of sabotage used in Iran requires sophistication, financial and technological resources, agents and precise intelligence. Someone, for example, had to know that General Moqaddam would be at the base that day to supervise a test, apparently of a new missile engine.

Infecting the computers required access to them: A person with a flash drive had to have plugged it into the system. The prevailing assumption is that foreign intelligence agencies are initiating, managing and executing the secret operations.

The Iranians, and international media outlets, believe these operations are the work of Israel’s Mossad and possibly also a Western partner such as the CIA or Britain’s MI6.

The Mossad’s campaign to assassinate the Black September members behind the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre was code-named “Wrath of God.” This week, when asked whether God had carried out the recent operations in Iran, former Mossad head Meir Dagan smilingly said yes. Dagan is known to be an ardent supporter of secret operations, as he told Yedioth Ahronoth explicitly this week. He believes it will be at least two years until Iran can assemble a functioning nuclear weapon. This assessment may be based on past secret operations and on Dagan’s faith that future actions can indeed disrupt Iran’s progress.

A senior American official went even farther. President Barack Obama’s special assistant and coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, Gary Samore, said in May 2011, “I’m glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated.” Do we need any clearer statement that humans are behind the “hand of God”?

Even if the Mossad or the CIA are not involved in these incidents, the speculation that they are serves Western intelligence bodies by enhancing their image as “omnipotent,” and heightening the Iranian leadership’s fear. This is known as psychological warfare.

Still, with all due respect for Western intelligence’s great efforts – including what is probably unprecedented operational coordination – it is unlikely these operations could have succeeded without inside support, meaning from individuals or groups ready to help sabotage the ayatollahs’ regime. It should be remembered that Iran is a mosaic of ethnic minorities, and almost all have reasons for disliking the regime; some have their own underground armed militias.

The theory about inside-help gains traction given that, in addition to the military targets, other sites – including oil facilities, gas pipelines, trains and military bases – were also damaged over the past year. Last year there was a considerable increase, of at least 10 percent, in “breakdowns” and “accidents” at Iran’s strategic infrastructure sites. Some were caused by poor maintenance, due in part to the international sanctions, but the volume of these incidents may also indicate the “hand of God” was involved. If this is the case, then it’s possible that internal Iranian opposition groups (as opposed to exiles ) are stronger and even better organized than generally thought.

It is almost certain that Tehran’s patience is about to run out. This was evidenced by the student mob’s “conquest” of the British embassy this week. This was not spontaneous rage: It was a warning from a regime that realizes someone has declared war on it without leaving marks or fingerprints.

Sooner or later, the ayatollahs’ regime will decide to react and will order its secret intelligence and operational units to retaliate. If and when this happens, Iran will take steps to conceal its involvement in such activities. However, past experience proves that despite the caution and sophistication of the Iranian secret services, they have often failed in obscuring their fingerprints.

Two weeks ago, a huge blast ripped through a Revolutionary Guards military base 40 kilometers west of Tehran. The explosion could be heard as far away as the capital. Dozens of people were killed, including the head of Iran’s missile development project, General Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam. This week, there was a powerful explosion in Isfahan, Iran’s third-largest city, which has a uranium conversion plant on its outskirts. It is not yet clear what was damaged in the blast.
These incidents involved three key elements of Iran’s nuclear program. The first is uranium conversion (which comes after the mineral has been mined ), the second is enrichment, and the third is the delivery means.
Coupled with other incidents, including the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists, these events have worried the ayatollahs’ regime, causing reactions ranging from embarrassment to anger. The public response usually follows a pattern: first a sweeping denial, then a limp and stuttering admission that “something happened,” and finally the claim that it was an “accident.” This shows that the regime does not know exactly what to say, and that its voice is not uniform. It also reflects the fierce dispute within the regime’s top ranks. The leadership is divided, and the reactions come from a range of ministries, rival organizations and competing media outlets.
The kind of sabotage used in Iran requires sophistication, financial and technological resources, agents and precise intelligence. Someone, for example, had to know that General Moqaddam would be at the base that day to supervise a test, apparently of a new missile engine.
Infecting the computers required access to them: A person with a flash drive had to have plugged it into the system. The prevailing assumption is that foreign intelligence agencies are initiating, managing and executing the secret operations.
The Iranians, and international media outlets, believe these operations are the work of Israel’s Mossad and possibly also a Western partner such as the CIA or Britain’s MI6.
The Mossad’s campaign to assassinate the Black September members behind the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre was code-named “Wrath of God.” This week, when asked whether God had carried out the recent operations in Iran, former Mossad head Meir Dagan smilingly said yes. Dagan is known to be an ardent supporter of secret operations, as he told Yedioth Ahronoth explicitly this week. He believes it will be at least two years until Iran can assemble a functioning nuclear weapon. This assessment may be based on past secret operations and on Dagan’s faith that future actions can indeed disrupt Iran’s progress.
A senior American official went even farther. President Barack Obama’s special assistant and coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, Gary Samore, said in May 2011, “I’m glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated.” Do we need any clearer statement that humans are behind the “hand of God”?
Even if the Mossad or the CIA are not involved in these incidents, the speculation that they are serves Western intelligence bodies by enhancing their image as “omnipotent,” and heightening the Iranian leadership’s fear. This is known as psychological warfare.
Still, with all due respect for Western intelligence’s great efforts – including what is probably unprecedented operational coordination – it is unlikely these operations could have succeeded without inside support, meaning from individuals or groups ready to help sabotage the ayatollahs’ regime. It should be remembered that Iran is a mosaic of ethnic minorities, and almost all have reasons for disliking the regime; some have their own underground armed militias.
The theory about inside-help gains traction given that, in addition to the military targets, other sites – including oil facilities, gas pipelines, trains and military bases – were also damaged over the past year. Last year there was a considerable increase, of at least 10 percent, in “breakdowns” and “accidents” at Iran’s strategic infrastructure sites. Some were caused by poor maintenance, due in part to the international sanctions, but the volume of these incidents may also indicate the “hand of God” was involved. If this is the case, then it’s possible that internal Iranian opposition groups (as opposed to exiles ) are stronger and even better organized than generally thought.
It is almost certain that Tehran’s patience is about to run out. This was evidenced by the student mob’s “conquest” of the British embassy this week. This was not spontaneous rage: It was a warning from a regime that realizes someone has declared war on it without leaving marks or fingerprints.
Sooner or later, the ayatollahs’ regime will decide to react and will order its secret intelligence and operational units to retaliate. If and when this happens, Iran will take steps to conceal its involvement in such activities. However, past experience proves that despite the caution and sophistication of the Iranian secret services, they have often failed in obscuring their fingerprints.

Two weeks ago, a huge blast ripped through a Revolutionary Guards military base 40 kilometers west of Tehran. The explosion could be heard as far away as the capital. Dozens of people were killed, including the head of Iran’s missile development project, General Hassan Tehrani Moqaddam. This week, there was a powerful explosion in Isfahan, Iran’s third-largest city, which has a uranium conversion plant on its outskirts. It is not yet clear what was damaged in the blast.
These incidents involved three key elements of Iran’s nuclear program. The first is uranium conversion (which comes after the mineral has been mined ), the second is enrichment, and the third is the delivery means.
Coupled with other incidents, including the assassination of several Iranian nuclear scientists, these events have worried the ayatollahs’ regime, causing reactions ranging from embarrassment to anger. The public response usually follows a pattern: first a sweeping denial, then a limp and stuttering admission that “something happened,” and finally the claim that it was an “accident.” This shows that the regime does not know exactly what to say, and that its voice is not uniform. It also reflects the fierce dispute within the regime’s top ranks. The leadership is divided, and the reactions come from a range of ministries, rival organizations and competing media outlets.
The kind of sabotage used in Iran requires sophistication, financial and technological resources, agents and precise intelligence. Someone, for example, had to know that General Moqaddam would be at the base that day to supervise a test, apparently of a new missile engine.
Infecting the computers required access to them: A person with a flash drive had to have plugged it into the system. The prevailing assumption is that foreign intelligence agencies are initiating, managing and executing the secret operations.
The Iranians, and international media outlets, believe these operations are the work of Israel’s Mossad and possibly also a Western partner such as the CIA or Britain’s MI6.
The Mossad’s campaign to assassinate the Black September members behind the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre was code-named “Wrath of God.” This week, when asked whether God had carried out the recent operations in Iran, former Mossad head Meir Dagan smilingly said yes. Dagan is known to be an ardent supporter of secret operations, as he told Yedioth Ahronoth explicitly this week. He believes it will be at least two years until Iran can assemble a functioning nuclear weapon. This assessment may be based on past secret operations and on Dagan’s faith that future actions can indeed disrupt Iran’s progress.
A senior American official went even farther. President Barack Obama’s special assistant and coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and terrorism, Gary Samore, said in May 2011, “I’m glad to hear they are having troubles with their centrifuge machines, and the U.S. and its allies are doing everything we can to make it more complicated.” Do we need any clearer statement that humans are behind the “hand of God”?
Even if the Mossad or the CIA are not involved in these incidents, the speculation that they are serves Western intelligence bodies by enhancing their image as “omnipotent,” and heightening the Iranian leadership’s fear. This is known as psychological warfare.
Still, with all due respect for Western intelligence’s great efforts – including what is probably unprecedented operational coordination – it is unlikely these operations could have succeeded without inside support, meaning from individuals or groups ready to help sabotage the ayatollahs’ regime. It should be remembered that Iran is a mosaic of ethnic minorities, and almost all have reasons for disliking the regime; some have their own underground armed militias.
The theory about inside-help gains traction given that, in addition to the military targets, other sites – including oil facilities, gas pipelines, trains and military bases – were also damaged over the past year. Last year there was a considerable increase, of at least 10 percent, in “breakdowns” and “accidents” at Iran’s strategic infrastructure sites. Some were caused by poor maintenance, due in part to the international sanctions, but the volume of these incidents may also indicate the “hand of God” was involved. If this is the case, then it’s possible that internal Iranian opposition groups (as opposed to exiles ) are stronger and even better organized than generally thought.
It is almost certain that Tehran’s patience is about to run out. This was evidenced by the student mob’s “conquest” of the British embassy this week. This was not spontaneous rage: It was a warning from a regime that realizes someone has declared war on it without leaving marks or fingerprints.
Sooner or later, the ayatollahs’ regime will decide to react and will order its secret intelligence and operational units to retaliate. If and when this happens, Iran will take steps to conceal its involvement in such activities. However, past experience proves that despite the caution and sophistication of the Iranian secret services, they have often failed in obscuring their fingerprints.

DVDFab

DVDFab Passkey 8.2.1.7 Download DVDFab Passkey 8.2.1.7 This is why DVDFab.com is down – the actual injunction Posted at 12 March 2014 15:44 CET by Jan Willem Aldershoff Recently we reported that the DVDFab.com domain was shutdown due to an injunction sought by the AACS LA (Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator). The AACS LA is the developer and licensee of  AACS , […]

DVDFab Passkey 8.2.1.7

This is why DVDFab.com is down – the actual injunction

Posted at 12 March 2014 15:44 CET by Jan Willem Aldershoff

Recently we reported that the DVDFab.com domain was shutdown due to an injunction sought by the AACS LA (Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator). The AACS LA is the developer and licensee of  AACS , a copy protection part of the Blu-ray specification. Their interest in DVDFab is not surprising, DVDFab contains functionality to circumvent the AACS copy protection, rendering it useless.

As DVDFab is in China the company is currently coping well, their website is still available through other domain names and orders are processed as usual.


DVDFab sees Facebook page removed, launchesIlikeDVDFab.com

Posted at 12 March 2014 17:41 CET by Jan Willem Aldershoff

While Facebook removed their  page today, DVDFab started a website explaining what happened and asking people for their support. On the website IlikeDVDFab.com the company asks people to tweet the message; “love this software and I need DVDFab come back! #DVDFabComeBack”.


http://en.dvdfab.cn/download.htm

the Disposition Matrix

July 11, 2014

Just a few weeks ago, during a commencement address to West Point’s graduating cadets, President Obama spoke to the importance of greater transparency “about both the basis of our counter-terrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.”
President Obama also made similar comments about drone transparency last year, but the Obama administration hasn’t yet matched the president’s words with action by publicly disclosing meaningful information about its targeted operations and its use of drone strikes.
The U.S. secret drone war is damaging our reputation abroad and arguably inspiring new terrorists instead of thwarting them. Human rights and civil rights groups have uncovered evidence of hundreds of civilian deaths unreported by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.1,2 Our government must be transparent about whom it is targeting with drones, and why, in order to shed light on whether or not the U.S. government is violating international law.
Even CIA Director John Brennan has said, the United States “need[s] to acknowledge publicly” any mistaken killings and should “make public the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes targeting al-Qa’ida.”
With the Obama administration currently considering the use of drone strikes in Iraq, which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties, now is the perfect time to demand transparency on the civilians killed by previous U.S. drone strikes abroad.
The public has an inalienable right to know whom their government is targeting and at what collateral cost. Now is the time to have a national conversation about the U.S. drone strike program and to demand far greater transparency from the Obama administration.
Thank you for your support.
Rick Rosenthal, CREDO Activist
Add your name:
Sign the petition ►
  1. Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes,” ProPublica, February 5, 2013
  2. The Toll Of 5 Years Of Drone Strikes: 2,400 Dead,” Huffington Post, January 23, 2014


Oct 27 2013, 9:55 AM ET

(The Atlantic) -Two new reports issued this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post suggest that CIA officials who carry out the strikes make little effort to track civilian deaths.
“There is a lot more pressure building” on President Barack Obama, Sarah Holewinski, head of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a group pushing for greater transparency in drone strikes, told me this week. “He’s going to have to look at these legal questions.”


There is a serious terrorist threat to the United States. The administration is under enormous pressure to prevent attacks. But there are ways to safeguard the United States without sparking such a serious backlash abroad and at home.
Holewinski called on the Obama administration to implement its promise to move command of drone operations from the CIA to the American military. She said the shift, which Obama announced this spring, is going “very, very slowly.”
Military control is one step toward a key goal: greater transparency in countries where drone strikes are enormously unpopular. Keeping the drone strikes as a covert CIA-run program makes accountability and determining the true number of civilian deaths impossible, she said.
If strikes are commanded by the military and disclosed publicly, reports of civilian casualties could be investigated under military law and compensation paid to victims — as now happens in Afghanistan.
Holewinski also urged the administration to disclose targeting rules that it has refused to make public. How are civilians defined? And how are civilian casualties assessed? What is the legal definition of an individual who can be targeted?
She credited the administration for a decrease in drone strikes since Obama promised one in May. But, she insisted, the targeting process needs to be far more transparent.


The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war

By Daphne Eviatar
January 4, 2013

It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.

The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.
In this case, McMahon ruled, the administration’s justifications for the killing of select individuals — including American citizens — without so much as a hearing, constitute an internal “deliberative process” by the government that need not be disclosed.
McMahon did not hide her disappointment. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote, “but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22.” She explained, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The judge’s lament may have, in part, been induced by the striking discord between the looking-glass world in which she found herself, and the hopes that President Barack Obama had first generated for a newly transparent government.
That continued once he was in office. In a Dec. 29, 2009 executive order, Obama said: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government.” He insisted “our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the government and to the American people.”
He sent an accompanying memo to the heads of all executive branch agencies:

“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the federal government is a national asset.”

That was before Obama embarked on a secret, exponential expansion of the deadly drone war. Or at least, before most Americans were aware of it.
Since 2009, there have been more than 300 bombings by remote-controlled U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the entire Bush administration, there were just 51.
Thousands of people have reportedly been killed by the “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Though U.S. officials claim the number of civilian deaths has been minimal, independent studies show otherwise. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know how many people have been killed, or who they were, because the government doesn’t release that information.
This all stands in stark contrast to the heady early days of the Obama presidency.
Back in 2009, overruling the objections of six former CIA directors, Obama released the legal memos created by the Bush administration to justify the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
Today, he insists on hiding memos that justify the secret killing of suspected terrorists – and, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the killing of their children.
The government has made a point of saying that these killings were all lawful and justified, trotting out senior administration officials to make those claims in a series of speeches over the last two years.
As McMahon noted, “it is not surprising that the government feels somewhat defensive.” After all, “some Americans question the power of the executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country. Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of government.”
The ACLU has already vowed to appeal McMahon’s decision. But its success is far from certain.  It’s also unclear whether any court will ever require the government to release the memos documenting its legal rationale for these secret extrajudicial killings. McMahon’s decision, however, highlights why Obama should release them nonetheless.
Demands for the memos have been mounting ever since The New York Times first revealed that administration lawyers had documented their justification for the Awlaki killing in 2010.
Both U.S. citizens and foreign allies, whom the U.S. government strongly relies on in fighting its “war on terror,” have been skeptical of the program’s legality for years.  This has stymied intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, such as Germany, and infuriated local populations in Pakistan and Yemen, whose support is critical to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It has also undermined Obama’s reputation — making it easier for critics to say he’s no better than his predecessor. It could even tarnish his legacy as a president, for he took office promising shiny reforms after a particularly dark chapter in U.S. history.
McMahon herself noted that there is no reason to believe at this point that releasing the memos would endanger national security, because any “intelligence sources and methods” could be redacted. On the contrary, explaining under what circumstances Washington believes targeted killing would be lawful could both quell critics’ claims of U.S. lawlessness and delineate the rules the United States wants other countries to follow.
To the extent that the memos reflect internal deliberations rather than the administration’s final decisions, the Justice Department can make that clear. Obama can also explain where U.S. policy stands now.
It would be a brave and principled move on Obama’s part. It would also go a long way toward developing global confidence that, despite past mistakes, Washington is waging its fight against terrorism in accordance with the rule of law.
If Obama instead continues to take refuge in the courts, he may be able to claim a minor legal victory. But the president will have lost a far more important battle.


In April of 2012, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. He had last seen his mother and siblings more than a decade ago, when he returned to the US in 2001, and spent months saving the money to purchase the ticket and arranging to be away from work.

The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its “no-fly list”, which bars him from flying into his own country.

Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off of it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel.

He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying.

As his mother’s health declines, he remains effectively barred from returning to see her. “My mother is much too sick to come visit me, as she has difficulty now even walking very short distances,” Long told me in an interview Sunday in Doha, the sleek, booming capital city of America’s close Gulf ally, where the former Senior Airman and Staff Sergeant has lived for several years.

“I don’t understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me,” he said. What is most mystifying to him is that he has spent the last decade living and working, usually teaching English, in three countries that have been very close and compliant US allies: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and now Qatar. “If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing.”

As compelling as Long’s story is, it is extremely common. Last year in Washington, I met a 19-year-old Somali-American Muslim, born and raised in the US, who saved money from a summer job to purchase a ticket to travel for the first time to Somalia to visit family members he had never met. When he went to the ticket counter to check-in, he was informed that he was barred from flying and suffered the humiliation of having to return home with his luggage and then trying to explain to his employer, family and friends why he did not travel.

Like Long, that American teenager was never convicted or even charged with any crime, and was mystified and angry that his own government secretly placed him on this list, though he remains too afraid to speak out without anonymity. “I’m scared that if I do, it’ll only get worse,” he told me.

Like so many post-9/11 civil liberties abridgments aimed primarily at Muslims, this no-fly-list abuse has worsened considerably during the Obama presidency. In February, Associated Press learned that “the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans.”

Worse, the Obama administration “lowered the bar for being added to the list”. As a result, reported AP, “now a person doesn’t have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list” but can be included if they “are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security”, a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.

But the worst cases are those like Long’s: when the person is suddenly barred from flying when they are outside of the US, often on the other side of the world. As a practical matter, that government act effectively exiles them from their own country. “Obviously, I can’t get to Oklahoma from Qatar if I can’t fly,” said Long. “Trying to take a boat would take weeks away from work just for the travel alone, and it’s not affordable. If I can’t fly, then I can’t go back home.”

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) now working on Long’s case, told me:

“What is happening to Saadiq happens to American Muslims with alarming regularity. Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.

“It is as if the US has created a system of secret law whereby certain behaviors – being Muslim seems to be one of them – trigger one’s placement on government watch lists that separate people from their families, end careers, and poison personal relationships. All of this done without any due process.”

The ACLU has spent years challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list in court. Representing 15 US citizens and permanent residents who have been placed on the list, , including four military veterans, the civil liberties group scored a possibly significant victory this June when the 9th Circuit of Appeals reinstated their lawsuit, which a lower court judge had dismissed, and allowed the case to proceed. ACLU lawyer Nusrat Choudhury, who argued the case, told me:

“The No Fly List bars thousands of people from commercial air travel without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest. Some have been stranded abroad when they suddenly found themselves unable to board planes.

“None of these Americans have ever been told why they are on the No Fly List or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. But, the Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names.”

Long’s case is both typical yet particularly compelling. Strictly on humanitarian grounds, it is outright cruel to deny a person who has been convicted of no crime the ability to see his ailing mother.

Beyond the constitutional and humanitarian questions, Long was confounded by what seems to be the utterly irrational reasoning on which the no-fly list is based. As it bars him only from flying, he remains technically free to board a cruise ship to the US, one that would be filled with American civilians. Every US citizen has the constitutional right to enter the country, so he is technically free to visit the US or return there to live if he is able to get back, to visit crowded streets and shopping malls, to board trains, in essence to do anything but fly.

“It makes no sense, so it’s obvious this is meant as some kind of punishment, but for what?”, he asked. “If they are so afraid of me, they can just put a law enforcement agent on the plane to escort me back home.”

After learning he had been barred from flying, Long sought assistance from the US Embassy in Doha. “After many follow-up calls to the embassy,” he recounted, “they finally gave me ‘assistance’ in the form of the website to DHS and instructions to file a complaint.” On 15 May, he filed a formal complaint with DHS and received a so-called “redress control number” with a promise to review his case within 7-10 business days. Almost six months later, he is still in Doha waiting for an answer, still harboring hope that he will receive clearance to return home to visit his sick mother.

Abbas, the CAIR lawyer, told me: “It makes my stomach churn what the US does to American Muslims while they travel.” Unfortunately, he said, the political reality of this issue tracks the familiar pattern of Muslims being denied the most basic rights: “there is zero political will to alter the use of endless secret watchlists that terrorize the Muslim community and make none of us any safer.”

Abbas worked last year on the truly wrenching case of Gulet Mohamed, the then-18-year-old Somali-American who, while visiting Kuwait, was detained at the behest of the Obama administration, and beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while he was interrogated for two weeks. Once the Kuwaitis were done with him and wanted to release him, Mohamed – who, to date, has never been charged with any crime – faced a horrible dilemma: at some point when he was traveling, the US government placed him on a no-fly list, meaning that he could no longer stay in Kuwait, but also could not return to the US, stuck in lawless limbo.

When he was in Kuwaiti detention, Gulet was able to use a cell phone illicitly obtained by a fellow detainee, and his family arranged for him to call me and the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti to recount his story. I spent an hour on the phone with him, and still vividly recall the terror and visceral fear of the American teeanger as he tried to understand why his own government first arranged for his detention and beating, and then barred him from returning to the country where he was born and had lived his whole life, even when the Kuwaitis were eager to release him. That is the tyranny of the no-fly list.

“Our litigation in Gulet Mohamed’s case seeks to establish what I think is the very modest proposition that the US cannot actively obstruct a citizen’s movement into the US from abroad,” said Abbas. As modest – and self-evident – a proposition as that is, it is one the US courts have not recognized in the context of no-fly lists.

Saddiq Long has now purchased another ticket to travel to the US on 8 November, less than a week from now, in the hope that the US government will allow him to fly. “If he isn’t allowed to fly home on the 8th,” said Abbas, “we will plan on mobilizing people to contact the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Oklahoma City. The FBI controls these lists and his intervention could end Saadiq’s predicament.”

For now, Long can do nothing other than wait and hope that his own country, which he served for a decade in the armed forces, will deign to allow him to return. Secret deprivation of core rights, no recourse, no due process, no right even to learn what has been done to you despite zero evidence of wrongdoing: that is the life of many American Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Most significantly, it gets progressively worse, not better, as the temporal distance from 9/11 grows.


Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with “current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies”, Miller reports that as “the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down”, the Obama administration “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years” (the “capture” part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the “kill” part). Specifically, “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”
In pursuit of this goal, “White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.” All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that “CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones”, which “reflects the agency’s transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence.” The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:

“JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command’s targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a ‘national capital region’ task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists.”

The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: “disposition matrix”. Writes Miller:

“Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix’.
“The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.”

The “disposition matrix” has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is “to augment” the “separate but overlapping kill lists” maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch’s “matrix”. As Miller describes it, it is “a single, continually evolving database” which includes “biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations” as well as “strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols”. This analytical system that determines people’s “disposition” will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was “looking forward to the government’s arguments explaining why it won’t release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA”.
This was all motivated by Obama’s refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes “a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix” as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: “We had a disposition problem.”
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – “It is the keeper of the criteria,” says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism – is the “massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States”.
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes “records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records” – “literally anything the government collects would be fair game”. In other words, the NCTC – now vested with the power to determine the proper “disposition” of terrorist suspects – is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU’s legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which “meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans” – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC “to collect and ‘continually assess’ information on innocent Americans for up to five years”.
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:

“All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI’s office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board aren’t notified even of ‘significant’ failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
“All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11.”

It doesn’t require any conspiracy theorizing to see what’s happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or wilful blindness, not to see it.
What has been created here – permanently institutionalized – is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a “matrix” that determines the “disposition” of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be “disposed” of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post’s Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: “The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic.” As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:

Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.

To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: “The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis.”
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, “officials said no clear end is in sight” when it comes to the war against “terrorists” because, said one official, “we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us” but trying is “a necessary part of what we do”. Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who “want to harm us”. That’s the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a “disposition matrix” to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: “If you have a ‘kill list’, but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?” The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue – the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:

“It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.”

In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes’ question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.

Detention policies

Assuming the Post’s estimates are correct – that “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade” – this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war. This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention – that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the “end of hostilities” – so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment – permanent incarceration – without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations – something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life – and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic “war on terror” proponents in both political parties have become.

UPDATE

As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, “missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people – including one woman” and added: “the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children.” Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he “should have a far more responsible father”.
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out “that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause.” Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.

UPDATE II

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:

“Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: ‘It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'”

That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military’s term for drone victims is “bug splat”. This – this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset – is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.

UPDATE III

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled “President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List”. Here is his concluding paragraph:

“Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that’s his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama’s predecessors in the Bush administration ‘were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings’, because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don’t meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix.”

It’s worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

July 11, 2014

Just a few weeks ago, during a commencement address to West Point’s graduating cadets, President Obama spoke to the importance of greater transparency “about both the basis of our counter-terrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.”
President Obama also made similar comments about drone transparency last year, but the Obama administration hasn’t yet matched the president’s words with action by publicly disclosing meaningful information about its targeted operations and its use of drone strikes.
The U.S. secret drone war is damaging our reputation abroad and arguably inspiring new terrorists instead of thwarting them. Human rights and civil rights groups have uncovered evidence of hundreds of civilian deaths unreported by the U.S. government in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia.1,2 Our government must be transparent about whom it is targeting with drones, and why, in order to shed light on whether or not the U.S. government is violating international law.
Even CIA Director John Brennan has said, the United States “need[s] to acknowledge publicly” any mistaken killings and should “make public the overall numbers of civilian deaths resulting from U.S. strikes targeting al-Qa’ida.”
With the Obama administration currently considering the use of drone strikes in Iraq, which would undoubtedly lead to civilian casualties, now is the perfect time to demand transparency on the civilians killed by previous U.S. drone strikes abroad.
The public has an inalienable right to know whom their government is targeting and at what collateral cost. Now is the time to have a national conversation about the U.S. drone strike program and to demand far greater transparency from the Obama administration.
Thank you for your support.
Rick Rosenthal, CREDO Activist
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  1. Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes,” ProPublica, February 5, 2013
  2. The Toll Of 5 Years Of Drone Strikes: 2,400 Dead,” Huffington Post, January 23, 2014


(The Atlantic) -Two new reports issued this week by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailed dozens of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post suggest that CIA officials who carry out the strikes make little effort to track civilian deaths.
“There is a lot more pressure building” on President Barack Obama, Sarah Holewinski, head of the Center for Civilians in Conflict, a group pushing for greater transparency in drone strikes, told me this week. “He’s going to have to look at these legal questions.”


There is a serious terrorist threat to the United States. The administration is under enormous pressure to prevent attacks. But there are ways to safeguard the United States without sparking such a serious backlash abroad and at home.
Holewinski called on the Obama administration to implement its promise to move command of drone operations from the CIA to the American military. She said the shift, which Obama announced this spring, is going “very, very slowly.”
Military control is one step toward a key goal: greater transparency in countries where drone strikes are enormously unpopular. Keeping the drone strikes as a covert CIA-run program makes accountability and determining the true number of civilian deaths impossible, she said.
If strikes are commanded by the military and disclosed publicly, reports of civilian casualties could be investigated under military law and compensation paid to victims — as now happens in Afghanistan.
Holewinski also urged the administration to disclose targeting rules that it has refused to make public. How are civilians defined? And how are civilian casualties assessed? What is the legal definition of an individual who can be targeted?
She credited the administration for a decrease in drone strikes since Obama promised one in May. But, she insisted, the targeting process needs to be far more transparent.


The secrecy veiling Obama’s drone war

By Daphne Eviatar
January 4, 2013

It’s rare for a judge to express regret over her own ruling.  But that’s what happened Wednesday, when Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York reluctantly ruled that the Obama administration does not need to provide public justification for its deadly drone war.

The memos requested by two New York Times reporters and the American Civil Liberties Union, McMahon wrote, “implicate serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States, and about whether we are indeed a nation of laws, not of men.” Still, the Freedom of Information Act allows the executive branch to keep many things secret.
In this case, McMahon ruled, the administration’s justifications for the killing of select individuals — including American citizens — without so much as a hearing, constitute an internal “deliberative process” by the government that need not be disclosed.
McMahon did not hide her disappointment. “The Alice-in-Wonderland nature of this pronouncement is not lost on me,” she wrote, “but after careful and extensive consideration, I find myself stuck in a paradoxical situation in which I cannot solve a problem because of contradictory constraints and rules – a veritable Catch-22.” She explained, “I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.”
The judge’s lament may have, in part, been induced by the striking discord between the looking-glass world in which she found herself, and the hopes that President Barack Obama had first generated for a newly transparent government.
That continued once he was in office. In a Dec. 29, 2009 executive order, Obama said: “Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their government.” He insisted “our nation’s progress depends on the free flow of information both within the government and to the American people.”
He sent an accompanying memo to the heads of all executive branch agencies:

“Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their government is doing. Information maintained by the federal government is a national asset.”

That was before Obama embarked on a secret, exponential expansion of the deadly drone war. Or at least, before most Americans were aware of it.
Since 2009, there have been more than 300 bombings by remote-controlled U.S. drones in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. During the entire Bush administration, there were just 51.
Thousands of people have reportedly been killed by the “unmanned aerial vehicles.”

Though U.S. officials claim the number of civilian deaths has been minimal, independent studies show otherwise. Ultimately, it’s impossible to know how many people have been killed, or who they were, because the government doesn’t release that information.
This all stands in stark contrast to the heady early days of the Obama presidency.
Back in 2009, overruling the objections of six former CIA directors, Obama released the legal memos created by the Bush administration to justify the use of torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
Today, he insists on hiding memos that justify the secret killing of suspected terrorists – and, as in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, the killing of their children.
The government has made a point of saying that these killings were all lawful and justified, trotting out senior administration officials to make those claims in a series of speeches over the last two years.
As McMahon noted, “it is not surprising that the government feels somewhat defensive.” After all, “some Americans question the power of the executive to make a unilateral and unreviewable decision to kill an American citizen who is not actively engaged in armed combat operations against this country. Their concern rests on the text of the Constitution and several federal statutes, and is of a piece with concerns harbored by the Framers of our unique form of government.”
The ACLU has already vowed to appeal McMahon’s decision. But its success is far from certain.  It’s also unclear whether any court will ever require the government to release the memos documenting its legal rationale for these secret extrajudicial killings. McMahon’s decision, however, highlights why Obama should release them nonetheless.
Demands for the memos have been mounting ever since The New York Times first revealed that administration lawyers had documented their justification for the Awlaki killing in 2010.
Both U.S. citizens and foreign allies, whom the U.S. government strongly relies on in fighting its “war on terror,” have been skeptical of the program’s legality for years.  This has stymied intelligence-sharing with foreign governments, such as Germany, and infuriated local populations in Pakistan and Yemen, whose support is critical to defeating Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
It has also undermined Obama’s reputation — making it easier for critics to say he’s no better than his predecessor. It could even tarnish his legacy as a president, for he took office promising shiny reforms after a particularly dark chapter in U.S. history.
McMahon herself noted that there is no reason to believe at this point that releasing the memos would endanger national security, because any “intelligence sources and methods” could be redacted. On the contrary, explaining under what circumstances Washington believes targeted killing would be lawful could both quell critics’ claims of U.S. lawlessness and delineate the rules the United States wants other countries to follow.
To the extent that the memos reflect internal deliberations rather than the administration’s final decisions, the Justice Department can make that clear. Obama can also explain where U.S. policy stands now.
It would be a brave and principled move on Obama’s part. It would also go a long way toward developing global confidence that, despite past mistakes, Washington is waging its fight against terrorism in accordance with the rule of law.
If Obama instead continues to take refuge in the courts, he may be able to claim a minor legal victory. But the president will have lost a far more important battle.


In April of 2012, Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old African-American Muslim who now lives in Qatar, purchased a ticket on KLM Airlines to travel to Oklahoma, the state where he grew up. Long, a 10-year veteran of the US Air Force, had learned that the congestive heart failure from which his mother suffers had worsened, and she was eager to see her son. He had last seen his mother and siblings more than a decade ago, when he returned to the US in 2001, and spent months saving the money to purchase the ticket and arranging to be away from work.

The day before he was to travel, a KLM representative called Long and informed him that the airlines could not allow him to board the flight. That, she explained, was because the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had placed Long on its “no-fly list”, which bars him from flying into his own country.

Long has now spent the last six months trying to find out why he was placed on this list and what he can do to get off of it. He has had no success, unable to obtain even the most basic information about what caused his own government to deprive him of this right to travel.

He has no idea when he was put on this list, who decided to put him on it, or the reasons for his inclusion. He has never been convicted of any crime, never been indicted or charged with a crime, and until he was less than 24 hours away from boarding that KLM flight back to his childhood home, had received no notice that his own government prohibited him from flying.

As his mother’s health declines, he remains effectively barred from returning to see her. “My mother is much too sick to come visit me, as she has difficulty now even walking very short distances,” Long told me in an interview Sunday in Doha, the sleek, booming capital city of America’s close Gulf ally, where the former Senior Airman and Staff Sergeant has lived for several years.

“I don’t understand how the government can take away my right to travel without even telling me,” he said. What is most mystifying to him is that he has spent the last decade living and working, usually teaching English, in three countries that have been very close and compliant US allies: Egypt, United Arab Emirates, and now Qatar. “If the US government wanted me to question or arrest or prosecute me, they could have had me in a minute. But there are no charges, no accusations, nothing.”

As compelling as Long’s story is, it is extremely common. Last year in Washington, I met a 19-year-old Somali-American Muslim, born and raised in the US, who saved money from a summer job to purchase a ticket to travel for the first time to Somalia to visit family members he had never met. When he went to the ticket counter to check-in, he was informed that he was barred from flying and suffered the humiliation of having to return home with his luggage and then trying to explain to his employer, family and friends why he did not travel.

Like Long, that American teenager was never convicted or even charged with any crime, and was mystified and angry that his own government secretly placed him on this list, though he remains too afraid to speak out without anonymity. “I’m scared that if I do, it’ll only get worse,” he told me.

Like so many post-9/11 civil liberties abridgments aimed primarily at Muslims, this no-fly-list abuse has worsened considerably during the Obama presidency. In February, Associated Press learned that “the Obama administration has more than doubled, to about 21,000 names, its secret list of suspected terrorists who are banned from flying to or within the United States, including about 500 Americans.”

Worse, the Obama administration “lowered the bar for being added to the list”. As a result, reported AP, “now a person doesn’t have to be considered only a threat to aviation to be placed on the no-fly list” but can be included if they “are considered a broader threat to domestic or international security”, a vague status determined in the sole and unchecked discretion of unseen DHS bureaucrats.

But the worst cases are those like Long’s: when the person is suddenly barred from flying when they are outside of the US, often on the other side of the world. As a practical matter, that government act effectively exiles them from their own country. “Obviously, I can’t get to Oklahoma from Qatar if I can’t fly,” said Long. “Trying to take a boat would take weeks away from work just for the travel alone, and it’s not affordable. If I can’t fly, then I can’t go back home.”

Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) now working on Long’s case, told me:

“What is happening to Saadiq happens to American Muslims with alarming regularity. Every few weeks I hear of another Muslim citizen who cannot return to the country of which he is a citizen.

“It is as if the US has created a system of secret law whereby certain behaviors – being Muslim seems to be one of them – trigger one’s placement on government watch lists that separate people from their families, end careers, and poison personal relationships. All of this done without any due process.”

The ACLU has spent years challenging the constitutionality of the no-fly list in court. Representing 15 US citizens and permanent residents who have been placed on the list, , including four military veterans, the civil liberties group scored a possibly significant victory this June when the 9th Circuit of Appeals reinstated their lawsuit, which a lower court judge had dismissed, and allowed the case to proceed. ACLU lawyer Nusrat Choudhury, who argued the case, told me:

“The No Fly List bars thousands of people from commercial air travel without any opportunity to learn about or refute the basis for their inclusion on the list. The result is a vast and growing list of individuals who, on the basis of error or innuendo, have been deemed too dangerous to fly but who are too harmless to arrest. Some have been stranded abroad when they suddenly found themselves unable to board planes.

“None of these Americans have ever been told why they are on the No Fly List or given a reasonable opportunity to get off it. But, the Constitution requires the government to provide our clients a fair chance to clear their names.”

Long’s case is both typical yet particularly compelling. Strictly on humanitarian grounds, it is outright cruel to deny a person who has been convicted of no crime the ability to see his ailing mother.

Beyond the constitutional and humanitarian questions, Long was confounded by what seems to be the utterly irrational reasoning on which the no-fly list is based. As it bars him only from flying, he remains technically free to board a cruise ship to the US, one that would be filled with American civilians. Every US citizen has the constitutional right to enter the country, so he is technically free to visit the US or return there to live if he is able to get back, to visit crowded streets and shopping malls, to board trains, in essence to do anything but fly.

“It makes no sense, so it’s obvious this is meant as some kind of punishment, but for what?”, he asked. “If they are so afraid of me, they can just put a law enforcement agent on the plane to escort me back home.”

After learning he had been barred from flying, Long sought assistance from the US Embassy in Doha. “After many follow-up calls to the embassy,” he recounted, “they finally gave me ‘assistance’ in the form of the website to DHS and instructions to file a complaint.” On 15 May, he filed a formal complaint with DHS and received a so-called “redress control number” with a promise to review his case within 7-10 business days. Almost six months later, he is still in Doha waiting for an answer, still harboring hope that he will receive clearance to return home to visit his sick mother.

Abbas, the CAIR lawyer, told me: “It makes my stomach churn what the US does to American Muslims while they travel.” Unfortunately, he said, the political reality of this issue tracks the familiar pattern of Muslims being denied the most basic rights: “there is zero political will to alter the use of endless secret watchlists that terrorize the Muslim community and make none of us any safer.”

Abbas worked last year on the truly wrenching case of Gulet Mohamed, the then-18-year-old Somali-American who, while visiting Kuwait, was detained at the behest of the Obama administration, and beaten and tortured by Kuwaiti authorities while he was interrogated for two weeks. Once the Kuwaitis were done with him and wanted to release him, Mohamed – who, to date, has never been charged with any crime – faced a horrible dilemma: at some point when he was traveling, the US government placed him on a no-fly list, meaning that he could no longer stay in Kuwait, but also could not return to the US, stuck in lawless limbo.

When he was in Kuwaiti detention, Gulet was able to use a cell phone illicitly obtained by a fellow detainee, and his family arranged for him to call me and the New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti to recount his story. I spent an hour on the phone with him, and still vividly recall the terror and visceral fear of the American teeanger as he tried to understand why his own government first arranged for his detention and beating, and then barred him from returning to the country where he was born and had lived his whole life, even when the Kuwaitis were eager to release him. That is the tyranny of the no-fly list.

“Our litigation in Gulet Mohamed’s case seeks to establish what I think is the very modest proposition that the US cannot actively obstruct a citizen’s movement into the US from abroad,” said Abbas. As modest – and self-evident – a proposition as that is, it is one the US courts have not recognized in the context of no-fly lists.

Saddiq Long has now purchased another ticket to travel to the US on 8 November, less than a week from now, in the hope that the US government will allow him to fly. “If he isn’t allowed to fly home on the 8th,” said Abbas, “we will plan on mobilizing people to contact the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI field office in Oklahoma City. The FBI controls these lists and his intervention could end Saadiq’s predicament.”

For now, Long can do nothing other than wait and hope that his own country, which he served for a decade in the armed forces, will deign to allow him to return. Secret deprivation of core rights, no recourse, no due process, no right even to learn what has been done to you despite zero evidence of wrongdoing: that is the life of many American Muslims in the post-9/11 world. Most significantly, it gets progressively worse, not better, as the temporal distance from 9/11 grows.


Series: Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty

The Washington Post has a crucial and disturbing story this morning by Greg Miller about the concerted efforts by the Obama administration to fully institutionalize – to make officially permanent – the most extremist powers it has exercised in the name of the war on terror.
Based on interviews with “current and former officials from the White House and the Pentagon, as well as intelligence and counterterrorism agencies”, Miller reports that as “the United States‘ conventional wars are winding down”, the Obama administration “expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years” (the “capture” part of that list is little more than symbolic, as the US focus is overwhelmingly on the “kill” part). Specifically, “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade.” As Miller puts it: “That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.”
In pursuit of this goal, “White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan is seeking to codify the administration’s approach to generating capture/kill lists, part of a broader effort to guide future administrations through the counterterrorism processes that Obama has embraced.” All of this, writes Miller, demonstrates “the extent to which Obama has institutionalized the highly classified practice of targeted killing, transforming ad-hoc elements into a counterterrorism infrastructure capable of sustaining a seemingly permanent war.”
The Post article cites numerous recent developments reflecting this Obama effort, including the fact that “CIA Director David H Petraeus is pushing for an expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones”, which “reflects the agency’s transformation into a paramilitary force, and makes clear that it does not intend to dismantle its drone program and return to its pre-September 11 focus on gathering intelligence.” The article also describes rapid expansion of commando operations by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and, perhaps most disturbingly, the creation of a permanent bureaucratic infrastructure to allow the president to assassinate at will:

“JSOC also has established a secret targeting center across the Potomac River from Washington, current and former U.S. officials said. The elite command’s targeting cells have traditionally been located near the front lines of its missions, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. But JSOC created a ‘national capital region’ task force that is a 15-minute commute from the White House so it could be more directly involved in deliberations about al-Qaeda lists.”

The creepiest aspect of this development is the christening of a new Orwellian euphemism for due-process-free presidential assassinations: “disposition matrix”. Writes Miller:

“Over the past two years, the Obama administration has been secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a next-generation targeting list called the ‘disposition matrix’.
“The matrix contains the names of terrorism suspects arrayed against an accounting of the resources being marshaled to track them down, including sealed indictments and clandestine operations. US officials said the database is designed to go beyond existing kill lists, mapping plans for the ‘disposition’ of suspects beyond the reach of American drones.”

The “disposition matrix” has been developed and will be overseen by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). One of its purposes is “to augment” the “separate but overlapping kill lists” maintained by the CIA and the Pentagon: to serve, in other words, as the centralized clearinghouse for determining who will be executed without due process based upon how one fits into the executive branch’s “matrix”. As Miller describes it, it is “a single, continually evolving database” which includes “biographies, locations, known associates and affiliated organizations” as well as “strategies for taking targets down, including extradition requests, capture operations and drone patrols”. This analytical system that determines people’s “disposition” will undoubtedly be kept completely secret; Marcy Wheeler sardonically said that she was “looking forward to the government’s arguments explaining why it won’t release the disposition matrix to ACLU under FOIA”.
This was all motivated by Obama’s refusal to arrest or detain terrorist suspects, and his resulting commitment simply to killing them at will (his will). Miller quotes “a former US counterterrorism official involved in developing the matrix” as explaining the impetus behind the program this way: “We had a disposition problem.”
The central role played by the NCTC in determining who should be killed – “It is the keeper of the criteria,” says one official to the Post – is, by itself, rather odious. As Kade Crockford of the ACLU of Massachusetts noted in response to this story, the ACLU has long warned that the real purpose of the NCTC – despite its nominal focus on terrorism – is the “massive, secretive data collection and mining of trillions of points of data about most people in the United States”.
In particular, the NCTC operates a gigantic data-mining operation, in which all sorts of information about innocent Americans is systematically monitored, stored, and analyzed. This includes “records from law enforcement investigations, health information, employment history, travel and student records” – “literally anything the government collects would be fair game”. In other words, the NCTC – now vested with the power to determine the proper “disposition” of terrorist suspects – is the same agency that is at the center of the ubiquitous, unaccountable surveillance state aimed at American citizens.
Worse still, as the ACLU’s legislative counsel Chris Calabrese documented back in July in a must-read analysis, Obama officials very recently abolished safeguards on how this information can be used. Whereas the agency, during the Bush years, was barred from storing non-terrorist-related information about innocent Americans for more than 180 days – a limit which “meant that NCTC was dissuaded from collecting large databases filled with information on innocent Americans” – it is now free to do so. Obama officials eliminated this constraint by authorizing the NCTC “to collect and ‘continually assess’ information on innocent Americans for up to five years”.
And, as usual, this agency engages in these incredibly powerful and invasive processes with virtually no democratic accountability:

“All of this is happening with very little oversight. Controls over the NCTC are mostly internal to the DNI’s office, and important oversight bodies such as Congress and the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board aren’t notified even of ‘significant’ failures to comply with the Guidelines. Fundamental legal protections are being sidestepped. For example, under the new guidelines, Privacy Act notices (legal requirements to describe how databases are used) must be completed by the agency that collected the information. This is in spite of the fact that those agencies have no idea what NCTC is actually doing with the information once it collects it.
“All of this amounts to a reboot of the Total Information Awareness Program that Americans rejected so vigorously right after 9/11.”

It doesn’t require any conspiracy theorizing to see what’s happening here. Indeed, it takes extreme naiveté, or wilful blindness, not to see it.
What has been created here – permanently institutionalized – is a highly secretive executive branch agency that simultaneously engages in two functions: (1) it collects and analyzes massive amounts of surveillance data about all Americans without any judicial review let alone search warrants, and (2) creates and implements a “matrix” that determines the “disposition” of suspects, up to and including execution, without a whiff of due process or oversight. It is simultaneously a surveillance state and a secretive, unaccountable judicial body that analyzes who you are and then decrees what should be done with you, how you should be “disposed” of, beyond the reach of any minimal accountability or transparency.
The Post’s Miller recognizes the watershed moment this represents: “The creation of the matrix and the institutionalization of kill/capture lists reflect a shift that is as psychological as it is strategic.” As he explains, extra-judicial assassination was once deemed so extremist that very extensive deliberations were required before Bill Clinton could target even Osama bin Laden for death by lobbing cruise missiles in East Africa. But:

Targeted killing is now so routine that the Obama administration has spent much of the past year codifying and streamlining the processes that sustain it.

To understand the Obama legacy, please re-read that sentence. As Murtaza Hussain put it when reacting to the Post story: “The US agonized over the targeted killing Bin Laden at Tarnak Farms in 1998; now it kills people it barely suspects of anything on a regular basis.”
The pragmatic inanity of the mentality driving this is self-evident: as I discussed yesterday (and many other times), continuous killing does not eliminate violence aimed at the US but rather guarantees its permanent expansion. As a result, wrote Miller, “officials said no clear end is in sight” when it comes to the war against “terrorists” because, said one official, “we can’t possibly kill everyone who wants to harm us” but trying is “a necessary part of what we do”. Of course, the more the US kills and kills and kills, the more people there are who “want to harm us”. That’s the logic that has resulted in a permanent war on terror.
But even more significant is the truly radical vision of government in which this is all grounded. The core guarantee of western justice since the Magna Carta was codified in the US by the fifth amendment to the constitution: “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” You simply cannot have a free society, a worthwhile political system, without that guarantee, that constraint on the ultimate abusive state power, being honored.
And yet what the Post is describing, what we have had for years, is a system of government that – without hyperbole – is the very antithesis of that liberty. It is literally impossible to imagine a more violent repudiation of the basic blueprint of the republic than the development of a secretive, totally unaccountable executive branch agency that simultaneously collects information about all citizens and then applies a “disposition matrix” to determine what punishment should be meted out. This is classic political dystopia brought to reality (despite how compelled such a conclusion is by these indisputable facts, many Americans will view such a claim as an exaggeration, paranoia, or worse because of this psychological dynamic I described here which leads many good passive westerners to believe that true oppression, by definition, is something that happens only elsewhere).
In response to the Post story, Chris Hayes asked: “If you have a ‘kill list’, but the list keeps growing, are you succeeding?” The answer all depends upon what the objective is.
As the Founders all recognized, nothing vests elites with power – and profit – more than a state of war. That is why there were supposed to be substantial barriers to having them start and continue – the need for a Congressional declaration, the constitutional bar on funding the military for more than two years at a time, the prohibition on standing armies, etc. Here is how John Jay put it in Federalist No 4:

“It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.”

In sum, there are factions in many governments that crave a state of endless war because that is when power is least constrained and profit most abundant. What the Post is reporting is yet another significant step toward that state, and it is undoubtedly driven, at least on the part of some, by a self-interested desire to ensure the continuation of endless war and the powers and benefits it vests. So to answer Hayes’ question: the endless expansion of a kill list and the unaccountable, always-expanding powers needed to implement it does indeed represent a great success for many. Read what John Jay wrote in the above passage to see why that is, and why few, if any, political developments should be regarded as more pernicious.

Detention policies

Assuming the Post’s estimates are correct – that “among senior Obama administration officials, there is broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade” – this means that the war on terror will last for more than 20 years, far longer than any other American war. This is what has always made the rationale for indefinite detention – that it is permissible to detain people without due process until the “end of hostilities” – so warped in this context. Those who are advocating that are endorsing nothing less than life imprisonment – permanent incarceration – without any charges or opportunities to contest the accusations.
That people are now dying at Guantanamo after almost a decade in a cage with no charges highlights just how repressive that power is. Extend that mentality to secret, due-process-free assassinations – something the US government clearly intends to convert into a permanent fixture of American political life – and it is not difficult to see just how truly extremist and anti-democratic “war on terror” proponents in both political parties have become.

UPDATE

As I noted yesterday, Afghan officials reported that three Afghan children were killed on Saturday by NATO operations. Today, reports CNN, “missiles blew up part of a compound Wednesday in northwest Pakistan, killing three people – including one woman” and added: “the latest suspected U.S. drone strike also injured two children.” Meanwhile, former Obama press secretary and current campaign adviser Robert Gibbs this week justified the US killing of 16-year-old American Abdulrahaman Awlaki, killed by a US drone in Yemen two weeks after his father was, on the ground that he “should have a far more responsible father”.
Also yesterday, CNN profiled Abu Sufyan Said al-Shihri, alleged to be a top al-Qaida official in Yemen. He pointed out “that U.S. drone strikes are helping al-Qaida in Yemen because of the number of civilian deaths they cause.” Ample evidence supports his observation.
To summarize all this: the US does not interfere in the Muslim world and maintain an endless war on terror because of the terrorist threat. It has a terrorist threat because of its interference in the Muslim world and its endless war on terror.

UPDATE II

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Micah Zenko, writing today about the Post article, reports:

“Recently, I spoke to a military official with extensive and wide-ranging experience in the special operations world, and who has had direct exposure to the targeted killing program. To emphasize how easy targeted killings by special operations forces or drones has become, this official flicked his hand back over and over, stating: ‘It really is like swatting flies. We can do it forever easily and you feel nothing. But how often do you really think about killing a fly?'”

That is disturbingly consistent with prior reports that the military’s term for drone victims is “bug splat”. This – this warped power and the accompanying dehumanizing mindset – is what is being institutionalized as a permanent fixture in American political life by the current president.

UPDATE III

At Wired, Spencer Ackerman reacts to the Post article with an analysis entitled “President Romney Can Thank Obama for His Permanent Robotic Death List”. Here is his concluding paragraph:

“Obama did not run for president to preside over the codification of a global war fought in secret. But that’s his legacy. . . . Micah Zenko at the Council on Foreign Relations writes that Obama’s predecessors in the Bush administration ‘were actually much more conscious and thoughtful about the long-term implications of targeted killings’, because they feared the political consequences that might come when the U.S. embraces something at least superficially similar to assassination. Whoever follows Obama in the Oval Office can thank him for proving those consequences don’t meaningfully exist — as he or she reviews the backlog of names on the Disposition Matrix.”

It’s worth devoting a moment to letting that sink in.

pro-gun laws; where can’t we carry them?

By CAMERON MCWHIRTER and KARISHMA MEHROTRA
June 29, 2014 9:11 p.m. ET

ATLANTA—Bars, houses of worship, and other public establishments are wrestling with what to do about a new law in Georgia that starting on Tuesday dramatically will expand gun-permit holders’ right to carry weapons where people congregate.

The law allows licensed gun owners to bring weapons to bars and houses of worship, unless forbidden by proprietors. Legally-owned guns also are allowed in unrestricted areas of airports and government buildings, and may be carried at schools and in colleges if permitted by officials.

Several other states allow guns in bars or churches, but Georgia’s “Safe Carry Protection Act,” which passed the state legislature overwhelmingly earlier this year, is unusual in that it expanded gun rights in multiple places with one omnibus law.


This is horrifying: According to multiple news outlets, a Target employee found a loaded handgun in the toy aisle of a store in South Carolina.

When you’re shopping at Target, you shouldn’t have to worry about someone parading around with a semiautomatic rifle, or whether your kid is going to find a loaded handgun while looking at toys.

More than 115,000 people have already signed the petition to Target asking for gun sense policies to protect customers and employees from gun violence — and over the next two days volunteers are going to be delivering these petitions all across the country.

Gun extremists armed with semiautomatic rifles have walked into Target locations around the country, weapons out and loaded, making sure customers saw their guns.
It’s often legal to do this, because many states have weak laws that allow people to openly carry around loaded weapons without any permits, training, or background checks. That means it’s up to companies themselves to protect their customers when the law won’t. Yet according to the Wall Street Journal, Target doesn’t have any policies to stop people from carrying weapons in its stores:

Target, which boasts on its website that between 80% and 90% of its customers are women, has no restrictions on customers carrying guns in its stores.

Chipotle, Starbucks, Chili’s, Sonic Drive-In, and Jack in the Box have already responded to petitions from moms and other gun sense supporters asking the stores not to allow guns. Now it’s up to Target to protect families who shop in its stores..

Sign the petition


Concealed weapon law tossed by fed appeals court

Published February 13, 2014Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – A divided federal appeals court on Thursday struck down California’s concealed weapons rules, saying they violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California was wrong to require applicants to show good cause to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

“The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the majority.


September 24, 2013

It has been 577 days since George Zimmerman shot and killed our son Travyon. And it’s been 74 days since a jury set George Zimmerman free, in part because of broken “Stand Your Ground” laws that protect killers like Zimmerman — killers who first instigate conflicts and then claim self-defense.
In July, we started a petition on Change.org calling for “Stand Your Ground” laws to be reviewed and amended nationwide, but we need to turn up the pressure in order to change the same law in Texas.
Can you start your own petition calling on Governor Perry and the Texas legislature to review and amend Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” law so that people like George Zimmerman can’t kill with impunity?
Reviewing and amending separate laws in 22 different states isn’t going to be easy — we can’t do it on our own. That’s why we’re asking for your help in Texas, because we know that Governor Perry and your state legislature will be most heavily influenced by the voices of constituents like you.
We already know that there’s a major groundswell of people who want to see these laws amended, because more than 400,000 people have signed our petition. Now it’s time to take that energy and harness it, state by state, to make sure no one can stalk, chase, and kill an unarmed child and get away with it.
Not in Texas. Not in Florida. Not anywhere in America.
Our grief is overwhelming, but we are fortified by our fight to honor Trayvon’s memory by fixing these broken laws. Starting a petition only takes a few minutes. Yours could be the voice that makes sure no child in Texas ever has to experience what happened to our son.
Click here to start your own petition calling on Governor Perry and the Texas legislature to review and amend Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” laws.
Thank you for standing with us, and with Trayvon.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton


Friend —

My son, Daniel, was a smart, quiet kid.

He’d just become a straight-A student, and he was overcoming his shyness as a new member of the debate team.

On April 20th, 1999, my beautiful and bright 15-year-old son was killed by two teenagers with guns in the library of Columbine High School — one of 12 innocent kids who lost their lives for no reason at all.

It’s been 14 years since that horrible day — 14 years of fighting so no family has to grieve like ours did.

These tragedies keep happening, and so far, Congress has failed to take common-sense action to stop them — even though nine in 10 Americans have agreed that it’s time to act by expanding background checks to close the loopholes that put guns in the hands of dangerous people.

This Wednesday, OFA and allied organizations are standing up for a national Day of Action to ask members of Congress: What will it take to finally act to prevent gun violence?

I hope you’ll join in — say you’ll do one thing this week to show Congress you want action to prevent gun violence.

The last questions you ever want to hear as a parent are: “What was your child wearing, and do you have any dental records?”

That’s what the police asked me the evening of the shooting at Columbine High, as they tried to establish who had been killed.

It was the most hopeless I’d ever felt.

Since Daniel’s death, I’ve found a way to honor him: by trying to prevent other families from feeling this pain. I’ve advocated locally and nationally for smarter gun laws — even helping achieve a statewide ballot victory here in Colorado.

In December, when I heard about the shooting in Newtown, I sat in my office and broke down. I was watching another community torn apart by guns — more parents grieving, more kids who would never see graduation, or a wedding, or a family of their own.

And in the wake of another tragedy, nine in 10 Americans agreed that it was time to act — expand background checks to close the loopholes that put guns in the hands of dangerous people.

But Congress disappointed us, putting politics above the safety of our kids.

That’s why this week, we’re asking: How many parents will have to go through what I did before we say “enough”?

You should be a part of this, too. Tell Congress you’re going to keep asking until they act:

http://my.barackobama.com/Do-One-Thing-for-Gun-Violence-Prevention

Thank you,

Tom

Tom Mauser
Littleton, Colorado


January 17, 2013

On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the sweeping gun measure, the nation’s toughest. It includes a ban on the possession of high-capacity magazines.

The
 statute currently written does NOT exempt law enforcement officers. The NYPD, the State Police and virtually every law enforcement agency in the state carry 9-millimeter guns, which have a 15-round capacity.

Unless an exemption is added by the time the law takes effect in March, police would technically be in violation of the new gun measure. A spokesman for the Governor’s office called us to say, “We are still working out some details of the law and the exemption will be included.”


Published: 31 December, 2012, 18:57

There’s no country in the world where you can’t smoke a cigar in a bar, but you may sip bourbon with your Colt Python – only in America!

While the Pentagon assiduously burns billions of dollars to export the cult of violence abroad, in the meantime, back at the domestic front, the Connecticut carnage has resurrected the moribund discussion about the perennial issue: the national suicidal pastime which annually devours 30,000 people, including 2,800 kids.

Even US casualties in Afghanistan – 309 KIA in 2012 – is no match to 414 murders in New York City the same year, celebrated as the record-lowest level in over four decades, down from the apex of 2,000 annual homicides, which accidentally coincides with the overall Operation Enduring Freedom body-count since the beginning of the invasion.

I ain’t no gun-shy latte-lapping liberal or trigger-happy loony. As a veteran and responsible gun owner with a concealed carry permit, I have to admit that the sheer enormity of violence in the US doesn’t jibe well with black & white, left & right polarized partisanship.

In essence, the debate is divided & dominated by one question – what is the main culprit of the homeland heinous crimes, a deadly gun or an evil mind?

In Utopia, nobody would pack heat and everybody would live in harmony, in Dystopia, everybody would be armed to the teeth and dangerously paranoiac.

Given a choice between disarmament & arms race, the USA today is on a fast track to destination D – distraction or despair, you name it.
Spiking the guns

There’s no doubt that all too often, firearms figure prominently as killing multipliers in endemic shooting sprees. Nevertheless, to single them out as the one & only reason that gnaws at the heart of America would be:

– Morally & intellectually dishonest, absolving society at large, the local community and individuals in particular from any duty & responsibility and shifting the blame from the perpetrators & collaborators to the material evidence to the crime.

– Disingenuous – if guns were intrinsically sinful, the US president, Congress and the Supreme Court wouldn’t kowtow to NRA. Stand united, and they’d show the true colors and call for abolition of the 2nd Amendment and comprehensive weapons ban.

– Cynical – drugs, fast food & soft drink legally and profitably hurt more kids than illegal access to alcohol, tobacco & firearms. Who would dare to infringe on ‘freedom of choice’ and prohibit all sweet & slow killers?

The point is it takes a wicked mind to convert a gun into a murderous accomplice, not the other way around.
Multiple delivery vehicles

The gun manufacturing industry is just a little bro of the omnipotent military industrial complex, but it wields tremendous clout over its customer base in the most politicized business in the US.

Some of its ethically-free members shamelessly exploit & condone the cult of violence, propagated by entertainment industry, as freebie product placement in toys, movies, TV and video training games, including the nefarious “Kindergarten Killer.”
Target audience

So what drives the restless minds to ubiquitous guns, making Americans pony up $12 billion for arms & ammo a year, come hell or high water? Here’s a cursory profiling, but some characters could be tempted by multiple motives:

Frontier spirit: The true believers in the sacrosanct right for any individual to bear arms under the aegis of the 2nd Amendment. They flatly refuse to consider a “states’ rights” view that the purpose of the clause is only to protect the states in their authority to maintain formal, organized militia units which are currently substituted and overrepresented by the Pentagon and the National Guard.

Whether they need a gun or not, it doesn’t matter: for ‘the freedom fighters’, the ‘right’ to cling to firearms is article of faith in preordained exceptionalism, the ultimate totem of Americana, which, even if imported, is more symbolic than Stetson hats and Lucchese boots made in the USA.

‘The freedom fighters’ are the posse comitatus and the stormtroopers of the NRA who are ready to fight tooth & nail against Indians, Brits, aliens, commies, feds and legislators to protect their rights to bear arms any time anywhere, no matter what and the hell with individual responsibility and public safety.

Collecting spirit: This is a rarified breed of aloof connoisseurs which are mostly intelligence & military types, active duty and otherwise. They keep a low profile and enjoy the pleasure of quietly building up their exquisite caches to the envy of their pals at local SWAT teams. They keep their powder dry, but they’re the champs at burning their greenbacks on amassing the formidable arsenals of trophies.

Shooting spirit: They love it, they know it and they do it skillfully, safely & responsibly. As hunters and sports enthusiasts, ‘the weekend warriors’ wastemore ammo than all other categories combined, being the most active fun-loving crowd among gun owners. They don’t bullshit about guns & rights. For them, it’s all about shooting the bull’s eye.

Shopping spirit: Impulsive & skittish customers – prodded by the fear factor, peer pressure and propaganda of violence, these armchair commandos and wannabe Rambos ogle a gun as an adult pacifier with ‘cool’ bragging rights, a tangible insurance against intangible threats, however remote & imaginary.

This nervous Nellie types are suckers for bigger, ‘badder’ guns, which they honestly believe could compensate their total lack of situational awareness and friend or foe selective accuracy under the adrenalin rush of the enemy fire.

They are the driving force of consumerism and the firepower fetishism, oblivious to mundane murder depredations, only to be jolted into panic hoarding after media coverage of another shooting rampage or gun limitations rumor mill.
Possessed & obsessed

The extreme sides of the antisocial personality disorder are lopsidedly represented by the traditional ‘sane’ majority and deinstitutionalized & marginalized ‘insane’ minority:

Long-time active serial killers: career criminals who don’t have suicidal ideations or qualms of conscience. As outlaws and the main customers of the firearms black market, they illegally & easily get anything they want and couldn’t care less about regulations & restrictions for legit gun owners.

The committed killers, isolated & organized, are responsible for the overwhelming majority of homicides – with and without firearms – but haven’t gotten the public attention they deserve. The true heroes of the violence cult who made America exceptional by the notorious homicide rate (which exceeds Japan’s by 1,000 times), they represent & reproduce its core value, the freedom to kill & be killed.

One-time dormant multiple murderers: the miserable misfits aka psychos, while not necessarily ‘born to kill’, have their worst basic instinct awakened & conditioned by omnipresent propaganda of violence & vengeance.

They are the ultimate customers of the cult, who are capable to decode its subliminal message – death shall make thou free – into clarion call to action as the ‘ultimate solution’ to settle the scores with the hostile society.

The liberals have ‘liberated’ maniacs from involuntary commitment, exposing them to the ‘values’ of violence, while the NRA has lobbied to protect their rights to legally obtain & keep firearms, thus channeling their macabre fantasies into the outer world.

These ‘accidental’ murderers, neglected or abused by their families & communities, perpetrate less than 1 per cent of overall homicides, but attract 99 per cent of media attention, prompting publicity vultures of their kind to step out from the dark and copycat their horrific crimes.
Mind Control

To paraphrase the old adage, guns don’t regulate themselves, people do. No doubt, it’s a commendable idea to tighten up gun legislature: eliminate restrictions on tracing info sharing (Tiahrt amendments), close the gaping loopholes in state laws, ban assault rifles & high capacity clips and establish comprehensive national FBI & ATF data clearing house to encompass prospective buyers, owners & guns.

Alas, in the Disunited States of America, it is a daydream that will scarcely ever come true: a state of anarchy in firearms regulation has been created & guarded by a cabal of special interests, led by the NRA, which controls pusillanimous politicians, represents armed extremists & psychos and discredits responsible gun manufacturers & owners.

If Biden & Bloomberg have the mojo to win the undeclared war by Americans against Americans for Americans, they should set the priorities straight: liberate the USA from the bloody NRA!

Are you ready for the American Spring?

Godspeed and Happy New Year!


“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,”

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA

In Washington on Friday, influential National Rifle Association (NRA) broke a week-long silence with a robust defence of its pro-gun position.

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA, criticised politicians who had “exploited” the tragedy in Newtown for “political gain” and took aim at laws designating schools as gun-free zones.

“They tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk,” he said.

Mr LaPierre called for a national database of the mentally ill and blamed violent video games and films for portraying murder as a “way of life”.

He spoke out against the media for demonizing lawful gun owners, and for suggesting a ban on certain types of weapon would be effective.

Congress should authorise funding for armed security in every school in the country, he said, adding that an “extraordinary corps” of trained professionals could be drawn from active and retired police officers, security professionals and firefighters around the country.

Mr LaPierre was interrupted twice by anti-gun protesters carrying banners and declaring that the NRA had “blood on its hands”.

The guns used in the shooting had been legally bought by the gunman’s mother, Nancy Lanza.

The shooting has seen some pro-gun congressmen say the mass shooting has prompted them to change their views on whether guns should be regulated more strictly in the US.

Meanwhile California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has been an advocate for tighter gun laws, said she would introduce new legislation when Congress meets for the first time in the new year.

But there is no bipartisan consensus on the issue, with others backing the NRA line that teachers in schools should be armed in order to better defend students if a shooting occurs.

In recent years, the N.R.A. has aggressively lobbied federal and state governments to dilute or eliminate numerous regulations on gun ownership. And the clearest beneficiary has been the gun industry — sales of firearms and ammunition have grown 5.7 percent a year since 2007, to nearly $12 billion this year, according to IBISWorld, a market research firm. Despite the recession, arms sales have been growing so fast that domestic manufacturers haven’t been able to keep up. Imports of arms have grown 3.6 percent a year in the last five years.
The industry has, in turn, been a big supporter of the N.R.A. It has contributed between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to an N.R.A.-corporate-giving campaign since 2005, according to a report published last year by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit group that advocates greater gun control. The estimate is based on a study of the N.R.A.’s “Ring of Freedom” program and very likely understates the industry’s total financial support for the association, which does not publicly disclose a comprehensive list of its donors and how much they have given.
Officials from the N.R.A. have repeatedly said their main goal is to protect the Second Amendment rights of rank-and-file members who like to hunt or want guns for protection. But that claim is at odds with surveys that show a majority of N.R.A. members and a majority of American gun owners often support restrictions on gun sales and ownership that the N.R.A. has bitterly fought.
For instance, a 2009 poll commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 69 percent of N.R.A. members would support requiring all sellers at gun shows to conduct background checks of prospective buyers, which they do not have to do now and which the N.R.A. has steadfastly argued against. If lawful gun owners are willing to subject themselves to background checks, why is the association resisting? Its position appears only to serve the interest of gun makers and dealers who want to increase sales even if it means having dangerous weapons fall into the hands of criminals and violent individuals.
Businesses and special-interest groups often cloak their profit motives in the garb of constitutional rights — think Big Tobacco and its opposition to restrictions on smoking in public places and bold warnings on cigarette packages. The Supreme Court has made clear that the right to bear arms is not absolute and is subject to regulations and controls. Yet the N.R.A. clings to its groundless arguments that tough regulations violate the Second Amendment. Many of those arguments serve no purpose other than to increase the sales of guns and bullets.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Should veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their own financial affairs be prevented from buying a gun?

The issue, for a time last week, threatened to become the biggest sticking point in a $631 billion defense bill for reshaping a military that is disengaging from a decade of warfare.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sought to amend the bill to stop the Veterans Affairs Department from putting the names of veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their finances into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which prohibits them from buying or owning firearms.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., objected, saying the measure would make it easier for veterans with mental illness to own a gun, endangering themselves and others.

“I love our veterans, I vote for them all the time. They defend us,” Schumer said. “If you are a veteran or not and you have been judged to be mentally infirm, you should not have a gun.”

Currently, the VA appoints fiduciaries, often family members, to manage the pensions and disability benefits of veterans who are declared incompetent. When that happens, the department automatically enters the veteran’s name in the Criminal Background Check System.

A core group of lawmakers led by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has for several years wanted to prohibit the VA from submitting those names to the gun-check registry unless a judge or magistrate deems the veteran to be a danger. This year’s version of the bill has 21 co-sponsors. It passed the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee by voice vote, a tactic generally reserved for noncontroversial legislation. Coburn’s amendment to the defense bill contained comparable language.

“All I am saying is, let them at least have their day in court if you are going to take away a fundamental right given under the Constitution,” Coburn said in the Senate debate last Thursday night.

Congressional aides said Coburn will likely drop his effort to amend the defense bill with his proposal, but that he intends to try again on other bills coming to the Senate floor.

The number of veterans directly affected by the VA’s policy doesn’t appear to very large. Only 185 out of some 127,000 veterans added to the gun-check registry since 1998 have sought to have their names taken off, according to data that the VA shared with lawmakers during a hearing last June.

Still, the legislation over the years has attracted strong support from the National Rifle Association and various advocacy groups for veterans.

“We consider it an abject tragedy that so many of our veterans return home, after risking life and limb to defend our freedom, only to be stripped of their Second Amendment rights because they need help managing their compensation,” Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, wrote last year in an editorial.

The NRA did not respond to queries from the AP about Coburn’s latest effort.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said gun control advocates consider the VA’s current policy reasonable.

“We’re talking about people who have some form of disability to the extent that they’re unable to manage their own affairs,” Gross said. “If you’re deemed unable to handle your own affairs, that’s likely to constitute a high percentage of people who are dangerously mentally ill.”

Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said veterans with a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder but who pose no threat to others are possibly being barred from gun ownership. The current restrictions might even be a disincentive for veterans to seek needed treatment, he said.

“We want to remove these stigmas for mental health treatment. It’s a combat injury,” Tarantino said. “They wouldn’t be doing this if you were missing your right hand, so they shouldn’t be doing it if you’re seeking treatment for post-traumatic-stress-disorder or traumatic brain injury.”

VA officials have told lawmakers they believe veterans deemed incompetent already have adequate protections.

For example, they said, veterans can appeal the finding of incompetency based on new evidence. And even if the VA maintains a veteran is incompetent, he can petition the agency to have his firearm rights restored on the basis of not posing a threat to public safety.


Jul 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Last week, a federal judge permanently blocked Florida from enforcing a law that banned doctors from discussing gun ownership with their patients. The law, the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, signed last year by Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), prohibited “inquiries regarding firearm ownership or possession…by licensed health care practitioners” and “discrimination…based solely on upon a patient’s firearm ownership or possession.”

Because the law’s exceptions, which allow inquiries about guns if a doctor believes in “good faith” that it is relevant to a patient’s care or safety, fail to provide standards for physicians to follow, the law violates the First Amendment rights of doctors:

In her ruling, Cooke clearly sided with the physicians, saying evidence showed that physicians began “self-censoring” because of the “chilling” effect of the legislation.

“What is curious about this law — and what makes it different from so many other laws involving practitioners’ speech — is that it aims to restrict a practitioner’s ability to provide truthful, non-misleading information to a patient, whether relevant or not at the time of the consult with the patient,” Cooke wrote, citing the benefit of such “preventive medicine.” […]

Cooke, the judge, said the legislation was based on anecdotal information and unfounded conjecture. Her decision was praised by the groups of plaintiffs, which included the Florida Pediatric Society and Florida Academy of Family Physicians.

Not only did the NRA-backed Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act violate doctors’ First Amendment rights, it interfered with routine, meaningful discussion between a doctor and a patient. Questions concerning safety and the home environment are a key part of preventative medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that guns constitute a public health issue and that doctors have a duty to ask about ownership.

Out of the 65 children shot in the U.S. every day, eight are killed. And of the one-third of homes with children that have firearms in them, 40 percent store them unlocked. Guns unquestionably affect the health of American children, just as “the presence of open containers of bleach, swimming pools, balloons, and toilet locks” do.

–Alex Brown

  Gold Star Open Carry State
  Open Carry Friendly State
  Licensed Open Carry State
  Non Permissive Open Carry State
  Rural Open Carry State

In the United States, open carry is shorthand terminology for “openly carrying a firearm in public“, as distinguished from concealed carry, where firearms cannot be seen by the casual observer.

The practice of open carry, where gun owners openly carry firearms while they go about their daily business, has seen an increase in the U.S. in recent years.[1][2] This has been marked by a number of organized events intended to increase the visibility of open carry and public awareness about the practice.[3]

Proponents of open carry point to history and statistics, noting that criminals usually conceal their weapons: The 2006 FBI study “Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers” by Anthony Pinizzotto revealed that criminals carefully conceal their firearms, and they eschew the use of holsters.[4] Encouraged by groups like OpenCarry.org, GeorgiaCarry.org and some participants of the Free State Project, open carry has seen a revival in recent years,[5][6][7] but it is not yet clear if this represents just a short-term trend.[8][9]

The gun rights community has been mixed in its response. Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA have been cautious in expressing support,[10] while special-interest groups such as the aforementioned OpenCarry.org and GeorgiaCarry.org, state-level groups such as the Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA), and certain national groups such as the Gun Owners of America (GOA) have been more outspoken in favor of the practice.

Open carry is strongly opposed by gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

In the United States, the laws concerning open carry vary by state and sometimes by municipality.

Definitions

Open carry
The act of publicly carrying a loaded firearm on one’s person in plain sight.
Plain sight
Broadly defined as not being hidden from common observation; varies somewhat from state to state.
Preemption
In the context of open carry: the act of a state legislature passing laws which limit or eliminate the ability of local governments to regulate the possession or carrying of firearms.
Prohibited persons
People prohibited by law from carrying a firearm. Typical examples are felons, those convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence, those found to be addicted to alcohol or drugs, and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

Today in the United States, the laws vary from state to state regarding open carry of firearms. The categories are defined as follows:

Permissive open carry states
A state has passed full preemption of all firearms laws. They permit open carry to all non-prohibited citizens without permit or license. Open carry is lawful on foot and in a motor vehicle. Shown on the map to the right as “Gold Star” states; the term carries a pro-gun bias, as gun-control advocacy groups like the Brady Center generally give these states very low “scores” on their own ratings systems.
Licensed open carry states
A state has passed full preemption of all firearms laws. They permit open carry of a handgun to all non-prohibited citizens once they have been issued a permit or license. Open carry of a handgun is lawful on foot and in a motor vehicle.
Anomalous open carry states
In these states, open carry of a handgun is generally lawful, but the state may lack preemption or there may be other significant restrictions. Shown in the map legend as “Open Carry Friendly” states; the term is questionable as the limitations and/or lack of pre-emption means that certain areas of these states are, in their judicial system and law enforcement societies, not very “friendly” towards the practice.
Non-permissive open carry states
In these states, open carry of a handgun is not lawful, or is only lawful under such a limited set of circumstances that public carry is prohibited. Such limited circumstances may include when hunting, or while traveling to/from hunting locations, while on property controlled by the person carrying, or for lawful self-defense.

Open carry has never been ruled out as a right under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by any court. In the majority opinion in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), Justice Antonin Scalia wrote concerning the entirety of the elements of the Second Amendment; “We find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” However, Scalia continued, “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”[14]

Forty-three states’ constitutions recognize and secure the right to keep and bear arms in some form, and none of those prohibit the open carrying of firearms. Five state constitutions provide that the state legislature may regulate the manner of carrying or bearing arms, and advocates argue that none rule out open carry specifically. Nine states’ constitutions indicate that the concealed carrying of firearms may be regulated and/or prohibited by the state legislature. Open carry advocates argue that, by exclusion, open carrying of arms may not be legislatively controlled in these states. But this is not settled law.[citation needed]

Section 1.7 [15] of Kentucky’s state constitution only empowers the state to enact laws prohibiting “concealed carry”.

Concealed carry, or CCW (carrying a concealed weapon), refers to the practice of carrying a handgun or other weapon in public in a concealed manner, either on one’s person or in proximity.

While there is no federal law specifically addressing the issuance of concealed carry permits, 49 states have passed laws allowing citizens to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit from local government and/or law enforcement.[1] Illinois is the only state without such a provision. The states give different terms for licenses or permits to carry a concealed firearm, such as a Concealed Handgun License/Permit (CHL/CHP), Concealed (Defensive/Deadly) Weapon Permit/License (CDWL/CWP/CWL), Concealed Carry Permit/License (CCP/CCL), License To Carry (Firearms) (LTC/LTCF), Carry of Concealed Deadly Weapon license (CCDW), Concealed Pistol License (CPL), etc. Thirteen states use a single permit to regulate the practices of both concealed and open carry of a handgun.
Some states publish statistics indicating how many residents hold permits to carry concealed weapons, and their demographics. For example, Florida has issued 2,031,106 licenses since adopting its law in 1987, and had 843,463 licensed permit holders as of July 31, 2011.[2] Reported permit holders are predominantly male.[3] Some states have reported the number of permit holders increasing over time.[4]

The number of permit revocations is typically small.


by Joshua Vogel on September 10, 2011

I’m a liberal (or progressive, if you prefer the term). I’ve always had mixed feelings about gun ownership. As a child, I enjoyed playing with cap guns, and a macho, caveman corner of my personality has always liked the idea of wielding a weapon. But, the rational pragmatist in me has never been able to actually justify owning a gun.

Every so often I’ll get the urge to buy a gun for defense purposes. But when I start to reflect on it, I realize that I can’t really envision a situation where I’d need to use it. I mean, sure- I can picture a home break-in, where I’d run to the closet and open my gun safe and pull out a hand gun… but such scenarios feel like the boyhood daydreams of fighting a terrorist (and/or ninja) takeover of my high school. Even if it were to happen, it seems like something that would always play out better in my head than it would in real life.

I’m not a paranoid person. I enjoy reading the masturbatory rants of the folks who contribute to forums about the upcoming collapse of society, or post survivalist or “prepper” videos on youtube, or fret about “Peak Oil”. But I take all these things with more than a grain of salt. For the most part they are unsupported (or poorly supported) fears mixed with outright delusions.

But a couple things happened this week that did finally tip me over the edge and seriously consider a gun purchase: I watched the Republican Presidential Debates, and I heard Obama’s Address to Congress.

As someone who was recently unemployed for well over a year, and who saw his father get laid off during the tail end of that period, I now know firsthand the deep despair that fills someone who can’t get a foothold in this economy. If I hadn’t had the support of my family and friends, I may well have ended up homeless (and that’s within months of receiving a law degree).

Multiply that anxiety by the 14 million unemployed folks in this country, and the countless underemployed, and it’s not hard to see that there are a lot of scared and angry people out there.

Other countries– large, stable countries– have begun to see riots. Without an immediate reversal in course, it is only a matter of time before we see riots in the U.S. –which brings me back to the debates, and the President’s speech.

All of the front-running Republicans have decided that the path to economic recovery is a return to the laissez faire system of government– the same philosophy that was in place when America’s working class was at its weakest, poorest, and most abused. This isn’t a big surprise. As other, well respected, authors have noted, almost all modern Republican policies can be traced back to a singular goal: the creation of cheap labor. That’s all well and good, unless you are the labor. And, in case you didn’t know: 99% of us are the labor.

The President’s speech the next day didn’t make me feel any better. Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a terrific speech- or at least it would have been if he had given it two years ago when it might have done some good. But it’s too late in the game for half-measures. Even if the President got everything that he asked for (he won’t), it still wouldn’t make a significant dent in the unemployment crisis.

So I spent the next few days thinking about the state of nation, and imaging what America is going to look like in a few years. If Obama stays in power without a liberal Congress, things will be much the same for years to come: political gridlock and slowly worsening conditions for the middle class.

If the Republicans take back the executive branch, then political gridlock is the best we can hope for. If they’re able to get traction with their radical fiscal policies, they’ll keep feeding our money to corporations, banks and the ultra-wealthy. The middle class will shrink. More of us will fall into poverty, and with fewer people buying any products, even the large corporations will start to buckle and fail.

With more unemployment, more disparity between the haves and have-nots, and no clear path to prosperity in sight, I can no longer pretend that the U.S. is the stable and secure place I always knew it to be.

It is no longer unreasonable to think that things may go from bad to much, much worse. I’m not saying that an economic collapse will happen, or even that it it is likely to happen. Nor can I begin to predict the severity or duration of any crash that might occur. But in the current political climate it feels foolhardy to ignore the possibility that something very bad is on the horizon.

If you’re skeptically minded, you may be thinking that I’m being alarmist or that my anxiety is premature. You’re right of course. But there’s logic behind my madness. History is rife with examples giant social upheavals that happen with very little notice. Most recently, Egypt taught us that lesson anew. That country went from protests to revolution in a span of days.

I’m not saying that the U.S. is poised for such a revolution, of course- but I am saying that things could turn ugly here, very quickly. With the proper trigger, massive protests could form. If handled poorly, those protests could easily turn to riots. If it can happen in the U.K., it can certainly happen here. And how big could those riots be? And how long might they last? And by the time we’ve figured out the answers to those questions, will it be too late to prepare?

And so, for the first time in my life, I found myself in a gun shop, talking to the proprietor about a good beginner’s firearm for someone who is interested in home defense.

If you’ve never been to a large gun shop (and I’m sure many progressives have not), I strongly recommend that you step inside. For my part, I found the place unsettling. For the first time in my life I held a working firearm, but I didn’t feel any safer– quite the contrary, as a matter of fact.

The thing about being a liberal in a gun shop is that you are privy to a lot of conversations that you wouldn’t otherwise hear. It was rather like walking into a Tea Party convention.

The shop I went to was near my home in North Carolina. When the gruff man behind the counter found out that I was from Massachusetts, he openly mocked it for being a “socialist” state. Moments later, I overheard a woman loudly ranting about how Obama’s job plan was “destroying the country” with more spending. She was interested in buying some gold coins for when the economy collapsed.

To be fair, most folks were just there to talk about guns, and play with guns, and buy new gadgets to affix to their guns. Their comfort and knowledge of firearms made me feel nervous. I was in store full of 50+ people who didn’t feel at all shy about expressing their distain for liberals and “socialists”. All of them, I’m convinced, would have had no trouble gunning me down in an honest firefight.

I went into that store to buy a gun to protect my family in the event of a riot. I walked out feeling very nervous that if their actually was major social upheaval in the United States, a lot of angry conservatives would have no problem forming an organized militia, and they wouldn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the scores of unarmed “socialist” progressives out there.

Now I find myself wishing that liberals would flock to gun shops en masse so that they can see the world I caught a glimpse of, and so that they could interact with the same folks I did, and maybe engage in some lively political discussion. These gun shops are factories for unchecked Tea-Party-style nonsense. It means that a lot of angry and armed folks are spending their days amplifying each other’s misunderstanding and distrust of the rest of us.

And also- (and I realize that this part is just pure paranoia)– I’d like to know that if things ever really degrade, there would be a whole lot of armed liberals out there to keep the armed conservatives in check. Or at the very least, I’d like enough of them to lay down sufficient cover fire for me while I run from Whole Foods back to my Prius.


Why Americans now carry handguns in so many public places, from parks to college campuses. Is it making the country safer or more dangerous?

By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer / March 11, 2012

Garner, N.C.

Leaning against a scrub pine as preschoolers scurry about at his feet, Shane Gazda, father of 3-year-old twins, recalls a conundrum he faced earlier that morning: whether to take his Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun to a Groundhog Day celebration in this town’s White Deer Park.

After all, what was once against the law in North Carolina – carrying a concealed gun in a town park, square, or greenway – is now, as of Dec. 1, 2011, very much allowed. To Mr. Gazda, who likes to shoot targets in his backyard, an event as innocent as paying homage to a rodent could turn dangerous if the wrong person shows up.

“Part of it is being ready for cataclysm every day,” says Gazda, a hospital maintenance engineer. “And to be honest, I started carrying precisely to protect not just myself, but my family, and anyone around me who needs help.”

Gun laws: How much do you know?

In the end, Gazda left the gun at home. But his internal debate is emblematic of one a growing number of Americans are having almost daily. Thirty years after a powerful gun-control movement swept the country, Americans are embracing the idea of owning and carrying firearms with a zeal rarely seen since the days of muskets and militias.

A combination of favorable court rulings, grass-roots activism, traditional fears of crime, and modern anxieties about government has led to what may be a tipping point on an issue that just a few years ago was one of America’s most contentious. Gun rights have now expanded to the point where the fundamental question seems not to be “should we be able to carry guns,” but instead is “where can’t we carry them?

The answer: not very many places.

The new North Carolina statute, in fact, is one of hundreds of new gun-friendly laws enacted by states and localities in the past few years alone. Mississippi lawmakers, for instance, recently voted to allow gun owners who take an extra safety class to carry hidden weapons on college campuses and in courthouses. Ohio has granted people with permits the right to bring concealed weapons into restaurants, bars, and sports arenas. A 2010 Indiana law stipulates that private business owners let employees keep guns in their cars when parked on company property. And New Hampshire, along with several other states, has removed restrictions on bearing arms in the ultimate politically symbolic place – the State House.

In 2009, three times as many pro-gun laws were passed in the United States as antigun measures – a trend that experts say has only accelerated since then. Fully 40 states now mandate that anyone who asks for a concealed-carry permit and meets the qualifications must be issued one. One result: The number of concealed-weapon license holders in the US has gone from a few hundred thousand 10 years ago to more than 6 million today. In some parts of Tennessee, 1 out of every 11 people on the street is either carrying a weapon or has a license to do so.

“It’s a huge sea change, and one lesson to take out of all of this is that it’s amazing how fast attitudes on constitutional issues can change,” says Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and the author of “An Army of Davids.” “The thinking has turned in a way that many thought to be impossible only 15 years ago.”

By CAMERON MCWHIRTER and KARISHMA MEHROTRA
June 29, 2014 9:11 p.m. ET

ATLANTA—Bars, houses of worship, and other public establishments are wrestling with what to do about a new law in Georgia that starting on Tuesday dramatically will expand gun-permit holders’ right to carry weapons where people congregate.

The law allows licensed gun owners to bring weapons to bars and houses of worship, unless forbidden by proprietors. Legally-owned guns also are allowed in unrestricted areas of airports and government buildings, and may be carried at schools and in colleges if permitted by officials.

Several other states allow guns in bars or churches, but Georgia’s “Safe Carry Protection Act,” which passed the state legislature overwhelmingly earlier this year, is unusual in that it expanded gun rights in multiple places with one omnibus law.


This is horrifying: According to multiple news outlets, a Target employee found a loaded handgun in the toy aisle of a store in South Carolina.

When you’re shopping at Target, you shouldn’t have to worry about someone parading around with a semiautomatic rifle, or whether your kid is going to find a loaded handgun while looking at toys.

More than 115,000 people have already signed the petition to Target asking for gun sense policies to protect customers and employees from gun violence — and over the next two days volunteers are going to be delivering these petitions all across the country.

Gun extremists armed with semiautomatic rifles have walked into Target locations around the country, weapons out and loaded, making sure customers saw their guns.
It’s often legal to do this, because many states have weak laws that allow people to openly carry around loaded weapons without any permits, training, or background checks. That means it’s up to companies themselves to protect their customers when the law won’t. Yet according to the Wall Street Journal, Target doesn’t have any policies to stop people from carrying weapons in its stores:

Target, which boasts on its website that between 80% and 90% of its customers are women, has no restrictions on customers carrying guns in its stores.

Chipotle, Starbucks, Chili’s, Sonic Drive-In, and Jack in the Box have already responded to petitions from moms and other gun sense supporters asking the stores not to allow guns. Now it’s up to Target to protect families who shop in its stores..

Sign the petition


Concealed weapon law tossed by fed appeals court

Published February 13, 2014Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – A divided federal appeals court on Thursday struck down California’s concealed weapons rules, saying they violate the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

By a 2-1 vote, the three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said California was wrong to require applicants to show good cause to receive a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

“The right to bear arms includes the right to carry an operable firearm outside the home for the lawful purpose of self-defense,” Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain wrote for the majority.


September 24, 2013

It has been 577 days since George Zimmerman shot and killed our son Travyon. And it’s been 74 days since a jury set George Zimmerman free, in part because of broken “Stand Your Ground” laws that protect killers like Zimmerman — killers who first instigate conflicts and then claim self-defense.
In July, we started a petition on Change.org calling for “Stand Your Ground” laws to be reviewed and amended nationwide, but we need to turn up the pressure in order to change the same law in Texas.
Can you start your own petition calling on Governor Perry and the Texas legislature to review and amend Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” law so that people like George Zimmerman can’t kill with impunity?
Reviewing and amending separate laws in 22 different states isn’t going to be easy — we can’t do it on our own. That’s why we’re asking for your help in Texas, because we know that Governor Perry and your state legislature will be most heavily influenced by the voices of constituents like you.
We already know that there’s a major groundswell of people who want to see these laws amended, because more than 400,000 people have signed our petition. Now it’s time to take that energy and harness it, state by state, to make sure no one can stalk, chase, and kill an unarmed child and get away with it.
Not in Texas. Not in Florida. Not anywhere in America.
Our grief is overwhelming, but we are fortified by our fight to honor Trayvon’s memory by fixing these broken laws. Starting a petition only takes a few minutes. Yours could be the voice that makes sure no child in Texas ever has to experience what happened to our son.
Click here to start your own petition calling on Governor Perry and the Texas legislature to review and amend Texas’ “Stand Your Ground” laws.
Thank you for standing with us, and with Trayvon.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton


Friend —

My son, Daniel, was a smart, quiet kid.

He’d just become a straight-A student, and he was overcoming his shyness as a new member of the debate team.

On April 20th, 1999, my beautiful and bright 15-year-old son was killed by two teenagers with guns in the library of Columbine High School — one of 12 innocent kids who lost their lives for no reason at all.

It’s been 14 years since that horrible day — 14 years of fighting so no family has to grieve like ours did.

These tragedies keep happening, and so far, Congress has failed to take common-sense action to stop them — even though nine in 10 Americans have agreed that it’s time to act by expanding background checks to close the loopholes that put guns in the hands of dangerous people.

This Wednesday, OFA and allied organizations are standing up for a national Day of Action to ask members of Congress: What will it take to finally act to prevent gun violence?

I hope you’ll join in — say you’ll do one thing this week to show Congress you want action to prevent gun violence.

The last questions you ever want to hear as a parent are: “What was your child wearing, and do you have any dental records?”

That’s what the police asked me the evening of the shooting at Columbine High, as they tried to establish who had been killed.

It was the most hopeless I’d ever felt.

Since Daniel’s death, I’ve found a way to honor him: by trying to prevent other families from feeling this pain. I’ve advocated locally and nationally for smarter gun laws — even helping achieve a statewide ballot victory here in Colorado.

In December, when I heard about the shooting in Newtown, I sat in my office and broke down. I was watching another community torn apart by guns — more parents grieving, more kids who would never see graduation, or a wedding, or a family of their own.

And in the wake of another tragedy, nine in 10 Americans agreed that it was time to act — expand background checks to close the loopholes that put guns in the hands of dangerous people.

But Congress disappointed us, putting politics above the safety of our kids.

That’s why this week, we’re asking: How many parents will have to go through what I did before we say “enough”?

You should be a part of this, too. Tell Congress you’re going to keep asking until they act:

http://my.barackobama.com/Do-One-Thing-for-Gun-Violence-Prevention

Thank you,

Tom

Tom Mauser
Littleton, Colorado


January 17, 2013

On Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the sweeping gun measure, the nation’s toughest. It includes a ban on the possession of high-capacity magazines.

The
 statute currently written does NOT exempt law enforcement officers. The NYPD, the State Police and virtually every law enforcement agency in the state carry 9-millimeter guns, which have a 15-round capacity.

Unless an exemption is added by the time the law takes effect in March, police would technically be in violation of the new gun measure. A spokesman for the Governor’s office called us to say, “We are still working out some details of the law and the exemption will be included.”


Published: 31 December, 2012, 18:57

There’s no country in the world where you can’t smoke a cigar in a bar, but you may sip bourbon with your Colt Python – only in America!

While the Pentagon assiduously burns billions of dollars to export the cult of violence abroad, in the meantime, back at the domestic front, the Connecticut carnage has resurrected the moribund discussion about the perennial issue: the national suicidal pastime which annually devours 30,000 people, including 2,800 kids.

Even US casualties in Afghanistan – 309 KIA in 2012 – is no match to 414 murders in New York City the same year, celebrated as the record-lowest level in over four decades, down from the apex of 2,000 annual homicides, which accidentally coincides with the overall Operation Enduring Freedom body-count since the beginning of the invasion.

I ain’t no gun-shy latte-lapping liberal or trigger-happy loony. As a veteran and responsible gun owner with a concealed carry permit, I have to admit that the sheer enormity of violence in the US doesn’t jibe well with black & white, left & right polarized partisanship.

In essence, the debate is divided & dominated by one question – what is the main culprit of the homeland heinous crimes, a deadly gun or an evil mind?

In Utopia, nobody would pack heat and everybody would live in harmony, in Dystopia, everybody would be armed to the teeth and dangerously paranoiac.

Given a choice between disarmament & arms race, the USA today is on a fast track to destination D – distraction or despair, you name it.
Spiking the guns

There’s no doubt that all too often, firearms figure prominently as killing multipliers in endemic shooting sprees. Nevertheless, to single them out as the one & only reason that gnaws at the heart of America would be:

– Morally & intellectually dishonest, absolving society at large, the local community and individuals in particular from any duty & responsibility and shifting the blame from the perpetrators & collaborators to the material evidence to the crime.

– Disingenuous – if guns were intrinsically sinful, the US president, Congress and the Supreme Court wouldn’t kowtow to NRA. Stand united, and they’d show the true colors and call for abolition of the 2nd Amendment and comprehensive weapons ban.

– Cynical – drugs, fast food & soft drink legally and profitably hurt more kids than illegal access to alcohol, tobacco & firearms. Who would dare to infringe on ‘freedom of choice’ and prohibit all sweet & slow killers?

The point is it takes a wicked mind to convert a gun into a murderous accomplice, not the other way around.
Multiple delivery vehicles

The gun manufacturing industry is just a little bro of the omnipotent military industrial complex, but it wields tremendous clout over its customer base in the most politicized business in the US.

Some of its ethically-free members shamelessly exploit & condone the cult of violence, propagated by entertainment industry, as freebie product placement in toys, movies, TV and video training games, including the nefarious “Kindergarten Killer.”
Target audience

So what drives the restless minds to ubiquitous guns, making Americans pony up $12 billion for arms & ammo a year, come hell or high water? Here’s a cursory profiling, but some characters could be tempted by multiple motives:

Frontier spirit: The true believers in the sacrosanct right for any individual to bear arms under the aegis of the 2nd Amendment. They flatly refuse to consider a “states’ rights” view that the purpose of the clause is only to protect the states in their authority to maintain formal, organized militia units which are currently substituted and overrepresented by the Pentagon and the National Guard.

Whether they need a gun or not, it doesn’t matter: for ‘the freedom fighters’, the ‘right’ to cling to firearms is article of faith in preordained exceptionalism, the ultimate totem of Americana, which, even if imported, is more symbolic than Stetson hats and Lucchese boots made in the USA.

‘The freedom fighters’ are the posse comitatus and the stormtroopers of the NRA who are ready to fight tooth & nail against Indians, Brits, aliens, commies, feds and legislators to protect their rights to bear arms any time anywhere, no matter what and the hell with individual responsibility and public safety.

Collecting spirit: This is a rarified breed of aloof connoisseurs which are mostly intelligence & military types, active duty and otherwise. They keep a low profile and enjoy the pleasure of quietly building up their exquisite caches to the envy of their pals at local SWAT teams. They keep their powder dry, but they’re the champs at burning their greenbacks on amassing the formidable arsenals of trophies.

Shooting spirit: They love it, they know it and they do it skillfully, safely & responsibly. As hunters and sports enthusiasts, ‘the weekend warriors’ wastemore ammo than all other categories combined, being the most active fun-loving crowd among gun owners. They don’t bullshit about guns & rights. For them, it’s all about shooting the bull’s eye.

Shopping spirit: Impulsive & skittish customers – prodded by the fear factor, peer pressure and propaganda of violence, these armchair commandos and wannabe Rambos ogle a gun as an adult pacifier with ‘cool’ bragging rights, a tangible insurance against intangible threats, however remote & imaginary.

This nervous Nellie types are suckers for bigger, ‘badder’ guns, which they honestly believe could compensate their total lack of situational awareness and friend or foe selective accuracy under the adrenalin rush of the enemy fire.

They are the driving force of consumerism and the firepower fetishism, oblivious to mundane murder depredations, only to be jolted into panic hoarding after media coverage of another shooting rampage or gun limitations rumor mill.
Possessed & obsessed

The extreme sides of the antisocial personality disorder are lopsidedly represented by the traditional ‘sane’ majority and deinstitutionalized & marginalized ‘insane’ minority:

Long-time active serial killers: career criminals who don’t have suicidal ideations or qualms of conscience. As outlaws and the main customers of the firearms black market, they illegally & easily get anything they want and couldn’t care less about regulations & restrictions for legit gun owners.

The committed killers, isolated & organized, are responsible for the overwhelming majority of homicides – with and without firearms – but haven’t gotten the public attention they deserve. The true heroes of the violence cult who made America exceptional by the notorious homicide rate (which exceeds Japan’s by 1,000 times), they represent & reproduce its core value, the freedom to kill & be killed.

One-time dormant multiple murderers: the miserable misfits aka psychos, while not necessarily ‘born to kill’, have their worst basic instinct awakened & conditioned by omnipresent propaganda of violence & vengeance.

They are the ultimate customers of the cult, who are capable to decode its subliminal message – death shall make thou free – into clarion call to action as the ‘ultimate solution’ to settle the scores with the hostile society.

The liberals have ‘liberated’ maniacs from involuntary commitment, exposing them to the ‘values’ of violence, while the NRA has lobbied to protect their rights to legally obtain & keep firearms, thus channeling their macabre fantasies into the outer world.

These ‘accidental’ murderers, neglected or abused by their families & communities, perpetrate less than 1 per cent of overall homicides, but attract 99 per cent of media attention, prompting publicity vultures of their kind to step out from the dark and copycat their horrific crimes.
Mind Control

To paraphrase the old adage, guns don’t regulate themselves, people do. No doubt, it’s a commendable idea to tighten up gun legislature: eliminate restrictions on tracing info sharing (Tiahrt amendments), close the gaping loopholes in state laws, ban assault rifles & high capacity clips and establish comprehensive national FBI & ATF data clearing house to encompass prospective buyers, owners & guns.

Alas, in the Disunited States of America, it is a daydream that will scarcely ever come true: a state of anarchy in firearms regulation has been created & guarded by a cabal of special interests, led by the NRA, which controls pusillanimous politicians, represents armed extremists & psychos and discredits responsible gun manufacturers & owners.

If Biden & Bloomberg have the mojo to win the undeclared war by Americans against Americans for Americans, they should set the priorities straight: liberate the USA from the bloody NRA!

Are you ready for the American Spring?

Godspeed and Happy New Year!


“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,”

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA

In Washington on Friday, influential National Rifle Association (NRA) broke a week-long silence with a robust defence of its pro-gun position.

Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the NRA, criticised politicians who had “exploited” the tragedy in Newtown for “political gain” and took aim at laws designating schools as gun-free zones.

“They tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk,” he said.

Mr LaPierre called for a national database of the mentally ill and blamed violent video games and films for portraying murder as a “way of life”.

He spoke out against the media for demonizing lawful gun owners, and for suggesting a ban on certain types of weapon would be effective.

Congress should authorise funding for armed security in every school in the country, he said, adding that an “extraordinary corps” of trained professionals could be drawn from active and retired police officers, security professionals and firefighters around the country.

Mr LaPierre was interrupted twice by anti-gun protesters carrying banners and declaring that the NRA had “blood on its hands”.

The guns used in the shooting had been legally bought by the gunman’s mother, Nancy Lanza.

The shooting has seen some pro-gun congressmen say the mass shooting has prompted them to change their views on whether guns should be regulated more strictly in the US.

Meanwhile California Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has been an advocate for tighter gun laws, said she would introduce new legislation when Congress meets for the first time in the new year.

But there is no bipartisan consensus on the issue, with others backing the NRA line that teachers in schools should be armed in order to better defend students if a shooting occurs.

In recent years, the N.R.A. has aggressively lobbied federal and state governments to dilute or eliminate numerous regulations on gun ownership. And the clearest beneficiary has been the gun industry — sales of firearms and ammunition have grown 5.7 percent a year since 2007, to nearly $12 billion this year, according to IBISWorld, a market research firm. Despite the recession, arms sales have been growing so fast that domestic manufacturers haven’t been able to keep up. Imports of arms have grown 3.6 percent a year in the last five years.
The industry has, in turn, been a big supporter of the N.R.A. It has contributed between $14.7 million and $38.9 million to an N.R.A.-corporate-giving campaign since 2005, according to a report published last year by the Violence Policy Center, a nonprofit group that advocates greater gun control. The estimate is based on a study of the N.R.A.’s “Ring of Freedom” program and very likely understates the industry’s total financial support for the association, which does not publicly disclose a comprehensive list of its donors and how much they have given.
Officials from the N.R.A. have repeatedly said their main goal is to protect the Second Amendment rights of rank-and-file members who like to hunt or want guns for protection. But that claim is at odds with surveys that show a majority of N.R.A. members and a majority of American gun owners often support restrictions on gun sales and ownership that the N.R.A. has bitterly fought.
For instance, a 2009 poll commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that 69 percent of N.R.A. members would support requiring all sellers at gun shows to conduct background checks of prospective buyers, which they do not have to do now and which the N.R.A. has steadfastly argued against. If lawful gun owners are willing to subject themselves to background checks, why is the association resisting? Its position appears only to serve the interest of gun makers and dealers who want to increase sales even if it means having dangerous weapons fall into the hands of criminals and violent individuals.
Businesses and special-interest groups often cloak their profit motives in the garb of constitutional rights — think Big Tobacco and its opposition to restrictions on smoking in public places and bold warnings on cigarette packages. The Supreme Court has made clear that the right to bear arms is not absolute and is subject to regulations and controls. Yet the N.R.A. clings to its groundless arguments that tough regulations violate the Second Amendment. Many of those arguments serve no purpose other than to increase the sales of guns and bullets.


WASHINGTON (AP) — Should veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their own financial affairs be prevented from buying a gun?

The issue, for a time last week, threatened to become the biggest sticking point in a $631 billion defense bill for reshaping a military that is disengaging from a decade of warfare.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., sought to amend the bill to stop the Veterans Affairs Department from putting the names of veterans deemed too mentally incompetent to handle their finances into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which prohibits them from buying or owning firearms.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., objected, saying the measure would make it easier for veterans with mental illness to own a gun, endangering themselves and others.

“I love our veterans, I vote for them all the time. They defend us,” Schumer said. “If you are a veteran or not and you have been judged to be mentally infirm, you should not have a gun.”

Currently, the VA appoints fiduciaries, often family members, to manage the pensions and disability benefits of veterans who are declared incompetent. When that happens, the department automatically enters the veteran’s name in the Criminal Background Check System.

A core group of lawmakers led by Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., has for several years wanted to prohibit the VA from submitting those names to the gun-check registry unless a judge or magistrate deems the veteran to be a danger. This year’s version of the bill has 21 co-sponsors. It passed the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee by voice vote, a tactic generally reserved for noncontroversial legislation. Coburn’s amendment to the defense bill contained comparable language.

“All I am saying is, let them at least have their day in court if you are going to take away a fundamental right given under the Constitution,” Coburn said in the Senate debate last Thursday night.

Congressional aides said Coburn will likely drop his effort to amend the defense bill with his proposal, but that he intends to try again on other bills coming to the Senate floor.

The number of veterans directly affected by the VA’s policy doesn’t appear to very large. Only 185 out of some 127,000 veterans added to the gun-check registry since 1998 have sought to have their names taken off, according to data that the VA shared with lawmakers during a hearing last June.

Still, the legislation over the years has attracted strong support from the National Rifle Association and various advocacy groups for veterans.

“We consider it an abject tragedy that so many of our veterans return home, after risking life and limb to defend our freedom, only to be stripped of their Second Amendment rights because they need help managing their compensation,” Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, wrote last year in an editorial.

The NRA did not respond to queries from the AP about Coburn’s latest effort.

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said gun control advocates consider the VA’s current policy reasonable.

“We’re talking about people who have some form of disability to the extent that they’re unable to manage their own affairs,” Gross said. “If you’re deemed unable to handle your own affairs, that’s likely to constitute a high percentage of people who are dangerously mentally ill.”

Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said veterans with a traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder but who pose no threat to others are possibly being barred from gun ownership. The current restrictions might even be a disincentive for veterans to seek needed treatment, he said.

“We want to remove these stigmas for mental health treatment. It’s a combat injury,” Tarantino said. “They wouldn’t be doing this if you were missing your right hand, so they shouldn’t be doing it if you’re seeking treatment for post-traumatic-stress-disorder or traumatic brain injury.”

VA officials have told lawmakers they believe veterans deemed incompetent already have adequate protections.

For example, they said, veterans can appeal the finding of incompetency based on new evidence. And even if the VA maintains a veteran is incompetent, he can petition the agency to have his firearm rights restored on the basis of not posing a threat to public safety.


Jul 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Last week, a federal judge permanently blocked Florida from enforcing a law that banned doctors from discussing gun ownership with their patients. The law, the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, signed last year by Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL), prohibited “inquiries regarding firearm ownership or possession…by licensed health care practitioners” and “discrimination…based solely on upon a patient’s firearm ownership or possession.”

Because the law’s exceptions, which allow inquiries about guns if a doctor believes in “good faith” that it is relevant to a patient’s care or safety, fail to provide standards for physicians to follow, the law violates the First Amendment rights of doctors:

In her ruling, Cooke clearly sided with the physicians, saying evidence showed that physicians began “self-censoring” because of the “chilling” effect of the legislation.

“What is curious about this law — and what makes it different from so many other laws involving practitioners’ speech — is that it aims to restrict a practitioner’s ability to provide truthful, non-misleading information to a patient, whether relevant or not at the time of the consult with the patient,” Cooke wrote, citing the benefit of such “preventive medicine.” […]

Cooke, the judge, said the legislation was based on anecdotal information and unfounded conjecture. Her decision was praised by the groups of plaintiffs, which included the Florida Pediatric Society and Florida Academy of Family Physicians.

Not only did the NRA-backed Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act violate doctors’ First Amendment rights, it interfered with routine, meaningful discussion between a doctor and a patient. Questions concerning safety and the home environment are a key part of preventative medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics believes that guns constitute a public health issue and that doctors have a duty to ask about ownership.

Out of the 65 children shot in the U.S. every day, eight are killed. And of the one-third of homes with children that have firearms in them, 40 percent store them unlocked. Guns unquestionably affect the health of American children, just as “the presence of open containers of bleach, swimming pools, balloons, and toilet locks” do.

–Alex Brown

  Gold Star Open Carry State
  Open Carry Friendly State
  Licensed Open Carry State
  Non Permissive Open Carry State
  Rural Open Carry State

In the United States, open carry is shorthand terminology for “openly carrying a firearm in public“, as distinguished from concealed carry, where firearms cannot be seen by the casual observer.

The practice of open carry, where gun owners openly carry firearms while they go about their daily business, has seen an increase in the U.S. in recent years.[1][2] This has been marked by a number of organized events intended to increase the visibility of open carry and public awareness about the practice.[3]

Proponents of open carry point to history and statistics, noting that criminals usually conceal their weapons: The 2006 FBI study “Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers” by Anthony Pinizzotto revealed that criminals carefully conceal their firearms, and they eschew the use of holsters.[4] Encouraged by groups like OpenCarry.org, GeorgiaCarry.org and some participants of the Free State Project, open carry has seen a revival in recent years,[5][6][7] but it is not yet clear if this represents just a short-term trend.[8][9]

The gun rights community has been mixed in its response. Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation and the NRA have been cautious in expressing support,[10] while special-interest groups such as the aforementioned OpenCarry.org and GeorgiaCarry.org, state-level groups such as the Texas State Rifle Association (TSRA), and certain national groups such as the Gun Owners of America (GOA) have been more outspoken in favor of the practice.

Open carry is strongly opposed by gun control groups such as the Brady Campaign and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

In the United States, the laws concerning open carry vary by state and sometimes by municipality.

Definitions

Open carry
The act of publicly carrying a loaded firearm on one’s person in plain sight.
Plain sight
Broadly defined as not being hidden from common observation; varies somewhat from state to state.
Preemption
In the context of open carry: the act of a state legislature passing laws which limit or eliminate the ability of local governments to regulate the possession or carrying of firearms.
Prohibited persons
People prohibited by law from carrying a firearm. Typical examples are felons, those convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic violence, those found to be addicted to alcohol or drugs, and those who have been involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

Today in the United States, the laws vary from state to state regarding open carry of firearms. The categories are defined as follows:

Permissive open carry states
A state has passed full preemption of all firearms laws. They permit open carry to all non-prohibited citizens without permit or license. Open carry is lawful on foot and in a motor vehicle. Shown on the map to the right as “Gold Star” states; the term carries a pro-gun bias, as gun-control advocacy groups like the Brady Center generally give these states very low “scores” on their own ratings systems.
Licensed open carry states
A state has passed full preemption of all firearms laws. They permit open carry of a handgun to all non-prohibited citizens once they have been issued a permit or license. Open carry of a handgun is lawful on foot and in a motor vehicle.
Anomalous open carry states
In these states, open carry of a handgun is generally lawful, but the state may lack preemption or there may be other significant restrictions. Shown in the map legend as “Open Carry Friendly” states; the term is questionable as the limitations and/or lack of pre-emption means that certain areas of these states are, in their judicial system and law enforcement societies, not very “friendly” towards the practice.
Non-permissive open carry states
In these states, open carry of a handgun is not lawful, or is only lawful under such a limited set of circumstances that public carry is prohibited. Such limited circumstances may include when hunting, or while traveling to/from hunting locations, while on property controlled by the person carrying, or for lawful self-defense.

Open carry has never been ruled out as a right under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by any court. In the majority opinion in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), Justice Antonin Scalia wrote concerning the entirety of the elements of the Second Amendment; “We find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation.” However, Scalia continued, “Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”[14]

Forty-three states’ constitutions recognize and secure the right to keep and bear arms in some form, and none of those prohibit the open carrying of firearms. Five state constitutions provide that the state legislature may regulate the manner of carrying or bearing arms, and advocates argue that none rule out open carry specifically. Nine states’ constitutions indicate that the concealed carrying of firearms may be regulated and/or prohibited by the state legislature. Open carry advocates argue that, by exclusion, open carrying of arms may not be legislatively controlled in these states. But this is not settled law.[citation needed]

Section 1.7 [15] of Kentucky’s state constitution only empowers the state to enact laws prohibiting “concealed carry”.

Concealed carry, or CCW (carrying a concealed weapon), refers to the practice of carrying a handgun or other weapon in public in a concealed manner, either on one’s person or in proximity.

While there is no federal law specifically addressing the issuance of concealed carry permits, 49 states have passed laws allowing citizens to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit from local government and/or law enforcement.[1] Illinois is the only state without such a provision. The states give different terms for licenses or permits to carry a concealed firearm, such as a Concealed Handgun License/Permit (CHL/CHP), Concealed (Defensive/Deadly) Weapon Permit/License (CDWL/CWP/CWL), Concealed Carry Permit/License (CCP/CCL), License To Carry (Firearms) (LTC/LTCF), Carry of Concealed Deadly Weapon license (CCDW), Concealed Pistol License (CPL), etc. Thirteen states use a single permit to regulate the practices of both concealed and open carry of a handgun.
Some states publish statistics indicating how many residents hold permits to carry concealed weapons, and their demographics. For example, Florida has issued 2,031,106 licenses since adopting its law in 1987, and had 843,463 licensed permit holders as of July 31, 2011.[2] Reported permit holders are predominantly male.[3] Some states have reported the number of permit holders increasing over time.[4]

The number of permit revocations is typically small.


by Joshua Vogel on September 10, 2011

I’m a liberal (or progressive, if you prefer the term). I’ve always had mixed feelings about gun ownership. As a child, I enjoyed playing with cap guns, and a macho, caveman corner of my personality has always liked the idea of wielding a weapon. But, the rational pragmatist in me has never been able to actually justify owning a gun.

Every so often I’ll get the urge to buy a gun for defense purposes. But when I start to reflect on it, I realize that I can’t really envision a situation where I’d need to use it. I mean, sure- I can picture a home break-in, where I’d run to the closet and open my gun safe and pull out a hand gun… but such scenarios feel like the boyhood daydreams of fighting a terrorist (and/or ninja) takeover of my high school. Even if it were to happen, it seems like something that would always play out better in my head than it would in real life.

I’m not a paranoid person. I enjoy reading the masturbatory rants of the folks who contribute to forums about the upcoming collapse of society, or post survivalist or “prepper” videos on youtube, or fret about “Peak Oil”. But I take all these things with more than a grain of salt. For the most part they are unsupported (or poorly supported) fears mixed with outright delusions.

But a couple things happened this week that did finally tip me over the edge and seriously consider a gun purchase: I watched the Republican Presidential Debates, and I heard Obama’s Address to Congress.

As someone who was recently unemployed for well over a year, and who saw his father get laid off during the tail end of that period, I now know firsthand the deep despair that fills someone who can’t get a foothold in this economy. If I hadn’t had the support of my family and friends, I may well have ended up homeless (and that’s within months of receiving a law degree).

Multiply that anxiety by the 14 million unemployed folks in this country, and the countless underemployed, and it’s not hard to see that there are a lot of scared and angry people out there.

Other countries– large, stable countries– have begun to see riots. Without an immediate reversal in course, it is only a matter of time before we see riots in the U.S. –which brings me back to the debates, and the President’s speech.

All of the front-running Republicans have decided that the path to economic recovery is a return to the laissez faire system of government– the same philosophy that was in place when America’s working class was at its weakest, poorest, and most abused. This isn’t a big surprise. As other, well respected, authors have noted, almost all modern Republican policies can be traced back to a singular goal: the creation of cheap labor. That’s all well and good, unless you are the labor. And, in case you didn’t know: 99% of us are the labor.

The President’s speech the next day didn’t make me feel any better. Don’t get me wrong, I think it was a terrific speech- or at least it would have been if he had given it two years ago when it might have done some good. But it’s too late in the game for half-measures. Even if the President got everything that he asked for (he won’t), it still wouldn’t make a significant dent in the unemployment crisis.

So I spent the next few days thinking about the state of nation, and imaging what America is going to look like in a few years. If Obama stays in power without a liberal Congress, things will be much the same for years to come: political gridlock and slowly worsening conditions for the middle class.

If the Republicans take back the executive branch, then political gridlock is the best we can hope for. If they’re able to get traction with their radical fiscal policies, they’ll keep feeding our money to corporations, banks and the ultra-wealthy. The middle class will shrink. More of us will fall into poverty, and with fewer people buying any products, even the large corporations will start to buckle and fail.

With more unemployment, more disparity between the haves and have-nots, and no clear path to prosperity in sight, I can no longer pretend that the U.S. is the stable and secure place I always knew it to be.

It is no longer unreasonable to think that things may go from bad to much, much worse. I’m not saying that an economic collapse will happen, or even that it it is likely to happen. Nor can I begin to predict the severity or duration of any crash that might occur. But in the current political climate it feels foolhardy to ignore the possibility that something very bad is on the horizon.

If you’re skeptically minded, you may be thinking that I’m being alarmist or that my anxiety is premature. You’re right of course. But there’s logic behind my madness. History is rife with examples giant social upheavals that happen with very little notice. Most recently, Egypt taught us that lesson anew. That country went from protests to revolution in a span of days.

I’m not saying that the U.S. is poised for such a revolution, of course- but I am saying that things could turn ugly here, very quickly. With the proper trigger, massive protests could form. If handled poorly, those protests could easily turn to riots. If it can happen in the U.K., it can certainly happen here. And how big could those riots be? And how long might they last? And by the time we’ve figured out the answers to those questions, will it be too late to prepare?

And so, for the first time in my life, I found myself in a gun shop, talking to the proprietor about a good beginner’s firearm for someone who is interested in home defense.

If you’ve never been to a large gun shop (and I’m sure many progressives have not), I strongly recommend that you step inside. For my part, I found the place unsettling. For the first time in my life I held a working firearm, but I didn’t feel any safer– quite the contrary, as a matter of fact.

The thing about being a liberal in a gun shop is that you are privy to a lot of conversations that you wouldn’t otherwise hear. It was rather like walking into a Tea Party convention.

The shop I went to was near my home in North Carolina. When the gruff man behind the counter found out that I was from Massachusetts, he openly mocked it for being a “socialist” state. Moments later, I overheard a woman loudly ranting about how Obama’s job plan was “destroying the country” with more spending. She was interested in buying some gold coins for when the economy collapsed.

To be fair, most folks were just there to talk about guns, and play with guns, and buy new gadgets to affix to their guns. Their comfort and knowledge of firearms made me feel nervous. I was in store full of 50+ people who didn’t feel at all shy about expressing their distain for liberals and “socialists”. All of them, I’m convinced, would have had no trouble gunning me down in an honest firefight.

I went into that store to buy a gun to protect my family in the event of a riot. I walked out feeling very nervous that if their actually was major social upheaval in the United States, a lot of angry conservatives would have no problem forming an organized militia, and they wouldn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for the scores of unarmed “socialist” progressives out there.

Now I find myself wishing that liberals would flock to gun shops en masse so that they can see the world I caught a glimpse of, and so that they could interact with the same folks I did, and maybe engage in some lively political discussion. These gun shops are factories for unchecked Tea-Party-style nonsense. It means that a lot of angry and armed folks are spending their days amplifying each other’s misunderstanding and distrust of the rest of us.

And also- (and I realize that this part is just pure paranoia)– I’d like to know that if things ever really degrade, there would be a whole lot of armed liberals out there to keep the armed conservatives in check. Or at the very least, I’d like enough of them to lay down sufficient cover fire for me while I run from Whole Foods back to my Prius.


Why Americans now carry handguns in so many public places, from parks to college campuses. Is it making the country safer or more dangerous?

By Patrik Jonsson, Staff writer / March 11, 2012

Garner, N.C.

Leaning against a scrub pine as preschoolers scurry about at his feet, Shane Gazda, father of 3-year-old twins, recalls a conundrum he faced earlier that morning: whether to take his Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun to a Groundhog Day celebration in this town’s White Deer Park.

After all, what was once against the law in North Carolina – carrying a concealed gun in a town park, square, or greenway – is now, as of Dec. 1, 2011, very much allowed. To Mr. Gazda, who likes to shoot targets in his backyard, an event as innocent as paying homage to a rodent could turn dangerous if the wrong person shows up.

“Part of it is being ready for cataclysm every day,” says Gazda, a hospital maintenance engineer. “And to be honest, I started carrying precisely to protect not just myself, but my family, and anyone around me who needs help.”

Gun laws: How much do you know?

In the end, Gazda left the gun at home. But his internal debate is emblematic of one a growing number of Americans are having almost daily. Thirty years after a powerful gun-control movement swept the country, Americans are embracing the idea of owning and carrying firearms with a zeal rarely seen since the days of muskets and militias.

A combination of favorable court rulings, grass-roots activism, traditional fears of crime, and modern anxieties about government has led to what may be a tipping point on an issue that just a few years ago was one of America’s most contentious. Gun rights have now expanded to the point where the fundamental question seems not to be “should we be able to carry guns,” but instead is “where can’t we carry them?

The answer: not very many places.

The new North Carolina statute, in fact, is one of hundreds of new gun-friendly laws enacted by states and localities in the past few years alone. Mississippi lawmakers, for instance, recently voted to allow gun owners who take an extra safety class to carry hidden weapons on college campuses and in courthouses. Ohio has granted people with permits the right to bring concealed weapons into restaurants, bars, and sports arenas. A 2010 Indiana law stipulates that private business owners let employees keep guns in their cars when parked on company property. And New Hampshire, along with several other states, has removed restrictions on bearing arms in the ultimate politically symbolic place – the State House.

In 2009, three times as many pro-gun laws were passed in the United States as antigun measures – a trend that experts say has only accelerated since then. Fully 40 states now mandate that anyone who asks for a concealed-carry permit and meets the qualifications must be issued one. One result: The number of concealed-weapon license holders in the US has gone from a few hundred thousand 10 years ago to more than 6 million today. In some parts of Tennessee, 1 out of every 11 people on the street is either carrying a weapon or has a license to do so.

“It’s a huge sea change, and one lesson to take out of all of this is that it’s amazing how fast attitudes on constitutional issues can change,” says Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, and the author of “An Army of Davids.” “The thinking has turned in a way that many thought to be impossible only 15 years ago.”

???????

China’s Censored World

By EVAN OSNOSMAY 2, 2014

The defining fact of China in our time is its contradictions: The world’s largest buyer of BMW, Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles is ruled by a Communist Party that has tried to banish the word “luxury” from advertisements. It is home to two of the world’s most highly valued Internet companies (Tencent and Baidu), as well as history’s most sophisticated effort to censor human expression. China is both the world’s newest superpower and its largest authoritarian state.

For most of Chinese history, readers had limited access to books from abroad. In the 1960s and ’70s, when foreign literature was officially restricted to party elites, students circulated handwritten, string-bound copies of J.D. Salinger, Arthur Conan Doyle and many others. But in the past three decades, rules have relaxed somewhat and sales of foreign writers have ballooned, thanks to Chinese consumers who are ravenous for new information about themselves and the world. In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, China’s 580 state-owned publishers acquired the rights to more than 16,000 foreign titles, up nearly tenfold since 1995; current hot sellers range from Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” to Henry A. Kissinger’s “On China.”

Ever since the reign of the first emperor, who oversaw the burning of Confucian texts in 213 B.C., Chinese leaders have valued the science of censorship. To release a book in China today, foreign authors must accept the judgment of a publisher’s in-house censors, who identify names, terms and historical events that the party considers unflattering or a threat to political stability.


December 7, 2013, 1:24 pm

JPMorgan Tracked Business Linked to China Hiring

By BEN PROTESS and JESSICA SILVER-GREENBERG

Federal authorities have obtained confidential documents that shed new light on JPMorgan Chase’s decision to hire the children of China’s ruling elite, securing emails that show how the bank linked one prominent hire to “existing and potential business opportunities” from a Chinese government-run company.

The documents, which also include spreadsheets that list the bank’s “track record” for converting hires into business deals, offer the most detailed account yet of JPMorgan’s “Sons and Daughters” hiring program, which has been at the center of a federal bribery investigation for months. The spreadsheets and emails — recently submitted by JPMorgan to authorities — illuminate how the bank created the program to prevent questionable hiring practices but ultimately viewed it as a gateway to doing business with state-owned companies in China, which commonly issue stock with the help of Wall Street banks.


21 November 2013 Last updated at 13:50 GMT

Chinese officials must stop using torture to extract confessions from suspects, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The court said on its official microblog that using “freezing, starving, extreme heat, fire branding or extreme exhaustion” to extract confessions was also illegal.

It is the latest in a series of moves aimed at reforming the Chinese police and other security agencies.

Last week, China said it was abolishing “re-education through labour” camps.

The system, which started in the 1950s, allowed the police to send anyone to prison for up to four years without a trial. It was almost impossible to appeal against a sentence under the system.

The new announcement comes a week after Chinese officials concluded a four-day, closed-door meeting in Beijing at which a number of reforms were agreed.

The Supreme Court has ordered lower courts to exclude evidence obtained by torture “in a bid to promote fair justice”, state-run Xinhua news agency says.

“Evidence must be valued,” Xinhua said, quoting a court document.

“The traditional concept and practice of a testimony being the most paramount should be changed, and more attention should be paid to examining and using material evidence,” the document added.

The document also makes clear that courts should remain independent, must follow legal procedure and should not become involved in police investigations, Xinhua says.

However, enforcing a ban on this behaviour will be difficult, says the BBC’s Celia Hatton in Beijing.


By Barbara Demick

September 25, 2013, 4:57 p.m.

BEIJING — He was a poor man selling sausages and chicken from an unlicensed food cart in hope of earning enough money to send his talented young son to an art school in the capital.

Outside a market in northeast China on a spring day, two municipal officers, members of a notoriously brutal force known as chengguan, confiscated Xia Junfeng’s cooking equipment and took him in for questioning. Xia said it quickly turned into a beating.

Soon, both officers were dead, stabbed with a small knife Xia kept in his pocket for slicing sausages.

On Wednesday, more than four years since the incident in Shenyang, after lengthy appeals and heavy publicity that turned him into a symbol of repression for many Chinese, Xia was executed. China’s microblogs were flooded with outrage.

On one popular site, Sina.com, Xia’s name was the most searched of the day, and 2.8 million people posted messages, almost all supporting him.

Many contrasted his case with that of Gu Kailai, the wife of ex-Politburo member Bo Xilai, whose sensational corruption trial wrapped up Sunday with the imposition of a life sentence. Gu, a lawyer, was convicted last year of premeditated murder for poisoning a British businessman. She was given a suspended death sentence, the equivalent of life in prison.

“Gu Kailai was a member of the privileged class, who knew what crime she was committing,” wrote one outraged critic in a comment later expunged by censors. “Xia Junfeng was struggling at the bottom of society to survive. His death is an injustice. There is only tyranny.”


The mystery of China’s missing millionaires

Last year, some 30,000 people entered entered China’s “millionaire” ranks, according to the latest Hurun Report (pdf), which defines that as those with more than $1.63 million in assets. The report competes with Forbes and Bloomberg to count the assets of China’s notorious “hidden rich,” who tend to obscure their wealth to avoid scrutiny of the government, media, and public. (Hurun’s findings are widely reported in the Chinese press.) 

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The starkest trend from 2012 is that the net growth of China’s millionaire ranks is slowing fast:
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Underlying this is a striking break with past trends. In 2012, even as the tally in some areas surged, a slew of provinces actually shed millionaires. Zhejiang province, China’s entrepreneurial hotbed, had 1,000 fewer millionaires in 2012 than it did in 2011, while Inner Mongolia lost 500. Numbers in Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, and Hebei took a hit as well.
+

What happened to them?
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The slowing economy likely reversed the fortunes of some former millionaire, particularly in industry-heavy provinces. Plummeting coal demand, which has exposed the sector’s excessive capacity and high debt, probably dented the wallets of some minor Shanxi and Inner Mongolia coal barons. (Inner Mongolia’s ghost city, Ordos, was funded by speculative coal money.) Similarly, falling steel demand and rampant overcapacity may have thinned the ranks of Hebei and Liaoning fat cats.
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Another culprit could be real estate, the basis of many Chinese fortunes. A consistent 15% of millionaires earn their living from property speculation, according to Hurun. Even among non-real estate tycoons, the average value of property holdings in 2012 rose. And 64% of rich folks Hurun surveyed preferred investing in it, compared with 28% in 2008 (pdf, p.10).
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But property prices fell in 2012, taking some fortunes with it. In Zhejiang, plunging housing prices set off a series of protests and left some developers without cash to cover debts.
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Perhaps some of those developers didn’t make this year’s list. Then again, maybe they were part of Zhejiang’s spate of fleeing bosses (paywall). Many, though, were from the Zhejiang city of Wenzhou. In 2011, China’s slowdown collapsed Wenzhou’s bustling shadow finance system. As lenders began liquidating collateral—often residential property titles—the housing market crashed. Scores of Wenzhou businessmen fled the country.
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Even those in Wenzhou without dangerous debts have been eyeing the exits. As a recent note on Wenzhou by Tracy Tian and David Cui of Bank of America/Merrill Lynch explained, those with means have bought real estate abroad, often baking “their overseas property investment choice into their decision-making for immigration.”
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The 2011 Hurun report picked up on that, too. Hailing “the rise of emigration out of China” (pdf, p. 2), it reported that that “60% of millionaires are applying or considering emigrating overseas,” with many buying property overseas as a way of “facilitating emigration.”
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“The Chinese Millionaire Wealth Report 2013.”


(Reuters / Jason Lee)

What would you say if a teacher asked you for money after hugging your kid goodbye? One Chinese kindergarten has decided to cash in on the universal gesture of affection, with teachers serving up daily hugs to children for just under $13 a month.

Parents of tykes attending a kindergarten in east China’s Yangzhou City were charged a so-called “hug fee” of 80 Yuan, some $12.80, local media report, citing a Chinese blogger.

According to the report the monthly fee covered one morning hug and one hug goodbye per day.

After the information surfaced online, some parents confirmed that they knew their children were hugged by the teachers but had no idea this was a prepaid option, as the charge was officially called a “quality education fee.”

The school explained that hugs were one component of a quality education aimed at making children feel loved, secure and more confident.

However, the local school board found that such a practice violates educational rules, saying that if the information about the fee is confirmed by investigators, the school will have to return parents their money. The investigation into the not so touching matter is still ongoing.


by on June 29, 2012

China’s Child-Swap Reality Show Highlights Class Divide

On X-change (变形计), a program on Henan Satellite Television, two children swap families for seven days. One child hails from a low-income rural household, the other from a relatively well-off urban household in one of China’s booming metropolises. Over the course of six or seven episodes per swap, viewers learn about the background of both families – their jobs, income, work history, reasons for entering the program, and other interesting tidbits. The show recently returned after a three-year hiatus.

Netizens have praised X-change for showing the adversity facing rural children while  also having a tangible impact on those children’s lives. In the final episode of the first swap, the urban student’s teachers and classmates donated a large sum of money to the rural child’s school. Attention from the show also prompted local government officials to build new dormitories for rural students.

But attacking the root causes of these inequalities is a different task altogether. The Youku comments section overflows with lamentations about education and opportunity, poor rural infrastructure and governance, the growing urban-rural income gap, and the rampant materialism among China’s urban youth. Viewers find the subject matter touching, but lament that such programming can only show one isolated situation while millions of rural Chinese children face hardship.

Indeed, when publicity from the show inspired local leaders to renovate the lice-ridden, rat-infested student dormitories, it simply reminded viewers that corrupt local officials have been siphoning off resources that should already have been gone to rural children. Writing on Youku, Wyl1994 argues that “nowadays government officials say things more beautiful than any song, but don’t actually do anything about it [the quality of education for poor kids].”

Some are hopeful, if only cautiously so. Zoaldyeck writes, “At least it has drawn attention to their problem and provided a sliver of hope to change their futures. It is clearly not enough to rely on themselves, they also need help from outside.” 街头的菜 believes the show won’t help most rural children, but hopes that the development of public welfare organizations will improve the lives of children in rural mountain areas.


June 29 (Bloomberg) — Xi Jinping, the man in line to be China’s next president, warned officials on a 2004 anti-graft conference call: “Rein in your spouses, children, relatives, friends and staff, and vow not to use power for personal gain.”

As Xi climbed the Communist Party ranks, his extended family expanded their business interests to include minerals, real estate and mobile-phone equipment, according to public documents compiled by Bloomberg.

Those interests include investments in companies with total assets of $376 million; an 18 percent indirect stake in a rare- earths company with $1.73 billion in assets; and a $20.2 million holding in a publicly traded technology company. The figures don’t account for liabilities and thus don’t reflect the family’s net worth.

No assets were traced to Xi, who turns 59 this month; his wife Peng Liyuan, 49, a famous People’s Liberation Army singer; or their daughter, the documents show. There is no indication Xi intervened to advance his relatives’ business transactions, or of any wrongdoing by Xi or his extended family.

While the investments are obscured from public view by multiple holding companies, government restrictions on access to company documents and in some cases online censorship, they are identified in thousands of pages of regulatory filings.

The trail also leads to a hillside villa overlooking the South China Sea in Hong Kong, with an estimated value of $31.5 million. The doorbell ringer dangles from its wires, and neighbors say the house has been empty for years. The family owns at least six other Hong Kong properties with a combined estimated value of $24.1 million.

Standing Committee

Xi has risen through the party over the past three decades, holding leadership positions in several provinces and joining the ruling Politburo Standing Committee in 2007. Along the way, he built a reputation for clean government.

He led an anti-graft campaign in the rich coastal province of Zhejiang, where he issued the “rein in” warning to officials in 2004, according to a People’s Daily publication. In Shanghai, he was brought in as party chief after a 3.7 billion- yuan ($582 million) scandal.

A 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing cited an acquaintance of Xi’s saying he wasn’t corrupt or driven by money. Xi was “repulsed by the all-encompassing commercialization of Chinese society, with its attendant nouveau riche, official corruption, loss of values, dignity, and self- respect,” the cable disclosed by Wikileaks said, citing the friend. Wikileaks publishes secret government documents online.

A U.S. government spokesman declined to comment on the document.

Carving Economy

Increasing resentment over China’s most powerful families carving up the spoils of economic growth poses a challenge for the Communist Party. The income gap in urban China has widened more than in any other country in Asia over the past 20 years, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“The average Chinese person gets angry when he hears about deals where people make hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars, by trading on political influence,” said Barry Naughton, professor of Chinese economy at the University of California, San Diego, who wasn’t referring to the Xi family specifically.


BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Hu Jintao has demanded senior Communist Party officials stifle tensions over the ousting of ambitious politician Bo Xilai and show unity as they prepare for a change of leadership, sources briefed on recent meetings said.

Hu urged the party to close ranks at a meeting of about 200 officials early this month at a Beijing hotel, declaring the downfall of Bo – China’s biggest political scandal in two decades – to be an “isolated case”, the three sources said.

The sources’ comments represent the first confirmation of speculation that Hu recently intervened to prevent a wider rift in the party and to resist pressure from some elements for a wider purge of the populist Bo’s policies and supporters.

Bo, former party chief of Chongqing city, was suspended from the party’s top ranks in April after his wife became a suspect in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Before the scandal broke, Bo had been seen as a candidate to join China’s new top leadership team to be unveiled this year.

“It’s been settled that this will be dealt with as a criminal case, not a political case,” said one of the sources, a retired official. “The central leadership wants to focus on ensuring a stable environment for the 18th Party Congress, so the guiding policy is to end all the rumors and contention.”

The party congress, scheduled to be held late this year, will appoint a new generation of leaders. Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao will then step down from their government posts at the National People’s Congress in early 2013, when Vice President Xi Jinping is likely to succeed Hu as president.

The sources, all with ties to senior party officials, spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid possible recriminations for speaking about internal party discussions.

Two of them said Hu had convened this month’s meeting at the Jingxi Hotel, the party’s heavily guarded conference hotel in western Beijing where leaders often hold secretive conclaves.

The meeting was part of a series of steps taken to shore up unity and advance preparations for the 18th Party Congress. Those steps included retired leaders, especially former president Jiang Zemin, giving their backing to Hu’s position.

“Jiang said that if you have solid evidence that Gu Kailai committed murder and that Bo Xilai also committed major errors, then deal with it as an isolated criminal incident,” said the retired official, paraphrasing a summary of Jiang’s comments.

“There’s already been too much instability. The overriding goal now must be a successful 18th Party Congress,” the former official said, paraphrasing Jiang, 85, who a decade after he retired still exercises some influence over major decisions. One of the sources said Jiang was not at the Jingxi meeting and it was unclear where he made the remarks or how he conveyed them.

Hu’s expected successor, Xi, also has stayed closely in line with the leadership’s position on Bo, said the retired official.

IDEOLOGICAL RIFTS, RUMOURS

Describing Bo’s downfall as a serious but isolated case of wrongdoing, Hu urged officials at the meeting to end ideological rifts and rumors ignited by the scandal, the sources added.

The domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang, has faced accusations that he sought to protect Bo, but his career appears to have survived the controversy, despite rumors that Zhou could be sidelined.

“Zhou has been encouraged by the party leadership to make regular appearances and show he’s trusted,” said the retired official. He noted that Zhou and President Hu made a high-profile joint appearance before police on May 18.

Premier Wen had suggested he favored a wider reckoning in March when, a day before Bo was sacked as Chongqing party chief, the premier linked Bo’s failings to the discredited radicalism of the Cultural Revolution.

But at the recent party meetings, Wen’s comments were chided by some other officials, two of the sources said.

However, China’s leaders could find enforcing demands for conformity from the public harder than from within the party.

Bo nurtured an ardent following among leftists who embraced what they viewed as his model of egalitarian growth, and they have continued to defend him as the victim of a plot. He had used Chongqing, a province-level municipality in southwest China, as a showcase for left-leaning populist policies.

Liberal reformers, however, want the government to look beyond Heywood’s death and examine complaints about Bo’s leadership, including accusations that his populist crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing involved abuses such as torture.

He was brought down after a furor erupted when his police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate for more than 24 hours in February and told American diplomats that he believed Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was implicated in Heywood’s death in November, according to later descriptions of Wang’s allegations.

“The leadership won’t turn this into a line struggle,” independent politics researcher Chen Ziming said, using the party’s jargon for an ideological purge.

Beijing-based Chen, who has sources close to the party, said there appeared to have been heated internal debate over how to handle the Bo case before deciding to contain it.

“The drama is focused on the three actors, and that’s already complicated enough,” Chen said, referring to Bo, his wife Gu, and the ex-police chief Wang.

“If there are more actors brought into the drama, then it will become just too complicated and troublesome.”

Bo, 62, and Gu, 52, have disappeared from public view and have had no chance to respond publicly to the allegations.

OUT OF SIGHT

The make-up of the next central leadership elite will be settled over coming months through an opaque process of inspections, jockeying and balancing rival camps in the party.

In recent weeks, the party has launched informal ballots and inspections to size up potential candidates for promotion into the Central Committee, which has about 200 full members, and the Politburo, a more powerful body with about two dozen members, the three sources said.

The Politburo Standing Committee, the core decision-making body, is chosen from the Politburo. The standing committee currently has nine members.

“Now they’re going from province to province to examine officials and settle on possible candidates for the next leadership,” said Chen, the researcher.

In China’s top-down politics, final decisions rest with a handful of leaders, but the results of these assessments can sway deliberations, he said.

The informal polls would serve as a basis for discussions when the leaders head to summer villas in coastal Beidaihe in July or August, when the new succession lineup would be firmed up, said one of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

(Editing by Brian Rhoads, Don Durfee and Mark Bendeich)


Wen Jiabao said corruption was the greatest threat to the ruling party.

His comments come amid a drive to support the Communist Party’s recent move ousting top politician Bo Xilai over alleged disciplinary breaches.

In another twist, it has emerged that Mr Bo’s wife is now suspected of murdering a British businessman.

The politician’s wife, Gu Kailai, was detained after the death of businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing, south-western China, in November.

On Monday, two sources close to the police investigation were quoted by Reuters news agency as saying Mr Heywood, 41, had been poisoned after threatening to expose Mrs Gu’s plans to move money abroad.

The Chinese authorities have not publicly commented on the allegation.
‘Political purge’

In the article, which was reprinted in China’s influential Qiushi journal on Monday, Mr Wen called for more effective measures to tackle corruption.

The article published in Qiushi, the party magazine, was based on a 26 March speech Wen delivered to China’s State Council.

He said that greater transparency and a reduction in the concentration of powers among government structures were also needed.

The article, however, did not directly mention Mr Bo, 62, who is now under investigation for serious breaches of discipline.

Media reports suggest the former Chongqing party chief tried to abuse his power to derail the investigation into his wife.

Mr Bo was once tipped as a future leader and was expected to become a member of the party’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee in the autumn.

He commanded strong support and possessed enormous charisma, in stark contrast with most of his colleagues, the BBC’s Martin Patience reports from Beijing.

All this has forced China’s leaders to handle his removal from power with care, our correspondent says.

He adds that the country’s state media have been in overdrive in recent days, pumping out editorials stressing that no-one – not even top politicians – are above the law.

But supporters of Mr Bo see this as a convenient excuse for what they regard as a political purge, our correspondent says.


China may have already reach the peak of economic development unless there is a radical change in its political, social and economic system. It is just not possible to sustain at the same time the skimming of all profits by the corrupt few, the enslavement of the worker base, and the destruction of foreign competition by dumping. There would no market left to sustain the system and the bubble will implode. When and if the Chinese economic bubble collapses the World’s finances will have no engine left to run on.

China has seen an increase in labor unrest and the Chinese government is worried that another slowdown could spark public anger.

Zhou Yongkang, a member of the politburo, asked provincial officials for improved “social management”.
“It is an urgent task for us to think how to establish a social management system with Chinese characteristics to suit our socialist market economy,” Mr Zhou said in public comments.

“Especially when facing negative effects of the market economy.”

He called for innovative approaches to a large set of policies which could include anything from increased policing to better internet control or better unemployment insurance.

There have been multiple signs of a slowdown in recent months in China. The economy grew by 9.1% between June and September (2011) compared to a year earlier, the slowest rate of expansion in two years.

Last week, manufacturing was showed to have contracted sharply and the government cut the amount of money banks must keep in reserve to spur more lending, reversing recent policy.

There has also been a spike in labor unrest in recent weeks. Employees of a Singaporean electronics firm Hi-P International in Shanghai went on strike last week over mass job losses. Thousands of workers in Shenzhen and Dongguan, two of China’s top export centres in the south of the country, went on strike last month protesting cuts in overtime.

In China there is pattern of overbearing demeanor by government officials and their proxies. The elite show contempt for human life and other people’s physical integrity and dignity. Public anger at the Chinese regime’s elite class erupted last month after a deadly hit-and-run accident at Hebei University in northern China. The driver is the son of a high-ranking police officer. He drove off after running down two students. When crowds stopped his car, he reportedly shouted “Sue me if you dare, my father is Li Gang.”

In a similar incident another teenager, 19-year-old Ma Wenzong (马文总), shouted out “My dad is the mayor!” (我爸是市长!), enraging the assembled onlookers. Ma’s Mercedes SUV crushed the storefront signage of shopkeeper Liu Xiuying (刘秀英). After the two exchanged words, Ma rushed into Liu’s store, and smashed a landline phone that sat atop a counter on the ground, before then using the store’s calculator to repeatedly smack the head of Liu’s 18-month-old daughter until blood was drawn. Police eventually arrived, only to leave promptly after declaring both Ma and his girlfriend, who was in the vehicle during the entire incident, were not driving drunk. Ma is the son of a local businessman, rather than Zhao Yide (赵一德), the Mayor of Wenzhou. It doesn’t come as much of surprise that a 19-year-old was cruising around with a GL450, which has a modest sticker price that hovers in the neighborhood of 1.5 million RMB ($235,000 USD) for the 2011 model. Wenzhou and the rest of Zhejiang are known for having their fair share of wealthy types in the coastal province.

Corruption is so blatant that the new-rich flaunt unexplainable wealth more proper of a king than of a bureaucrat. Sina Weibo microblog is a common place for showing-off. Ms. Guo (Weibo user @郭美美baby), a verified Weibo user claimed to be a manager of a commercial branch of Red Cross, was showing off her Massaratti, Lamborghini, Hermes Birkin bag, and other luxury items on the microblog.  How could a girl in her early 20s gain this much of a fortune, owning super-cars and branded luxury goods? China’s famous ‘human-flesh’ search engine has indicated that Ms. Guo might have connections with some high-placed, well-to-do individuals. But there isn’t any clear evidence that  Guo is actually connected with Red Cross in China.

The small and medium-size factories that drive the local economy find it increasingly hard to get bank loans, as the government announced it was ending its stimulus spending and tightening the money supply to rein in inflation. The factories turned to the murky private lending market — small licensed credit companies, unlicensed underwriters, bigger businesses with spare cash to lend, and loan sharks. Some of the loans were to pay salaries and keep the factories humming. But much of it went into more speculative ventures, such as investing in real estate or expanding into newer, riskier businesses with the lure of higher returns. And some individuals and businesses that could get scarce bank loans turned around and loaned the money out again, to friends and neighbors, at higher interest rates. But the continued economic slowdown in the United States and Europe meant orders dried up for Wenzhou’s hundreds of thousands of small factories. Inflation has been increasing — currently about 6 percent in China — which is one reason the government decided to tighten liquidity. Wages have been rising. The Chinese currency, the renminbi, has beengradually gaining in value against the U.S. dollar, further hammering these export-dependent factories. Some are comparing the problem of Wenzhou to the collapse of Bear Stearns in March 2008, which was a prelude to the larger financial collapse the following September. Guo Tianyong, an economics professor at Beijing’s Central University of Finance and Economics, called Wenzhou “a signal that high-interest private lending might trigger a debt crisis.” There are already warning signs that the debt problem is spreading, specifically to parts of Jiangsu and Shanxi provinces, and to Inner Mongolia, where many owners of small mines are believed to be overextended. The privately held debt comes on top of official debt by local government “investment arms” that floated municipal bonds and took out huge bank loans during the stimulus period of 2009 and 2010 to build housing units, airports, highways and subways.Total local government debt in China has been estimated at anywhere between 10 trillion and 14 trillion renminbi (about $1.6 trillion to $2.2 trillion). Many economists and independent analysts believe that if the central government in Beijing ends up absorbing all of the debt floating around — from private companies and overextended localities, along with the central government’s own debt — China’s real debt-to-GDP ratio could end up being 60 percent or higher. The bigger concern for the government is unrest. When factories close and bosses flee town, workers cannot collect their salaries. It is a scene that officials do not want repeated across the country. The situation in Wenzhou is so urgent that during China’s October National Day holiday, Premier Wen Jiabao traveled here with the finance minister and the governor of the central bank. One result of their trip was the establishment of a provincial bailout fund of up to 100 billion renminbi (about $15.7 billion), according to the Chinese media. The boss of Center Group, fled to the United States in September, leaving his 1,800 workers unpaid, after taking out too many loans in an effort to branch out into the solar energy business. He returned after the government offered help for restructuring the debt. The process of social decomposition will eventually produce a failed State.


GUANGZHOU – The possibility of enacting laws to punish passers-by who refuse to help people in obvious distress has become a hot topic in the southern province of Guangdong. Legal experts and the public are debating the idea after a 2-year-old girl, Yue Yue, was run over twice in Foshan on Thursday but ignored by at least 18 passers-by. Yue Yue was finally moved to the roadside by a 57-year-old scrap collector, who then called for the girl’s parents. At least 10 Party and government departments and organizations in Guangdong, including the province’s commission on politics and law, the women’s federation, the academy of social sciences and the Communist Youth League, have started discussions about punishing those who refuse to help people who clearly need it. They are also seeking feedback from the public as to whether legislation should be enacted. Zhu Yongping, a lawyer at Datong Law Firm, said lawyers will discuss the idea next month and push for the legislation. “Many laws, including forbidding drunken driving, in China have been passed after high-profile individual cases, and now is the right time to legislate against refusing to help people,” Zhu said on Wednesday. “If we can use laws to guide our morality and ethics, our morals might not become worse.” Nie Lize, an associate professor at Sun Yat-sen University, was also in favor of such a law. “It is necessary to legislate because the morals of Chinese people are getting lower,” Nie said. However, Wang Zhongxing, a professor in the university’s law school, said refusing to help people should not be a crime. “We should be very cautious to legislate because legislation is a double-edged sword,” he said. “It can help fight crime, but it may also wrongfully accuse the innocent.” Wang said the issue was about morals rather than the law. “It is not fair to punish all people who do not lend a helping hand,” he added. Huang Na, an associate professor with the law school at the Chinese People’s Public Security University, also opposed the idea of legislation. “The legislation should be targeted for the specially designated groups, including police and doctors, instead of the vast numbers of ordinary residents,” she said. Otherwise, too many people will become suspects and defendants, Huang said. “Those who are not qualified to rescue the wounded may make the victims’ conditions even worse,” she said. “It may also limit the rights and civil obligations of citizens when morality and ethics are legislated.”

As shocking as this incident is, by itself is not an indictment of China. Empirical evidence and academic studies suggest that in an urban setting, the probability that a person in distress would be helped, depends heavily on the actions of the people present at the moment of the emergency and that the larger the crowd, the least likely help will be offered. There are many an example of this in the United States. The major explanation for people failing to stop and help a victim is how obsessed with haste they are. More telling is the attitudes of the people involved, the government, and the public in general. The driver who first hit the toddler said in a telephone interview with a Guangdong television station that he had been talking on his phone when the girl walked in front of his vehicle. He said he kept driving because if she were dead, it would only cost him 10,000 to 20,000 renminbi ($1,500 to $3,000), but if she were alive, he would have to pay hundreds of thousands of renminbi in medical bills. I think that something got lost in translation here. As it stands, it is a cynical admission of deliberate murder. As callous as this person might be, it is hard to believe that he would be so blunt on a public interview. Nevertheless, whatever nuances was intended the meaning of his explanation was probably this. Referring to the driver’s comments, one Internet user posting under the name Ximending Xiaodoujiang wrote, “If the compensation for a death were higher than the cost of medical care, these cases might not happen.” The writer added, it was “unrealistic” to expect a change soon, because for Chinese today, “all they can think about is food and clothes.” The behavior of other people in similar situations suggest that it is indeed less of a trouble for the responsible party in a traffic accident to kill than to injure, and that, in any case, is not much of a deal if one has the right connections. Even in a country like Mexico with widespread corruption, it is far more problematic to be involved in a traffic accident if there are fatalities than otherwise, and medical expenses of the victims are normally covered by mandatory insurance. Thus, the Chinese government has figure out yet another way to save a few renminbi by not requiring driver’s insurance and sending victims of traffic accidents to the trash can if they happen to be poor. China has been split in two groups that the Chinese themselves call euphemistically city-dwellers (bureaucrats, technocrats, businessmen) and migrant workers (slave labor) . Chen Xianmei, the illiterate scrap peddler who picked up Foshan toddler Yueyue off the street, who finally called for the little girl’s mother illustrates of the moral and mental differences between the two groups. She left Guangzhou after being overwhelmed by media requests and offerings of cash. Chen’s landlady even threatened eviction, due to the distraction of having media members lined up outside her apartment. Her neighbors claimed that she helped Yueyue to become famous. Dongguan, a home products company, gave her 100,000 RMB in cash, along with another 20,000RMB from the Foshan municipal government. Chen visited the hospital to see Yueyue’s parents and give them all the cash she had received: “I don’t even know how much this is. I’ve thinking only of the child, so I haven’t even counted the money given to me these past few days. I’ve brought it all for the child.” Chen left for her hometown of Qingyuan (清远) in Guangdong, to reunite with her husband. Chen had been working in Foshan since 2009 to be with her children. What Chen Xianmei did was to lift the brain-dead limp body of the child from the road and put it on the sidewalk before calling the mother. This trivial natural act that took her 12 seconds was deemed an heroic deed done for the sake of notoriety. On a latter incident,  it was big news that several passersby quickly went to the aid of a 20-month-old boy, Xiao Jie, knocked down by a reversing car in a bazaar in Foshan. More than 10 stallholders called out for the car to stop and alerted the child’s mother, a vegetables seller. In China, one is not expected to help a victim of an accident and the government actively discourages such acts. The Health Ministry in September issued new “Good Samaritan” guidelines that essentially warn passersby not to rush to help elderly people on the ground, but to first ascertain whether they are conscious and then wait for trained medical personnel to arrive. The Telegraph posts that pedestrians may have been afraid to help Yue Yue because of China’s “compensation culture.” The paper refers to a 2006 judgment in which a person who helped a woman get to a hospital was “wrongly ordered to pay her compensation.” Bystanders who did intervene to help others have found themselves accused of wrongdoing. In August, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, a bus driver named Yin Hongbing stopped to help an elderly woman who had been struck by a hit-and-run driver. But until he was vindicated by surveillance videos, Yin was the one accused of hitting the woman. There have also been several cases of passersby stopping to help elderly people who had fallen, or were pushed, and who then were sued by the victims or were arrested. The thinking here is: They must have been responsible or they would not have stopped to help. A recent survey by the Renmin University of China and other academic institutions found 87 per cent of people cited a fear of getting into trouble when asked why they would not help an elderly person who had fallen. In a previous incident at the West Lake UNESCO World Heritage Site in eastern Zhejiang province last week, an American tourist, jumped into the water to rescue a woman who was drowning. Internet chat sites immediately lighted up with questions about why a foreigner intervened, while no Chinese would. One Internet user wrote: “That tourist was too impulsive. She didn’t know that in China, kind people who save others are often accused of being the perpetrator. The next time you run into someone who was hit by a car, you need to be careful.” The case of the toddler lying in the street has ignited a little schizophrenia on the Chinese government.  “Cracks can be seen in the moral framework of Chinese society,” the Communist Party-owned Global Times newspaper wrote in its lead editorial Wednesday. “Many are asking: What’s wrong with China?”  There were calls for the introduction of a law to compel people to help accident victims. Communist Party organizations in Guangdong, including the Communist Youth League, were said to be keen for rules to be introduced that would punish anyone who failed to assist an injured person, according to state media. “Many laws, including forbidding drunken driving in China, have been passed after high-profile individual cases, and now is the right time to legislate against refusing to help people.” In response, many have turned the blame on the government. They say that the breakdown began during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s and that in a system that does not respect individual rights and freedoms, people take their cue from the behavior of officials at the top. “I think the biggest problem is the corruption of the government officials,” Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociology professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said in an interview. He used an old Chinese idiom: If the upper beam is not straight, the lower beams will go askew. Ling Bing, a professor in the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law, said the Yue Yue case showed “moral decay” among the public, but suggested legislation was not the answer. “I don’t think a law that compels people to act would be effective,” he said by telephone. “It’s a law that would be very hard to enforce and it’s a law that fundamentally will not be able to change people’s behavior very much.” He suggested instead that the country’s supreme court could reaffirm the principle that accusers have to prove that helpers have caused them injury. Moral choice is about free choice and  helping behavior cannot be induced by religion or law. Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at Beijing Institute of Technology, said he saw the problem as an absence of religious ethics in what is largely an atheist society. Modern Chinese, he said, “don’t have beliefs, although China has indigenous religions like Taoism and Buddhism. China is actually an atheist country, and Chinese people are never afraid of God’s punishment.” Hu added: “The Chinese government has made economic development its central task, which means everything is money-centered. Both the legal system and the moral system have been sacrificed to money ­making Washington Post Wang Juan report from Wenzhou. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Gang_incident http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/an-injured-toddler-is-ignored-and-chinese-ask-why/2011/10/19/gIQAxhnpxL_story.html?tid=sm_btn_twitter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Kitty_Genovese

China’s Censored World

The defining fact of China in our time is its contradictions: The world’s largest buyer of BMW, Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles is ruled by a Communist Party that has tried to banish the word “luxury” from advertisements. It is home to two of the world’s most highly valued Internet companies (Tencent and Baidu), as well as history’s most sophisticated effort to censor human expression. China is both the world’s newest superpower and its largest authoritarian state.

For most of Chinese history, readers had limited access to books from abroad. In the 1960s and ’70s, when foreign literature was officially restricted to party elites, students circulated handwritten, string-bound copies of J.D. Salinger, Arthur Conan Doyle and many others. But in the past three decades, rules have relaxed somewhat and sales of foreign writers have ballooned, thanks to Chinese consumers who are ravenous for new information about themselves and the world. In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, China’s 580 state-owned publishers acquired the rights to more than 16,000 foreign titles, up nearly tenfold since 1995; current hot sellers range from Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” to Henry A. Kissinger’s “On China.”

Ever since the reign of the first emperor, who oversaw the burning of Confucian texts in 213 B.C., Chinese leaders have valued the science of censorship. To release a book in China today, foreign authors must accept the judgment of a publisher’s in-house censors, who identify names, terms and historical events that the party considers unflattering or a threat to political stability.


December 7, 2013, 1:24 pm

JPMorgan Tracked Business Linked to China Hiring

Federal authorities have obtained confidential documents that shed new light on JPMorgan Chase’s decision to hire the children of China’s ruling elite, securing emails that show how the bank linked one prominent hire to “existing and potential business opportunities” from a Chinese government-run company.

The documents, which also include spreadsheets that list the bank’s “track record” for converting hires into business deals, offer the most detailed account yet of JPMorgan’s “Sons and Daughters” hiring program, which has been at the center of a federal bribery investigation for months. The spreadsheets and emails — recently submitted by JPMorgan to authorities — illuminate how the bank created the program to prevent questionable hiring practices but ultimately viewed it as a gateway to doing business with state-owned companies in China, which commonly issue stock with the help of Wall Street banks.


21 November 2013 Last updated at 13:50 GMT

Chinese officials must stop using torture to extract confessions from suspects, the Supreme Court has ruled.

The court said on its official microblog that using “freezing, starving, extreme heat, fire branding or extreme exhaustion” to extract confessions was also illegal.

It is the latest in a series of moves aimed at reforming the Chinese police and other security agencies.

Last week, China said it was abolishing “re-education through labour” camps.

The system, which started in the 1950s, allowed the police to send anyone to prison for up to four years without a trial. It was almost impossible to appeal against a sentence under the system.

The new announcement comes a week after Chinese officials concluded a four-day, closed-door meeting in Beijing at which a number of reforms were agreed.

The Supreme Court has ordered lower courts to exclude evidence obtained by torture “in a bid to promote fair justice”, state-run Xinhua news agency says.

“Evidence must be valued,” Xinhua said, quoting a court document.

“The traditional concept and practice of a testimony being the most paramount should be changed, and more attention should be paid to examining and using material evidence,” the document added.

The document also makes clear that courts should remain independent, must follow legal procedure and should not become involved in police investigations, Xinhua says.

However, enforcing a ban on this behaviour will be difficult, says the BBC’s Celia Hatton in Beijing.


By Barbara Demick

September 25, 2013, 4:57 p.m.

BEIJING — He was a poor man selling sausages and chicken from an unlicensed food cart in hope of earning enough money to send his talented young son to an art school in the capital.

Outside a market in northeast China on a spring day, two municipal officers, members of a notoriously brutal force known as chengguan, confiscated Xia Junfeng’s cooking equipment and took him in for questioning. Xia said it quickly turned into a beating.

Soon, both officers were dead, stabbed with a small knife Xia kept in his pocket for slicing sausages.

On Wednesday, more than four years since the incident in Shenyang, after lengthy appeals and heavy publicity that turned him into a symbol of repression for many Chinese, Xia was executed. China’s microblogs were flooded with outrage.

On one popular site, Sina.com, Xia’s name was the most searched of the day, and 2.8 million people posted messages, almost all supporting him.

Many contrasted his case with that of Gu Kailai, the wife of ex-Politburo member Bo Xilai, whose sensational corruption trial wrapped up Sunday with the imposition of a life sentence. Gu, a lawyer, was convicted last year of premeditated murder for poisoning a British businessman. She was given a suspended death sentence, the equivalent of life in prison.

“Gu Kailai was a member of the privileged class, who knew what crime she was committing,” wrote one outraged critic in a comment later expunged by censors. “Xia Junfeng was struggling at the bottom of society to survive. His death is an injustice. There is only tyranny.”


The mystery of China’s missing millionaires

Last year, some 30,000 people entered entered China’s “millionaire” ranks, according to the latest Hurun Report (pdf), which defines that as those with more than $1.63 million in assets. The report competes with Forbes and Bloomberg to count the assets of China’s notorious “hidden rich,” who tend to obscure their wealth to avoid scrutiny of the government, media, and public. (Hurun’s findings are widely reported in the Chinese press.) 

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The starkest trend from 2012 is that the net growth of China’s millionaire ranks is slowing fast:
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Underlying this is a striking break with past trends. In 2012, even as the tally in some areas surged, a slew of provinces actually shed millionaires. Zhejiang province, China’s entrepreneurial hotbed, had 1,000 fewer millionaires in 2012 than it did in 2011, while Inner Mongolia lost 500. Numbers in Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, and Hebei took a hit as well.
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What happened to them?
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The slowing economy likely reversed the fortunes of some former millionaire, particularly in industry-heavy provinces. Plummeting coal demand, which has exposed the sector’s excessive capacity and high debt, probably dented the wallets of some minor Shanxi and Inner Mongolia coal barons. (Inner Mongolia’s ghost city, Ordos, was funded by speculative coal money.) Similarly, falling steel demand and rampant overcapacity may have thinned the ranks of Hebei and Liaoning fat cats.
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Another culprit could be real estate, the basis of many Chinese fortunes. A consistent 15% of millionaires earn their living from property speculation, according to Hurun. Even among non-real estate tycoons, the average value of property holdings in 2012 rose. And 64% of rich folks Hurun surveyed preferred investing in it, compared with 28% in 2008 (pdf, p.10).
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But property prices fell in 2012, taking some fortunes with it. In Zhejiang, plunging housing prices set off a series of protests and left some developers without cash to cover debts.
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Perhaps some of those developers didn’t make this year’s list. Then again, maybe they were part of Zhejiang’s spate of fleeing bosses (paywall). Many, though, were from the Zhejiang city of Wenzhou. In 2011, China’s slowdown collapsed Wenzhou’s bustling shadow finance system. As lenders began liquidating collateral—often residential property titles—the housing market crashed. Scores of Wenzhou businessmen fled the country.
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Even those in Wenzhou without dangerous debts have been eyeing the exits. As a recent note on Wenzhou by Tracy Tian and David Cui of Bank of America/Merrill Lynch explained, those with means have bought real estate abroad, often baking “their overseas property investment choice into their decision-making for immigration.”
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The 2011 Hurun report picked up on that, too. Hailing “the rise of emigration out of China” (pdf, p. 2), it reported that that “60% of millionaires are applying or considering emigrating overseas,” with many buying property overseas as a way of “facilitating emigration.”
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?“The Chinese Millionaire Wealth Report 2013.”


(Reuters / Jason Lee)

What would you say if a teacher asked you for money after hugging your kid goodbye? One Chinese kindergarten has decided to cash in on the universal gesture of affection, with teachers serving up daily hugs to children for just under $13 a month.

Parents of tykes attending a kindergarten in east China’s Yangzhou City were charged a so-called “hug fee” of 80 Yuan, some $12.80, local media report, citing a Chinese blogger.

According to the report the monthly fee covered one morning hug and one hug goodbye per day.

After the information surfaced online, some parents confirmed that they knew their children were hugged by the teachers but had no idea this was a prepaid option, as the charge was officially called a “quality education fee.”

The school explained that hugs were one component of a quality education aimed at making children feel loved, secure and more confident.

However, the local school board found that such a practice violates educational rules, saying that if the information about the fee is confirmed by investigators, the school will have to return parents their money. The investigation into the not so touching matter is still ongoing.


China’s Child-Swap Reality Show Highlights Class Divide

On X-change (???), a program on Henan Satellite Television, two children swap families for seven days. One child hails from a low-income rural household, the other from a relatively well-off urban household in one of China’s booming metropolises. Over the course of six or seven episodes per swap, viewers learn about the background of both families – their jobs, income, work history, reasons for entering the program, and other interesting tidbits. The show recently returned after a three-year hiatus.

Netizens have praised X-change for showing the adversity facing rural children while  also having a tangible impact on those children’s lives. In the final episode of the first swap, the urban student’s teachers and classmates donated a large sum of money to the rural child’s school. Attention from the show also prompted local government officials to build new dormitories for rural students.

But attacking the root causes of these inequalities is a different task altogether. The Youku comments section overflows with lamentations about education and opportunity, poor rural infrastructure and governance, the growing urban-rural income gap, and the rampant materialism among China’s urban youth. Viewers find the subject matter touching, but lament that such programming can only show one isolated situation while millions of rural Chinese children face hardship.

Indeed, when publicity from the show inspired local leaders to renovate the lice-ridden, rat-infested student dormitories, it simply reminded viewers that corrupt local officials have been siphoning off resources that should already have been gone to rural children. Writing on Youku, Wyl1994 argues that “nowadays government officials say things more beautiful than any song, but don’t actually do anything about it [the quality of education for poor kids].”

Some are hopeful, if only cautiously so. Zoaldyeck writes, “At least it has drawn attention to their problem and provided a sliver of hope to change their futures. It is clearly not enough to rely on themselves, they also need help from outside.” ???? believes the show won’t help most rural children, but hopes that the development of public welfare organizations will improve the lives of children in rural mountain areas.


June 29 (Bloomberg) — Xi Jinping, the man in line to be China’s next president, warned officials on a 2004 anti-graft conference call: “Rein in your spouses, children, relatives, friends and staff, and vow not to use power for personal gain.”

As Xi climbed the Communist Party ranks, his extended family expanded their business interests to include minerals, real estate and mobile-phone equipment, according to public documents compiled by Bloomberg.

Those interests include investments in companies with total assets of $376 million; an 18 percent indirect stake in a rare- earths company with $1.73 billion in assets; and a $20.2 million holding in a publicly traded technology company. The figures don’t account for liabilities and thus don’t reflect the family’s net worth.

No assets were traced to Xi, who turns 59 this month; his wife Peng Liyuan, 49, a famous People’s Liberation Army singer; or their daughter, the documents show. There is no indication Xi intervened to advance his relatives’ business transactions, or of any wrongdoing by Xi or his extended family.

While the investments are obscured from public view by multiple holding companies, government restrictions on access to company documents and in some cases online censorship, they are identified in thousands of pages of regulatory filings.

The trail also leads to a hillside villa overlooking the South China Sea in Hong Kong, with an estimated value of $31.5 million. The doorbell ringer dangles from its wires, and neighbors say the house has been empty for years. The family owns at least six other Hong Kong properties with a combined estimated value of $24.1 million.

Standing Committee

Xi has risen through the party over the past three decades, holding leadership positions in several provinces and joining the ruling Politburo Standing Committee in 2007. Along the way, he built a reputation for clean government.

He led an anti-graft campaign in the rich coastal province of Zhejiang, where he issued the “rein in” warning to officials in 2004, according to a People’s Daily publication. In Shanghai, he was brought in as party chief after a 3.7 billion- yuan ($582 million) scandal.

A 2009 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing cited an acquaintance of Xi’s saying he wasn’t corrupt or driven by money. Xi was “repulsed by the all-encompassing commercialization of Chinese society, with its attendant nouveau riche, official corruption, loss of values, dignity, and self- respect,” the cable disclosed by Wikileaks said, citing the friend. Wikileaks publishes secret government documents online.

A U.S. government spokesman declined to comment on the document.

Carving Economy

Increasing resentment over China’s most powerful families carving up the spoils of economic growth poses a challenge for the Communist Party. The income gap in urban China has widened more than in any other country in Asia over the past 20 years, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“The average Chinese person gets angry when he hears about deals where people make hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars, by trading on political influence,” said Barry Naughton, professor of Chinese economy at the University of California, San Diego, who wasn’t referring to the Xi family specifically.


BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Hu Jintao has demanded senior Communist Party officials stifle tensions over the ousting of ambitious politician Bo Xilai and show unity as they prepare for a change of leadership, sources briefed on recent meetings said.

Hu urged the party to close ranks at a meeting of about 200 officials early this month at a Beijing hotel, declaring the downfall of Bo – China’s biggest political scandal in two decades – to be an “isolated case”, the three sources said.

The sources’ comments represent the first confirmation of speculation that Hu recently intervened to prevent a wider rift in the party and to resist pressure from some elements for a wider purge of the populist Bo’s policies and supporters.

Bo, former party chief of Chongqing city, was suspended from the party’s top ranks in April after his wife became a suspect in the murder of British businessman Neil Heywood. Before the scandal broke, Bo had been seen as a candidate to join China’s new top leadership team to be unveiled this year.

“It’s been settled that this will be dealt with as a criminal case, not a political case,” said one of the sources, a retired official. “The central leadership wants to focus on ensuring a stable environment for the 18th Party Congress, so the guiding policy is to end all the rumors and contention.”

The party congress, scheduled to be held late this year, will appoint a new generation of leaders. Hu and Premier Wen Jiabao will then step down from their government posts at the National People’s Congress in early 2013, when Vice President Xi Jinping is likely to succeed Hu as president.

The sources, all with ties to senior party officials, spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid possible recriminations for speaking about internal party discussions.

Two of them said Hu had convened this month’s meeting at the Jingxi Hotel, the party’s heavily guarded conference hotel in western Beijing where leaders often hold secretive conclaves.

The meeting was part of a series of steps taken to shore up unity and advance preparations for the 18th Party Congress. Those steps included retired leaders, especially former president Jiang Zemin, giving their backing to Hu’s position.

“Jiang said that if you have solid evidence that Gu Kailai committed murder and that Bo Xilai also committed major errors, then deal with it as an isolated criminal incident,” said the retired official, paraphrasing a summary of Jiang’s comments.

“There’s already been too much instability. The overriding goal now must be a successful 18th Party Congress,” the former official said, paraphrasing Jiang, 85, who a decade after he retired still exercises some influence over major decisions. One of the sources said Jiang was not at the Jingxi meeting and it was unclear where he made the remarks or how he conveyed them.

Hu’s expected successor, Xi, also has stayed closely in line with the leadership’s position on Bo, said the retired official.

IDEOLOGICAL RIFTS, RUMOURS

Describing Bo’s downfall as a serious but isolated case of wrongdoing, Hu urged officials at the meeting to end ideological rifts and rumors ignited by the scandal, the sources added.

The domestic security chief, Zhou Yongkang, has faced accusations that he sought to protect Bo, but his career appears to have survived the controversy, despite rumors that Zhou could be sidelined.

“Zhou has been encouraged by the party leadership to make regular appearances and show he’s trusted,” said the retired official. He noted that Zhou and President Hu made a high-profile joint appearance before police on May 18.

Premier Wen had suggested he favored a wider reckoning in March when, a day before Bo was sacked as Chongqing party chief, the premier linked Bo’s failings to the discredited radicalism of the Cultural Revolution.

But at the recent party meetings, Wen’s comments were chided by some other officials, two of the sources said.

However, China’s leaders could find enforcing demands for conformity from the public harder than from within the party.

Bo nurtured an ardent following among leftists who embraced what they viewed as his model of egalitarian growth, and they have continued to defend him as the victim of a plot. He had used Chongqing, a province-level municipality in southwest China, as a showcase for left-leaning populist policies.

Liberal reformers, however, want the government to look beyond Heywood’s death and examine complaints about Bo’s leadership, including accusations that his populist crackdown on organized crime in Chongqing involved abuses such as torture.

He was brought down after a furor erupted when his police chief, Wang Lijun, fled to a U.S. consulate for more than 24 hours in February and told American diplomats that he believed Bo’s wife, Gu Kailai, was implicated in Heywood’s death in November, according to later descriptions of Wang’s allegations.

“The leadership won’t turn this into a line struggle,” independent politics researcher Chen Ziming said, using the party’s jargon for an ideological purge.

Beijing-based Chen, who has sources close to the party, said there appeared to have been heated internal debate over how to handle the Bo case before deciding to contain it.

“The drama is focused on the three actors, and that’s already complicated enough,” Chen said, referring to Bo, his wife Gu, and the ex-police chief Wang.

“If there are more actors brought into the drama, then it will become just too complicated and troublesome.”

Bo, 62, and Gu, 52, have disappeared from public view and have had no chance to respond publicly to the allegations.

OUT OF SIGHT

The make-up of the next central leadership elite will be settled over coming months through an opaque process of inspections, jockeying and balancing rival camps in the party.

In recent weeks, the party has launched informal ballots and inspections to size up potential candidates for promotion into the Central Committee, which has about 200 full members, and the Politburo, a more powerful body with about two dozen members, the three sources said.

The Politburo Standing Committee, the core decision-making body, is chosen from the Politburo. The standing committee currently has nine members.

“Now they’re going from province to province to examine officials and settle on possible candidates for the next leadership,” said Chen, the researcher.

In China’s top-down politics, final decisions rest with a handful of leaders, but the results of these assessments can sway deliberations, he said.

The informal polls would serve as a basis for discussions when the leaders head to summer villas in coastal Beidaihe in July or August, when the new succession lineup would be firmed up, said one of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

(Editing by Brian Rhoads, Don Durfee and Mark Bendeich)


Wen Jiabao said corruption was the greatest threat to the ruling party.

His comments come amid a drive to support the Communist Party’s recent move ousting top politician Bo Xilai over alleged disciplinary breaches.

In another twist, it has emerged that Mr Bo’s wife is now suspected of murdering a British businessman.

The politician’s wife, Gu Kailai, was detained after the death of businessman Neil Heywood in Chongqing, south-western China, in November.

On Monday, two sources close to the police investigation were quoted by Reuters news agency as saying Mr Heywood, 41, had been poisoned after threatening to expose Mrs Gu’s plans to move money abroad.

The Chinese authorities have not publicly commented on the allegation.
‘Political purge’

In the article, which was reprinted in China’s influential Qiushi journal on Monday, Mr Wen called for more effective measures to tackle corruption.

The article published in Qiushi, the party magazine, was based on a 26 March speech Wen delivered to China’s State Council.

He said that greater transparency and a reduction in the concentration of powers among government structures were also needed.

The article, however, did not directly mention Mr Bo, 62, who is now under investigation for serious breaches of discipline.

Media reports suggest the former Chongqing party chief tried to abuse his power to derail the investigation into his wife.

Mr Bo was once tipped as a future leader and was expected to become a member of the party’s powerful Politburo Standing Committee in the autumn.

He commanded strong support and possessed enormous charisma, in stark contrast with most of his colleagues, the BBC’s Martin Patience reports from Beijing.

All this has forced China’s leaders to handle his removal from power with care, our correspondent says.

He adds that the country’s state media have been in overdrive in recent days, pumping out editorials stressing that no-one – not even top politicians – are above the law.

But supporters of Mr Bo see this as a convenient excuse for what they regard as a political purge, our correspondent says.


China may have already reach the peak of economic development unless there is a radical change in its political, social and economic system. It is just not possible to sustain at the same time the skimming of all profits by the corrupt few, the enslavement of the worker base, and the destruction of foreign competition by dumping. There would no market left to sustain the system and the bubble will implode. When and if the Chinese economic bubble collapses the World’s finances will have no engine left to run on.

China has seen an increase in labor unrest and the Chinese government is worried that another slowdown could spark public anger.

Zhou Yongkang, a member of the politburo, asked provincial officials for improved “social management”.
“It is an urgent task for us to think how to establish a social management system with Chinese characteristics to suit our socialist market economy,” Mr Zhou said in public comments.

“Especially when facing negative effects of the market economy.”

He called for innovative approaches to a large set of policies which could include anything from increased policing to better internet control or better unemployment insurance.

There have been multiple signs of a slowdown in recent months in China. The economy grew by 9.1% between June and September (2011) compared to a year earlier, the slowest rate of expansion in two years.

Last week, manufacturing was showed to have contracted sharply and the government cut the amount of money banks must keep in reserve to spur more lending, reversing recent policy.

There has also been a spike in labor unrest in recent weeks. Employees of a Singaporean electronics firm Hi-P International in Shanghai went on strike last week over mass job losses. Thousands of workers in Shenzhen and Dongguan, two of China’s top export centres in the south of the country, went on strike last month protesting cuts in overtime.

In China there is pattern of overbearing demeanor by government officials and their proxies. The elite show contempt for human life and other people’s physical integrity and dignity. Public anger at the Chinese regime’s elite class erupted last month after a deadly hit-and-run accident at Hebei University in northern China. The driver is the son of a high-ranking police officer. He drove off after running down two students. When crowds stopped his car, he reportedly shouted “Sue me if you dare, my father is Li Gang.”

In a similar incident another teenager, 19-year-old Ma Wenzong (???), shouted out “My dad is the mayor!” (?????!), enraging the assembled onlookers. Ma’s Mercedes SUV crushed the storefront signage of shopkeeper Liu Xiuying (???). After the two exchanged words, Ma rushed into Liu’s store, and smashed a landline phone that sat atop a counter on the ground, before then using the store’s calculator to repeatedly smack the head of Liu’s 18-month-old daughter until blood was drawn. Police eventually arrived, only to leave promptly after declaring both Ma and his girlfriend, who was in the vehicle during the entire incident, were not driving drunk. Ma is the son of a local businessman, rather than Zhao Yide (???), the Mayor of Wenzhou. It doesn’t come as much of surprise that a 19-year-old was cruising around with a GL450, which has a modest sticker price that hovers in the neighborhood of 1.5 million RMB ($235,000 USD) for the 2011 model. Wenzhou and the rest of Zhejiang are known for having their fair share of wealthy types in the coastal province.

Corruption is so blatant that the new-rich flaunt unexplainable wealth more proper of a king than of a bureaucrat. Sina Weibo microblog is a common place for showing-off. Ms. Guo (Weibo user @???baby), a verified Weibo user claimed to be a manager of a commercial branch of Red Cross, was showing off her Massaratti, Lamborghini, Hermes Birkin bag, and other luxury items on the microblog.  How could a girl in her early 20s gain this much of a fortune, owning super-cars and branded luxury goods? China’s famous ‘human-flesh’ search engine has indicated that Ms. Guo might have connections with some high-placed, well-to-do individuals. But there isn’t any clear evidence that  Guo is actually connected with Red Cross in China.

The small and medium-size factories that drive the local economy find it increasingly hard to get bank loans, as the government announced it was ending its stimulus spending and tightening the money supply to rein in inflation. The factories turned to the murky private lending market — small licensed credit companies, unlicensed underwriters, bigger businesses with spare cash to lend, and loan sharks. Some of the loans were to pay salaries and keep the factories humming. But much of it went into more speculative ventures, such as investing in real estate or expanding into newer, riskier businesses with the lure of higher returns. And some individuals and businesses that could get scarce bank loans turned around and loaned the money out again, to friends and neighbors, at higher interest rates. But the continued economic slowdown in the United States and Europe meant orders dried up for Wenzhou’s hundreds of thousands of small factories. Inflation has been increasing — currently about 6 percent in China — which is one reason the government decided to tighten liquidity. Wages have been rising. The Chinese currency, the renminbi, has beengradually gaining in value against the U.S. dollar, further hammering these export-dependent factories. Some are comparing the problem of Wenzhou to the collapse of Bear Stearns in March 2008, which was a prelude to the larger financial collapse the following September. Guo Tianyong, an economics professor at Beijing’s Central University of Finance and Economics, called Wenzhou “a signal that high-interest private lending might trigger a debt crisis.” There are already warning signs that the debt problem is spreading, specifically to parts of Jiangsu and Shanxi provinces, and to Inner Mongolia, where many owners of small mines are believed to be overextended. The privately held debt comes on top of official debt by local government “investment arms” that floated municipal bonds and took out huge bank loans during the stimulus period of 2009 and 2010 to build housing units, airports, highways and subways.Total local government debt in China has been estimated at anywhere between 10 trillion and 14 trillion renminbi (about $1.6 trillion to $2.2 trillion). Many economists and independent analysts believe that if the central government in Beijing ends up absorbing all of the debt floating around — from private companies and overextended localities, along with the central government’s own debt — China’s real debt-to-GDP ratio could end up being 60 percent or higher. The bigger concern for the government is unrest. When factories close and bosses flee town, workers cannot collect their salaries. It is a scene that officials do not want repeated across the country. The situation in Wenzhou is so urgent that during China’s October National Day holiday, Premier Wen Jiabao traveled here with the finance minister and the governor of the central bank. One result of their trip was the establishment of a provincial bailout fund of up to 100 billion renminbi (about $15.7 billion), according to the Chinese media. The boss of Center Group, fled to the United States in September, leaving his 1,800 workers unpaid, after taking out too many loans in an effort to branch out into the solar energy business. He returned after the government offered help for restructuring the debt. The process of social decomposition will eventually produce a failed State.


GUANGZHOU – The possibility of enacting laws to punish passers-by who refuse to help people in obvious distress has become a hot topic in the southern province of Guangdong. Legal experts and the public are debating the idea after a 2-year-old girl, Yue Yue, was run over twice in Foshan on Thursday but ignored by at least 18 passers-by. Yue Yue was finally moved to the roadside by a 57-year-old scrap collector, who then called for the girl’s parents. At least 10 Party and government departments and organizations in Guangdong, including the province’s commission on politics and law, the women’s federation, the academy of social sciences and the Communist Youth League, have started discussions about punishing those who refuse to help people who clearly need it. They are also seeking feedback from the public as to whether legislation should be enacted. Zhu Yongping, a lawyer at Datong Law Firm, said lawyers will discuss the idea next month and push for the legislation. “Many laws, including forbidding drunken driving, in China have been passed after high-profile individual cases, and now is the right time to legislate against refusing to help people,” Zhu said on Wednesday. “If we can use laws to guide our morality and ethics, our morals might not become worse.” Nie Lize, an associate professor at Sun Yat-sen University, was also in favor of such a law. “It is necessary to legislate because the morals of Chinese people are getting lower,” Nie said. However, Wang Zhongxing, a professor in the university’s law school, said refusing to help people should not be a crime. “We should be very cautious to legislate because legislation is a double-edged sword,” he said. “It can help fight crime, but it may also wrongfully accuse the innocent.” Wang said the issue was about morals rather than the law. “It is not fair to punish all people who do not lend a helping hand,” he added. Huang Na, an associate professor with the law school at the Chinese People’s Public Security University, also opposed the idea of legislation. “The legislation should be targeted for the specially designated groups, including police and doctors, instead of the vast numbers of ordinary residents,” she said. Otherwise, too many people will become suspects and defendants, Huang said. “Those who are not qualified to rescue the wounded may make the victims’ conditions even worse,” she said. “It may also limit the rights and civil obligations of citizens when morality and ethics are legislated.”

As shocking as this incident is, by itself is not an indictment of China. Empirical evidence and academic studies suggest that in an urban setting, the probability that a person in distress would be helped, depends heavily on the actions of the people present at the moment of the emergency and that the larger the crowd, the least likely help will be offered. There are many an example of this in the United States. The major explanation for people failing to stop and help a victim is how obsessed with haste they are. More telling is the attitudes of the people involved, the government, and the public in general. The driver who first hit the toddler said in a telephone interview with a Guangdong television station that he had been talking on his phone when the girl walked in front of his vehicle. He said he kept driving because if she were dead, it would only cost him 10,000 to 20,000 renminbi ($1,500 to $3,000), but if she were alive, he would have to pay hundreds of thousands of renminbi in medical bills. I think that something got lost in translation here. As it stands, it is a cynical admission of deliberate murder. As callous as this person might be, it is hard to believe that he would be so blunt on a public interview. Nevertheless, whatever nuances was intended the meaning of his explanation was probably this. Referring to the driver’s comments, one Internet user posting under the name Ximending Xiaodoujiang wrote, “If the compensation for a death were higher than the cost of medical care, these cases might not happen.” The writer added, it was “unrealistic” to expect a change soon, because for Chinese today, “all they can think about is food and clothes.” The behavior of other people in similar situations suggest that it is indeed less of a trouble for the responsible party in a traffic accident to kill than to injure, and that, in any case, is not much of a deal if one has the right connections. Even in a country like Mexico with widespread corruption, it is far more problematic to be involved in a traffic accident if there are fatalities than otherwise, and medical expenses of the victims are normally covered by mandatory insurance. Thus, the Chinese government has figure out yet another way to save a few renminbi by not requiring driver’s insurance and sending victims of traffic accidents to the trash can if they happen to be poor. China has been split in two groups that the Chinese themselves call euphemistically city-dwellers (bureaucrats, technocrats, businessmen) and migrant workers (slave labor) . Chen Xianmei, the illiterate scrap peddler who picked up Foshan toddler Yueyue off the street, who finally called for the little girl’s mother illustrates of the moral and mental differences between the two groups. She left Guangzhou after being overwhelmed by media requests and offerings of cash. Chen’s landlady even threatened eviction, due to the distraction of having media members lined up outside her apartment. Her neighbors claimed that she helped Yueyue to become famous. Dongguan, a home products company, gave her 100,000 RMB in cash, along with another 20,000RMB from the Foshan municipal government. Chen visited the hospital to see Yueyue’s parents and give them all the cash she had received: “I don’t even know how much this is. I’ve thinking only of the child, so I haven’t even counted the money given to me these past few days. I’ve brought it all for the child.” Chen left for her hometown of Qingyuan (??) in Guangdong, to reunite with her husband. Chen had been working in Foshan since 2009 to be with her children. What Chen Xianmei did was to lift the brain-dead limp body of the child from the road and put it on the sidewalk before calling the mother. This trivial natural act that took her 12 seconds was deemed an heroic deed done for the sake of notoriety. On a latter incident,  it was big news that several passersby quickly went to the aid of a 20-month-old boy, Xiao Jie, knocked down by a reversing car in a bazaar in Foshan. More than 10 stallholders called out for the car to stop and alerted the child’s mother, a vegetables seller. In China, one is not expected to help a victim of an accident and the government actively discourages such acts. The Health Ministry in September issued new “Good Samaritan” guidelines that essentially warn passersby not to rush to help elderly people on the ground, but to first ascertain whether they are conscious and then wait for trained medical personnel to arrive. The Telegraph posts that pedestrians may have been afraid to help Yue Yue because of China’s “compensation culture.” The paper refers to a 2006 judgment in which a person who helped a woman get to a hospital was “wrongly ordered to pay her compensation.” Bystanders who did intervene to help others have found themselves accused of wrongdoing. In August, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, a bus driver named Yin Hongbing stopped to help an elderly woman who had been struck by a hit-and-run driver. But until he was vindicated by surveillance videos, Yin was the one accused of hitting the woman. There have also been several cases of passersby stopping to help elderly people who had fallen, or were pushed, and who then were sued by the victims or were arrested. The thinking here is: They must have been responsible or they would not have stopped to help. A recent survey by the Renmin University of China and other academic institutions found 87 per cent of people cited a fear of getting into trouble when asked why they would not help an elderly person who had fallen. In a previous incident at the West Lake UNESCO World Heritage Site in eastern Zhejiang province last week, an American tourist, jumped into the water to rescue a woman who was drowning. Internet chat sites immediately lighted up with questions about why a foreigner intervened, while no Chinese would. One Internet user wrote: “That tourist was too impulsive. She didn’t know that in China, kind people who save others are often accused of being the perpetrator. The next time you run into someone who was hit by a car, you need to be careful.” The case of the toddler lying in the street has ignited a little schizophrenia on the Chinese government.  “Cracks can be seen in the moral framework of Chinese society,” the Communist Party-owned Global Times newspaper wrote in its lead editorial Wednesday. “Many are asking: What’s wrong with China?”  There were calls for the introduction of a law to compel people to help accident victims. Communist Party organizations in Guangdong, including the Communist Youth League, were said to be keen for rules to be introduced that would punish anyone who failed to assist an injured person, according to state media. “Many laws, including forbidding drunken driving in China, have been passed after high-profile individual cases, and now is the right time to legislate against refusing to help people.” In response, many have turned the blame on the government. They say that the breakdown began during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and ’70s and that in a system that does not respect individual rights and freedoms, people take their cue from the behavior of officials at the top. “I think the biggest problem is the corruption of the government officials,” Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociology professor at Renmin University in Beijing, said in an interview. He used an old Chinese idiom: If the upper beam is not straight, the lower beams will go askew. Ling Bing, a professor in the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law, said the Yue Yue case showed “moral decay” among the public, but suggested legislation was not the answer. “I don’t think a law that compels people to act would be effective,” he said by telephone. “It’s a law that would be very hard to enforce and it’s a law that fundamentally will not be able to change people’s behavior very much.” He suggested instead that the country’s supreme court could reaffirm the principle that accusers have to prove that helpers have caused them injury. Moral choice is about free choice and  helping behavior cannot be induced by religion or law. Hu Xingdou, an economics professor at Beijing Institute of Technology, said he saw the problem as an absence of religious ethics in what is largely an atheist society. Modern Chinese, he said, “don’t have beliefs, although China has indigenous religions like Taoism and Buddhism. China is actually an atheist country, and Chinese people are never afraid of God’s punishment.” Hu added: “The Chinese government has made economic development its central task, which means everything is money-centered. Both the legal system and the moral system have been sacrificed to money ­making Washington Post Wang Juan report from Wenzhou. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Gang_incident http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/an-injured-toddler-is-ignored-and-chinese-ask-why/2011/10/19/gIQAxhnpxL_story.html?tid=sm_btn_twitter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Kitty_Genovese