1

Reconciliation: Ex-IRA and British Soldiers Take Tea Together

 | The Guardian

With handshakes, smiles and four civil words, a small group of men came together in Northern Ireland last month in an attempt to overcome a formidable barrier that remains long after the decades of conflict came to an end.

“Do you take milk?” asked one. And with the tea dispensed, four former members of the British army and four former members of the Irish Republican Army commenced a meeting that was intended to start a process of reconciliation among men who had once been the most implacable of enemies.

In an encounter that was both undramatic but remarkable nonetheless, the men talked about the reasons they had taken up arms, the consequences of their decisions and their hopes of making a contribution to a lasting peace.

It was an all-too rare meeting: while ex-members of the IRA have met former police officers and prison officers as part of the peace process, and former republican and loyalist paramilitaries have reached out to each other over the divide, ex-members of the IRA and the British military have rarely encountered each other since the 1998 Good Friday agreement brought to an end 30 years of violence that had claimed more than 3,700 lives.

The Guardian has agreed not to identify the former IRA members or the location of the meeting it was invited to witness, other than to say that it happened in Derry. This was the city of Bloody Sunday, and the republicans who took part would face severe criticism from some local people – including dissident republicans – for agreeing to take tea with former British soldiers.

For their part, some of the former soldiers were clearly apprehensive when travelling to republican strongholds. For some, it was the first time they had visited such areas since leaving the army.

Both sides agreed that such face-to-face encounters remained an important part of a peace process that is ongoing; that it was important that they should “rehumanise” the people who had once been their enemies….

Continue reading the article




FBI Doesn’t Count Number of Civilians Killed By Cops But You Can Help Build a Database That DOES

By Shasha-Gaye Santiago & Elliot D. Cohen | Project Censored*

PoliceOfficer-4053921_m-680x380

Editor’s Note: Considering how the question of police conduct/misconduct has been in the news in the last several months, it seems ironic that the Federal Government does not consider it important to know about the number of cop-on-civilian deaths, particularly since it’s a capital crime often handled at the federal level.

Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation tracks how many police officers die in the line of duty, it keeps no such record for how many civilians are killed by police each year. Recognizing a significant gap in the public records of civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers, D. Brian Burghart, the editor of the Reno News & Review and a journalism instructor at University of Nevada, decided to create a public database. “In 2014, how could we not know how many people our government kills on our streets every year?” And he launched Fatal Encounters, a website that, as Bethania Palma Markus reported for Truthout, “tracks and tallies when cops take lives” and “invites the public to help build the database.”

[Read more here]

*Title of original article on Project Censored: National Database of Police Killings Aims For Accountability

Robert O'Leary, JD BARARobert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products and modalities since the early 1970’s, and he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist and father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive and safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield (MA), New England and “virtually” the world, through his new website, www.romayasoundhealthandbeauty.com. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.com

 




Nation’s Top Teacher Resigns: “I Can’t Drill ‘Em and Kill ‘Em”

Heather Callaghan | Activist Post
what have you learnAn award-winning, nationally recognized teacher gave a “mic-dropping” speech that ends with the announcement of her teaching resignation at Elyria, OH public schools.

Stacie Starr was not just any teacher, however. She was the number one finalist in 2014’s “Live with Kelly and Michael” ‘Top Teacher’ award, a people’s choice and enviable contest of sorts. It’s like the “American Idol” for teacher contestants, and it drove her into the national limelight. This prompted many news segments to ask her how it felt to win that kind of recognition. In multiple pieces you can see her getting tearfully choked up at the honor, and calling it one of the greatest days of her entire life. Furthermore, she did not simply download information into her learning-disabled, at-risk students – she taught them how to think. That is why she was recognized!

That was near the end of the 2013-2014 school year, so for her to announce her resignation the following year, nowhere near retirement age, is astonishing and enough to make the greater majority of people to say, “what gives?” In the speech below, she will tell you exactly what gives.

But more than that, this speech is utterly heart wrenching because it erupts in tears of another kind.

Earlier this month, Starr was merely to provide information at a Lorain County Education Forum about PARCC testing as it relates to special education students. PARCC is the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a coalition of states that is using the test to drive Common Core by assessing students (and teachers) to see how “up to par” they are on the new, fast-paced and nonsensical programming. 

What is even more insidious, is that special needs students have been left out of the mix to fall by the wayside. By that I mean, while they are normally allowed to have helps for their disability (like having the test read aloud), they are not allowed any such thing with PARCC. Which means that PARCC is acting outside and above the law with a “survival of the fittest” standard. Starr demonstrates the irony of all the children becoming “left behind” in this new system.

Hear the disturbing account of Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project, A-Bomb, and Truman’s decision to bomb questions being used for 9th grade reading! She also shows how PARCC and Common Core will contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline. She explains what happens when you ask a modern student a question – “they can. not. think. for themselves.”

From IJR Review (my emphasis added):

The Chronicle-Telegram report, which comes via PJ Media:

Gasps of disbelief followed the announcement made during an education forum aimed at unraveling for parents the intricacies of the standardized testing system. Starr was at the podium, delivering a talk on how special education students are suffering under the new system based on Common Core standards and more rigorous assessments. She said as a veteran intervention specialist at Elyria High School, she could no longer watch silently from within the confines of a structured school day.

Starr spoke of her reasons for leaving teaching, saying:

“I can’t do it anymore, not in this ‘drill ‘em and kill ‘em’ atmosphere,” adding, “I don’t think anyone understands that in this environment if your child cannot quickly grasp material, study like a robot and pass all of these tests, they will not survive.” 

Starr was not alone, though. At the public event where she announced her intention to resign at the end of the school year, other teachers from Elyria High School voiced their skepticism about new teaching standards and the contemplations of resigning.

PARCC is another insidious privatized thread, intertwined with Common Core instillation and is worthy of its own articles. This writer encourages the reader to seek research on it, starting with teaching blogs and even mainstream rants written by teachers. You might even bring it up to your local teachers – and be prepared for an earful!

Related:

Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at NaturalBlaze.com and ActivistPost.com. Like at Facebook.

More from Activistpost




Questioning the Charter School Hype [Project Censored #21]

By Jessie Lina De La O (Sonoma State University) & Jordan Monterosso (Indian River State College) [Student Researchers] and Lynn Lowery (Sonoma State University) & Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College) [Faculty Evaluators]| Project Censored |
 32265559_m-ElementaryTeacherandStudents-680x380

Charter schools have been heralded as the antidote to “failed” public schools, especially in poor urban communities of African-American and Latino/a students. Politicians and celebrities alike now advocate charters schools and preside over their openings. However, as Salon, AlterNet, and other independent media outlets have reported, charter schools have come under fire for not fulfilling the roles or achieving the results that their proponents have claimed. Instead of providing positive teaching and preparing children for the future, recent news reports have indicated that charter schools are subjecting students to padded cells, public shaming and embarrassment, poor instruction, and the negative consequences of financial corruption.

In January 2014, Salon’s Jeff Bryant reported on a five-year-old New York charter school where a student was “occasionally thrown in a padded cell and detained alone for stretches as long as 20 minutes.” Bryant also described students who were made to “earn” their desks by sitting on their classroom floor. Similarly, AlterNet’s James Horn reported on the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which is the largest corporate public charter school program in the United States. “KIPP requires the poorest urban children, those who have received the least in life, to earn everything,” Horn reported. The harsh practices implemented by some charter school instructors result in negative repercussions for all children involved, obstructing their learning and undermining their sense of security in what is supposed to be a positive environment.

[Read more here]

DSC03391

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products and modalities since the early 1970’s, and he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist and father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive and safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield (MA), New England and “virtually” the world, through his new website, www.romayasoundhealthandbeauty.com. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.com

 




Key Marijuana Case May Lead to Nationwide Reclassification

MIKE BARRETT | Naturalsociety | Feb 15th 2015

marijuana cannabisMarijuana is known as a Schedule I substance in the United States. That means that it is completely worthless, harnesses ‘no medicinal value,’ and is evidently on the same level of heroin, LSD, and ecstasy. But marijuana can actually help treat numerous ailments, which is why the U.S. government has been juggling with its reclassification for decades.

Now, a legal dispute in California is shedding even more light on the issue in Washington, D.C., and could expedite its the plant’s impending reclassification.

Nine men were recently accused of growing marijuana illegally on private and federal land. The men are arguing that the charges of a $10 million fine and life in prison should be dropped because marijuana is inaccurately classified by the U.S. government.

Thankfully, judge Kimberly K. Muller is somewhat in alignment with millions of Americans’ views, stating that she is taking the defenses’ arguments very seriously and promising to deliver a ruling within 30 days. Could this be the case that finally reclassifies what is quickly becoming well known as a healing substance?

“If I were persuaded by the defense’s argument, if I bought their argument, what would you lose here?” she asked prosecutors during closing arguments on the motion to dismiss the cases against the men.

Lawyer Zenia Gilg, who represented defense attorneys for the men, pointed to Congress’ recent decision to ban the Department of Justice from interfering in states’ implementation of their medical marijuana laws as evidence of her contention that the drug’s classification as Schedule One should be overturned.

Even the Obama Administration has unofficially made it part of their policy to neither indict nor raid medical marijuana dispensaries and growers.

“What you’re seeing now is Colorado, Washington through state referenda, they’re experimenting with legal marijuana,” the president said in response to a question from YouTube host Hank Green. “The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Broderick said that it was up to Congress to change the law, not the court.

The defendants, he said, were illegally growing marijuana on federal land.

“They had weapons,” Broderick said. “These guys were not producing medicine.”

“We’re not saying that this is the most dangerous drug in the world,” Broderick said. “All we’re saying is that the evidence is such that reasonable people could disagree.”

There may be more to this case than meets the eye, but it doesn’t change the fact that marijuana does in fact possess what some might argue as exceptional medicinal value – as a plethora of research has showcased. That, coupled with our constitutional right to handle the drug, is argument enough to reclassify and legalize the drug. After all, at least 23 states feel this way – and that number is growing.
About Mike Barrett:
Google Plus Profile| Mike is the co-founder, editor, and researcher behind Natural Society. Studying the work of top natural health activists, and writing special reports for top 10 alternative health websites, Mike has written hundreds of articles and pages on how to obtain optimum wellness through natural health.

More from Naturalsociety




Project Censored #23: Number of US Prison Inmates Serving Life Sentences Hits New Record

By: James F. Tracy (Faculty Evauator-Florida Atlantic Univ.), Susan Rahman (Faculty Evaluator-College of Marin) & Elliot D. Cohen (Faculty Evaluator-Indian River State Coll.); Isabella Diaz (Student Researcher-Florida Atlantic Univ.), Chelsea Pulver (Student Researcher-College of Marin) & Pietro Pizzani, Mia Hulbert, and Fabiola Garcia (Student Researchers-Indian River State Coll.) | Project Censored

PrisonImage-35166712_m-680x380

Editor’s Note: Here is another in the series of Project Censored stories, part of a publication issued every year, called The 25 Most Censored Stories of 20… Most likely, these are news stories that have missed your radar, but which you are likely to find informative and enlightening, if not mind-expanding. These stories are from the latest release. The following article is about our prison system and how some individuals lives are arguably being thrown away for political reasons – without due consideration to proportionality of punishment to the crime as well as what this does to the families of those individuals.

Ashley Nellis, senior research analyst with the Sentencing Project, argued that the rise in prisoners serving life sentences has to do with political posturing over “tough on crime” measures. “Unfortunately, lifers are typically excluded from most sentencing reform conversations because there’s this sense that it’s not going to sell, politically or with the public,” Nellis said. “Legislators are saying, ‘We have to throw somebody under the bus.’”

California is the leader in lifers, with one-quarter of the country’s life-sentenced population (40,362), followed by Florida (12,549) and New York (10,245), Texas (9,031), Georgia (7,938), Ohio (6,075), Michigan (5,137), Pennsylvania (5,104), and Louisiana (4,657).

There are currently 3,281 prisoners in the US serving a life sentence—with no chance of parole—for minor, nonviolent crimes, according to a November 2013 report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Louisiana, one of nine states where inmates currently serve life sentences for nonviolent crimes, has the nation’s strictest three-strike law, which states that after three offenses the guilty person is imprisoned for life without parole.

As Ed Pilkington reported in the Guardian, the ACLU study documented “thousands of lives ruined and families destroyed” by this practice. Among those is Timothy Jackson, now fifty-three, who in 1996 was caught stealing a jacket from a New Orleans department store. “It has been very hard for me,” Jackson wrote the ACLU. “I know that for my crime I had to do some time, but a life sentence for a jacket valued at $159.”

The ACLU study reported that keeping these prisoners locked up for life costs taxpayers around $1.8 billion annually. The study stated that the US is “virtually alone in its willingness to sentence non-violent offenders to die behind bars.” Life without parole for nonviolent sentences has been ruled a violation of human rights by the European Court of Human Rights.

With 2.3 million people imprisoned in the US today, Felicia Gustin of War Times has asked, is locking people away the answer to creating safer communities? She reported on the work of the Restorative Community Conferencing Program, based in Oakland, California. According to the program’s coordinator, Denise Curtis, “restorative justice is a different approach to crime. . . . Our current justice system asks: What law was broken? Who broke it? and How should they be punished? Restorative justice asks: Who has been harmed? What needs have arisen because of the harm? and Whose responsibility is it to make things as right as they can?”

[Read more here]

Robert O'Leary, JD BARA




‘Love Wins’ in Alabama as Federal Judge Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban

Andrea Germanos | Commondreams

A marriage equality rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.  (Photo: Elvert Barnes/flickr/cc)

A marriage equality rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. (Photo: Elvert Barnes/flickr/cc)

A federal judge on Friday struck down Alabama’s gay marriage ban.

U.S. District Court Judge Callie Granade wrote in her ruling:  “Those children currently being raised by same-sex parents in Alabama are just as worthy of protection and recognition by the State as are the children being raised by opposite-sex parents. Yet Alabama’s Sanctity laws harms the children of same-sex couples for the same reasons that the Supreme Court found that the Defense of Marriage Act harmed the children of same-sex couples.”

Adam Polaski explains at Freedom to Marry’s blog that “the decision in Alabama was inSearcy v. Strange, filed by Cari Searcy and Kim McKeand and private counsel. Cari and Kim have been working for nearly a decade to legally adopt their son, but because of Alabama’s marriage laws, the couple has been confronted with roadblock after roadblock.”

Following the ruling, plaintiff Searcy said, “Love did win.”

Hours after Judge Granade’s ruling, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange filed a motion to stay that ruling until the U.S. Supreme Curt makes its decision on gay marriages nationwide.

“A stay will serve the public interest by avoiding the confusion and inconsistency that will result from an on-again, off-again enforcement of marriage laws,” AP reports state lawyers as writing.

Evan Wolfson, president of the advocacy group Freedom to Marry, said the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case was the start of “what we hope will be the last chapter in our campaign to win marriage nationwide.”

More from Commondreams




On 5th Anniversary of Citizens United, Groups Nationwide Decry Corporate Influence in Politics

Deirdre Fulton | Commondreams

Around the country, communities have called for a 'We the People' amendment that would clarify for the Supreme Court and all Americans that money is not speech, and therefore, campaign spending can be regulated. (Photo: takomabibelot/flickr/cc)

Around the country, communities have called for a ‘We the People’ amendment that would clarify for the Supreme Court and all Americans that money is not speech, and therefore, campaign spending can be regulated. (Photo: takomabibelot/flickr/cc)

On the fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which unleashed a scourge of dark money and unlimited corporate spending in U.S. elections, a coalition of reform-minded organizations gathered on Wednesday to promote several key pieces of legislation aimed at countering the influence of big money in politics.

In Washington, D.C., 15 members of Congress joined a diverse set of democracy groups toreintroduce measures including:

  • The Democracy for All Amendment, which provides Congress and the states with the authority to determine reasonable regulations on campaign financing and distinguish between natural persons and other artificial entities under campaign finance laws;
  • The DISCLOSE Act, which establishes a system of disclosure of campaign spending and the sources of those funds;
  • The Sunlight for Unaccountable Nonprofits Act, which makes public the donors who give more than $5,000 to tax-exempt groups that engage in election activities;
  • Various proposals geared toward empowering small donors and increasing political participation by matching public funds for small dollar contributions, such as the Government by the People Act, Empowering Citizens Act, and Fair Elections Now Act.

The growing support for such reform measures is reflected in a recently released ‘Unity Statement of Principles‘ (pdf) signed by 130 organizations and endorsing policies that are “already working in many parts of the country to ensure a democracy where everyone participates and everyone’s voice is heard; where everyone knows who is buying influence in our elections and government; and where politicians play by common sense rules and are held accountable with enforceable penalties to deter bad behavior.”

Meanwhile, a 5th Anniversary rally and forum were planned to take place outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the biggest spender in the 2014 congressional elections among outside groups that do not disclose their contributors. Convened by a laundry list of progressive groups including 350.org, Jobs With Justice, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, the forum featured U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Jobs With Justice executive director Sarita Gupta, and Public Citizen president Robert Weissman, speaking on how the problem of big money-fueled elections impact people’s daily lives.

Elsewhere, more than 60 events—film screenings, rallies, and protests—would take place around the country.

In Wisconsin, where 54 communities representing more than 2.4 million people have called for a ‘We the People’ amendment that would clarify for the Supreme Court and all Americans that money is not speech, and therefore, campaign spending can be regulated, the organization Money Out, Voters In (MOVI) held a morning press conference to mark the anniversary.

At the event, Wisconsin State Assemblywoman Lisa Subeck introduced a bill to create an advisory referendum on the November 2016 ballot asking whether Wisconsin’s congressional delegation should support, and the Wisconsin Legislature should ratify, an amendment to the U.S. Constitution stating that:

1. Only human beings—not corporations, unions, nonprofit organizations, or similar associations—are endowed with constitutional rights; and

2. Money is not speech, and therefore limiting political contributions and spending is not equivalent to restricting political speech.

“The Supreme Court, in its Citizens United decision, opened the floodgates, and our democracy is drowning,” said Matt Rothschild, executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. “Here in Wisconsin, we’ve seen the consequences, as the Koch brothers, and Gogebic Taconite, and the school privatizers are throwing their weight around as never before.”

Similarly, in New York, hundreds of activists planned to gather in the state capitol to urge the New York Legislature to make New York the 17th state to call for a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. New York came close last year with a majority of the Assembly and 28 state senators signing a letter to Congress calling for an amendment; so far, 20 local municipalities, representing nearly 10 million people, have voiced their support for an amendment, including New York City, Albany, and Buffalo.

In New Hampshire, a statehouse rally will be followed by the ‘Granny D Gala,’ named for late Doris Haddock, who walked over 3,200 miles across the continental United States to advocate for campaign finance reform in 1999 and 2000. The gala will feature activist Lawrence Lessig as keynote speaker.

Last week, a set of eight reports were released simultaneously, showing that Citizens United“opened the floodgates to big money influence in our democracy, giving special interests and the wealthy more control over our government and economy than they’ve enjoyed since the Gilded Age of the late 19th century,” as Common Cause phrased it.

Follow the anniversary actions on Twitter:

More from Commondreams




Ron Paul: If The Fed Has Nothing To Hide, It Has Nothing To Fear – It’s Time To Audit, Then END the Fed

Source:minnesotachris

Since the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913, the dollar has lost over 97 percent of its purchasing power, the US economy has been subjected to a series of painful Federal Reserve-created recessions and depressions, and government has grown to dangerous levels thanks to the Fed’s policy of monetizing the debt. Yet the Federal Reserve still operates under a congressionally-created shroud of secrecy.

No wonder almost 75 percent of the American public supports legislation to audit the Federal Reserve.

The new Senate leadership has pledged to finally hold a vote on the audit bill this year, but, despite overwhelming public support, passage of this legislation is by no means assured.

The reason it may be difficult to pass this bill is that the 25 percent of Americans who oppose it represent some of the most powerful interests in American politics. These interests are working behind the scenes to kill the bill or replace it with a meaningless “compromise.” This “compromise” may provide limited transparency, but it would still keep the American people from learning the full truth about the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy.

Some opponents of the bill say an audit would somehow compromise the Fed’s independence. Those who make this claim cannot point to anything in the text of the bill giving Congress any new authority over the Fed’s conduct of monetary policy. More importantly, the idea that the Federal Reserve is somehow independent of political considerations is laughable. Economists often refer to the political business cycle, where the Fed adjusts its policies to help or hurt incumbent politicians. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Arthur Burns exposed the truth behind the propaganda regarding Federal Reserve independence when he said, if the chairman didn’t do what the president wanted, the Federal Reserve “would lose its independence.”

Perhaps the real reason the Fed opposes an audit can be found by looking at what has been revealed about the Fed’s operations in recent years. In 2010, as part of the Dodd-Frank bill, Congress authorized a one-time audit of the Federal Reserve’s activities during the financial crisis of 2008. The audit revealed that between 2007 and 2008 the Federal Reserve loaned over $16 trillion — more than four times the annual budget of the United States — to foreign central banks and politically-influential private companies.

In 2013 former Federal Reserve official Andrew Huszar publicly apologized to the American people for his role in “the greatest backdoor Wall Street bailout of all time” — the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program. Can anyone doubt an audit would further confirm how the Fed acts to benefit economic elites?

Despite the improvements shown in the (government-manipulated) economic statistics, the average American has not benefited from the Fed’s quantitative easing program. The abysmal failure of quantitative easing in the US may be one reason Switzerland stopped pegging the value of the Swiss Franc to the Euro following reports that the European Central Bank is about to launch its own quantitative easing program.

Quantitative easing is just the latest chapter in the Federal Reserve’s hundred-year history of failure. Despite this poor track record, Fed apologists still claim the American people benefit from the Federal Reserve System. But, if that were the case, why wouldn’t they welcome the opportunity to let the American people know more about monetary policy? Why is the Fed acting like it has something to hide if it has nothing to fear from an audit?

The American people have suffered long enough under a monetary policy controlled by an unaccountable, secretive central bank. It is time to finally audit — and then end — the Fed.




How to Get the CIA to Truly Change Their Ways? Tell the World it Didn’t Just Torture, It Experimented on Human Beings

By Lisa Hajjar | The Nation | Original Article Title: “The CIA Didn’t Just Torture, it Experimented on Human Beings”

 CentralIAImage-31362026_m

Human experimentation was a core feature of the CIA’s torture program. The experimental nature of the interrogation and detention techniques is clearly evident in the Senate Intelligence Committee’s executive summary of its investigative report, despite redactions (insisted upon by the CIA) to obfuscate the locations of these laboratories of cruel science and the identities of perpetrators.

At the helm of this human experimentation project were two psychologists hired by the CIA, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. They designed interrogation and detention protocols that they and others applied to people imprisoned in the agency’s secret “black sites.”

In its response to the Senate report, the CIA justified its decision to hire the duo: “We believe their expertise was so unique that we would have been derelict had we not sought them out when it became clear that CIA would be heading into the uncharted territory of the program.” Mitchell and Jessen’s qualifications did not include interrogation experience, specialized knowledge about Al Qaeda or relevant cultural or linguistic knowledge. What they had was Air Force experience in studying the effects of torture on American prisoners of war, as well as a curiosity about whether theories of “learned helplessness” derived from experiments on dogs might work on human enemies.

To implement those theories, Mitchell and Jessen oversaw or personally engaged in techniques intended to produce “debility, disorientation and dread.” Their “theory” had a particular means-ends relationship that is not well understood, as Mitchell testily explained in an interview on Vice News: “The point of the bad cop is to get the bad guy to talk to the good cop.” In other words, “enhanced interrogation techniques” (the Bush administration’s euphemism for torture) do not themselves produce useful information; rather, they produce the condition of total submission that will facilitate extraction of actionable intelligence.

Mitchell, like former CIA Director Michael Hayden and others who have defended the torture program, argues that a fundamental error in the Senate report is the elision of means (waterboarding, “rectal rehydration,” weeks or months of nakedness in total darkness and isolation, and other techniques intended to break prisoners) and ends—manufactured compliance, which, the defenders claim, enabled the collection of abundant intelligence that kept Americans safe. (That claim is amply and authoritatively contradicted in the report.)

As Americans from the Beltway to the heartland debate—again—the legality and efficacy of “enhanced interrogation,” we are reminded that “torture” has lost its stigma as morally reprehensible and criminal behavior. That was evident in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, when more than half of the candidates vowed to bring back waterboarding, and it is on full display now. On Meet the Press, for example, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who functionally topped the national security decision-making hierarchy during the Bush years, announced that he “would do it again in a minute.”

No one has been held accountable for torture, beyond a handful of prosecutions of low-level troops and contractors. Indeed, impunity has been virtually guaranteed as a result of various Faustian bargains, which include “golden shield” legal memos written by government lawyers for the CIA; ex post facto immunity for war crimes that Congress inserted in the 2006 Military Commissions Act; classification and secrecy that still shrouds the torture program, as is apparent in the Senate report’s redactions; and the “look forward, not backward” position that President Obama has maintained through every wave of public revelations since 2009. An American majority, it seems, has come to accept the legacy of torture.

Human experimentation, in contrast, has not been politically refashioned into a legitimate or justifiable enterprise. Therefore, it would behoove us to appreciate the fact that the architects and implementers of black-site torments were authorized at the highest levels of the White House and CIA to experiment on human beings. Reading the report through this lens casts a different light on questions of accountability and impunity.

[Read more here]

Robert O'Leary, JD BARA

Robert O’Leary, JD BARA, has had an abiding interest in alternative health products and modalities since the early 1970’s, and he has seen how they have made people go from lacking health to vibrant health. He became an attorney, singer-songwriter, martial artist and father along the way and brings that experience to his practice as a BioAcoustic Soundhealth Practitioner, under the tutelage of the award-winning founder of BioAcoustic Biology, Sharry Edwards, whose Institute of BioAcoustic Biology has now been serving clients for 30 years with a non-invasive and safe integrative modality that supports the body’s ability to self-heal using the power of the human voice. Robert brings this modality to serve clients in Greater Springfield (MA), New England and “virtually” the world, through his new website, www.romayasoundhealthandbeauty.com. He can also be reached at romayasoundhealthandbeauty@gmail.com

 




Calls for ‘Torture Team’ Prosecutions Persist as Cheney Brags “I’d Do It Again”

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says violence perpetrated against American citizens amounts to torture, but that torture approved by himself and former President George. W. Bush is not "morally" equivalent to that kind of violence and should be applauded, not prosecuted. Human rights experts strongly disagree. (Image: Meet The Press/Screenshot)

Former Vice President Dick Cheney says violence perpetrated against American citizens amounts to torture, but that torture approved by himself and former President George. W. Bush is not “morally” equivalent to that kind of violence and should be applauded, not prosecuted. Human rights experts strongly disagree. (Image: Meet The Press/Screenshot)

Former vice president of the United States Dick Cheney told NBC’s Chuck Todd on Sunday that he’d “do it again in a minute.”

And what about President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush? Said Cheney: “He authorized it. He Approved it.”

“It would be comforting to dismiss Cheney as a historical oddity, to picture him sitting in the dimly lit room of a motel, changing the pitch of his voice to pretend he wasn’t alone. But he’s got company, and it’s dangerous.” —journalist Amy DavidsonAnd what is the “it”? The torture of other human beings.

However, nearly a week after the partial release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA torture—despite a full-court media press from Cheney and others defending how the U.S. government employed gross human rights violations in the name of national security—the new calls for prosecutions into these admitted crimes continue.

For its part, the ACLU has put forth a five-point plan for accountability which includes appointment of a special prosecutor.

In a new op-ed over the weekend, Jameel Jaffer, the ACLU’s deputy legal director said the case for prosecuting those behind the torture program, though long overdue, has never been better.

“The argument for the appointment of a special prosecutor is straightforward,” Jaffer argued. “The CIA adopted interrogation methods that have long been understood to constitute torture. Those methods were used against more than a hundred prisoners, including many – at least 29 – whom the CIA itself now recognizes should never have been detained at all.”

“If we don’t hold our officials accountable for having authorized such conduct, we become complicit in it.” —Jameel Jaffer, ACLUAs part of its renewed effort to push for prosecutions, the Center for Constitutional Rights has put forth apetition calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute the high-level government officials responsible for the torture. Appearing alongside social activist Frances Fox Piven on Melissa Harris-Perry’s weekend show on MSNBC, CCR’s executive director Vince Warren said we should not be having a conversation about whether torture “worked” or not, because torture—just like slavery and genocide—is among the “highest forms of crimes that people can commit against each other.”

“This is why we need to be thinking about prosecution,” Warren continued. “The only way to prevent torture and things like this from happening, is to prosecute the people who have done this. This isn’t a question of values. This is a question of criminality.”

From her perspective, Pivens said that torture is “morally reprehensible” but that there are also deeper issues at work when accountability is non-existent. “There is an almost criminal gang in our government’s security agencies which is not subject to democratic accountability of any kind,” she said. “And what they do has huge effects on the future of the United States and the future of the world. You can’t look at these horrific acts and not wonder, at least, whether the experience of this kind of behavior at the hands of American agents doesn’t have something to do with the rise of terrorist groups like ISIL.”

Following Cheney’s appearance on Meet The Press on Sunday, The New Yorker‘s Amy Davidson pilloried the former vice president, and other likes former CIA chief Michael Hayden, for continuing to parade about as though what they did to people in the name of the American people should be heralded. She wrote:

Basically, in Cheney’s world, nothing Americans do can be called torture, because we are not Al Qaeda and we are not the Japanese in the Second World War (whom we prosecuted for waterboarding) and we are not ISIS. “The way we did it,” as he said of waterboarding, was not torture. In other words, it was not really the Justice Department that “blessed,” or rather transubstantiated, torture; it was our American-ness. Is there an argument that could degrade that American identity more?

It would be comforting to dismiss Cheney as a historical oddity, to picture him sitting in the dimly lit room of a motel, changing the pitch of his voice to pretend he wasn’t alone. But he’s got company, and it’s dangerous. The way that many, including the present and former directors of the C.I.A., have responded to the Senate report has been shameless and sordid. (There have been exceptions, as Jane Mayer notes.) They have spent a lot of time complaining that the Agency hasn’t been sufficiently praised. The word “torture” upsets them.

Despite new admissions by Cheney and a televised press conference delivered by CIA director John Brennan last week, it remains unclear if the new demands for accountability, including criminal probes or charges, will actually result.

As the Associated Press reports Monday:

Department officials said they will not revisit their 2012 decision to close the investigation, citing among other challenges the passage of time and the difficulty of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that crimes were committed, especially in light of government memos that gave interrogators extraordinary latitude.

“Our inquiry was limited to a determination of whether prosecutable offenses were committed. Importantly, our investigation was not intended to answer the broader questions regarding the propriety of the examined conduct,” the department said in a statement after the report was released.

That conclusion followed an investigation led by special prosecutor John Durham that began in 2009 as an outgrowth of a probe into the destruction of videotapes of CIA interrogation tactics. The inquiry into interrogation tactics came amid the release of an internal CIA inspector general’s report that said CIA interrogators once threatened to kill the children of a Sept. 11 suspect and suggested that another suspected terrorist would be forced to watch his mother being sexually assaulted.

Durham specifically investigated potential crimes in the deaths of two detainees, including one who was shackled to a cold concrete wall in a secret CIA prison, while in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. In closing the investigation, the department said it had “reviewed a tremendous volume of information” about detainees alleged to have been in U.S. custody but did not find enough evidence to convict anyone.

As the ACLU’s Jaffer argues, however, nothing about that investigation precludes a new and more aggressive attempt to achieve accountability for those who ordered, authorized, and carried out the program.

“If we don’t hold our officials accountable for having authorized such conduct, we become complicit in it,” he said. “The prisoners were tortured in our names. Now that the torture has been exposed in such detail, our failure to act would signify a kind of tacit approval. Our government routinely imprisons people for far lesser offenses. What justification could possibly be offered for exempting the high officials who authorized the severest crimes?”

He concluded, “For the last decade, officials who authorized torture have been shielded from accountability for their acts. The Senate report makes it clear – indeed, it could not make it any clearer – that impunity for torture must now come to an end.”

And as Davidson wrote, “if this past week has proved anything, it’s that the legacy of torture is not quiet repentance but impunity. [President Obama] has told his agents not to torture, and Brennan says he can work with that, while the C.I.A. waits for instructions from the next one.”

More from Commondreams




What Ferguson, Eric Garner, and CIA Torture Have in Common

Shahid Buttar | Commondreams

(Photo: Shane T. McCoy/Wikimedia)

(Photo: Shane T. McCoy/Wikimedia)

There’s no better way for Washington to commemorate Human Rights Day than by letting the public finally learn the truth about torture. And there’s no better way for concerned Americans to do so than by raising our voices to challenge the compounding crimes of our lawless agencies.

Washington promised that, after years of stonewalling by the CIA and White House transcending both of the major political parties, we would finally learn some glimmers of truth when the Senate released a heavily redacted summary of its historic 6,000-page report on CIA torture crimes.

The timing could not be more poignant. The report was released on the eve of Human Rights Day, and in the wake of an ongoing, diverse, and energetic national grassroots movement for police accountability.

Parallels between CIA torture and police murders in New York, Ferguson, Cleveland, and elsewhere may be easy to overlook. Unfortunately, both sets of abuses reflect similar patterns: severe crimes committed by powerful people, officially endorsed cover-ups, and formal legal impunity that compounds the original crimes.

This week, on Human Rights Day, people in a dozen U.S. cities will take action to connect these abuses. We insist on nothing more than justice for all, including public servants.

A problem with many faces

CIA torturers and police officers who murder innocent unarmed Americans share one thing in common: impunity for violent crimes that violate global human rights commitments. The impunity they share reveals systems of separate — and unequal — justice across the United States.

Communities responding to impunity for police murders in Ferguson, New York City, and elsewhere across the country seek goals including federal laws to end racial profiling. Incidentally, body cameras are not a solution. They will neither ensure accountability for discrete cases — remember Eric Garner? — nor will they offer even transparency for abusive patterns & practices.

At root, we seek accountability for the arbitrary use of force.

Police violence in our communities is one example. CIA torture, or the Agency’s documented assassination of U.S. citizens (even their children) without trial, is another.

The Senate’s report revealed previously secret details about human rights abuses committed in our names — and with our resources — vastly beyond the little known to this point.

[read full post here]




Obama: America “Exceptional” So We Don’t Prosecute Torturers

Jon Queally | Commondreams

obama

Despite executive summary of Senate panel’s report on Tuesday, President Obama is still unwilling to pursue real accountability for those who designed, approved, and executed the CIA’s torture program under his predecessor, George W. Bush. (Photo: AP file)

Legal experts and human rights advocates says prosecutions must follow Senate’s report on CIA torture as president says grave violations of domestic and international law should be kept “where they belong—in the past”

In his first official remarks following Tuesday’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the torture program conducted by the CIA during the presidency of George W. Bush, President Barack Obama on Tuesday night indicated that the abuses detailed in the report conducted in the name of the American people—described as “horrific,” “ruthless” and “much more brutal than previously thought”—should not be followed by further inquiries or prosecutions as many have long urged.

In his remarks, Obama acknowledged that “no nation is perfect,” but argued that “one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better.”

“This is a wake-up call to the USA, they must disclose the full truth about the human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure justice for the victims. This is not a policy nicety, it is a requirement under international law.”
—Erika Guevara, Amnesty International

Backed by his interpretation of “American Exceptionalism,” Obama suggested that the release of the report—which his administration fought tirelessly to restrict—was all that was necessary in order for the nation to move forward.

“Rather than another reason to refight old arguments,” Obama continued, “I hope that today’s report can help us leave these techniques where they belong—in the past.”

Legal experts and human rights advocates, however, have taken a decidedly different approach to the report as many renewed a simple message in the wake of Tuesday’s release, saying: If gross crimes were committed, prosecutors should be assigned and the criminals should be tried and punished.

The executive summary of the committee’s investigative report (pdf) spans 525 pages and chronicles many of the internal machinations and communications relating to how the CIA conducted its abuse of suspected terrorism suspects—including tactics and abuses much more brutal than previously been acknowledged by any government agency. Though many of the lawmakers who have endorsed the report, as well as current and former U.S. officials, have mirrored Obama’s position by saying or suggesting its release should “close this disgraceful chapter” of American history, organizations like the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, and a host of other groups and individuals argue that if justice and the rule of law mean anything, the report should be the beginning—not the end—of accountability for those who designed, approved, and executed this program.

“The long-delayed Senate report proves what we have been saying since 2006: that the CIA engaged in a sophisticated program of state-sanctioned torture, notable for its elaborate planning and ruthless application,” said Baher Azmy, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “We renew our demand for accountability for those individuals responsible for the CIA torture program. They should be prosecuted in U.S. courts; and if our government continues to refuse to hold them accountable, they must be pursued internationally under the principles of universal jurisdiction.”

“Instead of focusing on the illegal nature of the torture, investigators worked to document torture’s ineffectiveness. The debate, now, is whether torture worked. It clearly didn’t. But the debate should be: Why the hell aren’t these torturous liars in jail?” 
—Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation
The ACLU has put forth a blueprint for accountabilitywhich includes appointing a special prosecutor; deeply reforming the CIA; apologies and compensation to the victims of torture; honoring those officials who resisted or refused to participate in the program; and pushing for transparency beyond what is contained in the Senate report. The full Senate report is more than 6,000 pages, and thousands of other pages of documents related to the CIA program were withheld by the White House for review.

Hina Shamsi, who heads the ACLU’s national security project, said the story of U.S. torture under the Bush presidency should not end with impunity for those involved.

“The release of the report is a tipping point and a reminder that the United States has never fully reckoned with a past that includes waterboarding, stress positions, beatings, sleep deprivation, threats of harm to children and other family members, among many devastatingly cruel acts,” Shamsi said. “Once again, Americans, all of us, have an opportunity to choose how we end this story, whether that’s responsibly, with a full return to our laws and values, or shamefully, by failing to act now that the report summary is released.”

Erika Guevara, head of the Americas division of Amnesty International, said that under international law, the U.S. really should have no choice other than to prosecute.

“The declassified information contained in the summary, while limited, is a reminder to the world of the utter failure of the USA to end the impunity enjoyed by those who authorized and used torture and other ill-treatment,” Guevara said in a statement. “This is a wake-up call to the USA, they must disclose the full truth about the human rights violations, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure justice for the victims. This is not a policy nicety, it is a requirement under international law.”

Though the Senate’s exhaustive report has been praised by many, those advocating for prosecutions of the torture program’s architects—including high-ranking officials like former president George W. Bush, vice president Dick Cheney, and others—point out the panel’s investigation into torture spent too much time obsessing over whether or not torture garnered “actionable” or “valuable” intelligence information, a question that should have no bearing when it comes to violations of domestic and international law, not to mention deep moral codes.

As Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, wrote in the immediate wake of the report’s release: “Instead of focusing on the illegal nature of the torture, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s investigators worked to document torture’s ineffectiveness. The debate, now, is whether torture worked. It clearly didn’t. But the debate should be: Why the hell aren’t these torturous liars in jail?”

As the ACLU’s Shamsi points out, “The crime of torture has no statute of limitations when torture risks or results in serious injury or death, and the U.S. government has the obligation under international law to investigate any credible evidence that torture has been committed. If there’s sufficient evidence of criminal conduct—and it’s hard to see how there isn’t—the offenders should be prosecuted. In our system, no one should be above the law, yet only a handful of mainly low-level personnel have been criminally prosecuted for abuse.”

More from Commondreams




No Indictment For Ferguson Cop Who Killed Michael Brown

Source:RT

Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson will not be indicted on any charges for shooting and killing unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown, a St. Louis grand jury has decided.

The grand jury’s decision was announced Monday evening by Bob McCulloch, the prosecuting attorney for St. Louis County. He said that “no probable cause exists” to file any charges against Wilson.

Officer Wilson potentially faced charges of first- or second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter. At least nine of the 12 people on the jury needed to agree to bring charges in order to indict Wilson. It’s unclear exactly how that vote unfolded.




NYC Makes Historic Move Toward Marijuana Legalization

Christina Sarich | NaturalSociety.com

The recent elections were certainly supportive of marijuana legalization, and it definitely got a strong foothold in New York City. There was speculation that NYC would stop arresting people for low-level marijuana possession, and the rumors have turned out to be true – sort of.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton announced that possession of 25 grams or less of cannabis would no longer be an arrestable offense. Actually, more specifically, people caught with less than 25 grams of marijuana on them “may be eligible” to receive a $100 summons in lieu of being arrested. Nevertheless, this change to the city’s policy is a huge step toward national legalization of a plant that can treat numerous diseases and support new business in cities failing to support themselves via other revenue streams.

The change to the city’s policy came into effect November 19th.

This is also an enormous positive change away from the destructive habit of law enforcement to spend billions arresting people each year, incarcerating them, and then trying them for doing nothing more than carrying a harmless plant.

People are still not allowed to burn their marijuana in public, as this would result in immediate arrest, but now, if you are caught with more than 25 grams of marijuana you will be issued a summons and get a ticket for $100.

Related: Marijuana Legalized in Oregon, Alaska, and DC as Benefits are Realized

City officials explained that they want to shift the time and energy spent currently on low-level marijuana offenses to more serious crimes.

This is likely the result of the work of a Brooklyn DA, Kenneth Thompson who declared in July that he had no intention of prosecuting such marijuana “crimes.”

“This should free up police manpower to pursue cases of greater magnitude while relieving some of the congestion in the courts,” Richmond County District Attorney Daniel Donovan explained.

“Let’s be real about this,” Police Commissioner Bratton said before he explained the change in policy to the media.

As marijuana arrests in NYC become more lenient, and the acceptance of cannabis possession frees up resources for other pursuits for law-enforcement personnel, hopefully the state of New York will follow with its own laws accepting cannabis.