| America’s selective grief: Remember All the Children, Mr. President!

Remember All the Children, Mr. PresidentBILL QUIGLEY, CounterPunch.

Remember the 20 children who died in Newton Connecticut.

Remember the 35 children who died in Gaza this month from Israeli bombardments.

Remember the 168 children who have been killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan since 2006.

Remember the 231 children killed in Afghanistan in the first 6 months of this year.

Remember the 400 other children in the US under the age of 15 who die from gunshot wounds each year.

Remember the 921 children killed by US air strikes against insurgents in Iraq.

Remember the 1,770 US children who die each year from child abuse and maltreatment.

Remember the 16,000 children who die each day around the world from hunger.

These tragedies must end.

Bill Quigley is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans and Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights




| Torture Survivors Ask UN: What’s the Point of Having Laws Against Torture if They Don’t Apply to the Powerful?

Torture Survivors Ask the UN: What’s the Point of Having Laws Against Torture if They Don’t Apply to the Powerful? ~  Katherine GallagherCenter for Constitutional Rights.

One thing brings these four men together. Hassan bin Attash, Sami el-Hajj, Muhammed Khan Tumani and Murat Kurnaz—they are all survivors of the systematic torture program the Bush administration authorized and carried out in locations including Afghanistan, Iraq, Guantánamo, and numerous prisons and CIA “black sites” around the world. Between them, they have been beaten, hung from walls or ceilings, deprived of sleep, food and water, and subjected to freezing temperatures and other forms of torture and abuse while held in U.S. custody. None was charged with a crime, two were detained while still minors, and one of them remains at Guantánamo.

This week, in a complaint filed with the United Nations Committee against Torture, they are asking one question: how can the man responsible for ordering these heinous crimes, openly enter a country that has pledged to prosecute all torturers regardless of their position and not face any legal action?

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Canadian Centre for International Justice (CCIJ) filed the complaint on the men’s behalf.

The country in question is Canada, visited last year by former U.S. President George W. Bush during a paid speaking engagement in Surrey, British Columbia. Bush’s visit drew hundreds in protest, calling for his arrest, and it also provided bin Attash, el-Hajj, Tumani and Kurnaz the opportunity to call on the Canadian government to uphold its legal obligation under the U.N. Convention against Torture, and conduct a criminal investigation against Bush while he was on Canadian soil.

To this end, the four men, submitted a 69-page draft indictment that CCR and CCIJ had presented to Canada’s attorney general ahead of Bush’s arrival in support of their private prosecution. The submission included thousands of pages of evidence against Bush consisting of extensive reports and investigations conducted by multiple U.S. agencies and the U.N. The evidence is overwhelming, not to mention the fact that Bush has admitted, even, boasted of his crimes, saying “damn right” when asked if it was permissible to waterboard a detainee – a recognized act of torture.

Canada should have investigated these crimes. The responsibility to do so is embedded in its domestic criminal code that explicitly authorizes the government to prosecute torture occurring outside Canadian borders. There is no reason it cannot apply to former heads of state, and indeed, the Convention has been found to apply to such figures including Hissène Habré and Augusto Pinochet. A criminal investigation into the allegations was the lawful thing to do. It was also what Canada had agreed to do when it pledged its support to end impunity for torture by ratifying the Convention.

But Canada looked the other way. Not only did federal Attorney General Robert Nicholson refuse to investigate Bush, but the Attorney General of British Columbia swiftly intervened to shut down a private criminal prosecution submitted to a provincial court in his jurisdiction the morning of Bush’s visit.

Thanks to the Obama administration’s call to look only “forward” – even in the face of torture that demands a proper reckoning – and a court system in the U.S. that has readily closed its doors to torture survivors, the crimes of the Bush era are effectively beyond the reach of justice in the U.S. But the immunity – the impunity – granted to these criminals here should not follow them into other countries, particularly those that are signatories to international laws and treaties against torture.

If the Convention against Torture is to have any hope of fulfilling its mission of preventing torture, the committee must send countries like Canada a clear message: it is their legal obligation to ensure there is no safe haven for torturers and any action to the contrary makes these states effectively complicit in furthering impunity for some of the worst crimes of the past decade.

These four survivors are asking the U.N. to enforce its own convention, nothing more and nothing less. They call upon the U.N., unlike Canada, to unequivocally reject a worldview in which the powerful are exempt from rules, treaties and prohibitions against senseless acts of barbarity.  Will the U.N. hear their call?


| US Election 2012: Obama Has Surged To A Two-Point Lead In The Final Reuters/Ipsos Poll!

Obama Has Surged To A Two-Point Lead In The Final Reuters/Ipsos Poll ~ Grace Wyler, Business Insider.


Barack Obama


President Barack Obama pulled ahead of Mitt Romney by two points in the final Reuters/Ipsos tracking poll Monday, continuing an eleventh-hour surge that has given the president a slight edge in the final days of the campaign. 

The Reuters/Ipsos survey found Obama leading Romney, 48% to 46%, showing a one-point loss for the Republican nominee since Sunday.

The results, which remain within the poll’s margin of error, mirror other national polling, which shows the race in a virtual dead heat, but Obama with the momentum heading into Election Day.



| Lamenting Corruption + the need for Electoral Reform: 512 Paths to the White House!

512 Paths to the White House ~  MIKE BOSTOCK and SHAN CARTER, NYT.

Select a winner in the most competitive states below to see all the paths to victory available for either candidate.
Genius graphic of the day: As the New York Times shows in the amazing interactive piece “512 Paths to the White House,” Obama’s path to winning the Electoral College is much easier than that of Romney. In fact, if Obama wins Florida, Romney would have to win eight other toss-up states to topple that blow. That’s less likely than an Obama Ohio win at the moment, but … ah, why explain it?! Play with the fun, interactive, awesome graphic! (ht Jason Smedvik)

Genius graphic of the day: As the New York Times shows in the amazing interactive piece “512 Paths to the White House,” Obama’s path to winning the Electoral College is much easier than that of Romney. In fact, if Obama wins Florida, Romney would have to win eight other toss-up states to topple that blow. That’s less likely than an Obama Ohio win at the moment, but … ah, why explain it?! Play with the fun, interactive, awesome graphic! (ht Jason Smedvik)






| Analysis: So, will Obama’s best debate performance to date be enough?

Barack Obama’s best debate — ever ~ , Salon.

But will it be enough to reverse the startling gains Mitt Romney has made in the past two weeks?

Barack Obama participated in a few debates during his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign and many, many more when he sought the presidency four years ago. His performance in these forums ranged from competent to forgettable to disappointing. There was also the debacle in Denver two weeks back.  And then came last night, when Americans were introduced to a debate version of Obama they’d never before seen — a crisp, focused assertive president who refused to let his opponent’s critiques go unchallenged, answering them with forceful, orderly and digestible explanations. It was easily the best debate performance Obama has ever delivered — and I say this as someone who’s been a bit critical of him in the past.

But as strong as it was, it doesn’t necessarily follow that what Obama did at Hofstra will place him back in the driver’s seat he enjoyed just a few weeks ago, or if it will do anything to cut into the gains that Mitt Romney has made this month.

The insta-polls don’t offer a clear picture. A CBS News poll of undecided voters gave the debate edge to Obama, 37 to 30 percent. A CNN poll of all debate viewers put Obama up 46 to 39 (with CNN reporting — as it has before — that Republicans were over-represented in its sample by eight percent), and a PPP survey in Colorado gave Obama a four-point advantage among all voters, and 18 among independents. This is a huge improvement from Denver, obviously, but the margins aren’t exactly overwhelming. Based on these numbers, Romney certainly held his own.

The key question, as Nate Cohn explains, is what exactly has been behind Romney’s surge in the first place. Basically, there are two possibilities.

One is that the few swing voters there are have for most of this campaign been looking for an excuse to vote for Obama. They like him personally, understand the historically unique contours of the economic crisis he inherited, are open to giving him more time to produce a turnaround, and are suspicious of the Republican Party. This might explain why Obama held on to a steady lead of several points over Romney for the entire campaign, and why that lead suddenly vanished in the aftermath of Denver. Obama’s performance — and the reaction to it by the media and in popular culture — gave these voters for the first time serious pause about handing him four more years, so they switched their preference to Romney or started calling themselves undecided.

If this was the source of the Romney boom, then Obama should be positioned to gain back some of the ground he lost after last night. Had he turned in this kind of performance two weeks ago, it’s doubtful Romney would have gotten back into the race. To a swing voter who’s inclined to support Obama but has reservations, Obama’s defense of his own record and critique of Romney’s had to be very reassuring.

There’s another way of understanding Romney’s gains, though. Maybe the reason he trailed all year isn’t that swing voters were looking for an excuse to reelect Obama; what if they were looking for an excuse to fire them — and Romney was simply failing to give them one? For months, from the time he finally fended off Rick Santorum in the primaries through his disastrous world tour, his dud of a convention, and his miserable September, Romney bumbled his way through the general election campaign, squandering opportunities, getting in his own way, and failing to address a very simple problem: Voters just didn’t like him.

The essential message of the Romney campaign has been: If you’re economically frustrated, don’t ask questions — just vote the incumbent out. It’s not necessarily a bad strategy, but for it to work, Romney needs to meet a basic threshold of acceptability to swing voters. And it’s possible that he simply failed at this seemingly elementary task for six month — until he finally broke through with his glib, confident performance in Denver two weeks ago. After that debate, Romney finally made the gains in likability that have eluded him all year, perhaps a signal that he was finally reaching the “good enough” standard he’s been striving for.

If “good enough” is all Romney needs to win, then his performance last night might have been sufficient, even if Obama had the better night. Unless, that is, Romney’s worst moment of the night — his factually incorrect attack on Obama over Libya, which brought about the first ever act of real-time fact-checking by a moderator in presidential debate history — becomes a major theme in today’s post-debate coverage, the way Obama’s listlessness did a few weeks ago. If Romney’s error is the big story, then a much broader consensus among voters that Obama won the debate will probably emerge, and it could restore the doubts that had previously kept swing voters from siding with Romney.

At the best for Obama, Hofstra will vault him back into the lead he enjoyed all year and make him the clear front-runner again. At worst, it won’t do anything — no bump for him, but no more big gains for Romney either. He came through with the best debate performance of his career at just the right moment, but he may need another one like it next week.

Barack Obama's best debate -- ever

(Credit: AP/Eric Gay)