#BentBritain: #UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications!

UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications ~ and , The Guardian, Wednesday 18 February 2015.

Intelligence agencies have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for past five years, government admits

Abdul Hakim Belhaj and Sami al Saadi
The admission comes ahead of a legal challenge brought on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, over allegations that security services unlawfully intercepted their communications with lawyers.  Photograph: PA & AFP

The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.

The admission that the activities of the security services have failed to comply fully with human rights laws in a second major area – this time highly sensitive legally privileged communications – is a severe embarrassment for the government.

It follows hard on the heels of the British court ruling on 6 February declaring that the regime surrounding the sharing of mass personal intelligence data between America’s national security agency and Britain’s GCHQ was unlawful for seven years.

The admission that the regime surrounding state snooping on legally privileged communications has also failed to comply with the European convention on human rights comes in advance of a legal challenge, to be heard early next month, in which the security services are alleged to have unlawfully intercepted conversations between lawyers and their clients to provide the government with an advantage in court.

The case is due to be heard before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). It is being brought by lawyers on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, who, along with their families, were abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation and sent back to Tripoli to be tortured by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2004.

A government spokesman said: “The concession the government has made today relates to the agencies’ policies and procedures governing the handling of legally privileged communications and whether they are compatible with the European convention on human rights.

“In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies adopted since [January] 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically article 8 (right to privacy). This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public.

“It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on their part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligations to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously. Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.”

He said that the intelligence agencies would now work with the interception of communications commissioner to ensure their policies satisfy all of the UK’s human rights obligations.

Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve and one of the Belhaj family’s lawyers said: “By allowing the intelligence agencies free reign to spy on communications between lawyers and their clients, the government has endangered the fundamental British right to a fair trial.

“Reprieve has been warning for months that the security services’ policies on lawyer-client snooping have been shot through with loopholes big enough to drive a bus through.

“For too long, the security services have been allowed to snoop on those bringing cases against them when they speak to their lawyers. In doing so, they have violated a right that is centuries old in British common law. Today they have finally admitted they have been acting unlawfully for years.

“Worryingly, it looks very much like they have collected the private lawyer-client communications of two victims of rendition and torture, and possibly misused them. While the government says there was no ‘deliberate’ collection of material, it’s abundantly clear that private material was collected and may well have been passed on to lawyers or ministers involved in the civil case brought by Abdel hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, who were ‘rendered’ to Libya in 2004 by British intelligence.

“Only time will tell how badly their case was tainted. But right now, the government needs urgently to investigate how things went wrong and come clean about what it is doing to repair the damage.”

Government sources, in line with all such cases, refuse to confirm or deny whether the two Libyans were the subject of an interception operation. They insist the concession does not concern the allegation that actual interception took place and say it will be for the investigatory powers tribunal hearing to determine the issue.

An updated draft interception code of practice spelling out the the rules for the first time was quietly published at the same time as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruling against GCHQ earlier this month in the case brought by Privacy International and Liberty.

The government spokesman said the draft code set out enhanced safeguards and provided more detail than previously on the protections that had to be applied in the security agencies handling of legally privileged communications.

The draft code makes clear that warrants for snooping on legally privileged conversations, emails and other communications between suspects and their lawyers can be granted if there are exceptional and compelling circumstances. They have to however ensure that they are not available to lawyers or policy officials who are conducting legal cases against those suspects.

Exchanges between lawyers and their clients enjoy a special protected status under UK law. Following exposure of widespread monitoring by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, Belhaj’s lawyers feared that their exchanges with their clients could have been compromised by GCHQ’s interception of phone conversations and emails.

To demonstrate that its policies satisfy legal safeguards, MI6 were required in advance of Wednesday’s concession to disclose internal guidance on how intelligence staff should deal with material protected by legal professional privilege.

The MI6 papers noted: “Undertaking interception in such circumstances would be extremely rare and would require strong justification and robust safeguards. It is essential that such intercepted material is not acquired or used for the purpose of conferring an unfair or improper advantage on SIS or HMG [Her Majesty’s government] in any such litigation, legal proceedings or criminal investigation.”

The internal documents also refer to a visit by the interception commissioner, Sir Anthony May, last summer to examine interception warrants, where it was discovered that regulations were not being observed. “In relation to one of the warrants,” the document explained, “the commissioner identified a number of concerns with regard to the handling of [legal professional privilege] material”.

Amnesty UK’s legal programme director, Rachel Logan, said: “We are talking about nothing less than the violation of a fundamental principle of the rule of law – that communications between a lawyer and their client must be confidential.

“The government has been caught red-handed. The security agencies have been illegally intercepting privileged material and are continuing to do so – this could mean they’ve been spying on the very people challenging them in court.

“This is the second time in as many weeks that government spies have been rumbled breaking the law.”

#Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the #West’s modern crimes!

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes ~ Ben White, The Nation, February 14, 2015.

Like many children, 13-year-old Mohammed Tuaiman suffered from nightmares. In his dreams, he would see flying “death machines” that turned family and friends into burning charcoal. No one could stop them, and they struck any place, at any time.

Unlike most children, Mohammed’s nightmares killed him.

Three weeks ago, a CIA drone operating over Yemen fired a missile at a car carrying the teenager, and two others. They were all incinerated. Nor was Mohammed the first in his family to be targeted: drones had already killed his father and brother.

Since president Barack Obama took office in 2009, the US has killed at least 2,464 people through drone strikes outside the country’s declared war zones. The figure is courtesy of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which says that at least 314 of the dead, one in seven, were civilians.

Recall that for Obama, as The New York Times reported in May 2012, “all military-age males in a strike zone” are counted “as combatants” – unless “there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent”.

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares.

The week after Mohammed’s death, on February 5, Mr Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, and discussed the violence of ISIL.

“Lest we get on our high horses”, said the commander-in-chief, “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

These comments prompted a (brief) media storm, with Mr Obama accused of insulting Christians, pandering to the terrorist enemy, or just bad history.

In fact, the president was simply repeating a point often made by liberals since September 11, namely, that all religions have blots on their copy book through the deeds of their followers.

One of the consequences, however, of this invocation of the Crusades – unintended, and all the more significant for it – is to seal away the West’s “sins”, particularly vis-à-vis its relationship to the Middle East, in events that took place a thousand years ago.

The Crusades were, in one sense, a demonstration of raw military power, and a collective trauma for the peoples of the regions they marched through and invaded.

In the siege of Jerusalem in 1099, a witness described how the Europeans ordered “all the Saracen dead to be cast outside because of the great stench, since the whole city was filled with their corpses”.

He added: “No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from them like pyramids.”

Or take the Third Crusade, when, on August 20, 1191, England’s King Richard I oversaw the beheading of 3,000 Muslim prisoners at Acre in full view of Saladin’s army.

Just “ancient history”? In 1920, when the French had besieged and captured Damascus, their commander Henri Gourard reportedly went to the grave of Saladin, kicked it, and uttered: “Awake Saladin, we have returned! My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent.”

But the US president need not cite the Crusades or even the colonial rule of the early 20th century: more relevant reference points would be Bagram and Fallujah.

Bagram base in Afghanistan is where US soldiers tortured prisoners to death – like 22-year-old taxi driver and farmer Dilawar. Before he was killed in custody, Dilawar was beaten by soldiers just to make him scream “Allah!”

Five months after September 11, The Guardian reported that US missiles had killed anywhere between 1,300 and 8,000 in Afghanistan. Months later, the paper suggested that “as many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention”.

When it was Iraq’s turn, the people of Fallujah discovered that US forces gave them funerals, not democracy. On April 28, 2003, US soldiers massacred civilian protesters, shooting to death 17 during a demonstration.

When that city revolted against the occupation, the residents paid a price. As Marines tried to quell resistance in the city, wrote The New York Times on April 14, 2004, they had “orders to shoot any male of military age on the streets after dark, armed or not”.Months later, as the Marines launched their November assault on the city, CNN reported that “the sky…seems to explode”.

In their bombardment and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US and UK armed forces rained fiery death down on men, women and children. Prisoners were tortured and sexually abused. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. No one was held to account.

It is one thing to apologise for the brutality of western Crusaders a thousand years ago. It is quite another to look at the corpses of the victims of the imperialist present, or hear the screams of the bereaved.

In his excellent book The Muslims Are Coming, Arun Kundnani analysed the “politics of anti-extremism”, and describes the two approaches developed by policymakers and analysts during the “war on terror”.

The first approach, which he refers to as “culturalism”, emphasises “what adherents regard as inherent features of Islamic culture”. The second approach, “reformism”, is when “extremism is viewed as a perversion of Islam’s message”, rather than “a clash of civilisations between the West’s modern values and Islam’s fanaticism”.

Thus the American Right was angry with Mr Obama, because for them, it is about religion – or specifically, Islam. Liberals, meanwhile, want to locate the problem in terms of culture.

Both want to avoid a discussion about imperialism, massacres, coups, brutalities, disappearances, dictatorships – in other words, politics.

As Kundnani writes: when “the concept of ideology” is made central, whether understood as “Islam itself or as Islamist extremism”, then “the role of western states in co-producing the terror war is obscured”.

The problem with Mr Obama’s comments on the Crusades was not, as hysterical conservatives claimed, that he was making offensive and inaccurate analogies with ISIL; rather, that in the comfort of condemning the past, he could mask the violence of his own government in the present.

The echoes of collective trauma remain for a long time, and especially when new wounds are still being inflicted. Think it is farfetched that Muslims would still care about a 1,000-year-old European invasion? Then try asking them about Guantanamo and Camp Bucca instead.

Ben White is a journalist and author of Israeli Apartheid

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes
Pep Montserrat for The National

| Special Report – Hamas: What “Destruction of Israel?”

Special Report What “Destruction of Israel”? ~ John V. Whitbeck, WRMEA, June/July 2014, Page 12.


When, in response to the threat of potential Palestinian reconciliation and unity, the Israeli government suspended “negotiations” with the Palestine Liberation Organization on April 24 (five days before they were due to terminate in any event), Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office issued a statement asserting: “Instead of choosing peace, Abu Mazen formed an alliance with a murderous terrorist organization that calls for the destruction of Israel.”

In a series of related media appearances, Netanyahu hammered repeatedly on the “destruction of Israel” theme as a way of blaming Palestine for the predictable failure of the latest round of the seemingly perpetual “peace process.”

The extreme subjectivity of the epithet “terrorist” has been highlighted by two recent absurdities—the Egyptian military regime’s labeling of the Muslim Brotherhood, which has won all Egyptian elections since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, as a “terrorist” organization, and the labeling by the de facto Ukrainian authorities, who came to power through illegally occupying government buildings in Kiev, of those opposing them by illegally occupying government buildings in eastern Ukraine as “terrorists.” In both cases, those who have overthrown democratically elected governments are labeling those who object to their coups as “terrorists.”

It is increasingly understood that the word “terrorist,” which has no agreed definition, is so subjective as to be devoid of any inherent meaning, and that it is commonly abused by governments and others who apply it to whomever or whatever they hate in the hope of demonizing their adversaries, thereby discouraging and avoiding rational thought and discussion and, frequently, excusing their own illegal and immoral behavior.

Netanyahu’s assertion that Hamas “calls for the destruction of Israel” requires rational analysis as well.

He is not the only guilty party in this regard. The mainstream media in the West habitually attaches the phrase “pledged to the destruction of Israel” to each first mention of Hamas, almost as though it were part of Hamas’ name.

In the real world, what does the “destruction of Israel” actually mean? The land? The people? The ethno-religious-supremacist regime?

There can be no doubt that virtually all Palestinians—and probably still a significant number of Native Americans—wish that foreign colonists had never arrived in their homelands to ethnically cleanse them and take away their land, and that some may even lie awake at night dreaming that they might, somehow, be able to turn back the clock or reverse history.

“Destruction” sounds much less reasonable and desirable than “democracy.”

However, in the real world, Hamas is not remotely close to being in a position to cause Israel’s territory to sink beneath the Mediterranean, or to wipe out its population, or even to compel the Israeli regime to transform itself into a fully democratic state pledged to equal rights and dignity for all who live there. It is presumably the latter threat—the dreaded “bi-national state”—that Netanyahu has in mind when he speaks of the “destruction of Israel.”

For propaganda purposes, “destruction” sounds much less reasonable and desirable than “democracy,” even when one is speaking about the same thing.

In the real world, Hamas has long made clear, notwithstanding its view that continuing negotiations within the framework of the American-monopolized “peace process” is pointless and a waste of time, that it does not object to the PLO’s trying to reach a two-state agreement with Israel; provided only that, to be accepted and respected by Hamas, any agreement reached would need to be submitted to and approved by the Palestinian people in a referendum.

In the real world, the Hamas vision (like the Fatah vision) of peaceful coexistence in Israel/Palestine is much closer to the “international consensus” on what a permanent peace should look like, as well as to international law and relevant U.N. resolutions, than the Israeli vision—to the extent that one can even discern the Israeli vision, since no Israeli government has ever seen fit to publicly reveal what its vision—if any exists beyond beyond maintaining and managing the status quo indefinitely—actually looks like.

As the Fatah and Hamas visions have converged in recent years, the principal divergence has become Hamas’ insistence (entirely consistent with international law and relevant U.N. resolutions) that Israel must withdraw from the entire territory of the State of Palestine, which is defined in the U.N. General Assembly resolution of Nov. 29, 2012, recognizing Palestine’s state status as “the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967” (including, significantly, the definite article “the” missing from “withdraw from territories” in the arguably ambiguous U.N. Security Council Resolution 242), in contrast to Fatah’s more flexible willingness to consider agreed land swaps equal in size and value.

An Establishment Party

After winning the last Palestinian elections and after seven years of responsibility for governing Gaza under exceptionally difficult circumstances, Hamas has become a relatively “moderate” establishment party, struggling to rein in more radical groups and prevent them from firing artisanal rockets into southern Israel, a counterproductive symbolic gesture which Israeli governments publicly condemn but secretly welcome (and often seek to incite in response to their own more lethal violence) as evidence of Palestinian belligerence justifying their own intransigence.

Netanyahu’s “destruction of Israel” mantra should not be taken seriously, either by Western governments or by any thinking person. It is long overdue for the Western mainstream media to cease recycling mindless—and genuinely destructive—propaganda and to adapt their reporting to reality, and it is long overdue for Western governments to cease demonizing Hamas as an excuse for doing nothing constructive to end a brutal occupation which has now endured for almost 47 years. ❑

John V. Whitbeck is an international lawyer who has advised the Palestinian negotiating team in negotiations with Israel.

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| Ziocolony PTSD: Israelis threatened with jail if they try to leave!

Israelis threatened with jail if they try to leave ~ Marianne Azizi,  IAcknowledgeRedress Information & Analysis.

“We are tens of thousands” was a message I received the other day from one of the myriad of people without the freedom to leave Israel.

They are not criminals. Is this just a common visa issue? Absolutely not. They don’t even have to be citizens of Israel.

It may be difficult to get your head around a scandalous issue within Israel’s borders, but tens of thousands of No Exit orders (a document preventing travel by any means, walking, driving, swimming, flying, etc.) are handed out annually to men, women and even children.

Disagree, agree, give an opinion, but it is indisputable that the draconian family laws in Israel are enforced by using a dangerous weapon. The weapon is curtailing freedom of movement. Usually it is for an alleged debt, or a need for future financial security in divorcing couples. You don’t have to be a debtor, just an alleged one. While Israel battles its bordering neighbours, inside the country individuals are battling each other.

Trying to leave with a No Exit Order incurs a two-year prison sentence. If someone helps you – and there is evidence that smuggling people out of Israel is a big business – they will also incur a prison sentence. Returning to Israel, if someone has placed the order on you while you are abroad, also incurs an automatic sentence.

  Seven years ago my life was turned upside down when my husband Ilan and I went for a week’s holiday to Israel. He never returned home, becoming one of the many thousands of victims of a No Exit Order…

Seven years ago my life was turned upside down when my husband Ilan and I went for a week’s holiday to Israel. He never returned home, becoming one of the many thousands of victims of a No Exit Order, Travel Ban or Stop Order, to give a few alternative names for it. It meant he could not leave Israel’s borders, without a minimum deposit of USD 150,000 and exchanging three Israeli citizens’ freedom for his own.

He didn’t commit a crime and had no debt. He just didn’t want to live in Israel anymore.

Our home was in England and we had a peaceful life doing all the things regular couples do. Ilan had loved his country, served in the army, continuing to volunteer long after his compulsory service. He was sympathetic to Arabs, employing a majority in his business, a small help for their self-worth.

Today, he is a shell of a man, dehumanized and broken. His loyalty was repaid by a system of abuse so breathtakingly shocking I was compelled to write a book to educate the public.

During my battle with the systems and their random decision making, I had to face terrible truths regarding the culture. With regard to divorce and alleged debts, it is one of the most barbaric I’ve ever encountered in a “democratic” country. Fathers are ripped from their children aged six or under, based on the Tender Years Assumption, a law which determines only the mother has a right to custody automatically, no questions asked, whether unfit or not.

  …travel ban orders are easily obtained, even against foreign citizens, with a few choice accusations, mostly unfounded, and often done ex parte, meaning the victim doesn’t always know, and only discovers the truth when they try to leave the country.

As a result, contact centre visits are nearly six times higher than the global norm. Ritalin use in Israeli children is one of the highest in the world. And rampant parental alienation syndrome is destroying the fabric of family life.

These travel ban orders are easily obtained, even against foreign citizens, with a few choice accusations, mostly unfounded, and often doneex parte, meaning the victim doesn’t always know, and only discovers the truth when they try to leave the country.

Men are often expected to pay more than their salary in child support in divorce cases. In Ilan’s case, a snap judgment was made for 36 years child support to be deposited, taking his daughter’s support at that time to the age of 44, one year older than her father was on the day the judgment was made.

The official suicide rate is one per day, post-traumatic stress disorder is unrecognized for these people, and the psychological damage of losing one’s freedom is disregarded.

Marianne Azizi is author of the book Sour Milk and Stolen Honey.

A version of this article was first published by the website IAcknowledge. The version here is published by permission of Marianne Azizi.


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| Time to rethink Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery!

Columbus Day? True Legacy: Cruelty and Slavery ~
Eric Kasum, Huffington Post.

Once again, it’s time to celebrate Columbus Day. Yet, the stunning truth is: If Christopher Columbus were alive today, he would be put on trial for crimes against humanity. Columbus’ reign of terror, as documented by noted historians, was so bloody, his legacy so unspeakably cruel, that Columbus makes a modern villain like Saddam Hussein look like a pale codfish.

Question: Why do we honor a man who, if he were alive today, would almost certainly be sitting on Death Row awaiting execution?

If you’d like to know the true story about Christopher Columbus, please read on. But I warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart.

Here’s the basics. On the second Monday in October each year, we celebrate Columbus Day (this year, it’s on October 11th). We teach our school kids a cute little song that goes: “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” It’s an American tradition, as American as pizza pie. Or is it? Surprisingly, the true story of Christopher Columbus has very little in common with the myth we all learned in school.

Columbus Day, as we know it in the United States, was invented by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal service organization. Back in the 1930s, they were looking for a Catholic hero as a role-model their kids could look up to. In 1934, as a result of lobbying by the Knights of Columbus, Congress and President Franklin Roosevelt signed Columbus Day into law as a federal holiday to honor this courageous explorer. Or so we thought.

There are several problems with this. First of all, Columbus wasn’t the first European to discover America. As we all know, the Viking, Leif Ericson probably founded a Norse village on Newfoundland some 500 years earlier. So, hat’s off to Leif. But if you think about it, the whole concept of discovering America is, well, arrogant. After all, the Native Americans discovered North America about 14,000 years before Columbus was even born! Surprisingly, DNA evidence now suggests that courageous Polynesian adventurers sailed dugout canoes across the Pacific and settled in South America long before the Vikings.

Second, Columbus wasn’t a hero. When he set foot on that sandy beach in the Bahamas on October 12, 1492, Columbus discovered that the islands were inhabited by friendly, peaceful people called the Lucayans, Taínos and Arawaks. Writing in his diary, Columbus said they were a handsome, smart and kind people. He noted that the gentle Arawaks were remarkable for their hospitality. “They offered to share with anyone and when you ask for something, they never say no,” he said. The Arawaks had no weapons; their society had neither criminals, prisons nor prisoners. They were so kind-hearted that Columbus noted in his diary that on the day the Santa Maria was shipwrecked, the Arawaks labored for hours to save his crew and cargo. The native people were so honest that not one thing was missing.

Columbus was so impressed with the hard work of these gentle islanders, that he immediately seized their land for Spain and enslaved them to work in his brutal gold mines. Within only two years, 125,000 (half of the population) of the original natives on the island were dead.

If I were a Native American, I would mark October 12, 1492, as a black day on my calendar.

Shockingly, Columbus supervised the selling of native girls into sexual slavery. Young girls of the ages 9 to 10 were the most desired by his men. In 1500, Columbus casually wrote about it in his log. He said: “A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”

He forced these peaceful natives work in his gold mines until they died of exhaustion. If an “Indian” worker did not deliver his full quota of gold dust by Columbus’ deadline, soldiers would cut off the man’s hands and tie them around his neck to send a message. Slavery was so intolerable for these sweet, gentle island people that at one point, 100 of them committed mass suicide. Catholic law forbade the enslavement of Christians, but Columbus solved this problem. He simply refused to baptize the native people of Hispaniola.

On his second trip to the New World, Columbus brought cannons and attack dogs. If a native resisted slavery, he would cut off a nose or an ear. If slaves tried to escape, Columbus had them burned alive. Other times, he sent attack dogs to hunt them down, and the dogs would tear off the arms and legs of the screaming natives while they were still alive. If the Spaniards ran short of meat to feed the dogs, Arawak babies were killed for dog food.

Columbus’ acts of cruelty were so unspeakable and so legendary – even in his own day – that Governor Francisco De Bobadilla arrested Columbus and his two brothers, slapped them into chains, and shipped them off to Spain to answer for their crimes against the Arawaks. But the King and Queen of Spain, their treasury filling up with gold, pardoned Columbus and let him go free.

One of Columbus’ men, Bartolome De Las Casas, was so mortified by Columbus’ brutal atrocities against the native peoples, that he quit working for Columbus and became a Catholic priest. He described how the Spaniards under Columbus’ command cut off the legs of children who ran from them, to test the sharpness of their blades. According to De Las Casas, the men made bets as to who, with one sweep of his sword, could cut a person in half. He says that Columbus’ men poured people full of boiling soap. In a single day, De Las Casas was an eye witness as the Spanish soldiers dismembered, beheaded, or raped 3000 native people. “Such inhumanities and barbarisms were committed in my sight as no age can parallel,” De Las Casas wrote. “My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature that now I tremble as I write.”

De Las Casas spent the rest of his life trying to protect the helpless native people. But after a while, there were no more natives to protect. Experts generally agree that before 1492, the population on the island of Hispaniola probably numbered above 3 million. Within 20 years of Spanish arrival, it was reduced to only 60,000. Within 50 years, not a single original native inhabitant could be found.

In 1516, Spanish historian Peter Martyr wrote: “… a ship without compass, chart, or guide, but only following the trail of dead Indians who had been thrown from the ships could find its way from the Bahamas to Hispaniola.”

Christopher Columbus derived most of his income from slavery, De Las Casas noted. In fact, Columbus was the first slave trader in the Americas. As the native slaves died off, they were replaced with black slaves. Columbus’ son became the first African slave trader in 1505.

Are you surprised you never learned about any of this in school? I am too. Why do we have this extraordinary gap in our American ethos? Columbus himself kept detailed diaries, as did some of his men including De Las Casas and Michele de Cuneo. (If you don’t believe me, just Google the words Columbus, sex slave, and gold mine.)

Columbus’ reign of terror is one of the darkest chapters in our history. The REAL question is: Why do we celebrate a holiday in honor of this man? (Take three deep breaths. If you’re like me, your stomach is heaving at this point. I’m sorry. Sometimes the truth hurts. That said, I’d like to turn in a more positive direction.)

Call me crazy, but I think holidays ought to honor people who are worthy of our admiration, true heroes who are positive role models for our children. If we’re looking for heroes we can truly admire, I’d like to offer a few candidates. Foremost among them are school kids.

Let me tell you about some school kids who are changing the world. I think they are worthy of a holiday. My friend Nan Peterson is the director of the Blake School, a K-12 school in Minnesota. She recently visited Kenya. Nan says there are 33 million people in Kenya… and 11 million of them are orphans! Can you imagine that? She went to Kibera, the slum outside Nairobi, and a boy walked up to her and handed her a baby. He said: My father died. My mother died… and I’m not feeling so good myself. Here, take my sister. If I die, they will throw her into the street to die.

There are so many orphans in Kenya, the baby girls are throwaways!

Nan visited an orphanage for girls. The girls were starving to death. They had one old cow that only gave one cup of milk a day. So each girl only got ONE TEASPOON of milk a day!

After this heartbreaking experience, Nan went home to her school in Minnesota and asked the kids… what can we do? The kids got the idea to make homemade paper and sell it to buy a cow. So they made a bunch of paper, and sold the paper, and when they were done they had enough money to buy… FOUR COWS! And enough food to feed all of the cows for ONE FULL YEAR! These are kids… from 6 years old to 18… saving the lives of kids halfway around the world. And I thought: If a 6-year-old could do that… what could I do?

At Casady School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, seemingly “average” school kids raised $20,000 to dig clean water wells for children in Ethiopia. These kids are heroes. Why don’t we celebrate “Kids Who Are Changing the Planet” Day?

Let me ask you a question: Would we celebrate Columbus Day if the story of Christopher Columbus were told from the point-of-view of his victims? No way!

The truth about Columbus is going to be a hard pill for some folks to swallow. Please, don’t think I’m picking on Catholics. All the Catholics I know are wonderful people. I don’t want to take away their holiday or their hero. But if we’re looking for a Catholic our kids can admire, the Catholic church has many, many amazing people we could name a holiday after. How about Mother Teresa day? Or St. Francis of Assisi day? Or Betty Williams day (another Catholic Nobel Peace Prize winner). These men and women are truly heroes of peace, not just for Catholics, but for all of us.

Let’s come clean. Let’s tell the truth about Christopher Columbus. Let’s boycott this outrageous holiday because it honors a mass murderer. If we skip the cute song about “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” I don’t think our first graders will miss it much, do you? True, Columbus’ brutal treatment of peaceful Native Americans was so horrific… maybe we should hide the truth about Columbus until our kids reach at least High School age. Let’s teach it to them about the same time we tell them about the Nazi death camps.

While we’re at it, let’s rewrite our history books. From now on, instead of glorifying the exploits of mass murderers like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, and Napoleon Bonaparte, let’s teach our kids about true heroes, men and women of courage and kindness who devoted their lives to the good of others. There’s a long list, starting with Florence Nightingale, Mahatma Gandhi, Rev. Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy.

These people were not adventurers who “discovered” an island in the Caribbean. They were noble souls who discovered what is best in the human spirit.

Why don’t we create a holiday to replace Columbus Day?

Let’s call it Heroes of Peace Day.


| Police state blues: NYPD actually bills killed man’s mother for vehicle dent caused by his head!

Mother of son killed by police car is BILLED $710 to repair dent in the hood made when he was struck down ~ DAILY MAIL REPORTER, MailOnline.

The family of a dead man, killed by a police cruiser, have responded with fury to a bill sent to them for $710 to cover the damage his body did to the car. 

Tamon Robinson was fatally hit in April during a police chase in Brooklyn

He had been caught digging up paving stones outside his Bayview Houses home in Canarsie and was fleeing on foot when the car smashed into him, causing blunt impact head injuries.

Tamon Robinson was fatally hit in April during a police chase in Brooklyn
Tamon Robinson was fatally hit in April during a police chase in Brooklyn

Tamon Robinson was fatally hit in April during a police chase in Brooklyn


The 23-year-old slipped into a coma upon the moment of impact from which he never awoke and he died six days laterThe 23-year-old slipped into a coma upon the moment of impact from which he never awoke and he died six days later

The 23-year-old slipped into a coma upon the moment of impact from which he never awoke and he died six days later.

A large dent in the side of the patrol car that hit him remains a grisly reminder of Robinson’s death and prompted a brutal blood-money demand to be penned to his grieving family, dated September 27.



In it they were instructed to cough up the $710, over ‘property damage to a vehicle owned by the New York Police Department‘.

Failure to do so within 10 days, it continued, would result in a lawsuit.

‘We’re still grieving, and this is like a slap in the face,’ Robinson’s mother, Laverne Dobbinson, 45, told the New York Daily News.

‘They want my son to pay for damage to the vehicle that killed him. It’s crazy.’

Incensed by the force’s lack of humanity, Dobbinson sought legal advice of her own and intends to sue the city.

Robinson had been caught digging up paving stones outside his Bayview Houses home in Canarsie Robinson had been caught digging up paving stones outside his Bayview Houses home in Canarsie


Robinson's family have sought the arrest of the officers driving the car that hit him, staging rallies and demonstrations, ever since his deathRobinson’s family have sought the arrest of the officers driving the car that hit him, staging rallies and demonstrations, ever since his death

Sanford Rubenstein, her lawyer, called the bill a ‘disgrace’ in his filing, warning the NYPD not to do any repairs to the damaged car.

Dobbinson has further complaints about the way in which her son was treated by officers in the hours after he was struck by them.

Lying brain-dead in bed, Robinson was shackled to his bed under police guard, his mother only allowed to visit him for 20 minutes.

Then, on the day of his funeral, cops smashed their way into the family’s apartment, later claiming to have got the address wrong on a search warrant.

Since his death Dobbinson has actively sought the arrest of the officers involved, staging rallies and demonstrations and keeping her son’s memory alive through a Facebook memorial page.

The city medical examiner ruled Robinson’s death an accident but the incident remains under investigation by the Brooklyn District Attorney, as well as the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau, over witness allegations that Robinson was deliberately run over.

New York City officials have since apologised for sending the collection letter.


| Magna Carta: The most ignorant UK PM ever?

PM suffers humour and history failure in Letterman ordeal ~ DAVID USBORNE, The Independent.

Downing Street should know: do not put the Prime Minister on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Yet that is where David Cameron was last night, engaged in some friendly back and forth about our nation’s glorious past. Two blocks from where The History Boys took Broadway by storm, our own history boy, Eton-educated and all, didn’t do so well.

Maybe they set it up to coincide with the UN General Assembly, because Boris Johnson was a guest in June? In any event, things weren’t looking good when they briefly filled the studio with stage smog in a little joke about the London weather. Then on walked the PM to the strains of Rule Britannia.  And so it began…

“Do you mind if I ask you a lot of dumb American questions,” Mr Letterman begins.  (Uh-oh muttered the British scribes and Downing Street advisors crammed into the green room back-stage.) Question number one: Who composed Rule Britannia?  This was just the beginning of the ambush.  (The Magna Carta questions are still to come.) Cameron looks blank.  Clearly he doesn’t know. “You’re testing me now,” he said. He got that right, at least.

It was awkward, but the PM had a stab.  “Elgar?”  Letterman looked dubious and warned that his researchers would be checking.  Then he launched into ruminations about the British Empire when a quarter of the globe pink. “Historians would look at that period as just awful,” Letterman suggested, before professing to be confused about the composition of the United Kingdom. “What’s the deal with Wales?”

Well, it’s hard to answer that. But then we turned to the Magna Carta.  Well that was “signed in 1215” (good), said Cameron, on an island in the Thames. Letterman thought that bit was wrong. Wasn’t it a “big open place” that hadn’t been on his tour when he visited London? Finally, the Prime Minster got it. “Runnymede” (which is not an island).

But when Letterman asked where the Magna Carta now was, Cameron  was stumped. “It does exist,” he ventured, he had seen a copy in the Houses of Parliament.

But then the final humiliation: What does Magna Carta mean? No clue, blank, empty, without hope. “Oh it would be good if you knew this – we’ll find it,” Letterman jabbed.

Team Briton, we, the inventors of humour allegedly, were left in the dust by the funny American – who’d have thought it?  When Letterman asked impishly who would ever have bet against London staging a brilliant Olympics, the reply from Cameron was meant to be Mitt Romney. But the joke appeared to pass him by completely.

If Cameron was a US politician, failing a test on the basics of American history, he would be toast this morning. But it raises another question: would the PM pass a citizenship test for his British passport? If the UK version was as strict as its US equivalent, he wouldn’t stand a chance. Rule Britannia: Thomas Arne.  Magna Carta: “Big Charter”.



The Full Letterman-David Cameron Interview






| Dignity under duress: Scenes from Occupied Palestine: The Doors of Jayyous!

Scenes from occupied Palestine: The doors of Jayyous ~  , Mondoweiss.

No heavy politics in this post, just some visual testimony to the Palestinians’ ability to maintain their traditions and their spirits even under the boot of Israeli occupation.

p11 2 082

The pictures on this page, and several dozen others posted on a Tumblr page I recently created, are of doors on homes in Jayyous, a village of about 3,000 people on the eastern edge of the northern West Bank, looking out over central Israel (at night you can see the lights of Tel Aviv in the distance). I spent a month there in the fall of 2003 as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement. The Israelis had just completed the apartheid wall there – in this area an electrified fence with wide roadways, ditches, and endless coils of concertina wire on both sides – destroying countless olive trees and cutting the villagers off from about 70 percent of their land. Jayyous was the first Palestinian village to respond to the wall with a sustained campaign of non-violent resistance: in all, I was told, the village had staged 39 demonstrations! But they attracted little media attention and didn’t succeed in stopping the construction.

By the time I got there, the demonstrations had come to a halt, and things were pretty quiet, except when the occupation soldiers came through in the middle of the night for their idea of sport – setting off sound bombs and shooting holes in rooftop water tanks. Not surprisingly, many of the villagers seemed sad and sullen; most were focused on trying to get permits from the Israelis to cross through the wall to work their lands, via gates on the north and south sides of town. The authorities had pledged to open the gates for 45 minutes three times a day at posted hours – morning, midday, and late afternoon – so villagers the Israelis blessed with permits (i.e., those not considered “security threats”) could get to and from their olive trees, citrus groves, and hothouses.

p3 2 016 rot

Not having much else to do at that point, we ISM volunteers devoted ourselves to monitoring how the gate system actually worked, taking detailed notes (later used as evidence in a major lawsuit) on when the soldiers opened them, how many people they allowed through, and what kinds of harassment and humiliation they inflicted on the villagers.

(The thing that struck me most was how the arbitrariness in practice of a system that was ostensibly highly routinized had the effect of depriving the farmers of any control over their time: on most days the soldiers arrived to open the gates anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour later than the posted times, but occasionally – a few times a week – they’d arrive early, and instead of keeping the gates open for the advertised 45 minutes, they’d do so only long enough to process the people there when they arrived. Since no one ever knew when they might be early, the farmers had to be there early every time, both going and coming, lest they miss their chance. But since most days the soldiers were late, the farmers usually ended up sitting around the gate with nothing to do but scan the horizon watching for the Israeli jeep. This was particularly infuriating at the late-afternoon opening, because by then everyone was exhausted from a long day of hard work – especially because it was Ramadan when I was there and no one ate or drank anything during the day.)

Between stints at the gates, I spent much of my time walking through the village, and I became fascinated by the doors on the houses, with their soft colors standing out against the drab stone and concrete walls and their elaborate metalwork designs (created, I was told, by local craftsmen). I had only a small, low-end camera on that trip, but I ended shooting just about every door in town. Just this past months, after almost nine years, I finally got it together to post them online

Take a look at the others, and enjoy.

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| Intelligence or idiocy? NSA Whistleblower reveals how to beat a Polygraph Test!

NSA Whistleblower Reveals How To Beat a Polygraph TestELIZABETH FLOCK, US Weekly.

Russell Tice, the National Security Agency whistleblower who blew the lid open on warrantless wiretapping conducted by the federal government on U.S. citizens post-9/11, says that he took between 12 and 15 polygraph tests during his nearly 20-year-long government career.

The tests mellowed over time, Tice says, and they may have also gotten easier to beat.

[See: Latest political cartoons]

Tice, who is no longer at the NSA, says he, along with those still in contact with at the agency, marvel at how easy it is to beat the lie detector.

The federal government currently administers polygraphs to government employees in a number of agencies, including the NSA and CIA. The polygraphs work by measuring and recording a person’s physiological responses—changes in a person’s pulse, breathing and blood pressure—to lying versus telling the truth.

Tice, who is now working on a Ph.D. in global security studies, says the NSA “routinely uses polygraphs to terrorize the rank and file of NSA employees” and to “gather very personal information on them that they can use to blackmail them into participating in illegal and unethical conduct.”

The whistleblower’s view is supported by AntiPolygraph.org, a nonprofit that seeks to abolish polygraphs from the workplace.George Maschke, a U.S. army reserve captain who was rejected from the FBI for failing a polygraph and now runs AntiPolygraph.org, tells Whispers he believes the NSA’s polygraph is intended to be a “psychological tool of coercion.”

“Polygraphs are detrimental to individuals and to national security,” says Maschke, “because federal agencies are relying on technology that is unreliable… that is junk science.” A number of studies from the scientific community have also said polygraphs rely on pseudoscience.

AntiPolygraph.org has a number of tips on how to manipulate physiological responses to beat the test. Tice shared some of his own tips on Monday with Whispers.

First, Tice says, a person can trick the tester on “probable-lie” questions. During a polygraph’s pre-test interview, the tester usually asks a person to answer questions they are likely to lie about. These include questions like: ‘Have you ever stolen money?,’ ‘Have you ever lied to your parents?,’ or ‘Have you ever cheated on a test?’. Most people have done these at least once, but lie about it. So the tester uses a person’s response to a likely lie as a way to establish how a person physically reacts while lying.

Tice says to trick the tester, a person should lie in response to these questions like most other people would, but also bite their tongue hard while doing so, which will set off other physiological reactions in the body. The tester’s “needles will fly everywhere,” says Tice, “and he will think, ‘This guy is a nervous nelly. He has a strong physical reaction when he’s lying.'”

“And you’re skewing the test,” he says.

Tice says it’s also easy to beat a polygraph while telling a real lie by daydreaming to calm the nerves.

“Think of a warm summer night… or drinking a beer, whatever calms you. You’re throwing them off,” he says. “The needle might nip a little [because you’re lying], but not off the charts.” And since the person has already convinced the tester that they have off-the-charts physiological reactions while lying, Tice says, a small reaction likely won’t tip the tester off.

The tests have also simply gotten easier, with the questions being less likely to shock an individual. “They use to say things like ‘I bet you have sex with dogs,’ just to initiate a reaction to see how that needle jumps if you’ve been insulted,” Tice says. “[But they] have mellowed down a lot… Polygraphs are easy to beat.”

Update, 3:20 p.m.:

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines says that the polygraph “is one of the vetting tools” used by the NSA and other federal agencies “to assess an individual’s eligibility for access, and continued eligibility access, to highly sensitive intelligence information.”

“In making these eligibility determinations, NSA complies with the personnel security investigative standards and procedures as outlined in various Intelligence Community directives and policy guidance memoranda.”

Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report.


| More zio-impunity: Dozens of settlers assault Palestinian farmer!

Dozens of settlers assault Palestinian farmer ~ Ma’an News Agency.

Dozens of settlers assault Palestinian farmer
Published today 15:40
Abed al-Kareem Maikel Abu Ali, 57, was beaten for around 40
minutes by dozens of settlers.
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Dozens of settlers from Migron outpost assaulted a farmer on Wednesday north of Jerusalem, leaving him with multiple injuries, local officials said.

“Dozens of settlers chased the farmer, Abed al-Kareem Maikel Abu Ali, 57, for about 500 meters and beat him with iron bars, stones and sticks,” activist Saed Allah Khaled Abu Ali told Ma’an.

Four farmers had gone to check their lands near Mikhmas village after reports that settlers had cut down around 150 olive trees, village council official Muhammad Kanan said.

The farmers were attacked as they arrived at their land, with 30 settlers lying in wait. They all managed to escape apart from Abed al-Kareem Maikel Abu Ali, who was subsequently beaten by the group of settlers for around 40 minutes, Kanan said.

Israeli soldiers were present in the area but reportedly did not intervene.

“We shouted at the Israeli soldiers, and we told them that they are responsible for everything that is going on. They are responsible to treat the Palestinian farmer,” Abu Ali told Ma’an.

“After a lot of pressure, an ambulance was able to take the farmer, and just one hour later, we were surprised to find out that the ambulance was stopped at Jaba checkpoint,” he said.

Hours later having been allowed through, the ambulance was then stopped at Hizma checkpoint and forbidden to pass. An ambulance from the Red Crescent took the injured farmer and he was transferred to a Jerusalem hospital, Abu Ali said.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said there were no reports of the incident.