What are you even doing on a planet like this?
WikiLeaks activist Jacob Appelbaum said Hillary Clinton will make life difficult for Julian Assange due to “bitterness” over the organization's leaks.
Julian Assange, the founder of whistleblower website WikiLeaks, will remain a “political prisoner” under a U.S. Hillary Clinton presidency, The Guardian reported hacker and WikiLeaks representative Jacob Appelbaum saying Thursday.
If Hillary Clinton becomes president, life for Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange “will possibly get worse," security expert and journalist Jacob Appelbaum told a crowd at the premiere of Laura Poitras’ documentary "Risk" in Cannes Thursday.
Speaking at a Q&A session after the screening, Appelbaum described a Clinton presidency as “a very scary prospect.”
He pointed to Cablegate, the 2010 release of 250,000 State Department emails leaked by Chelsea Manning, as an indicator of what a Clinton presidency would mean for Assange, claiming she still holds a grudge over the whistleblowing that took place while she was Secretary of State
I had a meeting with someone from then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office some time after the Cablegate,”Appelbaum said. “It was with a very senior person, whose opening line was to remind me that he was a very, very powerful man. He let me know that Clinton did not like Julian or myself on a first name basis. I think that if Hillary Clinton were to run for president, she will continue to assert her political will and bitterness about the exposure of diplomatic cables that documented crimes.”
Appelbaum, who has not been to the US for three years on advice of his lawyers, revealed his friends and family members had been harassed by the Barack Obama administration and asked to become informants.
He described Assange as a "political prisoner who is being demonized in the press."
- 2. ANALYSIS:
5 Reasons Why Ecuador Granted Asylum to Julian Assange
- “I had a meeting with someone from then secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s office some time after the Cablegate,” Appelbaum said during a panel following the Cannes film festival premiere of “Risk,” a new documentary about Assange.
- Cablegate refers to the 2010 leak of more than 250,000 classified U.S. State Department messages by WikiLeaks.
- “He let me know that Clinton did not like Julian or myself. I think that if Hillary Clinton were to run for president, she would continue to assert her political will and bitterness about the exposure of diplomatic cables that documented crimes," Appelbaum added.
“Risk” is a new documentary by director Laura Poitras which follows Assange after he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in the United Kingdom as he faces extradition by Sweden over accusations of sexual molestation and rape by two Swedish women.
Assange argues the allegations are part of a campaign to discredit him and Wikileaks. He has been in the Ecuadorean embassy in London since 2012 and Ecuador has provided him with political asylum.
Poitras is also the director of Citizenfour, the Oscar-winning film about Edward Snowden, the U.S. National Security Agency employee who leaked information about the agency’s major surveillance program after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Appelbaum further slammed international media over their reporting on Assange and accused those in the U.S. of being propagandists. “Julian is a political prisoner who has been demonised in the press,” he said.
“There’s a real split between journalists who are working to reveal information and journalists who are propagandists. And in the United States most of the journalists are propagandists. They’re stenographers for the state.”
“Risk” shows Assange after he sought refuge from extradition in the Ecuadorian embassy, holding WikiLeaks meetings, working out with a boxing trainer and being interviewed by Lady Gaga.
3. Apartheid III
Last week, concerning reports emerged from Saxonia, Germany. According to several reports and a video which was spread on social media, a 21-year-old refugee from Iraq was attacked inside a supermarket by four men, who consider themselves as part of a so-called "local watch group.” After the young and slightly-framed Iraqi was accused of stealing, the group of men, all of them white Germans, intervened by insulting and punching him. When the police arrived, they found the Iraqi man brutally tied to a tree.
Incidents like this are becoming increasingly common. Over the past few months, particularly since the so-called “sex attacks” of Cologne, reports of local vigilante groups — mainly white men who believe they are entitled to take the law into their own hands — have increased. The problem is not exclusive to Germany but is an issue in other European countries, where white vigilantes and their supporters have come to believe the state’s executive branch has failed to “defend” its citizens from “criminal” refugees. The former are usually white, non-Muslims with no clear migrant background.
In many cases, these "criminal refugees" are harmless and defenseless people who have lost nearly everything from the wars they have fled. In the case of the Iraqi man, we now know that he was not in fact a thief but a mentally ill patient staying in a nearby hospital. The police’s response, however, was to immediately blame the refugee by opening up an investigation against him instead of those who had attacked him.
Furthermore, it has now come to light that one of the four vigilantes, the same vigilante who later described the brutal attack as an act of “civil courage, is a local politician from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrat (CDU) party. Shortly after the incident had been reported, all of the men were celebrated as heroes on right-wing and far-right social media channels.
Similar and maybe far more concerning incidents have taken place across Europe – and are largely being ignored. In Sweden, a group of nationalist far-right extremists who call themselves "pirates" are actively hunting down refugees in waters close to the Danish border. "Swedish and Norwegians can't live together with Islamic people", said Dennis Ljung, the groups founder, in an interview with RT.
In January, a crowd of 40 to 50 masked individuals hunted and assaulted every person who did not look like an “ethnic Swede,” or white person. The Swedish Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi-group, took responsibility for the attack and said they were "defending Swedish women" and "cleaning up criminal immigrants from North Africa." The incident, which happened in the middle of Stockholm and was later described as the "Stockholm pogrom" by different media outlets, is one of the darkest periods in recent anti-migrant attacks in Europe.
But similar events are happening in Bulgaria, where self-proclaimed "migrant hunters" are patrolling areas close to the Turkish border in armoured vehicles. In Hungary, racist vigilantes are being directly supported by the far-right government of Victor Orbán. In Austria, vigilante groups have been formed through social media outlets closely linked to far-right and neo-Nazi groups.
Outcome of Dehumanization
The political arm of such violent groups are already sitting in many European parliament's, which means their rise cannot be attributed solely to coincidence. The attacks are in fact closely linked with growing xenophobia and racism in Europe, which is being instrumentalized by right-wing parties, especially since the so-called “refugee crisis” erupted last summer. Established parties from across the political spectrum, including liberal, conservative and social democrat, are adopting xenophobic, racist rhetoric and measures.
At the same time, mainstream media outlets continue to spread dubious and propagandistic reports on alleged refugee criminality. The relationship between politicians and media outlets, who work in tandem to reduce human beings who have fled their homes and countries, is working to objectify migrants and refugees as undesirables, foreign bodies excluded not just from society but also humanity.
Symptom of an Oppressive Political System
The dehumanization of so-called “undesirables” is not just a problem of language and discourse. European refugee policy must itself be described for what it is: brutal, inhumane and murderous. It has now become daily routine that migrants and refugees drown in the sea, are shot by policemen or hunted by the henchmen of Frontex, the infamous border guards of the European Union. It has also become common practice in Europe to deport refugees, often brutally and against their will, back to war-torn countries. In many cases, the victims are minors.
Meanwhile, leading EU members like Germany, France and the United Kingdom have been fueling war and destruction in the Middle East and elsewhere for years. At the very same time, they use almost any means to prevent refugees from reaching their countries. At the moment, the peak of this shabby policy has been reached in a dirty deal with Turkey, which is brutally fighting against the refugee influx, especially those from Syria but also many from Iraq and Afghanistan, all at the mercy of Brussels.
All in all, we can say that the rise of racist vigilante groups should be considered a very worrying development. Nevertheless, their rise is just the symptom of an oppressive political system, which is built on massive discrimination, exploitation and institutionalized racism. While still acting as a moralizer, the EU has virtually declared it legal to fight against refugees, dehumanize them and treat them as "unpeople." And it was the very same European Union that won a Nobel Peace Prize just four years ago.
5. “RISK” anti-business as usual
A documentary about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. ‘Risk’ is a sneak peek into the whistleblower’s work process, with Assange seen boxing, talking to his mother and being interviewed by Lady Gaga.
The film's director, Laura Poitras, told RT during a Q&A after the screening that she was put on a US government terrorist watch list back in 2006, when she made ‘My Country, My Country’, a documentary set in Iraq under the US forces’ occupation. Citing an FBI audio recording, Poitras said that the Homeland Security Department most probably “still considers me to be an anti-American filmmaker.”
The 52-year-old director added that both the investigations into her work and the WikiLeaks case are secret.
“We know that they are ongoing because of the documents that we have received.”
Poitras is no stranger to danger. Her previous documentary, ‘CitizenFour’, was about Edward Snowden, who blew the lid off the US National Security Agency. The filmmaker had even relocated to Berlin to avoid government intrusion while working on the documentary. Back in 2010, Poitras made waves with ‘The Oath’, which she filmed in Yemen and Guantánamo Bay. That documentary drama revolved around Osama Bin Laden’s former bodyguard, and a Gitmo detainee, exposing the real impact of the US War on Terror.
'Mainstream media try to separate people'
In her latest tour de force, ‘Risk’, presented in a series of 10 chapters, the director managed to get unlimited access to the WikiLeaks indefatigable founder. When Poitras was asked to comment on reports alleging that she and Assange had stopped getting on well for some reason, she questioned the source of the information and lashed out at the mainstream media.
“When I first started doing the reporting on Edward Snowden’s documents, one of the first things that the mainstream media did was a comparison [with WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning],” she said.
“This comparison is a move by the mainstream media to try and separate people. What Snowden did came after Chelsea Manning. It’s not about comparing the two, it’s about looking at what they’re actually revealing,” she said.
“Julian is a political prisoner who has been demonized in the press,” WikiLeaks activist and technical expert Jacob Appelbaum said, receiving great applause from the Cannes audience.
“There’s a real split between journalists who are working to reveal information and journalists who are propagandists," he added.
“In the United States most of the journalists are propagandists. They’re stenographers for the state.”
'If you are not fighting you are losing'
In ‘Risk’, Assange talks about how much risk people should actually go to, and concludes that “If you're not fighting for the things that you care about, you are losing.”
“The risk of inaction is very high,” he notes.
One of the liveliest scenes in the film is when Lady Gaga comes to interview Assange in the embassy, filming the conversation on a small camera. The pop diva lazily asks Assange what his favorite food is, and he replies: “Let’s not pretend for a moment I’m a normal person.” When the two come to calculate that at least 12 government agencies are after the WikiLeaks mastermind, including the CIA and FBI, Gaga aptly summarizes: “A lot of f***ing people.”
Assange has been stuck inside the Ecuadorian embassy since he took refuge there in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden. In Sweden, the Australian is wanted for questioning by the authorities regarding allegations of sexual assault against two women in 2010. The 44-year-old has denied the accusations; he says that being taken to Sweden is only meant to pave the way for further extradition to the US, where he will likely be detained for helping the currently-imprisoned Chelsea Manning leak US diplomatic cables in 2010.
WikiLeaks published over 250,000 classified US military and diplomatic documents in 2010 in a move that amounted to the largest information leak in United States history. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State when WikiLeaks published ‘Cablegate’.
'Hillary Clinton did not like Assange'
According to Appelbaum, Assange's life would hardly change for the better under a President Hillary Clinton. He recalled how he once had a meeting with someone from Clinton’s office following Cablegate.
“He [the representative] let me know that Clinton did not like Julian or myself."
"I think that if Hillary Clinton runs for president, she will continue to assert her political will and bitterness about the exposure of diplomatic cables that documented crimes,”Appelbaum said after the screening of ‘Risk’.
"I don't have any ideas about other candidates but I don't think they have any ideas either," he added, receiving another portion of applause.
"I don't have any ideas about other candidates but I don't think they have any ideas either," he added, receiving another portion of applause.
2,000 days in exile
WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison, who also attended the film premiere in Cannes, said that May 28 will be Assange’s 2,000th day in exile.
“He is detained without charge in an embassy surrounded by police. He has been held in the UK for the last five-and-a-half years. Julian has not seen his son for four years. The UK continues to deny him medical treatment,” Harrison, wearing a T-shirt that read ‘Liberate Assange’, noted.
Last month lawyers for Assange urged Stockholm to repeal his arrest warrant, citing health concerns. They said the WikiLeaks founder cannot receive adequate medical attention at the embassy. Earlier this year the UN ruled that Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” in the embassy in London, and called for the UK and Sweden to end his “deprivation of liberty.”
Valeria Paikova, RT, Cannes
Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder who is still confined to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, would find life no easier under a President Hillary Clinton, according to the journalist, hacker and WikiLeaks representative Jacob Appelbaum.
Speaking at a Q&A after the Cannes film festival premiere of Risk, Laura Poitras’s documentary about the WikiLeaks activist, Appelbaum said Clinton’s representatives had made it clear that, thanks to Cablegate – the 2010 leak of more than 250,000 classified US State Department messages by WikiLeaks (published by media partners including the Guardian) – Clinton’s office was in no mood to rethink their strategy when it came to Assange.
“I had a meeting with someone from then secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s office some time after the Cablegate,” Appelbaum said. “He let me know that Clinton did not like Julian or myself. I think that if Hillary Clinton were to run for president, she would continue to assert her political will and bitterness about the exposure of diplomatic cables that documented crimes.”
Poitras began filming Risk before she started work on Citizenfour, her Oscar-winning film about Edward Snowden. In Risk, Poitras follows Assange in the aftermath of the US diplomatic leaks as he learns of the accusations of sexual molestation and one of rape against him by two Swedish women that were, he believes, part of a smear campaign. The film shows Assange after he sought refuge from extradition in the Ecuadorian embassy, holding WikiLeaks meeting, working out with a boxing trainer and being interviewed by Lady Gaga.
In October 2014, the New Yorker published an article suggesting that Assange had grown disillusioned with Poitras, thinking her timid. Asked by a Cannes audience member if reports of friction between the pair were true, Poitras questioned their source, before criticising the mainstream media for being distracted by minor details.
“When I first started doing the reporting on Edward Snowden’s documents, one of the first things the mainstream media did was a comparison [with WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning],” she said. “It’s a move by the mainstream media to try and separate people. Edward Snowden came very much after Chelsea Manning. It’s not about comparing the two, it’s about looking at what they’re actually revealing.”
“Julian is a political prisoner who has been demonised in the press,” said Appelbaum to applause. “There’s a real split between journalists who are working to reveal information and journalists who are propagandists. And in the United States most of the journalists are propagandists. They’re stenographers for the state.”
The pair were joined on stage by Sarah Harrison, a journalist and legal researcher who is a close confidante of Assange’s. She wore a T-shirt that read: “Liberate Assange.” She noted that 28 May will be Assange’s 2,000th day in exile, cited a recent UN report that called the UK’s detention of Assange “arbitrary”, and called for his immediate release.
“He’s been in that space for four years,” she said. “Think of that when you’re out in the Cannes sunshine”.
Thursday 19 May 2016 06.43 EDT
Last modified on Thursday 19 May 201610.53 EDT
As exciting as it is to witness such world-changing negotiations happening first-hand, there’s something almost sinister in the way Assange plays to the media, whether it’s in the relatively public forum of a press conference or something more intimate, but still half-staged, such as this night-before “warning” to the Secretary of State’s office. He’s well aware of his own myth-building, but also has a smarmy way of interacting with women — and the fact that there’s one behind the camera makes his occasional asides to Laura feel as if he’s disrespecting us by extension. (His arrogance and misogyny become recurring bugaboos as the film progresses, especially when faced with the possibility of being extradited to Sweden to face rape charges.)
The diplomatic cable dump is huge, of course, but not quite enough to hang a documentary on, and Poitras sticks around, shadowing members of Assange’s team — but especially Appelbaum — as they do their modern-day Robin Hood routine: stealing (information) from the rich to give to the poor(ly informed). In the most galvanizing example of WikiLeaks in action, she joins Appelbaum in Egypt, where he speaks on a panel, calling out tech companies such as TE Data and Nokia that colluded with Mubarak’s regime, either by censoring the Internet or blasting propaganda text messages to the country’s citizens, but are now posing as allies of the revolution.
Whether it’s Bradley Manning’s arrest or “the Spy Files” (a game-changing exposé of the global mass surveillance industry released in 2011), it’s one bombshell after another as Poitras follows WikiLeaks’ information crusade, which poses considerable challenges in terms of how to present the sheer volume of activity spiraling around Assange. She opts for a curious 10-chapter structure, dividing her five-year survey (three of which fall into a black hole as she focused on “Citizenfour”) into segments introduced by giant Roman numerals. As the story develops, however, it seems to focus more on Assange and less on the things he stands for — which, conspiracy theorists might argue, was the sinister intent of whoever dredged up the Swedish case about his alleged sexual misconduct: to distract Assange’s energy and the world’s attention away from crucial stories WikiLeaks could be breaking. (And the idea that someone like Lady Gaga might hope to fill the gap, as she attempts to do in a surreal, solidarity-oriented visit to the Ecuadorian embassy, is downright ludicrous.)
Given the breakneck cycle of current events, what “Risk” brings to light is practically ancient history, and yet, given the fact that Assange has been holed up and little seen by the public since summer 2012, there’s real value in reminding the world of his ongoing plight. Still, it’s hard to stomach the nearly-four-year lacuna near the end of the film, when Poitras suddenly stopped documenting Assange — which feels all the more unusual considering the mounting familiarity he displays to her just before, allowing herself to become a character in the film itself. This coziness (which she actively questions, including an FBI recording that refers to her as “an anti-United States” documentarian) begins to suggest a possible conflict of interest on her part: Are we watching a work of journalism or a glorified fan film? Running a short 84 minutes, “Risk” offers considerable insights into Assange, but seems to omit as much as it reveals.
7. Evergladesing Drilling EastCoast Version
After generating an uproar last summer over plans to drill for oil in the Everglades near Miramar, the Kanter family of Miami has submitted paperwork for state permits that could result in decisions by late summer or early fall.
The family has proposed a single exploratory well about six miles outside Miramar, in hopes of adding to the modest group of oil fields that have been operating in South Florida since World War II.
Environmentalists have denounced the proposal, and city commissions throughout Broward County adopted resolutions in opposition. Members of the Broward CountyCommission, from which the family would need to obtain a zoning change, have said they would never support it.
But the family pressed on and recently submitted detailed responses to questions from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in hopes of completing its applications with that agency. Once the applications are determined to be complete, the agency will have 60 days to decide on one of them and 90 days to decide on the other. Applications are also pending with the Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District.
Family patriarch Joseph Kanter, who developed real estate during South Florida's postwar boom years, accumulated 20,000 acres in the Everglades for a town that was never built.
John Kanter, president of Kanter Investments Inc., described the approval process as extremely thorough and said the company was committed to producing a plan that would protect the environment.
"I would tell you at this preliminary stage we are involved in the rigorous permitting process to address all comments and concerns of the Florida Department of Environment Protection," he said. "We are focusing all of our efforts on acting responsibly in accordance with the law, while protecting our water supply and the environment."
Opponents say they will fight the plans, if the project wins approval.
"We're just waiting to see what the verdict is going to be from DEP so we can ascertain what the next steps are going to be," said Miramar Mayor Wayne Messom, who has rallied much of the opposition to the plan. "The thought of oil drilling just outside our city limits, piercing our fragile drinking water supply out in the Everglades is just unconscionable. To think there would be any technology that could guarantee its safety just seems unbelievable."
The Kanter company filed hundreds of pages of documents to the state environmental department, in response to its request for details on construction plans, safety measures, standards for pipes and other equipment. It also asks what is being proposed to minimize impact to wetlands, monitor water quality and protect wildlife. In addition, the company had to specify its plan for a potential release of hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas that has been released by oil drilling.
The company said the risk of spills or blowouts is small because the oil likely to be found there would be thick and under little pressure, contrary to the popular image of the Texas gusher.
"The Sunniland Trend contains minimal amounts of natural gas, so the oil is under low pressure," the company told the environmental department. "As a result of the low pressure and viscous consistency, the oil does not naturally come to the surface in the manner most people associate with oil wells. Submersible pumps are required to bring the oil to the surface."
At the same time, the company applied to the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to destroy 6.83 acres of wetlands, which would be "mitigated" by improving or expanding wetlands elsewhere. The Corps recently received additional information requested from the Kanters and is now evaluating whether the application is complete, spokeswoman Nakeir Nobles said.
The applications are for an exploratory well only. If sufficient oil is found to make recovery financially worthwhile, the family would have to go through another round of applications for permission to extract and ship the oil.
8. ASSANGE TALKS TPP
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been seeking refuge for close to three years inside Ecuador’s Embassy in London where he has political asylum. Facing both investigations in Sweden and the US, he claims that he is doing well despite his circumstances.
Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning on claims of sexual misconduct, however no charges have been formally filed against him. In the US, a secret grand jury is investigating him for his role in publishing a collection of leaked documents regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well as state department modes of communication known as cables.
And despite Assange’s asylum, WikiLeaks continues to disclose documents from leaked drafts of the British nuclear submarine whistleblower William McNeilly, and hidden information about a European union plan that seeks to use military force in order to curb the influx of migrants from Libya. Of the latter, WikiLeaks said, “The documents lay out a military operation against cross-Mediterranean refugee transport networks and infrastructure. It details plans to conduct military operations to destroy boats used for transporting migrants and refugees in Libyan territory, thereby preventing them from reaching Europe.”
WikiLeaks has also published leaked chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is a secretive trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries, including the United States. It would allow them to cover 40 percent of the global economy. The agreement was reached just this past October, after seven years of negotiations.
But as these matters of economic concern continue to be negotiated amongst the countries, details continue to be hidden from the public while WikiLeaks discloses information, like the “Investment Chapter,” which discusses the US negotiators’ motive to allow corporations to sue governments if their laws disrupt future profits a company has declared. Assange says the plan could “chill” the approval of health and environmental administrations.
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! sat down at the Edcuadorean Embassy in London for an exclusive interview with Assange to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the US debate of what WikiLeaks has revealed concerning the treaty.
“It is very well guarded from the press and the majority of people and even from congressmen. But 600 U.S. companies are part of the process and have been given access to various parts of the TPP,” Assange says of the partnership. “Essentially, every aspect of the modern economy, even banking services, are in the TPP.
And so, that is erecting and embedding new, ultramodern neoliberal structure in U.S. law and in the laws of the other countries that are participating, and is putting it in a treaty form. And by putting it in a treaty form, that means—with 14 countries involved, means it’s very, very hard to overturn.”
To provide an example of how corporations can sue governments, Assange provides this example:
What if the government or a state government decides it wants to build a hospital somewhere, and there’s a private hospital, has been erected nearby? Well, the TPP gives the constructor of the private hospital the right to sue the government over the expected—the loss in expected future profits. This is expected future profits. This is not an actual loss that has been sustained, where there’s desire to be compensated; this is a claim about the future.
And to put this idea into practice, he discusses how similar measures have already been taken to affect environmental and health regulation laws, including in Togo, Australia, and Uruguay, which are all being sued by tobacco companies in order to keep health warnings off of cigarette packages. “Maybe the government is too powerful, and companies should have a right to sue the government under various circumstances. But it’s only multinationals that get this right,” Assange says. “Now, it’s not so easy to get up these cases and win them. However, the chilling effect, the concern that there might be such a case, is severe. Each one of these cases, on average, governments spend more than $10 million for each case, to defend it, even successfully. So, if you have, you know, a city council or a state considering legislation, and then there’s a threat from one of these multinationals about expected future profits, they know that even if they have the law on their side, even if this TPP is on their side, they can expect to suffer.”
Below is a video of Robert Reich, an American political economist and professor who served in the administrations of Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, talking about the deal. He was also Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton from 1993 to 1997
9. CUT OFF GPS
The supposed GPS-interference device will apparently affect an area spanning from Oregon to northern Mexico, and possibly as far east as Colorado at high altitudes. The closer you are to the source of the disturbance in the Mojave Desert, the lower the altitude the disturbance could be encountered.
Dates when the device will be in use are listed as June 9, 21, clear 23, 28 and 30. If you're on the ground, you might not notice a difference, but it's something to keep in mind if your GPS is acting wonky on these days. The disturbance will mostly be felt at higher altitudes, which is why the FAA was notified. Precautions will take place on these days to ensure that air traffic is not severely disrupted, and aircraft will be advised to avoid some areas entirely. Even so, this news is sure to change the travel plans for some nervous fliers.
10. BUT DRONE WAR IS SO PRETTY and Hi-Tech
Leading the charge against the U.S. “drone war” — now a key part of the Pentagon’s forward fighting strategy — is an unlikely individual, Colonel Ann Wright, who spent most of her adult life as a diplomat, working in the U.S. State Department.
Colonel Wright reopened the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 2001. But in 2003 she took an action that would transform her life. She resigned her position in opposition to the then-impending U.S. invasion of Iraq. Since then, she has become a full time global peace activist.
She also is one of the most vocal and convincing opponents of U.S. drone policy, a collection of activists who call themselves Creechers because – for seven years – they have marched on Creech Air Force Base, also known as Creech Drone Base, in the Nevada Desert, just 60 miles outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Creech is a key part of the extensive and expanding U.S. drone war operation, which launches lethal drone strikes half a world away.
The protests are spearheaded by Code Pink and are always peaceful, but militant and intense. They consider the U.S. drone war, supervised directly by President Barack Obama, as an ongoing war crime. They do not consider this hyperbole. They say it is a clear-cut case of the slaughter of hundreds of innocent civilians, with many fleeing women and children among the victims.
We caught up with Colonel Wright on her way to an anti-drone symposium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Law School entitled “Inside Drone Warfare: Perspectives of Whistleblowers, Families of Drone Victims and Their Lawyers.” The symposium would include people who were formally a part of the United States Drone Program. Among them, Christopher Aaron, a former counter-terrorism officer for the CIA’s drone program, and Shawn Westmoreland, who was with the U.S. Air Force’s drone program.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Set the Scene. As a former diplomat, somebody who spent a good deal of time in the military, what brings you and Code Pink to Creech for the seventh year in row? What’s at the core for you?
COLONEL ANN WRIGHT: Well, it’s this weapons system. The weapon system that the president of the United States is using as kind of his personal assassination tool.
He has become the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, and the executioner of people around the world, who the United States intelligence agencies have identified as people who are doing something that is against U.S. interests. And we certainly know that our intelligence community is not infallible, and they’ve made lots of mistakes.
We also know for a fact that the drone program kills lots and lots and lots of people who are no threat to the United States. In fact, many of us through Code Pink, Women for Peace, and Veterans for Peace, have traveled to the areas where the United States has used these drones, in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen.
And we’ve talked with the families of some of the victims of these drone strikes and we know, for a fact, they are not militants, not all of them. Some of them, maybe. But there is a huge number of people that are called ‘collateral damage’ by our country, as they kill them.
DB: So, just to keep a human face on this: Tell us more precisely about one or two of the people who you met during your global journey against US Drone use.
AW: Yes, well, we’ve had lengthy talks with a man named Fizel from Yemen, whose family was killed. In fact, you can probably hear a drone overhead now. I don’t know if you hear it in the background.
DB: Just a little bit.
AW: You don’t hear these things so much. But they’re flying very low here at Creech Drone Base because the trainee pilots are practicing piloting them. And they come in for “touch and goes,” so you can hear them here, whereas in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other places, they are usually flying quite high.
You may be able to hear a little buzz, but you don’t hear it like you do here. And then the next thing that you hear is a Hellfire missile being fired, or exploding as it hits a family, a wedding party in the case of Fizel from Yemen. And we’ve had him and some other members of his family come to the United States to speak about what happened, about how this mistake could happen to a wedding party.
You know, supposedly, how these drones have very accurate cameras, cameras that can hone in very minutely into people and objects. And how they can make the mistake of identifying a wedding party as a group of militants that are going to be doing something harmful to U.S. interests–this is something that mystifies us. And why the president of the United States continues to believe these [kill] lists that are given to him Tuesdays, Terror Tuesday, by our 17 intelligence agencies. It mystifies me.
DB: Tell me more about the fatal wedding. Who was getting married? Are there other stories like this?
AW: It was one of Fizel’s sons that was getting married. We’ve talked to families that were in Pakistan.
In fact, one young man was attending an international drum conference in Islamabad. He and several other people, a lot of people, had been brought from Waziristan, where the drones usually strike, and had been brought by an international lawyer to Islamabad to talk about what had happened to their family.
His cousin and an uncle had been killed. He was 16 years old, and two days later, when he went back to Waziristan, the car that he was riding in was targeted by the United States, and he and another cousin were killed.
Here’s these 16 year old kids who had just testified before international journalists about what had happened and then the United States either purposefully killed him because he told what happened to his family, or, it was another mistake of the intelligence agency.
So they’ve gotten the wrong people. They’ve gotten people that have nothing to do with violence in their home country, or violence against the United States. They’ve done this all too many times.
When you start doing that…and as a military person…I mean you always have to watch out for weapon systems that have blowback potential. And I think we can say that’s happening with the drones.
There are people who are taking actions against the United States specifically because the United States is using these drones and is killing lots and lots of people with them.
DB: Before I let you go, I really want to tap into your military expertise, and where that comes in, in terms of the work you do based on your conscience. I know you’ve had an impressive military career, and as a diplomat.
Please give your perspective on what this kind of a warfare looks like. What this means to the culture. What this does to society, to the people who carry out these Drone strikes. Is there something specific about this kind of warfare that really puts you to the edge?
AW: Well, I think it’s that our government is always saying that its surveillance programs–their invasion of our own privacy by surveillance through cell phones or through drone actions here in the United States–how precise it is, you know, “very few violations of constitutional rights.”
And yet when you look at what we are doing in other countries where, “Oh, it’s very precise and we’re only killing those people that we know have done something wrong. But we can’t tell you exactly what they did wrong, and we can’t tell you how many other people get killed as we killed them.”
Now it is not one of the priorities of the United States that you bring a person to justice to let a neutral court try whether or not the evidence that is presented is sufficient to convict them of whatever charge it is. What we’re doing is using charges […] or allegations brought by the intelligence community of what this person possibly did and we don’t have a neutral advisor.
We don’t seem to have anyone that adjudicates the evidence. We just have the president of the United States who now has taken the authority to make that decision on whatever is written on this little piece of paper, on a Tuesday, to determine whether a person lives or dies, and along with that person anyone else that might be in that circle.
So it’s very imprecise […] and it in no way correlates to our own judicial look at what humanity is supposed to be doing to each other. There’s no opportunity for that person to defend themselves, to offer evidence to say “Hey, you got the wrong person. Here’s the evidence that shows that I didn’t do anything that you are alleging.” They don’t have that chance at all. They are just blown away.
And people that are in the car with them, are in the house with them, the kids, the relatives, the mothers, the grandfathers are disappeared because our intelligence agency, which is not infallible, has made a mistake. So, those are things that concern me, as a former military, retired military, former State Department person.
We are using a weapons system […] that doesn’t equate at all to what we’ve always thought that our system was supposed to be doing. Which is to give everybody a chance to refute any charges the government comes up with.
DB: I’m wondering if this kind of piloting, if this kind of “remote control murder” by drones, as it has been labeled, has special impact on the people, especially the pilots […] when they find out they just murdered, wiped out, a wedding party of innocents. I’m wondering if this has a special impact on the psyche, if there’s a struggle here, going on at that level?
AW: I think there is. And we have heard from many pilots, and the two that will be speaking tonight were not actually pilots but they were a part of the whole process. One of them was a communications technician that put the communications links up so the drone pilots could be in communication with the incident analyst that might be a continent away.
But we know that the attrition rate on people associated with the drone program is very high. And that indicates that there’s a moral component to this that people are evaluating in their own minds and consciousness and saying, “I don’t want to do this anymore.”
And so the attrition rate is high. The Air Force now trains more drone pilots than it does fixed wing air craft pilots. The incentive to sign up to be in the drone program is very high. Bonuses of $100,000 are not uncommon to get young men and women to join up with the drone program. And yet the attrition rate is very high. So it indicates there’s a moral component here that the drone program probably is touching more than any other weapons system that we have.
DB: Finally, if you had sixty seconds with the President, what do you think you’d say?
AW: I would say, as a military officer with 29 years’ experience, and a U.S. diplomat, that we have a weapons system that is causing blowback to the interests of the United States. Using the assassin program is making the United States more insecure rather than secure. That it is harming our national security, not enhancing it. And that we should stop this drone program. And he, as president of the United States, should stop being the sign-off person on this, because, in my opinion, it’s illegal and he could be put up on war crimes charges. That’s what I would tell him.
Dennis J Bernstein is a host of Flashpoints on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net.
11. Ukraine LGBTI activists are determined that June 12 March for Equality go ahead despite threats
By Joe Morgan, Gay Star News (UK), June 1, 2016
Neo-Nazis in Ukraine have warned gay people there will be a ‘bloodbath’ if they dare to hold a Pride march on June 12. The thugs, who are backed by the Ukraine Orthodox Church, have a long history of disrupting and attacking LGBTI people and events.
Just in March this year, a LGBTI rights conference in Lviv was shut down after a homophobic mob attacked the Hotel Dnister with rocks and fireworks. Police were forced to try to step in and stop the event. Even though the authorities were involved, there was not a single person arrested for violence.
‘Today, we are forced to accept LGBT marches and festivals, and thus join the ranks of sinners and those who cover them. Who is going to be equated on this Sabbath?’ read a statement released by Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. ‘Immoral freaks, clowns and degenerates will be equated with those who have honor and dignity, respect and love for their neighbor, soldiers who gave their lives and health protecting peace in the country?’
Writing on Facebook, Artem Skoropadsky, the spokesperson for the Right Sector nationalist movement, posted: ‘Our colleagues from the OUN movement have released a strong statement about the gay parade in Kiev. In short, on June 12, there will be a bloodbath in Kiev. The organizers of the march still have time not to hold the march.’
Pride organizers are determined for the march to go on. Olena Semenova, of the Kyiv Pride committee, said: ‘Pride is a public event. This is our open dialogue with those in power. This is also our dialogue with society. People have to see who we are really, why we think that our citizen rights are being violated, and what we want. We should not be ashamed of diversity. We will remind this again and again every year’.
The March for Equality remains scheduled to take place on 12 June.
Kyiv police vow to protect June 12 gay pride parade from radicals
KYIV – Police in Kyiv are set to ensure safety during a LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) parade (the March of Equality) due on June 12, Kyiv National Police chief Andriy Kryshchenko said.
During the parade, Kyiv must demonstrate its ability to provide safety, especially in light of the upcoming Eurovision 2017, Kryshchenko said in an interview with the 112 Ukraine television channel.
“The LGBT parade. There was an application, it will be held. We are seriously determined to provide safety. No matter who says what about this parade, there is the national interest and we must show that our society is tolerant and ready to take its values into Europe. Kyiv is hosting the next Eurovision and we must show that we are capable of providing safety.
“This is not about the parade proper, this is about people having the right to speak their minds. Because it [the parade] is not only ‘about this’, it is also about the opportunity to freely express your thoughts, which is what we were all fighting for two years ago,” Kryshchenko said.
Serious security measures will be in place, he said. The police have already met with all participants of the planned parade, as well as their opponents, the police chief said.
“We met both with the organizers and with their opponents who represent radical youth organizations. We explained to everyone what we are going to do. Last year, a law enforcement officer was injured very severely at a similar event. He sustained serious injuries and it was a miracle that his life was saved. This year, the police will act within the law, but in a very tough way,” the city police chief said.
The police are also checking Internet posts, especially those which threaten LGBT parade participants, Kryshchenko said.
According to the kyivpride.org website, the fifth international LGBT forum, KyivPride2016, which includes about 20 training sessions and discussion panels, will be held in the Ukrainian capital on June 6-13. The March of Equality on June 12 is a peaceful procession in support of the ideas of personal and public safety, individual rights and non-discrimination.
A number of public organizations have already expressed their intention to disrupt the event.
Some policemen don’t want to guard LGBTI pride parade in Kyiv
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry says that some police officers don’t want to join patrols that will protect the LGBTI pride parade in Kyiv on June 12, according to the Vesti news portal.
The pride parade in Kyiv is scheduled for June 12 with 6,500 police officers to be tapped to ensure law and order.
“Police will do their job to ensure public order. All statements are personal attitude by certain citizens, certain policemen. We’re interested in reducing acts of provocation,” advisor to the Interior Minister Ivan Varchenko said, according to Vesti. Kyiv police’s press service also commented on the situation. “Three persons are not the whole police,” deputy head of the press service Iryna Levchenko said.
The Ukrainian ATO Veterans Union posted a statement on Facebook on Tuesday that National Police officers would not protect participants in the LGBTI pride parade in Kyiv. “We refuse to carry out criminal orders from senior officers to beat patriots [meaning radicals in general and Right Sector in particular] who will act against the pride parade,” the statement says.
12.DebDeb Changes her dirty… cash drawer
DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz Reverses Her Position on Payday Loans Following Months of Public Pressure
By Alan Pyke, ThinkProgress
04 June 16
fter months of public pressure and a stiff primary challenge from her left, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) reversed her position on payday lending Thursday.
Hours after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unveiled first-ever federal rules for the loans on Thursday, Wasserman Schultz issued a written statement praising the agency’s work on Facebook. “I stand with the CFPB in its efforts to protect Americans from predatory lending,” she wrote. “After reviewing the proposed rule, it is clear to me that the CFPB strikes the right balance and I look forward to working with my constituents and consumer groups as the CFPB works towards a final rule.”
Wasserman Schultz has been a close ally of the predatory industry for years, dating back to her time in the Florida statehouse around the turn of the century. But it wasn’t until this spring, when the official leader of the Democratic party used her heft within the caucus to urge other Democrats to help ensure payday lenders could evade regulation nationwide, that her long advocacy for 400 percent interest rates and endless debt traps for the working poor became a political liability.
In December, Wasserman Schultz signed onto legislation that would have cut up the CFPB’s rules before they were even issued. The influential Democrat went further, circulating a memo urging other House Democrats to support that same bill.
The premise of H.R. 4018 was that the CFPB rules should not be allowed to trump existing state legislation. Leading proponents of the bill argued repeatedly that Florida’s own payday lending law was a “gold standard” for regulating payday lending. It is nothing of the sort, as the data about consumer outcomes in Florida proves. Borrowers face average costs twice as high in Florida as in Colorado, where rules are more strict but payday lending is still allowed. Floridians face an average annual interest rate of 304 percent, compared to 121 percent since Colorado’s reforms.
Wasserman Schultz’s Thursday statement tried to bury her very recent history of seeking to pre-empt the CFPB’s rules. “From the outset of this process, I have said that I trust the CFPB to do what’s right for consumers,” the statement says.
As of Friday afternoon, Wasserman Schultz is still a co-sponsor of the legislation that was explicitly premised on the idea that the CFPB rules would be less good for consumers than Florida’s law. While the law has not moved in committee and is likely functionally dead, it could still theoretically be revived late this year as part of widely anticipated Republican attacks on the agency and the rules. The chairwoman’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
Between her work on H.R. 4018 and her tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the payday lending industry, the six-term House veteran has been feeling the heat back home. TV and billboard advertising labeled her “Debt Trap Debbie.”
Bernie Sanders helped raise money for Tim Canova, who is the first primary challenger Wasserman Schultz has ever faced. Canova faces long odds of unseating the powerful chairwoman. But he’s wonhigh-profile union endorsements, and Sanders’ fundraising support has given him a large campaign war chest.
Prominent progressive Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) also appeared to take shots at the Chairwoman, both when the news of her support for H.R. 4018 broke and when the CFPB rules dropped Thursday.
PNN Scintillates, Shimmers and Shines and yet sometimes all we can see are the SUN SPOTS in the Great Piercing Light
By Special Arrangement with a TEAM of Journalists including K Weddington and Paul Thompson we leave the hype behind to look closely and understand what exactly is revealed by the Clinton tapes that have been handed over. Paul Thompson has developed times lines to better understand the context that even the visible emails represent.
TUNE IN, and also get the latest analysis from Brook Hines and a series of News Stories sure to remove dust and cobwebs from the Attic Storage of your mind's historic past. We'll also be discussing the New Laura Politas film RISK, currently at the Cannes Festival.
TUNE IN SUNDAY... bring your Sun glasses - you'll see spots before your eyes!
Solidarity & Peace