Monthly Archives: September 2015

Missouri AG finds no Evidence Planned Parenthood Mishandled Fetal Tissue

(Reuters) – An investigation in Missouri found no evidence that Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis clinic mishandled fetal tissue or engaged in unlawful activity, Attorney General Chris Koster’s office said on Monday.

Koster, a Democrat, launched the investigation after an anti-abortion group released videos over the summer alleging that Planned Parenthood illegally sold fetal tissue in other states. Officials in other states also have launched investigations.

The announcement came as a Quinnipiac University national opinion poll released on Monday found 52 percent of responding voters opposed to cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood and 41 percent supporting the move.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,574 registered voters nationwide from Sept. 17 to 21 and the poll had a 2.5 percentage point margin of error.

The secretly recorded videos released by an anti-abortion group, the Center for Medical Progress, allege that Planned Parenthood sold aborted fetal tissue, which is barred. The women’s healthcare provider has said the videos are deliberately distorted with deceptive edits and denies allegations it has improperly used fetal tissue from abortions.

Republicans in the U.S. Congress tried and failed this month to strip federal money for Planned Parenthood in a government funding bill.

Koster said the evidence reviewed supported that Planned Parenthood handled fetal tissue in accordance with Missouri law at its St. Louis facility, which is the only licensed surgical abortion facility in the state.

“We have discovered no evidence whatsoever to suggest that Planned Parenthood’s St. Louis facility is selling fetal tissue,” Koster said in a news release.

The attorney general’s office interviewed workers at the facility and reviewed documents from all 317 abortions during a 30-day audit, finding that all tissue from abortions was examined at a pathology lab and incinerated, the statement said.

Officials in Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas have targeted Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, which covers non-abortion preventive services such as birth control and screenings for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.

Wisconsin representatives last week advanced a bill to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving federal family-planning money in the state. The bill needs state Senate approval and the governor’s signature to become law.

(Reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Mohammad Zargham)

Two Castros, Two Very Different Speeches at the United Nations

In 1960, Fidel Castro, clad in his signature military garb and flush from victory in the Cuban revolution, spoke before the U.N. General Assembly in New York. His speech lasted four hours and 29 minutes, setting the record for the longest continuous speech ever delivered before that body.

On Monday, Castro’s younger brother Raúl gave his first speech before the General Assembly, during his first presidential visit to the United States. And the contrast between his visit and his brother’s was stark. Wearing a dark suit, Raúl delivered a prepared speech that was a mere 1,500 words.

Even more striking was his tone. Absent from Raúl’s remarks was Fidel’s fiery oratory. In fact, the Cuban president only once mentioned the United States’s Cuban embargo—the single most important issue in Cuban politics—calling it an “economic, commercial and financial blockade” and demanding its removal. Fidel was never so gentle. In a 1995 speech before the General Assembly, then-President Castro compared the embargo to a “noiseless atom bomb,” arguing it “cause[ed] the death of men, women and children, youths and elders.”

That Raúl spoke at all was also significant, analysts say. Typically, Cuba’s minister of foreign affairs represents the country before the assembly. Since 2009, Bruno Eduardo Rodríguez Parrilla has held that post. Raúl’s address was further evidence of the great strides the two countries have made in improving relations since December 2014, when President Barack Obama announced his intention to repair ties. “Castro’s visit to New York and his high-level meetings there are helping to sustain the momentum for normalization,” says Peter Kornbluh, a senior analyst at the National Security Archive and director of the archive’s Cuba documentation project.

In past years, the United States has rarely mentioned Cuba when addressing the U.N. But Obama made a point of bringing up the recent lessening of hostilities between the two old rivals during his speech before the assembly on Monday. “For 50 years, the United States pursued a Cuba policy that failed to improve the lives of the Cuban people. We changed that,” he said, referencing his administration’s moves to loosen sanctions against the island nation. Obama also said he was confident Congress will “inevitably” lift the embargo.

Despite Obama’s optimism, there are many unresolved issues between the two countries, most important the embargo, which the president can’t lift without congressional approval. “The embargo is the big issue, as Castro emphasized in his speech, but the Republican Congress is not going to lift it before the 2016 presidential election,” says William LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University and author of Back Channel to Cuba. “Obama tended to portray the glass as half full, whereas Castro—listing all the issues still to be resolved between the two countries—portrayed it as half empty, at best.”

Despite the lingering negativity, many analysts expect progress. “The next step between now and then is likely to be a series of agreements on issues of mutual interest like counter-narcotics cooperation and environmental protection,” LeoGrande says.

The latest positive sign came on Tuesday, when Presidents Obama and Castro spoke face to face, the first meeting between the American and Cuban leaders on U.S. soil since before the revolution. Rising to shake hands, Raúl chuckled as he noticed how much shorter he is than Obama. In a relationship that has been marked by viciousness and vitriol for more than half a century, a sense of humor can go a long way.

The Tears of War

While browsing on Facebook I ran across a post from my friend and colleague Mnar Muhawesh.  The post from Humans of New York who has decided to post a series of stories from Refugees.  When I started reading these my first thought was to help Humans of New York and Mnar tell the world about these stories.  I share some of them here.

Refugee 2


“My husband and I sold everything we had to afford the journey. We worked 15 hours a day in Turkey until we had enough money to leave. The smuggler put 152 of us on a boat. Once we saw the boat, many of us wanted to go back, but he told us that anyone who turned back would not get a refund. We had no choice. Both the lower compartment and the deck were filled with people. Waves began to come into the boat so the captain told everyone to throw their baggage into the sea. In the ocean, we hit a rock, but the captain told us not to worry. Water began to come into the boat, but again he told us not to worry. We were in the lower compartment and it began to fill with water. It was too tight to move. Everyone began to scream. We were the last ones to get out alive. My husband pulled me out of the window. In the ocean, he took off his life jacket and gave it to a woman. We swam for as long as possible. After several hours he told me he that he was too tired to swim and that he was going to float on his back and rest. It was so dark we could not see. The waves were high. I could hear him calling me but he got further and further away. Eventually a boat found me. They never found my husband. (Kos, Greece)

Refugee 3

“I wish I could have done more for her. Her life has been nothing but struggle. She hasn’t known many happy moments. She never had a chance to taste childhood. When we were getting on the plastic boat, I heard her say something that broke my heart. She saw her mother being crushed by the crowd, and she screamed: ‘Please don’t kill my mother! Kill me instead!'” (Lesvos, Greece)

Refugee 4

“They fired rockets from a mountain near our house. They were very loud, and every time he heard them, he’d run into his room and close the door. We’d tell him fake stories. We’d tell him that there was nothing to worry about, and that the rockets were far away and they would never reach us. Then one day after school he was waiting in a line of school buses. And a rocket hit the bus in front of him. Four of his friends were killed.” (Kos, Greece)

Refugee 5

For context on the upcoming stories, it is important to understand the ‘plastic boat.’ The plastic boat is a central figure in the story of almost every refugee coming to Europe via Turkey. Every day, thousands of people arrive to the Greek islands on these boats. They represent one of the only ways that refugees can bypass immigration restrictions and throw themselves at the feet of Europe. The journey is extremely dangerous and many have drowned in the past few months. Despite paying Turkish smugglers $1500 per person, the refugees are loaded into boats that are filled to many times their capacity. The boats usually leave at night to avoid detection. Often the refugees arrive carrying nothing but horror stories. Unfortunately there is little waiting for them on the other side. If they are lucky, a handful of volunteers will meet them on the beach with a bottle of water. In Lesvos, where this photo was taken, the refugees will then begin a 50-mile walk to the port where they can register. The UNHCR and several NGOs are scrambling to provide bare necessities, but their resources are stretched to capacity. They can offer little beyond a guarantee of survival. The initial elation of the refugees at having reached Europe will quickly subside as many realize they cannot even afford the price of a ferry to get off the island.

Refugee 6

“After one month, I arrived in Austria. The first day I was there, I walked into a bakery and met a man named Fritz Hummel. He told me that forty years ago he had visited Syria and he’d been treated well. So he gave me clothes, food, everything. He became like a father to me. He took me to the Rotary Club and introduced me to the entire group. He told them my story and asked: ‘How can we help him?’ I found a church, and they gave me a place to live. Right away I committed myself to learning the language. I practiced German for 17 hours a day. I read children’s stories all day long. I watched television. I tried to meet as many Austrians as possible. After seven months, it was time to meet with a judge to determine my status. I could speak so well at this point, that I asked the judge if we could conduct the interview in German. He couldn’t believe it. He was so impressed that I’d already learned German, that he interviewed me for only ten minutes. Then he pointed at my Syrian ID card and said: ‘Muhammad, you will never need this again. You are now an Austrian!’” (Kos, Greece)

Refugee 7

“There is no security in Baghdad. We lived in constant fear. We started receiving text messages one day. They said: ‘Give us money, or we will burn down your house. If you tell the police, we will kill you.’ We had nobody to turn to. We are poor people. We have no powerful friends. We don’t know anyone in the government. The text messages continued every day. We were so afraid that we could not sleep. We had no money to give them. We could barely afford to feed ourselves. So we said to ourselves: ‘Maybe they are lying. Maybe they will do nothing.’ Then one night we woke up and our house was on fire. We barely escaped with the children. The next day we received a text message. It said: ‘Give us money, or this time you will die.’ I replied that we’d pay them soon. We sold everything we owned, and we left. We thought we’d rather die in a plastic boat than die there.” (Lesvos, Greece)





The History of Ahmed: Told by a History Teacher Who Taught Him

This story was originally published in the Dallas Morning News

If you want to know Ahmed Mohamed — not the hoax bomb suspect or the vindicated celebrity, but the motormouth kid with a schoolbag full of inventions and a head full of questions — ask a teacher.

Ask at Sam Houston Middle School, where the boy from Sudan mastered electronics and English, once built a remote control to prank the classroom projector and bragged of reciting his First Amendment rights in the principal’s office.

It’s also the school where Ahmed racked up weeks of suspensions, became convinced an administrator had it in for him and — before he left for the high school where he turned famous — prompted Irving ISD to review claims of anti-Muslim bullying.

If you want to know about the boy before the fame, ask Ralph Kubiak: Ahmed’s seventh-grade history teacher and fellow outsider.TEXAS_MUSLIM_STUDENT_CLOCK_46196523

‘Weird little kid’

“He was a weird little kid,” said Kubiak, now 62 and retired. “I saw a lot of him in me. That thirst for knowledge … he’s one of those kids that could either be CEO of a company or head of a gang.”

Kubiak didn’t fit the mold either. To say he taught Ahmed Texas history in seventh grade would be to miss the point of what he calls his “ministry for 12 years at Sam Houston: to make sure these children knew the truth about their rights.”

With a thick beard sprouting from a button-down shirt, Kubiak was the teacher who played Steppenwolf songs in class and segued from the textbooks into his personal memories of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.

He wanted his students — 4 out of 5 at Sam Houston are considered poor by the state — to question the world and its expectations of them. Not to let adults control them.

Ahmed was as good a disciple as anyone.

The boy showed up at the school in sixth grade with almost no English: bespectacled, small for his age and far from the continent where he was born. But a year later, sitting below the posters of black leaders in Kubiak’s classroom, he could discuss similarities between Judaism, Christianity and his faith, Islam.

“He was secure enough in his religion to look at the other side,” Kubiak said. The teacher remembered talking about the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, agreeing with Ahmed that they twisted Muslim scripture to control ignorant people.

“I said, ‘Don’t they read their own Quran?’ Kubiak recalled. “He said, ‘A lot of folks don’t.’”

Elaborate gizmos

Not that the preteen was a full-time philosopher. Another teacher remembered Ahmed after school: He and his friends would line up on opposite ends of a field, careen into each other at full speed, then get up and do it again.

But Ahmed’s intelligence shone through in the classroom, in robotics club, and in the homemade inventions he would often cram into his backpack.

Some of his middle school teachers were surprised to hear that MacArthur High staff called the police this month after Ahmed brought a homemade clock to class. He had dragged far more elaborate gizmos into Sam Houston all the time.

When a seemingly possessed projector kept shutting off mid-lecture, young boys’ snickers surrounded Ahmed’s desk, where he sat with a hand-built remote control in his lap.

When a tutor’s cell phone went dead, Ahmed’s jerry-rigged battery charger brought it back to life.

Some of these creations looked much like the infamous clock — a mess of wires and exposed circuits stuffed inside a hinged case, perhaps suspicious to some. But no one interviewed by The Dallas Morning News remembered Ahmed getting into trouble for bringing his creations to Sam Houston.

The boy found trouble other ways.

‘He just went on and on’

It didn’t take Ahmed long to learn fluent English. Once he did, he had a habit of overusing it — trying to impress classmates with a nonstop stream of chatter, teachers said, and often annoying them instead.

“I love him dearly, but sometimes it got to be a little much,” Kubiak agreed. “He just went on and on.”

Kubiak, who once went to school in Colonial pantaloons to promote the U.S. Constitution, said he chided Ahmed after hearing that the boy tried to get out of detention by reciting the First Amendment in the principal’s office.

“That was genius, son,” Kubiak recalled saying sarcastically. “What did she do?”

“He said, ‘She gave me Saturday detention.’”

Detention wasn’t the worst of it. While his discipline record is confidential and his father didn’t want to discuss it, the file was thick by some accounts.

Ahmed said he was suspended for several weeks in sixth grade. A family friend, Anthony Bond, said the boy and a cousin were blowing soap bubbles in the bathroom, and the school overreacted.

“Kids are kids,” said Bond, who has known Ahmed since he enrolled at Sam Houston. “He was a little boy in a new environment, and they were acting out.”

There was more trouble in seventh grade. Kubiak said he sent Ahmed’s classwork to the district’s reassignment center until he finished his punishment. “He still ended up with an A in my class,” he said.

By eighth grade, the young inventor was complaining of bullying — not just by students, but by staff.

In November, Bond wrote a letter to the superintendent, school board president, and other officials, protesting that Ahmed had been suspended for defending himself during a hallway fight.

A larger boy had been choking Ahmed, Bond wrote. What’s more: “Ahmed also alleges that every day, students in the school are calling him ‘Bacon Boy and Sausage Boy and ISIS Boy.’”

Ahmed blamed an administrator at the school who, Bond wrote, the boy felt “has been terrorizing him since the 6th grade” — hindering him from praying in school and unfairly punishing him. The News is not naming the administrator because it has not yet been able to investigate Ahmed’s complaints.

Bond’s letter called the boy’s treatment “Muslim bashing” — previewing outrage from people across the world after Ahmed blamed Islamophobia for his handcuffing this month.

Bertha Whatley, who was Irving ISD’s attorney last year, said, “high-level” officials at the district reviewed Bond’s letter. Bond said the principal overturned the suspension after meeting with Ahmed.

Kubiak was no longer Ahmed’s teacher in eighth grade, but he said the two still talked in the hallways nearly every day. Discussions of politics or religion sometimes turned to his resentment at the powers that be. “His eyes were pretty watered up” the day he told Kubiak he was being bullied, the teacher said.

“This kid was being pushed. At least he thought he was being pushed,” Kubiak said. “He’s got a habit for attracting or being in situations — being on the outside.”

Ahmed wasn’t the only one.

Kubiak, the eternal civil rights ideologue, was growing uncomfortable with Sam Houston’s administration. He complained to the superintendent that the school was too quick to suspend children and said he refused to use a new student evaluation system that “wrote some kids off.” He was booted down to teach sixth-grade last year — and he knew he was done.

“They didn’t force me into retirement,” Kubiak said. “But I was damn sure glad to go.”


Ahmed and Kubiak never got to say goodbye on their last day at Sam Houston.

Staff rushed the students out the door before they could find each other, Ahmed recalled. He tried to email Kubiak later, but the district had already switched off the account.

A few months later — after a misunderstood clock and sudden fame interrupted his first month of high school — Ahmed wondered if his old teacher had noticed.

He grinned wide last week when a reporter told him that Kubiak had called.

Minutes later, the boy was on the phone with Kubiak, his bare feet dangling from an unmade bed. They spoke not of politics or religion, but of New York and Good Morning America. Of whether middle-school persecutors regretted it now.

“I told you one day I’m going to be — and you told me yourself — I’m going to be really big on the Internet one day,” Ahmed said.

But privately, Kubiak worried about fame’s effect on “an immature, fertile mind.”

At Sam Houston, he said, he’d often warn his students “to keep the adults out of it.”

“The adults have an agenda,” he would say. “The adults are using you.”

The day after Kubiak and Ahmed spoke, a public relations consultant walked into Ahmed’s house with plans for a national tour: Google and California, the United Nations, and Dr. Oz.

The next time Kubiak tried to reach the boy, he had to leave a voicemail.

He phoned again the next day and didn’t hear back.

He’s begun to suspect the adults have Ahmed at last.

Seeking Justice: U.S. Still Not Letting Gitmo Detainees Tell Their Stories of Torture

Despite promises to allow Guantánamo prisoners to speak more freely about their experiences there, the U.S. government is still blocking the release of over 100 pages of notes and diaries from torture victim Abu Zubaydah.

The U.S. had for many years taken the position that the prisoners could not describe their own experiences of torture and confinement because those activities were classified.

But in January, after the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, the government changed its classification rules. In a brief filed in a military commission case, the government wrote that “general allegations of torture” minus specific details about the CIA agents involved or the location, were now unclassified.

The brief specifically lists 119 names of prisoners who could now discuss details about their treatment — and, according to Joe Margulies, a law professor at Cornell and lead defense attorney for Zubaydah, his client’s name is the first one on the list.

Abu Zubaydah Photo: Department of Defense

 Zubaydah, who the Bush administration incorrectly alleged was a key al Qaeda operative and who has never been charged with a crime, has sent his lawyers hand-written letters, declarations, and other materials describing his torture and confinement in CIA black sites and Guantánamo Bay.

Amy Jacobsen, Margulies’ co-counsel, laid out the specific steps the team took in submitting the Zubaydah material for review by the government’s Privilege Review Team in an email to The Intercept. “The bulk of the material I submitted was taken from letters that [our client] had written to us, in which he described his torture, but there were also some notes from meetings with him, and some written declarations that he had made to us,” she wrote. “Sometimes these included physical descriptions of his torturers and indications of where in the world he was imprisoned, but I removed any such identifying information, leaving ellipses, such as this [ . . .] in their place,” she explained. “If he said what they were asking him about in the interrogation, I also removed that. The only information that I submitted for review was information regarding his torture, treatment, and conditions of confinement and transfer.”

“We followed the new guidelines to the letter,” Margulies told The Intercept.

Jacobsen said she also neatly organized the pages with paragraph and page breaks so that any offending page could be singled out and addressed.

However, as Margulies first told Reuters, the government has responded with an almost blanket refusal: “We submitted 116 pages in 10 separate submissions. The government declared all of it classified.”

Zubaydah is a prolific and detailed writer, as can be seen in the pre-detention personal diaries that were leaked to reporters almost two years ago.

He was a guinea pig for the CIA’s brutal post-9/11 interrogation program, as its first subject, starting after his capture in 2002. His left eye deteriorated while in custody to the point that he ultimately lost it, though the circumstances of the deterioration and how the torture might have exacerbated it are unknown.

In 2006, Ron Suskind reported in his book The One Percent Doctrine that Zubaydah was a mentally ill minor functionary who made up fake plots to please his torturers. In 2009, the Justice Department backed away from the Bush-era assertions that Zubaydah had been a top al-Qaeda member involved in the 9/11 plot.

A group of nine different human rights organizations sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Attorney General Loretta Lynch last week demanding the release of Zubaydah’s reminiscences. “Earlier this year … the government made clear in certain military commission cases and in its own classification guidance pertaining to the RDI program, that the ‘conditions of confinement’ and the ‘treatment’ of detainees while in CIA custody, among other things, were no longer classified,” the letter states. “That the administration is now refusing to permit the release of Abu Zubaydah’s account of his treatment is a setback for a trend towards greater openness.”

Several months after the release of the Senate torture report, the administration declassified lawyers’ notes about the prisoner Majid Khan. Khan, a former resident of Baltimore, Maryland, is the only legal resident of the U.S. to be held at Guantánamo. According to the declassified notes, Khan was beaten, left in total darkness, repeatedly waterboarded and raped through the use of what the CIA called “rectal feedings.”

“A prisoner’s memories of the details of his disappearance and torture … is not information owned by the U.S. government, and cannot be properly classified,” wrote Katherine Hawkins, a national security fellow for, in a letter last week to John Fitzpatrick, the director of the government’s information security oversight office.

Caption: A detainee stands at a fence holding Islamic prayer beads in the Camp Delta detention facility at the Guantánamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, Sept. 19, 2006. The photo was reviewed by a U.S. Department of Defense official.


Jenna McLaughlinjenna.mclaughlin@​

(Video) Israel Attacked the USS Liberty with Orders to Kill 294 Americans Evidence Confirms

USS liberty

(TheAntiMedia) Fresh evidence presented in an exclusive Al Jazeera investigation into the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty that killed 34 Americans proves the incident was not a mistake. Since 1967, the ‘official story‘ has been that Israel simply misidentified the American ship as Egyptian for several hours. Israel apologized to the United States and for several decades we’ve been led to believe that this could be the only explanation for why Israeli jets and torpedo boats would launch rockets, missiles, and torpedoes at an American target for more than two hours.

thedayA new documentary called ‘The Day Israel Attacked America” airing on Al Jazeera was produced and directed by award-winning British filmmaker Richard Belfield. Thanks to the audio evidence obtained by Belfield, it is finally possible to prove the survivors of the attack on the USS Liberty were right all along. The survivors have always been extremely confident that Israel’s intentions were to sink that ship and kill everyone on board so Egypt could be blamed for the tragedy. Why? To convince President Lyndon Johnson (and the American public) that we needed to declare war on Egypt. This is the definition of a ‘false flag‘. (can you say 9/11?)

It appears that once again, a conspiracy theory has turned out to be conspiracy fact. You can finally take off your tinfoil hats!

Earlier this year, I acquired a copy of the audiotape of the attack as it had unfolded, the real time conversations between Israeli Air Force pilots and their controllers back at base. It had never been broadcast before. I went to talk to Al Jazeera and after careful consideration, the network commissioned the film.” – Richard Belfield

Just sixteen minutes after Israel attacked America, the USS Liberty was confirmed by Israeli forces to be an American ship. These conversations can be heard in the documentary Al Jazeera has been airing on their station.

“To what state does she belong?” (Answer): “American”

Yet the attacks continued for an hour and a half!

Even five minutes before the first bombing you can hear Israeli Air Force pilots question whether the ship was American or not. You don’t have to be a genius to understand why these pilots would be extremely uncomfortable attacking a ship suspected to be American without being given direct orders to do so. I believe we can safely assume this attack wouldn’t have been carried out otherwise.

rsz_deathamerica“Is it an American ship?” “What do you mean American?” “No comment.”

Twenty minutes after a ground controller answered “American” when asked “to what state does she belong?” by Israeli Air Force pilots, the first torpedo hit the USS Liberty. A voice can clearly be heard which confirms that this target, thought to be American at that time, was to be destroyed.

“The torpedo is taking care of the ship now.”

As soon as the first torpedo hit the USS Liberty, Israeli torpedo boats circled the ship and started machine-gunning the American target for another 40 minutes. When the USS Liberty crew lowered their lifeboats into the water to evacuate their ship, the Israelis moved closer so they could gun down the Americans attempting to save their own lives.

More than ten years ago a journalist named Arieh O’Sullivan from the Jerusalem Post was allowed to listen to these same audiotapes. He published a transcript of the Israeli military transmissions he heard directing the attack on the USS Liberty. Sixteen minutes after the attack started, just as in the recording obtained by Al Jazeera, O’Sullivan’s transcript (translated from Hebrew to English) shows the same exchange.

“Kislev, what country?” (Answer): “Apparently American.”

That is where O’Sullivan’s transcript, published over ten years ago by the Jerusalem Post, ends. There is just one major problem with that… The attack continued for another hour and a half!

Navy Admiral Thomas Moorer, who has served this country as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Chief of Naval Operations, once lead an independent commission to investigate what really happened to the USS Liberty. The commission’s findings were made public in 2003. Here are a few of the shocking conclusions.

  • The attack, by a U.S. ally, was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill its entire crew.
  • The attack included the machine-gunning of stretcher-bearers and life rafts.
  • The White House deliberately prevented the U.S. Navy from coming to the defense of the USS Liberty. This was the first time in naval history a rescue mission had been canceled while an American ship was under attack.
  • Surviving crew members were later threatened with court-martial, imprisonment, or worse if they talked to anyone about what had happened to them; and were “abandoned by their own government.”

John Crewdson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, published in 2007 what former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has called the ‘most detailed and accurate account of the Israeli attack‘ for the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun. You guessed it, Crewdson was fired by the Chicago Tribune just a year later after working there for 24 years. You should read his work.

“Israeli messages intercepted on June 8, 1967, leave no doubt that sinking the USS Liberty was the mission assigned to the attacking Israeli warplanes and torpedo boats as the Six-Day War raged in the Middle East. Let me repeat: there is no doubt – none – that the mission of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) was to destroy the USS Liberty and kill its entire crew.” – former CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

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Immigrants Make Pilgrimage to See Pope in Philadelphia


Alfredo Flores and Jose Contreras, Mexican immigrants from Indiana, are certain that God provides.

Consider their 750-mile pilgrimage to Philadelphia, a trip fraught with problems and providence.

Flores, a sanitation worker, as was his father, is a permanent U.S. resident with a green card.

Contreras, a golf course landscaper, is undocumented and vulnerable to deportation. Passing by some border patrol agents in the huge security detail Saturday, he said, made him “a little nervous.”

Their group of 150 mostly Mexican immigrants from St. Mary Parish near Gary was to arrive in three buses and camp out in Philadelphia. Then, on Sunday, they learned that camping was out. Their pastor placed an urgent call to a priest he knew from their student days. That priest put him in touch with the Rev. Doug McKay at Our House Ministries, which works with recovering addicts in Grays Ferry.

McKay’s connection to the St. Gabriel parish school opened some vacant classrooms There, the pilgrims bedded down on carpeted floors Friday — after startling the neighbors with rousing rounds of mariachi music and singing.

When free tickets to hear Pope Francis on Independence Mall were made available online a few weeks ago, Flores, 36, snagged a pair in the few seconds before they were gone.

“Lord,” he thought, “it is obvious you really want me there.” Landing a roof over his head after all had seemed lost, he said, upped the ante on his Catholic faith.

For a time, that commitment was in jeopardy, at least in part because every pope elected in his lifetime was white and European, he said, “even though so many Latinos are great Catholics.”

After Pope Benedict XVI retired, Flores said to himself, “If they elect one more white European, I’m going to take a break” from the church.

“When they announced, ‘Bergoglio won,’ I thought, ‘Great, another European.’ Then I saw him walk out. He was from Argentina and speaking Spanish. He rode the bus; refused limousines. That was a pope we could identify with. And he lets people know that immigrants have dignity, too,” as he did Saturday on Independence Mall, bringing tears to Flores and sending hair-raising chills down Contreras’ arms.

“I’m a wuss,” said Flores, a mountain of a man, as he wiped his eyes. Contreras looked blissed out.

Both Flores and Contreras are from Aguascalientes, the central state in the heart of Mexico.

“My parents came (to the United States) for the same reason as everyone: to search for work,” said Flores, who was 3 when they brought him.

As a child, he lived in a basement apartment: “When we looked out the window we saw feet going by.”

Now, he said, “I walk behind the truck, picking up cans. I am a garbage man from Gary here to see the pope.”

Contreras, 33, lives in Hammond, just west of Gary on the Illinois state line. One of six children, he went only as far as the ninth grade in Mexico, and his struggles here are raw and visceral.

He was 20 when he came illegally to the U.S. in 2002, primarily to earn the $20,000 his family needed to pay for kidney transplants for two of his siblings. There is some belief that environmental factors in Aguascalientes seriously aggravate health problems there.

In Hammond, he lives with one of his sisters and her husband. His other siblings live in Mexico.

Fearing arrest if he tries to travel internationally, Contreras has not been back to Mexico, even for the funeral last month of his 58-year-old father, a truck driver, who died of a liver ailment.

When Contreras hears people denigrate undocumented immigrants, he said, he believes that they see only half the story.

“Some Americans say we are bad persons (but) we take the hardest jobs,” he said. His starting pay at the country club where he works was $7.25 an hour for a shift that began every day at 4 a.m.

“I pay my taxes. I have my ITIN (individual taxpayer identification number),” he said. “I donate blood three times a year. I’m on the list to be a bone marrow donor.”

Delivered in Spanish, the pope’s address on Independence Mall led with a strong call for religious freedom. He greeted the immigrants in the crowd “with particular affection.”

“Many of you have emigrated to this country at great personal cost, but in the hope of building a new life. Do not be discouraged by whatever challenges and hardships you face. … Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which … you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.”

The reference to elders made Contreras wistful for his father.

He is sad that he didn’t get to go to the funeral. The sister he lives with couldn’t go, either. But that was OK, he said, because the money they sent home paid for his final rest.

Contreras, who has begun studies that he hopes could one day lead to the priesthood, said his strong Catholic faith helped ease the pain of his father’s death, as did FaceTime conversations in the final month of his life.

“It’s hard because, for 13 years, I didn’t see him,” Contreras said.

“But like I told him,” he added, looking skyward. “one day I will.”

(Video) Seeking Justice: Snowden, Greenwald, Miranda to Introduce U.N. Treaty to End Mass Surveillance and Protect Whistleblowers

Fifty-some people gathered in a small room in Midtown Manhattan on Thursday afternoon to watch former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, journalist Glenn Greenwald and privacy activist David Miranda formally launch a global campaign around what they hope to be the first United Nations treaty to establish privacy rights in the digital age.

“Now that we’ve established at least the bare facts of what is going on in the arena of our basic liberties,” Snowden said, opening the event via video conference in Moscow, where he currently lives in asylum, “we need to think about what the actual proposals that we’re going to put forward are going to be.”

More than two years ago, Snowden leaked a trove of classified documents to journalists, including Greenwald, which revealed the scope and scale of government surveillance. The activists say the nature of the surveillance programs, Snowden’s probable punishment for exposing it had he not fled and the treatment of those in his orbit (including Miranda, who is Greenwald’s partner), all prompted Miranda, with the help of activist organization Avaaz, to create the International Treaty on the Right to Privacy, Protection Against Improper Surveillance and Protection of Whistleblowers.

“Obviously the treaty has its genesis in the work that we’ve done with the Snowden documents and activists have done around the surveillance revelations,” Greenwald said by way of video conference from Brazil. “But it goes way, way beyond the case of Edward Snowden.”

The “Snowden Treaty,” as it is colloquially called, was developed by experts in international law and legal specialists in Internet freedom and surveillance. It “reaffirms and protects fundamental human rights,” the treaty’s summary reads, calls on signatories “to enact concrete changes to outlaw mass surveillance” and subject themselves to U.N. oversight.

The treaty also calls on signatories to develop international protections for whistleblowers. “Whistleblowers will not be subject to sanctions for publicly releasing information with the reasonable intent of exposing wrongdoing,” the summary says, and, by signing, “treaty states guarantee the right of residence in their countries and embassies for people claiming to be persecuted as whistleblowers until the appropriate proceedings for permanent asylum have been carried out in full.”

The treaty’s full text is not available, Miranda told the audience, because drafts have been sent to unnamed countries, consultants and NGOs and await proposed changes. “This campaign,” Greenwald said, “offers the opportunity to put pressure on governments to adopt a treaty that pushes back against mass surveillance, and also makes clear that individuals who expose corruption should not be subject to the retribution of political leaders.”

Since the Snowden revelations, both the U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council have passed resolutions voicing their concerns over the impact of mass surveillance. They’ve also called for the creation of a new Geneva Convention on Internet privacy and appointed the first Special Rapporteur to focus on the issue, indicating there is momentum.

It remains unclear if any countries will sign the treaty, or how the activists plan to introduce it. But even if they receive a sponsor and significant support, enforcement may be difficult. “Unlike bans on landmines, or nuclear tests, surveillance remains largely out of the public eye,” writes Vice News’s Samuel Oakford. “And many countries, including the United States, Russia, and China, are not signatories to several major global treaties and are not members of the International Criminal Court.”

The activists, however, aren’t giving up. As Snowden put it: “This is the beginning of work that will continue for many years.”

U.S. Drug Company Sues Canada for Trying to Lower Cost of $700K-a-year Drug

Alexion Pharmaceuticals argues federal government cannot limit price of blood disease medication

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 A U.S. drug company is taking the Canadian government to court for its attempt to lower the price of what has been called the world’s most expensive drug.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals has filed a motion in Federal Court, arguing that Canada’s drug price watchdog has no authority to force the company to lower its price for Soliris.

‘This is the single greatest threat to pricing of drugs in Canada ever.’Amir Attaran, health law expert

The company says in the court documents that the price of Soliris has not changed since it went on the market about six years ago and that the price difference between the two countries reflects the difference in exchange rates between the U.S. and Canada.

The medication is approved to treat two rare blood diseases that affect about one in every one million people. A 12-month treatment costs about $700,000 in Canada while in the U.S. it costs about $669,000.

Both diseases — paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) and atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome (AHUS) — prompt the immune system to kill red blood cells, causing anemia, blood clots, organ failure and, eventually, death.

While Soliris is not a cure, it can stop the assault on the body’s tissues and organs. Since patients typically need to take the medication indefinitely, it can cost tens of millions of dollars over a lifetime.

Due to the high cost, some patients in Canada can’t get the drug. Only some provinces will cover the cost of treatment and there are different criteria to qualify for coverage in various jurisdictions.

Soliris is the only drug Alexion produces, but it’s earned the firm revenues of more than $6 billion over eight years.

Canada’s Patented Medicine Prices Review Board is challenging the cost of the drug, saying the price could be considered excessive and that it costs more in Canada than anywhere elsewhere in the world.

The review board launched hearings in June to force Alexion to lower its price. That could force the company to reimburse Ottawa for past overpayments and provinces that have covered the drug costs could apply to recoup some of that money.

Alexion fired back on Sept. 11 by filing a motion in Federal Court, asking for the review board to be prohibited from going ahead with its hearing — or from making any order that would affect the price of Soliris.

‘Greatest threat’ to drug pricing

A University of Ottawa professor who specializes in health law said he was shocked that Alexion would challenge Canada’s authority to regulate drug prices. If Alexion’s case is successful, it could end Ottawa’s ability to control the cost of patented drugs, Amir Attaran told CBC News.

“This is the single greatest threat to the pricing of drugs in Canada ever,” he said Thursday.

The company has not yet returned calls for comment.

Alexion federal court filing

DEA Uproots Marijuana Plants in Oregon at a Cost to Taxpayers of $1,000,000.00

In an attempt to police marijuana use on the West Coast, the Drug Enforcement Administration has spent $960,000 to destroy Oregon marijuana plants in 2014. According to NBC affiliate, KGW located in Portland, the movement to uproot as many cannabis plants in Oregon as possible is part of the DEA’s “Cannabis Eradication Program.” But many are wondering why the DEA is wasting so much of the population’s tax dollars over removing a plant that is legal in that state for recreational use.

Last year, the DEA reported having removed 16,067 plants from Oregon, amounting to a total of $60 per plant paid by the taxpayers. This seems like a lot, but when you compare it to the amount the DEA spends nationally per plant removed ($4.20), it’s borderline outrageous.

KGW says this year the DEA’s budget for removing marijuana plants has decreased, but only slightly. The total amount of funds allocated to uprooting plants in Oregon will be $760,000. But Oregon residents are becoming more vocal about the issue. If the plant is legal within the state, why spend their hard-earned money trying to get rid of it? Similarly, Congress is questioning the necessity of this program. Some members are even trying to defund the DEA’s federal anti-pot program, which costs the country $18 million annually.

The DEA stands by its decision to eradicate cannabis from the Oregon area, claiming that marijuana grown in this area and other areas are sometimes the works of Mexican drug cartels.

“This program has proven effective in dismantling and disrupting drug trafficking organizations,” DEA spokesperson Joseph Moses told KGW.

Skeptics, however, counter this claim, saying that the DEA may be overestimating the cartel’s sway in U.S. marijuana operations. In fact, a 2012 report from the Office of National Drug Control Policy admitted that there was little evidence to support any connection between cartels’ involvement in marijuana in California.

“Based on our intelligence, which includes thousands of cellphone numbers and wiretaps, we haven’t been able to connect anyone to a major cartel,” a representative told the Los Angeles Times.

Similarly, some of Oregon’s law enforcement are saying they have other priorities than policing marijuana. “I want to focus on person crimes,” one sheriff said. “Child abuse, sex assault; crimes against people.”

But because marijuana still remains illegal on the federal level, the DEA is within its jurisdiction to remove plants, even in areas where their growth is legal statewide. The DEA says their mission to remove marijuana plants in Oregon will continue but a little less vigorously than before.