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5 Officials Charged With Manslaughter for Their Role in the Flint Water Crisis

Wed, 2017-06-14 22:23
Advocacy group says new charges boost call for governor to resign.

(COMMONDREAMS) — Michigan’s attorney general announced Wednesday that the head of the state’s health department and four others have been charged with involuntary manslaughter for their role in the years-long Flint water crisis.

Nick Lyon, director of Michigan Health and Human Services, “failed in his responsibilities to protect the health and safety of the citizens of Flint,” state AG Bill Schuette said at a press conference Wednesday.

A press statement from Schuette’s office alleges that Lyon waited a year before alerting the public about the outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease as a result of the crisis, an act that led to the death of 85-year-old Robert Skidmore. He also thwarted an independent researcher from investigating the cause of the outbreak, the statement says.

Lyon was also charged with misconduct in office.

The others now slapped with involuntary manslaughter charges are former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley; former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith; and Water Supervisor Stephen Busch.

Those four, the Detroit News reports, “had been charged with less-serious crimes during the past year.”

NPR writes: “More than a dozen former state and city officials have been criminally charged in connection with the Flint water crisis,” and thus far, “Lyon and Wells are the highest-ranking state officials to be charged.”

According to Lonnie Scott, executive director of advocacy group Progress Michigan, the new charges stemming from Schuette’s investigation “show that the failure in Flint lies squarely at the feet of Governor Rick Snyder.”

“Now that these charges have been levied against a top cabinet official, we renew our call for Governor Rick Snyder to immediately resign,” Scott added

Yet Snyder, who on Wednesday offered a statement in support of Lyon and Wells, continues to evade accountability.

The Washington Post reports:

Schuette on Wednesday addressed the pressure he has gotten to charge Snyder, who has heard repeated calls to resign for his appointment of emergency mangers in Flint and the state’s delayed and inadequate response there.

“We only file criminal charges when evidence of probable cause to commit a crime has been established,” Schuette said. He later revealed that investigators have been unable to speak with Snyder about his role in the catastrophe. “We attempted to interview the governor. We were not successful,” he said.

The announcement of the new charges comes a day after Flint activists delivered over 1,000 water bottles to the office of Snyder, each filled with a letter from a Flint resident saying what he or she feels is owed by the governor as a result of the water crisis. One message read: “you owe me clean water and money if not, you schould [sic] go to jail”

by Andrea GermanosCreative Commons / Common Dreams / Report a typo

US Deploys Long Range Rocket Launcher for War With Syrian Government

Wed, 2017-06-14 20:03

(ANTIMEDIA) The U.S. military has moved a truck-mounted, long-range rocket launcher from Jordan to a U.S. base in Al-Tanf, Syria, near the Iraqi and Jordanian borders, according to two regional intelligence sources.

Reuters reports that the sources said the U.S. had moved the so-called High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) into the desert garrison, which has seen a buildup in recent weeks as tensions have continued to mount between U.S.-backed forces and Iranian-backed forces, as Anti-Media has previously reported.

“They have arrived now in Tanf and they are a significant boost to the U.S. military presence there,” one senior intelligence source reportedly said. The HIMARS has already been deployed in northern Syria as U.S.-backed forces have battled Islamic State militants, he added, Reuters reported.

The deployment comes barely days after Russia warned the U.S. not to strike Syrian-aligned troops again following multiple U.S. strikes last week.

As Reuters explains, the Al-Tanf border crossing is a vitally strategic area, which is why the U.S. military is continuing to cement itself firmly on the ground:

“Tanf is near a Syria-Iraq border crossing on the main Baghdad-Damascus highway. The rebels took it from Islamic State last year, partly to stop Iran from using it to send arms to the Syrian government.”

It is for this reason that the U.S. military has struck these Iranian-backed troops on multiple occasions, dangerously escalating the conflict by shooting down a Syrian drone barely a week ago, as well.

However, as Reuters explains further, there is one other strategic location in mind for the U.S. military that is heavily interlinked with Al-Tanf:

“The rebels also want to use it to take more territory along the border and to push toward Deir al-Zor, a large city on the Euphrates where the government has an enclave surrounded by Islamic State fighters.”

As Anti-Media reported earlier this week, video footage has emerged of hundreds of ISIS fighters safely fleeing Raqqa in convoys. It has been speculated that this safe passage is being allowed on purpose to allow these ISIS fighters to put further pressure on the Syrian government, a behind-closed-doors policy of the Obama administration (and now, perhaps, of the Trump administration). It is more than likely that these fighters will head towards Deir ez-Zor, where the Syrian government retains an isolated outpost surrounded by ISIS fighters (this has happened in the past).

Further, the U.S. military previously bombarded Syrian troops battling ISIS fighters in the Deiz ez-Zor region last year, further suggesting that the real aim of the U.S. military presence is to undermine Syria’s sovereignty and the Syrian government’s battle against extremist groups.

If Washington intends for U.S.-backed forces take control of both the Al-Tanf region and Deir ez-Zor, then it is becoming increasingly likely that the U.S. military is headed for a showdown with Iranian and Syrian troops given the strategic importance of these locations to the Syrian military and its allies. As the Washington Times notes:

“Military commanders in Damascus, Tehran and Moscow are setting their sights on the Syrian city of Deir el-Zour and the surrounding Middle Euphrates River Valley as the battleground for the fight against the jihadi group, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“Coalition commanders and Pentagon officials say the overall battle plan will address the Islamic State buildup in Deir el-Zour. But with all eyes fixed on Raqqa, it remains to be seen how Syrian-led operations, backed by Russia, will affect that long-term strategy.”

While the deployment of this long-range rocket launcher may ultimately serve as a deterrent strategy towards Iranian-backed militias, it still forces the question of why an invading force should be allowed to deter the host country’s forces from reclaiming areas that legally belong to them in the first place. This is a clear violation of international law, otherwise, any country could do the same to the United States or its allies without so much as a blink from the U.N.

Technically speaking, the Syrian military is well within its rights to confront any invading force on its territory. However, doing so may unleash a large and unpredictable conflict that could redefine the future of humanity. While the media cheers on the American-led push to retake Raqqa from ISIS and ignores the reality of the conflict on the ground (as well as the mounting civilian death toll), we are getting closer to a global confrontation.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Why I’m Not Surprised There Were Two Mass Shootings Today

Wed, 2017-06-14 19:07

(ANTIMEDIA Op-Ed) There were two mass shootings in the United States today, and I’m really not surprised by them. Mass shootings have become commonplace in America as of late, and after every one of them, the political blame game spins round and round, even before we send out our redundant “thoughts and prayers.”

We have to ban guns. No, we need more guns. We need to put more police in public places — and even in schools to deter shooters. We need to ban gun-free zones. We need to blame all right-wingers. We need to blame all left-wingers. We need to call white violence terrorism. We need to blame psychotropic drugs. We need to ban Muslims. We need to (insert your reactionary opinion here).

Everybody thinks they know what’s wrong, but it seems nobody understands two plainly obvious causes of all this violence…

Violence is Inherent to American Identity

America is violent by default. It’s in our DNA as a nation. Born out of the exploitation and genocide of Natives and built off the backs of slaves, the United States has used violence to solve its “problems” since its inception. The country’s independence, itself, was obtained through years of violence — the American revolution. This violence is now venerated and enshrined in popular American mythology and perpetuated ad nauseam in public school history books.

The violence never stopped, and it has been routinely glorified. When Native Americans had something we wanted, we murdered them and took it — over and over again. America’s deft use of violence in World War II became our modern claim to moral superiority. The invasion of Iraq decades later was deemed a gift to Iraqi citizens despite the countless deaths and destruction of their homeland that came with it.

We memorialize those who commit violence for the government and hold them in the highest esteem — throwing tantrums when others express dissenting opinions or fail to bow to the people who serve these institutions.

When children misbehave, we beat them. When people don’t follow the ever-expanding number of (many times unjust) laws in the U.S., we jail them. When a country does something we don’t like, we bomb them and overthrow their government. When a leader does something the U.S. government doesn’t like, we assassinate them. Even what should be civil political discourse has been radicalized into violent rhetoric — the war on women, the war on Christmas, the war on healthcare, the war on cops. War permeates our culture.

Therefore, it’s only natural that when a person is sad, down on themselves, off their meds, or mad about something, picking up a gun to solve their problems with violence seems to be logical. Our government does it, why not them? We beat kids for being “bad,” why would they not use violence against adults? Our government bombs schools in countries we don’t like, so what is so different about an individual getting a gun and shooting up a school in the United States? Our police shoot and kill over 1,000 Americans every year, often because they are afraid of them or because they “did not comply.” Is it any surprise that many of the most atrocious mass shootings in this country were committed by individuals with a fetish for militarism (or policing institutions)?

Thanks in large part to our government, American society assumes violence solves problems, whatever those problems may be. Since this country’s founding, America has been dehumanizing others and committing mass acts of violence against them in the name of what is “right” or “good.” The Virginia shooter probably thought he was committing a righteous act by shooting a Republican who was taking away his healthcare.

Just as the concept of “Manifest Destiny” made room in early Americans’ consciences to rationalize genocide against the natives — and the post 9/11 dehumanization of Muslims allows for the ongoing war on terror, which has taken well over one million innocent lives — we now dehumanize others for disagreeing with us politically to the point where violence is becoming a regular occurrence (see: alt-right vs. antifa).

The “us vs. them” nationalism that was previously used as propaganda during major wars to get the public unified behind national conflicts has now come home to roost. The next logical step is to get out the guns and start shooting our political opponents down in the street — and now, apparently, it’s happening. And I’m not surprised.

Problem, Reaction, Solution and Well-Intentioned Political Violence

There is another reason violence is such a default reaction, and it extends beyond the behavior and nationalism perpetuated by the U.S. government. In most of the public’s reactions to the problem of mass shootings, there is a hint of violence in their subsequent proposals to legislate away said violent acts, even if their intentions are good.

Taking away someone’s right to do something is an act of violence — political or otherwise. In the United States, we have a tendency to enact laws against things we don’t like, and if someone still does something politicians say is bad, violence is committed against them in the form of punishment, fines, incarceration, and execution. After all, government is defined by its ‘moral’ exemption to use violence — if a soldier, cop, or other government agent commits violence at the behest of politicians or ‘the law,’ it’s in the name of the greater good — regardless of whether or not it’s actually moral. If members of the public use violence, they’re criminals, even if they also believe they’re advocating a ‘greater good.’

So when you say armed guards should be put into every school, you’re endorsing an act of violence by taking someone’s tax money and spending it in a way they may disagree with. When you say “guns should be banned,” you are advocating violence by taking away someone else’s freedom because you think that particular liberty is dangerous, outdated, or arcane. Your desire to remove that freedom necessarily requires the use of violence on the part of armed government agents confiscating the gun or locking them up for failing to obey the edict.

That’s fine and dandy until the freedoms you hold dear end up in the crosshairs of political moralists who feel they know better than you. The slippery slope that starts with banning guns because they can be used for violence can slide into banning books because dangerous information can lead to dangerous thoughts or violence.

***

When a culture of violence intersects with an inherently violent government, I’m not surprised that Americans of all political persuasions are shooting each other in the street. So perhaps instead of reforming gun laws or turning our schools into fortresses, America needs to take a long hard look in the mirror. From the way we treat our children to the global war on terror, if we truly want to stop the spread of violence, maybe we should stop ingraining it into every aspect of our society.

Opinion / Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Here’s How Bitcoin Is Helping the Pot Industry Solve Its Banking Crisis

Wed, 2017-06-14 16:01

(ANTIMEDIA) As the age of cannabis prohibition slowly comes to an end — despite the best efforts of drug warriors like Attorney General Jeff Sessions — there is an increasing degree of accountability and transparency in the emerging industry. The more states legalize and decriminalize the plant, the more it makes its way out of the shadowy black market and into a more professional, retail setting as retailers and growers face more scrutiny and higher standards.

But even as states legalize cannabis and consumers are increasingly offered safer settings and more product variety, the industry is still struggling as a result of the federal government’s continued tirade against the substance. This is clear in its ongoing police attacks on cannabis operations — even in states where it’s legal. But anti-drug laws are also causing headaches for the industry another way: they’re making it nearly impossible for members of the industry to safely conduct financial transactions.

 

Because cannabis remains a Schedule I drug under federal law, financial institutions have long shied away from allowing marijuana businesses to use their services. As a result, those working in the cannabis industry are largely forced to conduct their transactions in cash, which is not only inconvenient for both the merchant and the consumer, but also a safety risk; they must hoard large sums of cash rather than being able to deposit their profits in a safe account. The Los Angeles Times has reported that 70 percent of cannabis businesses have no bank accounts.

As a result, Bloomberg reports, participants in the cannabis market are coming up with solutions to this problem. The outlet reports that “[l]egal cannabis was a $6 billion industry last year and is expected to grow to $50 billion by 2026, according to Cowen & Co,” and as a result, at least two cryptocurrency startups are stepping in to help process those profits.

Bloomberg explains:

Enter bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that consists of digital coins ‘mined’ by computers solving increasingly complex math problems. At least two financial-technology startups, POSaBIT and SinglePoint Inc., use the cryptocurrency as an intermediate step that lets pot connoisseurs use their bank-issued credit cards to buy weed.

POSaBIT operates by installing kiosks in cannabis shops that allow customers to purchase digital currency with their credit cards (with a two dollar transaction fee added on). That purchased currency can then be applied in the store.

John Baugher, co-founder of POSaBIT, argues the technology is vital.

There’s no industry — whether it’s the production and sale of cannabis or the production and sale of a cup of coffee — that can operate safely, transparently or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions and traditional services,” he says.

That’s where we thought we could leverage the use of digital currency.

Trove Cannabis, a high-volume shop in Washington that conducts 3,000 transactions per week, started using POSaBIT after spending six months on a waiting list. According to Yin-Ho Lai, the company’s CEO, 13 percent of their customers have since chosen to pay with credit or debit cards and tend to spend more when they use that form of payment.

Consumers also have the option to keep the digital currency they buy and spend it elsewhere.

Though this new development represents the innovation of the market, POSaBIT is still complying with federal and state standards. The consumer buying the digital currency must have a valid id “that is scanned, encrypted and stored.” They can purchase no more than $150. Further, POSaBIT has a nine-point fraud detection system.

POSaBIT is not the only company coming up with solutions to the government’s impositions on the cannabis trade. “SinglePoint, a mobile-tech firm that specializes in payments via text message, signed an agreement last week with First Bitcoin Capital Corp. to develop a solution for cannabis and other high-risk industries without access to traditional banking,” Bloomberg notes.

SinglePoint put terminals in Washington-based shops two years ago, but banks shut them down, citing too much risk. Now that cryptocurrency is becoming increasingly mainstream, however, there is hope. “It’s not foreign to them now, like some sort of weird scam that they don’t know about,” says Greg Lambrecht, founder and CEO. “More and more establishments are accepting it, but it’s kind of like the wild, wild west.”

Nevertheless, one prevailing view from industry insiders is that by the time these cryptocurrency options are widespread, traditional banks will be more willing to accept cash from the cannabis industry as the plant continues to move into the mainstream. In the meantime, however, the technology will continue to improve the quality of the ever-profitable and burgeoning business.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Cholera Is Killing a Person Every Hour in Yemen and Nobody’s Talking About It

Wed, 2017-06-14 14:42

(ANTIMEDIA) According to Oxfam International, a leading charitable organization, Yemen is currently battling a cholera epidemic that is killing one person nearly every hour. Children are contracting the infection at a rate of one every 35 seconds. If the outbreak is not contained, it will continue to threaten thousands of people for months on end.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 676 people died from cholera in a five-week period from the end of April to the start of June this year. More than 86,000 people are suspected of having the disease. Symptoms of this disease include diarrhea, nausea, and dehydration.

WHO’s latest report shows that 791 have died from cholera in Yemen as of June 7, 2017.

Oxfam predicts that somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000 people could contract the illness in the coming months.

As noted by Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director, Sajjad Mohammed, this dangerous situation could easily have been prevented:

“Yemen is on the edge of an abyss. Lives hang in the balance. Two years of war have plunged the country into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and put Yemen at risk of famine…Cholera is simple to treat and prevent but while the fighting continues the task is made doubly difficult.”

There are a variety of factors to examine when determining the underlying causes of this specific cholera outbreak. As Oxfam explains:

“Health workers and water engineers have not been paid for months while hospitals, health centers and public water systems have been destroyed and starved of key items, such as medical supplies, chlorine and fuel. Even basic supplies such as intravenous fluids, oral rehydration salts and soap are urgently needed to enable an effective, speedy response – some of which will have to be flown into the country.”

Without oversimplifying this complex geopolitical conflict too much, the blame for this mass suffering lies largely on the U.S. and U.K.-backed Saudi alliance – the aggressors who are committing war crimes on a massive scale and directly targeting civilian infrastructure, including hundreds of hospitals. Despite this horror, the mainstream media is almost entirely silent on this topic. When they do report on the situation, the most outlets fail to assign the blame fairly or accurately.

For example, the Washington Post has detailed how the Saudi-led coalition has completely destroyed Yemen’s economy (on purpose, one might add),  yet the title of the article refers to the conflict as “Yemen’s war.” The Post must be well aware that most Americans are headline readers only, given they reported on this fact in an article entitled “Americans read headlines and not much else.”

It’s not “Yemen’s war” – Yemen isn’t at war with anyone. A genuine analysis of the conflict would find that local Yemenis, with the backing of their former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh – and a significant portion of Yemen’s armed forces who had pledged loyalty to him – had ousted a leader widely viewed as a Saudi puppet.

That puppet, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, had already been removed from power. The U.S.-backed Saudi coalition is demanding his reinstatement through brutal force and massacring thousands of ordinary Yemenis in the process.

If Iran or Russia was committing such aggression against one of the poorest countries in the world, the mainstream media would have a field day. The headlines alone would do all the damage necessary, and the media wouldn’t hesitate to assign blame.

This kind of selective reporting is nothing short of shameful and must be condemned in the strongest of terms. Meanwhile, Yemen burns in the background, and the beacons of human rights that are the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Gulf States who are actively waging this war are completely indifferent to the suffering of ordinary, innocent civilians.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Police Chief Caught Soliciting Sex From a Minor in Minnesota Prostitution Sting

Wed, 2017-06-14 12:36

(ANTIMEDIA) Walnut Grove, MN — The police chief of a small Minnesota town was arrested this week on charges of attempting to hire a minor for sex, a felony — ultimately breaking ‘the law’ he has spent years allegedly enforcing.

Michael Zeug, 45, was arrested in Redwood Falls after soliciting sex with an undercover Department of Homeland Security agent via text message. Zeug contacted the “girl” after seeing an online ad. The officer pretended to be a seventeen-year-old girl who wanted to make extra money, local CBS Minnesota outlet WCCO reported. Zeug appeared to acknowledge the risk, saying ““you’re only 17.” He also said he had done this type of thing before and lied about his profession; he claimed to be a farmer. The Star Tribune reported:

Zeug arranged a meeting outside a house in Redwood Falls, asked for nude photos and wanted her to flash her breasts to assure him she was not in law enforcement, the charging document read.

The police chief circled the supposed teen’s home several times and then parked nearby, the complaint said. He was arrested by members of the sting operation.

Zeug, who is married with children, had his law enforcement radio on him to monitor police channels, according to the official complaint filed in Redwood County District Court.

He faces up to five years in prison for the felony charges and remains in jail with bail set at $50,000.

The arrest was made as part of “Operation Guardian Angel,” which was “conducted by a regional drug task force and a human trafficking task force out of Washington County,” the Tribune noted. The operation also led to the arrest of two other adult men. The Walnut Grove City Council called an emergency meeting Monday evening to determine the fate of Zeug’s position as the town’s police chief, the Star Tribune reported. CBS reports he was suspended without pay.

Redwood County Attorney Steven Collins has said the case will be turned over to neighboring Brown County to avoid a conflict of interest “given that the Walnut Grove Police Department brings cases to the Redwood County attorney’s office for consideration of charges,” the Tribune reported.

Some may argue that was Zeug did was not inherently wrong  (outside the moral misdeed of attempting to cheat on his wife). Prostitution is a hotly contested issue in the United States, as is the age of sexual consent. The “girl” was not particularly young and was just on the border of reaching the age of consent.

Regardless, Zeug is a police officer, making his attempts to solicit sex in a manner that was clearly against the law — a felony, at that — a stark indicator of the hypocrisy police officers often display in their efforts to uphold legal dictates. In other more extreme examples, cops have been caught – or at least charged with — soliciting sex from minors and molesting teenagers and young children on numerous occasions.

Nevertheless, Zeug appears to have soiled his reputation and likely lost his job.

It’s a complete betrayal. I’ve known Mike Zeug for many, many years and have relied on him to bring cases forward from Walnut Grove because we’re the prosecuting authority in Walnut Grove. I was shocked,” Collins said.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Study: US Only Admits to About One in Five Lethal Drone Strikes

Wed, 2017-06-14 10:42

(ANTIWAR.COM) — A new report compiled by the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic and the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies has found that the United States only admits officially to about one fifth of their drone strikes which end up killing someone, saying this hurts accountability.

That the US has been deliberately evasive about its drone program is hardly news, but this appears to be the first study aimed at specifically figuring exactly how many lethal drone strikes have been officially acknowledged.

This has been a growing problem with US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria as well, with official Pentagon figures on civilian death tolls dramatically lower than those recorded by private NGOs, with the difference often a factor of ten or more as the US downplays the tolls.

In the case of the drone strikes, it’s less about covering up civilian deaths than all deaths and the scope of the drone war, because little to no effort was ever made to identify who was killed in specific drone strikes, and the only times names were made public were in the very unusual cases that someone was killed who had previously been heard of by the military.

Drone strikes were limited through the end of President Bush’s second term, and grew rapidly under President Obama. While the rate of drone strikes dropped near the end of Obama’s time in office, they appear to once again have begun growing substantially under President Trump’s watch, bringing back concerns about how the US has long mishandled reporting on the operations.

The Columbia report was particularly concerned with the lack of transparency in “lethal” operations, irrespective of who they actually end up killing, noting that it’s impossible to ensure proper accountability, particularly when those lethal actions end up killing innocent bystanders, when the government won’t even keep formal track of how many killings they’re taking part in.

By Jason Ditz / Republished with permission / AntiWar.com / Report a typo

The US Senate Just Voted To Continue Arming Saudi Arabia

Wed, 2017-06-14 10:19

(COMMONDREAMS) — The Senate voted on Tuesday to approve a widely criticized $500 million sale of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, narrowly beating back a bipartisan effort to block the deal.

The final tally was 53-47 in favor of the sale, which is just part of a massive $100 billion arms package.

Among the sponsors of the resolution put forth to block the sale was Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who argued that despite the opposition’s defeat, the effort nonetheless sent a “strong message” to Saudi Arabia.

My resolution halting $500m of Saudi arms sale failed 47-53. But 20 more votes than similar resolution last fall. Strong message to Saudis.

— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 13, 2017

“A bipartisan coalition of Senators just sent a major message to the Saudis,” Murphy said in a statement. “Today’s vote total would’ve been unthinkable not long ago, but Congress is finally taking notice that Saudi Arabia is using U.S. munitions to deliberately hit civilian targets inside Yemen.”

Human rights groups echoed this sentiment while arguing that to continue to arm a persistent violator of human rights and funder of extremism is to be complicit in both.

In a statement released following the vote, Alexandra Schmitt of Human Rights Watch wrote, “Dozens of US Senators just sent a powerful message to Saudi Arabia: they—unlike President Donald Trump—want to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia, a country that has repeatedly used US weapons in attacks that likely constitute war crimes. Forty-seven senators voted to block a $510 million weapons deal, meaning it was only three votes short of passing.”

Jodie Evans, co-founder of the anti-war group CODEPINK, had a sharp message for those who voted for the deal.

“Voting for the weapons sale,” Evans said, “these Senators showed that they value the war profiteers more than lives of Yemenis and more than US national security.”

If lawmakers really cared about national security, she asked, “would they vote to arm the regime most responsible for the spread of the Wahhabist ideology that forms the underpinnings of terrorist groups from Al Qaeda to ISIS? Would they vote to arm the regime that has funded and supported these terrorist groups?”

Yemenis, the victims of U.S.-backed Saudi aggression, feel “abandoned and betrayed” by the continued arms flow, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Ali Mohammed Murshed, a 32-year-old delivery man from Sana’a, spoke to the Times and exemplified how repeated arms deals in the face of Yemeni suffering only fuels anti-American sentiment in the country.

“There is nothing in this world that I hate more than Americans,” Murshed said.

“With all the arms they have given to Saudi Arabia, the Saudis have achieved nothing after more than two years but killing civilians and destroying infrastructure,” he concluded.

U.S. Senate Votes on Blocking Portion of Arms Sale to Saudi Arabia | read more here: https://t.co/5Ew8RdKTpj pic.twitter.com/cR21QgfcpT

— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) June 13, 2017

Watch Below: Co-Sponsor of the Bill, Rand Paul’s Speech on the Saudi Arabia Arms Deal

by Jake JohnsonCreative Commons / Common Dreams / Report a typo

Multiple People Shot, Including House Majority Whip Scalise, At Congressional Baseball Practice: Live Feed

Wed, 2017-06-14 08:41

Live feed courtesy of ABC:

(ZHEUpdate 10: CBS has just confirmed that one of the victims from this morning’s shooting has just been confirmed dead by GWU Hospital.

GWUHospital reports one of the shooting victims has died. Another being treated there still in critical condition.

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 14, 2017

Update 9:

Bernie Sanders has just issued the following statement after learning that this morning’s shooter “is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign.”

Bernie Sanders has released a statement about the shooting/shooter. pic.twitter.com/2PSNaKYg6f

— Tamara Keith (@tamarakeithNPR) June 14, 2017

Update 8: President Trump has just confirmed that Hodgkinson has died from wounds incurred during his shootout with the Capitol Police this morning.

Pres. Trump says suspected gunman “has now died from his injuries.” https://t.co/L3sgoBT6GD pic.twitter.com/RhUJKBJZXI

— ABC News (@ABC) June 14, 2017

Update 7: The shooter has been identified at 66 year old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Ill.

JUST IN: Alexandria, Va., shooter has been identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, law enforcement confirms

— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 14, 2017

Update 6: Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and law enforcement officials held a press briefing which began around 10:30AM EST.  Among other things, officers confirmed that the 2 U.S. Capitol Police Officers who were shot this morning were in “good condition.”

Virginia police said the FBI will be taking over the investigation.

UPDATE: FBI will be taking over the Virginia shooting investigation – Alexandria police https://t.co/plsYqjBted pic.twitter.com/gDumcCuQxl

— Reuters Politics (@ReutersPolitics) June 14, 2017

Update 5: The House has gone into recess and confirmed that no votes are scheduled for today in light of this morning’s shooting. The House Sgt. as Arms will brief members of Congress later this morning.

JUST IN: No House votes are expected today following shooting at Alexandria baseball park

— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 14, 2017

BRIEFING ALERT — House Sgt at Arms will brief members of congress in the 11 a hour today

— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) June 14, 2017

Update 4: Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s office has just confirmed the congressman was shot in the hip and was transported to MedStar Washington Hospital Center where he is currently undergoing surgery.

JUST IN: Rep. Scalise’s office says he’s in stable condition & currently undergoing surgery after being shot in hip https://t.co/aiB3QYHeE8 pic.twitter.com/Prp5VqrFib

— CBS News (@CBSNews) June 14, 2017

Update 3: Shortly after the shooting this morning at a congressional baseball practice, Representative Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said that it appeared the “gunman was there to kill as many Republican members as possible.” Walker, who was at the practice for the upcoming annual congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia, confirmed he was “shaken but okay.”

Update 2: Michigan Rep. Mike Bishop tells WWJ Newsradio 950 he was attending the practice around 5:30 a.m., just outside of Alexandria, when shots rang out. He said he and his colleagues were “sitting ducks.”

“As we were standing here this morning, a gunman walked up to the fence line and just began to shoot. I was standing at home plate and he was in the third base line,” Bishop said. “He had a rifle that was clearly meant for the job of taking people out, multiple casualties, and he had several rounds and magazines that he kept unloading and reloading.”

More than 50 shots were fired, according to CBS News, with some accounts putting the number closer to 100. Four people were injured, including two Capitol Hill police officers and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. The suspect was also shot.

The only reason why any of us walked out of this thing, by the grace of God, one of the folks here had a weapon to fire back and give us a moment to find cover. We were inside the backstop and if we didn’t have that cover by a brave person who stood up and took a shot themselves, we would not have gotten out of there and every one of us would have been hit — every single one of us,” said Bishop. “He was coming around the fence line and he was looking for all of us who had found cover in different spots. But if we didn’t have return fire right there, he would have come up to each one of us and shot us point-blank.”

Bishop was uninjured. General Jack Bergman, who represents northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, and John Moolenaar, from Midland, were also at the practice; both uninjured. Democratic members of Congress were practicing at a different field, miles away.

“Two of our staff was hit, Steve Scalise was hit on second base, I watched him get hit and I couldn’t do anything to help him. We tried to get him off as fast as we could but this guy was relentless with his fire,” he said. “One of our staffers got hit in the chest and I pray for him, I just don’t know what the outcome is going to be. This is a tragic situation and frankly, it’s changed everything as I know it forever.”

THE LATEST of the 5 shot in Alexandria:
– Rep. Scalise
– 2 security details
– 1 staffer
– 1 lobbyist
– Suspect in custody pic.twitter.com/XRJD520V3s

— ABC 7 News – WJLA (@ABC7News) June 14, 2017

A suspect, who received at least one gunshot, is believed to be in custody. Bishop said the man didn’t speak a word.

He stood there silently. None of us saw him walk up,” he said. “One of our coaches had his son, his 11-year-old son — I have an 11-year-old son, too, who’s supposed to be here — and I am just, I can’t even tell you, I don’t know. Fortunately everybody’s OK. It’s just traumatic.”

Update: Virginia Police have confirmed the suspect is in custody and is no longer a threat. According to RealClearPolitics reports Rebecca Berg, Rep. Jeff Duncan plans to give a statement to police regarding a conversation he had with the shooter before leaving practice early. The man is said to have been wearing running clothes, and asked Duncan: “Are those Republicans or Democrats out there practicing?” Per source familiar.

The man was wearing running clothes, asked Duncan: “Are those Republicans or Democrats out there practicing?” Per source familiar.

— Rebecca Berg (@rebeccagberg) June 14, 2017

Trump has issued a statement on the shooting saying, “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy.”

JUST IN: President Trump statement on Virginia shooting: “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy.” https://t.co/Txh42RpEiD pic.twitter.com/ReQWSK6BUx

— ABC News (@ABC) June 14, 2017

Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, a true friend and patriot, was badly injured but will fully recover. Our thoughts and prayers are with him.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 14, 2017

*  *  *

At least five people have been shot, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise – the third ranking Republican – and aides, during a baseball practice in Virginia Wednesday, Fox News confirmed. The shots were reported on East Monroe Street in Del Ray, Alexandria police said on Twitter at 7:30 a.m. The location was near a YMCA.

An injured Steve Scalise is shown being carried away on a stretcher.

More breaking headlines:

  • BROOKS: APPEARS SOME SECURITY DETAIL MEMBERS WERE INJURED
  • BROOKS SAYS SECURITY DETAIL SHOT BACK AT ASSAILANT
  • BROOKS: HELICOPTER LANDED ON FIELD TO TRANSPORT INJURED
  • BROOKS: AT LEAST 5 INJURED, INCL. SCALISE, STAFFER, 2 GUARDS
  • SEN. PAUL WITNESSED SHOOTING, HEARD `RAPID SUCCESSION OF SHOTS’
  • SEN. PAUL: `I PROBABLY HEARD 50, 60 SHOTS’
  • PAUL: EVERYONE LIKELY WOULD HAVE DIED IF NOT FOR CAPITOL POLICE
  • PAUL: LOOKED LIKE SCALISE SHOT IN LEG OR HIP
  • PAUL: CAPITOL HILL POLICE PREVENTED A ‘MASSACRE’ ON FIELD
  • SEN. PAUL SAYS DECISION WAS ‘STAY OR RUN’ DURING SHOOTING
  • SEN. RAND PAUL WAS IN BATTING CAGE DURING SHOOTING
  • INJURED GUNMAN IN CONGRESS MEMBER SHOOTING APPREHENDED: FOX

A reporter from the Huffington Post tweeted that a congressman said he “heard there was a shooting at the Congressional baseball game practice field.” ABC 7 News reported “multiple shooting” in the 400 block of E. Monroe Street.

#BREAKING Shooting at Congressional baseball practice. Scalise hit. Other staffers hit. Gunmen with rifle

— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) June 14, 2017

“Both @POTUS & @VP are aware of the developing situation in Virginia. Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer tweeted.

Both @POTUS & @VP are aware of the developing situation in Virginia. Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected.

— Sean Spicer (@PressSec) June 14, 2017

Scalise, 51, is the House majority whip. He has represented Louisiana’s First Congressional District since 2008 and chairs the House Republican Study Committee. He is married with two children. Scalise’s district includes New Orleans.

According a report from Rep. Mo Brooke, who said he was not shot, more than 50 rifle shots were fired.

from @RepMoBrooks “Shooter attack at GOPpractice. Rifle. 50+ shots fired. 5 or more hit including GOP Whip steve scalise. I am not shot.”

— Matt Murphy (@mattmurphyshow) June 14, 2017

Gunman just opened fire on Congressional members playing baseball this morning in Del Ray pic.twitter.com/KgF3DXlyRv

— Benjamin Childers (@ben_childers) June 14, 2017

“We used my belt to help put a tourniquet around his leg,” says witness @RepMoBrooks of Alexandria shooting victim.

“We used my belt to help put a tourniquet around his leg,” says witness @RepMoBrooks of Alexandria shooting victim https://t.co/EW62PVRG1G pic.twitter.com/i5ZV3cns7E

— CNN (@CNN) June 14, 2017

Brooks adds that a helicopter landed in center field and took one of the wounded to a hospital, Rep. Brooks said.

More from #AlexandriaVA #DelRay shooting. First shots just after 7 AM. This #medevac just after 8 AM. pic.twitter.com/ROTIzITrIA

— Adam Shaw (@adamleeshaw) June 14, 2017

Police tweeted they “believed” the gunman was in custody. Sen. Mike Lee told Fox News, however, the gunman was dead. He said a staffer used a belt as a tourniquet to stop Scalise’s bleeding.

Here is the full list of those present at the practice:

Here is the entire roster of 2017 Congressional baseball team. @ChrisMurphyCT only CT rep. He is tweeting. #Alexandria #Virginia #shooting pic.twitter.com/4WKKUtch4X

— Heidi Voight (@HeidiVoight) June 14, 2017

Helicopter landed in center field and took one of the wounded to a hospital, Rep. Brooks said

— Steve Brusk (@stevebruskCNN) June 14, 2017

Police tweeted they “believed” the gunman was in custody. Sen. Mike Lee told Fox News, however, the gunman was dead. He said a staffer used a belt as a tourniquet to stop Scalise’s bleeding.

#BREAKING: @AlexandriaVAPD report “multiple shooting” in 400 block of E Monroe and say “suspect believed in custody”. Story to come. pic.twitter.com/8CqI83esjg

— ABC 7 News – WJLA (@ABC7News) June 14, 2017

By Tyler Durden / Republished with permission / ZeroHedge.com / Report a typo

Our Last Hope for Peace With North Korea May Indeed Be Dennis Rodman

Tue, 2017-06-13 21:25

(ANTIMEDIA) A short trip to North Korea that became a 17-month imprisonment is now over for Otto Warmbier, who was recently medically evacuated by the U.S. State Department while in a coma. He was serving a 15-year hard labor sentence for swiping a poster from a Pyongyang hotel.

The University of Virginia student reportedly fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill following his March 2016 trial in North Korea, according to the Washington Post, which spoke with Warmbier’s family upon his release Tuesday.

“At the direction of the president, the Department of State has secured the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korea,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement Tuesday morning.

 “We have no comment on Mr. Warmbier’s condition, out of respect to him and the family,” Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee later in the day.

Warmbier was 21 when he was arrested on January 2, 2016, just as he was preparing to depart Pyongyang Sunan International Airport after a five-day tour of North Korea. He was charged with committing a hostile act against the state, the isolated nuclear power announced three weeks later, as reported by ABC News. He allegedly tried to steal a large propaganda poster from a staff-only level of the Pyongyang hotel he was staying in.

His hour-long trial in March 2016 resulted in a 15-year sentence of hard labor, according to the Washington Post. The good news is that Warmbier, now 22, is expected back home in Cincinnati, Ohio, by Tuesday evening. He was held in a North Korean prison for 17 months. Unfortunately, it seems his early release was due to deteriorating health, as last Monday, North Korean representatives contacted their American counterparts to alert them that Warmbier was in a coma, the Post reported.

Warmbier’s parents learned of his health condition through U.S. envoys in contact with North Korean officials, but the Post was unable to reach North Korean officials for comment.

“At the moment, we’re just treating this like he’s been in an accident,” Warmbier’s parents told the newspaper. “We get to see our son Otto tonight.”

Hours before Warmbier was taken out of North Korea, NBA basketball hall-of-famer Dennis Rodman arrived to meet the country’s president, Kim Jong-un. Ahead of Rodman’s visit, his fifth since 2013, speculation percolated as to whether he would serve any role in getting Warmbier or three other Americans held there released. U.S. officials have shot down such rumors, calling Rodman’s visit a “bizarre coincidence,” designed to distract from Warmbier’s condition, the Washington Post reported.

Rodman claims to be the only person with a friendly relationship with both Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump. In a video uploaded to his Twitter account Tuesday, Rodman said his trip was “all about peace” and thanked his sponsor, a cryptocurrency company called PotCoin designed for the legalized marijuana industry.

“I’ll discuss my mission when I return,” Rodman said on Facebook.

Meanwhile, “the Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] regarding three other U.S. citizens reported detained,” Secretary Tillerson’s statement said.

Those other three U.S. citizens still in North Korea are Kim Dong-chul, who was arrested on charges of espionage shortly after Warmbier’s arrest, and two other Korean Americans affiliated with the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, the country’s first private university. It is run by Korean American Christians, the Post reported.

As the so-called hermit kingdom continues to defy international and U.S. sanctions by launching tests of its intercontinental ballistic missiles, the Trump administration continues to float new sanctions. Tillerson suggested Tuesday that countries that do business with North Korea could be sanctioned, Reuters reported.

The Trump administration views North Korea as “the most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote to the House Armed Services Committee on Monday, Reuters reported.

A suspected North Korean drone crashed near the South Korea border near a U.S. missile defense system last week, the South Korean Defense Ministry reported Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday morning, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed that Trump will host South Korean President Moon Jae-In at the White House from June 29 to 30.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Video: Anti-Trump Protesters Attack Journalist for Filming at Portland Stand-off

Sun, 2017-06-04 20:11

(ANTIMEDIA) In the wake of a suspected hate crime in Portland last week that resulted in the murder of two men — which the killer, Jeremy Christian, later justified by citing “free speech” — supporters of President Trump held a contentious “free speech” rally in the city on Sunday. Counter-protesters including Antifa and black bloc groups were present and appeared to outnumber the Trump supporters in the mostly mild stand-off.

Anti-Media journalist Shaun Bradley was on the ground in Portland covering the events as they unfolded via our Facebook page.

Shaun was brutally attacked by a mob of masked men after they realized he was filming the Antifa side of the protest and he politely declined one masked individual’s request to stop. The Antifa member had asked Shaun not to film unmasked attendees, and Shaun responded that he was filming in a public space. As the exchange continued, the masked Antifa member said unmasked protesters could be doxxed and lose their jobs. Shaun responded, “I’m just walking around.”

Right, and you know, I’m just asking [sic] let’s keep the camera off our side and keep it on their side.

I’m just walking through both sides,” Shaun replied.

Right, and, you know, keep it on their side,” the masked Antifa member told him.

By this time, Shaun had been encircled by Antifa members. One blew an air horn of some sort directly in his face, and Shaun says another used a taser against him as another started shoving their hand into his camera (he can be heard screaming out in response). The mob chased him down as he attempted to flee. That’s where the live stream (below) cut out.

He says some attempted to trip him as he ran, and as he fell to the ground, he was kicked in the face as other protesters stomped on him. Shaun says he was eventually pulled out of the pile-on by another unspecified protest attendee who moved him toward safety. Nevertheless, his filming equipment was destroyed and his lip torn open. He also says his ribs were hit hard, and one of his front teeth is now loose. In the video below, he shows the scrapes and cuts on his arms and describes the entire experience with Antifa.

To donate funds to restore/repair Shaun’s filming equipment and cover any necessary medical treatment he may require, please click here.

Below you can view video reports Shaun broadcast today from Portland.

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WATCH LIVE: Hundreds gathering at dueling protests in Portland.

Posted by The Anti-Media on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Live from Portland at the site of major protests.

Posted by The Anti-Media on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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LIVE in Portland: A full recap of the chaotic protests happening NOW.

Posted by The Anti-Media on Sunday, June 4, 2017

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Iran Urges the West to “Wake Up,” Stop Funding Terrorism

Sun, 2017-06-04 15:00

(ZHEIn what we are sure many will see as the most ironic headline of the day, Reuters reports Iran said on Sunday the London attacks were a “wake-up call” and urged Western states to go after ideological and financial sources of terrorism, state media reported, in a thinly veiled reference to Saudi Arabia.

Having been the center of attention during President Trump’s recent trip:

“The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon – never, ever – and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias, and it must cease immediately, Trump said in at a meeting in Jerusalem with the Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin.

Trump added that he had detected, too, “a growing realisation among your Arab neighbours that they have common cause with you in the threat posed by Iran.

As Reuters notes, Iran denies Western charges of sponsoring terrorism, and accuses Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi brand of Sunni Islam and funding from its arch-rival of being behind Sunni militant groups who have been behind a recent spate of deadly attacks in Europe. Saudi Arabia, the bastion of Sunni Islam and a close U.S. ally, denies backing terrorism and has cracked down on jihadists at home, jailing thousands, stopping hundreds from travelling to fight abroad and cutting militant finances.

Shi’ite Muslim power Iran and Saudi Arabia are longstanding religious and political arch-rivals and often accuse each other of backing terrorism. Relations are fraught as they support each other’s foes in regional wars such as in Yemen, Iraq and Syria.

And it appears Iran has had enough. Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi is quoted by the official Iranian news agency IRNA as saying:

Repeated blind terror attacks around the world are a wake-up call for the world community,

“To uproot terror, it is necessary that they (Western states) address the root causes as well as the main financial and ideological sources of extremism and violence, which are clear to everyone,”

‘Clear’ Indeed.

By Tyler Durden / Republished with permission / Zero Hedge / Report a typo

 

43 Civilians Killed After US Airstrikes Hit Apartment Building in Syria

Sun, 2017-06-04 14:17

(ANTIWAR.COMThe civilian death toll of the US air war against ISIS continues to soar today, with the latest US strikes against the ISIS capital city of Raqqa leveled a large apartment building in the residential area of the city, killing at least 43 civilians and wounding many others.

US airstrikes killing dozens of civilians in Iraq or Syria have been nearly daily occurrences at this point, as officials continue to escalate the rate of strikes to try to “pressure” ISIS, and end up killing a soaring number of innocent bystanders.

As usual, the US has not publicly commented on today strike, nor indeed have they yet commented on destroying a hospital yesterday in the same part of Raqqa. Such incidents rarely make it into the official Pentagon list of civilian casualties in the two nations, which is usually around 10% of the actual death toll as calculated by private NGOs.

The US has made much of supporting the Kurdish YPG in a military offensive against Raqqa, but in recent weeks the strikes have rarely coincided with Kurdish offensives, and the large death toll raises growing concerns about US targeting policy in the war.

By Jason Ditz / Republished with permission / AntiWar.com / Report a typo

The Manchester Bombing Wouldn’t Have Happened If We Hadn’t Killed Gaddafi

Sat, 2017-06-03 18:03

(SHADOWPROOFDespite initial claims by the British government, it is now clear that Salman Abedi, the man responsible for the bombing of an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, was not a “lone wolf” but a member of terrorist network living in the United Kingdom under the protection of the government.

The UK has hosted a group of Libyan exiles with links to Al Qaeda in Manchester for decades. The exiles were part of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) opposed to the Gaddafi government.

Among that group was Abedi and his family. Abedi’s father, Ramadan Abedi, was a prominent member of LIFG.

Also, Abd al-Baset Azzouz, who left the UK to run a terrorist network in Libya overseen by Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, was part of the group.

LIFG was listed as a terrorist organization connected to Al Qaeda by the United Nations and banned from the UK under anti-terrorism laws.

In the aftermath of 9/11, LIFG seemingly lost all government support and became somewhat of a liability in the rapprochement between the UK and the Gaddafi-led Libyan government that occurred throughout the 2000s.

But in 2011, the LIFG was back in the UK government’s good graces and LIFG exiles were allowed to go back to Libya to participate in the overthrow of Gaddafi. Some reports even claim the UK government actually encouraged the Libyan exiles to go back and that many of the foreign fighters in the Libyan civil war came from Manchester.

The Manchester bombing has all the hallmarks of blowback from the UK government pushing Islamic terrorists to attack another country. One of the same militants the UK government unleashed on Libya came back as an agent of the Islamic State to attack the country and city that fostered him.

This rather obvious point on the connections between foreign policy and terrorism at home was recently articulated in a speech by British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn, with predictable consequences. Corbyn was immediately smeared as blaming the victims and excusing the terrorism.

Despite the smear campaign, a recent poll showed 66% of voters agree with Corbyn on the issue of foreign policy and terrorism.

By Dan Wright / Republished with permission / Shadow Proof / Report a typo

U.S. Govt Doesn’t Want Us Knowing Its True Body Count in Iraq and Syria

Sat, 2017-06-03 15:34

(ANTIWAR.COMThe Pentagon continues to offer “official” civilian death tolls from the US air war in Iraq and Syria that is only a tiny fraction of the killings documented by private NGOs, but even this deliberate undercount is rising at a growing rate, reflecting what is in reality a precipitous spike in civilian deaths.

The last report, from early May, only confirmed 23 civilians killed in the entire first quarter of 2017. That’s been revised upward to 128, as the Pentagon finally admitted to killing 105 civilians n a March 17 incident in Mosul. All indications from independent sources are that the Mosul incident actually killed around 220 people.

The Pentagon added another 27 civilian deaths in their new report, which includes April, with almost all of these deaths also happening in Mosul. This once again is far below the many hundreds reported killed everywhere else, but dramatically more than the single-digit monthly tolls they usually admit to.

This increase thus really isn’t so much them getting closer to being honest about the toll, since they were virtually obliged to finally include the Mosul death toll after publicly admitting to it, but the fact that even their fake numbers are spiking suggests they are at least aware of the trend.

May figures will be particularly important as there were multiple huge incidents of civilian deaths in both Iraq and Syria attributed to US strikes, with hundreds being killed on a weekly basis in the air war. It will be increasingly difficult for the Pentagon to keep its false figures low enough to brag about how “careful” the are about civilian deaths.

By Jason Ditz / Republished with permission / AntiWar.com / Report a typo

‘Literal Colonialism’: Blackwater Founder Calls for ‘American Viceroy’ to Rule Afghanistan

Fri, 2017-06-02 19:42

(COMMONDREAMSDisplaying what one commentator called “sheer 19th century bloodlust and thirst for empire,” Erik Prince, founder of the private mercenary firm Blackwater, argued in The Wall Street Journal this week that the United States should deploy an “East India Company approach” in Afghanistan.

The country, he wrote, should be run by “an American viceroy who would lead all U.S. government and coalition efforts—including command, budget, policy, promotion, and contracting—and report directly to the president.”

Prince continued:

In Afghanistan, the viceroy approach would reduce rampant fraud by focusing spending on initiatives that further the central strategy, rather than handing cash to every outstretched hand from a U.S. system bereft of institutional memory.

Prince insists that these are “cheaper private solutions,” but such privatization would also be a boon for military contractors.

As one critic noted, it is hardly surprising that a “war profiteer sees profit opportunity in war.” Blackwater, the private military company Prince founded in 1997—which now operates under the name Academi—made a fortune off the invasion of Iraq. In 2007, a New York Times editorial noted that Blackwater had “received more than $1 billion” in no-bid contracts from the Bush administration; that same year, Blackwater contractors shot and killed more than a dozen civilians in what came to be known as the Nisour Square massacre.

But “war profiteering” doesn’t quite capture the scope of Prince’s vision for Afghanistan. Despite the fact that private contractors have a long record of abuse and deadly criminality, Prince believes that they should have a stronger presence in a war that has spanned nearly 16 years and cost trillions of dollars.

Such a recommendation, combined with Prince’s invocation of the East India Company—a vestige of the British empire that “conquered, subjugated, and plundered vast tracts of south Asia for a century,” in the words of historian William Dalrymple—amounts to a call for “literal colonialism,” says Anil Kalhan, chair of the New York City Bar Association’s International Human Rights Committee.

Prince’s past connections to President Donald Trump indicate that his advice could potentially have some measure of influence on the White House.

As The Intercept‘s Jeremy Scahill, the author of a bestselling book on Blackwater, reported in January, Prince spoke with the Trump “team on matters related to intelligence and defense” and offered suggestions “on candidates for the Defense and State departments.”

In April, The Washington Post reported that Prince, presenting himself as “an unofficial envoy for Trump,” met in January with “a Russian close to President Vladi­mir Putin as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication between Moscow” and then-President-elect Trump. Prince also donated $250,000 to the Trump campaign following the 2016 Republican National Convention, according to the Post.

Prince’s op-ed comes as the Trump administration is reportedly considering sending more troops to Afghanistan as civilian deaths from the war have “reached record levels.”

by Jake Johnson / Creative Commons / Common Dreams / Report a typo

Police Celebrate Crashing Armored Vehicle Through Front Door in Drug Raid

Fri, 2017-06-02 19:14

(ANTIMEDIA) Local, state, and federal government agencies are celebrating a massive drug bust on Thursday that involved police ramming an armored vehicle through the front door of a private residence in New York.

The bust, which followed a year-long investigation and was connected to 106 arrests this week, occurred in Massena, New York. It was one of twenty raids in the area conducted on Thursday, according to Massena Village Police Chief Adam J. Love.

We hit 20 houses in the village of Massena and currently picked up 31 people,” Love said Thursday, the Watertown Daily Times, a local outlet, reported. By the end of the day, authorities had arrested 90 individuals throughout New York state, including the towns of Ogdensburg and Gouverneur.

The year-long investigation leading up to these raids was the collaborative work of local and state police, U.S. Border Patrol, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). As the Watertown Daily Times summarized:

In two indictments filed by the state Attorney General’s office, 106 people are named in a total of 168 counts including charges of conspiracy, criminal possession and criminal sale of a controlled substance, criminally using drug paraphernalia, hindering prosecution, operating as a major trafficker, weapons possession, possessing stolen property and hindering prosecution.”

At least one suspect arrested in the operation faces up to 50 years behind bars.

In one of the Massena raids, police used a Bearcat to plow through the home of Travis O’Neil — who is now charged with a slew of conspiracy, drug trafficking, and weapons charges — after they reportedly waited nearly an hour for the suspect to open the door. It is unclear why an armored vehicle was necessary in lieu of a traditional battering ram — in a related raid, the latter was used — but police apparently told O’Neill they wanted to make their arrest without conflict after tearing through his front door.

We are now giving you an opportunity to resolve this situation, Travis,” police were heard  [saying] in one video, warning Mr. O’Neill and anyone else in the building,” the Watertown Daily Times noted. “This is your opportunity to come to the rear of the residence. We do not want to harm anyone. If you are in that house right now, come to the rear of the residence.”

Neighbors expressed satisfaction at the raid. As one resident said, ““We have to live here. They have been investigating this for about a year, parking Hummers out in front of the house. It was like advertising. I’m just glad it is over.

The drugs in question included cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl, the latest deadly opioid to hit the streets of the United States. While most Americans can agree that these drugs are dangerous and more should be done to reduce their use, the tactics used by the multitude of agencies in Thursday’s arrests are proven failures.

As Anti-Media has pointed out, the DEA continuously wages drug busts across the country — and despite the agency’s relentless efforts, the drugs continue to flow through communities across the United States. Heroin use, for example, has increased five-fold over the last decade. This has come in spite of the increase in criminal enforcement.

Using SWAT-like tactics, law enforcement around the country has taken the military strategies — originally intended to quell riots and terrorism — and warped their already questionable intended use into day-to-day efforts to enforce drug laws.

But drug use has not stopped, nor has drug trafficking. Investing over a year to take down even a massive drug operation like the one in New York this week ultimately amounts to plugging one hole on a sinking ship as new ones spring open.

For forty years, the United States government has attempted to use ‘law and order’ policies to quell addiction and the ‘black market’ created through prohibition. But, if anything, the raid this week does nothing more than prove those tactics have failed.

Much of this dynamic is due to a two-pronged government approach: on one hand, prohibition itself drives drug addicts toward the dangerous black market, which is all the more unaccountable because it is forced underground by the government’s heavy-handed and ineffective tactics, leading to decreased transparency and accountability;  on the other hand, the problem of addiction has been exacerbated by the federal government’s ongoing approval of dangerous pharmaceutical opioids,  one of which is fentanyl. In fact, numerous heroin addicts first became hooked on prescription painkillers before switching over to heroin. As the government-run National Institute on Drug Abuse has acknowledged:

A study of young, urban injection drug users interviewed in 2008 and 2009 found that 86 percent had used opioid pain relievers nonmedically prior to using heroin, and their initiation into nonmedical use was characterized by three main sources of opioids: family, friends, or personal prescriptions.”

Despite these systemic failures — and mounting evidence that decriminalizing drug use is a viable solution — the Trump administration is preparing to double down on criminal enforcement, working to re-impose mandatory minimums for drug crimes. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has touted these criminal enforcement tactics, failing to acknowledge the decades of evidence proving they do not solve the problem of drug abuse — and law enforcement continues to follow suit, as does a significant portion of the American public.

As Massena Police Chief Love said of their Thursday operation, “Everything went well. There were reactions with community members clapping, it was positive.”

“We’re not going to stop and we are going to do everything we can to make Massena drug-free,” he also said.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

What You’re Not Being Told About the Paris Climate Agreement

Fri, 2017-06-02 15:30

(ANTIMEDIA Op-EdPresident Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord has thrown the world into a blazing furnace full of weeping and gnashing of teeth—or the political world, at least, has been thrown into a fiery tizzy.

The front page of the New York Daily News reads  “TRUMP TO WORLD: DROP DEAD, Decides to hell with science, Earth’s future.”

Former President Barack Obama broke his silence, saying, in part, that with this decision the Trump administration “joins a small handful of nations that reject the future.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry lambasted Trump’s decision as “an ignorant, cynical appeal to an anti-science, special-interest faction,” as well as saying, “This choice will rightly be remembered as one of the most shameful any president has made.”

And the list goes on and on and on.

To hear these people talk, apparently, the human race can only progress into the future and create new industries and technologies if we are flogged into it begrudgingly by our ‘wise’ government and corporate leaders.

Are we really ready to presume what human society will look like several decades from now? Are we seriously expected to believe that government action is the only way to tackle the problem of climate change? If we fail to use the heavy hand of government to brave the future, why should we assume the human race will fail to innovate and adapt to complex challenges on its own?

Imagine, if you will, a world where you cannot turn to governments to solve problems such as climate change.

How would you achieve your righteous ends? Would you simply do nothing if you could not turn to government?

I ask because too often, noble goals serve as a Trojan Horse for political control.

Governments often present us with grand solutions as gifts for our real and perceived problems, but once inside the gates, they proceed to saddle our communities with a slew of regulations, mandates, taxes, diktats, quotas, subsidies, penalties and the like. The cursed gift of government, it seems, is always a central plan that conflates voluntary cooperation, collective action, and even community itself with centralized political control.

But we do not need the trappings of central planning to solve our collective problems. Society can run itself, thank you very much; it needs no single creator or director.

Society already has great gifts for solving complex human issues—individual liberty, initiative, and ingenuity, along with the free and open exchange of goods and ideas—and we need not sacrifice these liberal benefactors of the modern world to dream impossible dreams and fight unbeatable foes. The greatest achievements of the human race have not come from government committees and accords, but from intrepid yet everyday individuals working in concert to tackle the unknown and implacable through innovation and persuasion.

Yet, rather than allowing people to freely choose and coordinate their own plans in our common struggle against nature, too many people first brand other people as the problem. Too many would rather rely on commanding and controlling others to fix humanity’s wicked problems than freely solve the problem themselves. Too many conflate the government’s failure to act as society signaling we are resigned to do nothing—thus, the weeping and gnashing of teeth over Donald Trump’s recent decision.

I find all the hysterics and tears of hubris laughable. This mindset deserves to be mocked for its lack of imagination and obsequious acceptance of corporate cronyism and global governance as the only path to the future; it deserves to be mocked for claiming the singular appearance of “doing something” (without much effect) is better than actually tackling the problem from many different directions; it deserves to be mocked even on environmental activist grounds as a list of empty promises and half-measures, as a perversion of the cause, just as a free trader may mock NAFTA or an anti-war activist may mock Barack Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize; and it deserves to be mocked for how little it respects the ability of average people to change their station and adapt to the changing world on their own without the pretentious prodding of government leaders.

I’m willing to bet the existence of the entire human race that without the Paris Climate Accord, we will rise to meet the challenge of climate change successfully. Further, if we would shrink government generally—i.e. give average people the freedom to think and trade as they wish in the energy sector or any other industry—then by the accord’s own target year of 2100, the market (which is simply free people trading and producing as they wish based on their own enlightenment) will have reduced carbon emissions and given us new technologies beyond the wildest dreams of those now bemoaning the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.

In fact, the U.S. clean energy sector has grown leaps and bounds in only the last few years despite the lack of a robust central plan. Coal is already giving way to cleaner forms of energy and will continue to do so no matter what Donald Trump promises the miners of West Virginia. And the fact that there is this burgeoning clean energy industry does not mean we should engage in crony capitalism and wealth redistribution between nations to “prime the pump.” Picking winners and losers in the clean energy sector is just as bad as doing so in any other sector (including the fossil fuels industry.). Must we really kowtow to corporations and their client states by granting them government privileges and sweetheart deals to create new technologies they already have enough incentive to create anyway?

No, if we wish to solve the climate change problem, I suggest we try, first and foremost, to create products and services that will actually make people’s lives better immediately rather than imposing immense costs upfront with no clear time horizon wherein we reap the benefits. Just as one need not convince people of evolution before they take vaccines or life-saving drugs, there’s no need to convince people of the science of climate change if you can sell them a better, cheaper, cleaner, and more practical way to power their lives. Shaming, lecturing, and trying to control people’s behavior through the political process for unclear results and opaque benefits is not serving this cause well, as sound as the science and as noble as the cause may be.

Ironically enough, Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord may very well usher in a new era of initiative absent the federal government. After Trump’s decision, many industry leaders, mayors, and governors pledged to pursue solutions to climate change absent the federal government. As the CEO of General Electric Jeff Immelt tweeted, “Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government.

That’s the spirit, Jeff, but my only question is: what the hell have you been waiting for?

Industry and the people of the United States should have been saying this long ago. It’s time to stop looking to central governments and global committees—whether the issue is climate change or poverty or education or whatever—to make our world a better place.

The time for us to pursue the future ourselves is long overdue, and it would be a shame to sell ourselves and the future short because we’re too busy bickering over political power.

Opinion / Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

Democratic Operative Says Hillary Clinton’s DNC Claims Are “F***ing Bulls***”

Fri, 2017-06-02 14:14

(ZHEAngry Democrats are pushing back against criticisms that Hillary Clinton levied against the party during an interview earlier this week, saying Clinton “mischaracterized” the DNC’s work and the quality of its data operation while “needlessly stoking internal divisions,” according to the Hill.

During an interview with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg at the Recode “Code” conference earlier this week, Clinton blamed the FBI, DNC, Russian agents – everyone but herself – for her stunning election loss in November. RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel said Clinton’s comments were completely lacking in self-awareness.

Clinton has repeatedly blamed the DNC even though leaked emails have shown that the committee favored her during her primary fight against Sen. Bernie Sanders. Clinton blasted the committee as having “mediocre to poor, non-existent, wrong” data operation, the Hill reported. The remarks were also seen as a rebuke of President Obama, who chose the leaders of the DNC during his tenure.

This is all about the last campaign. And really, what Democrats should be focusing on, and what I think Hillary Clinton should be figuring out, is how do we empower the DNC to have the best data resources to win races this year, in 2018 and 2020,” a former DNC aide said.

“Having hard feelings about the data that you may or may not have received in 2016 ultimately is not the reason why we lost.”

The former secretary of state blamed the party’s polling data for failing to predict how close the race was in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – the three battleground states that ultimately handed the election to Trump. But at least one former DNCer vehemently pushed back against Clinton’s allegations, saying that she was trying to blame the DNC for her own lapse in judgment.

Andrew Therriault, who served as the DNC’s director of data science until last June, said Clinton’s claims were “f—ing bulls—” in a series of tweets that have since been deleted.

Therriault accused Clinton’s team of ignoring DNC data that warned of a close race in the three states that, by narrow margins, ultimately handed Trump his Electoral College victory: Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

“All that said, irony of her bashing DNC data: *our* models never had mi/wi/pa looking even close to safe. Her team thought they knew better,” Therriault wrote.

As the Hill reports, Clinton made several appearances in Pennsylvania during the final months of the campaign, including on the eve of the election. But she spent little time campaigning in Michigan and Wisconsin. Ultimately, both states flipped from the Democrats to the GOP column for the first time in decades.

Another Democratic operative – identified as a “strong Clinton supporter – noted that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper used the same data that Clinton had access to, but managed to win in a battleground state that went for Trump.

John Hagner, a Democratic consultant who tapped the same DNC database while working on congressional and gubernatorial races last cycle, said Clinton misfired in criticizing the data in lieu of the campaign operatives entrusted to use it effectively.

The data are merely the “raw ingredients,” he said, while the targeting operation is “the chef that decides what to do with them.” The chef, in this case, was Clinton’s campaign team.

Roy Cooper used the same data in North Carolina and won,” Hagner said Thursday by phone, referring to the state’s newly elected Democratic governor. “So it’s not that the data didn’t work, it’s that you have to make different decisions with it.

“Singling out the DNC, which does the best that they can do with a system that’s hard to work with, blaming them and not the decisions that got made with that data — which is definitely her campaign’s responsibility — just seemed really off-key.”

The Republicans, for their part, quickly capitalized on Hillary’s contentious remarks, highlighting her comments in press releases sent to reporters with subject lines like “We Finally Agree With Hillary” the Hill reported.

For reasons that we’ll probably never understand, the DNC decided not to hit back against Hillary. Instead, the organization sent the Hill a statement highlighting new DNC Chairman Tom Perez’s efforts to improve party infrastructure.

“Tom has said before that the DNC was not firing on all cylinders and that’s why he did a top-to-bottom review that included technology,” DNC spokesman Michael Tyler said.

“Tom is already deeply engaged with the outpouring of support from Democrats across the country, from Silicon Valley to suburban Georgia, who want to help improve the data and tech, get it in the hands of more organizers everywhere, and build the grassroots funding stream required to support those efforts.”

Unsurprisingly, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz didn’t return a call for comment – despite, as the Hill noted, serving as DNC Chair for nearly all of the Clinton primary campaign.

By Tyler Durden / Republished with permission / Zero Hedge / Report a typo

America’s First Organic Fast Food Chain Is Expanding Rapidly (and Pays $14 an Hour)

Fri, 2017-06-02 12:29

(ANTIMEDIA) The United States’ first certified organic fast food chain also pays its workers a living wage — and they’re having success with consumers as they expand beyond their first two locations.

Organic Coup was founded by the leaders of Costco’s highly lucrative organic division. Under the leadership of Dennis Hoover, a 33-year veteran of the wholesale chain, Costco became one of the country’s largest organic retailers, even lending funds to organic farmers to help them keep up with demand. Hoover launched Organic Coup last year, and thanks to his reputation, the growing chain secured funding from Jim Sinegal, Costco’s founder and former CEO, and Richard Galanti, Costco’s Chief Financial Officer.

Organic Coup, which, according to its website, rejects “Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), toxic chemicals and pesticides, [and] the use of antibiotics or added hormones in livestock,” started small in Northern California. Its first two outlets in San Francisco and Pleasanton started serving a variety of USDA-certified organic products, and they’re also certified by the nonprofit California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). As Anti-Media summarized last year:

The two locations currently open for business, both located in Northern California, serve crispy chicken sandwiches fried in organic coconut oil and topped with spicy organic vegetables on an organic bun. The chicken is provided by the popular organic brand, Mary’s Chicken and also comes in wrap and bowl form. Organic Coup offers a variety of organic sauces, as well as chicken tenders on the side.

For dessert, Organic Coup serves organic popcorn drizzled in organic chocolate and caramel (perhaps a more appealing option to health conscious consumers than McDonald’s recent addition of chocolate drizzled fries). They also plan to add organic tater tots and breakfast burritos to the menu.”

Sure enough, they now offer breakfast burritos (with the option to add guacamole), as well as breakfast bowls – and of course, tater tots. As we noted last year, there are some small caveats:

While the ambitious project is encouraging, it’s important to note that USDA organic certification does not guarantee designated products are 100 percent organic. By the federal agency’s standards, to receive the general organic label, foods can be just 95 percent organic. Further, though the company touts its commitment to sustainability, non-meat eaters might balk at the claim, considering the chain’s main ingredient is chicken. Mary’s Chicken is considered Step 3 organic, which, while organic, has lower standards than the highest Step 5 ranking.

Nevertheless, Organic Coup’s adherence to these standards represents far more than any other fast food chain currently on the market — an effort they view as a form of protest.

“A ‘coup’ is a takeover — and that’s our vision: an organic takeover of the fast food industry. Totally disruptive and bold,” the company explains. “The Organic Coup represents a new day and a new attitude about fast food – fast food can be good food.

Most impressively, workers at the San Francisco location are paid $16 per hour while those at their increasing number of locations earn $14 per hour. As we reported:

“‘We believe in ‘Team Coup’ (our employees) and we are investing in them with a livable wage that sets a new standard in fast food,’ their website reads. While fast food employees across the country protest in favor of government-mandated higher wages, Organic Coup is setting its own standards.”

They also prioritize promoting employees to higher positions rather than hiring from outside the company.

Organic Coup spokeswoman Erica Welton attributes their ability to pay well and serve organic food to a variety of factors. “We have a very tight menu and have very focused metrics. We have amazing partners who believe in what we are doing and are committed to our success,” she told Anti-Media in an email.

Thanks to the $7 million in funding they secured last year, Organic Coup is expanding. This time last year they had two locations — now they have nine. From Oakland to Berkeley to Pleasant Hill, the chain is still rooted in the Bay Area — but they are continuing to branch out.

According to Welton, Organic Coup is opening a location in Seattle this year and looking for other unique outposts. “We are looking to open in our first NFL stadium this year and our first tech cafeteria,” she said, also expressing a desire to expand to Los Angeles — ideally at Disneyland. She says the company is also looking to take on Las Vegas and eventually, the whole world.

Though the menu centers around chicken, which, to an increasing number of consumers is unsustainable, Welton says they offer some vegetarian and vegan options, as well. “We have a vegetarian wrap — multigrain tortilla, oat chia flax cabbage, carrots, pickled onions, jalapeños guacamole, and crispy potatoes,” she said. They’re also testing out an organic, vegan acai bowl.

While the food options and flavors are certainly a draw (full disclaimer: I’ve tried it and love it), it’s the philosophy and goals underlying them that make Organic Coup a smart choice for increasingly conscious eaters. They believe education is vital to changing the currently dismal scope of fast food in the United States, and they seek to provide more accountability. “When you buy fast food or fast casual it doesn’t come with a list of ingredients,” Welton says. “Websites have them listed but how many people really take the time to dig in and compare. We are all so busy!

Instead, she says,  “We want to be the first fast food/fast casual in America to serve our food with ingredient statement.” In doing so, the chain may be able to start a trend in food transparency.

Still, she doesn’t chastise bigger fast food chains that are slowly adopting cleaner ingredients. Companies like McDonald’s have slowly begun making minor changes to make their menus more appealing to the changing preferences of American consumers, who are increasingly concerned with the low-quality food offered by such fast food giants; for example, McDonald’s recently stopped using antibiotics in their chicken, though they have not made such a commitment to their beef. To some, like this Anti-Media reporter, it’s a sign of a positive trend — but it’s not enough. To Welton, however, any improvements are welcome.

I believe all efforts to clean up food should be applauded!  It took us 40, 50 maybe 60 years to get in this situation,” she says. “[It’s] hard to turn big ships like McDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A. This is why it was so important for us to be certified organic. We live to this USDA Organic standard-food, ingredients, cleaning supplies. We want our customers to have confidence in what we are serving. We are going all the way.

Creative Commons / Anti-Media / Report a typo

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