The Deep State

February 23, 2014 in AltVox, Poverty, Transparency by Juan Cole

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Meet Monsanto’s Newest Vegetables

February 1, 2014 in Human Rights, Transparency, Vegan/Vegetarian by activist360

Monsanto, everyone’s favorite food villain, is rolling out a new crop of improved veggies — but none of them are GMOs. Or rather, their genes are modified, but in the old-fashioned way: careful cross-breeding to promote desirable traits.

Meet the new veggies >

The Worst Places in the World

January 26, 2014 in Human Rights, Pollution, Transparency, Water by activist360


Produced By Online Masters in Public Health

Number on Guantanamo Hunger Strike Doubles in Under a Month

January 18, 2014 in Human Rights, Transparency by activist360

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 12, 2014
8:59 AM
CONTACT: Reprieve
Email: donald.campbell[AT]reprieve.org.uk
clemency.wells[AT]reprieve.org.uk
Phone: +44 (0) 207 553 8140

LONDON – January 12 – A new report has revealed that the number of hunger strikers in Guantanamo has doubled since the final set of official figures was released by the US authorities on December 2 2013.

The report, compiled by human rights charity Reprieve, uses prisoner testimony to reveal that 33 men detained in Guantanamo are on hunger strike, with 16 being force fed. The Joint Task Force at Guantanamo, which runs the prison, announced in December of 2013 that they would no longer release official figures of those on hunger strike because they did not want to ‘further their protests’.

The report also reveals that authorities at the prison are punishing those on hunger strike by sending them to the strictest of the camps, ‘Camp V Echo’. One detainee described his experiences there to his lawyer at Reprieve:

“My cell in the dreadful Camp V Echo is constructed in a strange manner. It is designed to torture the person who is held there. All the surfaces made of steel. The bed is steel. The walls are steel. The floor is steel. The ceiling is steel. There is no toilet, but the hole in the ground is made of steel.”

British resident Shaker Aamer, who remains imprisoned despite having been cleared by both the Bush and Obama administrations, said: “[I was] strapped to the bed for 24 hours except to use the toilet. The [force-feeding] tube was in 24 hours a day. We would be fed for 30-40 minutes each time, with Ensure cans, two cans, three times a day. Some of the prisoners became zombies, as if they were already dead. I dropped weight to 130 pounds. I told the doctors, ‘I want to die peacefully. I want no intervention.’ But they refused this.”

Mr Aamer’s British wife and four British children, the youngest of whom he has never met, live in London. British Prime Minister David Cameron has raised his case directly with President Obama, yet Mr Aamer remains imprisoned. There is an ongoing police investigation into Mr Aamer’s treatment at the hands of British and US officials.

155 men are still detained in Guantanamo Bay, 77 of who have been cleared for release. Yesterday (Saturday) marked the twelfth anniversary of the first arrival of prisoners at the detention camp. Of the 779 men known to have been held there 624 have been released. More prisoners have died than have been put on trial.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s Director and Guantanamo lawyer, said: “Guantanamo Bay has for years been a blot on the US’ reputation and a recruiting tool for extremists. The conditions there are worsening and more men are going on hunger strike, and being force fed, as a result. Shaker Aamer could be transferred out of there to his home and his family in the UK tomorrow. The US must send Shaker and the other cleared men home and close the prison.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Clemency Wells or Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8161 / 8166 / clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. The comments about why the Guantanamo authorities stopped releasing figures ofmen on hunger strike can be found, here.

###

Reprieve is a UK-based human rights organization that uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay.

USDA Ignores Harms from Genetically Engineered Crops

January 12, 2014 in Climate Change, Pollution, Sustainability, Transparency by activist360

Agency overlooks threats of new “Agent Orange” crops engineered to resist potent toxic herbicide

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service released its draft Environmental Impact Statement that dismisses the significant harms of a new class of genetically engineered crops and the powerful and toxic herbicide they were manufactured to resist: Dow AgroScience’s 2,4-D resistant “Enlist” corn and soy. The draft EIS will be available for public review and comment for 45 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen on January 10, 2014.

The following is a statement from Paul Achitoff, Managing Attorney at Earthjustice:

“Most of the first generation of genetically engineered crops were designed to be immune to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a chemical that includes the active ingredient glyphosate. These crops allowed farmers to douse their fields with the chemical, hoping to kill every plant except the crop. Use of Roundup skyrocketed as a result. And, as scientists warned, some naturally immune weeds survived and reproduced, and now millions of acres of farmland are infested with Roundup-resistant weeds. The industry’s response? They genetically engineered a new generation of crops to be immune to a more toxic herbicide, 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange, the notorious defoliant manufactured by Monsanto and Dow.

“The potent and toxic 2,4-D has been linked to many human health problems. It also is likely to harm non-genetically engineered crops in neighboring fields, threaten endangered species, and ultimately lead to the development of weeds that are resistant to it, leading to even more problems. The USDA is doing the industry’s bidding and gravely mishandling the threats of these herbicides and the genetically engineered crops designed to resist them.

“In its just-released Environmental Impact Statement, USDA proposes to allow farmers to plant 2,4-D resistant corn and soy wherever they please without any government oversight, and predictably downplays any and all impacts. These crops will, like their predecessors, lead to much greater use of even more dangerous chemicals, the development of more herbicide-resistant weeds, destruction and genetic contamination of neighboring crops, and severe economic impacts on other farmers. The EIS fails entirely to even assess many of these impacts. The USDA is perpetuating a vicious cycle of greater and greater toxic chemical use on farmland. It’s a disastrous path for the USDA to go down, one the American public should have serious concerns about, and an issue we hope Americans come out in droves to comment on.”

A copy of the draft EIS provided to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can be reviewed at: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/brs/aphisdocs/24d_deis.pdf

Who Owns Your Congressman?

December 23, 2013 in AltVox, Transparency by activist360

Who Owns Your Congressman?

by jacob

New Study: 82 of Top 100 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2012

July 31, 2013 in Transparency by jacob

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 31, 2013, 12:38 PM
CONTACT: US PIRG
Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG 202-461-3822 (o), 203-520-1427 (c), dsmith@pirg.org

Companies Hold $1.2 Trillion Offshore, Untaxed by U.S.

WASHINGTON - July 31 - With Congress considering big cuts to public programs, U.S. PIRG released fresh evidence that the vast majority of large companies are dodging taxes by stashing money in offshore tax havens. In a study of the top 100 publicly traded companies, as measured by revenue, the study reveals that 82 maintain subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. Collectively, the companies report holding nearly $1.2 trillion offshore, with 15 companies accounting for two-thirds of the offshore cash.

Download the report, “Offshore Shell Games,” here.

"When corporations use tax havens to dodge the taxes they owe, the rest of us pay the price, either through higher taxes, cuts to important programs, or a bigger deficit," said Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Advocate and report author. "It also puts small businesses without expensive tax attorneys at a big competitive disadvantage. It's time for Congress to put an end to offshore tax dodging," he added.

Every year, U.S. corporations avoid paying an estimated $90 billion in federal taxes by stashing profits in offshore tax havens. U.S. PIRG's new study shows that while most large companies use tax havens, the benefits of offshore tax loopholes are especially concentrated among a narrow set of companies.

Key findings of the report include:

  • 82 of the top 100 publicly traded U.S. companies operate subsidiaries in tax haven jurisdictions, as of 2012. All told, these 82 companies maintain 2,686 tax haven subsidiaries. The 15 companies with the most money held offshore collectively operate 1,897 tax haven subsidiaries.
  • The 15 companies with the most money offshore hold a combined $776 billion overseas. That is 66 percent of the nearly $1.2 trillion that the top 100 companies report holding offshore.
  • Only 21 of the top 100 publicly traded companies disclose the amount they would expect to pay in U.S. taxes if they didn't keep profits offshore. All told, these 21 companies would collectively owe more than $93 billion in additional federal taxes, which is close to the entire state budget of California. The average tax rate the 21 companies currently pay to other countries on this income is a mere 6.9 percent.

Companies highlighted by the study include:

  • Bank of America: The bank reports having 316 subsidiaries in offshore tax havens – more than any other company. The bank, which was kept afloat by taxpayers during the 2008 financial meltdown, now keeps $17.2 billion offshore, on which it would otherwise owe $4.5 billion in U.S. taxes.
  • Oracle: The tech giant reports having $20.9 billion stored offshore and maintaining five subsidiaries in offshore tax havens. The company disclosed that it would owe $7.3 billion in U.S. taxes on those profits if they were not offshore. Oracle currently pays a tax rate of less than one percent to foreign governments on its offshore cash, suggesting that most of the money is kept in tax havens.
  • Google: The company reported operating 25 subsidiaries in tax havens in 2009, but since 2010 only discloses two, both in Ireland. During that period, it increased the amount of cash it had reported offshore from $7.7 billion to $33.3 billion. An academic analysis found that, as of 2012, the 23 no-longer-disclosed tax haven subsidiaries were still operating but that Google was choosing not to include them in its annual filings.

"These companies benefit from America's infrastructure, educated workforce, security, and access to the largest consumer market in the world. They should not be able to use loopholes to get out of paying for it," concluded Smith.

The report concludes that to end tax haven abuse, Congress should end incentives for companies to shift profits offshore, close the most egregious offshore loopholes, strengthen tax enforcement, and increase transparency. Such measures are included in Senator Levin's CUT Loopholes Act (S.268).

###

U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the American public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. With a strong network of researchers, advocates, organizers and students in state capitols across the country, we take on the special interests on issues, such as product safety,political corruption, prescription drugs and voting rights,where these interests stand in the way of reform and progress.

2,500 California Prisoners Remain on Hunger Strike Over Long-term Solitary Confinement — Without Even a Window

July 17, 2013 in Human Rights, Transparency by journalist

The Los Angeles Times reports: “2,500 inmates still on hunger strike, Lancaster on lockdown.” Reuters reported Monday: “More than 2,500 prisoners in 17 prisons in California remained on hunger strike on Monday, more than a week after refusing food to demand an end to a policy of housing prisoners believed to be associated with gangs in near-isolation for years on end.”

JULES LOBEL, lobel at law.pitt.edu
President of the Center for Constitutional Rights and professor of law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Lobel is the lead attorney representing prisoners at Pelican Bay in CCR’s lawsuit challenging long-term solitary confinement in California prisons. He said today on “Democracy Now!“:

“My clients have spent in some case over two decades in a cell with no windows. They’re not allowed any phone calls — the only way I can get a phone call is through court order. Otherwise they’re allowed no legal phone calls, no family phone calls, no friend phone calls. This is a more draconian situation than most situations of solitary in the United States — and about 80,000 people in the United States are put in solitary. It’s an inhumane practice, but in California they go to an extreme, placing people without any windows, without any phone calls, trying to isolate them.”

MUTOPE DUGUMA aka JAMES CRAWFORD, via Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity at gmail.com
Duguma is a prisoner at Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, California, which organized the state-wide hunger strike. He authored “The Call” that initiated the first round of hunger strikes in 2011. He was participating in the current strike as of July 8. Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity can also connect media to former prisoners and family of current prisoners. The program “Making Contact” recently had an edition titled “Survivors of Solitary Confinement.”

Duguma wrote a letter to Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity on Thursday, July 11, and the organization received that letter on Monday, July 15. Wrote Duguma:

“We are in our fourth day and our keepers have remained true to form, because on [Thursday, July 11] they came and kidnapped my [cellmate] and took him to hell row. Hell row is an even more oppressive number of cells used as further sensory deprivation and torture for those already in prolonged isolation. They, for some reason, did not take me. You know that we remain under the usual oppressive conditions, but hell row is about breaking one’s spirits and tearing them down in hopes that they break down, but I don’t think the CDCR [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] realize it, but each and everyone they took to hell row are strong men. They will take their torture head on which is what worries me, and I know that PBSP [Pelican Bay State Prison] officials know this. We all understand what we got to do in order to expose what we [have] been suffering for years without any just cause. Therefore we have no choice but to peacefully protest. Well, I want you all to know [that] despite our circumstances we are strong.”

SARAH SHOURD, sarah at sarahshourd.com, sarahshourd.com
Shourd spent 410 days in solitary confinement while held as a political hostage by the Iranian Government in 2009-2010. She is an author, prisoner rights advocate and contributing editor at Solitary Watch currently based in Oakland, California. Her memoir, co-authored by her husband Shane Bauer and friend Josh Fattal, who were held hostage with her, will be published in Spring 2014.

Shourd wrote an op-ed for the Huffington Post in April. In it she wrote:

“In prolonged isolation, the human psyche slowly self-destructs. On my worst days, I screamed and beat at the walls. I experienced hallucinations — bright flashing lights and phantom footsteps — nightmares, insomnia, heart palpitations, lethargy, clinical depression, and passive suicidal thoughts. I would pace my cell incessantly, or crouch like an animal by the food slot at the bottom of my cell door, listening for any sound to distract me. When I finally got books and television, I found it difficult to concentrate. I would sometimes spend an entire afternoon trying to read the same page, until I got fed up and threw my book against the wall. ...

“When I began to research the use of solitary confinement in the United States, I was shocked to learn that tens of thousands of people are subject to no-touch torture or prolonged isolation on any given day. I learned that immigrants and people deemed a ‘national security risk’ are held in indefinite detention without legal representation or the right to due process, just like I had been. How could I fail to draw a connection between their treatment and my own?”

Shane Bauer recently wrote the piece “Solitary in Iran Nearly Broke Me. Then I Went Inside America’s Prisons:” “When, after five weeks, my knees buckled and I fell to the ground utterly broken, sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the patch of sunlight that brought me back.” Bauer notes that in solitary confinement units in California he recently witnessed: “there are no windows.”

ED MEAD, mead at prisonart.org
Mead is director of the Prison Art Project and a former prisoner. He recently wrote the piece “The Problem with U.S. Prisons,” which states:

“The United States has 4 percent of the world’s population, yet holds 25 percent of the global prisoners. In 1970 there were roughly 350,000 people in our jails and prisons. Today there are 2.3 million people behind bars in America. Another 7.3 million under some form of judicial supervision (parole, probation, etc.), and there are 14 million ex‐convicts out on the streets. That’s nearly 25 million people! Add in the family members and loved ones of people impacted by the criminal justice system in the United States and you can see the potential for building a movement for progressive change. ...

“There are men who have served over 40 years in an isolation cell in Pelican Bay Prison’s infamous Security Housing Unit, subjected to sensory deprivation, 23 hours a day in an area half the size of your bathroom. They are not being held for any infraction of prison rules, but rather because prison officials believe these men might be gang members. Others have done 30, 25, 20, etc. years in these torture chambers — and long-term isolation is a form of torture.”

by sam

Edward Snowden a “Profile in Courage” Says Church Committee Whistleblower

June 10, 2013 in Transparency by sam

Senator Frank Church

Senator Frank Church

Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian has revealed the identity of Edward Snowden, the source for a string of pieces on the NSA, and posted a video interview with him. Recent revelations include: “NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily,” “NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others” and “Boundless Informant: the NSA’s secret tool to track global surveillance data.”

Greenwald has noted in recent interviews that “these lessons should have been learned from the Church Committee.”

CHRISTOPHER H. PYLE, cpyle at mtholyoke.edu

Pyle teaches constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke College. He is the author of Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics and Getting Away with Torture.

In 1970, he disclosed the U.S. military’s surveillance of the civil rights and anti-war movements and worked as a consultant to three Congressional committees, including the Church Committee.

Pyle just wrote the piece “Edward Snowden: Profile in Courage,” which states: “Edward Snowden may go down in history as one of this nation’s most important whistleblowers. He is certainly one of the bravest.

“Like Daniel Ellsberg, who disclosed the Pentagon Papers [and who is supporting Snowden], Snowden is a man of principle. ‘The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to,’ he told interviewers.

‘There is no public oversight. The result is that [NSA employees] have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.’ For example, he said, he could have accessed anyone’s e-mail, including the president’s.

“This is not the first time that the American people have learned that their intelligence agencies are out of control. I revealed the military’s surveillance of the civil rights and anti-war movements in 1970. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post disclosed the Watergate burglary by White House operatives, which led Congress to create two select committees to investigate the entire intelligence community.

“Among other things, the committees discovered that the National Security Agency had a huge watchlist of civil rights and anti-war protesters whose phone calls it was intercepting. The FBI had bugged the hotel rooms of Martin Luther King and tried to blackmail him into committing suicide rather than accept the Nobel Peace Prize. The CIA had tried to hire the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro. President Richard M. Nixon used the Internal Revenue Service to audit the taxes of his political enemies. His aides tried to destroy Daniel Ellsberg for leaking a history of the Vietnam War, both by prosecuting him and by burglarizing his psychiatrist’s office for embarrassing information. The FBI opened enormous amounts of first-class mail of law-abiding citizens in direct violation of the criminal law.

“Since then the technology has changed. The old Hoover vacuum cleaner has been redesigned for the digital age. It is now attached to the Internet, where it secretly collects the contents of everyone’s ‘audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs’ from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. It also siphons billions of telephone communications and Internet messages off the fiber optic cables that enter and pass through the United States. None of us has a reasonable expectation of privacy any more.

“The Fourth Amendment used to require specific judicial authorization before the government could undertake a seizure. No longer, according to the secret FISA court. Secret seizures of ‘metadata’ now precede individualized searches. Starting this fall, this information will be stored in a huge warehouse at Camp William, Utah, where it can be searched by computers whenever the military decides to re-label one of us a ‘person of interest,’ like a reporter, a suspected leaker, or a Congressman it doesn’t like.

“Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), claims not to be worried, but he should be. Before Watergate, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover had 24 file cabinet drawers full of dirt on politicians just like Graham. Hoover let each politician know that the Bureau had found the compromising information while on some other search, but promised not to reveal it. Not surprising, Hoover’s abuses of power were not challenged until he died. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who used to prosecute Wall Street swindlers, was driven from office when data miners at the U.S. Treasury Department leaked news that he had been laundering money to pay call girls. …

“Now that the story is out, President Barack Obama ‘welcomes’ a ‘conversation’ about them. Baloney. The function of secrecy is to prevent conversation, not welcome it. The Obama administration is a great supporter of privacy, but only for itself. …

“The president insists that no one is listening to our phone calls, but Snowden said he could. Of course, we now know that President George W. Bush lied us into the Iraq War, and falsely denied authorized a massive program of warrantless wiretapping, then a felony under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The NSA and FBI both denied their illegal wiretapping and mail opening programs in the 1950s and 1960s. In 2004, the Justice Department assured the Supreme Court that our government did not torture people, just a few hours before the torture photos from Abu Ghraib were broadcast on national television. Why should we believe such people now?

“Secret government was curbed in the 1970s. President Nixon was driven from office. The NSA’s watchlist was shut down; the FBI was returned to law enforcement. Wiretapping was brought under the supervision of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Assassinations were forbidden by executive order, and the campaign to punish leakers ended when White House aides were caught trying to suborn Ellsberg’s judge. Both Houses of Congress created intelligence committees to oversee our secret agencies.

“Unfortunately, these efforts at oversight have largely failed. Judge Vinson’s order to Verizon proves beyond cavil that the secret FISA court is a rubber stamp for the indiscriminate seizure of all sorts of personal records. …

“Seventy percent of the federal government’s intelligence budget now goes to private contractors. Far from overseeing the agencies, members of Congress court them, hoping to obtain business for companies that contribute generously to their campaigns. …

“Americans can no longer trust the President, Congress, or the courts to protect them, or the reporters, whistleblowers, and politicians on whom our democracy relies. Our government has been massively compromised by campaign contributions and executive secrecy.”

The online activist group Rootsaction.org has begun a petition supporting Snowden’s actions.

States Deciding Not to Look at Seismic Risks of Drilling

March 26, 2013 in Tar Sands, Transparency by FairWarning

Nine months after a National Academy of Sciences panel said oil and gas regulators should take steps to prevent man-made earthquakes, officials in key states are ignoring quake potential as they rewrite their drilling rules.

Two major drilling states, California and Texas, are overhauling their drilling rules without looking at the seismic risks linked to deep injection of drilling and hydraulic fracturing wastewater. New York regulators dismissed earthquake concerns in their drawn-out process of updating drilling rules.

One possible exception, though, may be Illinois. Comprehensive legislation introduced there mirrors the "traffic light" regulation system suggested in the NAS report. That system would allow small earthquakes but would shut down wells when public safety is at risk.

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