The Roundup for May 20th, 2015

Onward to Iceland and onward to the last final.

International Politics

Overall

– Michelle Chen: “EU Officials Are Considering Bombing Libyan Smuggling Boats. That’s the Last Thing Refugees Need“; Damn right

– French authorities say their forces killed two major leaders of al-Qaeda in Mali

– Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will be going to Russia to get more arms to fight the Islamic State

Middle East

Part two of three with Norman Finkelstein who explains the issue of missiles used between Israel and Hamas; Very important analysis I might add

– On second thought, Israel won’t ban Palestinians from boarding buses

– There’s a building built by the U.S. in Afghanistan that’s never been used. A shame since it cost taxpayers $25 million

– The leader of the Houthis in Yemen said the organization supports peace talks sponsored by the United Nations

– If you’re an Iraqi, the best way to make your government is to use social media

– The police chief of Anbar was dismissed by an Iraqi official after the fall of Ramadi (more…)

Over Easy: Around the World

Welcome to Thursday’s Over Easy, a continuation of Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner and its tradition of giving an overview of news our everyday media doesn’t cover, issues that we ought to consider outside the U.S. scene.

The drive that gave ISIS control of Ramadi showed evidence of Iraqi police deserting their posts during the fighting, occasioning the replacement of Anbar province’s police chief. (more…)

Late Night FDL: Waking Up

King King – Waking Up

British blues band King King released a track from their new album, Reaching For The Light

King King have released a lyric video for their track Waking Up…

It’s taken from the band’s latest album, Reaching For The Light, launched earlier this month via Manhaton Records and available now.

Mainman Alan Nimmo recently said: “We’re really proud of the album. It’s faster, louder, more energetic and more exciting. It’s got the potential to blow the roof off.”

What’s on your mind tonite…?

Libya Still Reeling From 2011 NATO Removal Of Gadhafi

From Libya to Mali, Nigeria and Somalia, NATO’s 2011 intervention against Moammar Gadhafi has had an undeniable domino effect — but when do the dominoes stop falling?

By Sean Nevins

Bernardino León, head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya, told NPR last week that Libya is on the verge of complete economic and political collapse. Adding to this, he asserted, there could be more than half a million people waiting in the country to seek asylum across the Mediterranean in Europe.

“[W]e know that there are a lot of human rights abuses — asking for money, asking for prostitution in the case of women — something very common for people transiting through Libya,” León continued.

Commenting on the situation, David J. Francis from the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, a foundation established to strengthen peacebuilding policy and practice, told MintPress News that he was aghast at the reaction of the Western audience watching the crisis unfold.

Francis explained to MintPress:

“Part of the deal of bringing Gadhafi back from the cold to rehabilitate him as a legitimate player in the international community after spending decades of presenting him as the ‘Mad Dog’ of the Middle East was the fact that he would control immigration, and he delivered on that.”

Francis was referring to negotiations between Libya and the United Kingdom, which began the normalization of relations between the North African country and other Western countries, including the United States, from the late 1990s to the early 2000s.

Despite this, U.S., French, British, and NATO forces attacked the country in 2011, hoping rebels on the ground would overthrow Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. Washington also spent $25 million in nonlethal aid to support rebels in Libya. Some rebel groups were connected to al Qaeda.

Chaos immediately ensued, followed by a self-indulgent and triumphalist American media and political apparatus that proclaimed victory and righteousness following the destruction of the country. Even today, Libya’s oil fields, controlled by the country’s National Oil Company, are under constant threat from extremist groups and militias.

“President Obama made the right, albeit belated, decision to join with allies and try to stop Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi from slaughtering thousands of Libyans,” The New York Times editorial section proclaimed on March 28, 2011.

Writing for The Intercept earlier this year, Glenn Greenwald noted that advocates for the war, like Anne-Marie Slaughter, president and CEO of the New America Foundation, and Nick Kristof, a columnist for The Times, applauded the U.S. decision to support anti-Gadhafi rebels in Libya.

Meanwhile, NATO leaders David Cameron, the British premier, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France, visited the country for what Scott Peterson, Istanbul Bureau Chief for The Christian Science Monitor, described as “a victory lap” and a “pep talk.”

Military intervention into Libya was preceded by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973, which secured legal authority to intervene. The resolution imposed a no-fly zone over Libya, similar to what Turkey currently wants to implement over Syria, strengthened the arms embargo, and opened the door to the arming of anti-Gadhafi rebels.

Permanent U.N. Security Council members China and Russia abstained from the vote, but, more importantly, did not vote against the resolution, which allowed the intervention to legally proceed. Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s current prime minister and former president, has since stated: “Russia did not use its power of veto [of Security Council Resolution 1973] for the simple reason that I do not consider the resolution in question wrong.”

He added, “It would be wrong for us to start flapping about now and say that we didn’t know what we were doing. This was a conscious decision on our part.”

However, it was the U.S. and its NATO allies which spearheaded the operation, with France and England taking the initiative. A no-fly zone was imposed over the country, and from March to October NATO bombed Gadhafi forces until the Libyan leader was shot dead by rebels.

President Obama declared on Oct. 20, 2011: “[T]his is a momentous day in the history of Libya. The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted.” But that was only the beginning for Libya and the fallout NATO actions had across the African continent.

Alan J. Kuperman, associate professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin, and author of “The Limits of Humanitarian Intervention: Genocide in Rwanda,” wrote in Foreign Affairs earlier this year:

“Libya has not only failed to evolve into a democracy; it has devolved into a failed state. Violent deaths and other human rights abuses have increased several fold. Rather than helping the United States combat terrorism, as Qaddafi did during his last decade in power, Libya now serves as a safe haven for militias affiliated with both al Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).”

Mali, Nigeria and Somalia: The beginning of an end
(more…)

Latest Guilty Pleas Prove Big Bank Criminality ‘Rampant,’ But Jail Time Non-Existent

In announcing settlement, Attorney General Loretta Lynch calls the crimes ‘a brazen display of collusion’ that caused ‘pervasive harm’

By Deirdre Fulton

In the wake of Wednesday’s announcement that five global financial institutions have agreed to plead guilty to multiple crimes and pay about $5.6 billion in penalties for manipulating foreign currencies and interest rates, corporate watchdogs are reiterating the call to ‘break up the banks’ in light of their ongoing malfeasance.

As with other recent settlements, Wednesday’s news provides further evidence to those who say certain megabanks are still considered “too big to fail”—or criminal bankers to jail.

“There are two messages in today’s plea deal,” said Public Citizen president Robert Weissman in a statement on Wednesday. “First, criminality is rampant on Wall Street. Second, the era of too-big-to-jail is alive and well. Even as they beat their chests announcing how tough they are, government regulators refuse to apply to the giant banks the same rules that apply to everyone else.”

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Five global banks have agreed to pay more than $5 billion in combined penalties and will plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve a long running U.S. investigation into whether traders at the banks colluded to move foreign currency rates in directions to benefit their own positions.

Four of the banks, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Barclays PLC, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, and Citigroup Inc., will plead guilty to conspiring to manipulate the price of U.S. dollars and euros, authorities said.

The fifth bank, UBS AG, received immunity in the antitrust case, but will plead guilty to manipulating the Libor benchmark after prosecutors said the bank violated an earlier accord meant to resolve those allegations of misconduct. UBS will also pay an additional Libor-related fine.

The New York Times adds:

The Justice Department forced four of the banks — Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland — to plead guilty to antitrust violations in the foreign exchange market as part of a scheme that padded the banks’ profits and enriched the traders who carried out the plot. The traders were supposed to be competitors, but much like companies that rigged the price of vitamins and automotive parts, they colluded to manipulate the largest and yet least regulated market in the financial world, where some $5 trillion changes hands every day, prosecutors said.

Underscoring the collusive nature of their contact, which often occurred in online chat rooms, one group of traders called themselves “the cartel,” an invitation-only club where stakes were so high that a newcomer was warned, “Mess this up and sleep with one eye open.”

In announcing the settlement, Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the megabanks’ crimes “a brazen display of collusion” that caused “pervasive harm.”

Lynch declared: “Today’s historic resolutions are the latest in our ongoing efforts to investigate and prosecute financial crimes, and they serve as a stark reminder that this Department of Justice intends to vigorously prosecute all those who tilt the economic system in their favor; who subvert our marketplaces; and who enrich themselves at the expense of American consumers.”

But as Weissman noted, “important questions remain about this plea deal,” including:

Will individual executives be prosecuted? And did the DOJ charge the parent companies in this case to avoid triggering potential sanctions with real and significant business consequences for the banks, including charter revocation hearings? The public deserves answers to these questions. In that information is some insight into whether the government continues to protect the megabanks—those colloquially labeled “too big to jail.”

“What becomes clear is that regulators genuinely are afraid of enforcing the law when it comes to the megabanks,” Weissman concludes. “As a result, and notwithstanding today’s announcement and others like it, these banks are not deterred from violating the law—indeed, they are literally not subject to the same standards as other banks and other companies. A democratic society cannot tolerate having banks above the law. There’s a solution to this problem: break them up.”

Earlier this month, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to do just that—the Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act—under which regulators on the Financial Stability Oversight Council would compile a list of institutions which say they are so large that their collapse could trigger an economic crisis. The Treasury Secretary, in turn, would then have a year from the bill’s passing to break up such banks.

In a recent report, the Corporate Reform Coalition warned that regulators’ continued reluctance to crack down on megabanks leaves the U.S. vulnerable to another financial crisis.

“Avoiding another meltdown depends on the will of federal regulators to use the new powers they were granted in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” said Jennifer Taub, author of the report and professor of law at Vermont Law School. “If they behave as if they are beholden to the banks, we will likely face a more severe crisis in the future.”

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Federal Trade Commission files complaint against four cancer charities alleging $187 million fraud

The Federal Trade Commission filed a 148 page complaint against four cancer charities yesterday accusing them of diverting $187 million contributed by donors to the founders of the charities and their family members to pay for vitally necessary personal items, such as cars and luxury cruises. Charitable contributions also were diverted for all-expense paid trips to Disney World for members of the boards of directors of the four charities.

The LA Times reports,

The pitch was simple, and played on the images of a devastating disease to tug on heartstrings and open pocketbooks.

One of the websites featured pictures of smiling children, some of them in hospital beds, one in a tutu and a scarf covering her bare head.

The money, people were told, would go directly to helping women and children sick with cancer, paying for wigs, pain medications, and transportation to chemotherapy appointments.

All of those claims were “outright lies,” . . .

The founder of the four charities is James Reynolds, Sr.

According to the complaint, the donations were solicited from people in all 50 states and the District of Columbia by mail and telephone calls during the period 2008 through 2012. Less than 3% of the donations went to cancer patients.  From the LA Times,

Meanwhile, the little “support” the charities actually provided to cancer patients came in the form of “cancer boxes” of “seemingly random items,” the complaint says.

The packages, packed by volunteers and sent to cancer patients, included sample-size soaps and shampoos, small amounts of Carnation Instant Breakfast drink, adult briefs and bed pads, disposable plates, iPod covers, batteries, blank greeting cards, and Little Debbie snack cakes, according to the complaint.

The Little Debbie cakes were provided, Reynolds Sr. said, because “they make people happy,” according to the complaint. At one point, the charities switched to purchasing Moon Pies instead, because Reynolds said they “make you happier.”

The four corporations are:

1) Cancer Fund of America,

2) Cancer Support Services,

3) Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the

4) Breast Cancer Society.

According to the complaint,  the four corporations are registered with the IRS as nonprofit organizations with tax-exempt status.

I hope none of our readers donated any money to these ‘charities.’

 

Obama Signed Bill to Help Protect Police From Threats, However, Police Are Not Under Attack in America

Obama signs "Blue Alert" system bill

President Barack Obama signed legislation that creates a “Blue Alert” system for law enforcement in the United States. It establishes a network for alerting police expeditiously when there are “active threats” against police. However, police are not under attack and have not been under attack in the US, despite recent tragic deaths of officers.

The passage of this legislation is the product of the continued exploitation of the deaths of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, who were killed by a mentally ill black man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, on December 20. It provided a sensational example of an ambush killing that local and national police associations could seize upon to undercut the “Black Lives Matter” movement, which has been drawing attention to police violence directed at black Americans.

It also is one of the first recommended “action items” by Obama’s appointed police “task force” to be implemented. In contrast to many of the policy suggestions, this does nothing to reform police but rather reinforces the false presumption that police face some kind of threat because of increased opposition to police conduct.

“Leveraging the current Amber Alert program used to locate abducted children, the Blue Alert would enlist the help of the public in finding suspects after a law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty,” the report recently released by the “task force” indicates. “Some similar state systems do exist, but there are large gaps, a national system is needed. In addition to aiding the apprehension of suspects, it would send a message about the importance of protecting law enforcement from undue harm.”

Except, there is no debate in the United States. Just about all citizens agree that law enforcement should not face “undue harm.” Far fewer, unfortunately, agree that strong measures should be taken to protect people of color from “undue harm” from law enforcement.

The bipartisan legislation, named after Ramos and Liu, establishes that a system will send out alerts when an officer is seriously injured or killed. The system will send out an alert when an officer is missing. “At the time of receipt of death,” the suspect should be “wanted by a law enforcement agency.” The suspect should not have already been apprehended. There should be “sufficient descriptive information of the suspect involved and any relevant vehicle and tag numbers.”

More problematic is the fact that an alert will go out when there is an “imminent and credible threat” that “an individual intends to cause the serious injury or death of a law enforcement officer.”

The criteria for sending out this type of “blue alert” includes “confirmation” that a threat is “imminent and credible.” How threats are to be confirmed is not outlined in the legislation.

Ashley Yates, co-founder of Millennial Activists United and an activist who was part of protests in the immediately after Mike Brown was killed by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, declared, “I am absolutely disheartened and honestly terrified,” by the “Blue Alert” bill President Obama signed. Yates worries it could be used by police to suppress protest.

She fears that the system will “encourage vigilantes and place possibly innocent ‘suspects’ in serious danger” because “you only need to be suspected to get blasted out via this system. There is a grave potential for mistaken identity and false accusations.” (Yates shared this harrowing story of 23-year-old Cornell McKay, who was falsely accused by St. Louis police of being involved in a robbery that ended in a murder. Authorities insisted he was responsible, even as it became evident there was evidence McKay was never involved in the robbery.)

The “Amber Alert” system is now capable of sending alerts to millions of cell phone users. It has a page on Facebook, which makes it possible for users to share alerts about missing children. Will the “Blue Alert” system harness technology in this same manner? And what information about suspects will be in any public alerts?

How will citizens be certain that this system will not be manipulated to undermine protests explicitly directed at police departments by hyping threats (as happened in Baltimore when police wrongly attributed violence to a flier urging teens to take part in a “purge”).

What if someone sends an angry tweet that police construe as a “threat” against police? How might that be put into the “Blue Alert” system and what might the effect on freedom of expression be?

More significantly, as writer Ryan Dalton stated, “Police are not being systematically targeted and murdered in America. Black people are.”

No statistics come close to supporting the notion that police are under attack and in need of urgent protection. (more…)

Ukraine Corruption Problems Remain As US Plans New Propaganda War

A year after a US-backed coup forced out the democratically elected government in Ukraine under the banner of “anti-corruption” the state of affairs in Kiev remains unchanged as those in power continue to use their position to advance their private interests at the public’s expense.

The post-coup officials running the government have not only failed to reform the political system but appear to have exacerbated the problem. A new committee has been formed to investigate whether Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk and friends have embezzled more than $325 million from a government already flirting with bankruptcy. The investigation comes as Ukraine’s oligarch president, Petro Poroshenko, starts another round of lobbying for foreign financial assistance which includes promises that the money will be used to clean up Ukraine politics.

Combine the corruption problems with a series of suspicious killings of journalists and dissidents in Kiev and Ukraine does not look like it is on its way to becoming a modern liberal democracy.

So what to do? The answer coming out of imperialist circles in DC is to double down on propaganda under the pretext of countering propaganda. The plan is to step up “information warfare” against Ukraine and NATO critics – especially on social media platforms – in the hopes that thwarting dissent will somehow fix post-coup Ukraine’s internal contradictions. Seems unlikely.

While the US government has already been engaging in social media “information warfare” to promote government talking points for years, the gears appear to be in motion for a new offensive. Unfortunately, the government has proven to be terrible at manipulating social media akin to how it manipulates the corporate media and the even harsher truth is that the US and NATO’s problem is with reality itself – a difficult opponent in the media space but one that has been defeated before.

In any case, this is going to get hilarious rather quickly. It is going to be nearly impossible to wage a social media “information warfare” campaign without getting exposed. As is custom the government will likely hire private defense and intelligence contractors to do the dirty work in hopes of removing its fingerprints. And, as is custom, those firms will surely screw up and embarrass their paymasters.

Get your popcorn.

The Roundup for May 19th, 2015

We move on to Venezuela. Three finals down, two to go!

Happy Birthday to Malcolm X! He would have been 90 if he was alive.

International Politics

Overall

– The United Nations warned at least 2,000 refugees were trapped at sea for weeks off the coast of Myanmar

– At least 170 Islamic State fighters in Syria died as a result of U.S.-led airstrikes

– The United Nations will use “realistic options” to get Israel to speak with Palestinian leaders

Middle East

Part one of two with scholar Norman Finkelstein about Israel’s abilities to use violence in its history

– Syrian rebels captured the Syrian government’s largest military base

– After the expiration of the truce with Yemeni rebels, a large number of airstrikes hit Sana’a

Africa

– Jeremy Scahill: “How Somalia’s Al Shabaab Turned Against Its Own Foreign Fighters

– At least 22 militants tied to ISIS were killed by Algerian forces in Algeria (more…)

Over Easy: Texas War Veteran Dies in Custody Saying “I Can’t Breathe” 20 Times

On July 13, 2012, Sgt. James Brown, an active duty Fort Bliss soldier, self-reported to the El Paso County jail to serve a 48-hour sentence for a DUI. Brown, who had served two tours of combat duty in Iraq, wrote on a jail form that he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress. According to a news report, Brown contacted his mother after he checked in to the jail, and explained that the jail now wanted him to stay for a week, and that he had decided that he “just wanted to pay the court fine and get out of here.” His mother sent the money for the fine, but James Brown never returned home. He was 26 years old.

The autopsy report said that Brown died of natural causes related to “sickle cell crisis.” Local news station KFOX14 fought “all the way to the attorney general” to obtain the video showing what happened in the jail in the moments before Brown’s death.

At some point, Brown experiences an episode of bleeding, although it is unclear where on his body he is bleeding. A staff team wearing riot gear storm the cell, restrain and shackle Brown, and perform a forced cell extraction- but Brown is not fighting. He pleads repeatedly, “I can’t breathe.” The staff carries Brown to the ‘infirmary,’ and even though Brown is audibly short of breath and his condition is obviously deteriorating, no ambulance is called. Instead of summoning help, the guards place a spit hood over his head. James Brown’s family attorney B.J. Crow described to KFOX:

B.J. Crow: “When a 26-year-old active military person checks into jail for a court-imposed sentence on a Friday, and he leaves Sunday, you know, in a casket, something went horribly wrong there. … He was bleeding out the ears, the nose, the mouth. His kidneys shut down. His blood pressure dropped to a very dangerous level. And his liver shut down.”

In the end, James Brown dies naked in a cell, not blinking or responding.

The family is suing for wrongful death.

James Brown, who survived two tours of duty as a combat soldier, was murdered. The autopsy report may also be suspect- because he would likely be alive today but for the torture at the hands of jail guards, his death was more accurately a homicide. The jail fought hard to keep the video secret. There are various versions of ‘sickle cell crisis,’ a condition that requires immediate medical attention. Brown needed to be in an ICU, not a torture chamber. I believe that the staff should be indicted, because they are dangerous.