Thursday, July 31, 2014

72-Hour Cease-Fire Announced in Gaza

NEW DELHI — Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations announced early Friday that Israel and Hamas had agreed to a 72-hour humanitarian cease-fire in the Gaza conflict.
“The United Nations representative in Jerusalem, Special Coordinator Robert Serry, has received assurances that all parties have agreed to an unconditional humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza,” Mr. Kerry said in a joint statement with Mr. Ban.
The surprise announcement of the agreement — reached while Mr. Kerry had just begun a visit to India — came amid growing international pressure for even a temporary halt to the bitter fighting between Israel and the militants of Hamas and its affiliates in Gaza, the Mediterranean enclave of 1.7 million.

End massacre in gaza: National march in Washington, DC, on Saturday, 02 August


#BLOCKTHEBOAT for Gaza: Port of Oakland, 02 August

Who’s Behind the New Washington Football Team Website?

The team wants you to think there's a grass-roots movement in support of its offensive nickname. The site’s source code suggests otherwise.

You may have noticed ads on the Washington Post and Sports Illustrated websites for a new site that wants to set the record straight on the Washington NFL team’s offensive nickname. That site, which was registered on June 30, touts the nickname’s storied history, various polls that reflect its popularity, and claims that it’s really, truly not offensive to Native Americans.

Who is behind this site, which has a stated mission to present “historical evidence to fair-minded opinion leaders on both sides of the issue so ongoing discussions can be constructive”? The About Us page indicates that it is “a growing online community of passionate Washington [NFL team] fans and others who support the team’s use of its name and logo.” A Washington team spokesman told the local ABC affiliate WJLA that “they know of the site and totally support their effort,” sounding surprised and delighted by this online campaign.
A graphic at the top of the nickname-defending website, though, indicates that it’s “sponsored by” the team’s alumni. In addition, former Washington players Gary Clark, Chris Cooley, Mark Moseley, Ray Schoenke, and Roy Jefferson are listed as the “steering committee.”
When asked who was providing financial support for the site, Washington NFL team spokesman Tony Wyllie was coy. (Though Slate does not print the team’s offensive nickname, we will make an exception here to quote Wyllie accurately.) “The alumni and the Redskins have a long history of supporting each other and this education effort is no different,” Wyllie explained via email. “So where it is appropriate for the alumni to pay for expenses then they will and when it is appropriate for the Redskins then the organization will. Since it is so early in the education effort there is no easy breakdown available.”

While that statement is not dripping with clarity, we do know that Washington owner Daniel Snyder has in the past enlisted mouthpiece-for-hire Lanny Davis to stump for the team's nickname. This new, probably-not-grass-roots website also appears to be part of a PR operation. This one bears the fingerprints of Burson-Marsteller, a communications firm best known for its crisis management services. Burson-Marsteller has done PR work for, among many others, the manufacturer of the Three Mile Island plant, Johnson & Johnson (in the wake of early-1980s Tylenol poisonings), and military contractor Blackwater USA. The firm’s crisis management page also notes “The Lady Gaga Concert Debacle” as a representative case study.

Though Burson-Marsteller has not publicly declared that it has any connection to the nickname-defending website, Jamie Zoch of Dot Weekly noted that the firm has hand-registered several sites with very similar names in recent days. (The registrant name for the nickname-defending site itself is listed as “PERFECT PRIVACY, LLC.” Perfect Privacy is a service that allows you to buy a Web domain without releasing any of your personal information.) A Google site search of the nickname website also reveals a login page that is “Powered by Burson Site Factory.” And a search of the site’s source code reveals a link to That Burson page shares an IP address ( with the nickname website.



Obama is wrong about natural gas

A new scientific study argues that both shale gas and conventional natural gas have larger greenhouse gas footprints than do coal or oil.

Natural gas is falsely promoted by the Obama Administration and energy corporations as a “bridge fuel” that will allow American society to continue to use fossil energy over the coming decades while emitting fewer greenhouse gases than from using other fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

On this basis, President Obama is providing total support to a massive expansion of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas within the U.S. He seeks sufficient quantities to last for many decades, allowing the U.S. to export liquefied natural gas and oil throughout the world.

Counting on lower greenhouse pollution from the use of natural gas, Obama has also instituted a major campaign to greatly increase the amount of crude oil extracted from within the U.S., in good part from fracking. In mid-July the AP reported:
The Obama administration is reopening the Eastern Seaboard to offshore oil and gas exploration, approving seismic surveys using sonic cannons that can pinpoint energy deposits deep beneath the ocean floor.
Here’s the catch: A new scientific study — “A Bridge to Nowhere: Methane Emissions and the Greenhouse Gas Footprint of Natural Gas” — argues that both shale gas and conventional natural gas have larger greenhouse gas footprints than do coal or oil, especially for the primary uses of residential and commercial heating.


Remembering our roots: Equality rejects war

As the failures of war strategies have become increasingly obvious, the benefits of nonviolent approaches based on the principle of equality have become more obvious.

At the root of every major religious tradition in the world is the belief that all human lives are equally valuable: our neighbors as ourselves. The fundamental equality of persons is also the thesis of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Though declared within a system of vast inequalities, the statement rang true from the beginning as an acknowledgement that equality and freedom are inextricably linked.

In my lifetime, freedom movements have made the strongest gains when they’ve modeled equality through a commitment to nonviolence. By guarding the right of one’s adversary to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, one is holding open the possibility that the adversary could become an ally, and that’s the way a healthy movement grows.

Near the end of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. was speaking out strongly against the violence of war.
Near the end of his life, Martin Luther King, Jr. was speaking out strongly against the violence of war. The devaluation of human life in the propaganda, training, and prosecution of the war in Indochina was antithetical to both his Christian and democratic principles. As determined, disciplined activists in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement were proving, equality meant, even in the face of deadly persecution, refusing to threaten death to one’s persecutors.

By upholding the humanity of all persons in the struggle, the movement prevented the kind of carnage that resulted during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, showing that equality is not a goal separate from its means, but rather the engine of its process.


Two Theories of Poverty

Paul Ryan released his anti-poverty plan last week. In it, he proposes that a variety of federal means-tested welfare programs be turned into cash block grants to states, who would then be allowed to dole out the cash in exchange for recipients laying out a life contract for how they will increase their market incomes for a nosy case worker. As I explained on the day it came out, this is a bad idea, unnecessary, and seriously misunderstands the nature of American poverty.

In response to Ryan, many commentators pointed out that people do not need life contracts to go on to boost their market incomes because they already do that (myself, Weissman, Bouie). These writers point out that people move in and out of poverty a lot. Even though the poverty rate stays pretty steady year to year, "poor people" are not the same people each year.

Although these rebuttals have been fairly modest in scope, they actually lay bare a fundamental difference in the way right-wingers and left-wingers understand poverty. 

Theory One: Poverty Is Individual

The right-wing view is that poverty is an individual phenomenon. On this view, people are in poverty because they are lazy, uneducated, ignorant, or otherwise inferior in some manner. If this theory were true, it would follow that impoverished people are basically the same people every year. And if that were true, we could whip poverty by helping that particular 15% of the population to figure things out and climb out of poverty. Thus, a program of heavy paternalistic life contracts to help this discrete underclass get things together might conceivably end or dramatically reduce poverty.

Theory Two: Poverty Is Structural

The left-wing view is that poverty is a structural phenomenon. On this view, people are in poverty because they find themselves in holes in the economic system that deliver them inadequate income. Because individual lives are dynamic, people don't sit in those holes forever. One year they are in a low-income hole, but the next year they've found a job or gotten a promotion, and aren't anymore. But that hole that they were in last year doesn't go away. Others inevitably find themselves in that hole because it is a persistent defect in the economic structure. It follows from this that impoverished people are not the same people every year. It follows further that the only way to reduce poverty is to alter the economic structure so as to reduce the number of low-income holes in it.


KKK calls for 'shoot to kill' policy against undocumented immigrants

Hate group voices concern and anger over the growing number of migrants illegally crossing into the United States

World faces water crises by 2040

The world will face “insurmountable” water crises in less than three decades, researchers said Tuesday, if it does not move away from water-intensive power production.

A clash of competing necessities — drinking water and energy demand — will cause widespread drought unless action is taken soon, researchers from Denmark’s Aarhus University, Vermont Law School and the CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, said in the reports.

“It’s a very important issue,” said lead study author Paul Faeth, Director of Energy, Water, & Climate at CNA Corporation. "Water used to cool power plants is the largest source of water withdrawals in the United States,” said Faeth in a press release on two new reports released Tuesday. 

“The recommendations in these reports can serve as a starting point for leaders in these countries, and for leaders around the world, to take the steps needed to ensure the reliability of current generating plants and begin planning for how to meet future demands for electric power.” 

Globally, there has been a three-fold population increase in the past century and a six-fold increase in water consumption, the report said. If trends in population and energy use continue, it could leave a 40 percent gap between water supply and demand by the year 2030.


Liberia Closes Borders as 3rd American Is Infected with Ebola

In a desperate attempt to reduce the spread of Ebola, Liberia has closed its borders, declared public gatherings illegal, and placed entire communities under quarantine. While the death toll escalates across West Africa, an increasing number of medical workers have also contracted the highly contagious virus including 2 Americans. A third American died of the disease in Nigeria last week.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has closed all but 3 of her country’s borders to halt the outbreak from spreading to other countries. Border crossings into Guinea and Sierra Leone remain open. The first reports of the West Africa Ebola outbreak appeared in Guinea back in February before spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Guinea’s neighbor, Senegal immediately closed its land border to protect its people from the contagion.


House Scraps Vote On Bill To Address Border Crisis

WASHINGTON -- The House abruptly removed a bill from its schedule that would provide $659 million in funding to address the ongoing border crisis, after initially planning to vote on the measure Thursday afternoon.
The bill had significant opposition from Democrats, but GOP leadership decided to add a separate vote, if the first were to pass, on a measure meant to bring on conservative support: ending a key Obama policy that allows undocumented young people in the U.S. for years to remain in the country.
That move wasn't enough to get to 218 votes. The GOP leadership -- House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio), Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), and Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) -- issued a statement saying the House "will continue to work on solutions to the border crisis and other challenges facing our country."


Israeli shells hit second UN school sheltering Gaza refugees

Busy Gaza market also attacked, reportedly killing at least 15 shoppers and wounding over 100 others

Israel’s military on Wednesday attacked a second United Nations school packed with Palestinian refugees and later a busy marketplace, killing scores of civilians and injuring hundreds more in what witnesses called one of the most violent days in the weeks-long offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The market attack occurred during a temporary cease-fire that Israel had earlier declared in areas where it was not conducting military operations.

A U.N. aid spokesman confirmed that tank shells hit the U.N. school in the Jabaliya refugee camp at around 4:30 a.m. The explosions tore through two classroom walls, killing at least 16 people and wounding more than 90 others.

"Last night, children were killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom in a U.N. designated shelter in Gaza," Pierre Krahenbuhl, United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) commissioner-general, said in a statement.

“Children killed in their sleep; this is an affront to all of us, a source of universal shame. Today the world stands disgraced," he said.

More than 200,000 displaced Palestinians, many heeding Israeli evacuation orders, have taken shelter in U.N. schools and buildings across the besieged territory.

The U.N. said it had communicated to the Israeli military 17 times before Wednesday’s attack — including once just hours before the fatal shelling — that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians had sought refuge in the school.


Letter By Civil Society Leaders In Gaza Calls For No Ceasefire Without Justice

As academics, public figures and activists witnessing the intended genocide of 1.8 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, we call for a ceasefire with Israel only if conditioned on an end to the blockade and the restoration of basic freedoms that have been denied to the people for more than seven years. Our foremost concerns are not only the health and safety of the people in our communities, but also the quality of their lives – their ability to live free of fear of imprisonment without due process, to support their families through gainful employment, and to travel to visit their relatives and further their education. These are fundamental human aspirations that have been severely limited for the Palestinian people for more than 47 years, but that have been particularly deprived from residents of Gaza since 2007. We have been pushed beyond the limits of what a normal person can be expected to endure. A living death Charges in the media and by politicians of various stripes that accuse Hamas of ordering Gaza residents to resist evacuation orders, and thus use them as human shields, are untrue. With temporary shelters full and the indiscriminate Israeli shelling, there is literally no place that is safe in Gaza.


CIA Admits Penetrating Senate Intelligence Computers

WASHINGTON — An internal investigation by the Central Intelligence Agency has found that its officers improperly penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its report on the C.I.A.'s detention and interrogation program.
In a statement issued Thursday morning, a C.I.A. spokesman said that agency’s inspector general had concluded that C.I.A. officers had acted inappropriately by gaining access to the computers.
The statement said that John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director, had apologized to the two senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and that he would set up an internal accountability board to review the matter. The board will be led by former Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana.
The statement, which was first reported by McClatchy, gave almost no specifics about the findings of the report, written by David Buckley, the agency’s inspector general.

What an outrage! Pentagon rushes missiles and bullets to Israel for slaughter in Gaza‏

What an outrage! All out Aug. 2 in D.C.!

Pentagon rushes ammunition to Israel to supply the slaughter in Gaza

Just minutes after the White House made a tepid criticism of the deadly shelling of a United Nations-run girls’ school and refugee center in Gaza, the U.S. military announced that it was resupplying the Israeli army with several types of ammunition. At least 15 people were killed and more than 90 wounded in the attack on the school. An Israeli air attack the same day on a crowded market in the Jabaliya refugee camp killed at least 17 people and injured more than 100.

While the U.S. statement criticism of the shelling of the school was obviously a reference to an Israeli military action, the statement pointedly failed to name Israel in keeping with U.S. support for Israel in its murderous assault.

Now, the Pentagon announced, it will provide 120mm mortar rounds and 40mm ammunition for grenade launchers among other munitions from a $1 billion stock of ammunition pre-positioned in Israel for use in other U.S. wars in the region.

The Israeli occupation forces have expended so much firepower in their devastating assault on Gaza, a tiny and densely populated strip of land, they needed an emergency resupply in order to keep up the killing and destroying.

More than 1,200 Palestinians have been killed and nearly 7,000 wounded since July 8. On the Israeli side, 53 soldiers and 3 civilians are reported killed and hundreds wounded.

The emergency resupply operation illuminates the real relationship between the U.S. and Israel. The differences between the leaders in Washington and Tel Aviv are secondary to the military alliance. Bottom line, Israel is an extension of Pentagon power and has been for many decades. That is why Israel has received hundreds of billions in military and economic aid.

What’s more, this latest episode demonstrates once again that Israel could not do what it does without the support—economic, military, diplomatic and political—of the United States.

The people of the United States will be marching together on Saturday, August 2 to demand an end to all U.S. aid to Israel. This will be the biggest march yet in support of the besieged Palestinian people in Gaza.

People are coming from all over the United States.

Please make an urgently-needed donation. We can do this with you, but not without you.

A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition
National Office in Washington DC: 202-265-1948
Boston: 857-334-5084 | New York City: 212-694-8720 | Chicago: 773-463-0311
San Francisco: 415-821-6545| Los Angeles: 213-687-7480 | Albuquerque: 505-268-2488

Indigenous Seed Savers Gather in the Andes, Agree to Fight Climate Change with Biodiversity

On top of a rugged Andean mountain situated high in Peru’s Cusco region, on 30,000 acres of conserved land known as Parque de la Papa (Spanish for “Potato Park”), indigenous farmers met in late April to discuss conditions they feared were threatening their ancestral lands.

They came from as far as Bhutan and China, and from as near as the mountain itself. They discovered that their cultures were more similar than they had expected, and that one concern had been troubling all of them: Climate change was making it harder to grow food on the mountains that had sustained them for centuries. They were meeting to do something about it.

During a series of talks held between April 26 and May 2, the farmers forged a unique partnership entailing the exchange of indigenous crop varieties and farming methods, which they hope will protect agricultural biodiversity in the face of climate change. The exchange will begin with potato seeds—a sturdy crop that thrives in the mountains of China, Bhutan, and Peru—and will enable the farmers to experiment together from a distance, so they can find the hardiest, most resilient varieties.


Venerable Jewish Voice for Peace

4 weeks the Israeli-Palestinian assaults have gone on. The Palestinians just want their own state- something the Jews have already achieved: Henry Siegman begs us to ask ourselves...What if we were in their place?
The Israeli assault on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip has entered its fourth week. This military attack, waged by land, sea and air, has been going on longer than the devastating assault in 2008/2009, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians. The death toll in this current attack is at least 1,300, overwhelmingly civilians. As this column was being written, the United Nations confirmed that a U.N. school in Gaza, where thousands of civilians were seeking shelter, was bombed by the Israeli Defense Forces, killing at least 20 people. The United Nations said it reported the exact coordinates of the shelter to the Israeli military 17 times.
Henry Siegman, a venerable dean of American Jewish thought and president of the U.S./Middle East Project, sat down for an interview with the “Democracy Now!” news hour. An ordained rabbi, Siegman is the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress and former executive head of the Synagogue Council of America, two of the major, mainstream Jewish organizations in the United States. He says the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories must end.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A State of Denial: FBI Forensics and Leonard Peltier (Op-Ed)


A recent Washington Post article ("Federal review stalled after finding forensic errors by FBI lab unit spanned two decades," 29 July 2014) reported that "Nearly every criminal case reviewed by the FBI and the Justice Department as part of a massive investigation started in 2012 of problems at the FBI lab has included flawed forensic testimony..." The findings so troubled the Bureau that it stopped the review of convictions last August. (Case reviews resumed this month at the order of the Justice Department.)            

Forensic laboratories all over the country have experienced problems with flawed science and forensic testimony. "States Stalled on Probing Lab Problems" by Robert Tanner (Associated Press, March 24, 2007) examined the states’ reluctance to truly address the failings of their crime laboratories. It was suggested that states are unwilling to act and the lack of concern is symbolic of the justice system's overall refusal to dig into its own failings. As regards such failings: "Prosecutors and law enforcement people [would] rather not know the answers about why we have these muckups."            

We have these "muckups" because forensic scientists at state- and federally controlled laboratories often mistakenly feel they work for prosecutors and believe their job is to provide prosecutors with the “evidence” — even if fabricated and/or misrepresented — to effect a conviction. In this scenario, forensic laboratories impose the prosecutor’s beliefs on the evidence, rather than finding the truth — in clear violation of the precepts of good science.            

In recent years, throughout the entire United States, miscarriages of justice have been uncovered at an alarming rate. While some estimates place the number of innocent people wrongfully convicted at one percent of all cases, some say it is probably higher. If one percent is accurate, however, the number of people currently wrongfully imprisoned is approximately 200,000. Many of these wrongful convictions have been based on the work of the nation’s forensic laboratories.  

The reality: Forensic laboratories play an integral role in developing cases for prosecution and also have been shown to engage in misconduct. Crime laboratories across the nation have come under scrutiny for poor scientific techniques and handling of evidence, providing misleading data to juries or skewing data to support prosecution claims, or providing completely false testimony and fabricated evidence. 

The laboratory operated by the FBI is no exception (although Tanner's article neglected to touch on the FBI’s shortcomings).  

Government reports in the recent past have found serious fault with FBI lab procedures: "FBI abandons disputed test for bullets from crime scenes," Associated Press, 02 Sep 2005; and "DOJ faults FBI for fingerprinting error," Associated Press, 11 Mar 2006. The FBI laboratory has come under fire frequently enough in the past 10 years that a clear pattern of misconduct has emerged and this pattern of misconduct at the U.S. Department of Justice, and that of the FBI, remains consistent. 

But this behavior on the part of the FBI lab began a long time ago. 

In the Peltier case, specifically, critical ballistics evidence has been proved to have been fabricated. Contrary to what the government would have you believe, the actual test performed by the FBI lab proved Peltier’s INNOCENCE. This fact was, of course, hidden from his attorneys and therefore from the jury at Peltier’s 1977 trial.

Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. At age 69, Peltier has now been imprisoned for over half of his life for a crime he did not commit. Native American activist Leonard Peltier was wrongfully convicted in connection with the shooting deaths of two FBI agents on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota.. Imprisoned for over 38 years — currently at the federal prison in Coleman, Florida — Peltier has been designated a political prisoner by Amnesty International. Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, 55 Members of Congress and others — including a judge who sat as a member of the court in two of Peltier’s appeals — have all called for his immediate release. Widely recognized for his humanitarian works and a six-time Nobel Prize nominee, Peltier also is an accomplished author and painter.  

Evidence clearly shows that Bureau tests conclusively determined that the rifle attributed to Peltier had not fired the cartridge casing allegedly recovered from the trunk of Special Agent Coler's car. FBI firearms expert Evan Hodge testified to the opposite at trial. View the FBI's own document. It tells the tale. 


The shameful record on the ballistics evidence in the Peltier case runs much deeper yet. 

Beginning on October 1, 1984, in connection with a Habeas Petition filed by Peltier’s attorneys, an evidentiary hearing was held on the ballistics evidence, specifically the FBI teletype of October 2, 1975, which, contrary to prior testimony by the FBI’s expert, stated that the "Wichita AR-15" allegedly used by Peltier during the shoot-out could not be linked to the critical .223 casing found near the bodies of the FBI agents. The teletype had been discovered well after the trial via a Freedom of Information Act action brought on Peltier’s behalf. 

The evidentiary hearing was conducted before Judge Paul Benson (hardly an objective jurist given the fact that he had presided over Peltier’s trial and had a personal interest in seeing that the conviction was upheld, and despite his reputed anti-Indian bias and an attorney's affidavit attesting to Benson's derogatory extrajudicial references to Peltier, specifically). 

During the hearing, Special Agent Evan Hodge surprisingly divulged that he had testified before the grand jury on November 24 and 25, 1975, just prior to Peltier's indictment and that he had not written (but merely signed) the ballistics affidavit used to help extradite Peltier to the U.S. from Canada. Not surprisingly, the government had illegally withheld the grand jury testimony — and proof of when the lies began — from the defense team.

Confronted by the FBI teletypes, Hodge invalidated his earlier trial testimony — according to the government prosecutors, the most crucial testimony in Peltier's trial.

While Hodge had testified that only he and an assistant had examined the evidence, notes in a third style of handwriting were present on the lab report. Denying on the stand a third participant in the evaluation of evidence, therefore again committing perjury, Hodge later claimed he had misspoken. The court ignored the pattern of perjury that was evident and accepted Hodge's explanation.

The hearing was suspended to give the government time to identify the third party and for the defense to question that individual. Although the information became immediately available following the hearing, the FBI waited one month before officially identifying the third person to handle the ballistics evidence.

Also, at Peltier's trial, the prosecutor had referred to the weapon alleged to have been used in the killings of the agents: "There is only one AR-15 in the group. There is no testimony concerning any other AR-15 at Tent City or at the crime scene or anywhere else in the area…"

The prosecutor intentionally misled the jury, it was later found, by concealing evidence of the presence of other AR-15 rifles, and thus other potential weapons used in the killings of the agents — none of which were attributed to Leonard Peltier.

Judge Benson nevertheless denied Peltier's Habeas Petition. All the government’s machinations were deemed a "mistake," only simple human error rather than anything done with intent.

On October 15, 1985, oral arguments regarding a Motion for a new trial were held before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. At this time, faced with proof of its own misdeeds as regards the AR-15 and the actual ballistics evidence, the government suddenly changed its prosecutorial theory to one of "aiding and abetting," even though they also admitted that they "can't prove who shot those agents."

Given that Peltier’s co-defendants were acquitted on grounds of self-defense and no others have been tried, it isn’t at all clear who Peltier allegedly aided and abetted. Also, many others were present at the shoot-out that took place on the Pine Ridge Reservation on June 26, 1975. None of those estimated 30 to 40 individuals was ever charged with aiding and abetting.

Peltier's appeal was ultimately denied.  The court ruled that it was only "possible" (rather than "probable") that the jury would have acquitted Peltier had they been presented with the true ballistics evidence.  As such, the Peltier case did not rise to the then very high standard required to receive a new trial.

According to Tanner, some of the nation’s experts say the only fix to the use of junk science and laboratory misconduct is to establish a system of accreditation, as well as licensure and certification. Necessarily there must be standards set, too, for the use of forensic science, i.e., ensuring that only valid sciences are utilized, making certain that quality assurances and quality controls are employed, and establishing an oversight mechanism that requires reporting, investigation, and remedial action upon the incidence of laboratory error.

However, "because no entity that is responsible for serving the public good can be expected to identify its shortcomings or pinpoint the source(s) of its own problems, independent forensic science commissions should be established" — in states and as regards the FBI laboratory — "that direct independent, external investigations into allegations of misconduct, negligence or error committed by employees or contractors of labs or entities that produce forensic findings."

As regards the FBI laboratory, "independent" and "external" are key elements in identifying its shortcomings because the U.S. Congress, which has oversight for FBI activities and procedures, simply has failed to do its job.

Had an independent oversight entity been in place to identify lab "errors," ensure that only valid sciences were employed, and review the use of “expert” testimony, it is likely that the perjuries made by Mr. Evan Hodge in Leonard Peltier’s trial (and after) would have been recognized. It also would have been more likely that Mr. Hodge’s misconduct and that of federal prosecutors would have been identified much earlier. At minimum, Leonard Peltier may have been given a new trial.

Instead, Mr. Hodge continued his work and went on to provide testimony in many more cases throughout his career, and Leonard Peltier languished (and still languishes) in a federal prison.



Suing Obama: GOP-Led House Gives the Go-Ahead

A sharply divided House approved a Republican plan Wednesday to launch a campaign-season lawsuit against President Barack Obama, accusing him of exceeding the bounds of his constitutional authority. Obama and other Democrats derided the effort as a stunt aimed at tossing political red meat to conservative voters.

Just a day before lawmakers were to begin a five-week summer recess, debate over the proposed lawsuit underscored the harshly partisan tone that has dominated the current Congress almost from its start in January 2013.
The vote to sue Obama was 225 to 201. Five Republicans voted with the Democrats in opposing the lawsuit. No Democrats voted for it.
Republicans said the legal action, focusing on Obama's implementation of his prized health care overhaul, was designed to prevent a further presidential power grab and his deciding unilaterally how to enforce laws.
"No member needs to be reminded about the bonds of trust that have been frayed or the damage that's already been done to our economy and to our people," declared House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. "Are you willing to let any president choose what laws to execute and what laws to change?"
Republicans also scoffed at Democratic claims that the lawsuit would be a waste of taxpayers' money.

Six Philadelphia officers charged in corruption case

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Six city narcotics officers used gangland tactics to shake down drug dealers, robbing them of large sums of cash and drugs for years, federal authorities charged in an indictment unsealed Wednesday.
The officers once held a suspect over an 18th floor balcony and used a steel bar to beat someone else in the head, authorities said. Another suspect was held captive in a hotel room for several days while he and his family were threatened, they said.

The plan "was to identify suspected drug dealers and use extortionate means or threats to get their money and profits," U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger said.

The scheme ran from 2006 to 2012, when Officer Jeffrey Walker was arrested. He has since pleaded guilty and cooperated in the two-year probe. Walker and a colleague "stole and distributed a multi-kilo quantity of cocaine, like everyday drug dealers do," Memeger said.

The officers arrested early Wednesday were Thomas Liciardello, Brian Reynolds, Michael Spicer, Perry Betts, Linwood Norman and John Speiser.

Defense lawyers said the allegations come from dubious informants — drug dealers and a convicted officer.

"I'm surprised the government will give them so much deference and credence," said lawyer Gregory Pagano, who represents Betts.

All six officers will remain in custody without bail until a detention hearing Monday.

Officials said the six will be suspended by the department while police administrators take steps to fire them.

They had been put on desk duty as the investigation unfolded, and dozens of cases have since been dismissed.

"I took them out of narcotics, but I left them ... on the job," said Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who attended a news conference with the U.S. attorney. "I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize that investigation."

The charges in the 26-count indictment include racketeering conspiracy, extortion, robbery, kidnapping and drug dealing. The indictment lists a series of shakedowns that investigators said netted the officers as much as $80,000 in cash at a time, three kilos of cocaine and Rolex watches.



September Activities in Support of the Cuban 5‏

From  September 12 to October 8, supporters of the Cuban 5 will be organizing activities in cities all over the world and in the United States to  bring attention to their 16 years of cruel imprisonment.
While Rene Gonzalez and Fernando Gonzalez are back in Cuba after serving their entire sentences, Gerardo Hernandez, Ramón Labañino and Antonio Guerrero remain in U.S. Prisons. These three men are paying a high price for defending their country against terrorism. Instead of the continuation of their imprisonment they deserve to receive medals of honor for their actions. It is long overdue for President Obama to negotiate in good faith with Cuba to reach a humanitarian solution to this case and allow them to return to their loved ones.
The International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 is returning to Washington D.C. after 5 days of activities for the Five in June. Members of the Committee, other solidarity friends and personalities will visit Capitol Hill to follow up on their June visits and organize other activities, including a rally in front of the White House and a Public Forum. Also in San Francisco, CA the committee is organizing a Bicycle Ride in Support of the Cuban 5.

International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5 

on the 16th Anniversary of the arrests of the Cuban 5
Friday September 12
12 Noon
Across the Street from Lafayette Park


Join us for an evening of solidarity with the Cuban 5
Saturday September 13, 7pm
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
1800 Massachusetts Avenue
NW Washington, DC
( Dupont Circle METRO stop - Red line)

Program will include:
  • Welcoming by SEIU leaders followed by a panel discussion
Speakers to include:
  • Jose Ramon Cabañas, Chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington DC.
  • Yeidckol Polevnsky, former Vice President of the Mexican Senate.
  • Stephen Kimber, Professor of Journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax. Author of What Lies Across the Water, the Real Story of the Cuban Five.
  • Ann Wright, anti-war activist, former United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official.
  • Piero Gleijeses, professor of United States foreign policy at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Poetry by local artists


Saturday September 27, 4pm
Starting point:  24th & Mission St BART Station
Bay Area activists will travel through the streets of San Francisco to raise awareness about the case of the Cuban 5.
For more information call 510-219-0092 or 415-269-7917

Seattle Residents Blockade Tracks To Protest Oil-By-Rail

Three residents of Anacortes and Seattle are currently blockading the oil train facility at Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery by locking their bodies to barrels full of concrete. Supported by local residents, the three are demanding an immediate halt to the shipment of explosive Bakken oil through Northwest communities, the rejection of all new oil-by-rail terminals proposed for the Northwest, and an end to the refinery’s repeated violations of the Clean Air Act. “Thursday’s derailment was the last straw,” says Jan Woodruff, an Anacortes resident. “If Federal and State regulators won’t stand up to the fossil fuel companies endangering our communities, then we, the people of those communities, will do so.” Last Thursday, July 24th, an oil train bound for Tesoro’s Anacortes Refinery derailed in Seattle, highlighting the dangers posed to Northwest communities. Between nine and sixteen oil trains travel through Seattle and Mount Vernon every week – about five of which are bound for the Tesoro refinery. The day before Thursday’s frightening derailment, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and all nine City Council members sent a letter to the Department of Transportation asking for an immediate halt of oil-by-rail shipments through Seattle.


Public Employees Union Allies With First Nations

In a continuing effort to build relations and stand with Indigenous peoples, CUPE sent a delegation to the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) 35th Annual General Assembly from July 14 to 17. This year’s assembly in Halifax, Nova Scotia (the traditional territory of the Mi’kmaq), drew more than 300 First Nations leaders, youth and elders. The chiefs in assembly discussed treaty implementation, ways to gain First Nations control of First Nations education, funding for post-secondary education, fracking on First Nation territory, reconciliation and justice for survivors of residential schools, among many other issues. The assembly delegates passed a resolution renewing their commitment in calling for a national public inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. The assembly held a special tribute, standing in a “Circle of Hope” in honour of over 1,100 murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls reported in Canada. CUPE fully supports the call for a national public inquiry.


Israeli Extremists Sing Gaza Is A Graveyard

Video from the extreme-right demonstration in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv. The demonstration was held across the square from a much bigger pro-peace demonstration that took place at the same time.

In her latest post, Rania Khalek makes reference to “a new racist chant mocking the more than two hundred children slaughtered by Israel’s merciless bombing campaign in Gaza: ‘Tomorrow there’s no school in Gaza, they don’t have any children left.’”

This video shows an Israeli mob actually singing in celebration of children’s deaths in the style of a soccer fans’ song: “In Gaza there’s no studying, No children are left there, Olé, olé, olé-olé-olé.” The mob also incites directly against Ahmed Tibi and Haneen Zoabi, two prominent Palestinian citizens of Israel who are members of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament.

The video of the 26 July event in Tel Aviv was published by Israeli journalist Haim Har-Zahav.

The words of the repulsive song have been translated for The Electronic Intifada by Dena Shunra.

Note: Click on Captions button to read the English subtitles.

Tibi – Ahmed Tibi
I wanted you to know
The next kid to be hurt will be your kid
I hate Tibi
I hate Tibi the terrorist.
Tibi – is dead!
Tibi – is dead!
Tibi – is dead!
Tibi is a terrorist.
Tibi is a terrorist.
Tibi is a terrorist.
They’ll take their papers away.
They’ll take their papers away.
They’ll take their papers away.
Olé, olé, olé-olé-olé
In Gaza there’s no studying
No children are left there,
Olé, olé, olé-olé-olé,
[Three lines, not entirely clear]
Who is getting nervous, I hear?
Zoabi, this here is the Land of Israel
This here is the Land of Israel, Zoabi
This here is the Land of the Jews
I hate you, I do, Zoabi
I hate all the Arabs.
Gaza is a graveyard
Gaza is a graveyard
Gaza is a graveyard
Gaza is a graveyard

Gaza Solidarity Grows as Israel Continues Massacre

“We are a diverse group of people who have come together against the Israeli occupation and against the massacre. However,” says Kash Nikazmrad, an organizer with Students for Justice in Palestine, “every massacre, every occupation, every act of colonialism always has a mechanism and a supporter. The supporter in this situation has been America.” Nikazmrad is one of the organizers behind the Los Angeles “Stop The Massacre in Gaza” events. Judging by the (in)action of Congress, it is hard to dispute Nikazmrad’s claims. When it comes to Israel and Gaza, there is unanimous agreement.


Can you help us print thousands of signs for the Aug. 2 National March to Let Gaza Live?

We have just reserved more buses, and need your support
Gaza Aug 2 Placard
We are about to place an order for thousands of "Let Gaza Live" signs to be carried throughout the National March on Washington. It costs $800 for every 1,000 signs, plus an additional $620 for poles. Can you help?
We have also just reserved more buses in several cities to meet the demand of all of those who want to come. A bus costs $2200 from NYC, $3100 from Boston, and $1600 from Philadelphia. Can you help? 
Volunteers are working day and night to promote the Aug. 2 March, so that we can bring many thousands of people to surround the White House in a powerful display of unity with the Palestinian people.
Posters are going up all over the East Coast, Midwest and South. Buses are selling out as more and more people are committing to attend the march. 
We are now reserving a large stage and sound system to accomodate the thousands we expect. This costs $6,000.
That is how this movement is being built — with all of us contributing what we can.
— All of us at the ANSWER Coalition
Donate Now red button

Attorney General Holder Announces Justice Department Filings in Voting Rights Cases in Wisconsin and Ohio

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Attorney General Holder Announces Justice Department Filings in Voting Rights Cases in Wisconsin and Ohio

Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that the Justice Department has submitted filings in voting rights cases in Wisconsin and Ohio.  The department’s involvement in these two cases represents its latest steps to enforce the remaining parts of the Voting Rights Act against restrictive state laws, following up on the department’s lawsuits last year against similar measures in Texas and North Carolina.
In the Wisconsin case, the department filed an amicus brief in Frank v. Walker and LULAC v. Deininger, supporting an earlier ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin that struck down Wisconsin’s strict photo voter identification requirement due to its effects on minority voters under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and because it unduly burdens a substantial number of voters in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.  In the Ohio case, the department filed a statement of interest in NAACP v. Husted, a challenge by a civil rights group to a state law curtailing early voting and same day registration.   The department’s brief contests the state of Ohio’s incorrect interpretation of the standards set forth by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.
“These filings are necessary to confront the pernicious measures in Wisconsin and Ohio that would impose significant barriers to the most basic right of our democracy,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.   “These two states’ voting laws represent the latest, misguided attempts to fix a system that isn’t broken.   These restrictive state laws threaten access to the ballot box.   The Justice Department will never shrink from our responsibility to protect the voting rights of every eligible American.   And we will keep using every available tool at our disposal to guard against all forms of discrimination, to prevent voter disenfranchisement, and to secure the rights of every citizen.”
In the amicus brief filed today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the department argues that the district court reached the correct decision by finding that Wisconsin’s voter ID law, known as Act 23, violated the Fourteenth Amendment, because it imposes unjustified burdens on a significant number of voters, and violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, because it has a discriminatory result on African-American and Hispanic voters.   In addition to finding that Act 23 would result in minority voters having less opportunity to participate in the political process relative to other members of the electorate, the court found that the state’s claimed interests in combating voter fraud and promoting electoral confidence did not justify the significant burdens Act 23 imposes on substantial numbers of voters who lack a qualifying ID.
In the statement of interest filed today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, the department makes clear that Section 2 prohibits the state of Ohio from imposing any voting qualification, prerequisite to voting, or any standard, practice or procedure that would result in the denial or abridgement of the right to vote on account of a person’s race, color or membership in a language minority group.  The filing also makes clear that in its own filings in the case the state of Ohio has incorrectly interpreted its requirements under Section 2.   The department did not take a position on any of the other claims in the case.
“The United States Department of Justice today affirms its clear position that, under Wisconsin’s Act 23, minority voters have less opportunity to participate in the political process,” said James L. Santelle, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.  “The amicus brief that we are filing not only supports the trial court’s findings but also reflects the department’s continuing focus on ensuring that the franchise remains fully available to all qualified voters.”
“Wisconsin's proud history is one of expanding the opportunity to vote,” said John W. Vaudreuil, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin.   “I'm honored to file this brief with the United States Department of Justice seeking to ensure that this great Wisconsin tradition is reaffirmed, and that every Wisconsin citizen has an equal opportunity to participate in democracy.”  
“This office remains committed to preserving the rights of every Ohio voter,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio.   “Making sure that courts continue to carefully examine voting restrictions, such as the ones recently imposed in this state, is an important part of that effort.”
In the year since the Supreme Court struck down the coverage formula that determined which jurisdictions were subject to preclearance underthe Voting Rights Act in Shelby v. Holder, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act remains one of the department’s most powerful tools to protect voting rights.   Last year the department used Section 2 to file two lawsuits against the state of Texas to stop the newly enacted discriminatory voter ID law and and to obtain a ruling that the state engaged in intentional discrimination in adopting its 2011 redistricting plans.  In North Carolina, the department used Section 2 to sue to stop a number of provisions in an election law that imposes strict voter ID requirements, restricts early voting, eliminates same-day registration and refuses to count otherwise valid provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct.  The suit alleges that the challenged law was motivated by a racially discriminatory purpose and will result in African-American voters having less opportunity than other citizens to participate in the political process.  All three cases are ongoing.

Related Material:

Civil Rights Division