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The Tax Breaks That Are Killing the Planet

Published on April 16, 2014 by The Nation
by Zoë Carpenter
Common Dreams. April 16, 2014                        
 

ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, hauled in a $32.6 billion profit last year. Chief executive Rex Tillerson got a 3 percent bump in his pay package, sending it above $28 million. And today the company gets its annual boost from the federal government: an estimated $600 million in tax breaks.

All told, the government gifts as much as $4.8 billion to the oil industry each year, more than any other country. Much of that comes not as direct handouts but instead via loopholes in the tax code; deductions for depleting oil reserves, for example, and write-offs for the expense of drilling a new well. These reflect a long-past era in which oil exploration was financially risky, and prices were low. Now oil prices and profits are high, and the government is losing revenue while promoting the continued exploitation of carbon-intensive fuels. In the face of a changing climate and a constrained domestic budget, the lunacy of such preferential treatment is hard to overstate.

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Video of News Conference on Edward Snowden’s Passport

March 25, 2014 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Ray McGovern, Coleen Rowley and Norman Solomon spoke at this news conference, sponsored by RootsAction.org and hosted by the Institute for Public Accuracy.

Norman Solomon is founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of RootsAction.org, a U.S. organization sponsoring a pair of petitions about Snowden. The petitions, with a combined total of 100,000 signers, were scheduled for presentation at the State Department and the Justice Department the morning after the news conference.

Click on the link to "Read More" for more videos, including remarks by Ray McGovern and Colleen Rowley.

read more >>

Why We Need Media Critics Who Are Fiercely Independent

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. April 13, 2014    
 

The most renowned media critics are usually superficial and craven. That’s because -- as one of the greatest in the 20th century, George Seldes, put it -- “the most sacred cow of the press is the press itself.”

No institutions are more image-conscious than big media outlets. The people running them know the crucial importance of spin, and they’ll be damned if they’re going to promote media criticism that undermines their own pretenses.

To reach the broad public, critics of the media establishment need amplification from . . . the media establishment. And that rarely happens unless the critique is shallow.

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Pass SB 1132 California Fracking Moratorium

To: California State Senate, California State Assembly  

California Legislators: Support a moratorium on fracking now by voting yes on SB 1132.

Click here to read more and sign the petition.

read more >>

Leaked Report: CIA Lied, Lied, Lied to Conceal ‘Brutal’ Torture

by Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Common Dreams. April 11, 2014

 

Key findings of classified Senate report, obtained by McClatchy, shed light on CIA concealment of atrocities

 

Sign At The International Day To Shut Down Guantanamo Bay, Supreme Court in Washington, DC, January 2007.
(Photo: takomabibelot / flickr creative commons)
 

Key findings of a still-classified Senate Intelligence Committee investigative report reveal that the CIA lied to lawmakers, the media, and the U.S. public about widespread torture as it concealed the brutality of its interrogation methods and the number of people subjected to them.

This is according to a Thursday report from McClatchy News Service, which obtained 20 main conclusions (PDF) of the 6,300-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program. These conclusions are entirely new to the public record.

As stated in the document listing the Senate report's key conclusions, obtained by McClatchy, these findings include:

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Fighting Our Fossil-Nuke Extinction

Published on Thursday, April 10, 2014 by Truthdig
by Harvey Wasserman
Common Dreams. April 10, 2014

Shutterstock

The 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster has brought critical new evidence that petro-pollution is destroying our global ecosystem.

The third anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown in Japan confirms that radioactive reactor fallout is doing the same.

How the two mega-poisons interact remains largely unstudied, but the answers can’t be good. And it’s clearer than ever that we won’t survive without ridding our planet of both.

To oppose atomic power with fossil fuels is to treat cancer by burning down the house.
To oppose petro-pollution with nukes is to stoke that fire with radiation.

In September, the first round of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report confirmed yet again that global warming is accelerating and that human activity is the cause.

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‘Act of Conscience’ as Teachers Vow Permanent Boycott of Common Core

by Jesse Hagopian
Common Dreams. April 9, 2014

Last year, a parent of student at the Earth School in Manhattan wore a button protesting new standardized testing. Now, teachers at the school have vowed to boycott the Common Core tests later this year. (Photo: Michael Appleton/NYT)
 

Last spring I was invited to the Earth School in the East Village of New York City to speak at a forum about the lessons of the MAP test boycott that I helped to organize in Seattle. Earth School 4th and 5th grade teacher Jia Lee, along with insurgent teacher union activists in MORE and parents in Change The Stakes, helped organize the event and a powerful conversation about organizing test resistance ensued.

Now, a year later, you can imagine my elation when I received an email from Jia announcing that three teachers at the Earth School declared to their administration and public schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña that they will not proctor Common Core state standardized tests this year — or ever — saying in a letter that they “can no longer implement policies that seek to transform the broad promises of public education into a narrow obsession with the ranking and sorting of children.”

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Say No to Plastics Poisoning Us

Roots Action • Action Alert                    

A new report in Mother Jones finds that even if plastic bottles and food containers were rid of a notoriously dangerous additive called BPA, they would in many cases remain unsafe -- putting people at risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and numerous other serious ailments.

Estrogenic chemicals -- as dangerous as BPA and worse -- are used in plastics found in water bottles, baby bottles, and all kinds of food containers. The Environmental Protection Agency does not test or regulate these chemicals. Consumers have no way of knowing what's in a product by looking at it or by checking what type of plastic it is.

Sign the petition:

We demand that the federal government serve its primary function of keeping us safe by ending the use of untested chemicals in our food and drink containers.

read more >>

Beyond McCutcheon: Deeper Questions Demand Answers

by Danny Schechter
Common Dreams. April 5, 2014
                           

Everyone’s taking about the Supreme Court’s perfectly predictable “Citizens United 2” McCutcheon decision. It’s what we are NOT talking about that worries me.

Ironically, the far right that many on the left see as the only beneficiary of a decision that treats money and free speech as if they are the same thing, is also not happy with it. They wanted, and may still get, the end of all campaign finance reform.

This decision keeps individual giving caps in place and, in the Right’s view, doesn’t go far enough, although in their war of many slashes and cuts, they clearly see laws and policies trending in their direction.

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CIA Whistleblower and the Torture Report

by Medea Benjamin and Cayman Kai
Common Dreams. April 4, 2014                                
 
On April 3, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify the executive summary and conclusions of a report detailing the CIA’s use of torture. When the Torture Report is finally released, after going through the CIA for redaction, it will undoubtedly confirm the 2007 revelations about CIA torture released by John Kiriakou, former CIA analyst and case officer. But Kiriakou himself is still languishing in prison, with at least another year left in his sentence. When Americans get a chance to contemplate the abuses committed in their name,  they should also call for justice and freedom for the whistleblower who warned us about these abuses years ago.

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Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden’s Passport to be Reinstated

read more >>

Petitions for Snowden Encounter Officialdom in Washington

Institute for Public Accuracy
News Release. March 26, 2014
 
Norman Solomon, talking with Justice Department official, with Coleen Rowley and Ray McGovern. Photo:IPA
 
  •     Former NSA Director Hayden Responds to News Conference
  •     State Department Rebuffs Effort to Deliver Petition
  •     Justice Department Accepts Documents With 100,000 Signers

The Department of Justice accepted a pair of petitions with more than 100,000 signers on Wednesday ­­– several thousand pages urging restoration of Edward Snowden’s passport and an ironclad U.S. government commitment not to interfere with political asylum for the National Security Agency whistleblower.

Acceptance of the petitions by the Justice Department at its Washington headquarters followed an attempt earlier in the day to deliver the passport-­related petition to the State Department, which declined to accept that 2,670-page petition.

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Should Edward Snowden Get His Passport Back?

By Charles S. Clark
Government Executive
March 25, 2014

 

On Wednesday, an alliance of pro-whistleblower activists is set to deliver petitions containing more than 100,000 signatures to the State and Justice Departments demanding that former National Security Agency contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden have his passport reinstated so that he can end his current exile in Russia.

read more >>

Snowden’s Passport and Political Asylum – Whistleblowers News Conference

News Release. RootsAction
Common Dreams. March 24, 2014                             

 

WASHINGTON - March 24 - Nine months after revocation of his passport by the Obama administration, a news conference in Washington will call for a change in the U.S. government stance toward NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

When:  Tuesday, March 25 at 1 p.m.

Where:  National Press Club (Zenger Room), National Press Building

The news conference will feature three speakers:

read more >>

Some Facts About How NSA Stories are Reported

Published on Sunday, March 23, 2014 by The Intercept
by Glenn Greenwald
Common Dreams. March 23, 2014

NSA Spied on Chinese Government and Networking Firm: Former Chinese President Hu Jintao (left) and his successor, Xi Jinping (right): Politicians in Beijing were targets of NSA espionage.

Several members of the august “US Journalists Against Transparency” club are outraged by revelations in yesterday’s New York Times (jointly published by der Spiegel) that the NSA has been hacking the products of the Chinese tech company Huawei as well as Huawei itself at exactly the same time (and in exactly the same way) as the US Government has been claiming the Chinese government hacks. Echoing the script of national security state officials, these journalists argue that these revelations are unjustified, even treasonous, because this is the type of spying the NSA should be doing, and disclosure serves no public interest while harming American national security, etc. etc.

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Announcing endorsements in Assembly—and other—races

Coalition for Grassroots Progress
March 21, 2014                                                     
 

You don’t need us to tell you why elections are important. You know that our environment, our privacy, our healthcare, and our Constitution are under relentless assault from corporate “business as usual” legislators -- and the time is now to elect candidates who will defend us in those crucial realms.

For all of us, 2014 is an important election year -- when some key races will be decided, ranging from members of Congress to state legislators and local officeholders.

After careful assessments, the Coalition for Grassroots Progress has endorsed the following candidates in northern California races. We urge you to visit their websites and to consider providing support.

read more >>

CGP Announces Endorsements for June Primary Races

Coalition for Grassroots Progress
March 19, 2014                                                                     
 

The Coalition for Grassroots Progress, an independent community-based political action committee rooted in several coastal counties north of the Golden Gate Bridge, has announced endorsements in some key 2014 political races.

CGP’s endorsements are based on assessments of which candidates will defend the public interest in crucial matters such as the environment, privacy, healthcare and constitutional rights.

CGP has endorsed these candidates:

read more >>

When Hope Turns Rancid: From LBJ to Obama

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. March 17, 2014.
 

Hope makes history. So does betrayal of hope.                                

Early in his presidency, Lyndon Johnson inspired enormous hope. But the promise for a Great Society imploded — and disappointment jolted many former supporters, with trust and optimism turning into alienation and bitterness. The negative ripple effects lasted for decades.

Fifty years after Johnson entered the White House, the corrosive aspects of his legacy are easy to discern. A political base for progressive social change eroded as he escalated the Vietnam War and bought time with shameless deceit. For many people, distrust of leaders became the essence of realism.

read more >>

Thousands Confront Governor Jerry Brown: ‘Don’t Frack with California!’

Diverse coalition rallies in Sacramento to demand statewide moratorium on dangerous gas drilling

 

Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Common Dreams. March 17, 2014

Anti-fracking protesters unfurled a banner outside the California capitol building Saturday calling on Governor Jerry Brown to put a halt to fracking in the state. (Photo: Rae Breaux, Don't Frack CA/ Flickr)

Thousands of families, farm workers, students, Native Americans and environmentalists from across California descended on the capitol building in Sacramento on Saturday united under a single message to Governor Jerry Brown: "Don't frack with our state!"

In what is being called the largest anti-fracking action in California, organizers estimate that 5,000 protesters from across the state took part in the rally and march, which was organized by the coalition Californians Against Fracking along with over 80 individual environmental and public health organizations. Many traveled hours—from San Diego in the south and from Humboldt County  in the north—by bus and rideshares to take part in the action.

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Obama, The CIA, And The Limits Of Conciliation

By Charles P. Pierce
Esquire. The Politics Blog
March 14, 2014

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that, in one very important way, the president has lost control of his own government. The current constitutional crisis between the CIA and the Senate committee tasked with investigating its policies regarding torture during the previous administration has only one real solution that is consonant with the rule of law. Either CIA director John Brennan gets to the bottom of what his people were doing and publicly fires everyone involved, or John Brennan becomes the ex-director of the CIA. By the Constitution, this isn't even a hard call. The Senate has every legal right to investigate what was done in the name of the American people during the previous decade. It has every legal right to every scrap of information relating to its investigation, and the CIA has an affirmative legal obligation to cooperate. Period. The only way this is not true is if we come to accept the intelligence apparatus as an extra-legal, formal fourth branch of the government.

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The Feinstein Syndrome: “The Fourth Amendment for Me, But Not for Thee”

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. March 12, 2014

 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein speaking on the Senate floor on Tuesday. (Photo: CSPAN)

Who knows, soon we might see headlines and cable TV shows asking: "Is Dianne Feinstein a whistleblower or a traitor?"

A truthful answer to that question could not possibly be “whistleblower.” It may already be a historic fact that Senator Feinstein’s speech on March 11, 2014 blew a whistle on CIA surveillance of the Senate intelligence committee, which she chairs. But if that makes her a whistleblower, then Colonel Sanders is a vegetarian evangelist.

In her blockbuster Tuesday speech on the Senate floor, Feinstein charged that the CIA’s intrusions on her committee’s computers quite possibly “violated the Fourth Amendment.” You know, that’s the precious amendment that Feinstein—more than any other senator—has powerfully treated like dirt, worthy only of sweeping under the congressional rug.

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Are Progressives Ready for ‘Political Revolution’ with Bernie?

The Vermont senator says he wants to hear from progressives about a possible run for president. Here's a start.

 

by Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. March 10, 2014
 
With lots of agreement, some divergence, and plenty of questions still to consider, progressives weigh in on a 'Bernie Sanders for President' campaign. (Photo: DonkeyHotey / cc / Text added)
 

Vermont's Independent Senator Bernie Sanders has now said he is 'prepared to run for President of the United States' in 2016, but that he wants to hear from progressives across the country about what such a run should look like if and when he makes it official.

In interviews with both The Nation and Time magazines published last week, Sanders spoke in the most specific terms yet about why a serious progress candidate is necessary, what the goals of such a campaign should be, and the inherent challenges involved. And even though the self-described democratic socialist admits he's not 'the only person out there who can fight this fight'—Sanders says the moment demands what he repeatedly calls a "political revolution."

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Hillary Clinton on Putin: Playing a Dog-Eared “Hitler” Card

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. March 7, 2014

Hillary Clinton rally at Nashua High School North in Nashua New Hampshire in 2008. (Photo: Aaron Webb / Flickr / cc)

The frontrunner to become the next president of the United States is playing an old and dangerous political game -- comparing a foreign leader to Adolf Hitler.

At a private charity event on Tuesday, in comments preserved on audio, Hillary Clinton talked about actions by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in the Crimea. “Now if this sounds familiar, it’s what Hitler did back in the ’30s,” she said.

The next day, Clinton gave the inflammatory story more oxygen when speaking at UCLA. She “largely stood by the remarks,” the Washington Post reported. Clinton “said she was merely noting parallels between Putin’s claim that he was protecting Russian-speaking minorities in Crimea and Hitler’s moves into Poland, Czechoslovakia and other parts of Europe to protect German minorities.”

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Obama Administration Told to Stop Expanding ‘Corporate Rghts’ in Trade Agreements

Published on March 6, 2014 by Think Forward Blog                   
by Karen Hansen-Kuhn
Common Dreams. March 6, 2014
 

One of the most controversial provisions in free trade agreements is the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which gives corporations the right to sue governments over public measures that undermine their expected profits. It’s a pretty outrageous assault on democratic structures. In fact, when I tell people new to the trade debate about it, at first they often don’t believe me.

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The Hunger Artifice

Jared Huffman votes to cut food stamps       

 

BY ALICE CHAN                                                     
Bohemian.com • March 5, 2014
 

Congressman Jared Huffman made the wrong call when he helped to cut food stamps recently by voting yes on the Agricultural Act of 2014, aka the Farm Bill.

Huffman should have known better. Last June, he participated in the "SNAP Food Stamp Challenge" for five days, to find out what it's like to have just $4.50 a day to spend on food. On the first day of the effort, Huffman said, "I can already tell that [quality] protein and just about anything fresh are going to be casualties of a food-stamp diet."

Huffman endured the ordeal for a week. Imagine coping with it for 52 weeks a year.

read more >>

Heard the One About Obama Denouncing a Breach of International Law?

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. March 3, 2014

Breaches of international law are a serious matter... when some country other than the United States is accused. (Photo: Reuters)

International law is suddenly very popular in Washington. President Obama responded to Russian military intervention in the Crimea by accusing Russia of a “breach of international law.” Secretary of State John Kerry followed up by declaring that Russia is “in direct, overt violation of international law.”

Unfortunately, during the last five years, no world leader has done more to undermine international law than Barack Obama. He treats it with rhetorical adulation and behavioral contempt, helping to further normalize a might-makes-right approach to global affairs that is the antithesis of international law.

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#XLDissent: Students Overtake DC to Demand Climate Action

Smith University student: "We cannot sit idly by, or we will not have a future to fight for."

Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Common Dreams, March 2, 2014

Day of student-led action kicks off with a rally in Georgetown before over a thousand demonstrators march to the White House. (Photo: @350/ Twitter)

Over 500 students are risking arrest Sunday as they handcuff themselves to the White House fence, placing their bodies on the line in what many say may be a "watershed" moment for a generation. Under the banner XL Dissent, over one thousand college students are descending on the White House to force President Obama to face the individuals whose future is imperiled by current U.S. climate policy.

"Our generation is going to be stuck with the reality of decisions made now about whether to invest in destruction or the future," Smith College student Aly Johnson-Kurts told Common Dreams ahead of the demonstration. "We are realizing we cannot sit idly by, or we will not have a future to fight for."

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Cut NSA and CIA, raise Social Security

Action Alert • Roots Action

                                                                                                                                      

As the president prepares a budget proposal and Congress prepares to reprise familiar debates, we have a proposal of our own.

TAKE ACTION: Urge the president and Congress to increase Social Security and cut the Shadow Budget

read more >>

From Keystone to Ecuador: The End of “Easy Oil”

Institute for Public Accuracy
Press Releas
Common Dreams. February 28, 2014                                          
 
 
The environmental group 350.org states: “As the fight over the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline seems to be accelerating towards a final decision, protestors are turning up the heat on President Obama to reject the project.” Langholz is a senior at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota and is one of “more than 1,000 students and youth from across the country [who] have signed up to take part in a march to the White House from Georgetown University, where President Obama laid out his ‘climate test’ for the pipeline this summer. Once there, more than 300 youth are expected to risk arrest in a sit-in, the largest youth act of civil disobedience at the White House in a generation.”

read more >>

Saving Our Blue Future: The Human Race Needs a New Water Ethic

Published on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 by OtherWords
by Maude Barlow
Common Dreams. February 26, 2014

(Photo credit: Flickr / cc / Tim Cronin / Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Have you heard? The world is running out of accessible clean water.

Humanity is polluting, mismanaging, and displacing our finite freshwater sources at an alarming rate. Since 1990, half the rivers in China have disappeared. The Ogallala Aquifer that supplies the U.S. breadbasket will be gone “in our lifetime,” the U.S. Department of Agriculture says.

By 2030, global demand for water will outstrip supply by 40 percent, a surefire recipe for great suffering. Five hundred scientists recently told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that our collective abuse of water has caused the planet to enter “a new geologic age” and that the majority of the planet’s population lives within 31 miles of an endangered water source.

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Amazon.spy

The online retailer just made it easier for the CIA to spy on Americans

 

by Norman Solomon
Bohemian.com • February 26, 2014                                          
 

The world's biggest online retailer, Amazon, keeps expanding. A few months ago, the company signed a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency to provide "cloud computing" services. An official statement from Amazon headquarters declared, "We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA."

Amazon maintains a humongous trove of detailed information about hundreds of millions of people. Are we to believe that the CIA and other intelligence agencies have no interest in Amazon's data?

read more >>

The Mayor Who Brought an Economic Democracy Vision to Mississippi

by John Nichols
Common Dreams. February 26, 2014                                          
 
Chokwe Lumumba maintained a civil rights commitment that was rooted in the moment when his mother showed her eight-year-old son the Jet magazine photograph of a beaten Emmett Till in his open casket. The commitment was nurtured on the streets of Detroit, where Lumumba and his mother collected money to support the Southern Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the civil rights struggles of the early 1960s.
 
Half a century later, he would be the transformational mayor of a major southern city, Jackson, Mississippi. But just as his tenure was taking shape, Lumumba died unexpectedly Tuesday at age 66.

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“Most Revolutionary Mayor” Dies — Will the “Jackson Plan” Proliferate?

Institute for Public Accuracy. News Release
February 26, 2014
 
 
AP reports from Jackson, Miss.: “Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist who persuaded voters here to accept a sales tax to fix crumbling roads and dated water and sewer systems, died Tuesday, the authorities said. He was 66.”

AJAMU BARAKA, ajamubaraka2 at gmail.com

Baraka is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and a columnist for Black Agenda Report. He said today: “Chokwe Lumumba’s passing is a significant blow for progressive politics in the U.S. and especially for the aspirations of African Americans. His election represented the hope that a progressive African American can take power and really do something for working class and poor people in an urban area. With his passing, we’re deprived of his work for a localized struggle for power, but hopefully the coalition he helped build and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement can continue on the progressive trajectory they were on.”

read more >>

Why Amazon’s Collaboration With the CIA Is So Ominous - and Vulnerable

Truthout.org. 23 February, 2014
By Norman Solomon, Norman Solomon's Blog | Op-Ed                                   
 

As the world's biggest online retailer, Amazon wants a benevolent image to encourage trust from customers. Obtaining vast quantities of their personal information has been central to the firm's business model. But Amazon is diversifying -- and a few months ago the company signed a $600 million contract with the Central Intelligence Agency to provide "cloud computing" services.

Amazon now has the means, motive and opportunity to provide huge amounts of customer information to its new business partner. An official statement from Amazon headquarters last fall declared: "We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA."

read more >>

Western Spy Agencies Infiltrating, Warping World of Online Activism

Latest Snowden documents show extent to which GCHQ has gone to 'manipulate, deceive, and destroy reputations' of online targets

 

Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 25, 2014

According to Greenwald, the documents themselves reflect the agency’s own awareness that it is “pushing the boundaries” by using “cyber offensive” techniques against people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats. Indeed, he says, the programs centrally involve law enforcement agents who investigate ordinary crimes. (Photo: Reuters/Kacper Pempel)

According to newly published documents, Western spy agencies like the GCHQ and NSA have developed sophisticated online operations in which covert agents infiltrate online communities, networks and forums in order to "manipulate, deceive"—even destroy the reputations of—targeted individuals and groups even if those people have not be charged, or necessarily accused, of a crime.

Building on his previous reporting about so-called "dirty tricks" used by GCHQ to ensare, trap, and discredit online hacktivists and other digital networks, journalist Glenn Greenwald late Monday published a new series of internal agency slides—leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden—which show how a special unit, called JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group), has attempted "to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse" for its own ends. In so doing, writes Greenwald, these operations are disrupting "the integrity of the internet itself."

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Pushing back against corporate leverage

Coalition for Grassroots Progress
February 21, 2014                                                    
 
We’re making a difference! 
                   

Early last year, the Coalition for Grassroots Progress endorsed and actively supported candidates to be state Democratic Party delegates.

In Assembly District 10, across Marin County and much of Sonoma County, our coalition backed twelve candidates for twelve seats. All of them won.

Why does this matter? Well, please read on.

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Problems with Levine

Marin Readers' Forum for Feb. 21
Letter to the Editor by Norman Solomon
 

In his Feb. 12 column, Dick Spotswood bypassed some big reasons why Assemblyman Marc Levine failed to win endorsement from local Democratic Party delegates in his re-election effort.

Refusal to endorse an incumbent Democrat for re-election is very rare for California's Democratic Party.

Despite his powers of incumbency, Levine couldn't get over the required 50 percent mark.

That happened mostly because Levine hasn't outgrown the corporate special interests that boosted him into the Assembly seat in the first place.

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Amazon: Don’t give customer info to the CIA

Roots Action • Action Alert                                  

Amazon is the biggest online retailer in the world. And the company has signed a $600 million contract to provide “cloud computing” services to the Central Intelligence Agency.

“We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA,” Amazon says. 

Amazon now averages 162 million unique visitors to its sites every month. The firm’s business model depends on accumulating and analyzing huge quantities of personal data. Meanwhile, the CIA depends on gathering and analyzing data to serve U.S. military interventions overseas.

During the last dozen years, the CIA has conducted ongoing drone strikes and covert lethal missions in many countries. Meanwhile, U.S. agencies like the CIA and NSA have flattened many previous obstacles to Big Brother behavior.

The circumstances are ominous. Amazon is now hosting a huge computing cloud for the CIA’s secrets -- a digital place where data for mass surveillance and perpetual war are converging.

Please sign the petition below to challenge the Amazon-CIA partnership.

To Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos:
We urge you to make a legally binding commitment to customers that Amazon will not provide customer data to the Central Intelligence Agency.

read more >>

Is the President Allowed to Kill Anyone He Wants?

Roots Action • Action Alert
February 17, 2014                                                                          
 

It's Presidents Day. Are this president and any future presidents allowed to kill anyone they want?

"An American citizen who is a member of al-Qaida is actively planning attacks against Americans overseas, U.S. officials say," the Associated Press reports -- "and the Obama administration is wrestling with whether to kill him with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy issued last year."

To point out that no policy can make this legal, click here to sign our petition.

read more >>

Call off the dogs on Snowden

Roots Action • Action Alert

                                                                             

Today we’re giving a major boost to a pair of petitions in support of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Please add your name to one or both.

    Click here to tell Secretary of State Kerry: Give Snowden back his passport!

    Click here to tell the Obama administration: Hands off Snowden!

 

RootsAction is getting ready to publicly deliver these petitions to officials in Washington. The more signers, the greater the impact -- as we reach out to news media everywhere.

Truth must be told: Edward Snowden’s “crime” was to educate Americans and the world about the dangerous growth of the U.S. surveillance state.

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Wild Winter Storm in the East, Flooding in the UK: Weather in ‘Schizoid Mode’

'We have to understand that climate change is affecting all weather patterns,' says meteorologist

 

by Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 13, 2014
 
 
 

As a 'significant winter storm' continues to batter the eastern part of the nation with snow and ice, leaving at least 14 dead and cutting off power for half a million people, experts are urging people to see the event as part of climate change and a reminder of the need to ditch fossil fuels.

"The remarkable thing about this storm," meteorologist Jeff Masters told Democracy Now! Thursday morning, "is it occurs at the tail end of a very long period of intense winter that we’ve seen over the eastern U.S., but at the same time, the western U.S. has been struggling with record drought and all-time high temperatures in January."

"So, the weather has been in kind of this schizoid mode, where it’s unusually cold over the eastern half of the U.S. and unusually warm over the western half," Masters said.

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If Obama Orders the CIA to Kill a US Citizen, Amazon Will Be a Partner in Assassination

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. February 12, 2014                                    
                                                                             

President Obama is now considering whether to order the Central Intelligence Agency to kill a U.S. citizen in Pakistan. That’s big news this week. But hidden in plain sight is the fact that Amazon would be an accessory to the assassination.

Amazon has a $600 million contract with the CIA to provide the agency with “cloud” computing services. After final confirmation of the deal several months      ago, Amazon declared: “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”

The relationship means that Amazon -- logoed with a smiley-face arrow from A to Z, selling products to millions of people every week -- is responsible for keeping the CIA’s secrets and aggregating data to help the agency do its work. Including drone strikes.

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Resisting the Surveillance State of Mind

We must not let the NSA’s snooping define a new era in which privacy is a relic

 

by Norman Solomon
Opinion
Al Jazeera America. February 11, 2014

 

NSA headquarters in Fort MeadeCivil liberties activists hold a rally against surveillance of US citizens in Washington on Jan. 17, 2014., Md.Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images
 

Eight months after whistle-blower Edward Snowden set off a huge uproar by shedding light on the National Security Agency’s unscrupulous surveillance practices, we are still learning about the vast extent of the snooping. Such revelations are vital to inform the public and enable a democratic process that could hold the government accountable. But they are accompanied by a very real danger: We may come to see privacy as a thing of the past.

The mind-boggling scope of the NSA’s surveillance continues to make front-page news as a political story. But its most pernicious effects are social and psychological. We are getting accustomed to Big Brother. Our daily lives are now accessible to prying eyes and ears no farther away than the nearest computer or cellphone. Unless we directly challenge the system of mass surveillance now, the ruling elites may understand our complacency as consent, with results that extend the reach of surveillance and its damaging consequences. Even as it grows more familiar, this bulk collection of data is corroding civil society.

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Greenwald/Scahill: How the NSA Helps the US Assassinate

Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 10, 2014
 
 
(Credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
 

In the first investigative piece co-written for their new media venture, journalists Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill on Monday published a much-anticipated story—based on eye-witness accounts and leaked documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden—describing how the National Security Agency uses its digital surveillance capabilities to assist the CIA and Pentagon as they carrying out controversial overseas assassinations ordered by President Obama.

Published under the masthead of 'The Intercept' at their new First Look website, Greenwald and Scahill report:

    The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.

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Bill McKibben: We ‘Dont Trust’ Obama on Climate Change

Environmental leader says Obama can stand up for the planet's health or fossil fuel industry, but his legacy will suffer horribly if he chooses wrong

 

by Jon Queally, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 7, 2014
 
People don't trust him on [the climate change] issue,' said Bill McKibben (r) while speaking with Bill Moyers about President Obama and the Keystone XL. 'He's done some good things, but his record is mixed at best.' (Source: Moyers Media)

 

In an interview with veteran journalist Bill Moyers set to air Friday evening, author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben, a key voice in the climate justice movement, says that President Obama's looming decision to approve or reject the Keystone XL tar sands will be the ultimate indicator of whether his loyalties reside with the health of the planet and future generations or with the desires and financial interests of the fossil fuel industry.

According to McKibben, the climate movement does not trust Obama to do the right thing on the pipeline, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence and outpouring of opposition to the tar sands project. "He's done some good things, but his record is mixed at best," McKibben tells Moyers. "And he will be remembered at the moment, as the president who produced more carbon than anybody thought possible, unless he begins to act now with real power."

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Keystone approval would set terrible example

The president must lead now on climate change, for the sake of the planet’s future

 
by Norman Solomon
OPINION. Aljazeera America
February 4, 2014                                                                       

 

President Barack Obama will soon have to decide whether to approve the enormous northern portion of the Keystone XL project, which would create a pipeline from oil production in the Alberta tar sands to Steele City, Neb. The southern portion of Keystone, already built, takes oil from there to ports in the Gulf of Mexico.

The president should reject the plan. Approval of Keystone XL would have a grim impact on humanity’s chances of mitigating climate catastrophe. The long-term negative effects would go far beyond the carbon pollution from the transported tar-sands oil.

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All the President’s Middlemen: The Public-Private Profiteers

If You Want to Play Doctor, Don’t Hire an Insurance Company as Your Receptionist


Published on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 by TomDispatch.com
by Barbara Garson
Common Dreams. February 4, 2014
                                                 
 

Health care isn't the first boon that President Obama tried to give us through a public-private partnership.  When he took office, more than 25% of U.S. home mortgages were underwater -- meaning that people owed more on their houses than they could get if they tried to sell them.  The president offered those homeowners debt relief through banks.  Now he's offering health care through insurance companies.

In both cases, the administration shied away from direct government aid.  Instead, it subsidized private companies to serve the people.  To get your government-subsidized mortgage modification, you applied at your bank; to get your government-mandated health coverage, you buy private insurance.

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Groups: This is an ‘All Hands On Deck’ Moment to Stop KXL

Following controversial Environmental Impact Statement, indigenous communities and environmental groups prepare to mobilize

 

by Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Common Dreams. February 2, 2014

(Photo: AP)

Now's the time to take to the streets to stop President Obama from approving the northern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline.

That's the call of concerned people across the United States following the Friday release of the U.S. State Department's widely criticized environmental impact statement on the controversial pipeline.

Over 17 groups — including CREDO, Rainforest Action Network, and Forest Ethics — are urging nationwide vigils the night of Monday, February 3 to protest the pipeline.

"This is an all-hands-on-deck moment to send the message to President Obama that Keystone XL fails his climate test and he must reject it," reads a joint statement about the day of action.

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Beyond Orwell’s Worst Nightmare

by Marjorie Cohn
Common Dreams. February 1, 2014
 

“Big Brother is Watching You,” George Orwell wrote in his disturbing book 1984. But, as    Mikko Hypponen points out, Orwell “was an optimist.” Orwell never could have imagined that the National Security Agency (NSA) would amass metadata on billions of our phone calls and 200 million of our text messages every day. Orwell could not have foreseen that our government would read the content of our emails, file transfers, and live chats from the social media we use.

In his recent speech on NSA reforms, President Obama cited as precedent Paul Revere and the Sons of Liberty, who patrolled the streets at night, “reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots.” This was a weak effort to find historical support for the NSA spying program. After all, Paul Revere and his associates were patrolling the streets, not sorting through people’s private communications.

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With Review in Hand, Obama Must Now Reject Dirty Pipeline: Groups

McKibben: “The State Department has given Obama all the room he needs to do what he promised in both campaigns: to take serious steps against global warming."

 

Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Common Dreams. January 31, 2014

Protestors demonstrated against the Keystone XL pipeline in San Francisco last year. (Photo: Getty Images)

The State Department released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday. Environmental groups and climate activists are saying that given Obama's promise to judge the project on its climate impacts there is no way—given the review's contents—he can possibly approve it now.

In a press call following the release of the review, 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said that a close reading of the report shows that the climate impacts it recognizes are undeniable.

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The State of Phony Populism

Published on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 by Al-Jazeera America

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams, January 29, 2014

Barack Obama put on a deft performance Tuesday night. With trills of empathy, the president’s voice soared to hit the high notes. He easily carried a tune of economic populism. But after five years of Obama in the White House, Americans should know by now that he was lip-syncing the words.

The latest State of the Union speech offered a faint echo of a call for the bold public investment that would be necessary to reduce economic inequity in the United States. The rhetoric went out to a country that in recent years has grown even more accustomed to yesterday’s floor becoming today’s ceiling.

The speech offered nothing that could plausibly reverse the trend of widening income gaps. Despite Obama’s major drumroll about his executive order to increase the minimum wage for some federal contract employees, few workers would be affected. The thumping was loud, but the action was small.

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Cut Off the NSA’s Juice

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. January 27, 2014
 
The National Security Agency depends on huge computers that guzzle electricity in the service of the surveillance state. For the NSA’s top executives, maintaining a vast flow of juice to keep Big Brother nourished is essential—and any interference with that flow is unthinkable.                                                                                            
 

But interference isn’t unthinkable. And in fact, it may be doable.          

Grassroots activists have begun to realize the potential to put the NSA on the defensive in nearly a dozen states where the agency is known to be running surveillance facilities, integral to its worldwide snoop operations.

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The Blind Alley of J Street and Liberal American Zionism

by Norman Solomon and Abba Solomon
Common Dreams. January 22, 2014
        

Since its founding six years ago, J Street has emerged as a major Jewish organization under the banner “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace.” By now J Street is able to be a partial counterweight to AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The contrast between the two U.S. groups is sometimes stark. J Street applauds diplomacy with Iran, while AIPAC works to undermine it. J Street encourages U.S. support for “the peace process” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, while AIPAC opposes any meaningful Israeli concessions. In the pressure cooker of Washington politics, J Street’s emergence has been mostly positive. But what does its motto “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace” really mean?

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Court Backs Internet Censorship: Open The Internet Now!

Action Alert
RootsAction.org                           
 
A federal appeals court just sided with Verizon and against you, against us, against the Internet.

If this ruling stands, the Internet as we know it will die.

Forget free and open access. Picture a system like cable TV with corporations charging for different levels of access, and blocking access to information they don't favor!

The Internet is our tool for circumventing the corporate media, for reaching each other with a bit of truth and accuracy, for organizing each other into collective action. We cannot let this one go.

Sign this petition to the FCC, Congress, and the White House now!

Keep the Internet open. Keep net neutrality. Don't allow censorship and discrimination when it comes to Internet access.

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Ownership of WaPo by CIA Contractor Puts U.S. Journalism in Dangerous Terrain

The Real News
January 21, 2014
 

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The NSA Threat and MLK

Institute for Public Accuracy
News Release. January 20, 2014                             
 
JARED BALL, imixwhatilike at gmail.com
Associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University and author of I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto and A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X, Ball said today: “None of the surveillance talk happening these days would surprise Dr. King. From the moment of his 1963 ‘Dream’ speech he was targeted by the FBI as ‘the most dangerous Negro … from the standpoint of communism, the Negro, and national security…’ [William Sullivan, head of the FBI’s domestic intelligence division] and was targeted with at least 25 illegal attempts by the FBI to discredit him.

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Congress: Restore Emergency Unemployment Benefits

Action Alert
Coalition for Grassroots Progress                
 

Over the past five years, 69 million people have relied on unemployment benefits, including 17 million children. On December 28 these emergency benefits expired and 1.3 million Americans headed into the holiday season choosing between putting food on their tables or paying bills and keeping a roof over their heads.

Another 850,000 will run out of benefits between January and March. Combined with recent food stamps cuts, this will have a devastating effect on struggling families and be a heavy blow to the economy as well.

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Why the Washington Post’s New Ties to the CIA Are So Ominous

by Norman Solomon
The Huffington Post. January 13, 2014                       
 

American journalism has entered highly dangerous terrain.

A tip-off is that the Washington Post refuses to face up to a conflict of interest involving Jeff Bezos -- who's now the sole owner of the powerful newspaper at the same time he remains Amazon's CEO and main stakeholder.

The Post is supposed to expose CIA secrets. But Amazon is under contract to keep them. Amazon has a new $600 million "cloud" computing deal with the CIA.

The situation is unprecedented. But in an email exchange early this month, Washington Post executive editor Martin Baron told me that the newspaper doesn't need to routinely inform readers of the CIA-Amazon-Bezos ties when reporting on the CIA. He wrote that such in-story acknowledgment would be "far outside the norm of disclosures about potential conflicts of interest at media organizations."

But there isn't anything normal about the new situation. As I wrote to Baron, "few journalists could have anticipated ownership of the paper by a multibillionaire whose outside company would be so closely tied to the CIA."

The Washington Post 's refusal to provide readers with minimal disclosure in coverage of the CIA is important on its own. But it's also a marker for an ominous pattern -- combining denial with accommodation to raw financial and governmental power -- a synergy of media leverage, corporate digital muscle and secretive agencies implementing policies of mass surveillance, covert action and ongoing warfare.

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On Secrecy, Oaths, and Edward Snowden

Published on Thursday, January 9, 2014 by Freedom of the Press Foundation
by Daniel Ellsberg
Common Dreams. January 9, 2013                    
 
These two pieces, the first by Marcy Wheeler, in part commenting on the second by Amy Davidson in the New Yorker (along with Snowden himself, in his interview with Bart Gellman) are the first I've seen making a point I've been making for years: contrary to the frequent assertions in the last week (including by Fred Kaplan) that Snowden is particularly reprehensible because he "broke his OATH of secrecy," neither Snowden nor anyone else broke such a secrecy "oath".

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The CIA, Amazon, Bezos and the Washington Post: An Exchange with Executive Editor Martin Baron

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. January 8, 2014                                    
 

To: Martin Baron, Executive Editor, and Kevin Merida, Managing Editor, The Washington Post

Dear Mr. Baron and Mr. Merida:

On behalf of more than 25,000 signers of a petition to The Washington Post, I’m writing this letter to request a brief meeting to present the petition at a time that would be convenient for you on Jan. 14 or 15.

Here is the text of the petition, launched by RootsAction.org:

“A basic principle of journalism is to acknowledge when the owner of a media outlet has a major financial relationship with the subject of coverage. We strongly urge the Washington Post to be fully candid with its readers about the fact that the newspaper’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, is the founder and CEO of Amazon which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA. The Washington Post’s coverage of the CIA should include full disclosure that the sole owner of the Post is also the main owner of Amazon -- and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA.”

The petition includes cogent comments by many of the people who signed it.

I hope that you can set aside perhaps 10 minutes on Jan. 14 or 15 for the purpose of receiving the petition and hearing a summary of its signers’ concerns.

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Four Points about the 1971 FBI Break-In

Published on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 by Greenwald Side Docs
by Glenn Greenwald
Common Dreams. January 7, 2014
 
 
The New York Times this morning has an extraordinary 13-minute video from a team of reporters including the independent journalist Jonathan Franklin, and an accompanying article by Mark Mazzetti, about the heroic anti-war activists who broke into an FBI field office in 1971 and took all of the documents they could get their hands on, and then sent those documents to newspapers, including the New York Times and Washington Post.

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Is MoveOn Less Progressive Than the New York Times Editorial Board?

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. December 23, 2013                                                     
 

The New York Times is hardly a progressive newspaper -- but when it comes to the surveillance state and ongoing militarism of the Obama White House, the establishment’s “paper of record” puts MoveOn.org to shame.                                     

And so, the same day that the Times editorialized to excoriate President Obama for his latest betrayal of civil liberties, MoveOn sent out a huge email blast sucking up to Obama.

The Times was blunt in its Saturday editorial: “By the time President Obama gave his news conference on Friday, there was really only one course to take on surveillance policy from an ethical, moral, constitutional and even political point of view. And that was to embrace the recommendations of his handpicked panel on government spying -- and bills pending in Congress -- to end the obvious excesses. He could have started by suspending the constitutionally questionable (and evidently pointless) collection of data on every phone call and email that Americans make.”

But, the newspaper added: “He did not do any of that.”

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Under Amazon’s CIA Cloud: The Washington Post

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. December 18, 2013
 
Jeff Bezos recently acquired the Washington Post, but the company that made him his real fortune, Amazon.com, is also under a multi-hundred million dollar contract with the CIA for computing services. (Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)
 

News media should illuminate conflicts of interest, not embody them. But the owner of the Washington Post is now doing big business with the Central Intelligence Agency, while readers of the newspaper’s CIA coverage are left in the dark.

The Post’s new owner, Jeff Bezos, is the founder and CEO of Amazon -- which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA. But the Post’s articles about the CIA are not disclosing that the newspaper’s sole owner is the main owner of CIA business partner Amazon.

Even for a multi-billionaire like Bezos, a $600 million contract is a big deal. That’s more than twice as much as Bezos paid to buy the Post four months ago.

And there’s likely to be plenty more where that CIA largesse came from. Amazon’s offer wasn’t the low bid, but it won the CIA contract anyway by offering advanced high-tech “cloud” infrastructure.

Bezos personally and publicly touts Amazon Web Services, and it’s evident that Amazon will be seeking more CIA contracts. Last month, Amazon issued a statement saying, “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA.”

As Amazon’s majority owner and the Post’s only owner, Bezos stands to gain a lot more if his newspaper does less ruffling and more soothing of CIA feathers.

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Diplomacy or war on Iran, and precinct progress

Norman Solomon, Coalition for Grassroots Progress

December 17, 2013

 

Dear Supporter,                                                                       

Many Republicans and some Democrats in Congress are trying to wreck diplomatic progress with Iran. Let's be clear: this is a war agenda, and we must stop it.

You can click here to let your senators and representative know that you want them to push for peace with Iran, not war.

Basic political change will require grassroots transformations -- including electoral capacities that progressives widely lack. That's why the Coalition for Grassroots Progress is incubating a “Progress in Our Precincts" project on the ground.

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NSA Surveillance Is about Power, Not “Safety”

An open letter to the people of Brazil

 

by Edward Snowden
Common Dreams. December 17, 2013

The following letter was published today in the Brazilian newspaper A Folha in Portuguese and this original text was provided via the Facebook page of Glenn Greenwald's husband David Miranda:

Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government's National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist's camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a world-wide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I went in front of that camera with open eyes, knowing that the decision would cost me family and my home, and would risk my life. I was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to understand the system in which they live.              

My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning. Never have I been so glad to have been so wrong. The reaction in certain countries has been particularly inspiring to me, and Brazil is certainly one of those.

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Washington Post: Readers Deserve Full Disclosure in Coverage of CIA

Action Alert from RootsAction                                      
December 16, 2013
 

The Washington Post should be honest with readers about a big conflict of interest: The newspaper's new owner Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon -- which recently landed a $600 million contract with the CIA.

The Post often does reporting on CIA activities. The coverage should include full disclosure that the owner of the Washington Post is also the main owner of Amazon -- and Amazon is now gaining huge profits directly from the CIA.

Tell the Washington Post that readers of its articles on the CIA have a right to know that the Post’s owner is making huge profits from the CIA.

Please sign this petition to the Washington Post:

read more >>

Why it’s Time to Occupy the State

Many Occupy protesters who took to the squares and streets now see electoral politics as the road to real change

 

Published on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 by The Guardian                                    
by Paolo Gerbaudo
Common Dreams. December 10, 2013
                                                

Some veterans of the Occupy and indignados movements are considering a turn towards electoral politics. This change of direction reflects an increasing awareness among activists that to change the world we also need to take state power.

Setting up political parties is not exactly what we have become accustomed to expect from radical activists. Yet, this is

precisely what some of the participants in the last few years of protest and occupations are now busying themselves with. From Spain to the US, Greece to Turkey, many protesters have been persuaded that to do away with the 1% dominating the 99%, it will not be enough simply to resort to the heroic arsenal of street politics. After taking to squares, many now feel the time has come to occupy the state.

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The NSA’s Winter of Discontent

Published on Friday, December 13, 2013 by Blog of Rights / ACLU
by Laura Murphy
Common Dreams. December 13, 2013
 
Snowden's actions have sparked a global conversation over surveillance. (Wikimedia commons)
 

The summer of Snowden is fast becoming the NSA's winter of discontent.

This week, tech giants Google, Apple, Facebook and others published an open letter to President Obama and Congress urging comprehensive reform of "government surveillance efforts." Then more than 500 writers, including five Pulitzer Prize winners, signed a petition to the United Nations calling for a digital bill of rights to protect freedom and privacy online. In that eloquent way of theirs, they wrote: "A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy."

That's the message approximately 3,000 of us from all walks of life took to the foot of the U.S. Capitol during The StopWatching.US March Against Mass Surveillance earlier this fall. Thankfully, many privacy and open government organizations and members of Congress agree.

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Don’t Deck the Halls for This One

The Murray-Ryan deal falls far short of what's needed to get our spending priorities right.

 

Published on Thursday, December 12, 2013 by OtherWords
by Mattea Kramer
Common Dreams. December 12, 2013
                                          

Channeling the spirit of the holiday season, key lawmakers managed to set aside dysfunction and take the first step in a small budget deal for the 2014 fiscal year.

Back in October, Congress ended the 16-day government shutdown that cost this country 120,000 jobs by appointing a 29-member, bipartisan Budget Conference Committee to broker federal spending levels.

This was a necessary first step to passing a budget by Jan. 15, the expiration date they set for the stop-gap spending bill that’s currently funding the government.

Upon releasing so-called top-line spending figures for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, Budget Committee Co-Chairs Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray announced that they successfully crossed the first milestone.

While their agreement is an important step toward bipartisanship and away from manufactured crises, it leaves a lot of congressional business unfinished — including Unemployment Insurance, Food Stamps, and the debt ceiling. It also leaves a lot to be desired as it lacks most of the things that Americans say they want.

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Is Sen. Feinstein Profiting From the Fire Sale of the Public’s Property and Art?

Institute for Public Accuracy. News Realease
December 10, 2013                                                           
 

The Los Angeles Times published a piece over the weekend about sales of post offices and protests they have aroused. The article notes that CBRE is “the private entity that holds an exclusive contract to broker postal service real estate. … Riling many here is the exclusive deal with CBRE Group, whose chairman, Richard Blum, is married to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

“A recent e-book by investigative journalist Peter Byrne details allegations of below-market sales to CBRE clients and investors. (CBRE has declined to comment on those claims.) A June audit by the Office of Inspector General raised unrelated ‘conflict of interest’ concerns and noted ‘poor oversight’ of the CBRE contract.”

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Quick Survey: Do you want Senator Bernie Sanders to run for President in 2016?

 
Click here to participate in the two question survey from RootsAction.

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Obama’s Corporate Agenda Delayed as TPP Misses Deadline

Negotiators fail to close deal amid revelations of internal discord over US corporate bullying

 

by Sarah Lazare, staff writer
Common Dreams. December 10, 2013
 
Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiators meet at the Hale Koa Hotel during the APEC Summit in Honolulu, Hawaii, November 12, 2011. (Reuters / Larry Downing)
 

The Obama administration's pro-corporate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agenda appears to have missed a deadline.

Ministers and delegates representing 12 nations announced Tuesday they have failed to meet the end-of-year goal of clinching the TPP trade deal after four days of negotiations in Singapore ended without an agreement.

The statement immediately follows a Wikileaks release, previously reported by Common Dreams, exposing near zero support for a drastic pro-corporate agenda pushed in the TPP by the Obama administration, including demands for NAFTA-style secret corporate tribunals, limits to bank regulation, and conditions that would increase the cost of life-saving medicines.

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Why Privacy? ‘The Power of Mind Over Mind’

Published on Sunday, December 8, 2013 by Hullabaloo
by Digby
Common Dreams. December 8, 2013
 
New logo for the National Reconnaissance Office.
 
I've noticed over the last few years that it's fairly common to pooh-pooh the concept of privacy.  "It's dead already", who needs it, if you've got nothing to hide, etc. In this Facebook world in which people eagerly share every thought that passes through their minds, it almost seems quaint. But it isn't. Privacy is fundamental to being a human being.

 

This interview with Glenn Greenwald is fascinating for any number of reasons and you should read the whole thing, but I was especially taken with his philosophical approach to this subject considering how important his reporting and analysis on the NSA revelations have been.  He said:

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How Press Freedoms Are Under Attack

Uprising Radio
December 5, 2013                          
 

Norman Solomon is co-founder of RootsAction.org and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death” and “Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State”.

Uprising host Sonali Kolhatkar recently spoke with Solomon about press freedoms under attack in the US and UK and the changing nature of journalism.

Watch a video of the interview here:
 
 

Link to original 

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Under the Global Shadow of Big Brother, Journalism Must Light Up the Political Sky

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. December 5, 2013                    
 

Every new revelation about the global reach of the National Security Agency underscores that the extremism of the surveillance state has reached gargantuan proportions. The Washington Post just reported that the NSA “is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” Documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden have forced top officials in Washington to admit the indefensible while defending it. One of the main obstacles to further expansion of their Orwellian empire is real journalism.

Real journalism is “subversive” of deception that can’t stand the light of day. This is a huge problem for the Obama administration and the many surveillance-state flunkies of both parties in Congress. What they want is fake journalism, deferring to government storylines and respectful of authority even when it is illegitimate.

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TEPCO Downplays Huge Risks Involved in Removing Fukushima Fuel Rods

Arnie Gunderson: Agencies overseeing cleanup like the IAEA are biased towards defending and promoting nuclear power

 

Published on Monday, December 2, 2013 by The Real News
Common Dreaams. December 2, 2013
 
 
 

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World Fights Back Against the Biggest Brother in History

Published on Friday, November 29, 2013 by TruthDig.com
by Sonali Kolhatkar
Common Dreams. November 29, 2013
                             

The United States’ vast and indiscriminate worldwide surveillance of ordinary people and heads of state has no historical precedent. Now countries around the world are fighting back using the United Nations as a vehicle for change. In a move that received little media coverage in the U.S., a United Nations committee approved without a vote a draft resolution entitled “The Right to Privacy in a Digital Age.” The nonbinding resolution, which will now head to the General Assembly where it has broad support, follows from a report published in June by the United Nations Human Rights Council. It detailed the negative impact of state surveillance on free expression and human rights and lamented that technology has outpaced legislation.

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Overplaying Its Hand, Israel Still Holds Plenty of US Cards

by Norman Solomon and Abba Solomon
Common Dreams. November 25, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu drawing a "red line" last year at the United Nations General Assembly. (File)

More than ever, Israel is isolated from world opinion and the squishy entity known as “the international community.” The Israeli government keeps condemning the Iran nuclear deal, by any rational standard a positive step away from the threat of catastrophic war.

In the short run, the belligerent responses from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bound to play badly in most of the U.S. media. But Netanyahu and the forces he represents have only begun to fight. They want war on Iran, and they are determined to exercise their political muscle that has long extended through most of the Washington establishment.

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Justice Coalition for Slain Andy Lopez Founded

By Shepherd Bliss
November 23, 2013                                                      

A new, powerful coalition of Latino, social justice, green, progressive Democrats, student, civil liberties, peace, and other groups has emerged in Sonoma County. Concern over the killing of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by sheriff’s deputy Erick Gelhaus on October 22 unites them.

Over forty members of diverse groups met--many who had never been in a room together--on November 19 to strategize about how to keep the strong momentum going in response to the slaying of Lopez. Many of those who spoke identified themselves as mothers or fathers, who felt the pain of the parents whose son was taken from them.

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Norman Solomon exclusive RT TV interview on the US troops in Afghanistan

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Marin Voice: JFK in political shades of gray

By Norman Solomon
Marin IJ. Guest op-ed column
November 20, 2013
 

FIFTY YEARS after the horrific day in Dallas, it's hard to think of John F. Kennedy apart from an aura of political sainthood. But mythology is disorienting in the long run, and we can do better with realism.

JFK brought youthful intelligence and evocations of soaring idealism to the Oval Office. But he got there as a cold warrior who had falsely claimed during the 1960 presidential campaign that the United States was on the short end of a "missile gap" with the Soviet Union.

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Join Us in signing on to Roots Action Call to Ban Weaponized Drones in the World

Action Alert                                                                
from RootsAction                                 
 

Meticulous researchers have documented that U.S. drones are killing many innocent civilians in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.  Drones are making the world less stable and creating new enemies. Their remoteness provides those responsible with a sense of immunity.

Weaponized drones are no more acceptable than land mines, cluster bombs, or chemical weapons.  The world must renounce and forbid their manufacture, possession, or use. Violators must be held accountable.

We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, urge

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Human Rights and Social Justice Groups Ask US Civil Rights Commission to Hold Hearings in Sonoma Co.

To: The Western Regional Director of the US Civil Rights Commission

November 8, 2013

We write to you as a coalition of human rights and social justice groups in Sonoma County where the tragic death of a thirteen year old child has galvanized and outraged our community.  The October 22 shooting death of Andy Lopez by Sonoma County deputy Sheriff Erick Gelhaus has resulted in near daily protests and vigils over the past two weeks with no end in sight. We are writing to request that you return to Sonoma County to hold all day hearings as you did in February of 1998. You came here then as a result of a serious spate of law enforcement related civilian killings in the mid 1990s.

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The Obamacare Disaster and the Poison of Party Loyalty

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams. November 18, 2013
 
 
 
At the height over the battle over healthcare reform, progressives tried over and over again to put single-payer on the table. "At this pivotal, historic, teachable moment, progressives should not leave the messaging battle about the ACA to right wingers and Obama loyalists," writes Solomon. (File)
 

Four years ago, countless Democratic leaders and allies pushed for passage of Barack Obama’s complex healthcare act while arguing that his entire presidency was at stake. The party hierarchy whipped the Congressional Progressive Caucus into line, while MoveOn and other loyal groups stayed in step along with many liberal pundits.

Lauding the president’s healthcare plan for its structure of “regulation, mandates, subsidies and competition,” New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote in July 2009 that the administration’s fate hung in the balance: “Knock away any of the four main pillars of reform, and the whole thing will collapse—and probably take the Obama presidency down with it.” Such warnings were habitual until Obamacare became law eight months later.

Meanwhile, some progressives were pointing out that—contrary to the right-wing fantasy of a “government takeover of healthcare”—Obama’s Affordable Care Act actually further enthroned for-profit insurance firms atop the system. As I wrote at the time, “The continued dominance of the insurance industry is the key subtext of the healthcare battle that has been raging in Washington. But that dominance is routinely left out of the news media's laser-beam concentration on whether a monumental healthcare law will emerge to save Obama's presidency.”

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Climate Justice Now

Action Alert
from RootsAction                                           
 
The Philippines emits 0.9 metric tons of carbon per capita. The United States emits 17.6. But the people of the Philippines are now enduring the terrible results of the strongest storm ever measured. Evidence shows that climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of tropical storms.
 

The Philippines' climate chief Naderev "Yeb" Saño is engaged in a hunger strike at the climate talks now underway in Warsaw, Poland. He's protesting the refusal of the United States and other polluting nations to take serious action. 

CLICK HERE to Tell the U.S. government to listen:

"We support the demand of the Philippines' climate chief Naderev "Yeb" Saño for concrete pledges to aggressively and urgently work to halt climate change."
 

More info at Link to original

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KRCB Radio: Norman Solomon on Harnessing Progressives

By Bruce Robinson
KRCB. North Bay Public Media
November 12, 2013                                         
 
Norman Solomon ran for the North Coast congressional seat in 2012 as an unabashed progressive Democrat. Since placing a close third in that year’s primary, he’s been assessing the lessons from that race, and spoke with KRCB’s Bruce Robinson about how those lessons might be put into action moving forward.
 
Click Here to listen.

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Close to Home: An appeal for real change in Sonoma County

By CAROLINE BANUELOS and MICHAELE MORALES
November 12, 2013

The recent Close to Home piece by Supervisor David Rabbitt and Sheriff Steve Freitas (“Reaching out to repair a broken community,” Oct. 28) contained points that the Sonoma County Latino Democratic Club must address.

Clearly, ongoing, broader issues have arisen during this time of overwhelming sorrow caused by the senseless death of Andy Lopez.

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Carrillo critics to hold public forums to discuss his arrest

By BRETT WILKISON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
November 12, 2013

Critics of Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo have announced they will host three public meetings next week to offer his constituents and others a chance to air their opinions of the embattled politician and discuss whether they support removing him from office.

The move, backed by several activists who've vowed to launch a recall of Carrillo, represents a new challenge to the west county supervisor on his home turf and comes as resolution of his legal troubles is still up in the air.

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Citizens for Accountability to hold Town Hall meetings in Sonoma County 5th District

The Citizens for Accountability has invited Supervisor Efren Carrillo to explain his July 13th behavior, his second arrest in less than a year, to his constituents.

 
Citizens for Accountability
November 11, 2013
Update Nov.16, 2013
 

A group of concerned Sonoma County voters will hold a series of three town-hall meetings in the 5th Supervisorial District during the week of November 18. The Citizens for Accountability has invited Supervisor Efren Carrillo to explain his July 13th behavior, his second arrest in less than a year, to his constituents. The public is invited.

In the very early hours of Saturday, July 13th, Supervisor Carrillo was arrested wearing only socks and underwear after a woman called 911 twice to report that someone tried to break into her bedroom through the window. His last arrest has resulted in a charge of “peeking,” a serious misdemeanor. This was Supervisor Carrillo’s second arrest in a ten month period.

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Philippine Rep Makes Plea for ‘Global Solidarity’ to Fight ‘Climate Madness’

At UN climate convention in Warsaw, negotiator says to climate change deniers: "Get off your ivory towers and pay a visit to the Philippines"

 

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer
Common Dreams. November 11, 2013

Environmentalists rally behind Naderev "Yeb" Sano in support of his hunger strike. (Photo: 350.org/ cc/ Flickr)

The climate crisis is "madness" and environmentally vulnerable nations such as the Philippines do not have time for failed climate negotiations, Philippines climate negotiator Naderev "Yeb" Saño told the delegation at the 19th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP19) Monday as he vowed to go on hunger strike until "clear progress is made."

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NSA’s Vast Surveillance Powers Extend Far Beyond Counterterrorism,

Despite Misleading Government Claims

 
Published on Monday, November 11, 2013 by Deeplinks blog / EFF 
by Trevor Timm
Common Dreams. November 11, 2013
                                                                         
                                                  

Time and again we’ve seen the National Security Agency(NSA) defend its vast surveillance apparatus by invoking the spectre of terrorism, discussing its spying powers as a method to keep America safe.  Yet, the truth is that counterterrorism is only a fraction of their far broader authority to seek “foreign intelligence information,” a menacing sounding term that actually encapsulates all sorts of innocuous, everyday conversation.

The New York Times demonstrated this disconnect last week, reporting, “the [leaked NSA] documents make clear, the focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking.”

Photo: Elvert Barnes/cc/flickr

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Political Plans

Norman Solomon, Coalition for Grassroots Progress

November 7, 2013

 

Dear Supporter,                                                                                

Whether you made phone calls or went door-to-door or donated money or staffed the office or did other volunteer work, I felt very grateful during our campaign for Congress.

Today, I feel just as grateful.

Fifteen months after the extended vote count, I’d like to share with you some thoughts about our campaign and what’s ahead.

Was our campaign successful? Well, no and yes.

No, we didn’t get enough votes. When they were all counted, we missed the November 2012 runoff by 174 votes -- 0.1 percent of the total ballots cast in the race.

Yes, we went far beyond the usual boom-and-bust cycle of traditional electoral campaigns. We’ve been building on what our campaign did.

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Big Brother’s Loyal Sister: How Dianne Feinstein Is Betraying Civil Liberties

by Norman Solomon
Common Dreams
November 6, 2013                               
 
Ever since the first big revelations about the National Security Agency five months ago, Dianne Feinstein has been in overdrive to defend the surveillance state. As chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, she generates an abundance of fog, weasel words, anti-whistleblower slander and bogus notions of reform -- while methodically stabbing civil liberties in the back.
 
Feinstein’s powerful service to Big Brother, reaching new heights in recent months, is just getting started. She’s hard at work to muddy all the waters of public discourse she can -- striving to protect the NSA from real legislative remedies while serving as a key political enabler for President Obama’s shameless abuse of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

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Norman Solomon, discussing NSA surveillance and Democratic Party leadership

C-SPAN Radio interview
November 1, 2013
 
CLICK HERE to listen to the interview.

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The Top Secret Trade Deal You Need to Know About

Published on Saturday, November 2, 2013 by Moyers & Company
Common Dreams. November 3, 2013
 

Secrets… The innocent lives lost in drone wars and the trade deal Washington and big business are trying to hide.

 

A cornerstone of President Obama’s plan to create more American jobs is a new agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), referred to by some as “NAFTA on steroids.” While negotiations are being carried out in secret and very little about the terms has been leaked, enough is known to worry about its possible effect on trade unions and our copyright and patent laws, not to mention environmental, health and safety regulations.

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My Daughter Does Not Have the Face Of A Terrorist, and Neither Did My Mother

by Abby Zimit
Common Dreams. October 29, 2013
 

Today Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq Rehman will tell Congress about the day his family was picking okra in the family garden when U.S. drone missiles rained from the sky, killing his 67-year-old mother, the village's only mid-wife, and injuring his nine-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son - the first time Congress will hear testimony from the real, live, innocent and often small victims of America's drone wars. Rehman and his kids made the trip with the help of Florida Rep. Alan Grayson and documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald. By coming here and "saying we’re the faceless people who you keep counting as numbers," Rehman hopes someone in power will "start listening, and questioning." Hope against hope.

“As a teacher, I wanted to educate Americans and let them know my children have been injured.”

Link to original

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Stop Watching Us: The Video


StopWatching.us is a coalition of more than 100 public advocacy organizations and companies from across the political spectrum. Join the movement at https://rally.stopwatching.us. This video harnesses the voices of celebrities, activists, legal experts, and other prominent figures in speaking out against mass surveillance by the NSA. Please share widely to help us spread the message that we will not stand for the dragnet surveillance of our communications.

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This Saturday, Demand an End to the Surveillance State

by Noa Yachot
Common Dreams. October 25, 2013
 

If the government had its way, no one would have any idea that it regularly tracks all of our phone calls and much of our online activity.

But thanks to Edward Snowden's disclosures, we now know quite a bit more about how the NSA's surveillance programs have infiltrated our personal communications. And thanks to the outrage and mobilization of the American people, we're seeing real potential for change, both in the streets and in Congress.

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In His Own Words

  • It’s war and peace that to me circumscribe our realities here…. We’re being depleted of resources for state and local government services. We need to redefine what national security is. It’s not national security to have our schools crumbling. I would argue that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made us less secure.

    Norman Solomon
    Pacific Sun, Jan. 14, 2011

  • I revere the New Deal legacy that gave our country Social Security and other key aspects of the social compact. President Franklin D. Roosevelt fought for economic fairness. Before the end of his first term, FDR denounced “the economic royalists.” He said: “They are unanimous in their hate for me -- and I welcome their hatred.”  He did not say, “They hate me -- and I want them to like me.”

    Norman Solomon
    Marin Independent Journal, Dec. 23, 2010

  • Washington’s failure to respond to climate change is an abysmal betrayal of hopes. The coal and oil industries, along with other corporate behemoths, have managed to trump the interests of life on Earth… It doesn’t do much good for officials to agree that the planetary house is on fire if they won’t really fight for turning on the fire extinguishers.

    Norman Solomon
    Solar Times, Autumn 2010

  • When I listened to children from Helmand province at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Kabul, it was clear that they didn't know or care whether the man in the Oval Office had a “D” or an “R” after his name. They, and their surviving parents, were trying to stay alive. For all the talk about winning hearts and minds, the refugee camp told a different story about priorities.

    Norman Solomon
    Marin Independent Journal, Oct. 7, 2010

  • The survival of all living beings on this planet, the entire ecosystem, depends on our civic engagement, on our working together to do the difficult tasks, to engage in the tedious activities, to be part of the political process, to insist that the ocean is not for sale, that the government is not for sale, that our earth is not for sale.

    Norman Solomon,
    speaking at rally against offshore oil drilling
    Marin Independent Journal, June 27, 2010

  • No amount of rhetoric about the dignity of work can make up for the deficit of determination from elected officials to roll back the scourge of unemployment…. Even when they decry high jobless levels, many in Congress seem to passively accept the myth that government can do little other than boost the private sector…

    Norman Solomon
    The Press Democrat, June 24, 2010

  • We can generate sustainable green jobs, protect small independent fishers and ecologically fragile coastlines, and rebuild local economies to serve communities rather than the big corporate model of take the money and run.

    Norman Solomon
    Eureka Times-Standard, August 10, 2011

  • In Washington, job one should be creating jobs. And that won't happen by continuing to give tax cuts to the wealthy while imposing benefit cuts on the rest of us.

    Norman Solomon
    Marin Independent Journal, August 15, 2011