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 on: Nov 26, 2014, 10:03 AM 
Started by Linda - Last post by cat777
Hi Everyone,

I'm wondering if we should try thinking of examples of each stage/substage combination. This may make it easier. We have already identified Christ and Buddha as 3rd Stage spiritual.  This makes it easier for many of us to know we are not at that level yet :-)  I am thinking that examples of other stages may help as well. 

I once did a practice chart on Mother Teresa. Without giving it a lot of thought, Spiritual Stage is the first thing that comes to mind due to all of her devotion to God and service to humanity, right?  She was actually third stage Consensus. 

Please feel free to post further examples.  We can then put them into a chart that everyone can refer to. This may help some people.


 on: Nov 26, 2014, 08:31 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

The key words are absolute, infinite, the time-less, that which goes beyond time and space.

There is an impulse in every single human being to transcend, the sense in every single human being that there is more to reality than meets the eye. Every human being has that knowledge; it is the conflict in every human being between ideals and reality. When one moves into the balsamic phase, it means that one is beginning to complete and entire cycle which has preceded it, it is a culmination issue, a yin phase. The temptation in the yin phase is to completely withdraw, to retreat, to reclude from all that which has come before. Yet, relative to culmination, you have to complete, to tie up all the loose ends that have come before so that the new evolutionary cycle that you are preparing for can be born cleanly, without residual effect from the past. So we have a push-pull here. On the one hand the individual in itself wants to retreat and, yet relative to the necessity for completing must come out of itself and to engage in the normal circumstances which will constitute anybody's life. So it is a push-pull. This, from a purely archetypical point of view, demonstrates or symbolizes the final merging of divine will. That is the archetype.

So when we come into this semi-square, it is an incredible irritant. When you find it still in the last quarter phase, there are still all kinds of external obligations, duties and demands, roles to play, that must be fulfilled. And yet the person always inwardly sense a kind of feeling of a distant horizon that they are trying to get to. A horizon that has no obligations and duties, only freedom. So there is inner conflict.

In the semi-square, the key is to follow those contrasting rhythms and to do both the new and the old when the impulse manifests. Then the person will be in absolute harmony with themselves and thus, there will be no conflict. The problem in this semi-square is the sensing of new seeds for they are not conceptualized or defined. They don't have words to put on them. They are just sensed. The person wants to have the experiential freedom to initiate that which they need to initiate to find out about it. It is the vision of the poet who sees the future and yet people of the existing moment don't want to see it. The person is considered strange, balmy, outside of the status quo and nobody can relate to them. They are trying to move into a timeless form. What would be a timeless form of relationship for example, just monogamy? Just one to one? Is that a timeless form of relationship? What if you have Mars/Venus in a balsamic state? Your quest is for a timeless ideal relationship. That which reflects timelessness, that which is natural, not conditioned. Is monogamy, a one-to-one relationship, that which is most natural to the species? What is the natural and actual instinct in the species? The answer is that there are no absolutes.

So, if you take Mars/Venus in the balsamic phase, it means that that individual is seeking an entirely different kind of relationship, a relationship with the divine, first and foremost and learning how to see the divine in their partner, first and foremost, thus effecting unconditional love, not conditional love. In this state, you are in a timeless relationship.

Relative to cultural context, it doesn't matter if you find yourself as an American Indian two hundred years ago and find yourself with one man/two women or more. Everything reflects cultural necessity in the end. So if it is most efficient to live in that relationship model, then that is what happens. If it is most efficient to live in a monogamous model, one-to-one, relative to cultural necessity, that is what happens. If it is most efficient to live in a harem state, that is what happens. Efficient for who? The culture. Not the individual, but the culture. The point being that in those cultures, they had many children, so it took lots of people to raise them. In those times, survival itself was important. Simple food gathering was the norm. Biologically speaking, man, stronger physically, was more evolved to hunt down the animal for food. It's not that the woman can't do it, it is just more efficient for the man to do it. So it comes down to cultural efficiency, cultural necessity.

The balsamic is trying to reach these kinds of understandings. If you have Mars/Venus in a balsamic phase, it simply means, relative to culmination, that you are destined to meet many people throughout your life with whom you have had prior live dealings, people with whom you are culminating or finishing relationships with. It means that the older you become in this life, if that is your condition, that you will begin to meet new people, people who you will not be allowed to be in an intimate relationship with, but with whom you will establish seeds that will grow into future lifetimes together.

So, given the backdrop of the balsamic phase, there is a temptation to withdraw from the nitty gritty details, gibbous phase polarity, of any of our lives. There is also a degree of psychological compensation, i.e. many people who experience balsamic planets don't know how to live with them. It makes them feel inwardly too strange. So what do they do, they effect compensation to the gibbous polarity and attempt to live life as most people live it. For example, if you are in a culture that places a major premium on possession gathering, that is what the person will become in an overemphasized way. They would be even more into the collecting of possessions. If you are in a culture that advocates sexual promiscuity, and you have this Mars/Venus balsamic, and your natural inclination is to withdraw to find the cosmic lover, yet you are feeling strange about that because you can't conceptualize it this way, don't you see how the gibbous polarity interacts now? The person overdoes it. And this will finally degenerate into a gibbous phase crisis and now the person must analyze what they have been doing.

In the Mars/Venus balsamic, we are dealing with different types of relationships, not just intimacy. It is just that we are trying to culminate a certain type of way of being in relationship with someone and to evolve into new ways.


These are the definitions of the key planetary pairs. Now you can place them in their phasal context and you will have some information in order to understand how they are operating archetypically. Then you add the next layer, the signs they are in, then the houses they are in, and then you synthesize, which is the art of the astrologer, the ability to synthesize archetypes, even if they are competing archetypes - that is the art of astrology, no longer a technical issue, but an art.


These correlate to the psychological notion of self-actualization, the need in all people to actualize their inherent purpose for their life on a day to day basis, to give that purpose a face and image, a way of personally identifying itself, Moon. It describes how the person continuously is integrating them self on a moment to moment, second to second, year to year basis.

Now, the need to give it a self-image or a name equals the need to feel secure with it. The Moon, of itself, correlates to the nature, type and relative strength of one's ego, the phenomena of the ego itself. It is not possible to get rid of the ego. You cannot operate on the brain and remove the ego nor can you remove it psychologically. The issue, spiritually speaking, is to align that ego with the divine ego, that is what the true meaning of getting rid of the ego means. The ego is necessary because it is an individualizing agent. It gives a self-image. That self-image can be quite different, by the way, than how other people see you. There can be a discrepancy. What others see and what you see in the mirror is the ascendant, how one instinctually projects oneself without forethought. It is pure instinct.

So, the Sun/Moon describes this by phase. If it is new phase, is this not clearly described, from an evolutionary point of view, as how you go about actualizing yourself, your purpose in this life, comes under this new phase, instinctually. The Sun/ Moon new phase has the instinctual need to initiate experience without encumbrance, without obligation, without commitment, without excessive apology or explanations. It is the need to have enough freedom in life to initiate enough experiences to gather the necessary reactions to find out about yourself and what that purpose is and, at a deeper level, to generate an egocentric structure which in a new phase is forever changing. When a new phase Sun/Moon gets frustrated or confused, it borrows from the full phase - the law of polarity.

Let's say we have Sun/Moon new phase, which is essentially an Arian vibration, and what if those two are in Capricorn, double Capricorn. Relative to the emergence of the new cycle, the new self, the new purpose, the new ego which is not formulated, it is obviously possible that this person is going to take his clues from the social system into which he is born and that from them. A classic illustration of this is Nixon. Nixon with a Sun in Capricorn and Moon in Aquarius, new phase, and yet a Tenth House Pluto. He gravitated to powerful social identities, lawyer, EP, Senator, liar, that equaled his sense of personal identity and thus accepted all the prevailing social customs and norms as convenient props to use. This is why you had that weird body type. You have this Capricorn which is trying to contain the Aquarius which is trying to erupt; a person who doesn't know what they are. So you had all these herky-jerky movements, and all the sweat. Whole coats would be lost. Showering and airing wouldn't help. That is because of the high degree of inner compression equaling resistance.

to be continued...........

 on: Nov 26, 2014, 08:24 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

From Cairo to Moscow: how the world reacted to Ferguson

Authoritarian regimes the world over reacted to protests with thinly disguised glee, noting scenes of unrest in Missouri undermined US credibility to criticise other countries on human rights

Luke Harding in London, Patrick Kingsley in Cairo and Shaun Walker in Moscow, Tuesday 25 November 2014 18.34 GMT   

Russia, China and other authoritarian regimes around the world reacted to violent protests in Ferguson with thinly disguised glee and schadenfreude on Tuesday, noting that the scenes of unrest in Missouri undermined the US’s credibility to criticise other countries on human rights.

The liberal use of teargas by police, the firing of non-lethal rounds and the enveloping sense of chaos featured extensively in coverage by international state media, including the Kremlin-backed news channel Russia Today, which often concentrates on highlighting deficiencies in western society.

RT broadcast live from the scene and ran a picture-gallery from Ferguson under the headline: “Ferguson burning: Torched cars, tear gas, clashes in massive night riots (DRAMATIC IMAGES).” RT also quoted UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein decrying America’s “troubled” record on race relations and pointing out that African Americans ended up in jail – or worse – in disproportionate numbers.

Russian commentators and state media implied that the disorder in Ferguson was a kind of cosmic payback for the US’s meddling in Ukraine, currently the scene of a war in the east of the country. The Kremlin blames the conflict on the west and “neo-Nazis” in Kiev, rather than on Moscow’s covert invasion of Ukrainian territory. Russia’s “human rights ombudsman” Konstantin Dolgov, meanwhile, fired off a series of tweets accusing the US administration of hypocrisy and serial failure.
Ferguson grand jury protest A demonstrator sits in front of a street fire during a demonstration following the grand jury decision in the Ferguson. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters

He observed: “Racial and ethnic tensions continue to rise in US society. It’s about time the US authorities paid attention to this rather than focusing on lecturing the rest of the world on human rights.”

China’s foreign ministry also took the opportunity to poke Washington in the eye. Its spokeswoman Hua Chunying initially described the trouble, which began after a grand jury refused to prosecute a white police officer for the shooting of a black teenager, as an internal US affair. She then went on to hint, however, that the US might be better served by a little humility: “I would like to say that there’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to human rights regardless of whatever country you’re in,” Hua said. She added: “We have to improve the record of human rights and promote the cause of human rights. We can learn from each other in this area.”

In Egypt, social media users drew comparisons between Ferguson and events in Cairo, where rampant police brutality since the 2011 revolution has only once resulted in a conviction, and which has consequently often sparked bloody clashes between police and protesters. “Ferguson now looks like police assaults in Egypt,” tweeted the Cairo-based former Human Rights Watch researcher, Scott Long. “Our world is melding into a single military regime.”

Egypt’s government did not comment on the most recent violence in Ferguson, though during a previous round of protests, the Egyptian foreign ministry issued a barbed statement urging US officials to exercise restraint in their treatment of demonstrators. It was payback for the many times the US has criticised the excesses of the Egyptian police, who have killed around 2,000 protesters since 2011.

Egypt’s police force has itself previously issued five top tips to American police about how to deal with the unrest in Ferguson. “I ask the American police not to use excessive force in dealing with peaceful demonstrators,” said General Hany Abdel Latif, the police spokesman, in an interview this summer. Abdel Latif also suggested opening a dialogue with protesters, and bringing errant policemen to swift justice.

Ordinary citizens across the Middle East expressed solidarity with Ferguson’s unhappy residents. In particular, Palestinians expressed their support – and even offered handy tips as to how protesters might best deal with attacks by cops using tear gas. @MariamBarghouti advised:

    Always make sure to run against the wind /to keep calm when you're teargassed, the pain will pass, don't rub your eyes! #Ferguson Solidarity
    — مريم البرغوثي (@MariamBarghouti) August 14, 2014

Twitter users shared photos of Palestinians who had made homemade signs expressing solidarity with protestors in Ferguson. One held by a girl in a headscarf read: “Ferguson with love from Palestine”; another sign written by a young man read: “The Palestinian people know what it mean [sic] to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity #Ferguson #justice”.


These charts show just how bad gun violence is in the US when compared to other developed countries

26 Nov 2014 at 07:26 ET

The world's eyes have turned once more to Ferguson, Missouri, after a grand jury decided Tuesday not to indict Darren Wilson, a white police officer who shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August.

The decision sparked a night of violent unrest in Ferguson, with photos emerging of the St. Louis suburb on fire, and its protesters facing off once more with heavily armed police. More than 80 people were arrested overnight.

Brown's story is tragic to so many people because it isn't unusual. According to ProPublica, young black males like Brown are 21 times more likely to be shot dead by police than their white counterparts. For many inside and outside of Ferguson, it's a case emblematic of persistent racial inequality in the United States that remains unaddressed by the justice system.

Earlier this month, prominent activist and scholar Angela Davis pointed out that despite having a black head of state, the United States is far from being "postracial":

    Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, are only the most widely known of the countless numbers of black people killed by police or vigilantes during the Obama administration. And they, in turn, represent an unbroken stream of racist violence, both official and extra-legal, from slave patrols and the Ku Klux Klan, to contemporary profiling practices and present-day vigilantes.

She goes on to point out that the international response to Ferguson "suggests a growing consciousness regarding the persistence of US racism at a time when it is supposed to be on the decline."

More from GlobalPost:  What people around the world are saying about Ferguson

But the huge response hasn't stopped Brown's story — that of a law enforcement officer using deadly force against a black youth — from being repeated. Over the weekend, a Cleveland police officer fatally shot Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy carrying a BB gun.

Writing for the Toast about the decision, author Roxane Gay eloquently summed up the exhaustion powering the outrage over Brown, Rice, Martin, and the long list of young black men whose killings have gone unpunished:

    Another young black man was murdered. It is hard to make sense of how many times I have had to type these words, mourning young black life. I am tired of having to type these words. I will have to type them again, far sooner than I would like.

While the Ferguson story is about race, it's also about guns. Like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis before him, Mike Brown was an unarmed young man, perceived as a threat without a weapon.

Officer Wilson claimed that Brown looked "aggressive" and said the 18-year-old "looked like a demon" during their confrontation. Wilson testified that he wasn't carrying a non-lethal taser at the time because he finds them uncomfortable to wear; instead he was armed with mace and a handgun. He also told the grand jury that Brown appeared to reach into his waistband as he charged him.

Back in August, Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA, argued that "the problems of racial harassment and police militarization are exacerbated by the fact that America has a heavily-armed civilian population."
Demonstrators take part in a protest in Washington, DC against the Missouri grand jury's decision not to indict Darren Wilson for shooting and killing 18-year-old Michael Brown.

According to the Washington Post, the US has the world's highest gun ownership rate, and tops other developed countries when it comes to firearm-related murders per capita.

"Because there are so many guns out there, police officers are trained to live in fear of the very people they are supposed to protect and serve," Winkler wrote in the Huffington Post. He pointed out that gun control could help address the problem, since "restricting unusually high-powered weaponry reduces the need for the police to have even more powerful weapons for protection" — but said it would only be part of the solution.

Here are two charts to help you understand where America stands in relation to other developed nations when it comes to gun violence.

In the chart below, we see the number of guns in each country per 100 people on the left in blue. On the right, in red, we see how many homicide deaths are caused by firearms in that country, per 100,000 people.

The data used here came from the Washington Post, which compiled numbers from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2009 and 2010, the years that had the most complete data sets. They also used data from the  Small Arms Survey from 2007, the last year they carried out the survey. It's important to note how tough it is to actually estimate how many guns there are in a nation. As the Small Arms Survey notes:

    Differences in national gun culture — each country's unique combination of historic and current sources of supply, laws and attitudes towards firearms ownership — often have distinct effects on the classification, ownership, and perception of firearms, and this complicates the calculation of international figures.

Source: UNODC, 2013 Homicides Report

The chart above shows which are the weapons of choice for homicides in different parts of the world. The data here come from the UNODC's 2013 Homicide Report. With 60 percent of homicides committed using a firearm, the United States is a large contributor to the high firearm percentage in the Americas.


Cop fires gun at unarmed Florida man rushing home during daughter’s asthma attack

Travis Gettys
26 Nov 2014 at 07:42 ET                   

A Florida sheriff’s deputy averted a gunshot at the last second Tuesday to avoid wounding a man he realized was not armed.

Officer J.C. Garcia mistakenly believed a driver who led him on a brief pursuit, so he drew and fired his weapon about 9:15 p.m., investigators said.

But the Jacksonville sheriff’s officer managed to wave his gun off immediately upon determining the driver, 29-year-old Brian Dennison, was not actually holding a weapon.

Garcia began following the green Ford Focus driven by Dennison after spotting the car speed through a parking lot to avoid a traffic signal.

The officer said the car had expired tags, and he said Dennison drove away from an automatic teller machine as he approached from behind.

Garcia turned on his lights after the driver ran a stop sign, but the officer said Dennison did not stop and nearly caused a crash after driving the wrong way into a traffic lane.

Dennison pulled into an apartment complex and got out of his vehicle, and Garcia initially thought he spotted a weapon and fired his own.

Dennison was not injured, and he explained to the five-year veteran he had been rushing home to get an inhaler after his 6-year-old daughter suffered an asthma attack.

The girl was frightened by the gunshot, her mother said.

“She just thought that they were going to shoot her, and she was afraid for her dad,” said Nacoya Ransom.

She said Dennison held his hands out the car window after stopping to show the officer he was unarmed.

Dennison’s cousin overheard the incident and doesn’t understand why the officer fired his service weapon.

“I think he just shot to shoot, you know,” said Dekierian Cook. “There’s really no reason.”

The police report filed by Garcia does not mention the shooting, which a spokeswoman for the department explained was part of a separate investigation.

Garcia will not be placed on leave during the investigation.

Dennison was arrested on misdemeanor charges of knowingly driving with a suspended license and driving with a suspended license, and he was taken to the Duval County Jail.

A Jacksonville police officer shot and killed another man Tuesday evening during a traffic stop.

Officer Cecil Grant stopped 33-year-old Leonardo Marquette Little shortly after 7:30 p.m. after noticing his vehicle had expired tags.

The officer said Little gave several names and dates of birth during the stop, but he was still able to determine the driver had a suspended license and attempted to arrest him.

Grant said the man attempted to flee with one handcuff on, and the officer used his Taser three times before he said Little was able to take control of the non-lethal weapon.

The officer shot and killed Little, who police said told a woman riding in his car that he would not go back to jail.


The Real Benghazi Scandal Is That Media, Republicans Aren't Embarrassed

Matt Osborne

Remember the aluminum tubes, vials of fake Anthrax, and persistent 9/11 conspiracy theories that sold the Iraq War to the American public? Benghazi - the fake scandal that consumed all the oxygen in Washington in 2013 - is not any better than that.

‘Benghazi' was contrived by a right wing neoconservative echo chamber for the sole purpose of taking power. That purpose is evident in the timing of the post-election Friday night news dump of the House Intelligence Committee's final report debunking all the things your obsessive Fox News viewer "knows" about the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

    The final report, from Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Maryland, concludes there was no intelligence failure prior to the attack, no stand-down order to CIA operatives trying to go assist at the besieged consular building and found conflicting intelligence in the wake of the attack about the motive and cause, which were reflected in early public comments by the administration.

    […] The declassified version of the report attempts to knock down other accusations about the Benghazi incident and aftermath, finding no evidence of CIA employees being intimidated from testifying and also no indication the CIA presence in Benghazi was partially to secretly ship arms from Libya to Syria.

The entire Benghazi ‘controversy' has been a fake. A fraud. A fugazi. Like the Nigerian yellow cake uranium that helped sell the Iraq War, the headlines and discussion on what is supposed to be mainstream, legitimate, ‘liberal' media have been no help at all in helping most people understand the facts of the attack on the Benghazi consulate.

This was not the first, or the second, but the sixth Congressional committee to determine that none of the right wing fantasies about the Benghazi attack are remotely true. Yet they  remain ‘true' in the minds of people who made up their minds a long time ago that President Obama is the secret Manchurian-candidate antagonist in a really terrible paperback novel.

Meanwhile, the ‘courageous' reporters of conservative media have never stopped framing rumors and innuendo to maximum effect, and they are not about to do so now. Instead of retracting any part of their past hysterics, Fox News is still acting as though they have been vindicated.

    To read the Fox story, the House Intelligence Committee confirmed rather than refuted the over-the-top allegations that Fox has been peddling for so long. Someone reading that Fox story and only that Fox story would not have the slightest idea that in fact the House intelligence panel had thoroughly rejected almost every aspect of the Fox version of Benghazi.

    […] It's one of the more awesome examples of diversion and denial that I have ever seen. The Fox philosophy seems to be that they have lied so often to their viewers on this story that hey, what's one more, right? The alternate universe must not be compromised by reality no matter what.

Indeed, that alternate universe smashed through a cognitive barrier and took over the ‘liberal' media universe like an episode of Fringe. Who can forget Lara Logan interviewing a charlatan for 60 Minutes? Who can forget Sheryl Attkisson, whose anti-vax propaganda has undoubtedly killed more Americans than the Benghazi attackers, waving her Benghazi fantasies around as journalistic credentials while she dished on ‘"liberal bias" at CBS?

The answer is that none of it is precisely forgotten in the right wing universe, it is merely remembered differently. This, too, will be remembered differently. Contrary to what some people suggested immediately after the report from Associated Press, this fraudulent controversy will never, ever die out on its own.

In the fullness of the weekend, network Sunday shows did not correct the record on Benghazi, Sen. Lindsey Graham got angry and incoherent on CNN, and Fox News bobbleheads still broadcast the same discredited talking points.

When you meet your right wing relatives over Thanksgiving turkey, they will not know that the Benghazi hoax has been exposed as a fraud. Worse, further information about the Benghazi hoax will not convince them that it is, in fact, a fraud.

The only thing that will burst their bubble is pure, sharp, pointed ridicule: no, there was no stand-down order. No, there was no conspiracy in Susan Rice's talking points. You sound like a raving street lunatic when you say that these false things are true. Stop muttering about Hillary and Huma Abedin or I will drop a quarter in your cup and walk away.

If you're thinking, "that sounds like a terrific way to ruin Thanksgiving," you're right. There is unfortunately no polite way to eradicate the Benghazi hoax from the American consciousness.

The ‘liberal' media organizations have failed us as completely this time as they did a dozen years ago, and they are still not set up to educate us on what is actually true. Sunday shows are not about to start telling Republicans they're wrong on climate change, for instance, so why would ‘the facts' about Benghazi matter to them?


Obama Threatens To Veto Congress’ Plan To Give Corporations A $400 Billion Tax Cut

By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, November, 25th, 2014, 7:34 pm   

President Obama is threatening to veto a congressional plan that would give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to corporations.

The New York Times reported,

    President Obama promised Tuesday to veto an emerging package of permanent tax breaks for businesses, mustering Democratic opposition and setting back negotiators who were nearing accord on a suite of tax cuts worth $440 billion over 10 years.

    “The president would veto the proposed deal because it would provide permanent tax breaks to help well-connected corporations while neglecting working families,” said Jennifer Friedman, a White House spokeswoman.

    The deal, negotiated by House Republicans and aides to Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, showed how much power has shifted since the Republican election victories early this month. White House officials said the package was heavily tilted toward corporations and will have deep repercussions for budget and tax negotiations far into the future.

This is a song and dance that we have all heard before. For years, Republicans moaned and groaned about the deficit. They claimed that the nation was too broke to extend unemployment benefits, programs for the needy, or even expand veterans benefits.

Now that they are about to take control of Congress, Republicans have found enough cash to blow a $440 billion hole in the deficit by pushing a tax cut bill that his heavily slanted towards corporations. In the Republican mind, the nation is too broke to help the jobless or veterans, but there is never a bad time to give corporations a tax cut.

An Obama veto would be the most significant of his presidency so far. The president is warming up his veto pen in order to stand up for working people and their families. Republicans are taking the Obama veto threat so seriously that they are trying to sweeten the tax cut pot in order to attract Democratic support.

For the next two years, President Obama will be the only person standing in the way of the Republican Party’s Koch fueled agenda. Obama is standing tall, but the full pro-corporate assault will begin in January.


Republicans Wrong: 135 Legal Scholars Say Obama’s Immigration Actions Are Constitutional

By: Sarah Jones
Tuesday, November, 25th, 2014, 12:54 pm   

Cue obtuse denials (à la Republicans denying their own Benghazi report) and wailing tears. Republicans are wrong again, so say over 100 legal scholars. President Obama acted Constitutionally and within the powers of his office when he took immigration action.

Jim Kuhnehn reported for the AP, “More than 100 immigration professors and scholars declared Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s decision to make several million immigrants illegally in the United States eligible to be spared from deportation is constitutional and within his administrative powers.”

That’s 135 scholars for anyone who’s counting. And they all say that President Obama’s immigration actions are well within the legal authority of the executive branch.

The lawyers published their conclusion in a letter, updated from a September 3, 2014 letter sent by 136 law professors to the White House on the role of executive action in immigration law.

    Our conclusion is that the expansion of the DACA program and the establishment of Deferred Action for Parental Accountability are legal exercises of prosecutorial discretion. Both executive actions are well within the legal authority of the executive branch of the government of the United States.

It’s not as if this is news to those who operate in reality land, but this is news for those deeply entrenched in the alternative universe/contagious disease that is Republicanitis.

Seeing as every modern president since Eisenhower has done this including Republican former President Ronald Reagan, Republicans look foolish and petty the more they screech about Obama. They are really just upset that President Obama is acting like a president and using the powers given to him by the People in a landslide election (the second national election he won, by the way– a “referendum” on his policies if ever there were one, wake up media).

135 legal scholars V Republicans.

But wait. Republicans claim that it’s different when Obama does it because the scope is so broad. What say the scholars? They disagree. The broad scope does not impact prosecutorial discretion.


Further, the scholars cited the fact that federal courts “also explicitly recognized prosecutorial discretion in general and deferred action in particular. Notably, the U.S. Supreme Court noted in its Arizona v. United States decision in 2012: ‘A principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials.'”

Keep in mind that Republicans also don’t “believe” in climate change, science, medicine, reality, and much more. They base monetary policy on a fictional character’s monologue in a book written for juvenile teenage boys. Reality is a stranger to Republicans these days. So it should come as no surprise that they are wrong again, because they once again denied reality.

The reality is, Barack Obama is the President of the U.S. He’s in his second term. The people wanted him a lot more than they wanted the Republican alternatives, in both elections. But we are six years in, and Republicans are still whining daily like perpetual sore losers who refuse to take responsibility for their own failures.


House Republicans Plan To Cave To Obama On Immigration Executive Orders

By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, November, 25th, 2014, 10:16 am   

House Republicans have come up with a plan that caves to President Obama. Republicans plan on funding the government through September 2015, but only renewing funding for the immigration executive orders on a short term basis.

Politico reported,

    The likely proposal would fund nearly the entire government through September 2015, but immigration enforcement related funding would be renewed on a short-term basis, according to several high-ranking GOP lawmakers and aides who described the plan as it stands now.

    The strategy is designed to keep the government open, while satisfying the base, which is livid with President Back (sic) Obama for issuing an executive order that ends deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants.

    Republican leaders have struggled to come up with a plan that would satisfy both goals — of keeping the government open, while allowing members to express their anger at Obama. GOP sources believe that keeping immigration funding on a short leash could be the answer.

In other words, Boehner’s plan is to give the president everything that he wants. The Republican hope seems to be that if they only fund the enforcement agencies in the short-term the Republican base will soon forget about it and move on to being angry about something else.

Boehner is betting on his own House Republicans being more afraid of a government shutdown than the wrath of the immigration haters in their own party. Speaker Boehner vowed that the House will act to stop the president’s executive orders on immigration.

Here’s a newsflash for the Speaker. His plan does the exact opposite. It looks like President Obama has outmaneuvered Speaker Boehner again. Boehner is putting a plan together that throws up the white flag of surrender but allows his caucus to let the country know that they are really mad about it.

It is an empty expression of anger that is designed to hide the fact that House Republicans are caving to the president again.


Incompetent John Boehner Appoints Republican To A Committee That Doesn’t Exist

By: Jason Easley
Tuesday, November, 25th, 2014, 2:06 pm   

John Boehner out did his usual incompetence today by appointing a Republican to a committee that doesn’t actually exist.

Yahoo News reported,

    Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday evening announced that he is reappointing Republican Trey Gowdy of South Carolina to head the Select Committee on Benghazi next Congress.

    The problem, however, is that by doing so, Boehner named a chairman to a panel that does not yet exist. Because the Benghazi committee is select and not permanent, the House will have to vote again to re-create it when Congress returns for a new session in January.

.It isn’t like Boehner has that much on his plate. The House calendar is an endless vacation with a few session days scattered in for variety. Maybe, the Speaker forgot that when a new congress is sworn in select committees and legislation that hasn’t been passed by both congressional bodies doesn’t carryover. The idea that House passed legislation doesn’t carry over to the new Congress if it didn’t become law is frequently intentionally forgotten by the Speaker when he ticks off his list of Republican accomplishments.

Boehner could have been distracted by his lawsuit against President Obama, or his plan to give Obama everything he wants on the immigration executive orders and funding the government. The sort of incompetence that Boehner exhibiting by appointing Gowdy to a committee that doesn’t exist yet is on full display every day when the House is in session.

Rep. Boehner frequently has had to pull his own legislation off the floor after his fellow Republicans refused to support it. The idea that Boehner is going to be able to get the better of President Obama has always been laughable.

When ideology is combined with ineptitude, the prognosis for the next two years is more of the same. John Boehner’s inability to run a functioning House will be Mitch McConnell’s problem beginning in January. It’s fitting that Boehner appointed Gowdy to a committee that doesn’t exist, because the Benghazi scandal itself is non-existent.

 on: Nov 26, 2014, 07:57 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
NATO 'Very Concerned' by Russian Military Build-up in Crimea

by Naharnet Newsdesk
26 November 2014, 15:54

NATO's top military commander warned Wednesday that Russia's "militarization" of the annexed Crimea region could be used by Moscow to exert control across the whole Black Sea region.

"We are very concerned with the militarization of Crimea," U.S. General Philip Breedlove told a press conference in Kiev.

"The capabilities that are being installed in Crimea will bring an effect on almost the entire Black Sea."

Breedlove, the commander of American forces in Europe, said that cruise and surface-to-air missiles installed on the peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in March, would be "able to exert influence" over the strategic region.

He said that the U.S.-led alliance was "watching for indications" amid fears over the possibility that Russia could move any of its nuclear arsenal to Crimea.

Russia's defense ministry said Wednesday that it had deployed a batch of 14 military jets to Crimea, as part of a squadron of 30 that will be stationed on the peninsula.

Breedlove was in Kiev for high-level talks with Ukraine's leaders over the crisis that has sent the West's relations with Moscow to their lowest ebb since the Cold War.

Ukraine has stirred fresh Russian ire by stating it hopes to join the Western security bloc in the face of Russia's alleged backing for a separatist conflict that has cost over 4,300 lives since April.

There seems little chance of the ex-Soviet state actually joining NATO anytime soon as secure borders and reforms to its ill-equipped army would usually be a prerequisite.

Breedlove said that the alliance was providing training for Ukraine's forces that will bring them closer to "NATO tactics, techniques and procedures" but insisted that any decision on the country becoming a member was for political leaders.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Nov 26, 2014, 07:54 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Argentina's Kirchner in First Public Speech after Illness

by Naharnet Newsdesk
26 November 2014, 06:56

Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner appeared in public following a nearly month-long absence from illness, reigniting the offensive against hedge funds and vowing she wants a resolution to the debt crisis.

The 61-year-old appeared in good health after she was hospitalized for a gastrointestinal inflammation that forced her to miss a G20 meeting in Australia earlier this month.

She resumed her fight against funds that are pursuing her country for payment on Argentine bonds they hold.

"It is very important to find an agreement with 100 percent of our creditors, in a way that is legal, balanced and just, and without extortion or blackmail," Kirchner said in Buenos Aires, her first public address since October 30.

Argentina is still struggling with the aftermath of a default on nearly $100 billion in debt in 2001, with the two hedge funds it has called vultures battling the country in U.S. courts.

Her government fell into default on its borrowings at the end of July this year due to a US court ruling supporting the funds' complaint.

Argentina has been locked out of international financial markets since the 2001 default.

More than 92 percent of its creditors agreed to take losses of up to 70 percent on the face value of their bonds in 2005 and 2010 to get the struggling country's debt repayments back on track.

The center-left Kirchner was first elected in 2007, and again for a second term in 2011. She succeeded her husband Nestor Kirchner who died while in office.

This is the third time in less than a year that Cristina Kirchner, Argentina's first elected woman president, who is in her last year in office, has been sidelined by health issues.

She was sidelined for several days in October by pharyngitis, an inflammation at the back of the throat.

In July, Kirchner was  for several days by laryngitis, forcing her to cancel a trip to Paraguay.

A little over a year ago, she underwent surgery for an intracranial hematoma, or bleeding in the brain, forcing her to stop working for six weeks.

In early 2012, she underwent surgery to remove her thyroid after being misdiagnosed with cancer.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Nov 26, 2014, 07:52 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Mexico Leader Forced into Action over 43 Missing

by Naharnet Newsdesk
26 November 2014, 07:11

Two months after 43 students vanished in the night, change is afoot in Mexico: protests have swept the nation, sounding a wake-up call for the president to finally tackle corruption and police brutality.

Facing the biggest crisis of his two-year-old administration, President Enrique Pena Nieto will announce Thursday a new strategy to tackle the country's dysfunctional justice system.

The national soul-searching began in September after police in the southern state of Guerrero attacked busloads of college students, abducted 43 young men and handed them over to drug gang members.

The gang members later said they had killed the captives.

The government, Pena Nieto said Tuesday, must take "profound actions that require a collective effort from Congress and society to find the best path" to avoid a repetition.

The case has become a tragic example of collusion between criminals and corrupt officials in a drug war that has left tens of thousands of people dead since 2006.

In the Iguala case, the mayor is accused of having unleashed the police on the students over fears they would protest a speech by his wife, who prosecutors say has links to a drug cartel.

"This has sparked a civil awakening," said Jorge Hernandez, a political analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

"The political class is under scrutiny. The country has come face-to-face with the raw reality that many didn't want to see."

The case has also rocked Mexico's main leftist party, the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), because Iguala's mayor was a member. The PRD's founder, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, quit the party late Tuesday due to infighting over how to regain the trust of Mexicans.

- Escape strategy -

After focusing his presidency on internationally-acclaimed economic reforms, Pena Nieto must now confront the country's security failures.

Legislators said Pena Nieto will unveil plans to put the country's notoriously inept and sometimes gang-infiltrated municipal police forces under federal control.

The centrist leader will also create a national commission to oversee the judicial reforms and push for passage of a national anti-corruption law that has been stuck in Congress.

"Until now, the president has not had a coherent response to the crisis, and he must find an escape strategy, handling what he has not handled so far: corruption and violence," security expert Alejandro Hope told AFP.

Highlighting the depth of the problem, the non-governmental organization Common Cause released a report Monday showing that 42,214 federal, state and municipal police staff are still working despite failing a vetting process aimed a purging the corrupt.

When he took office in December 2012, Pena Nieto vowed to reduce the everyday violence besetting the country.

But he maintained the controversial militarized strategy of his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who deployed 50,000 troops against the drug cartels in 2006.

Pena Nieto launched a crime prevention program, which officials acknowledged will take years to show results, and created a 5,000-strong militarized police force, the gendarmerie.

The presumed massacre of the 43 aspiring teachers was the last straw for many Mexicans.

Protesters have been demanding Pena Nieto's resignation.

Students from the missing young men's Ayotzinapa teacher-training college have given Pena Nieto until December 1, the anniversary of his presidency, to step down.

Pena Nieto has accused violent protesters of trying to destabilize the country and derail his economic reforms.

- A new script -

"The government is dumbstruck," said Jose Antonio Crespo, a political science professor at Mexico's Center for Economic Research and Teaching.

"This should be a turning point to enact deeper measures against corruption, whether the entire political class accepts it, wants it, or not," he argued.

Milenio newspaper columnist Ciro Gomez Leyva warned that Pena Nieto "will not get a second chance."

Before the Iguala case, Pena Nieto had insisted that his crime strategy was making progress, citing statistics showing a drop in the country's murder rate.

"He is the first TV-president of Mexico," novelist Juan Villoro wrote in Reforma newspaper, referring to the telegenic leader married to a former soap opera star.

"His reforms offered a new national soap opera. But reality has come back to haunt him."

Source: Agence France Presse


US judge sentences 'El Chapo' Guzmán associate to 22 years in prison for drug crimes

In sentencing Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez, judge said he wanted to send a stern message to Hernandez and other Mexican cartel traffickers

Associated Press in Chicago, Monday 24 November 2014 21.00 GMT      

A US judge sentenced a reputed lieutenant of captured Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman to 22 years in prison on Monday for his role in a $1b conspiracy to traffic narcotics to Chicago and other cities.

In sentencing Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez, Chief US District Judge in Chicago Ruben Castillo said he wanted to send a stern message to Hernandez and other Mexican traffickers. Hernandez, 58, is one of 11 alleged traffickers indicted in Chicago, including Guzman himself. Hernandez was the first to be sentenced.

“I tell you on behalf of all citizens of Chicago ... we are tired of this drug trafficking,” Castillo told Hernandez, who minutes earlier apologized to the court and US government and asked Castillo to take pity on him.

The case is regarded as one of the US government’s most important against Mexican cartels. Guzman remains jailed in Mexico and Mexican authorities haven’t said if they might extradite him to Chicago.

The spotlight during and in the lead-up to Hernandez’s sentencing was on the credibility of two Sinaloa cartel associates-turned-government witnesses, Pedro and Margarito Flores.

Secret recordings and other evidence provided by the twin brothers in 2008 led to the Chicago indictments of Hernandez and 10 others, including Guzman and the Flores twins themselves.

Hernandez, of Mexico, was the first up for sentencing. He pleaded guilty to possessing drugs with intent to distribute.

Hernandez was a close friend of Guzman, using his logistical skills to ship tons of heroin and cocaine by train from Mexico to Chicago concealed in bogus furniture cargo, according to the Flores brothers.

But defense lawyers accused the brothers of exaggerating Hernandez’s rank in the cartel to curry favor with US prosecutors and ensure the lowest possible prison terms for themselves.

The twin brothers sought to hoodwink federal agents even after they agreed to cooperate, they allege.

Lawyers for Hernandez also cited court documents indicating the brothers – while behind bars working with the feds –had someone hide up to $2.5m in cash. From jail, they also allegedly bought a $100,000 Bentley as a gift for Pedro Flores’ wife.

Prosecutors say the Flores brothers cut deals with Guzman, Hernandez and others in the Sinaloa cartel to distribute drugs in the United States with Chicago as the operational hub.

The brothers claimed they sold up to two tons of cocaine a month in Chicago alone by 2007. They also supplied eight other cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.

In statements unsealed recently, the Flores twins said they know assassins would try to kill them and their families if the cartel ever discovered where they are being held in protective custody.

 on: Nov 26, 2014, 07:49 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
South Sudan: the impact of war and the importance of peace

James Copnall
Wednesday 26 November 2014 07.00 GMT
The Guardian   

When John Riek was 12, he was forcibly recruited into the Red Army, the youth wing of the rebels who would eventually take South Sudan to independence after more than two decades of conflict and an estimated two million deaths. Many years later, after he was reunited with his parents, the former child soldier decided to fight for peace. “I was away from my family for 15 years,” he says. “I know the impact of war and I know the importance of peace.”

South Sudan sank into civil war last December, less than three years after gaining independence. Riek, who now heads an NGO, knows his work is only just beginning.

Negotiations in Ethiopia continue, and may bring about a peace agreement. However, this is likely to be a power-sharing deal between the warring parties, which would be perceived by many South Sudanese as rewarding the aggressors without resolving the underlying issues. There are talks in Tanzania too, between three factions of the governing party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), aimed at resolving some of the political tensions that created the civil war.

Beyond the negotiations, South Sudan will need a genuine national reconciliation process to bring together the different communities that have been set against each other by this conflict.

If the triggers for the fighting were the tensions and outsize ambitions at the top of the SPLM, the war itself has often taken on an ethnic dimension. President Salva Kiir is a Dinka, the largest of 60 or so ethnic groups in South Sudan. Many of his supporters are Dinka, coming from the president’s home area of Greater Bahr el Ghazal. The rebel leader, Riek Machar, is a Nuer, the second largest group, and many of his followers are Nuer.

When fighting broke out in the capital, Juba, in December, government soldiers killed hundreds of Nuer, including many civilians, because of their perceived loyalty to Machar. This provoked Nuer military units to defect, and they, with Nuer civilian militias, make up Machar’s army. Machar’s rebels, too, have carried out ethnic massacres, including in Bor, Bentiu and Malakal. Although political leaders often insist this is not an ethnic conflict, the ethnic power bases of each leader are a significant part of their strength. Many Dinka and Nuer, and people from other communities directly affected by the conflict, such as the Shilluk in Upper Nile, believe the hardest task will not be to stop the fighting but to repair the damage done to the relationship between the different communities of South Sudanese society.

Efforts to bring the nation together have started. John Riek is now working with the Committee for National Healing, Peace and Reconciliation (CNHPR). More than 80 peace activists spent most of last month in Yei, a town on the border with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The participants were taught theoretical and practical approaches to reconciliation, with the idea that they would use these skills in their home region. The first challenge, however, was to overcome the suspicions many of the participants had of each other. The tensions in South Sudanese society are now so deep that they infect even peace-builders.

Yet, two religious men – the Reverend Thomas Chalgor Paul, a Nuer, and John Alier Maluk, a Dinka church leader – managed to build an unlikely friendship, not an easy matter in Bor. The town changed hands several times in the early days of the war, and it is here where Nuer soldiers stand accused of killing large numbers of civilians, and where residents attacked the Nuer sheltering in the UN camp, believing many of them to be former rebels.

Maluk realises true peace will not come from the negotiations in Addis Ababa, “but we hope to bring peace from our own community”. Since their return from peace training in Yei, however, he has not spoken to Paul. The reverend is now back behind the barbed wire at the UN camp in Bor, and, while he would like to venture into town, he is too scared. “If I don’t speak to John Alier to help me, maybe they will kill me.”

Despite the difficulties, the practical benefits of bringing representatives of divided communities together are obvious, and vital. Nevertheless, the CNHPR also has problems. It was set up by President Kiir in April 2013 to replace a body deemed too close to the then vice-president, Machar. The CNHPR is thus seen by Machar’s supporters as the president’s tool, despite the inclusive, unifying work it attempts to carry out. The fact that a reconciliation body was needed even before war broke out indicates the extent of South Sudan’s problems.

Reconciliation is only one of the elements needed to restore South Sudan to peace. The South Sudan Law Society (SSLS) believes the country needs a truth commission to bring to light the many atrocities committed, and a hybrid local-international court which would try those accused of the worst abuses.

“The culture of impunity and so many problems are linked to a lack of accountability. People hold grievances for so long,” says David Deng of the SSLS. “It’s a fundamental issue for South Sudan.” Illustrating the long history of the problem, the SSLS’s proposed truth commission would examine abuses going back to 1972, after the first north-south civil war, but including the second war which led to South Sudan’s independence, as well as the current conflict. John Riek, who was press-ganged into the rebels, would be able to tell his story, and so would South Sudanese from all over the country. Every community has a grievance.

The peace-builders agree, however, that the first priority is to stop the fighting. Riek lost relatives in the war. He says his message to others like him is that “we should forgive one another. If we don’t choose forgiveness, the fighting will cause more harm. The way forward is to say let us stop.”

 on: Nov 26, 2014, 07:47 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Human rights abuses ‘leave a third of Libyans with mental health problems’

Research reveals human consequences of violence and lawlessness in north African country since fall of Gaddafi
Ian Black, Middle East editor
The Guardian, Wednesday 26 November 2014 11.09 GMT      

“Widespread and gross” human rights violations in Libya, including disappearances, arrests, torture and deaths, have left nearly a third of the population suffering from mental health problems as violence and lawlessness continues, according to a new report.

Research by Dignity – the Danish Institute against Torture – shared with the Guardian, paints a devastating picture of the human consequences of the regionalism, tribalism and factionalism that have wracked the north African country since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi three-and-a-half years ago.

A fifth of households (20%) had a family member who had disappeared, 11% reported having a household member arrested and 5% reported that one had been killed, researchers found. Of those arrested, 46% reported beatings, 20% positional torture or suspensions and 16% suffocation. Between 3% and 5% reported having suffered sexual, thermal or electrical torture.

“Our data supports the allegations that widespread … and gross human rights violations have taken place in Libya,” says the report, which seeks to assess Libya’s mental health needs and was co-authored with Benghazi University. The survey is based on 2,692 household interviews and was completed in October 2013. The situation may have got worse since then, it concludes.

Data revealed that 29% of individuals reported anxiety and 30% depression. Stress levels showed a preoccupation with political instability (63.6%) followed by the collapse of the country (61.2%), insecurity about “life right now” (56.6%) and insecurity about the future (46.4%). Nearly 30% reported being exposed to violence during demonstrations.

Despite the ongoing crisis, respondents have had almost no access to international humanitarian assistance. Only 2% reported that NGOs had helped them. Libyans have overwhelmingly resorted to local resources for social support: 72% used family networks, 48% friends, 43% doctors, 24% religious leaders and 18% traditional healers.

“Libya has a practice of not seeking help for psychological problems, and the few trained psychologists and psychiatrists have very limited experience of treating trauma and consequences of torture and war,” the report said.

“In addition, severe social stigma exists regarding those affected by mental illness. Psychiatric symptoms are attributed to the act of pagan symbols like the evil eye, magic or sorcery.”

Ahlam Chemlali, one of the Dignity field workers, recalled how “videos of rape and torture were so widespread and popular that people would name characters from the videos, like the ‘butcher from Misrata’ or the ‘rapist from Brega’ as if they were actors playing in a horror snuff movie. Filmed torture seems to have been a consistent way of spreading or exposing fear.”

Internal displacement was also a major concern: 18% of respondents reported being displaced during the conflict and 16% remained so at the time of the interview. An estimated 35,000 people from Tawergha, accused by militias from Misrata of fighting with the Gaddafi regime, remain displaced.

The report recalls the exhilaration in Benghazi when the Libyan revolution began in February 2011 but concludes that both the short-term consequences of the internal conflict and the long-term legacy of 42 years of Gaddafi’s rule remain unaddressed.

Lack of trust, out of an ingrained fear of regime agents and informers, remains a powerful barrier to building a functional state based on democratic institutions and the rule of law.

“Nobody could be trusted so you kept silent,” Morten Koch Andersen, another of the report’s authors, told the Guardian.

“This also impacted our work for torture survivors. It was extremely difficult to get people to talk together, not to mention to work and plan for the future. They did not trust each other – even professionals on the same side of the conflict.”

Gaddafi’s overthrow by rebels supported by Nato, some Gulf states and Turkey, was seen by many as an early success story of the Arab spring, but it soured quickly in the absence of strong national institutions and the mushrooming of rival militias.

Strikingly, however, the report notes, almost a third of respondents experienced an improvement in their life situation after the Gaddafi’’s removal, despite political instability and parliament’s failure to agree on leadership and legal foundations for the nation, including a constitution.

“The dream of a united, peaceful and democratic Libya, which dominated people’s hopes and political discourse in the wake of the downfall of Gaddafi’s regime, have given way to a vocabulary and practice of violence, fragmentation, fear and hostility,” the report says.

“The future of Libya is uncertain, but as the results of the study show, the effects and consequences of violent conflict [are] deep and will influence Libyan society in the years to come, regardless of political system and rule.

“Any future government of Libya faces massive challenges in alleviating human suffering and improving mental health. However, as the internal conflict continues, more and more people are affected by human rights violations, aggravating mental health afflictions, straining the social fabric and the capacity of the Libyan state.”


Libyan PM says Tripoli bombing will stop when extremists surrender

Abdullah al-Thinni refuses UN call to end air strikes on rebel-held positions in the capital, seized by Libya Dawn in August

Chris Stephen in Tunis
The Guardian, Wednesday 26 November 2014 11.57 GMT   

Libya’s prime minister has refused a UN call to halt two days of air strikes against rebel-held positions in Tripoli as the country’s civil war escalates.

The bombing has seen the city’s Mitiga airport shut down, worsening a conflict that has already torn the country apart, displaced 400,000 people and threatened involvement by outside powers.

The prime minister, Abdullah al-Thinni, head of the internationally recognised government, told UN envoy Bernadino Leon that Tripoli is held by extremists and the bombing will stop only when they surrender.

In turn, Omar al-Hasi, leader of Libya Dawn, whose militias control the capital, has accused the elected government of being led by devotees of Muammar Gaddafi, overthrown in the 2011 revolution.

Damage from the air strikes, concentrated on the airport, has been light, with one bomb striking homes on the perimeter, but the psychological effect has been profound, with the few international flights still operating suspended.

Fighting has wracked the country since Libya Dawn seized Tripoli in August, obliging the newly elected parliament to flee to the eastern city of Tobruk.

Since then, pro-government forces have fought two separate but interconnected campaigns against rebels in both Tripoli and Benghazi, Libya’s second city, which had been held by Islamist forces.

In Benghazi, air power has proved the decisive weapon in the government arsenal, wearing down Islamist brigades including Ansar al-Sharia, which was blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by the UN last week.

Al-Thinni hopes bombing will give his forces the same advantage in the battle for Tripoli, demanding Libya Dawn disarm and hand over “perpetrators of criminal acts”.

Meanwhile, Libya Dawn, a coalition of Islamist brigades and militias from western coastal towns including Misrata, is fighting government forces on a jagged front south and west of Tripoli.

The international community has been content to remain largely on the sidelines, but some diplomats worry the war may spill over the country’s borders. Libya’s government accuses Qatar and Turkey of aiding Libya Dawn, while Dawn accuses Egypt and the United Arab Emirates of arming government forces.

Leon, appointed to mediate a peace deal, said he fears the bombing of Tripoli will “undermine efforts to resolve the crisis through peaceful means”.

He hopes to mediate a ceasefire coupled with agreement to form a unity government, but prospects for a deal appear slight with both sides confident they can win the war.

Al-Thinni’s government thinks its monopoly of Libya’s all-important oil revenues gives it economic power to match the growing strength of its army and, lately, air force. This week pro-government forces from Zintan captured the strategically important town of Kikla, south of Tripoli, saying they will move on the capital.

Dawn is equally defiant, promising reinforcements from Misrata to turn the tide at Kikla. Hasi announced that the air strikes have ended the possibility of negotiations, saying there would now be “a policy of war and confrontation, and we are the ones who will win, God willing”.

In Tripoli, many fear being caught in the coming storm. One student said: “The bombing is making everyone nervous, there are checkpoints everywhere, people are leaving their homes near the airport.”

 on: Nov 26, 2014, 07:41 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Israeli president opposes proposed law to give ‘national rights’ to Jews only

Critics say ‘Jewish nation-state’ bill would diminish freedoms of minorities and give ammunition to enemies abroad

Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem
The Guardian, Wednesday 26 November 2014 12.40 GMT   

Israel’s president, Reuven Rivlin, has voiced his strong opposition to a controversial proposed new law that would define “national rights” in Israel as reserved for Jews only.

The “Jewish nation-state” bill would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and possibly delist Arabic as a second official language. It is being promoted vigorously by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and was approved by the Israeli cabinet on Sunday, but has attracted fierce criticism from opponents inside Israel as well as from the US and the EU.

Critics contend that the law – whose final form of words has yet to be settled and whose language seems likely to be softened – threatens to undermine Israel’s declaration of independence, which gives equal rights to the country’s minorities, including Israeli Arabs, by promoting the idea of Israel as a “Jewish state” above one that is “democratic”.

In an emotional critique of the proposed new legislation, which would become part of Israel’s basic laws , Rivlin said those who had drawn up Israel’s declaration of independence “in their great wisdom, insist that the Arab public in Israel not feel like the Jews felt in the diaspora.”

Speaking at a conference in the southern city of Eilat, Rivlin, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, asked: “What is the point of this bill?”

“Does this bill not in fact play into the hands of those who seek to slander us? Into the very hands of those who wish to show that even among us, there are those who see contradiction between our being a free people in our land, and the freedoms of the non-Jewish communities in our midst?

“The declaration of independence, in its depth and greatness, bound together two components of the state as Jewish and democratic, democratic and Jewish.”

For his part, Netanyahu has argued that individual civil rights would be guaranteed under existing laws for all, but that “national rights” should be reserved for Jews.

Rivlin’s comments came as the bill becomes mired in the fractious politics of Netanyahu’s increasingly divided coalition, with centrist parties threatening to vote against it when it comes before parliament next week.

It has also drawn the opposition of some on the right – like Rivlin, as well as commentators – who argue it is an unnecessary law that gives ammunition to Israel’s critics internationally.

On Wednesday, former defence and foreign minister Moshe Arens condemned the new legislation in a comment piece for Haaretz.

“We don’t need legislation to make Israel a Jewish state, and you cannot make it a Jewish state by legislation,” he writes.

“It is a Jewish state because the majority of the population is Jewish, because the dominant language spoken is Hebrew, because most of the books published here are Hebrew books, and most of the songs sung here are Hebrew songs … But most important, because of the Law of Return which enables any Jew, anywhere in the world, seeking refuge or desiring to live in Israel, to come here and become a citizen of the country.

“But not only is the proposed law unnecessary, it is harmful. A quarter of Israel’s population is not Jewish, and probably the most important item on the nation’s agenda should be their integration into the fabric of Israeli society and their participation in the Israeli economy. Giving them the feeling of being at home, of being equal citizens.”

Other critics of the new law include Jamal Zahalka, an Israeli Arab member of the Knesset, who has said it will make the state “less democratic and more racist”. The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has described the law as a potential impediment to the peace process.

Rivlin’s intervention follows international warnings from the US and the EU.

A US state department spokesman said on Monday that it expected Israel to “continue [its] commitment to democratic principles”.

“The United States position, which is unchanged, has been clear for years – and the president and the secretary [of state] have also reiterated it – is that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state in which all citizens should enjoy equal rights.”

 on: Nov 26, 2014, 07:39 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Tesco director facing questions about lobbying government over dirty chicken report

Exclusive: Former FSA chief Tim Smith understood to have warned Department of Health that revealing food poisoning contamination rates could provoke a food scare and damage the industry

• Campylobacter: costly problem producers don’t want to tackle

Felicity Lawrence
Tuesday 25 November 2014 18.43 GMT

The former head of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), who went straight from his job as regulator to a lucrative role as technical director of Tesco, lobbied the government this summer about its plans to publish the official food poisoning contamination rates for supermarket chicken, the Guardian has been told.

Tim Smith is understood to have warned the Department of Health in June that FSA proposals for publishing results, which included naming and shaming individual supermarkets, could provoke a food scare and damage the industry.

The lobbying has raised questions over whether Smith has abided by terms set by David Cameron for his appointment. His move straight from the regulator to a supermarket group he had been regulating in October 2012 was approved by the prime minister, following advice from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, on the condition that he did not lobby civil servants or ministers on behalf of Tesco for two years.

The FSA has been fighting a decade-long campaign to get supermarkets and the poultry industry to clean up their meat. A Guardian investigation into industry hygiene lapses earlier this year revealed that the majority of fresh supermarket chicken remains contaminated with the potentially lethal food poisoning bug campylobacter. Six in ten chickens were contaminated in anonymised FSA tests results released after a delay in August. The industry is now poised to receive the results of further tests covering peak season for the bug, due to be published on Thursday. These are likely to show even higher rates of contamination and will identify individual supermarkets and their scores.

The policy of naming and shaming the dirtiest companies for their campylobacter rates has been a key part of the FSA’s strategy to deal with industry’s failure to tackle what is the commonest form of food poisoning in the UK – it kills around 100 people and makes an estimated 280,000 sick each year.

However the agency backed down in July from its public promise to name individual retailers in the first batch of contamination results. It had come under intense pressure from other government departments, and according to sources, Number 10 had raised concerns that the communication of results could provoke a food scare similar to that triggered when former conservative minister Edwina Currie warned that most British eggs were contaminated with salmonella in 1988.

The FSA said in the summer when it decided to back down from naming supermarkets that “other government departments have reflected to us concerns which are the same as those we’ve heard directly from retailers and producers”.

Now it is alleged that the FSA’s own former boss appeared to undermine its campylobacter strategy. Labour’s food and farming minister Huw Irranca-Davies wrote earlier this month to the health secretary Jeremy Hunt asking for “unequivocal assurance” that Smith did not lobby his department inappropriately over campylobacter and in breach of his conditions of appointment, but has not yet received a reply.

Despite the conditions attached to his appointment, The Guardian has been told that Smith approached the senior civil servant responsible for the Department of Health’s public health division for a discussion about the publication of the campylobacter results. During the conversation he is said to have raised concerns that it would provoke a food scare.

The Guardian put in Freedom of Information requests to the department last month, asking which companies lobbied over campylobacter and what had passed between the departments. The department refused to give any information and that decision is now being appealed.

The Guardian also asked the department last week if its public health team had been lobbied by Smith. A spokeswoman said it could not comment because of the FoI appeal.

Both Tesco and Smith declined to say whether he had lobbied on the supermarket’s behalf in apparent breach of the conditions of his appointment. In a statement, Tesco said that it is “committed to the reduction of the industry-wide issue of campylobacter in poultry”.

“We work in close collaboration with our suppliers, other retailers and relevant food and health authorities to address the issue at all stages of the supply chain.”

Asked whether it had been made aware by DH of any views expressed by Smith on campylobacter results, the FSA said it could not comment as the content of exchanges between departments on campylobacter strategy was part of a separate FoI request by the Guardian which had been refused.

The agency is still being lobbied by industry in a last-ditch attempt to stop it naming and shaming individual companies in this week’s results.

The current FSA chief executive, Catherine Brown, noted in board papers this month: “It is disappointing that the British Retail Consortium, which speaks on behalf of retailers, has written to us again pressing us not to release the results of the retail survey and seeking to call in to question the validity of the sampling plan, which they were consulted about before the survey commenced.”

Irranca-Davies said; “To tackle campylobacter we need transparency on the extent of the problem. We also need transparency whether there has been any inappropriate lobbying to delay or dilute publication of the campylobacter rates.

“After the horsemeat scandal and the allegations of hygiene failings in the poultry industry the government must restore confidence in the food sector and ensure that the FSA puts the interests of the consumer first.”

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd, said: “It’s scandalous that so much chicken with high levels of campylobacter ends up on our supermarket shelves.

“The supermarkets, watchdog and industry need to clean up their act and immediately publish the data they’ve been keeping from the public and tell consumers what action they’re taking to make sure that chicken is safe.”

Campylobacter: at a glance

    Campylobacter thrives in the gut and faeces of poultry, and can easily be spread from bird to bird on farms or in abattoirs. The bug is killed by cooking but it is also easily spread when raw meat contaminates surfaces and utensils in the kitchen. It is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK, making around 280,000 people ill each year and leading to around 100 deaths. In rare cases it can cause serious disability. Since many people do not report food poisoning, the real figure for campylobacter illness are probably much higher. This year the Food Standards Agency reported that 59% of raw chicken on sale in the UK is contaminated with campylobacter. The FSA reveals new tests this week detailing the rates at different supermarkets.

    To clean up the system would cost money. Intensive farming, cramped transport conditions, the mechanised processes in modern abattoirs have all contributed to higher rates of campylobacter. With constant pressure from supermarkets to keep the price of chicken low, and the industry working on high volumes but low margins, experts say the campylobacter problem has been left unsolved for years.

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