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Khizr Khan, Father of American Muslim Soldier Killed in Iraq, Shames Donald Trump

The Intercept - Engl. - 2 ore 6 min fa

Given that Hillary Clinton’s Senate vote, on October 11, 2002, to authorize the invasion of Iraq might have been what cost her the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2008, it was remarkable that the most powerful speech on her behalf on Thursday night in Philadelphia came from the father of an American soldier who was killed in that war.

However, the words of Khizr Khan — a Pakistani Muslim immigrant, whose son, Capt. Humayun S.M. Khan, was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for saving the lives of fellow soldiers in Baquba, Iraq in 2004 — were not about the wisdom or morality or politics of the war. They were about how his son’s love of country, and his family’s sacrifice, exposed the anti-Muslim bigotry behind Donald Trump’s plan to bar followers of that faith from becoming Americans.

“Hillary Clinton was right when she called my son the best of America,” Khan said, standing beside his wife, Ghazala. “If it was up to Donald Trump, he never would have been in America.”

Khan then addressed the Republican candidate directly, with quiet dignity: “Donald Trump, you are asking Americans to trust you with their future. Let me ask you: have you even read the United States Constitution?” Reaching slowly into his jacket, Khan then removed a small booklet and added, “I will gladly lend you my copy.”

“In this document, look for the words ‘liberty’ and ‘equal protection of law,'” he continued. “Have you ever been to Arlington cemetery? Go look at the graves of brave patriots who died defending the United States of America. You will see all faiths, genders and ethnicities.”

“You have sacrificed nothing, and no one,” he added. “We cannot solve our problems by building walls.”

Standing ovation for Khizr Khan & his wife- they lost their son in war. #muslim #american "we are stronger together"

— Heidi Hatch (@tvheidihatch) July 29, 2016

A historic moment when Khizr Khan, father of one of 14 Muslims who died serving the U.S. after 9/11, got a standing ovation at the #DNC.

— Raza Ahmad Rumi (@Razarumi) July 29, 2016

In 2007, when Clinton was forced to explain her vote on Iraq during a primary battle with Barack Obama — who had spoken out against the “dumb war” as an Illinois state legislator in October, 2002 — she initially blamed the faulty intelligence presented to Senators. “Obviously, if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn’t have been a vote — and I certainly wouldn’t have voted that way,” she told NBC News.

“I should have stated my regret sooner and in the plainest, most direct language possible,” Clinton reflected later, in her 2014 memoir, “Hard Choices.” She added: “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”

In December, after Trump responded to the mass shooting in San Bernardino by demanding, “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on,” Clinton’s campaign released video of her praising the heroism of Capt. Khan.

Amid an outpouring of support and praise for Khan’s speech, a rare sour note was struck by the Trump-supporting extremist Ann Coulter. Jerry Saltz, a New York magazine writer, advised her to look at a photograph of Capt. Khan’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery.


— Jerry Saltz (@jerrysaltz) July 29, 2016

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Hillary Clinton’s Nomination Met With Joy From Many Women at DNC, But Disenchantment From Others

The Intercept - Engl. - 3 ore 30 min fa

As the Democratic Party formally announced its nominee on Tuesday night, the gigantic screen at the Wells Fargo Center showed images of the last 44 U.S. presidents until, with a great shattering sound, Hillary Clinton appeared from behind virtual glass shards.

It was not subtle. Some found it emotional; others found it corny. And in a week that’s been defined by profound divisions inside the convention hall — and greater ones between the convention and the streets outside –- the significance of Clinton’s breaking of a gender barrier also elicited a split response.

As Clinton became the first woman to receive the presidential nomination of a major party, there were those who celebrated her achievement — and those whose deep disenchantment with her and the Democratic leadership remained unaffected by her gender.

Among women, in particular, Clinton’s nomination only seemed to accentuate gaping divisions.

At a DNC women’s caucus meeting on Thursday morning, the crowd was jubilant and running high on the emotions of the week. Hundreds of women of all ages decked out in “I’m with her” gear and pink Planned Parenthood shirts filled the room, as inspirational videos of little girls saying they wanted to be president played in the background.

“My sisters, we have made history here in Philadelphia,” convention CEO Leah Daughtry told a roaring crowd. “Just think that less than 100 years ago, a woman was not even guaranteed the right to vote, and just think that a little over 50 years ago, an African-American woman, Fannie Lou Hamer, was not even permitted to be seated at our convention. And now, we have nominated our first woman to be president at a convention run by an African-American woman.”

Breaking the glass ceiling

Photo: Alice Speri

Kelly Jacobs, a 57-year-old delegate from Mississippi, was ecstatic. She wore a gold chain with President Hillary spelled out in sparkling stones, a Hillary Clinton hairpin over her pink hairnet, a huge portrait of the candidate printed on her dress, and a picture of the White House showing through one of her skirt’s layers. The four-time delegate said she had printed Clinton’s face on the fabric herself — and had created a different outfit for every day of the convention.

“It may have seemed cheesy, but for a lot of us, breaking the glass ceiling was a rallying cry,” she teared up. “It’s not just for her, it’s also for those of us who have tried to get promoted, tried to get paid the same as men.”

Jacobs recalled being harassed as the only woman on her water polo team in the 1970s, and spoke of growing up watching disempowered women on television. “Your generation hasn’t spent years and years not seeing any woman at the top,” she said. “When I was growing up, the woman on TV was Bewitched, and her husband was always putting her down. It wasn’t until Judge Judy came and she was kicking ass and saying ‘I’m smarter than you’ that perceptions changed. Now, you just take it for granted that there are women judges, women in charge, but when I was growing up there was none of that — there was Hazel, a woman cleaning house. It was all about putting women down and suppressing them.”

Jacobs said some Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump supporters harassed her on the subway, laughing at her Hillary outfits and yelling at her “I’m not voting for that bitch.” “They have been horrible to her, her entire career,” she said of Clinton. “Because they’re sexist. And we’re sexist, women too, our entire country is sexist because we have accepted that.”

Photo: Alice Speri

Inside the convention arena, a women’s group raffled off a doll dressed in a shirt that said “Someday a woman will be president!” — the same shirt that Walmart controversially banned in the 1990s. Outside, people sold “Hil Yes” pins and a man in a red dress, pearls, and a Bill Clinton mask carried a sign saying “First Lady Bill.”

But blocks away, and across the city, many signs bearing Hillary’s name had the word “never” preceding it.

If the nomination was a historic moment, it had taken the country so long to get it that many, especially younger women, shrugged at the idea.

And even more significantly, Clinton’s unpopularity and heated criticism of her politics far overshadowed any excitement over her achievement.

“I don’t care,” Sally Briggs, a Bernie Sanders supporter from Colorado, said in reference to the shattered glass ceiling. “When the right woman becomes president, great, but Hillary shouldn’t be that woman.”

Briggs, who is 59 and had her own “Sally for Bernie” pin made, added that she often found herself siding with younger women over her own peers, who she thought allowed Clinton’s gender to distract them from her record. “She keeps on the woman thing so there’s less time to talk about her corruption and her bad foreign policy,” she said. “That doesn’t matter to younger women, because they already are empowered. They support who they want to support.”

Is Hillary Clinton a feminist?

Clinton’s nomination also revamped an old question: who is a feminist, and is she one?

“I say, let’s unpack that word a little bit,” Medea Benjamin, founder of the antiwar women’s group Codepink, said at a rally earlier this week. “Would a feminist have to hesitate one minute to say that working people deserve a living wage, especially women who are at the bottom of the rung? Would a feminist say that we should invade a country that has never done us any harm?” Benjamin called out Clinton on her lack of support for Palestinian women, and her close ties to women-repressive Saudi Arabia. “People have said to me, come on, we need a first woman president,” she added. “And I say yes, we do, and that is [Green Party candidate] Jill Stein.”

Similar questions were raised at a women’s “speak-out” held at a local church on the sidelines of the convention. The event, which drew mothers of victims of police violence, Flint residents, indigenous activists, and one of the most diverse crowds of the week, was opened by Laura Zuñiga Cáceres, daughter of the slain Honduran activist Berta Cáceres, who before her assassination had called out Clinton’s support for the Honduran coup .

“We have an opportunity to talk about what feminism looks like for us. Whenever I go abroad, people ask me if Hillary Clinton is a feminist, and I don’t know what to say about that,” Helena Wong, a community organizer, said at the event, as someone from the crowd shouted back “Say no!”

“We have to call out the idea that having a woman in power is actually a step forward,” Wong added. But, she noted, “Berta was murdered under the Democratic party, and Hillary Clinton, who was Secretary of State, has publicly stated that she supported the coup that has created the conditions for the criminalization of protest and the murder of human rights activists in Honduras and around the world.”

At the event, women spoke of fair wages, environmental rights, and state violence at home and abroad — rarely of women directly.

“There’s been a kind of institutional feminism that’s been promoted by women like Hillary Clinton,” Ana Martina, a community organizer originally from Mexico, said while breastfeeding her ten-month old daughter. “Feminism is more holistic. For a woman to think that they’re being represented by a feminist in Hillary is totally wrong. She’s a rightwing candidate, no better or worse than Trump.”

Trump’s sexism

But the specter of a possible Trump presidency — and the ways in which the Republican nominee has spoken to and about women – also served many observers as a reminder of the progress women have yet to make.

Photo: Alice Speri

“Donald Trump changes his mind three times a day but the one thing that’s been consistent is a pattern of misogyny,” said Zach Wahls, an Iowa delegate who spoke at the last DNC after a video he made about being raised by two lesbian mothers went viral. Wahls was selling decks of “woman card(s)” designed by his younger sister in response to Trump’s use of the expression — with Clinton as the ace, Ruth Bader Ginsburg as the King, and Beyonce as the Queen.

“It’s very clear that this is a man who does not respect women, believes women should not have an equal place in our society,” he said. “He sees himself as superior to women because he’s a man.”

“That’s the thing with Trump, it’s that he says things that people are actually thinking, and we didn’t see that before,” echoed Brittany MacPherson, a 25-year-old delegate from Oregon who was wearing a hat covered in pins with slogans like “another feminist for Hillary.”

“We got our first black president and people were like, racism doesn’t exist in America! When Obama’s presidency made racism so much more evident than it had been,” she said. “And now with Hillary we’re seeing the sexism come out, and if she wins — when she wins — there will be so much more sexism uncovered.”

MacPherson couldn’t understand why fellow millennial women would be so dismissive of Clinton’s achievement. “It’s been 240 years, only 20 percent of government is women, and we’re 50 percent of the population and 55 percent of the voting bloc,” she said. “Feminists that have come before us have done so much, and we have gotten so much, that it feels like we’re equal — but we’re not. Until we have 50 percent of women in government, and CEOs, we’re not equal. Until we get equal pay, we’re not equal.”

MacPherson said she supports Clinton because she is “the most experienced person to ever run for president.” “But I don’t shy away from saying ‘Yes, I am voting for her because she’s a woman,’ because representation actually matters,” she added.

That’s the very idea that many Clinton critics rejected.

“We don’t want people to just say, ‘Well, we have a woman.’ It’s what the woman stands for and what she has demonstrated that’s more important,” said Pat Albright, a community activist and former single mother and welfare recipient who slammed Clinton for her past support of a number of policies that had a devastating impact on poor families and women.

“We want women in positions of power to stand with those with less power, and support our demands rather than be there to further their own interests. We don’t want someone to just mirror the power structure — the worst of the power structure,” she said. “We’d rather have a man who’s really representing us.”

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The post Hillary Clinton’s Nomination Met With Joy From Many Women at DNC, But Disenchantment From Others appeared first on The Intercept.

As the Syrian Government Tightens Its Noose, Aleppo’s Doctors Fear the Worst

The Intercept - Engl. - 5 ore 3 min fa

It was just before 4 p.m. local time last Friday in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo when Dr. Farida Almouslem picked up the phone. With bombs falling outside, the 37-year-old calmly described the chaos unfolding around her. “I’m at home and staying in the middle of my home, because airstrikes are hitting us now,” she said. “We are hiding inside our bathroom.”

For four years now, Aleppo City, Almouslem’s hometown, has been a centerpiece in Syria’s brutal civil war, controlled by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime to the west and opposition forces to the east. The period has been marked by tragedy, bloodshed, and, for the more than 2 million people who called the city home when the fighting began, widespread collective trauma. The situation has now gone from bad to worse.

Syrian children living in Athens, Greece, take part in a demonstration against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on March 15, 2012.

Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images

On July 7, just hours after Assad announced a three-day ceasefire, the Syrian president’s forces seized control of Castello Road, a vital artery that supplies anti-government forces with weapons and provides life-saving food and medicine to the civilians still living in opposition-controlled eastern Aleppo. “We are under siege now,” Almouslem said.

The Russian government has now said it will open humanitarian corridors to allow the besieged population safe exit, though people on the ground question how that proposal will play out. Speaking to The Intercept, Almouslem described the bleak circumstances in which medical workers and ordinary civilians in Aleppo find themselves. “The regime is killing us every day,” she said. “If they take Aleppo City, they will kill everyone.”

As Assad and his Russian allies have systematically targeted medical facilities with airstrikes, the number of doctors in Aleppo City has plummeted into the low dozens. The number of remaining medical specialists is even smaller. Almouslem, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology, says she is one of two doctors left — in a besieged city of 300,000 — whose professional focus is on women’s health and delivering babies.

Eastern Aleppo City’s medical professionals often work underground, in the basements of crumbling buildings that serve as ERs, patient wards and operating rooms all rolled into one. Eight such facilities continue to accept patients in rebel-held territory. Almouslem’s hospital, Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz, has long been the only functioning medical facility in its pocket of eastern Aleppo City. According to the U.N., the hospital has served “an average of 5,500 outpatient consultations, 125 obstetric deliveries, 74 caesarean sections and 143 major surgeries per month.”

Damage inside the Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz hospital in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo after a barrel bomb struck on July 16, 2016.

Photo: Thaer Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images

Over the course of 45 days this summer in June and July, Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz was hit by at least three airstrikes. Almouslem was inside the hospital during two of the air raids. She was performing a caesarean operation during one of the assaults and her incapacitated patient had to be rushed to a nearby house. The third and most devastating attack, which injured a number of staff members, took place on July 16, and reportedly included a barrage of barrel bombs — one of the Assad regime’s signature aerial weapons — followed by Russian airstrikes. Footage purporting to show the aftermath of the attack depicted injured children and babies in dust-filled rooms and rescue workers with headlamps carrying wounded patients through darkened hallways.

Assad’s push to retake eastern Aleppo City has relied on the use of overwhelming airpower, often in conjunction with the Russian military. According to the BBC, Syrian and Russian forces pounded opposition-held areas with more than 600 airstrikes in the span of just six days during the first week of July, killing 126 people — rebels responded by firing rockets into western Aleppo, killing 58 people. Since then, warplanes have showered eastern Aleppo City with bombs. “Every day, every day,” Almouslem said. “Every three or four hours.”

Since the regime seized Castello Road, residents of eastern Aleppo City have felt the noose tightening. Samer Attar, a Syrian-American physician based in Chicago, described the closure of Castello Road as a “catastrophic turning point” and detailed the horrific challenges that eastern Aleppo City’s medical community and civilian population are now facing. Attar, an orthopedic surgeon, was in Aleppo City when the Assad regime ramped up its offensive earlier this month, and caught one of the last rides out of the city before the siege began. “I saw horrifying things — children getting amputations, civilians showing up with their intestines spilling out of their bellies,” he said.

Now, there are no cars on the street, fuel is hard to come by, and driving is dangerous. Electricity is available for no more than six hours a day. Aleppo’s residents “rely on the fact that Castello Road is open for humanitarian aid, humanitarian supplies, food, cooking oil,” said Attar, speaking to The Intercept Wednesday night.

With the last remaining roadway connecting eastern Aleppo City to the outside world now severed, humanitarian groups are sounding the alarm over a potential disaster in the making. In a statement before the United Nations’ Security Council Monday, Stephen O’Brien, the U.N.’s undersecretary for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, described the deteriorating developments in eastern Aleppo as “medieval and shameful,” highlighting repeated attacks on Almouslem’s hospital, in particular, as evidence of the dangers the city’s civilian population now faces. “I cannot stress enough how critical the situation is for those trapped in eastern Aleppo City,” O’Brien said.

Residents of rebel-held Aleppo plant their own crops as they try to become self-sufficient confronted with the scarcity of food products, March 26, 2016.

Photo: Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images

Marianne Gasser, the Red Cross’s most senior official in Syria, who is currently in Aleppo, echoed O’Brien’s sentiment, calling the situation “devastating and overwhelming.” Human Rights Watch, meanwhile, called on U.S. and Russian officials “to press the Syrian government and other warring parties to allow unhindered access to aid” and noted that intentionally starving civilian populations is a war crime.

Assaults on medical facilities in Aleppo City, a well-documented tactic of the Assad government, continued through last weekend. While Almouslem’s hospital was spared this time around, at least four hospitals and a blood bank in opposition territory were battered by repeated airstrikes over two days. According to UNICEF, a pediatric hospital it supports in the neighborhood of al-Hakim — “the only one in the city” — was reportedly attacked twice in the span of 12 hours. “According to reports, a two-day-old baby died in his incubator due to interruptions in the oxygen supply as a result of airstrikes on al-Hakim,” the organization said in a statement Tuesday.

Hours after the bombs began falling last weekend, Assad said he was prepared to continue peace talks. On Tuesday, Syria Direct, a nonprofit media organization, reported that the most recent round of attacks meant five of eastern Aleppo City’s eight hospitals are “now restricted to offering no more than basic medical care.”

Despite the rapid depletion of resources, Almouslem has continued her work on a bombed-out floor of her hospital, as well as in her own private clinic. The siege has made her 12-hour days all the more grueling. While temperatures soar over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Aleppo City, Almouslem works in operating rooms with no air conditioning.

“The average number of patients I see per day is 120,” she said. “They come for deliveries, for exams, for everything,” she explained. “Every day we deliver about 10 to 15 babies in our hospital.”

Hospital workers react after a barrel bomb struck just outside the Omar Ibn Abdel Aziz hospital in Aleppo, Syria, following government air raids on rebel-held districts, July 16, 2016.

Photo: Thaer Mohammed/AFP/Getty Images

Critically, Almouslem said, the siege has cut off eastern Aleppo City’s access to life-saving shipments of medicine that used to arrive once a week. She pointed to Oxytocin, a hormone used to induce labor and control a woman’s bleeding after childbirth, as one example. “It’s a very important drug for delivery,” Almouslem said. As of last week, she estimated the city had about 20 days of Oxytocin left. Once it runs out, Almouslem predicts a “very, very big disaster.”

Aleppo City is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on the planet. Thousands have fled or perished since rebels swept into its ancient streets in the summer of 2012. Almouslem, however, has stayed. For her, Aleppo City, where she received her education and continues to live alongside her daughter, husband, mother, and sister, is home. If she left, she explained, the population she serves would lose half of its women’s health specialists. “I want to help them,” Almouslem said. What’s more, she added, the nature of the work she does allows her brief moments of relief from the violence engulfing her city. “When I see [a mother] smile after delivery,” she explained, “I forget everything.”

Syrians help a wounded youth following an airstrike on the rebel-held Fardous neighborhood in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 26, 2016.

Photo: Ameer AlhalbiAFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, Russia’s defense minister said three humanitarian corridors would be opened to allow civilians and fighters willing to lay down their arms escape eastern Aleppo City. UNICEF regional chief Juliette Touma told the BBC, “It is premature really to judge whether these humanitarian corridors are going to work or not.” U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura said he had not been consulted about the Russian offer and it was too early to comment.

The siege of Aleppo comes at a critical time for Western governments. A U.S.-led coalition force is currently intensifying operations in the region, some of which have turned increasingly bloody, in advance of major military offensives planned against Islamic State strongholds in the Iraqi city of Mosul and Raqqa, the extremist group’s de facto capital in Syria. Secretary of State Kerry, meanwhile, is pushing a controversial proposal that would see the United States working alongside Russia in conducting airstrikes in Syria to target Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State — the idea being that in exchange for sharing targeting information, Russia would pressure the Assad regime to stop slaughtering its own people.

Critics have noted that working alongside the Russian military, which entered into the Syrian civil war in order to prop up the same Assad government currently choking the life out of eastern Aleppo City, could send a problematic message to U.S.-backed opposition forces on the ground — some of which have been targeted by Russian airstrikes in the past — and tip the balance of power in the conflict in favor of a murderous dictator.

Attar, the Syrian-American physician, believes the U.S. should take a far stronger public stance against the Assad government and its Russian allies. “Everyone saw this happening in slow motion,” he said. “Everyone saw the intensity of Russian bombardment escalating and Syrian government forces encroaching onto Castello Road. Nothing was done.”

Almouslem, for her part, has no doubt that the Assad regime will not let up until it takes control of her city. When it does, she said, the consequences for her, and everyone around her, will be severe.

“It’s our nightmare,” she said.

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Chelsea Manning Could Face Additional Punishment for Her Suicide Attempt

The Intercept - Engl. - 7 ore 1 min fa

U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning tried to kill herself on July 5 in her cell at Fort Leavenworth military prison. Now, military officials are considering filing charges in connection to the suicide attempt that could make the terms of her imprisonment much more punitive — possibly including indefinite solitary confinement — while possibily losing any chance of receiving parole.

According to a charge sheet posted by the ACLU, Manning was informed by military officials on Thursday that she is under investigation for “resisting the force cell move team,” “prohibited property,” and “conduct which threatens.” In the weeks following her suicide attempt, she has been active on social media, thanking her followers for their moral support.

Manning’s treatment in prison since her 2010 arrest has repeatedly generated outrage among civil liberties advocates. The punitive tactics that have been employed against her include stripping her naked in her cell on a nightly basis, extended solitary confinement and denial of medical necessities like eyeglasses. In 2011, then-State Department spokesman P.J Crowley publicly described Manning’s treatment in prison as “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid.”

Following a 14-month investigation into Manning’s treatment by the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, the UN accused the U.S. government of holding Manning in conditions that constituted “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment,” particularly with regard to their extended use of pretrial solitary confinement. The harsh measures the military has employed during Manning’s detention have led to suspicions that the government is attempting make an example of her over her whistleblowing activities.

The latest threat to charge Manning with offenses related to her own attempted suicide seems to be proceeding in the same spirit of abusive treatment.

“The government has long been aware of Chelsea’s distress associated with the denial of medical care related to her gender transition and yet delayed and denied the treatment recognized as necessary,” ACLU attorney Chase Strangio said in a statement. “Now, while Chelsea is suffering the darkest depression she has experienced since her arrest, the government is taking actions to punish her for that pain. It is unconscionable and we hope that the investigation is immediately ended and that she is given the health care that she needs to recover.”

In a statement released by Manning after her 2013 guilty plea on espionage charges, she asked for a pardon and said that she had been motivated by moral outrage after details of U.S. military killings and torture of civilians in Iraq. “In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture,” she said. “If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”

She is currently six years into serving a 35-year sentence.

Fort Leavenworth.

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The post Chelsea Manning Could Face Additional Punishment for Her Suicide Attempt appeared first on The Intercept.

Merkel geißelt Terror - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 21:41


Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) hat die Anschläge von Würzburg und Ansbach als „islamistischen Terror“ verurteilt und Konsequenzen aus den jüngsten Gewalttaten in Aussicht gestellt. „Diese Anschläge sind erschütternd, bedrückend und auch deprimierend“, sagte sie am Donnerstag vor Journalisten in Berlin. „Es werden zivilisatorische Tabus gebrochen. Die Taten geschehen an Orten, wo jeder von uns sein könnte.“

Zugleich sicherte Merkel zu, dass die Behörden alles tun würden, um die Taten aufzuklären. Sie kündigte unter anderem ein besseres Frühwarnsystem für Bedrohungen neben dem organisierten Terrorismus an. Die Kanzlerin sagte, die Anschläge in Würzburg und Ansbach von zwei Flüchtlingen kamen, „verhöhnt das Land, das


Türkei verlangt von Deutschland Auslieferung von Gülen-Anhängern - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 21:41


Nach dem Putschversuch in der Türkei fordert die islamisch-konservative Regierung von Deutschland die Auslieferung türkischer Gülen-Anhänger. Damit droht neuer Streit zwischen Ankara und Berlin. Per Notstands-Dekret ordnete Staatspräsident Recep Tayyip Erdogan die Schließung von mehr als 100 Medien an.

Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel (CDU) ermahnte Erdogan am Donnerstag zu mehr Zurückhaltung im Umgang mit Gegnern. Sie zeigte sich besorgt über die jüngsten Entwicklungen in der Türkei, in der seit Donnerstag vergangener Woche der Ausnahmezustand gilt.

In einem Rechtsstaat müsse der Grundsatz der Verhältnismäßigkeit „unter allen Umständen“ gewahrt werden, sagte Merkel. „Die Sorge besteht darin, dass sehr hart vorgegangen wird, und dieses Prinzip der


Dunkler Auftakt einer vermeintlichen Lichtgestalt - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 21:41

Wie kein anderer Präsident vor ihm hat der seit dem 30. Juni amtierende Rodrigo R. Duterte die philippinische Gesellschaft binnen eines Monats schroff polarisiert. Die Zahl außergerichtlicher Hinrichtungen steigt täglich und ein „Dutertismo“ gewinnt an Konturen –

Von Rainer Werning, 28. Juli 2016 –

Beginnen wir mit einem der seltenen lichten Momente in der ansonsten von Betrug, Bestechung, Korruption und fiesen Winkelzügen geprägten Politik im Moloch Manila:

Am vergangenen Montag, dem 25. Juli, fand ein alljährlicher Event der besonderen Art in höchst ungewöhnlicher Form statt. Immer gegen Ende Juli tritt der amtierende Präsident der


U.S. Government Finally Pays Family of Italian Aid Worker Killed In Drone Strike

The Intercept - Engl. - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 21:25

The U.S. government has reached an agreement with the family of an Italian aid worker killed in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan, over a year after President Barack Obama acknowledged the operation and promised an investigation and compensation. The news comes as other victims of U.S. counterterrorism strikes are pushing for the administration to also acknowledge their cases under a new executive order signed by Obama this month.

Lawyers for the family of the slain aid worker, 37 year-old Giovanni Lo Porto, confirmed to The Intercept that the U.S. government had provided a payment, but would not disclose the dollar amount, in keeping with the family’s wishes.

In January 2015, a missile fired by a CIA drone struck an al Qaeda compound in Pakistan where Lo Porto and an American humanitarian, Warren Weinstein, were being held hostage. A few months later, Obama, in an unprecedented admission, took “full responsibility” for Lo Porto and Weinstein’s deaths. Despite hundreds of hours of surveillance, he said, the United States had not known that the hostages were present.

Despite the president’s personal pledge, resolution for the families has been slow in coming.

As The Intercept reported earlier this year, Lo Porto’s family heard nothing from the U.S. government, either directly or through the Italian authorities, for more than a year after the strike took place. Negotiations began after the family went public in March with their frustrations.

The final settlement, reached this week, comes in the form of an “ex gratia” payment — essentially a gesture of condolence — from the U.S. government to Lo Porto’s parents and brothers, who live in Italy. There is no admission of wrongdoing, and it leaves the family free to pursue other legal action in the future. The government also did not disclose any further details about the strike.

Daniele, right, and Giuseppe Lo Porto, brothers of Giovanni Lo Porto, during a press conference in Rome in March 2016.

Photo: Gregorio Borgia/AP Images

An Italian state prosecutor could still, in theory, bring charges related to the strike, although so far there has been little progress on that front, according to Giulia Borgna, an attorney with the Italian firm representing the Lo Porto family. If the prosecutor dismisses the case, she said, it would be up to the family to decide if they would pursue other legal avenues.

It is not clear whether the Weinstein family has also reached an arrangement with the government. A lawyer who has represented the Weinsteins did not respond to requests for comment; in February, he accused the administration of stonewalling negotiations.

The White House did not respond to questions about the settlements, or about the status of a review of the incident by the CIA’s Inspector General. A spokesman for the National Security Council, Ned Price, said that the offer of a condolence payment was made “knowing that no dollar figure could ever bring back their loved one.”

Originally from Palermo, Sicily, Lo Porto had worked in disaster zones around the world, from Haiti to Myanmar. In early 2012, he had just arrived in Pakistan for a job rebuilding flood-damaged areas when an unknown group kidnapped him along with a German colleague. While the colleague was eventually released, Lo Porto ended up held by al Qaeda militants along with Weinstein, who had been snatched in 2011. Lo Porto’s brother, Daniele, told The Intercept that Italian authorities informed the family that they were in negotiations with intermediaries to free Giovanni just weeks before he was killed. The family learned of his death on the same day last April that Obama went public with the news.

A Precedent for Disclosure

Lo Porto and Weinstein’s deaths were unusual for the frank admission from the White House, in contrast to its silence on other strikes that killed innocent people–most of them non-Westerners. The United States has reportedly made payments for some other drone strike casualties, but not publicly acknowledged them.

Naureen Shah, director of Amnesty International’s Security with Human Rights program, said she welcomed the recognition for Lo Porto, but wished that the response would be extended to others as well. “It’s that particular invisibility of people who live in the communities where these drone strikes occur,” she said. “Their death is considered unsurprising and inconsequential. That goes against everything that we believe in the universality of human rights.”

Earlier this month, the White House released its own drone casualty figures, asserting that U.S. strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and Libya had killed between 64 and 116 civilians, and 2,372 and 2,581 combatants, in 473 strikes over the first seven years of the Obama administration.

Those numbers were roundly disputed by outside observers. Over the years, several groups have maintained tallies of deaths by drone strike compiled from media reports and on-the-ground investigations by human rights groups, and they have estimated between 200 and 1,000 civilian deaths.

The government’s report did not enumerate the strikes, give their locations, name the victims, or even break out the numbers year by year.  The report acknowledged the discrepancies between its numbers and other counts, but argued that the government has access to sensitive intelligence that researchers and the media do not.

The strike that killed Lo Porto provides a clear instance where such intelligence was fallible, however. That attack was what’s known as a “signature strike,” where the agency fires on people exhibiting suspect behavior without necessarily knowing their identity.

It’s also not always been clear how the government categorizes casualties; statements by officials and documents published by The Intercept suggested that there was a presumption that all military-aged men killed in a strike were combatants (the White House denies that this is the case.)

Along with the casualty count, Obama issued an executive order requiring agencies engaged in armed conflict or “in the exercise of the Nation’s inherent right of self-defense” to take measures to avoid civilian casualties; to investigate instances of civilian harm, taking into consideration outside reporting; and in cases where the United States was responsible, to acknowledge and provide compensation for civilian victims.

This week, Amnesty International sent a letter to the CIA’s general counsel invoking the executive order to ask the agency to respond to a 2012 strike that killed Mamana Bidi, an elderly Pakistani woman. In an op-ed published in Time this week, her son described his children witnessing the bombing, and wrote that, “No U.S. official has ever acknowledged what happened to my mother, or apologized to us. We are still waiting for justice.”

Amnesty’s Naureen Shah told The Intercept that she believes the executive order should apply to past incidents as well, and could be a powerful accountability tool—if the agency complies with it.

The CIA’s drone strikes, while widely acknowledged, are still covert and operate under greater secrecy than those run by the military: the Pentagon has recently begun announcing its strikes in Yemen in press releases.

“The trick for us is ensuring this isn’t aspirational, but that it actually requires agencies to take action,” Shah said. “It has to become a meaningful piece of paper.”

The CIA referred a request for comment on Amnesty’s letter to the National Security Council. The council spokesman, Ned Price, said that the White House “will not address specific operations,” but that the executive order “emphasizes the U.S. Government’s consideration of credible information from non-governmental organizations in post-strike reviews.”

“Our focus is on the unprecedented provision of aggregate data regarding these sensitive operations, as well as the unprecedented commitment to continue providing such information going forward, rather than on any particular strikes,” Price said in emailed statement.

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Hillary Clinton Talks Tough on Shadow Banking, But Blackstone Is Celebrating at the DNC

The Intercept - Engl. - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 19:38

Blackstone, the giant Wall Street private equity firm, will hold an invitation-only reception before the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The event, at the swanky Barnes Foundation art museum, includes the usual perks for attendees: free food, drink, and complimentary shuttle buses to the final night of the convention.

What’s unusual is that the host is precisely the kind of “shadow banker” that Hillary Clinton has singled out as needing more regulation in her rhetoric about getting tough on Wall Street.

But Blackstone President and Chief Operating Officer Hamilton “Tony” James doesn’t seem the least bit intimidated.

James has been a stalwart supporter of Barack Obama, holding fundraisers for him at his home, even while other Wall Street titans criticized him — in fact the co-founder of James’s own company, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, once likened Obama’s push to increase taxes on private-equity firms to a “war,” saying: “It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.”

Last December, James hosted a high-dollar fundraiser for Hillary Clinton that featured Warren Buffett. He’s made six-figure donations to the Center for American Progress, known as Clinton’s White House in exile, and sits on CAP’s Board of Trustees. And he has made no secret of wanting to hold a high-level position in a future Democratic administration, perhaps even Treasury Secretary.

The head-scratcher here is that James runs a private equity firm, exactly the kind of “shadow bank” that Clinton has derided as a scourge to the financial system. Shadow banks are financial institutions that do bank-like activities (such as lending or investing for clients) but aren’t chartered as banks, existing outside of the traditional regulatory perimeter.

Clinton argued during the primaries with Bernie Sanders that they were more dangerous than the big banks, because of the lack of scrutiny on their risk-taking. That was the linchpin of her argument that Sanders’s plan was too myopic, and that her plan, which sought to crack down on shadow banking and deny it sources of funds, was more comprehensive.

James has not only actively engaged in defending the whole concept of shadow banking, he created the original private equity trade group, formerly known as the Private Equity Council. The group later quietly changed its name to the more innocuous-sounding American Investment Council.

In 2014, James penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed where he called shadow banking an “Orwellian term that can undermine critical thought.” It was the regulated entities, not shadow banks, that were “the source of almost all the systemic risk in the financial crisis,” he wrote. James explicitly sought to steer policymakers away from “regulations that undermine the many thousands of companies and jobs that need market-based financing to survive and grow.”

That term, “market-based financing,” is a Tony James original. He prefers it because it removes the more sinister connotations associated with the shadows. “Private equity sounds bad, but shadow banking is worse,” he told NPR.

Blackstone operates in leveraged buyouts, asset management, and real estate transactions. It is the largest real estate private equity firm in the world, holding over $103 billion in assets. After the housing bubble collapsed, Blackstone bought 43,000 single-family homes over a two-year period, at one point buying more than $100 million worth of homes per week. They converted most of these into rentals, becoming one of the largest landlords in the world.

Renters have sued Blackstone’s real estate unit, Invitation Homes, for renting out homes in shoddy condition. They’ve also been accused of jacking up rents to satisfy investors, charging as high as 180 percent of the market rent value. Nevertheless, Blackstone plans to spin off Invitation Homes with an initial public offering next year.

James’s company also benefits from taking business lines from regulated banks, such as one of the trading businesses of global firm Credit Suisse. Blackstone then runs that company without government interference; assets in the Credit Suisse group have doubled since 2013.

Tony James in 2011

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The Long Cruel Reach of Indonesia’s Death Penalty

The Intercept - Engl. - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 18:43

On July 25, in the Indonesian port town of Cilacap, a 52-year-old Pakistani man was placed in an ambulance and transferred to Nusa Kambangan, otherwise known as “execution island.” Zulfiqar Ali, a textile worker, was arrested for possessing heroin in 2004; like many caught with drugs in Indonesia, he was convicted and sentenced to die. Human rights activists denounced his case; Ali had been tortured into signing a confession, they said, and his primary accuser had retracted his statements at trial. Nonetheless, on Monday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, while Ali recovered from stomach and kidney surgery, government officials came for him at the hospital. Four later, he would be dead, executed by firing squad shortly after midnight.

Ali would not die alone. Earlier this year, the Indonesian government announced it would soon execute more than a dozen unnamed prisoners, the third round of executions following a four-year moratorium on capital punishment. The announcement — part of a zero-tolerance drug policy implemented under President Joko Widodo in 2013 — sparked grim speculation about who might be next to die. There were the three drug offenders transferred to Nusa Kambangan from Batam, a different island prison, in early May, as reported by the Jakarta Post. Or four “black-skinned people from Nigeria,” in the words of the sentencing judge in the case of Humphrey “Jeff” Ejike Eleweke, who was targeted for surveillance because of his nationality — and who swore he was innocent. By Thursday, newspapers reported, coffins were being ferried to Nusa Kambangan, while family members and spiritual advisers were given name tags for their final visits — “an indication that executions were imminent.”

But one prisoner was spared from the firing squad. In late June, thousands of miles from Nusa Kambangan, a diminutive Filipino woman spoke from a stage at the Oslo Opera House, a sleek white building on the harbor of Norway’s capital city. “My name is Celia Veloso,” she said in her native Tagalog. “I am the mother of Mary Jane Veloso, who is on death row in Indonesia.” Arrested at the Java airport with heroin in her suitcase, Mary Jane was nearly executed in April 2015 alongside eight other drug convicts, but was spared at the last second. The hasty reprieve was so unexpected that people in the Philippines awoke the next day to inaccurate headlines reporting her death.

The family members of Philippine death row drug convict Mary Jane Veloso — her father, Caesar, mother, Celia, and sons Mark Darren and Mark Danniel — wait outside the Yogyakarta prison on Jan. 12, 2016, before visiting Veloso to celebrate her 31st birthday.

Photo: Suryo Wibowo/AFP/Getty Images

Mary Jane is the youngest of five children and has two sons of her own. Her mother, who struggled to make a living as a street vendor, described how her daughter had been offered employment as a domestic worker abroad, at the behest of a relative named Kristina Sergio. In reality, Sergio was a drug smuggler who allegedly planted the heroin inside Mary Jane’s suitcase. Even as her daughter sat in an Indonesian jail in the spring of 2010, Veloso recalled, Sergio assured her and her husband “that Mary Jane was happy and that her employer was kind.” It was only when Mary Jane called home that her parents learned the truth.

Yet it was Sergio who later stood in the way of Mary Jane’s execution, by turning herself in to police in Manila just hours before she was to die. With Sergio’s own trial now underway, Mary Jane is set to testify against her. Her family hopes that her testimony will force the Indonesian government to recognize she was a victim and commute her sentence altogether. “We long for the day when she will be reunited with her sons,” her mother said in Oslo, breaking down in tears. “We hope with your help that she can return to the Philippines and start a new life.”

The people in the audience included lawyers, academics, and human rights activists. They had traveled from 121 counties for the Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty, a three-day event featuring speeches, panels, and artistic performances. Inside the Opera House, there was anti-death penalty artwork by high school students; an “Abolitionist Village” housing activist booths and literature; and a large map of the world highlighting “retentionist countries” — the label given to nations that hold on to capital punishment. Outside, in the heart of Oslo’s fashionable tourist center, red and blue banners lined the street where visitors dined and shopped, carrying the event’s official logo, a handprint reading ¡ABOLITION NOW!

Paul Wilkins and Andrew Chan in January 2015 at a church service inside Kerobokan prison in Bali.

Source: Paul Wilkins

The first World Congress, in 2000, was inspired by a French polemic titled “Open Letter to the American People for the Abolition of the Death Penalty.” The organizers’ scope soon broadened beyond the United States; today, Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort (ECPM) — or Together Against the Death Penalty — holds the World Congress in a different city every three years. Although there were plenty of Americans in Oslo, the panels and speakers focused largely on other regions, particularly Asia and the Arab world. One major theme was the growing problem of terrorism, which has sparked a resurgence of capital punishment in many countries.

But in Indonesia, the deadliest offenses are drug crimes. All 14 people executed last year were convicted of drug trafficking, and all but two were foreign nationals. With hundreds of Indonesians on death row in other countries, many have decried the hypocrisy of a government that fights to save their own people while targeting foreigners for execution. As a reporter for the Jakarta Globe wrote in 2011, “How can Indonesia expect other countries to grant clemency for our citizens while standing firm on the death penalty for foreign convicts in this country?”

With Indonesian officials hinting they would carry out new executions after Ramadan ended, the specter of new executions loomed in Oslo last month. One Indonesian speaker displayed a graph showing how executions rise during election years. Another presenter discussed the case of a Brazilian man named Rodrigo Gularte, among those shot to death after Mary Jane won her reprieve. News reports described how Gularte, a paranoid schizophrenic, was unaware of what was going to happen to him until he was taken out of his cell. “Am I being executed?” he asked.

A coffin arrives at Wijaya Pura port for transfer to Nusa Kambangan ahead of the executions of the Bali Nine on April 28, 2015, in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia.

Photo: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

A few rows from the front as Celia Veloso spoke was Paul Wilkins, an Australian man in his 30s. A bartender from Melbourne, he traveled to Oslo alone after seeing the event advertised by the human rights group Reprieve. Wilkins did not know Veloso or her daughter. But he knew as much about Mary Jane’s plight as anyone in the room. He could picture the visiting area where she had said her tearful goodbyes to her sons; he had seen the guards who according to media reports had cried as Mary Jane begged for more time. And he knew the field where the others had met their deaths later that night. He had glimpsed it in person and seen it again and again in his mind. It was the place where his friend, 31-year-old Andrew Chan, had died — one of the eight shot by a firing squad in April of last year.

Chan was one of the famed Bali Nine, a group of Australians convicted of drug trafficking in 2006. Along with a man named Myuran Sukumaran, Chan had recruited drug mules to smuggle heroin into Australia. Both were sentenced to death. While in prison, Chan had become deeply religious, evolving into a role model for his fellow prisoners. As his execution neared, his case became a cause célèbre, with politicians and celebrities trying to intervene. But Paul knew Chan simply as Andy, a family friend whose company he’d come to enjoy. They talked trash about each other’s favorite rugby teams and cracked dark jokes — “We had a fairly similar sense of humor,” Paul recalls. After Chan was flown in shackles from Bali to Nusa Kambangan, Paul recalled, he laughed at the absurdity of the security video that had been played prior to takeoff. “If the plane’s going down, I’m clearly going down with it,” he said.

A worker holds the tombstone of Zaenal Abidin, one of eight drug convicts executed, during a funeral service at Nusa Kambangan prison on April 29, 2015, in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia.

Photo: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Wilkins had never given much thought to the death penalty before he met Chan, but then members of his family began visiting him in 2006. His parents were retired and very active in their church; they forged a deep connection with Chan and his family, returning to Bali repeatedly and eventually constructing a guesthouse near the prison where relatives could stay. Wilkins was skeptical at first. “It was like, what are you helping this guy out for?” he recalled. Chan was undeniably guilty of serious crimes, even if he did not necessarily deserve to die for them. But in early 2012, while working as a travel agent, Wilkins went to Bali and met Chan in person. With a scar across his head and “tattoos everywhere,” Chan looked every bit the thug Wilkins had read about in the press. Yet he found Chan to be disarming, laid back, and “very personable.” Wilkins was especially impressed with his strength behind bars — he could tell during his visits that many of the drug convicts were finding ways to sustain their addictions behind bars. Yet Chan stayed clean, focusing on cooking and teaching religion. The same traits that had helped him rise up in the drug trade now made him an influential leader in prison. In the months leading up to his death, Wilkins recalled, “There was a steady stream of ex-prisoners who would come in and visit him.” Many were doing well, had jobs and families. “And they’d come in basically to thank him for that. Seeing that firsthand made me think, ‘Well, if Andrew could do it, then you know, other people’s lives can be changed.’”

On March 4, 2015, Chan and Sukumaran — a talented artist known to Wilkins by his nickname, “Myu” — were flown from Bali to Cilacap, a signal that their execution was weeks away. The transfer was a show of force; police in riot gear stood by while an armored “Barracuda” vehicle came to take the men. The next month, on April 25, Indonesian officials gave the state’s minimum 72 hours of notice that Chan, Sukumaran, and six others would be executed within days. On April 28, they were dressed in white and led to the field, with Chan leading them in singing “Amazing Grace.” Tied to cross-shaped poles and lined up in a row, the group declined to wear the blindfolds offered to them by the prison. At his funeral, Chan’s wife, Febyanti — who he married as a last wish granted by the government — described how Chan had worn his much-hated glasses so he could look his executioners in the eye.

Chan’s funeral was held at the largest church in Sydney. Hundreds attended and thousands more watched it via live-stream. A childhood friend of Chan’s read a eulogy he had penned for himself before he died. “Ask yourself, what story did I leave you with?” he wrote. “That will determine my legacy.”

A booklet shows a photo of Andrew Chan on the cover during his funeral service at Hillsong Church on May 8, 2015, in Sydney, Australia.

Photo: Hillsong Church/Getty Images

In Oslo, Wilkins introduced himself to as many people as he could. It was the first time he had been surrounded by so many people who had some lived experience with the death penalty. For all the public support showered upon his friend — rare for any prisoner — Wilkins had not escaped the strange, disenfranchised kind of grief often felt by those whose loved ones are killed as a matter of law. When the state takes a life in the name of justice, mourning is not socially sanctioned; even as Wilkins received kind text messages from friends last year, he gave up social media to avoid the nasty comments from strangers.

As the one-year anniversary of Chan’s death approached, Wilkins decided to make some changes. Two old friends had unexpectedly died in rapid succession after the execution; he realized he had neglected other relationships. He stopped drinking and focused on exercise. Perhaps most important, Wilkins decided to start telling his story. He began by putting his thoughts on paper. He wrote about his visit to Nusa Kambangan to see Chan for the last time, describing the moment he realized the field behind them was the place where he would die. He wrote about the many loved ones Chan left behind — his mother, his brother, his nephew. He wrote about the uselessness of executing drug offenders as a deterrent when there was always someone new to take their place. He wrote about his friend’s selflessness in his final hours, how he arranged for a delivery of KFC to other death row prisoners, how counterproductive it was for Indonesia to have killed a man who had done so much good in such a bleak place. Wilkins did not know what he would do with the essay. But it represented a bigger goal he set for himself. It had been nearly 50 years since his own country had executed anybody, he concluded. “My hope is that in the future, Indonesia and other countries around the world that still carry out the death penalty will be able to say the same thing.”

Paul Wilkins and Celia Veloso at the Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway.

Source: Paul Wilkins Instagram

On the last day of the World Congress, after the closing ceremony, participants marched downtown from Oslo’s City Hall. Drummers led the march and chants rang throughout the city’s busy shopping district. Holding a sign in English and French — “SAY NO TO THE DEATH PENALTY” — Wilkins wore the suit he wore to Chan’s funeral, which now hung loose on his frame. He walked alongside Ndume Olatushani — a man from Tennessee who spent decades facing execution for a crime he did not commit — and Susan Kigula, a Ugandan woman, also innocent, who was released from death row just this year. At the end of the march, in a square across from the Opera House, participants gathered around a plain white banner. They put on blue plastic gloves and dipped their hands in bright paint, pressing their hands on its surface. Red and blue handprints collected until the banner was covered. Later, Wilkins posted a photo on Instagram from earlier that day. Wilkins is smiling, with his arm around Celia Veloso. Underneath it, he explained who she was, her connection to Andrew, and the uncertain fate of her daughter. “She’s still in prison on death row,” he wrote. “Celia and I are both committed to seeing the death penalty ended worldwide.”

Top photo: Indonesian police guard Wijaya Pura port, which is the entrance gate to Nusa Kambangan prison, as Indonesia prepares for its third round of drug executions on July 27, 2016, in Cilacap, Central Java, Indonesia.

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A Fracking Pipeline Puts Tim Kaine’s Fossil Fuel Industry Ties to the Test

The Intercept - Engl. - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 17:49

Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Tim Kaine is facing pressure from landowners in his home state of Virginia to stand against the planned Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would carry fracked gas from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia to mid-Atlantic markets.

He’s made some moves in that direction: he’s held private meetings with landowners in the pipeline’s pathway; he’s asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to strengthen the consultation process for residents; and he introduced an amendment to a federal energy bill that would encourage regulators to carry out a review of the cumulative impact of the region’s four planned pipelines.

But he hasn’t ruled the pipeline out, making environmentalists worry that he ultimately shares the quietly fossil-fuel friendly politics of the Democratic Party.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign pushed the debate over banning hydraulic fracturing onto primetime and into the Democratic Party’s platform committee. But the Sanders view did not prevail in the end. The platform calls for stronger regulation of fracking — while affirming that it will continue.

Kaine’s record on energy is mixed. He’s been supportive of offshore drilling in the Atlantic and introduced legislation to speed up liquid natural gas exports. In 2012 he pushed for the construction of one of the nation’s last new coal plants. And he helped pressure the federal government to lower Virginia’s greenhouse gas emissions goals under the Clean Power Plan.

In Virginia, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s biggest investor, Dominion, was the largest single corporate contributor to local politicians between 1997 and 2016, and Kaine has accepted his share of the company’s cash and gifts: more than $300,000 in total since 2001. When asked what he thought of Kaine, senior American Petroleum Institute lobbyist Louis Finkel told Intercept reporter Zaid Jilani, “He’s the best we could have hoped for.” Virginia’s governor and longtime friend of the Clintons Terry McAuliffe supports the pipeline.

Still, many environmentalists consider Kaine someone who can be swayed. After all, he was one of the earliest legislators to declare opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have transported carbon-intensive tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast. Obama eventually cancelled the pipeline in order to demonstrate to global policymakers his dedication to fighting climate change.

Nancy Sorrells, who sits on the steering committee of the Allegheny Blue Ridge Alliance, which is organizing against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, said she believes that Kaine will come around to rejecting it. “He has a strong moral sense,” she said. “I think he can look at it, and it will be the logical thing.”

“We feel like the heart side of Kaine is here with the landowners, and that’s the way that we fight these pipelines,” said Jane Kleeb, a key organizer behind the defeat of the Keystone XL, whose organization Bold Alliance is working with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline activists. “Tim Kaine has to be the number one focus right now of the landowners: get him to be their champion.”

Kaine did not respond to a request for comment from The Intercept.

In Keystone’s wake, natural gas pipelines are emerging as a gauge of Democrats’ environmental seriousness. In the Appalachian basin alone, 19 major natural gas pipeline projects, including the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, have been proposed to carry fracked gas from production sites to markets, making them a focal point of the environmental movement.

The pipeline protesters have seen victories. On Earth Day, construction of the Constitution pipeline in New York halted when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo denied a key permit under the Clean Water Act. Only days earlier, pipeline company Kinder Morgan announced that it would cancel its Northeast Energy Direct pipeline because it lacked purchasing commitments from customers.

Organizers have not yet succeeded, however, in forcing regulators to link the infrastructure projects to one of Democrats’ most pressing goals. The party’s platform committed Democrats to “meeting the pledge President Obama put forward in the landmark Paris Agreement, which aims to keep global temperature increases to ‘well below’ two degrees Celsius.” It goes on to call for a “comprehensive approach that ensures all federal decisions going forward contribute to solving, not significantly exacerbating, climate change.” But for now, the impact of new fossil fuel projects is not routinely measured against national and international climate goals.

Last week, Oil Change International, which is dedicated to revealing the societal costs of fossil fuels, released a report that shows how the 19 proposed Appalachian Basin pipeline projects could fail such a climate test. According to the study, the Energy Information Administration projections of fossil fuel consumption suggest that “even if the U.S. reduced all coal and petroleum use to zero by 2040, the U.S. would still exceed its climate goals based on natural gas emissions alone.” Since pipeline investments would incentivize the production and shipment of natural gas for decades, the report says, the pipelines are inconsistent with the 2-degree climate goal.

And yet, Democratic Party power players continue to push natural gas as part of a climate change solution. At a Politico-hosted panel event Wednesday, sponsored by the American Petroleum Institute, former Obama energy advisor Heather Zichal, who sits on the board of Cheniere Energy, said she is in favor of developing a climate test for infrastructure – but she also supports fracking. Another panelist was one of Kaine’s companions on Clinton’s short list of potential running mates, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, whose memoir, published this spring, states that “fracking is good for the country’s energy supply, our national security, our economy, and our environment.”

“I think that there’s a cognitive dissonance,” said Oil Change International director Steve Kretzmann, “There’s not really a way to do fossil fuels right anymore.”

Kleeb, the anti-Keystone organizer, believes post-Bernie Democratic politics will require inviting more “keep it in the ground” organizers into positions of party power, starting within the Clinton campaign. “We need at the very least a stable of advisors of people like me — Josh Fox, Bill McKibben — that know the science, know the movement fighters,” said Kleeb, who was recently elected chair of Nebraska’s Democratic Party.

Of course, for many of those fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, climate is not the motivating factor. It’s one of the distinctive features of the anti-pipeline movement that no two activists are fighting for quite the same thing.

Lewis Freeman, a former plastics industry lobbyist who briefly worked for the American Petroleum Institute and describes his politics as moderate, said his motivation is to preserve the harsh Appalachian landscape. In mountainous Highland County, where he’s from, the line would pass through “karst” terrain, made of limestone caves with connecting fissures through which seeping contaminants easily impact the water supply.

“I have respect for the industry, but I don’t believe that that means that the energy industry should have the right to build a pipeline or an energy property anywhere they want,” Freeman said. “I do not believe that it is prudent on any measure, for safety or environmental reasons, to build a pipeline through the area where they want to build it.”

The activists are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which must approve the pipeline for it to go forward, to conduct a study that would examine the cumulative impact of four pipelines that have been proposed for the area. They’ve also raised questions about the necessity of the pipeline to state and national power needs and the impact on ratepayers. Sierra Club has filed an anti-trust complaint against Dominion with the Federal Trade Commission.

Tea Partier Travis Geary, who co-chairs the anti-pipeline Augusta County Alliance with Nancy Sorrells, believes the pipelines could serve as a very different kind of litmus test for the Republican Party, whose platform would eliminate support for the Paris climate agreement. “Developing energy independence or infrastructure cannot [take priority over] protecting individual landowners who have purchased land with blood, sweat, and tears, and passed it on to family through the generations,” said Geary, whose parents’ cattle farm would be crossed by the pipeline. “If we lose our property rights, that’s the right that everything else is based on. I would like to see more of that in the Republican platform.”

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Critics Fear Crackdown on Palestinian Free Speech as Israel Takes Aim at Facebook

The Intercept - Engl. - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 17:28

Two days after a Palestinian teen fatally stabbed an Israeli girl, an Israeli official blamed an American living thousands of miles away for the crime, as well as similar attacks.

“Some of the victims’ blood is on Zuckerberg’s hands,” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, said on Israeli television in early July, referring to Mark Zuckerberg, the head of social media giant Facebook.

On July 14, 2016, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, blamed incitement for the latest spate of Palestinian attacks.

Photo: Tsafrir Abayov/AP Photo

Erdan called Facebook a “monster” because it has become the platform of choice for Palestinians to denounce Israeli rule and broadcast their intention to attack Israelis. Muhammad Tarayra, the 17-year-old Palestinian behind the June 30 knife attack in the settlement of Kiryat Arba, had written on Facebook that “death is a right and I demand my right.” He expressed anger that Israeli soldiers had killed his cousin after he tried to run over them, according to Israeli news reports.

Now, Israeli officials are seeking to pressure Facebook to take down posts similar to Tarayra’s. On July 13, Erdan and Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s justice minister, submitted a bill to the Israeli Knesset that would empower courts to compel Facebook to remove content deemed violent. And amid Israel’s legislative push against Facebook — including a separate measure that would see Facebook fined if it did not remove content inciting people to terrorism — an Israeli law firm has also filed suit against the social media company in a U.S. court.

The moves amount to a multi-pronged campaign aimed at Facebook, which has been increasingly drawn into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israeli ministers have cast Facebook in the role of terror supporter and now want to force the company to police Palestinian speech they say leads to violence.

But Israeli laws against incitement have also been used to arrest Palestinians whose Facebook posts criticize Israeli rule but do not explicitly support violence. Palestinians say that Facebook does not fuel militant attacks against Israel and that it is Israel’s decadeslong occupation and discriminatory policies against Palestinians that lead to violence.

The mother of a 13-year-old Israeli girl who was fatally stabbed by a Palestinian attacker mourns during her funeral in the Kiryat Arba settlement outside Hebron, June 30, 2016.

Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP/Getty Images

Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian Knesset member with the Joint List coalition of Palestinian parties, told The Intercept that the proposed bill would violate freedom of expression. “We are afraid that, basically, such a law will be used to target legitimate critique against the occupation,” he said.

Facebook did not respond to questions about the Israeli legislation. But the company told Reuters it works “regularly with safety organizations and policymakers around the world, including Israel, to ensure that people know how to make safe use of Facebook. There is no room for content that promotes violence, direct threats, terrorist or hate speeches on our platform.”

Israeli officials have been railing against Facebook since October 2015, when cases emerged of Palestinians stabbing Israelis as part of what some call the “knife intifada.” Shaked, the justice minister, has met with Facebook officials to pressure them to take action against incitement. At a conference in Hungary in June, she said that Facebook, Twitter, and Google remove 70 percent of violent content in Israel. The offices of Shaked and Erdan did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

In 2015, Facebook took down 431 pieces of content that it said violated harassment laws or denied the Holocaust, which is against the law in Israel. And Facebook’s report on government requests shows that last year, Facebook handed over user data to Israeli authorities for about 60 percent of the 468 requests it received.

Some of those requests pertain to Palestinians swept up in Israel’s dragnet targeting social media users who post messages against Israeli wars and occupation. As The Intercept reported, the Israeli police detained Sohaib Zahda, a Palestinian activist, in August 2014 after he wrote angry messages about an Israeli commander on a Facebook page he ran. While he was in custody, the Israeli police sent an order to Facebook for data about Zahda’s page. The company complied, according to Zahda’s lawyer.

Digital rights advocate Eva Galperin, a global policy analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, criticized Facebook for acceding to Israeli requests for user data.

Facebook does “not scrutinize [the requests] as carefully as we would like,” said Galperin.

In a later interview, she added: “The state of Israel’s human rights record vis-a-vis Palestinians is not great. It’s incredibly troubling” that Facebook gives Israel information on Palestinians.

Israeli authorities want Facebook to do more. During his interview with Israeli news outlet Channel 2, Erdan complained that Facebook “sabotages” Israeli police work because it does not cooperate with requests pertaining to residents of the occupied West Bank. Israel has ruled the West Bank since 1967, when it captured the territory during the Six Day War, but much of the world does not recognize Israeli sovereignty there.

Facebook has also refused some requests for data on Palestinian citizens of Israel. In October 2015, when the Israeli police sent a legal order to Facebook requesting “all records” on and the IP address of Dareen Tatour, a citizen arrested for Facebook posts and a YouTube poem, Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, did not respond to the order, Tatour’s lawyer Abed Fahoum told The Intercept.

Screen grab of the “Free Dareen Tatour” Facebook page set up in response to the arrest of the Palestinian poet by Israeli police based on her status updates and poems.

Source: Facebook

The bill pushed by Erdan and Shaked seeks to force Facebook to take down content that an Israeli court deems a threat to Israeli security, though Facebook would have the ability to appeal such an order. An Israeli prosecutor could introduce the state’s confidential information as part of a case seeking to take down a Facebook post.

On July 17, the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which determines whether the ruling coalition will support a bill, approved a separate piece of legislation that would fine Internet companies $78,000 if they do not take down content deemed “incitement” within two days. The bill, which would require Facebook to monitor its own network for such content, easily passed a preliminary Knesset vote on July 20.

“I don’t think Facebook is responsible for terror or for the terror wave,” said Zionist Union Knesset member Revital Swid, who introduced the bill. “But they can do a lot to prevent [attacks].”

Swid insists her proposed bill would not infringe on freedom of speech, and she would prefer that Facebook monitor and take down such postings voluntarily. “Telling someone to go and to do terror acts, that’s not freedom of speech,” said Swid, who explained that her legislation is narrowly tailored to focus on posts that call for terrorism.

The campaign to pressure Facebook to censor its users has also made its way to the United States, where the company is headquartered. On July 11, the Israeli legal center Shurat HaDin sued Facebook in U.S. federal court on behalf of the families of U.S. citizens killed by Palestinian attackers in Israel.

A 2007 State Department cable released by WikiLeaks quotes the center’s head, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, as saying that in its early years, Shurat HaDin took direction from the Israeli government on what cases to file. However, she now strenuously denies ever saying that to a U.S. diplomat.

The Shurat HaDin lawsuit alleges that Facebook “knowingly” provided material support to Hamas because the Palestinian militant group has “used and relied on Facebook’s online social network platform and communications services” to carry out terrorism. Under U.S. law, it is illegal to provide material support — including any service-like communications equipment — to a group, like Hamas, on the U.S. designated terrorist list maintained by the State Department.

A Facebook spokesperson described the lawsuit as “without merit,” adding that the company has a “set of Community Standards to help people understand what is allowed on Facebook, and we urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate and take swift action.”

A house in the West Bank belonging to a Palestinian man who carried out a knife attack in March, in which an U.S. tourist was killed, was demolished by Israeli security forces, June 21, 2016.

Photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images

“Facebook, the all-American, social media, 21st century, billion-dollar business is providing the communications system and advertising system for this terrorist group that is only too happy, by their stated intent, to kill and maim civilians,” said Bob Tolchin, who is U.S. counsel on this suit and frequently works with Shurat HaDin.

Some observers think the suit against Facebook has a chance of advancing through the U.S. court system. Writing on the blog Lawfare, legal analysts Benjamin Wittes and Zoe Bedell said that Shurat HaDin makes a strong case that Hamas’s use of Facebook — including posts calling for violence — helps cause militant action that has killed Israelis.

But Aaron Mackey, a legal fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the plaintiffs in the suit have a high legal barrier to clear in the case. He said the suit does not establish that Facebook helped cause the attacks and the Communications Decency Act broadly immunizes Facebook from liability for content on its platform.

If the lawsuit is successful, however, the consequences could be profound, he said. It could lead to certain parts of the world being cut off from Facebook, or certain users’ posts being censored if they mention Hamas or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Mackey described the lawsuit, coupled with Israel’s push against incitement on Facebook and proposed U.S. legislation requiring social media companies to report terrorist-related content to law enforcement, as part of a broader strategy.

“These are all small strategies as part of a larger goal to force Facebook and Twitter to become the sort of active police for certain types of speech and content,” he said. “But what that’s ultimately going to mean is less speech about things that these governments disagree with.”

Dena Shunra translated sections of the Shaked-Erdan Knesset bill on Facebook from Hebrew to English.

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Donald Trump Thinks He Heard Vladimir Putin Call Barack Obama “the N-Word.” He Didn’t.

The Intercept - Engl. - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 04:02

Donald Trump’s mind wanders when he speaks. His campaign speeches are marked by frequent digressions into subjects as tangential to his qualifications for running the country as the ineffectiveness of hairspray in the post-aerosol era.

So it was perhaps no surprise that Trump’s most bizarre statement on Wednesday — that he hopes Russian spies hacked into the private email server Hillary Clinton used while Secretary of State, and might make public all of the personal correspondence her staff delated as unrelated to her work — was itself a digression.

Video of the moment shows that Trump came up with that idea while free associating on the theory that the hacking of the Democratic National Committee might have been ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin to sabotage Clinton. “If it is Russia,” Trump said, “it’s really bad for a different reason: because it shows how little respect they have for our country.”

Trump: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 [Clinton] emails that are missing."

— ABC News (@ABC) July 27, 2016

Much of the news conference, like much of the campaign that has proceeded it, was devoted to similar remarks from Trump about what he sees as the crucial need for other countries to respect the United States. Since he first flirted with a run for the presidency in 1987, and took out a full-page ad in the New York Times claiming that “the world is laughing at America’s politicians,” Trump has seemed obsessed with the theme.

Even now that he has obtained the Republican nomination for the presidency, Trump’s Twitter feed and public statements are still filled with complaints about the perceived disrespect shown to him by rivals and journalists.

I was at @FoxNews and met Juan Williams in passing. He asked if he could have pictures taken with me. I said fine. He then trashes on air!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2016

Throughout his news conference on Wednesday, Trump returned again and again to the idea that America’s strained relations with Russia are based solely on the Russian president’s supposed lack of respect for America’s leaders — and not, say, differences over Russia’s support for separatist rebels in Ukraine or its intervention against U.S.-backed rebels in Syria. Trump even claimed at one stage that he had heard Putin use a racial slur to describe President Barack Obama.

“Right now, we don’t have a good relationship,” Trump said of the U.S. and Russia. “Putin has said things over the last year that are really bad things, okay? He mentioned the N-word one time. I was shocked to hear him mention the N-word. You know what the N-word is, right? He mentioned it. I was shocked.”

Although there is no chance that this ever happened — since there are no published reports of such an explosive public statement and Trump stressed again that he has never met Putin — the Republican presidential nominee was in no doubt as to who was to blame for such an (entirely imaginary) affront: Obama himself.

“He has a total lack of respect for President Obama,” Trump said of Putin. “Number one, he doesn’t like him. And number two, he doesn’t respect him. I think he’s going to respect your president if I’m elected. And I hope he likes me.”

While it is impossible to say what, exactly, led Trump to believe that he had heard Putin say something that he did not say, this fantasy does appear to be a common one in the far-right racist precincts of the internet where the candidate gets a lot of his inspiration.

I'll bet you a dollar to a donut that Putin uses the "N" word when talking about Obama !

— Craig – infidel (@kraig4u) July 19, 2013

@FreeRepublicTXT "I bet that Putin and his advisors use the N word constantly when discussing how to deal with Obama."

— Jasper Mallis (@JasperMallis) April 1, 2014

Intelligence reports suggests Putin refers to Obama as that (n word) in the White House as do many Americans

— Raymond Holmes (@rgholmes) July 24, 2014

Near the end of the news conference, Trump was asked by Mareike Aden, a journalist from Germany working for South Florida’s NPR’s station WLRN, if he would consider recognizing the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, as Russian territory, and would consider lifting sanctions related to that act.

I asked @realDonaldTrump:"Would you as president want to recognize #Crimea as Russian, lift sanctions?" – "Yes we would be looking at that"

— MareikeAden (@MareikeAden) July 27, 2016

He replied, “We’ll be looking at that, yeah.”

Like the Fox News pundits who furnish Trump with much of his information about the world, the candidate also made clear on Wednesday that he holds the Russian leader in higher esteem than President Obama.

After boasting, incorrectly, that Putin “said I’m a genius,” and dismissing suggestions that his unreleased tax returns might show investments from Russia, Trump defended his praise for the Russian president as uncontroversial. “I said that Putin has much better leadership qualities than Obama, but who doesn’t know that?” Trump asked.

"I said that Putin has much better leadership qualities than Obama," @realDonaldTrump

— CBS News (@CBSNews) July 27, 2016

In fact, although talking points about how Putin’s demonstrations of strength make Obama look weak are repeated endlessly in the right-wing media, polls show that most Americans approve of Obama’s presidency and overwhelmingly dislike Putin.

Obama’s current approval rating in the Gallup poll sits at 51 percent — or, almost exactly where it was when he won reelection in 2012 — while 45 percent disapprove of his performance as president. Putin, by contrast, is reviled. The most recent Gallup survey of U.S. views of Putin, in 2014, showed him rated unfavorably by 63 percent of Americans, with just a 19 percent approval rating. Last year, 75 percent of Americans told Pew pollsters they had no confidence in Putin “to do the right thing in world affairs.”

While Trump takes praise from Putin as an unalloyed compliment, he seems to have paid little attention to another alternative, that Russia’s president might prefer to have America led by an ill-informed buffoon who would sow dissension at home and undermine alliances abroad.

“Trump’s antics have made the U.S. the laughing stock of the world,” the former Moscow correspondent Miriam Elder wrote in Buzzfeed. “Putin supports Donald Trump because of the threat that Trump poses to the U.S.”

And indeed, Trump’s candidacy might already be doing Putin some good. As the Russian state news outlet Sputnik reported last month, a new poll of global attitudes from Pew showed that “Republican nominee Donald Trump appears to be not only one of the lowest-rated politicians among Americans since public opinion polling began in the 1960s, but he also seems to be affecting the country’s reputation abroad.”

“People polled around the world favor Russian President Vladimir Putin over a leading U.S. presidential candidate for the first time,” the news agency noted with glee.

Although the poll showed that support for Putin remains very low in most countries, Trump is seen even more negatively in much of the world, with a single-digit approval rating in Germany, Japan, France, and Spain.

While Obama is far more popular globally than either man — with majority support in 15 of the 16 countries polled, including the United States — the pollsters also found something else of interest in the data: “people who have confidence in Putin are more likely to express confidence in Trump.” For instance, though only 21 percent of Italians overall expressed confidence in Trump to make the right decision in world affairs, “among those in Italy who have confidence in Putin to handle world affairs, 44 percent express confidence in Donald Trump.”

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Roter Teppich für Erdoğan

Rationalgalerie - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 02:00
ARD schenkt der Diktatur Sendezeit AKP-Organisation in Deutschland ist der lange Arm : Mit hochgeföhnter Servilität saß der Chefredakteur des bayerischen Rundfunks, Sigmund Gottlieb, dem Chef der türkischen Diktatur, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, gegenüber. Sorgen mache er sich, sagte der Interview-Beauftragte der ARD im Ersten TV-Progamm zu ganz ordentlicher Sendezeit, Sorgen wegen der gefährlichen...

Akute "Sonderlage dahoam"

Rationalgalerie - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 02:00
München zwischen Amok-Panik und Terror-Angst : Bayern ist scheinbar gerüstet für jeden erdenklichen sicherheitsrelevanten Fall, mit Ausnahme eines Atomkrieges vielleicht. Nur gegen etwas ist nicht nur der Freistaat nicht gefeit: Dass seine Bürger durchdrehen. So wie der strebsame 18-jährige in Deutschland geborene und aufgewachsene Schüler Ali...

Schweigen der ARD-aktuell-Redaktion - der Schmock des Monats

Rationalgalerie - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 02:00
Religions-Redaktion will tägliche Schweigeminute : „Was soll das denn?“ Der Chefredakteur von ARD-aktuell Dr. Gniffke blickt drohend in die Runde der TAGESSCHAU-Redaktion: „Die Leute von der Religions-Redaktion wollen ein Schweigeminute von uns?!“ Freundlich lächelnd steht Anja Würzberg von der Fernsehredaktion Religion und Gesellschaft auf: „Sehen...

Bernie Sanders Delegates Complain of “Disrespect” on Democratic Convention Floor

The Intercept - Engl. - Gio, 28/07/2016 - 01:09

On Monday, Sen. Bernie Sanders reiterated his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party nominee. On Tuesday, it was made official during the roll call vote, when Sanders himself stood among his Vermont delegation and moved that Clinton be nominated by acclamation.

But on Wednesday, some delegates in the Sanders camp complained that Democratic Party officials who manage the convention had treated them as something less than their Clinton-pledged counterparts.

Michael Wilson, a Sanders-pledged delegate from California, told me that floor officials attempted to confiscate his delegation’s anti-TPP signs, and that he returned from a walkout by Sanders supporters on Tuesday evening to find that his seat had been taken by a nondelegate who refused to give it up.

“It’s a disrespect not to us, but to the people who voted for us, and that we’re representing. They want to have their voices heard. But apparently there are certain subjects that are not palatable to the party authorities.”

“I have no knowledge of those specific situations,” Lee Whack, the press secretary for the Democratic National Convention, told me on Wednesday evening, in response to complaints of disrespect from Sanders delegates. He declined to comment further. Repeated phone calls and emails to the Clinton and Sanders campaigns were not returned.

The Sanders campaign brought many newcomers into the political process and onto the convention floor. Some amount of controlling signs and chants is a normal part of the convention process, as the party attempts to unify behind one candidate and pivot to the general election.

But the complaints of disrespect were not limited to starry-eyed political rookies. Pete Gertonson is an Idaho superdelegate who sits on the Democratic National Committee. He said that Monday night’s program was “soured” by the invocation by Rev. Cynthia Hale, which he said was too focused on Clinton.

“Her speech was wonderful,” until she mentioned Clinton, Gertonson said. “I was sitting there in awe. To politicize an invocation, it’s like inserting Hillary Clinton into the Pledge of Allegiance. We should have spent Monday night focusing on unity, going through our history from F.D.R. to John F. Kennedy and further focused on the idea of unity, and of coming together. I feel my values had been disrespected by whoever choreographed Monday night. I’ve been with the DNC for quite some time. I know they’re smarter than that. Monday night should have been about unity, Tuesday night is the roll call vote, Wednesday is about the nominee, and Thursday, here she comes.”

He described the walkout, which he did not participate in, as “grief time … you hope for something all your life, and then it’s gone.” Idaho delegates, he said, had no problems being reseated.

Some Sanders delegates said that the convention had given them a warm welcome. Jenise Porter and Eve Shapiro, two Sanders delegates from Arizona, complimented their state party chair on her neutrality. “She’s been very respectful,” Porter said, adding that she knew of no problems with seating or signs among her delegation.

Ali Kurnaz, a Sanders-pledged delegate from Orlando, Florida, echoed some of Gertonson’s views on Monday’s program. “Speaker after speaker was shoving Hillary Clinton down our throats. We had not even voted and it seemed that she was being anointed the Democratic nominee for president. And in between each of these speakers, they would insert a video of Donald Trump to instill fear.”

Kurnaz said that Florida’s Clinton-pledged delegates had taken it upon themselves to assign seats, and prevented him from sitting near other Sanders delegates. “We weren’t able to whisper or talk or coordinate possible actions that we wanted to take on the floor,” he said.

“I held up a Palestinian flag on the floor. The minute I did, Clinton delegates from Florida started pushing and shoving me and pulling it out of my hands. They told me that I don’t belong there. They told me that I don’t belong there. They questioned whether I was even from Florida, whether I was a delegate. One of them pointed at me and said, ‘he is a Palestinian.’ As if that were some sort of slur. I’m a party leader, an elected official.” Kurnaz handles communications for Florida Young Democrats and has managed a campaign for Florida’s House of Representatives.

Erika Onsrud, an at-large Minnesota delegate, called Monday’s program “divisive and offensive. Every single speaker referred to Hillary as the nominee.” She had heard stories of Sanders-pledged delegates losing their seats but had not witnessed it herself. “I’m not ready to support Hillary. Not today,” she said. “Come November, I will vote my conscience.”

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Drug Industry Will Make Hospitals Obsolete, Biotech CEO Says on DNC Panel

The Intercept - Engl. - Mer, 27/07/2016 - 23:55

The CEO of the world’s largest biotechnology trade group said at a panel discussion at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday that Americans need to take more drugs “instead of going to the hospital.”

Jim Greenwood is the head of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which represents companies involved with such things as genetically engineered crops and prescription drugs.

Speaking at an event put on by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation —  a think tank funded by Google, IBM, Cisco, eBay, and other corporate underwriters — Greenwood argued that high prescription-drug prices are a boon to the economy and public health.

The U.S. already has the highest prices for drugs in the industrialized world, but Greenwood argued that prescription drugs, regardless of their price, lower overall health care costs.

“I hear that drugs are 15 percent of all health care spending,” Greenwood said. “I’d like it to be 100 percent. That would mean you could take a drug when you’re sick instead of going to the hospital.”

Greenwood is a former member of the House. The roundtable discussion also featured Sen. Chris Coons and Reps. Derek Kilmer, Suzanne DelBene, and Scott Peters.

None of them — or anyone else on the panel, which included executives from Facebook and Amazon — challenged the idea that prescription drugs could be used as a treatment for everything that currently requires hospitalization – such as gunshot wounds or being struck by a car.

Later in the discussion, Greenwood offered a “note of caution” to Congress. “When you have a system that’s working really well, be careful of throwing a wrench into one part of it.” The “wrench,” in this case, would be making drug prices cheaper—and, presumably, continuing to fund hospitals.

The Democratic Party’s official platform, adopted on Monday, calls for capping out-of-pocket costs on prescription drugs, allowing importation of prescription drugs from lower-cost countries like Canada, and letting Medicare negotiate lower prices with drug companies, which it is currently prohibited from doing.

“It is unacceptable that the United States pays, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” the platform reads. “A lifesaving drug is no good if it is unaffordable to the very people who need it most.”

Greenwood said that high prices were the only way to acquire the funds for research and development that drives innovations in medications that can fight illness. But as the platform says, “many drug companies are spending more on advertising than research,” and the profit margins for the drug industry are higher than other industries.

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This Isn’t the First Time Donald Trump Has Asked Hackers for Help Taking Down His Enemies

The Intercept - Engl. - Mer, 27/07/2016 - 19:58

Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Russia to hack Hillary Clinton’s emails, setting off howls of outrage from across the political spectrum for actually soliciting foreign espionage on his opponent. “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” Trump said.

VIDEO: Trump: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing…"

— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) July 27, 2016

But it’s not the first time he has endorsed hacking to uncover information that he wants. Trump previously asked for hackers’ help in his obsessive quest to prove that President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.:

Attention all hackers: You are hacking everything else so please hack Obama's college records (destroyed?) and check "place of birth"

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2014

ObamaCare is a disaster and Snowden is a spy who should be executed-but if it and he could reveal Obama's records,I might become a major fan

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2013

For the record, Obama released his birth certificate in 2011.

Meanwhile, Trump slammed Sony for getting hacked in 2014. “If North Korea has that sort of power that they can do things on the internet that we have no idea what’s happening, that is not a good thing,” Trump told Fox News.

As for the emails that Trump described as “missing,” there are 31,830 emails written or received by Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State that her staff determined to be “private, personal records” — not related to her work — and destroyed.

FBI Director James Comey said this month that investigators had “discovered several thousand work-related e-mails” sent or received by Clinton using her personal server that her staff had not turned over to the State Department.” While that encouraged Clinton’s critics to suggest she must be hiding something, Comey added that “we found no evidence that any of the additional work-related emails were intentionally deleted in an effort to conceal them.”

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