Saturday, April 02, 2016

Mechanic Finds C4 Explosives in Active School Bus: Used for CIA Bomb Exercise and Forgotten

CIA ‘K-9 test’ gone wrong or something else? Plastic Explosives Found in Virginia School Bus Engine Compartment by District Mechanic

by Dave Lindorff - This Can't Be Happening

April 2, 2016  
What on earth was the CIA doing putting plastic high explosive charges on schoolbuses and in hidden places in a Virginia public school in a “test” of K-9 dogs reportedly belonging to the Agency itself?

Alert Virginia school district mechanic
found C-4 explosive package planted
on school bus in CIA "test"

The story of the secret “test” broke because an alert mechanic doing a routing check on one of the Loudon County School District’s schoolbuses found a package of what turned out to be plastic explosive, packed in a plastic-wrapped wrapper, jammed down in among some of the rubber hoses and electric wires around the engine. It had allegedly “fallen” from where it had originally been placed, was missed by the dogs and their handlers, and remained where it was stuck for two days, while the bus was unwittingly used to deliver some 26 young children to and from school on eight separate bus runs totaling 145 miles of driving.

I called the CIA’s “public information” office on Friday to ask for clarification as to why the CIA, which does not have a domestic policing function, would be operating, and testing, a K-9 bomb-detecting unit, given that such tasks in the US would appropriately be handled either by state and local police agencies, or by the FBI or the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). The office, though it was mid-day, was not answering its phones, and only had a voice mail recording, on which I identified myself as a reporter, left my contact information and requested a response on deadline. No surprise: I was not called back with an answer, and do not anticipate receiving one from an agency that is infamous for its secrecy. (The standard CIA response in my experience, when I’ve received one at all, is: “We have no response to that question.”)

Still, even for a notoriously opaque and obtuse government agency, this is a truly bizarre incident that cries out for answers.

If the goal is testing the ability of dogs to detect hidden explosives, there is no need to run that test in a real school and in the engine compartments of real buses that transport real children, or to place such charges, as the CIA also reportedly did, in hidden locations inside a real school building. (Actually, since what’s being tested is the dogs' smelling ability, actual C-4 packs weren’t needed either -- only objects that had been in placed in contact with the compound, or wrappers from the charges and carried the odor on them.) People may benefit in training exercises when the tests are tricked out to appear more real-life, but dogs don’t need that kind of reality-theater environment to hone or test their skills. Any old bus, or for that matter a rental truck, could have been used for the job. The engine compartment or a truck is exactly the same as on a bus, and dogs don’t care whether the body color of a vehicle being searched is yellow or not (they're color-blind after all!), or whether it has a big box behind the cab, or two rows of seats. Ditto to using a functioning school building. Any building, including one of the CIA’s own buildings at its Langley headquarters, or on “The Farm” where agents are trained, would serve as well as a hiding place for explosive charges.

At best, using a real local school and real schoolbuses was an idiotic decision by CIA administrators.

Plastic explosive, as the Washington Post explained in a lengthy if fairly credulous article on the incident [1], while highly explosive, is also quite stable, requiring both a very high temperature and a shock wave to explode. The compound is, however, also flammable, and even if it didn’t explode if ignited, would act as an accelerant if there were an engine fire on a bus, or somewhere in a school building, making such a fire far worse and far harder to control. Plus, while this is being called a test, and while we are being assured that there was no detonator included along with the planted charges, how do we really know that is true? After all, the whole idea of using a real school and real schoolbuses was to simulate reality. How far did the testers want to take that reality?

Did the same people who thought it was important for the K-9 dogs to have yellow buses to work with think they should also see wires and detonators hooked up to the charges they were sniffing for? When something this apparently stupid is done, anything is possible, and given the CIA’s obsessive secrecy, we’re not going to get an answer unless some public body (Congress?, a Virginia legislative committee?) investigates and demands answers under oath.

Of course, there are darker possibilities to consider too, when we discover an incident like this.

There is plenty of evidence that over the past two decades, the US government and its intelligence and law-enforcement agencies have engaged in a number of so-called “false flag” operations, usually portrayed as “tests” gone wrong, or as “stings” designed to lure out alleged terrorists -- though these latter operations usually turn out on investigation to have been wholly government-created incidents where low-wattage victims are talked into participating in a terrorism action either for pay, or under the belief that they are working for the government. There are just too many occasions when some crazy terror plot either gets prominently “uncovered” and “prevented,” or actually is attempted right when the government could use some increased public sense of panic to help pass some new law diminishing Constitutionally-protected freedoms, or higher spending on war and government intelligence agencies.

As one CIA veteran offers, "The only 'innocent' explanation as to why the agency was training locals on this is that the agency has more money than it knows what to do with, whereas others are not that flush," but this source adds, "There are a host of other, more sinister possible explanations. This needs to be looked into."

There are certainly enough bozos in the US government’s intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, including the CIA, for me to believe that this school explosives “testing exercise” was just a really stupid idea gone wrong. But I’m also suspicious enough to believe that it could have been something much more insidious that didn’t go as planned only because of the alertness of one school district mechanic.

The Washington Post quotes a CIA statement issued about the incident as saying the CIA plans to take “immediate steps to strengthen inventory and control procedures in its K-9 program” and promising that it will investigate its K-9 training program.

That’s clearly not enough. The CIA is the last agency that should be relied on to investigate itself about anything.


Friday, April 01, 2016

Trumps Fatal Fail

Trump’s Self-Inflicted Fall

by Ralph Nader - CounterPunch

April 1, 2016

Donald J. Trump is done. He will not be the Republican Party’s nominee for President. He will not receive the requisite number of 1237 delegate votes to secure a majority going into the Republican Convention in July.

Last June, I wrote a column predicting that Trump would give the GOP nightmares, but that his penchant for “leaving no impulsive opinion behind” would be his Achilles heel.

Nine and a half months later, this is what is transpiring.

His egotistical bombast—false statements, displays of shocking factual ignorance on policy issues, and planned, staccato-like insults toward the other Republican contenders—got him lots of media attention. But like an elastic band being stretched to its purpose, there comes the time when the band must snap.

In the last two weeks, the casino-hotel baron has snapped. He was trapped into a petty retaliation against Senator Cruz after one of Cruz’s Super PACs distributed a semi-nude pin-up picture of Trump’s wife. He has stopped campaigning for a week before the crucial Wisconsin primary while he continues to be barraged by reporters asking about his campaign manager’s potential criminal charge in Florida for having vigorously pulled a reporter’s arm. He then stumbled badly in an interview with NBC’s Chris Matthews (a fervid political Democrat). In the interview, The Donald said, women who have abortions should receive “some punishment.” His recanting of that statement hours later hasn’t caught up with the immediate uproar.

National polls of all voters have never been good for Trump. Now they spill over into disasterland. He has the highest unfavorability ratings of any candidate, followed by Hillary Clinton. Of women who are expected to vote in the Republican primary, only 24 percent support him and nationally almost 3 out of 4 women oppose him—foreshadowing a certain defeat in November, given his very low standing among minority voters. Even in his victories, Trump has rarely won more than 30% of the Republican primary vote against his competitors.

Now Trump has left his lavish Florida vacation mansion for Wisconsin only to find a maelstrom of opposition from the Republican Party, the Republican Governor and the Republican legislators who control the state government. What’s more, the state’s influential conservative talk radio bloviators—most of whom are backing the madcap Ted Cruz—are bashing Trump daily as juvenile and as not a conservative.

Wisconsin polls, which recently had him in the lead, are turning sharply against him. Last Wednesday, a poll released by Marquette University Law School showed the war-hawk Cruz leading Trump by 40 percent to 30 percent. Rising Governor John Kasich comes in third with 21 percent.

What’s more, the polls across the country are trending downward for Trump. This is bad news for Trump, who has to win upcoming primaries by significant margins in order to reach 1237. He is turning off so many people with his spasmodic outbursts of Trumpisms that he can’t even be sure there won’t be defections among his own delegates during the crucial first round of voting at the Republican Party convention.

Trump’s trump card has always been his warning that, if the Party treats him unfairly, he can always go independent. This is unlikely. Trump’s trap is that by the time he has to admit his quest has failed, it will be too late for him to meet state ballot access deadlines for an independent candidacy. Moreover, he would learn what the resounding cry of “loser” would mean to voters.

So, Donald Trump is left with his dark prediction that should he garner the largest number of votes, even if he should not get the majority magic number of 1237 delegates going into the conventions, in his words, “you’d have riots.”

The trouble with Trump’s scenario is what is called “backfire.” Riots in the streets for a sore loser? Riots because he won’t survive the succeeding rounds of voting inside the Republican Convention in Cleveland? Riots won’t sit well with most Republicans, not to mention the local police and the voters who would see the television images.

The Republican Party overlords—whose smug expectation last year was that the super PAC-rich Jeb Bush would walk into the nomination—are going to let Trump save face. They will praise him effusively for exciting the Republican base and expanding the primaries’ viewing audience. Then they will give Trump center stage before a massive television audience where he can advertise his Trump high-rises and the increasingly-valuable Trump brand.

The Trump brand has always been the New Yorker’s fall-back mega-billion-dollar position. Making presidential primaries into big business for the commercial media will be another one of his legacies. CBS president Leslie Moonves confirmed Trump’s contribution when he said that Trump’s campaign “may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.”

There are downsides to Trump’s forthcoming fall. Trump took on the corporatist trade treaties and the hollowing out of jobless communities throughout the land. He touted the need for massive public works projects. He consistently condemned Hillary’s support of the Iraq war as Senator, and her lead role in leading the way for the Libyan overthrow and the resultant spreading violent chaos in northwest and central Africa when she was Secretary of State. He stuck it to Hedge Fund billionaires with their brazen tax escapes.

It will be a while before you see a major Republican Presidential candidate stake out these positions day after day.

In the end, The Donald just could not control his unprovoked, ugly verbal outbursts.
Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!
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Judas Goats and the Cowards' Wars

The Cowards’ Wars

by Luciana Bohne - CounterPunch

April 1, 2016

As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods. They kill us for their sport 

— Edgar in William Shakespeare’s “King Lear”

[The condemnation of Radovan Karadzic to forty years imprisonment by
the International Crime Tribunal-Yugoslavia occasions these reflections.] 

They come; they see; people die. They laugh. Or say it was worth it. Their maps are not a territory inhabited by living beings; they are military targets. They bomb from safe altitudes, no lower than 15,000 feet (Yugoslavia, 1999, for example) to protect their own volunteer warriors.

In 38,000 sorties and 22,000 tons of bombs in three months (Yugoslavia, 1999), they never lost a plane.

They promise the people their bombs will not harm a hair on their heads; then, they bomb markets and bridges at noon, when people are at their thickest; the say they are as careful at noon as they are at midnight.

They claim they have nothing against the people—only against their leaders; then they bomb water supplies, electrical grids, schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, museums. They hold civilians in their power, hostages to their air force, their cluster and phosphorus bombs.

They poison the land with depleted uranium and raise whole crops of human cancers for generations. They send drones. They fund, train, and arm cutthroat armies. They terrorize civilians for their political ends. They are the humanitarians of the “international community,” and they have nothing to envy the conquistadores, the exterminators of native people, the enslavers, the imperialists of times gone by.

They are the agents of collateral genocide. They are the terror they claim to fight, and they dress it in noble words.

“Operation Iraqi Freedom” (9 March to 9 April 2003) claimed from 40,000 to 100,000 Iraqi military deaths. “Insurgent” deaths (April 2003 to January 2009) amounted to between 26, 320 and 27, 000. Iraqi civilian deaths are estimated from between 190,000 and one million. The death toll for “Operation Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan” (2001-2014) adds up to 220,000 in Afghanistan and 80,000 in Pakistan. By contrast, the NATO British contingent in Afghanistan, a total of 134, 780 troops, lost 447. At a conservative estimate the total deaths caused by the “war on terror” in these three war zones alone are 1.3 million (estimates from Iraqi Body Count, The Lancet, Physicians for Social Responsibilities). But these estimates include only deaths resulting from violent conflict. They do not include deaths resulting from the aftermath of war—destroyed infrastructure and support institutions. From sanctions: the regime of sanction in Iraq, August 6th (Hiroshima Day) 1991 to 2003, claimed 1.7 million Iraqi lives, according to UN data.

How do they get away with it? By thwarting, strong-arming, co-opting, bribing, rewriting, and abusing international law: the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1976 amended Geneva Conventions (on the laws and customs of war, which the US did not sign), the Charter of the United Nations, and their own constitutions. They wage wars of aggression in the name of abstractions or noble causes—“the war on terror,” R2P, “human rights,” and the prize, “genocide,” debasing the term, if convenient, to a street rumble between two ethnic groups.

What if the United Nations issued a resolution banning wars on abstractions? The “wars on terror” would become illegal (and, no, they didn’t end with Obama; they just became the “humanitarian wars”). The Security Council could order a “global police action” to sweep up and “neutralize” the army of cutthroats. So far, only Russia has shown, with actions in Syria, that it is willing to act to remove the terrorist scourge, whose atrocities proliferate and extend from the Middle East, through the heart of Africa, to European capitals. As I write, the Syrian Army, backed by Russian airstrikes, has retaken Palmyra, a significant strategic victory, opening the way to liberation of Raqqa, the IS stronghold, in the east of Syria.

But, in fact, there is no need for such a resolution. The UN Charter forbids wars of aggression. It specifies that breaking the peace to wage a “war of choice” is the “supreme international crime.” The provisions of the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC) include jurisdiction over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes but exclude the “supreme international crime,” the crime of aggression. This exclusion resulted at the instigation of the US in 1998-99, just as it prepared to attack Serbia in the Kosovo War. The US signed (Clinton) and then unsigned (Bush) the statute, without ever intending to ratify it, but it meddled, bullied and coerced so as to make it clear who was in charge of writing and unwriting the laws, who had the right to impunity ad infinitum, based on its assumed altruistic morality of intervening to adjust the affairs of the world.

The US exercised every political muscle to subordinate the ICC to the authority of the Security Council, where it could exercise its veto power to deep-six any prosecution of crimes it opposed. It favored ad-hoc tribunals such as the International Tribunal for Crimes in Yugoslavia (ICTY), instituted by the Security Council in 1993, at the request of the US. A virtual kangaroo court, it abducted and tried Slobodan Milosevic at the Hague in a show trial for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes—without any substantial evidence, limiting time for cross-examination by the defense, using pseudo-legal pretexts to harass and obstruct it, treating the defense contemptuously, and in every way demonstrating that the tribunal was politically motivated, a feature contrary to the spirit and purpose of criminal law. The tribunal refused to investigate credible evidence charging NATO with war crimes, though it was charged with investigating crimes committed by all parties in the tragic secession wars of Yugoslavia. An example will suffice to demonstrate the political bias of the tribunal: Milosevic was indicted, among other spurious charges, for murdering 374 people; NATO killed 500 civilians. Only one of the two was investigated.

Failing to secure impunity for aggression by placing the ICC under the authority of the Security Council, the US insisted on an amendment, preventing the court from exercising that jurisdiction, until seven eights of ratifying states agreed on a definition of aggression and the means by which it could be prosecuted. Until the angels stop dancing on the pin of that prevarication, the US and its junior partners in the “international community” can freely exercise their right to crimes of aggression. This is how the ICC lists the crimes of aggression it is prevented from prosecuting:

*Invasion or attack by armed forces against territory

*Military occupation of territory

*Annexation of territory

*Bombardment against territory

*Use of any weapons against territory

*Blockade of ports or coasts

*Attack on the land, sea. Or air forces or marine and air fleets

*The use of armed forces which are within the territory of another state by agreement, but in contravention of the conditions of the agreement

*Allowing territory to be used by another state to perpetrate an act of aggression against a third state

*Sending armed bands, groups, irregulars, or mercenaries to carry out acts of armed force

Tell me one crime of aggression the “international community,” the dogs of war, has not committed with impunity since the unfortunate downfall of the Soviet Union in their unopposed quest for recolonizing the world? Do you wonder that Putin is garnering so much global popularity for insisting on acting within the law? How many Security Council resolutions have authorized actions by the “international community” in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen—not to mention actions in martyred Africa or the underhanded counter-reform chicaneries in Latin America? None. This is a period of American absolutism, which is wiping clean the rule of law off the face of the earth. The result is creeping barbarism. No one is safe from Timbuktu to Brussels. Anarchy is indeed loosed upon the world.

Take Libya: now that it is not even a functional state, does any law there even apply? Why do the cowards who destroyed it bother to twist themselves into knots, like serpents in a pit, to justify a second intervention? Why don’t they maraud right in—like ISIS does? Because cowards cannot admit to cowardice, much less submit to judgment–and because the tatters they made of the law are the last cover for these scoundrels’ moral nakedness. They drag others into their bolgia of deepening Hell. Right now, for NATO member Italy, it’s a question of complying with US request, already approved in late February, to use the military base at Sigonella, Sicily, to send drones to Libya to protect American Special Forces while they clear out ISIS. Since when have Special Forces required the assistance of a mechanical Mary Poppins? They’re supposed to be in dangerous situation, by definition. It’s not conscience that “makes cowards of [them] all.” It’s criminality. If Qaddafi had not been sadistically and illegally removed (check list of crimes of aggression above) there would be no ISIS in Libya.

Never mind: Sigonella will be used for American drone raids in Libya. Opposition in the Italian Parliament and public opinion are vocally against this use, so the Italian government is presenting the project as “defensive,” just as in 1999 the formula of “integrated defense” was deployed to justify the use of Italian Tornadoes bombing Yugoslavia. Drones in this case will not be “defensive.” Contrary to the idea of protecting Special Forces, drones depend on precisely those forces on the ground to furnish the exact coordinates of the target the drone must hit and destroy. Precision attacks will be launched from Sigonella not “integrated defense.”

And then what? Retaliation— Paris, Istanbul, Beirut, Brussels in Rome or Milan? State of siege in Italy? Suspension of civil liberties? Hecatombs of dead civilians? Well may the Italian government resent the publicity the United States has bestowed on the accord over the use of Sigonella. They would have preferred to keep the accord secret, hoping that ISIS wouldn’t notice Italy’s collaboration with US forces in Libya. Fat chance, but cowards and gangsters think like that—make it look like an accident or construct “plausible deniability.”

“Your wars; our dead” is a popular poster in protests against wars in Italy. It expresses the consciousness of the ultimate cowardice of these wars, and, indeed, of all aggressive wars.
Luciana Bohne is co-founder of Film Criticism, a journal of cinema studies, and teaches at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. She can be reached at:
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Public Comment Period Nears End for Proposed Tesoro’s Anacortes Xylene Facility

Public Comment Period for Tesoro’s Anacortes Xylene Facility Closes April 15

by Eric de Place and Nick Abraham - Sightline Institute

April 1, 2016

 A short window for the public to weigh in on a massive petrochemical project

Here’s the latest in a string of petrochemical developments across the Northwest: the oil company Tesoro plans to spend $400 million upgrading its Anacortes refinery to add a xylene extraction facility that could pose serious environmental risks to the Salish Sea. The public has a limited opportunity to weigh in—from right now until April 15.

A lesser-known liquid petrochemical, xylene, is the principal chemical precursor in the production of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used for making plastic bottles, polyester fibers, food packaging, paint, rubber, solvents, and other products. It is created from a partially refined crude oil product called reformate that is often produced from light oil, such as Bakken shale oil, which yields particularly high levels of petroleum naphtha.

The facility would be capable of producing 15,000 barrels of xylene per day for export, primarily to Asia, representing roughly a 9 percent increase in total US xylene production.

Xylene is also dangerous to public health. Short-term exposure to xylene is known to cause difficulty breathing, impaired memory, and delayed response to visual stimulus, among other issues. At very high levels of short-term exposure, people have died. Long-term exposure can lead to depression, insomnia, tremors, and worse.

Xylene production also creates yet another spill risk for the Salish Sea, and xylene tanker mishaps have caused tremendous damage in the past, such as the 2007 spill on the Mississippi River. The Tesoro expansion would add up to five tankers per month navigating Fidalgo Bay and the surroundings water of the Salish Sea.

Find this article interesting? Please consider making a gift to support our work.

Right now, Skagit County officials are deciding how they will review the project. Will they take a broad or narrow view of the chemicals potential impacts? Will they consider offsite risks or the compounding dangers of petrochemical developments nearby? These and other questions are yet to be answered.

The public only has until April 15th to weigh in. You can submit comments here.

Looking for more resources? 

Evergreen Islands, a small Anacortes-based NGO, has published excellent analyses of the project’s impacts. Its official comments on the project are a model of precision and effectiveness.
Tesoro’s permit documents for the project.

Skagit County, the lead agency conducting an environmental review of the project, has published key background material.

Sightline has examined the checkered past of Tesoro in a hard-hitting report on the firm’s track record, The Dirt on Tesoro.

Sightline has also written a crash course on xylene in an article, “What Is Xylene, and What Does It Mean for Puget Sound?”
Sightline has inventoried some of the known risks of xylene production and transport in an article, “How Tesoro’s Petrochem Plans May Threaten Anacortes and the Salish Sea.”

Submit your comment now

Special thanks to Tom Glade at Evergreen Islands for bird-dogging the project and providing many of the materials that made this article possible.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Chernobyl, U.S.A. - A Nuclear Disaster Coming to America

A Fukushima on the Hudson? The Growing Dangers of Indian Point

by Ellen Cantarow and Alison Rose Levy - Tom Dispatch

March 31, 2016
It was a beautiful spring day and, in the control room of the nuclear reactor, the workers decided to deactivate the security system for a systems test. As they started to do so, however, the floor of the reactor began to tremble. Suddenly, its 1,200-ton cover blasted flames into the air. Tons of radioactive radium and graphite shot 1,000 meters into the sky and began drifting to the ground for miles around the nuclear plant. The first firemen to the rescue brought tons of water that would prove useless when it came to dousing the fires.

The workers wore no protective clothing and eight of them would die that night -- dozens more in the months to follow.

It was April 26, 1986, and this was just the start of the meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, the worst nuclear accident of its kind in history. 
 Tomgram: Cantarow and Levy, Could Nuclear Disaster Come to America?

On March 11, 2011, following a massive earthquake and a devastating tsunami, the cores of three of the reactors at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant melted down with horrific results. Radioactive cesium, with a half-life of 30 years, contaminated almost 12,000 square miles of the country, an area about the size of the state of Connecticut. The government considered 12.5 square miles around the plant so poisoned that its population was evacuated and it was declared a permanent “exclusion” zone. (At Chernobyl in Ukraine, three decades after the other great nuclear disaster of our era, a 1,000 square mile exclusion zone is still in place.) One hundred and twenty thousand evacuees, some from areas outside the exclusion zone, have still not gone home and some undoubtedly never will, despite a vast decontamination program run by the government. (Sixteen to twenty-two million bags of contaminated soil and debris will someday be buried in a vast landfill near the plant, but it may take decades to get them there and that’s only the beginning of the problems to come.) And let’s not forget that, according to a report from the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, the ocean waters around Fukushima received "the largest single contribution of radionuclides to the marine environment ever observed."

To this day, five years later, eerie photos continue to emerge from now eternally deserted towns miles from the plant, thanks to what’s called “dark tourism.” But bad as the Fukushima nuclear disaster was, it might have been so much worse. Japan’s then-prime minister, Naoto Kan, has only recently admitted that he was so worried by the unraveling catastrophe and the swirl of misinformation around it that he almost ordered the evacuation of Tokyo, the capital, and all other areas within 160 miles of the plant. The country, he said, “came within a ‘paper-thin margin’ of a nuclear disaster requiring the evacuation of 50 million people.”

Keep that in mind as you read today’s report from Alison Rose Levy and Ellen Cantarow, who has in recent years covered citizen resistance to the desires of Big Energy for TomDispatch. Since the United States used nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, nuclear power has always had a fearsome aspect. In the 1950s, the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower began promoting “the peaceful atom” in an attempt to take some of the sting out of atomic power’s bad rep. (As part of that project, Eisenhower helped then-ally the Shah of Iran set up a “peaceful” nuclear program, the starting point for Washington’s more modern nuclear conflicts with that country.) Unfortunately, as we’ve been reminded, from Three Mile Island to Chernobyl to Fukushima, there is ultimately a side to nuclear power that couldn’t be less “peaceful,” even in a peacetime setting. As you think about the Indian Point nuclear power plant, the subject of today’s post, and its long history of problems and crises that only seem to be compounding, keep in mind how close Tokyo came to utter catastrophe and then think about the vast New York metropolitan area and what any of us would be able to do other than shelter in place if disaster were someday to strike up the Hudson River. Tom

A Fukushima on the Hudson? 

The Growing Dangers of Indian Point

by Ellen Cantarow and Alison Rose Levy

Chernobyl is ranked as a “level 7 event,” the maximum danger classification on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. It would spew out more radioactivity than 100 Hiroshima bombs. Of the 350,000 workers involved in cleanup operations, according to the World Health Organization, 240,000 would be exposed to the highest levels of radiation in a 30-mile zone around the plant. It is uncertain exactly how many cancer deaths have resulted since. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s estimate of the expected death toll from Chernobyl was 4,000. A 2006 Greenpeace report challenged that figure, suggesting that 16,000 people had already died due to the accident and predicting another 140,000 deaths in Ukraine and Belarus still to come. A significant increase in thyroid cancers in children, a very rare disease for them, has been charted in the region -- nearly 7,000 cases by 2005 in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. 

In March 2011, 25 years after the Chernobyl catastrophe, damage caused by a tsunami triggered by a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake led to the meltdown of three reactors at a nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan. Radioactive rain from the Fukushima accident fell as far away as Ireland.

In 2008, the International Atomic Energy Agency had, in fact, warned the Japanese government that none of the country’s nuclear power plants could withstand powerful earthquakes. That included the Fukushima plant, which had been built to take only a 7.0 magnitude event. No attention was paid at the time. After the disaster, the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power, rehired Shaw Construction, which had designed and built the plant in the first place, to rebuild it.

Near Misses, Radioactive Leaks, and Flooding

In both Chernobyl and Fukushima, areas around the devastated plants were made uninhabitable for the foreseeable future. In neither place, before disaster began to unfold, was anyone expecting it and few imagined that such a catastrophe was possible. In the United States, too, despite the knowledge since 1945 that nuclear power, at war or in peacetime, holds dangers of a stunning sort, the general attitude remains: it can’t happen here -- nowhere more dangerously in recent years than on the banks of New York’s Hudson River, an area that could face a nuclear peril endangering a population of nearly 20 million.

As the Fukushima tragedy struck, President Obama assured Americans that U.S. nuclear plants were closely monitored and built to withstand earthquakes. That statement covered one of the oldest plants in the country, the Indian Point Energy Center (IPEC) in Westchester, New York, first opened in 1962. One of 61 commercial nuclear plants in the country, it has two reactors that generate electricity for homes across New York City and Westchester County. It is located in the sixth most densely populated urban area in the world, the New York metropolitan region, just 30 miles north of Manhattan Island and the planet’s most economically powerful city.

The plant sits astride two seismic faults, which has prompted those opposing its continued operation to call for a detailed analysis of its capacity to resist an earthquake. In addition, a long series of accidents and ongoing hazards has only increased the potential for catastrophe. According to a report by the National Resources Defense Council (NDRC), if a nuclear disaster of a Fukushima magnitude were to strike Indian Point, it would necessitate the evacuation of at least 5.6 million people. In 2003, the existing evacuation plan for the area was deemed inadequate in a report by James Lee Witt, former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

American officials have urged U.S. citizens to stay 50 miles away from the Fukushima plant. Such a 50-mile circle around IPEC would stretch past Kingston in Ulster County to the north, past Bayonne and Jersey City to the south, almost to New Haven, Connecticut, to the east, and into Pennsylvania to the west. It would include all of New York City except for Staten Island and all of Fairfield, Connecticut. “Many scholars have already argued that any evacuation plans shouldn’t be called plans, but rather ‘fantasy documents,’” Daniel Aldrich, a professor of political science at Purdue University, told the New York Times.

Paul Blanch, a nuclear engineer who worked in the industry for 40 years as well as with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), thinks a worst-case accident at Indian Point could make the region, including parts of Connecticut, uninhabitable for generations.

According to a report from the Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition, there were 23 reported problems at the plant from its inception to 2005, including steam generator tube ruptures, reactor containment flooding, transformer fires, the failure of backup power for emergency sirens, and leaks of radioactive water laced with tritium. In the latest tritium leak, reported only last month, an outflow of the radioactive isotope from the plant has infused both local groundwater and the Hudson River. (Other U.S. nuclear plants have had their share of tritium leaks as well, including Turkey Point nuclear plant in Florida where such a leak is at the moment threatening drinking water wells.)

Experts agree that although present levels of tritium in groundwater near the plant are “alarming,” the tritium in the river will not be considered harmful until it reaches a far greater concentration of 120,000 picocuries per liter of water. (A picocurie is a standard unit of measurement for radioactivity.) Tritium is the lightest radioactive substance to leak from Indian Point, but according to an assessment by the New York Department of State, other potentially more dangerous radioactive elements like strontium-90, cesium-137, cobalt-60, and nickel-63 are also escaping the plant and entering both the groundwater and the river.

Representatives of Entergy Corporation, which owns the Indian Point plant, report that they don’t know when the present leak began or what its source might be. “No one has made a statement as to when the leak started,” wrote Paul Blanch in an email to us. “It could have started two years ago.” Nor does anyone seem to know where the leak is, how much radioactive matter is leaking, or how it can be stopped. The longer the leak persists, the greater the likelihood of isotopes more potent than tritium contaminating local drinking water.

According to David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and once a trainer for NRC inspectors, the danger of flooding at the reactor should be an even greater focus of concern than radioactive substance outflows, since it could result in a reactor core meltdown. Yet despite repeated calls for Indian Point’s shutdown from the early 1970s on, it keeps operating.

On April 2, 2000, the NRC rated one of Indian Point’s two reactors the most troubled in the country, and it has been closed for lengthy periods because of system failures of various sorts. This, it turns out, is typical of Entergy-owned reactors. There were 10 “near-miss” incidents at U.S. nuclear reactors last year, a majority of them at three Entergy plants, according to a UCS report on nuclear plant safety. A near-miss incident is an event or condition that could increase the chance of reactor core damage by a factor of 10 or more. In response, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission must send an inspection team to investigate.

The number of such incidents has declined since UCS initiated its annual review in 2010, “overall, a positive trend,” according to report author Lochbaum. “Five years ago, there were nearly twice as many near misses. That said, the nuclear industry is only as good as its worst plant owner. The NRC needs to find out why Entergy plants are experiencing so many potentially serious problems.” Upstate New York’s Ginna plant, he adds, has been operating as long as Indian Point, but with only two “events” in its history. At Indian Point “there’s a major event every two to three years.”

What troubles Lochbaum more than anything else is Indian Point’s vulnerability to flooding. “There was a problem in May 2015 where a transformer exploded,” he told us. “There was an automatic fire sprinkler system installed to put this out. But it ended up flooding the building adjacent to where the explosion had taken place. Fortunately a worker noticed that an inch or two of water had accumulated. If the room had flooded up to five inches, all the power in the plant would have been lost. It would have plunged unit 3 into a ‘station blackout.’”

This might indeed have led to some kind of Fukushima-on-the-Hudson situation. In Fukushima, after the earthquake wiped out the normal power supply and tsunami floodwaters took away the backup supply, workers were unable to get cooling water into the reactor cores and three of the plant’s six reactors melted down.

In 2007, when Indian Point’s plant owner applied to the NRC for a 20-year extension of the plant’s operating license, it was found that a flood alarm could be installed in the room in question for about $200,000. As Lochbaum explains, “The owner determined it was cost-beneficial, that if they installed this flood alarm... it [would reduce] the risk of core meltdown by 20%, and [reduce] the amount of radiation that people on the plant could be exposed to by about 40%, at a cost of about two cents per person for the 20 million people living within 50 miles of the plant.” But nine years later, he told us, that flood alarm has still not been installed.

Potential Pipeline Explosions

As if none of this were enough, a new set of dangers to Indian Point have arisen in recent years due to a high-pressure natural gas pipeline currently being built by Spectra Energy. Dubbed the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM) pipeline, it is to carry fracked natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation underlying New York and adjacent states to the Canadian border. At 42 inches in diameter, this pipeline is the biggest that can at present be built -- and here’s the catch: AIM is slated to pass within 150 feet of the plant’s reactors.

A former Spectra worker hired to help oversee safety during the pipeline’s construction told a reporter that the company had taken dangerous shortcuts in its rush to begin the project. He had witnessed, he said, “at least two dozen” serious safety violations and transgressions.

Taking shortcuts in pipeline construction could, in the end, prove a risky business. Pipeline ruptures are the commonest cause of gas explosions like the one that, in March 2014 in Manhattan’s East Harlem, killed eight, injured 70, and leveled two apartment buildings. Robert Miller, chairman of the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives, attributed the rising rates of such incidents in newly constructed pipelines to “poor construction practices or maybe not enough quality control, quality assurance programs out there to catch these problems before those pipelines go into service."

In January 2015, the National Transportation Safety Board published a study documenting that gas accidents in “high-consequence” areas (where there are a lot of people and buildings) have been on the rise. With the New York metropolitan area so close to Indian Point, it seems odd indeed to independent experts that the nuclear plant with the sorriest safety history in the country has been judged safe enough for a high-pressure gas pipeline to be run right by it.

A hazards assessment replete with errors was the basis for the go-ahead. Richard B. Kuprewicz, a pipeline infrastructure expert and incident investigator with more than 40 years of energy industry experience, has called that risk assessment “seriously deficient and inadequate.”

At another nuclear plant subsequently shut down, as David Lochbaum points out, a rigorous risk analysis was conducted for possible explosions based on a worst-case scenario. (“I couldn’t think of any scenario that would be worse than what they presumed.”) At Indian Point, the risk analysis was, however, done on a best-case basis. Among other things, it assumed that any pipeline leak around the plant could be stopped in less than three minutes -- an unlikelihood at best. “It’s night and day. They did a very conservative analysis for [the other plant] and a very cavalier best-case scenario for Indian Point... I don’t know why they opted for [this] drive-by analysis.”

Tombstone Regulation

Of all the contaminants released in this industrial world, radioactivity may, in a sense, be the least visible and least imaginable, even if the most potentially devastating, were something to go wrong. As a result, the dangers of the “peaceful” atom have often proved hard to absorb before disaster strikes -- as at the Three Mile Island reactor near Middletown, Pennsylvania, on March 28, 1979. Even when such a power plant sits near a highway or a community, it’s usually a reality to which people pay scant attention, in part because nuclear science is alien territory. This is why safety at nuclear power plants has been something citizens have relied on the government for.

The history of Indian Point, however, offers a grim reminder that the government agencies expected to protect citizens from disaster aren’t doing a particularly good job of it. Over the past several years, for instance, residents in the path of the AIM pipeline project have begun accusing the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) of overwhelming bias in the industry’s favor. As FERC has a corner on oversight and approval of all pipeline construction, this is alarming. Its stamp of approval on a pipeline can only be contested via appeals that lead directly back to FERC itself, as the Natural Gas Act of 1938 gave the agency sole discretion over pipeline construction in the U.S. Ever since then, its officials have approved pipelines of every sort almost without exception. Worse yet, at Indian Point, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission joined FERC in green-lighting AIM.

During the two-and-a-half-year period in which the pipeline was approved and construction began, the mainstream media virtually ignored the project and its potential dangers. Only this February, when New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been opposed to the relicensing of Indian Point, first raised concerns about the dangers of the pipeline, did the New York Times, the paper of record for the New York metropolitan area, finally publish a piece on AIM. So it fell to a grassroots movement of local activists to bring AIM’s dangers to public attention. Its growing resistance to a pipeline that could precipitate just about anything up to a Fukushima-on-the-Hudson-style event evidently led Governor Cuomo to urge FERC to postpone construction until a safety review could be completed, a request that the agency rejected. In February, alarmed by reports of tritium leaking from the plant, the governor also directed the state’s departments of environmental conservation and health to investigate the likely duration and consequences of such a leak and its potential impacts on public health.

According to Paul Blanch, the risk of a pipeline explosion in proximity to Indian Point is one in 1,000, odds he believes are too high given what’s potentially at stake. (He considers a one-in-a-million chance acceptable.) "I've had over 45 years of nuclear experience and [experience in] safety issues. I have never seen [a situation] that essentially puts 20 million residents at risk, plus the entire economics of the United States by making a large area surrounding Indian Point uninhabitable for generations. I'm not an alarmist and haven't been known as an alarmist, but the possibility of a gas line interacting with a plant could easily cause a Fukushima type of release."

According to Blanch, attempts to regulate nuclear plants after a Fukushima- or Chernobyl-type catastrophe are known in the trade as “tombstone regulation.” Nobody, of course, should ever want to experience such a situation on the Hudson, or have America’s own mini-Hiroshima seven decades late, or find literal tombstones cropping up in the New York metropolitan area due to a nuclear disaster. One hope for preventing all of this and ensuring protection for New York’s citizenry: the continuing growth of impressive citizen pressure and increasing public alarm around both the pipeline and Indian Point. It gives new meaning to the phrase “power to the people.”

TomDispatch regular Ellen Cantarow reported on Israel and the West Bank from 1979 to 2009 for the Village Voice, Mother Jones, Inquiry, and Grand Street, among other publications. For the past five years she has been writing about the environmental ravages of the oil and gas industries.
Alison Rose Levy is a New York-based journalist who covers the nexus of health, science, the environment, and public policy. She has reported on fracking, pipelines, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, chemical pollution, and the health impacts of industrial activity for the Huffington Post, Alternet, Truthdig, and EcoWatch.

Copyright 2016 Ellen Cantarow and Alison Rose Levy

Medical Malfeasance and Deliberate Indifference: SCI-Mahanoy Is Killing Mumia Abu-Jamal

Medical Malfeasance and Deliberate Indifference at SCI-Mahanoy Is Killing Mumia Abu-Jamal

by Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC)

March 31, 2016

Dear Friends & Comrades,


We are concerned about Mumia’s deteriorating health, as has been witnessed in recent weeks by his visiting doctor, clergy, counselors, teachers, family and friends.

Evidence of intensifying Hepatitis C symptoms and possible development of the diabetes that nearly killed him a year ago calls for immediate and appropriate treatment. We, therefore, urge you to,


  • Immediate provision to Mumia of anti-viral treatment to cure his Hepatitis C condition that is, as his doctor testified in court, the persistent cause of worsening skin disease, almost certain liver damage, now extreme weight-gain and hunger, and other diabetic-like conditions.
  • Immediate release of all recent blood test results to Mumia’s attorneys.

  • Vigilant monitoring of Mumia for signs of diabetes, especially of his blood sugar level, since a diabetes attack nearly killed Mumia last Spring of 2015.



Phone: 717-787-2500

Fax: 717-772-8284



Phone: 717-728-2573, 717 787 2500



Phone: 570-773-2158

(You have to be transferred to her secretary, and she refuses to give out the fax number or e-mail for the Superintendent. Not surprising, given that this new superintendent has a very heavy military background)

Sponsored by: International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal, MOVE, Educators for Mumia, Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC), Campaign to Bring Mumia Home, International Action Center.

AND JOIN US ON TUES APRIL 12, AT IAC, 147 West 24th Street, 2nd floor, from 6:30 ti 9:00 PM, for a building and informational event for APRIL 22 24 RESISTANCE ACTIONS IN PHILLY. HEAR RAMONA AFRICA WILL SPEAK ON "THE URGENCY OF THE MOMENT"

Raiding the Messenger: IDF Goes After Street Execution Videographer

Army Raids Home of Man Who Filmed Hebron Execution

by IMEMC News & Agencies 

March 31, 2016

Israeli forces, on Tuesday night, broke into the home of the videographer who filmed an Israeli soldier executing a wounded Palestinian in cold blood, in Tel Rumeida, central Hebron, last week.
The videographer, activist Imad Abu Shamsiyya, said that soldiers broke into his home in Tel Rumeida, and inspected the cards of the local and international activists who were staying in the house, as well.

The activists gathered there after Israeli settlers directed death threats against Imad, as they published his photos with “Most Wanted” written on them, in addition to killing threats.

Last Thursday, according to the PNN, Imad recorded a shocking video showing an Israeli soldier, who was later identified as Elor Azarya, executing a helpless 21-year-old Palestinian who was already shot and bleeding, after an Israeli settler told him, “This asshole here is still breathing.”

At the same spot, 21-year-old Ramzi Qassrawi was also killed, with the military claiming that the two attempted a stabbing attack.

As for the soldier, Israeli forces claimed that he was suspended and sent to investigation, while his right-wing government is still defending his claims, saying,

“He did the right thing at the right time.”

VIDEO: Israeli Soldier Who Executed Wounded Palestinian

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Breathless: Palestine's Stifled Generation

Intifada for Dummies: Why a Popular Uprising Is Yet to Take Off?

by Ramzy Baroud  -

March 30, 2016

Whether history moves in a straight or cyclical line, it matters little. The uncontested fact is that it is in constant motion. Thus, the current situation in Palestine is particularly frustrating to a generation that has grown up after the Oslo Peace Accord because they have been brought up within a strange historical phenomenon: where the earth below their feet keeps shrinking and when time stands still.

The nature of the current uprising in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is a testament to that claim. Previous uprisings were massive in their mobilization, clear in their message and decisive in their delivery. Their success or failure is not the point of this discussion, but the fact is that they were willed by the people and, within days, they imprinted themselves on the collective consciousness of Palestinians everywhere.

The current uprising is different; so different, in fact, that many are still hesitating to call it an ‘intifada’; as if intifadas are the outcome of some clear-cut science, an exact formula of blood and popular participation that must be fully satisfied before a eureka moment is announced by some political commentator.

It is different, nonetheless, for there is yet to be a clear sense of direction, a leadership, a political platform, demands, expectations and short and long term strategies. At least that is how the 1987-93 Intifada played out and, to a lesser extent, the 2000-05 al-Aqsa Intifada as well. But is it not possible that the outcomes of these previous intifadas is what is making the current uprising different?

The first Intifada metamorphosed into a worthless peace process which eventually led to the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. A year later, the Palestinian leadership of the PLO was reproduced into the emasculated form of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Since then, the latter has served largely as a conduit for the Israeli Occupation.

The second Intifada had less success than the first. It quickly turned into an armed rebellion, thus marginalizing the popular component of the revolt which is required to cement the collective identity of Palestinians, forcing them to overcome their division and unify behind a single flag and a distinct chant.

This Intifada was crushed by a brutal Israeli army; hundreds were assassinated and thousands were killed in protests and clashes with Israeli soldiers. It was a watershed moment in the relationship between the Israeli government and the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, and between the Palestinian factions themselves.

The late PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, was held hostage by the Israeli army in his Ramallah headquarters. The soldiers taunted him in his office, while blocking his movement for years. Finally, he was slowly poisoned and died in 2004.

Israel then went through the painstaking effort of revamping the PA leadership, flushing out the nonconformists – through murder and imprisonment – and allowing the so-called moderates to operate but, even then, under very strict conditions.

Mahmoud Abbas was elected President of the PA in 2005. His greatest achievements include the cracking down on civil society organizations, ensuring total loyalty towards him: personally, and towards his branch within the Fatah faction. Under Abbas, there has been no revolutionary model for change, no ‘national project’; in fact, no clear definition of nationhood, to begin with.

The Palestinian nation became whatever Abbas wanted it to be. It consisted, largely, of West Bank Palestinians, living mostly in Area A, loyal to Fatah and hungry for international handouts. The more the Abbas nation agreed to play along, the more money they were allowed to rake in.

In 2006, this fragmentation became absolute. Many will recall that period of discord when Hamas was allocated majority of the seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC); but the conflict, which resulted in the violent summer of 2007, had little to do with democracy. The paradigm – of endless ‘peace talks’, generous donors’ money, growing illegal Jewish settlements, etc. – suited both Abbas and the Israelis very well. No one, Hamas especially, were to be allowed to impose a paradigm shift.

Israel immediately besieged Gaza, launched successive wars, and committed numerous war crimes with little criticism emanating from Gaza’s brethren in Ramallah. Bolivia and Venezuela seemed more furious by Israel’s war crimes in Gaza than Mahmoud Abbas’ West Bank clique.

Until October of last year, when the current uprising slowly began building momentum, the situation on the ground seemed at a standstill. In the West Bank, Occupation was slowly normalized in accordance to the formula: occupation and illegal settlements in exchange for money and silence.

Gaza, on the other hand, stood as a model for barbarity, regularly meted out by Israel as a reminder to those in the West Bank that the price of revolt is besiegement, hunger, destruction and death.

It is against this backdrop of misery, humiliation, fear, oppression and corruption that Palestinians arose. They were mostly young people born after Oslo, became politically conscious after the Fatah-Hamas clash, raised in the conflicting worlds of their own leadership co-existing with the Occupation, on one hand, and clashing with other Palestinians on the other.

These youth, however, never perceived Occupation to be normal; never came to terms with the fact that the earth beneath their feet kept shrinking while illegal, massive Jewish cities kept on being erected upon their land; true, they learned to navigate their way across the checkpoints, but never assented to the superiority of their occupier. They abhorred disunity; rejected identity politics and factionalism; never understood why Gaza was being disowned and slowly slaughtered.

This is a generation that is the most educated, yet; most politically savvy and, thanks to the huge leaps in digital media technology, is the most connected and informed of the world around it. The ambitions of these youth are huge, but their opportunities are so limited; their earth has shrunk to the size of a single-file queue before an Israeli military checkpoint, where they are corralled on their way to school, to work and back home. And, like the Israelis who shot at anyone who dared to protest, Abbas imprisons those who attempted to do so.

It is a generation that simply cannot breathe.

The current Intifada is an expression of that dichotomy, of a generation that is so eager to break free, to define itself, to liberate its land, yet resisted by an Old Guard unremittingly holding on so tight to the few perks and dollars they receive in the form of allotments every month.

History must remain in constant motion, and the last six months have been the attempt of an entire generation to move the wheels of history forward, despite a hundred obstacles and a thousand checkpoints.

This might be the most difficult Intifada yet; for never before did Palestinians find themselves so leaderless, yet so ready to break free. The outcome of this tension, will not only define this whole generation, as it defined my generation of the 1987 Intifada, but it will define the future of Palestine altogether.

Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of His books include “Searching Jenin”, “The Second Palestinian Intifada” and his latest “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story”. His website is

Minister Takes Aim at BDS Leaders: Israel's Proposed "Civil Targeted Killings"

Israeli Minster Calls for “Civil Targeted Killings” of BDS Leaders

by Richard Silverstein - Tikun Olam

March 30, 2016

The Yediot Achronot conference attacking BDS has become a veritable carnival of hate. Everyone from delusional Hollywood celebrities (Roseanne Barr) to cabinet ministers, to the leader of the Opposition have pledged fealty to the cause.

But the apogee came yesterday when Transportation Minister Israel Katz called for the “civil targeted killing” of BDS leaders like Omar Barghouti. The phrase he used (sikul ezrahi memukad) derives from the euphemistic Hebrew phrase for the targeted killing of a terrorist (the literal meaning is “targeted thwarting”).

But the added word “civil” makes it something different. Katz is saying that we won’t physically murder BDS opponents, but we will do everything short of that.

One may rightly ask what business a transportation minister has conducting targeted killings, physical or otherwise, against anyone. Though everything in Israel is in service to the national security state, has transportation fallen under that bailiwick as well?

We are entering dangerous territory when an Israeli cabinet minister engages in wordplay that verges on putting a bull’s-eye on the backs of non-violent activists. If there are Israel apologists out there who dismiss the significance of such rhetoric they are sadly mistaken. In this torrid political environment in which Israeli leftists have become criminals and wounded Palestinian youth may be summarily executed in the street, it is only too easy to foresee Palestinian activists like Barghouti having a bounty on their heads.

Does anyone doubt there are scores of Yigal Amirs out there who’d be pleased to strike a blow for their hateful cause by putting a bullet in the head of a Palestinian?

Not to be outdone, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri called for stripping BDS founder Omar Barghouti of his Israeli residency, which he gained in 1994 when he married an Israeli citizen. Deri claimed that Barghouti is employing a scam against Israel because his main residence is Ramallah and not Israel (though he’s pursuing, or has completed, an MA at Tel Aviv University). Given Katz’s ever so veiled threat against him it would be no wonder if Barghouti did choose to value his safety and live where he’s not under threat of death.

In this context, it’s ironic Facebook activists have posted a gag order involving a potential criminal case against Deri himself. It seems that the Israeli Attorney General has been investigating criminal charges of an unspecified nature. It’s important to recall that Deri has been charged with corruption in the past, been convicted, and spent time in prison. However, when his sentence was served, he was reappointed to the leadership of the Shas party, won a seat in the Knesset, and became interior minister. It appears this recycled thief may be up to the same old tricks once more.

Deri’s spiritual boss, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, told an audience of the faithful a few weeks ago that under Jewish law, no Palestinian should be allowed to live in the land of Israel. In other words, he was espousing the ethnic cleansing of Israel, and the expulsion of 20% of its population. Only later did the rabbi explain that he wasn’t, God forbid, proposing that Palestinians be expelled now, but that this would only happen after the Messiah came and Israel was a proper halachic state. Is it any surprise that Deri himself would jump on the band wagon and commence the expulsion by stripping Barghouti of his legal rights to residency?

Israel’s major concert promoter, Shuki Weiss, who plays a major role in combating the cultural boycott against Israel, complained at the Yediot conference that Deri’s interior ministry was demanding that international artists wishing to perform in Israel sign a loyalty oath in order to obtain a visa. The ministry immediately denied the claim. And concert promoters aren’t known for being fonts of truth.

So it’s hard to know what’s the truth in this context. But given how extreme this government is and how petty its leadership, it’s not hard to believe a ministry official would think it was a terrific idea to pressure Elton John to sign a loyalty oath before permitting him to step foot in the Holy Land.

Desperate Clinton Camp Deny Debates to Surging Berners

Clinton, media step up pressure for Sanders to withdraw

by Patrick Martin  - WSWS

30 March 2016

The Hillary Clinton campaign and its backers in the media are increasing the pressure on Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to end his campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Clinton campaign aides waged a full-court media campaign Monday, effectively reneging on a previous agreement to debate Sanders in April and May, declaring that Sanders had violated previous pledges not to engage in “negative” advertising, and claiming that Clinton would clinch the number of delegates required for the nomination by the end of April.

Chief pollster Joel Benenson told CNN that any future debate participation by Clinton would depend on the “tone” set by Sanders in his criticism of Clinton. He was responding to a public letter sent by the Sanders campaign on the weekend reminding Clinton of her agreement to debate Sanders in April, probably in New York City, in advance of the New York primary April 19.

Clinton adviser Karen Finney told CNN Tuesday that “negative attacks” by the Sanders campaign had put the debate deal in question. She was referring to Sanders’ continuing attacks on the role of big money in Democratic and Republican politics and Clinton’s numerous appearances before Wall Street audiences, where she received six-figure speaking fees. The Clinton campaign, for obvious reasons, does not want her close ties to Wall Street to be highlighted during a campaign in New York state.

Benenson also claimed that Clinton was “dominating” the Democratic contest, despite losing, by double-digit margins, six of the last seven contests—Utah, Idaho, Washington State, Alaska, Hawaii and Democrats abroad—winning only in Arizona. Sanders has cut Clinton’s lead among elected delegates to about 240 and is favored to win the Wisconsin primary April 5 and the Wyoming caucuses April 9.

Benenson maintained that Clinton would win New York, the state she represented in the US Senate, on April 19, and win enough delegates in a string of East Coast states April 26—Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island—to obtain the 2,382 convention delegates required for nomination. “He’s going to contest these states, we’re going to contest these states, but the truth is that after April 26 there is just not enough real estate for Senator Sanders to contest the lead that we’ve built,” the Clinton aide said.

This tendentious accounting assumes both Clinton victories in all these states and the support of the vast majority of unelected superdelegates—the party officials and office-holders who have automatic votes at the Democratic National Convention.

The premature claims of victory were bolstered by supposedly “objective” reports in pro-Clinton media outlets like the New York Times, which published an analysis purporting to prove that a Sanders victory had a vanishingly small mathematical chance. The analysis made no assessment of the impact of recent Sanders victories or the inability of the Clinton campaign to win support from young people and large sections of the working class.

The real state of affairs in the Clinton camp, however, is suggested by an article in the Wall Street Journal Sunday reporting that leading Democrats were looking to Vice President Joseph Biden to come to Clinton’s aid, offsetting what the newspaper delicately referred to as “Mrs. Clinton’s vulnerabilities,” particularly with “working-class whites.” The newspaper noted that Clinton had “lost this group to Mr. Sanders by 25 percentage points in Michigan, by 15 points in Ohio and 22 points in North Carolina, exit polls show.”

In appearances on several Sunday television interview programs, Sanders suggested that his campaign would now attempt to gain a hearing from superdelegates who had previously committed themselves to Clinton, arguing that his own campaign would be more effective in mobilizing voters for the Democratic Party, not only in the presidential race, but also in congressional and gubernatorial races further down the ballot.

Sanders reiterated his attacks on “big money” support to Clinton, singling out a fundraising dinner to be hosted by the actor George Clooney, where supporters would pay as much as $353,000 apiece to sit with Clinton and Clooney at the head table.

“It is obscene that Secretary Clinton keeps going to big money people to fund her campaign, and it’s not just this Clooney event,” Sanders told CNN.

While not criticizing Clooney for his involvement, Sanders said that “the people who are coming to this event have undue influence over the political process.”

Polls released over the past ten days suggest that Clinton’s once huge lead over Sanders is closing, if not entirely erased. An NBC News/SurveyMonkey online tracking poll released Tuesday found that Clinton’s lead over Sanders had been cut in half over the past week, from a 12-point lead, 53 percent to 41 percent, to a 6-point lead, 49 percent to 43 percent. A separate survey by Bloomberg showed Sanders with a one-point lead over Clinton, 49 percent to 48 percent.

A CNN/ORC poll last week showed Sanders defeating Republican frontrunner Donald Trump by 20 points in a general election contest, compared to a 12-point Clinton lead over Trump.

The crisis of both of the major capitalist parties was signaled by another survey, this time by Fox News, which found that three of the four leading candidates for the Democratic and Republican nominations, Clinton, Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, had the highest personal unfavorability ratings in the history of public polling on that question.

Only 36 percent of those polled had a favorable opinion of Cruz, an ultra-reactionary who is appealing particularly to Christian fundamentalists, while 53 percent had an unfavorable opinion, for a net rating of negative 17. Clinton’s margin was worse, with 39 percent positive and 58 percent negative, or negative 19. Trump was even lower, with only 31 percent positive and 65 percent negative, or negative 34.

In other words, a Clinton-Trump contest would pit two deeply unpopular candidates against each other—the personification of the corrupt US political establishment versus the crude gangster billionaire—with each side seeking to convince the American public that the other was more repugnant.

The role of Sanders, who has won wide support particularly among young people and sections of the working class because of his avowed “socialism,” is to provide a political facelift to the Democratic Party, one of the twin parties of Wall Street and US imperialism.

This will not be an easy task. According to a UCLA/LA Times poll of voters in California, released Monday, 20 percent of likely Sanders voters said they would not support Clinton in November if she won the nomination. Of those who said they would vote for Clinton, 45 percent said they would do so “reluctantly,” compared to only 35 percent who said they would do so with any enthusiasm.

Sanders’ nominal “socialism” is little more than watered-down liberalism of the 1960s, with no call for social ownership of the means of production and not a shred of opposition to American imperialism and its program of global aggression.

He himself has repeatedly pledged to support Clinton if she is the nominee. The corporate ruling elite has long since taken the measure of the Vermont senator and regards him as a useful political tool, providing he continues to keep his anti-Wall Street rhetoric within bounds.

As James Traub noted in the New York Times Sunday,

“While labeling himself a democratic socialist, [Sanders] is almost elaborately respectful of his political rival Hillary Clinton and the political process… Through figures like him, American democracy permits intense passions to be expressed, contained and, perhaps, vented.”

40th Palestinian Land Day Commemorated

As Palestinians Mark Land Day, Israeli Illegally Controls More Than 85% Of Palestine

by Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) - IMEMC

Wednesday March 30, 2016

The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistic (PCBS), marks the fortieth anniversary of Palestinian Land Day today, March 30, 2016.

Graphic by Jamal Jawabra

Israeli Occupation Authorities control more than 85% of historical Palestine, about 27,000 km2. Arabs comprise 48% of the population, but utilize only 15% of the land.

Israeli Occupation also set up a buffer zone along the border of the Gaza Strip extending over 1,500 m along the eastern border.

Consequently, the zone usurps about 24% of the total area of the Gaza Strip (365 km²), which is one of the most densely populated area in the world with about 5,000 capita/km².

Furthermore, Israeli Occupation maintains tight control over more than 90% of the area of the Jordan Valley, which constitutes 29% of the total area of the West Bank.

Every year, the Palestinian people remember the confiscation of 21 thousand Dunams of land in Al-Jalil (Galilee), Al-Mothallath and Al-Naqab (Negev) on 30 March 1976.

On this day, the Israeli authorities expropriated the land and responded violently to the protestations, killing six young demonstrators.

Jerusalem 2015; Intensive Judaizing

While the Israeli occupation authorities keep demolishing Palestinian houses and denying Palestinians the right to build any new houses, they grant permits to build thousands of housing units in the Israeli settlements in and around Jerusalem.

Only in 2015, they authorized the building of over 12,600 housing units in the Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, in addition to 2,500 hotel rooms.

Moreover, the Israeli occupation authorities ratified regulations to replace the original Arabic names of the streets in the old town of Jerusalem by Hebrew ones.

This inscribes in Israel’s ongoing policy of Occupation of Jerusalem and falsification of its history and geography not to mention the imposition of new demographic facts on the ground.

The Israeli occupation authorities demolished about 152 Palestinian buildings (houses and establishments) and sent hundreds of demolition orders to owners of other buildings; moreover, the Israeli occupation authorities confiscated 546 Dunams of the Palestinian land in the Eesawiyya locality and Shu'fat camp to establish a national park and dumping site for wastes from illegal Jewish settlements.

Israeli Violations: Martyrs, Wounded and Prisoners

The number of martyrs reached 181 martyrs during the year 2015 were 32 martyrs of children and 9 women and 26 martyrs in the Gaza Strip, while the number of injured has risen during the year 2015 about 16,620 wounded, while the number of cases of detention amounted to about 6830 case, including 2,179 children.

Israeli Settlements: Unjust Expansion

There were 413 illegal Israeli constructions in the West Bank (including 150 settlements and 119 outposts) by the end of 2014.

Furthermore, the Israeli occupation authorities approved the building of over 4,500 housing units in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank Except those that were approved in Jerusalem.

Still, these same authorities deprived Palestinians of their right to build and laid obstacles, which undermine any potential urban expansion especially for the Palestinians in Jerusalem and Area "C" which is under full Israeli control.

It should be noted that Area “C” constitutes over 60% of the West Bank area. Israel also erected its Expansion and Annexation Wall, which isolates more than 12% of the West Bank land.

Data indicated that the total number of settlers in the West Bank was 599,901 at the end of 2014, 286,997 of whom in the Jerusalem Governorate (they represent 48% of all settlers in the occupied West Bank). 210,420 of these illegal settlers live in Jerusalem J1 (that part of Jerusalem, which was annexed forcefully by Israel following its occupation of the West Bank in 1967).

In demographic terms, the proportion of settlers to the Palestinian population in West Bank is around 21 settlers per 100 Palestinians compared with 69 settlers per 100 Palestinians in Jerusalem governorate.

Environment: Continuing Degradation

Israeli settlements cause direct damage to the Palestinian environment. They actually discharge 40 million cubic meters (mcm) of wastewater annually into Palestinian valleys and agricultural land.

Only 10% of such water is treated. If compared to the wastewater produced by Palestinians in the West Bank, which stands at 34 mcm per year, Israeli settlers produce five times the Palestinian.

Moreover, the Israeli authorities prevent Palestinians from building their own wastewater treatment plants. On another level, they allocated part of the Palestinian land in Jordan Valley to an Israeli dumpsite of industrial waste.

Consequently, Palestinian agricultural land endured enormous damage not to mention impact on health animals and biodiversity, in addition to the Israeli authorities bulldozed and burned more than 15,300 trees of Palestinian farmers during the year 2015.

Water: Deficiency and Suffering

Like other Arab countries, Palestine suffers from scarcity of water and resources.

However, the situation in Palestine is more complex because of prolonged Israeli occupation, which controls most of the existing water sources and prevents the Palestinians of their right to access their water sources or any alternative sources.

The Israeli occupation controls the majority of renewable water resources totaling 750 MCM (Million Cubic Meter), while Palestinians receive only about 110 MCM.

The Palestinian share from the three groundwater aquifers should be 118 MCM according to Oslo Agreement II. This share was supposed to increase to 200 MCM by the year 2000 had the Interim Agreement been fully implemented.

Buildings: Demolish of Housing Units and Establishments

On the fortieth remembrance of the Land Day, the Israeli occupation violations against the Palestinians continue, in terms of land confiscation, demolition of buildings (housing units and establishments) and forcible displacement of residents. Israeli occupation authorities usurped 6,386 Dunams of Palestinian land in the various governorates of the West Bank in 2015.

Furthermore, they demolished 645 building (houses and establishments), forcibly displacing 2,180 persons in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 1,108 of whom are children.

They also threatened to demolish 780 building, at a time when the needs of housing units for Palestinian increase.

In figures, 60.9% of households in Palestine need to build new housing units over the next decade according to the reported data survey of housing conditions in 2015 (one residential unit or more).

Tourism: Israeli Monopoly

The Israeli narrative is based on falsification of the culture, civilization and history of Palestine. Therefore, the occupation authorities alter Palestinian national treasures and monuments of ancient times.

In figures, 53% of the archeological sites in Palestine are in Area "C", which is under full Israeli control. The Israel occupation prevents any excavating or restoration of these sites for the building of recreational and tourist attractions.

They also create obstacles to prevent Palestinian tourism agencies from organizing proper visits of the Holy Land.

With these restrictions, they give a competitive edge to the Israeli companies that market the Nativity Church in Bethlehem and Deir Quruntol in Jericho, for instance, as part of tourism in Israel.

By granting more facilities to Israeli companies, tourists are ‘advised’ to stay in Israeli hotels as Palestinian areas are ‘denounced as unsafe’. With these measures, Palestinians are deprived of over 75% of potential touristic services revenues.


1. Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics 2015: Israeli settlements in the West Bank, 2014. Ramallah- Palestine

2. Abdullah Al-Hourani Center for Studies and Documentation, Annual Report, 2015.

3. National Office for the Defense of the Land and Resist Settlement, Impact of Israeli Settlements on the Palestinian Environment. 2016

4. Land Research Center report of the Association Arab Studies, Sum of Israeli Violations Against the Palestinian Right to Housing and Land.

5. Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, 2015.