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The Senate Intelligence Committee has released its long-awaited report investigation into CIA rendition, detention and interrogation techniques. The Number One finding of the Report is that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques was not effective at either: (1) obtaining accurate information; or (2) gaining detainee cooperation. Thus, the Number One finding of the Report is that "we tortured some folks" as President Obama has said, for no reason at all.
Senator Dianne Feinstein agrees with Obama that the USA tortured some folks. The Report contains Feinstein’s conclusion that "CIA detainees were tortured." (Report, Foreword pg. 4.) Most likely due to political pressure, it is only Feinstein’s personal conclusion that the USA tortured some folks, and not a finding of the Report.
Canadian academics discussed the origin of the current crisis and civil war in Eastern Ukraine and the larger geopolitical context of the Ukrainian crisis. They concluded that the reconciliation in Ukraine, if it ever happens, will be a very difficult and long process.
A very informative half-day conference on the current situation in Ukraine took place at the University of Ottawa on December 4, 2014. It was an occasion for the academic community and the public at large to analyze and discuss the origin of the current crisis and civil war in Eastern Ukraine and the larger geopolitical context of the Ukrainian crisis, involving the West and Russia.
The conference was titled "United Ukraine? The Euromaidan revolution and the Donbas rebellion in domestic and international perspectives." It was initiated and organized by Halyna Mokrushyna, part-timeprofessor of sociology at the University of Ottawa, with the support of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and The Sociology and Anthropology Graduate Students Association of the University of Ottawa.
I've been in Ferguson since November 22, and I don't think a day has gone by where there hasn't been a protest, most often multiple protests. There may be one at the Ferguson police station, and another in the St. Louis Shaw neighborhood, just south of the City Center, or perhaps on one of the campuses: Washington University, St. Louis University, the University of Missouri St. Louis, and/or out in Clayton or West County.
At 2pm, on Wednesday, December 10 - International Human Rights Day - 70 medical students at the Washington University Medical School conducted a moving protest and die-in, right in the main atrium entrance to the university. This was part of the nationwide #WhiteCoats4BlackLives protest that reportedly took place at some 80 different medical schools across the U.S.
Washington, D.C.- News that the Obama administration is "changing its relationship with the people of Cuba" is due to the leftward shift in Latin America that has increasingly isolated the United States politically in the region, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. The Obama administration announced the changes following Cuba's release of USAID contractor Alan Gross and an unnamed "intelligence asset," and the U.S. release of the three remaining members of the "Cuban Five" who were imprisoned for espionage after working to disrupt plots by Cuban exile extremists based in the U.S. Cuba is also reportedly releasing 53 other political prisoners.
"This historic shift is a direct result of the United States' increasing isolation in the region," Weisbrot said. "Relations between Latin America and the Obama administration have been the worst probably of any U.S. administration in decades. This will help, but new sanctions against Venezuela will also raise questions in the hemisphere about whether this is a change in direction or merely a giving up on a strategy that has failed for more than 50 years.
Spending Bill Allows Legalization of Marijuana Possession in Washington, D.C. to Move Forward, but Prevents Taxing and Regulating Marijuana like Alcohol
Momentum Builds Nationally to End the Failed War on Drugs
Washington, DC - The final “cromnibus” federal spending bill that Congress passed over the weekend contains historic language prohibiting the US Justice Department from spending any money to undermine state medical marijuana laws.
The spending bill also includes a bipartisan amendment that prohibits the DEA from blocking implementation of a federal law passed last year by Congress that allows hemp cultivation for academic and agricultural research purposes in states that allow it. It also contains an amendment allowing Washington, DC’s voter-approved initiative legalizing marijuana possession and home cultivation for personal use to move forward, but prohibits DC policymakers from using any local or federal 2015 funding to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.
In February 2012, in Sanford, Florida, George Zimmerman killed unarmed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder, but claimed he had acted in self-defense. Supporters of Zimmerman, including many self-identifying racists and hate groups, donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend on legal defense. The money worked. Zimmerman was acquitted.
The lawyer who helped Zimmerman get out of this charge was Mark O'Mara, a $400-per-hour criminal defense attorney. According to the Huffington Post, O'Mara "volunteered to represent Zimmerman at no charge just weeks after he was charged with the murder."
Washington DC - The developing world saw a record $991 billion leave their countries due to corrupt practices and corporate tax evasion in 2012, according to a new report by Global Financial Integrity (GFI). GFI refers to this massive non-taxed loss as illicit financial flows and reports developing countries lost $6.6 trillion between 2003 and 2012. Such losses are growing at 9.4% per year. The report shows links between illicit flows and global poverty: developing and emerging countries lose 11 times more money to illicit flows than they receive in official aid.
"The poorest countries in the world are losing more money than they receive in aid," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, a religious anti-poverty group. "If we take Global Financial Integrity's findings seriously, we can address extreme poverty in our lifetimes."
Democrats, liberals, and progressives (the DLP) will have to unite if they are to win the 2016 elections and those beyond. The United States needs to move in new directions rather than follow the Republican mission of restoring a golden past that never existed, and a unified DLP is the main route for the nation to recognize and act on the challenging realities emerging.
An important lesson from 2014 electoral defeats is that getting voters out is an insufficient means of winning an election, certainly not one that seeks to deal with the big changes occurring in the United States. Instead, to determine election outcomes, the DLP must attract a majority of the almost 40 percent of voters uncommitted to either party, a percentage that is larger than those committed to either of the two competing parties. The uncommitted will have to be won over to DLP perceptions and prescriptions, and given a realistic picture of the United States' emerging difficulties.
I first met Eric Holder during the Clinton years when he was serving as Deputy Attorney General. Back then, my community was deeply troubled by FBI harassment, the government's use of "secret evidence" to detain individuals, and profiling of Muslim or Arab-looking individuals at airports around the country.
Working with then Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Bill Lann Lee, the Department of Justice convened a series of meetings, some chaired by Attorney General Janet Reno, others by Holder, that provided us with the opportunity to address each of these concerns. Holder was responsive. Subjective airport profiling diminished, meetings were organized between FBI field offices and leaders of the Arab American community, and, after a case-by-case review, most of the 23 Arabs who had been held on "secret evidence" were released.
Vienna, Austria - A pair of conferences here Dec. 6-9 have tried to raise public and government awareness of nuclear weapons.
The first, a Civil Society Forum put on by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, brought together NGOs, parliamentarians, and activists of all stripes to try and boost morale and renew enthusiasm in efforts to ban the bomb.