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Jun 07

Five Days for the Cuban Five: Day One

By Samantha Sarra, SpeakOut | Report

From June 4-11th, delegations from Latin America, Canada, Europe and the Caribbean have gathered in Washington DC for the 3rd annual "5 days for the Cuban 5." Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González and René González, also known as the Cuban 5, are five men who were wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and have been serving long unjust prison sentences in the US for the last sixteen years. The "5 days for the Cuban 5" hopes to highlight the injustice of the case as well as the half century of failed US foreign policy and embargo against Cuba.

"We have to demand that this embargo end," said actor and activist Danny Glover at the first day of the international conference. "Our Cuban heroes (the Five) represent the highest standard of love and commitment to their country," explained Glover - who is a long-time supporter of the Cuban Five. "When I see the courage of these men, the courage of the Cuban people and the courage of their families and loved ones, it furthers my commitment to their freedom and their eventual return to their homeland."

It is privilege to be joining and learning from you here in Sarajevo. I especially want to thank Reiner Braun of IALANA and IPB and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung for this opportunity.

As I thought about our marking the murderous hinge moment in Western and world history that began here in Sarajevo 100 years ago, a more recent image came to mind: the cellist of sniper’s alley. At enormous personal risk, he affirmed what had been known as “the spirit of Sarajevo”: beauty and that which is most noble in the human spirit. His simple act illuminated the madness and held forth the vision and hope of civilization. My hope is that our Peace Event will be another step on this path, despite the obstacles on our way - among them NATO Secretary General Rasmussen’s recent visit here to spur the pace of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s  formally joining NATO. Having failed to learn the lessons of Georgia and Ukraine, Cold War ideologies are being reasserting when we should be pursuing Common Security diplomacy, which provided the paradigm for bringing humanity back from the brink of extinction.

A judge at the High Court in Islamabad, Pakistan, has ordered the Pakistani police to open a criminal investigation into the CIA's involvement in a drone strike that killed three people, including a teenager, on December 31 2009.

Ruling in the case of Kareem Khan, a resident of the country’s North Waziristan region whose brother and son were among the dead, Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui orderedpolice to examine whether Jonathan Banks, former CIA station chief in Islamabad, and John Rizzo, former CIA General Counsel, are guilty of committing murder, waging war against Pakistan and offences under the provisions of the Terrorism Act 1997 for their involvement in authorizing the New Years’ Eve strike.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the first media report based on National Security Agency (NSA) contractor and Government Accountability Project (GAP) client Edward Snowden's disclosures. The whistleblower's revelations sparked a necessary debate over privacy and constitutional rights, and continue to expose the agency's intrusive and unconstitutional surveillance programs.

However, critics continue to proclaim that the whistleblower should have "worked within the system" to report the government's domestic surveillance program. This is a disingenuous and false suggestion. Snowden repeatedly raised concerns internally. More importantly, under current law, intelligence community (IC) government contractors lack any effective rights against retaliation when they report government waste, fraud, and abuse.

Jesse Snodgrass, the teenage special needs student arrested in an undercover police operation will receive his high school diploma at the Chaparral High School graduation ceremony on Thursday, June 5, at 6:30 p.m.

The February 2014 Rolling Stone article, “The Entrapment of Jesse Snodgrass” details how Jesse, who suffers from a range of disabilities, was falsely befriended by a police officer who repeatedly asked the boy to provide him drugs. After more than three weeks, 60 text messages and repeated hounding by the officer, Jesse was able to buy half a joint from a homeless man he then gave to his new – and only – “friend,” who had given him twenty dollars weeks before. He did it once again before refusing to accommodate the officer, at which point the officer broke off all ties with the child. Shortly thereafter, Jesse was arrested at Chaparral High Schoolin front of his classmates as part of a sting that nabbed 22 students in all, many of them children with special needs.

The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) released a report today revealing that Walmart received $104 million in taxpayer subsidies over a six-year period due to tax deductions for “performance-based” executive compensation. During that time, eight top executives pocketed more than $298 million in “performance pay” that was fully tax deductible.

The report comes just days before Walmart’s annual shareholder meeting on Friday, June 6.

The study shows that Walmart was able to lower its federal tax payments by $40 million because of lavish pay packages awarded to just one executive— recently retired CEO Michael Duke. Duke pocketed $116 million in stock options and other performance-based compensation between 2009 and 2014.

Project SALAM (Support And Legal Advocacy for Muslims) and the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms (NCPCF) jointly announce the release of a substantial new study, Inventing Terrorists: The Lawfare of Preemptive Prosecution, about the government's post-9/11 strategy of preemptive prosecution of domestic terrorism cases. Inventing Terrorists is the first study to directly examine and critique preemptive prosecution and its abuses. A press conference to discuss the study's findings and conclusions will take place on Monday, June 9 at 11 a.m. at the Masjid As-Salam, 280 Central Avenue in Albany, New York. All media and interested persons are invited to attend.

The 175-page study was researched and written by Albany attorneys Stephen Downs and Kathy Manley, who are co-founders of Project SALAM and officers of NCPCF. In addition to Downs and Manley, speakers at the press conference will include Marwa Elbially, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based NCPCF, and Lynne Jackson, president of Project SALAM and designer of that organization's database used in the study.

In George Orwell's "1984" novel, which deals with the rise of an oppressive national security state, a character exclaims: "Always yell with the crowd, that's what I say. It's the only way to be safe." In America, for the safety and intimacy of mob rule, how easy it is to trade in the abilities to reason critically and ask questions about Bowe Bergdahl.

How simplistic it is to also exchange Berghdal's "due process" for a guilty verdict, accusing him of deserting. But now that political leaders, media pundits, and citizens have yelled he be marched in front of a firing squad or sentenced to life imprisonment, below are thirteen other things you need to know about him and the POW exchange.

General Welsh,

Sir, I write you this day on behalf of the over 37,500 sailor, soldier, marine, airmen, coast guard, service academy, ROTC, OTS/OCS cadet/midshipmen, national guard, reservist and veteran clients of the civil rights organization I lead, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF).Approximately 96% of our MRFF clients identify themselves as practicing, non-fundamentalist Protestants or Roman Catholics. 

This number of those afflicted, or having been afflicted, with fundamentalist Christian religious persecution emanating from their military superiors includes almost 15,000 active duty and veteran members of the United States Air Force as well as more than two dozen current senior ranking military and civilian Pentagon officials. MRFF speaks on their behalf because they fear retribution if they try to speak for themselves. I beg you to hear their gravely concerned voices within the words of this letter, sir.

Why are so many Americans woefully ignorant of their nation's history? That perennial question is raised yet again by Timothy Egan in his latest column on the New York Times website.

To prove that the problem is real, Egan cites two pieces of evidence. The first one surely is cause for concern: "a 2010 report that only 12 percent of students in their last year of high school had a firm grasp of our nation's history" (though historians will surely wish that Egan had added a link to the report, so we could track down the source).