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Former Political Prisoner Geronimo Pratt Dies

Former Political Prisoner Geronimo Pratt Dies - by Stephen Lendman

Reporting his death, AP said:

"Former Black Panther Party leader Elmer 'Geronimo' Pratt" died at age 63 in a small (Tanzania village) "where he had lived for at least half a decade, a friend of Pratt's in Arusha, former Black Panther Pete O'Neal, said."

He lived a peaceful life in Tanzania, O'Neal explained, adding:

"He's my hero. He was and will continue to be. Geronimo was a symbol of steadfast resistance against all (he) considered wrong and improper. His whole life was dedicated to standing opposition to oppression and exploitation....He gave all that he had and his life, I believe, struggling, trying to help people lift themselves up."

His lawyer and longtime friend, Stuart Hanlon, who spent years working for his release, also announced his death, saying:

Doctors on Israel's Forty-Four Year Occupation

Doctors on Israel's Forty-Four Year Occupation - by Stephen Lendman

Under international law, Israel's 44 year occupation is oppressive and illegal for having:

-- attacked a nonbelligerent state;

-- annexed it forcefully;

-- exploited its resources and people;

-- stolen their land and property;

-- violated their human rights by collective punishment, war and numerous crimes against humanity; and

-- failed to recognize Palestinian self-determination under provisions of the December 1960 UN General Assembly Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and all UN resolutions before and thereafter affirming Palestinian self-determination, including:

-- the UN Partition Plan (GA Resolution 181, 1947) granting Jews (with one-third of the population) 56% of historic Palestine, the rest to Palestinians with Jerusalem designated an international city under a UN Trusteeship Council;

America's Addiction: Waging Illegal Wars

America's Addiction: Waging Illegal Wars - by Stephen Lendman

With regard to war, international and constitutional laws are clear. Under the Constitution's Article I, Section 8, only Congress may declare war, not the president. That, in fact, last happened on December 8, 1941 after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. As a result, all subsequent US wars have been illegal, including Obama's against Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya.

Moreover, the UN Charter explains under what conditions violence and coercion (by one state against another) are justified.

Article 2(3) and Article 33(1) require peaceful settlement of international disputes. Article 2(4) prohibits force or its threatened use. And Article 51 allows the "right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member....until the Security Council has taken measures to maintain international peace and security."

Forty-Four Years of Occupation

Forty-Four Years of Occupation - by Stephen Lendman

On March 7, Palestinian Prisoners Society head Qadura Fares presented a paper to the UN International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, addressing the plight of political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention facilities, saying:

Palestine "has been under criminal occupation for 44 years. During that time, (Israel) committed the worst crimes against humanity, violating every international instrument. The occupier has killed tens of thousands of our struggling people, most of them defenseless civilians. There have been over 800,000 instances of imprisonment. Tens of thousands of people have been injured," 30% left with permanent disabilities.

Moreover, thousands of homes, crops, and other property have been destroyed. "All this has been done in full view of the world." Even Israeli rabbis "legitimized the slaughter of Palestinian babies (claiming they'll) grow up to become enemies."

States Harming People Most in Need

States Harming People Most in Need - by Stephen Lendman

In 1996, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation ("welfare reform") Act (PRWORA) passed. Until then, needy households got welfare payments (since 1935) through Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), a program protecting states by sharing costs of increased caseloads during hard times.

Thereafter, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) set five year time limits, allocating fixed block grants to states to administer at their own discretion, putting needy people at risk during economic downturns when little or no additional federal funding is forthcoming.

TANF also requires recipients to work or be trained to qualify, even during hard times like now when skilled workers can't find jobs, let alone single mothers with young children needing them as caregivers in their most formative years.

Escalating an Asian Arms Race

Escalating an Asian Arms Race - by Stephen Lendman

Together with South Korea, America's military plans expanding its Asian footprint on Jeju Island with a strategic naval base for Aegis class attack ships. They're equipped with sophisticated SM-3 interceptor missiles intended mainly for offense, as well as powerful computers and tracking radar for first-strike capability against enemy targets.

In 2002, Seoul announced construction plans to accommodate Pentagon planners despite strong local opposition. Located south of Korea proper, Jeju Island is its only special autonomous province, situated in the Korea Strait, Southwest of Jeollanam-do Province it separated from in 1946.

Japan lies Northeast, China due West. Jeju is in central Northeast Asia, important for reasons other than military.

Netanyahu's War on Gaza

Netanyahu's War on Gaza - by Stephen Lendman

Governing lawlessly by any standard, Netanyahu waged war on Gaza since becoming Israel's prime minister for the second time on March 31, 2009.

Under his leadership, May 31 marked the anniversary of Israel's barbaric slaughter of nine Freedom Flotilla activists in international waters, injuring dozens more trying to deliver thousands of tons of vital aid to besieged Gazans, suffocating illegally since June 2007.

At the time, Defense Minister Ehud Barak blamed Flotilla organizers for inciting the attack, while his deputy, Danny Alalon, said they were connected to international terrorist organizations, trying to smuggle in arms. In fact, none were on board nor on other aid ships trying to breach Israel's lawless blockade.

Caught red-handed in a bald-faced lie, Haaretz writer Gideon Levy said:

Waging War at Home and Abroad While Pledging Peace

Waging War at Home and Abroad While Pledging Peace - by Stephen Lendman

Promising peace on May 19, Obama wages war against Middle East/North African and Central Asian states, as well as Muslim Americans at home. Earlier articles explained they've:

-- been targeted;

-- hunted down;

-- bogusly entrapped by stings, false evidence or other means;

-- rounded up;

-- held in detention;

-- kept in isolation;

-- denied bail;

-- restricted in their right to counsel;

-- tried on secret evidence;

-- convicted on bogus charges;

-- given long sentences; and

-- incarcerated for extra harsh treatment as political prisoners in supermax confinement or segregated Communication Management Units (CMUs).

Public Banking: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

Public Banking: An Idea Whose Time Has Come - by Stephen Lendman

The 1913 Federal Reserve Act let powerful bankers usurp America's money system in violation of the Constitution's Article I, Section 8, giving only Congress the power to "coin Money (and) regulate the Value thereof...." Thereafter, powerful bankers victimized working Americans, using money, credit and debt for private self-enrichment by bankrolling and colluding with Congress and administrations to implement laws favoring them.

As a result, decades of deregulation, outsourcing, economic financialization, and casino capitalism followed, eroding purchasing power, producing asset bubbles, record budget and national debt levels, and depression-sized unemployment far higher than reported numbers, manipulated to look better.

Memorial and Veterans Day Hypocrisy

Memorial and Veterans Day Hypocrisy - by Stephen Lendman

Annually America's warrior tradition is commemorated in major media editorials and op-eds, honoring fallen men and women for reasons not explained. More on that below.

On May 29, The New York Times headlined, "Among the Graves This Memorial Day," saying:

Besides families mourning soldiers "recently lost in Iraq or Afghanistan....(t)here is still a generation mourning friends, relatives and fellow servicemen lost in Vietnam, Korea and World War II...."

"Whatever you make of the wars in which those soldiers fought, whatever you make of war itself, their sacrifices are real and permanent," omitting what most needs explained about imperial arrogance responsibility for lost lives.

The Chicago Tribune headlined, "Hoist a glass for Red," saying:

Obama Plans Gutting Regulations for Corporate Favorites

Obama Plans Gutting Regulations for Corporate Favorites - by Stephen Lendman

Promising change after eight Republican dominated years, Obama betrayed the public trust by special favors given business at the expense of essential growing needs.

Spurning them, in fact, he shows contempt for the things he rhetorically supports, proving he's no different from the worst of the bipartisan criminal class, serving wealth and power interests only.

As a result, he backed Wall Street's financial coup d'etat, looted the nation's wealth for them, institutionalized speculation and corporate racketeering, wrecked the economy, and consigned millions to impoverishment without jobs, homes, savings, social services, or futures.

Now more is planned, first announced in a January 18, 2011 Executive Order, (EO) titled, "Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review" to benefit business, no matter the public cost.

Vermont Enacts Conditional Universal Healthcare Coverage

Vermont Enacts Conditional Universal Healthcare Coverage - by Stephen Lendman

Numerous previous articles discussed Obamacare, described accurately as a rationing scheme to enrich insurers, drug companies and large hospital chains in lieu of universal single payer coverage.

Obama hailed its March 2010 passage as answering "the call of history." In fact, Ralph Nader was right calling it a "pay-or-die system that is the disgrace of the Western world," costing double what other Western countries spend and delivering less, rationing care to enrich corporate providers while making a dysfunctional system worse.

Under it, junk insurance policies leave millions underinsured. Costs remain out-of-control. Insurers can still deny care by delaying, contesting, preventing or over-charging people from accessing it. Yet everyone must be covered or penalized if opt out, a provision many states are contesting as a lawless unconstitutional infringement.

Encircling Russia with US Bases

Encircling Russia with US Bases - by Stephen Lendman

In 1991, after the Soviet Union dissolved, everything changed but stayed the same. As a result, today's stakes are far greater, presenting much larger threats to world peace.

In America, neocons are still dominant. Obama is more belligerent than Bush, waging four wars and various proxy ones. The Israeli Lobby, Christian Right, and other extremist elements drive them. Conflict is preferred over diplomacy.

Congressional majorities support Washington's imperial agenda, including global militarization against potential challengers and America's main rivals - China and Russia, encircling them belligerently with bases and strategic weapons. It's a policy fraught with danger.

NATO has 28 member states, including 10 former Soviet Republics and Warsaw Pact countries. Prospective new candidates include Georgia, Ukraine, and potentially others later to more tightly encircle Russia and China.

Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Anti-Union Law

Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Anti-Union Law - by Stephen Lendman

Since taking office on January 3, Republican Governor Scott Walker waged war on public workers and their unions, aiming to restrict collective bargaining rights to wage negotiations before ending them altogether.

He also demanded draconian health insurance and pension contribution increases, doubling them for state employees during hard times when they're already strapped to make ends meet. Doing so called for pay cuts ranging from 8 - 20% ahead of more planned reductions coming.

On March 9, a protracted Senate battle ended when hard-line Republicans violated Wisconsin's open meetings law, requiring 24 hours notice prior for special sessions unless giving it is impossible or impractical.

More Myth than Massacre at Srebrenica

More Myth than Massacre at Srebrenica - by Stephen Lendman

Headlines explaining former Serbian General Ratko Mladic's May 27 arrest allege his 1995 responsibility for massacring 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica. True or false is at issue. More on that below.

Meanwhile, inflammatory accounts already convicted him by accusation, including New York Times writers Dan Bilefsky and Doreen Carvajal headlining, "Serbia Says Jailed Mladic Will Face War Crimes Trial," saying:

Arresting him "signal(ed) Serbia's intention of finally escaping the isolation it brought on itself during the Balkan wars," ones Western media, including The Times, consistently misreported on throughout the 1990s, culminating in NATO's 1999 war of aggression, falsely called humanitarian intervention.

US Trip Bolsters Netanyahu's Popularity

US Trip Bolsters Netanyahu's Popularity - by Stephen Lendman

A previous article called Netanyahu's government Israel's worst ever, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/01/netanyahus-government-israels-wors...

Allied with Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu and ultra-Orthodox Shas, extremist partners, their coalition Knesset is hardline, racist and lawless, co-opting weak opposition members to go along most often to get along.

As a result, Israelis, Palestinians and regional Arabs suffer from policies endorsing belligerence, occupation and repression, a combination spurning democratic values and peace, let alone a viable independent Palestine.

Yet following his US trip, Netanyahu's perhaps more popular than ever according to a new Haaretz/Dialog poll. It found:

-- 47% of Israelis called his visit successful compared to 10% saying he failed;

Washington's War on Chavez

Washington's War on Chavez - by Stephen Lendman

Since George Bush took office in January 2001, efforts to oust Chavez failed three times:

-- in April 2002 for two days, aborted by mass street protests and support from Venezuela's military, notably its middle-ranked officer corps;

-- the 2002 - 2003 general strike and oil management lockout, causing severe economic disruptions; and

-- the failed August 2004 national recall referendum, Chavez prevailing with a 59% majority.

Nonetheless, disruptive activities continue, including malicious propaganda, CIA subversion, funding opposition forces, sanctions, and militarizing the region, notably in Colombia as well as gunboat diplomacy by reactivating the Latin American/Caribbean Fourth Fleet for the first time since 1950 despite no regional threat.

Netanyahu Spurns Peace

Netanyahu Spurns Peace - by Stephen Lendman

Calling for Palestinian capitulation, not peace and liberation, Netanyahu delivered a litany of lies, fabrications, misstatements, and half-truths to AIPAC members on May 23, saying:

-- "Israel is unjustly accused of not wanting peace with the Palestinians. Nothing could be further from the truth." In fact, he once called the peace process "a waste of time," governing accordingly to avoid it.

-- Peace "can only come through....mutual trust," he said, adding that he envisions "peace in which a demilitarized Palestinian state recognizes the Jewish state." In fact, they're preconditions solely for them, no other states with which Israel has diplomatic relations, including peace treaty terms with Egypt and Jordan.

In Saakashvili's Georgia, the Bloom Is Off the Rose

In Saakashvili's Georgia, the Bloom Is Off the Rose - by Stephen Lendman

Since May 21, anti-goverment protests rocked Georgia. Organized by an alliance of opposition parties, they erupted initially in September 2007 for early elections and democratic change, as well as ending corruption and police state terror. More on current protests below.

In 2003, Georgia's bloodless "Rose Revolution" replaced Edouard Shevardnadze with Mikhail Saakashvili, a totalitarian US-installed puppet with ties to other NATO countries and Israel.

Shevardnadze became a liability when he began dealing with Russia on energy pipelines and privatizations. Funded by the State Department, US intelligence, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), George Soros, and Freedom House, efforts to replace him played out as follows.

Spanish Voters Reject Austerity

Spanish Voters Reject Austerity - by Stephen Lendman

Since mid-May, Spain's M-15 movement began protesting for "Real Democracy Now," drawing large numbers of students, activists, unemployed workers, and other "los indignados" (the outraged ones) on streets throughout the country, defying a ban ahead of May 22 municipal and regional elections.

Tens of thousands said "No nos moveran" (We shall not be moved), opposing government imposed austerity to repay bankers at their expense.

Experiencing its worse economic crisis in decades, official figures show around 45% of Spanish youths unemployed, a crisis affecting all workers facing worsening, not improving conditions, some of the worst in Europe.

Obama Genuflects to AIPAC

Obama Genuflects to AIPAC - by Stephen Lendman

Edward Said once called AIPAC "the most powerful and feared lobby in Washington." For years, it's "drawn on a well-organized, well-connected, highly visible, successful, and wealthy Jewish population," subverting potential opposition.

As a result, fear and respect "for AIPAC (exists) all over the country, but especially in Washington, where in a matter of hours, almost the entire Senate can be marshaled into signing a letter to the president on Israel's behalf. Who is going to oppose AIPAC and continue to have a career in Congress, or" to represent the Palestinian cause "when nothing concrete can be offered by that cause to anyone who stands up to AIPAC?"

Deferentially, each year, US politicians, including presidents, flock to its annual conference, paying homage to Israel and its influence.

Alleged Obama - Netanyahu Rift

Alleged Obama - Netanyahu Rift - by Stephen Lendman

After Obama's May 18 speech called for establishing a Palestinian state within 1967 borders, world headlines suggested a rift with Netanyahu, misinterpreting what he meant. More on that below.

On May 17, in fact, New York Times writers Mark Landler and Helene Cooper headlined, "As Uprisings Transform Mideast, Obama Aims to Reshape the Peace Debate," saying:

Ahead of his speech, White House press secretary Jay Carney said he'd offer "some specific new ideas about US policy toward the region."

Unidentified officials also suggested he might endorse a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. Doing so, however, would represent "less of a policy shift than a signal" that Washington wants Israel to make concessions to restart peace talks - a gesture, whether or not substantive with teeth.

On May 17, after meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah, Obama said:

Extending Key Patriot Act Provisions

Extending Key Patriot Act Provisions - by Stephen Lendman

On October 13, 2001 New York Times writers Robin Toner and Neil Lewis headlined, "A NATION CHALLENGED: CONGRESS; House Passes Terrorism Bill Much Like Senate's, but With 5-Year Limit," saying:

The House gave "the government broad new powers for the wiretapping, surveillance and investigation of terrorism suspects. But in recognition of many lawmakers' fears of the potential for government overreaching and abuse, the House also included a five-year limit after which many of those powers would expire."

On October 26, George Bush signed it into law, prompting Center for Constitutional Rights senior litigation attorney Nancy Chang to ask, "What's So Patriotic About Trampling on the Bill of Rights?" saying:

Killings, Detentions and Torture in Egypt

Killings, Detentions and Torture in Egypt - by Stephen Lendman

On February 9, London Guardian writer Chris McGreal headlined, "Egypt's army 'involved in detentions and torture,' " saying:

Military forces "secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass (anti-Mubarak) protests began, (and) at least some of these detainees have been tortured, according to testimony gathered by the Guardian."

Moreover, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and other human rights organizations cited years of army involvement in disappearances and torture. Former detainees confirmed "extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organized campaign of intimidation." Electric shocks, Taser guns, threatened rapes, beatings, disappearances, and killings left families grieving for loved ones.

Mixed Reactions to Obama's Middle East Speech

Mixed Reactions to Obama's Middle East Speech - by Stephen Lendman

Perhaps one way to view Obama's speech is saying you can please all the people some of the time, some of them all the time, but not all of them all the time. World reactions were indeed mixed, though policies, not posturing, are key.

Obama's, in fact, have no ambiguity, including imperial wars and rock-solid support for Israel. However, not everyone believes it, including the Zionist Organization of America, the oldest American one, founded in 1897.

On May 19, its press release headlined, "ZOA: AIPAC Should Rescind Invitation for Obama to Speak," saying:

On the Chopping Block: Federal Worker Pensions

On The Chopping Block: Federal Worker Pensions - by Stephen Lendman

Bipartisan support endorses ending vital social benefits incrementally, principally Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, healthcare for those who can't afford it, and public pensions.

Notably, deep Medicare cuts were made. Much more is planned, including slashing Medicaid. Now federal pensions are being targeted. Civilian federal employees receive benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), consisting of three components:

-- a FERS annuity defined benefit plan;

-- mandatory Social Security participation; however most Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employees aren't part of Social Security unless they qualify separately from additional private sector employment; and

-- the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a 401(k) type defined contribution plan.

Obama's Middle East Hypocrisy

Obama's Middle East Hypocrisy - by Stephen Lendman

Since taking office in January 2009, Obama broke every major campaign promise, including relevant ones to his May 19 Middle East speech; namely:

-- "hope;"

-- "change;"

-- peace;

-- democratic values;

-- closing Guantanamo in one year;

-- ending torture, illegal spying, and detention without trial;

-- "a new era of openness;"

-- willingness to meet individually with Iranian, Syrian, Venezuelan, Cuban, and North Korean leaders;

-- supporting Israeli and Palestinian efforts to "fulfill their national goals: two states living side by side in peace and security;" and

-- on Afghanistan saying (October 27, 2007): "I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this (and the Iraq) war(s). You can take that to the bank," and by implication not begin new ones.

Stealing Palestinian Land Dunam by Dunam

Stealing Palestinian Land Dunam by Dunam - by Stephen Lendman

One dunam is 1,000 square meters, four dunams to an acre. Israel is stealing them incrementally to control all valued Palestinian land, dispossessing indigenous people illegally in the process.

B'Tselem is the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories. In May, it published a comprehensive report titled, "Dispossession & Exploitation: Israel's policy in the Jordan Valley & northern Dead Sea," saying:

Both areas contain "the largest land reserves in the West Bank," covering 1.6 million dunams or 28.8% of the Territory. It's home to 65,000 Palestinians in 29 communities, as well as another 15,000 in dozens of small Bedouin ones. In addition, about 9,400 Israelis live in 37 settlements, including seven outposts.

America's Student Loan Racket: Soaring Default Rates

America's Student Loan Racket: Soaring Default Rates - by Stephen Lendman

An earlier article discussed Permanent Debt Bondage from America's Student Loan Racket," accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2011/01/permanent-debt-bondage-from-americ...

It explained government/corporate complicity to rip off students for profit, a racket continuing under Obama. His July 2010 Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act perpetuated the scam. It enriches providers, entrapping millions of students permanently in debt, because rising tuition and fee amounts plus interest, service charges, and late payment or collection agency penalties are too onerous to repay.

It's part of the grand scheme, of course, to transfer maximum public wealth to America's super-rich already with too much. Ongoing for over three decades, it accelerated under Obama, a corrupted Wall Street/war profiteer tool, destroying America for power and profit.

America's Appalling Human Rights Record

America's Appalling Human Rights Record - by Stephen Lendman

Coincidental with high-level US - China May 9 and 10 talks, the Atlantic magazine quoted Hillary Clinton calling China's human rights record "deplorable." She also suggested possible unrest erupting like in the Middle East, then added:

"They're worried, and they are trying to stop history, which is a fool's errand. They cannot do it. But they're going to hold it off as long as possible," ignoring America's scandalous human rights record, by far the world's worse.

Each year, the State Department publishes human rights reports for over 190 countries. Its April 8-released 2010 China assessment can be accessed through the following link:

http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/160451.pdf

Unsparing in its harshness, it calls China "an authoritarian state in which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) constitutionally is the paramount authority," practicing:

-- "Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life;

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