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The proof is in the proofs: US Spy Sats See Everything, Except when the Government Says They Didn’t

By Dave Lindorff

 

            There is something fishy going on in the way the US is talking about civilian plane crashes that are in some way linked, or said to be linked to Russia.

 

Don't Put Killers on Cereal Boxes

Online petition campaigns were launched this week to stop Wal-Mart from selling Israeli soldier Halloween costumes and to get Wheaties cereal to start putting U.S. soldiers on its cereal boxes -- boxes known for featuring photos of outstanding athletes.

The two campaigns have no relation to each other. Wheaties has not, to my knowledge, indicated the slightest interest in doing what the petition asks it to do.

I'd like Wal-Mart and every other store to stop selling all (not just Israeli) military and every other sort of armed, killer costume, including science-fiction futuristic Star Wars and any other. Sure, it's a particular problem that the U.S. government gives Israel billions of dollars in free weapons every year with which to attack civilians, and that presidential candidates in the United States behave as if they're campaigning to represent Israel. But if you oppose celebrating murder, including organized state-sanctioned uniformed murder, then you oppose everything that normalizes and encourages it.

So, of course, I also oppose glorifying "our troops" on cereal boxes. For one thing, it conflates the idea of an athlete with the idea of a soldier (which I use here as shorthand for sailor, Marine, airman, drone pilot, mercenary, special force, etc., etc.). An athlete doesn't kill anyone, maim anyone, turn anyone's house to rubble, traumatize any children, overthrow anyone's government, throw any regions of the world into chaos, produce radical violent groups that hate my country, drain the public treasury of $1,000,000,000,000 a year, justify the stripping away of civil liberties in the name of wars for freedom, devastate the natural environment, drop napalm or white phosphorus, use DU, imprison people without charge, torture, or send missiles into weddings and hospitals killing one vaguely-identified victim for every 10 people murdered. An athlete plays sports.

Note that I'm also not proposing that we put troops on cereal boxes with devil horns inked onto their heads, blaming them for the faults of the whole society into which they were born. Sure, I blame them. Sure, I'd rather celebrate conscientious objectors. But there is an almost universal delusion in our culture which holds that when you blame someone for something, you exonerate everyone else. So, although it makes not the slightest sense, people interpret blaming a soldier for participating in a war as un-blaming the presidents, Congress members, propagandists, profiteers, and everyone else who helped make that war happen. In reality, blame is a limitless quantity, and everyone gets some, including me. But in the fantasyland we live in, you can't go around blaming anyone for something done by many people, unless you are allowed a paragraph of explanation. And, besides, I'd start with all the presidents, Congress members, etc., as war criminals before reaching any rank-and-file in the list of candidates for cereal box condemnation.

Also, "our troops," are simply not our troops, not collectively. Many of us vote against, petition against, demonstrate against, write against, and organize against the use and the expansion and the existence of the military. One wishes it were needless to say, but this does not suggest some sort of hatred for the individuals who are soldiers, the majority of whom say that economic option limitations was one big factor in their joining up, and many of whom believe what they are told about doing good for the places they invade. Nor of course does opposition to militarism imply some sort of twisted support for the militarism of some other nation or group. Imagine disliking soccer and consequently being denounced for supporting some other soccer team. Opposing war is the same way -- it actually means opposing war, not routing for the "team" opposed by someone else.

"Team" is a horrible metaphor for a military. The military can involve lots of teamwork, but it has been a century now since a war involved two teams competing on a battlefield. In World War II and ever since, wars have been fought in people's towns, and the majority of the victims have been civilians not signed up on any team. When groups like Veterans For Peace speak out against further participation in war, on the grounds that war is the unjustifiable, counter-productive slaughter of men, women, and children, they do so out of love for soldiers and potential future soldiers. Of course, many other veterans do not share that belief, or do not voice it aloud or publicly if they do. Perhaps not unrelated is the fact that the leading cause of death of U.S. soldiers sent into recent and current wars is suicide. What more profound statement that something is amiss could be made than that? What could I possibly say to even approach it?

Here's the text of the petition in favor of putting troops on cereal boxes:

"The Wheaties Box is an iconic image in America. It celebrates our best, our brightest, and those achieving high honors on the athletic field. Isn't it time to honor another set of American heroes? Our troops who served their country and gave their all, deserve the same honor as our great athletes."

In fact our brightest and most creative intellects are not honored at all on Wheaties. Neither are our firemen and women, our emergency crews, our environmentalists, our teachers, our children, our poets, our diplomats, our farmers, our artists, our actors and actresses. No. It's just athletes. If you think troops deserve an honor, clearly it is not, in fact, the same as athletes. And what of those of us who agree with President Kennedy ("War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today") -- Should we get our heroes on cereal boxes, too?

"Imagine the national pride of seeing a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor on the Wheaties box. General Mills, proud maker of Wheaties, can make this a new tradition. Next to the sacrifice these heroes and their families have made, it's a small honor. But in our celebrity-obsessed culture, it can be a new tradition we all can be proud to share."

It's just not true that we would all be proud. Some of us would deem it fascistic. Of course, we could just choose not to buy that cereal, while Anderson Cooper and anyone else who despises conscientious objectors could just not buy any cereal box honoring that tradition. But this petition is not proposing to force Wheaties to honor soldiers, just recommending it. Well, I'm just recommending against it.

"General Mills, we are asking you to please add servicemembers [sic] who have been honored for their distinct service and heroism, to your rotation of those recognized on the Wheaties Box. We don't do enough to honor those who served, especially those people who gave the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield. And while an image on a box of cereal may not seem like much, it's a gesture that says so much about what we value. It's the type of gesture we need to see happen more often. We hope General Mills will show us that these men and women are worth recognizing on their iconic brand. Please sign and share the petition telling General Mills to place our honored heroes from the military on their Wheaties box."

The U.S. military spends a fortune in public tax dollars advertising itself on race cars and in ceremonies at football games, and so on. Were Wheaties to pick up on this idea and profit from it by making the military pay, that would be bad enough. Doing it for free would be worse. But I don't think the military would pay for it. The military advertises the generic faceless troop, not an actual specific soldier. Many veterans are essentially abandoned by the military, denied healthcare, left homeless, and -- again -- in many cases doomed to suicide.

During the war on Vietnam, recipients of medals of honor, angrily threw them back, rejecting what they had been part of. Any actual specific war hero could do that. And then where would Wheaties be?

Once in recent years the military tried to honor a particular flesh-and-blood soldier, and at the same time to merge its image with that of athletes. The soldier's name was Pat Tillman. He had been a football star and had famously given up a multi-million dollar football contract in order to join the military and do his patriotic duty to protect the country from evil terrorists. He was the most famous actual troop in the U.S. military, and television pundit Ann Coulter called him "an American original virtuous, pure, and masculine like only an American male can be."

Except that he came to no longer believe the stories that had led him to enlist, and Ann Coulter stopped praising him. On September 25, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tillman had become critical of the Iraq war and had scheduled a meeting with the prominent war critic Noam Chomsky to take place when he returned from Afghanistan, all information that Tillman's mother and Chomsky later confirmed. Tillman couldn't confirm it because he had died in Afghanistan in 2004 from three bullets to the forehead at short range, bullets shot by an American.

The White House and the military knew Tillman had died from so-called friendly fire, but they falsely told the media he'd died in a hostile exchange. Senior Army commanders knew the facts and yet approved awarding Tillman a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion, all based on his having died fighting the enemy. They would no doubt have also approved his photo for a Wheaties box.

And then where would the Wheaties thank-a-warrior campaign have been when the truth about Tillman's death and the truth about Tillman's views came out? I say: Wheaties, do not risk it. The Pentagon has not risked it since Tillman. Its generals (McChrystal, Petraeus) inevitably attract the spotlights and inevitably disgrace themselves. No rank-and-file troops are put forward as "icons." They're just used to justify massive spending "for the troops" that goes to weapons profiteers and not to one single troop.

The thought of blood just doesn't go with breakfast cereal, Wheaties, and even the thought that this proposal came from somewhere in this country is enough to make me slightly nauseated.

* Thanks to D Nunns for calling the Wheaties thing to my attention.


Is War Beautiful?

"War Is Beautiful" is the ironic title of a beautiful new book of photographs. The subtitle is "The New York Times Pictorial Guide to the Glamour of Armed Conflict." There's an asterisk after those words, and it leads to these: "(In which the author explains why he no longer reads The New York Times)." The author never explains why he read the New York Times to begin with.


The author of this remarkable book, David Shields, has selected color war photographs published on the front page of the New York Times over the last 14 years. He's organized them by themes, included epigrams with each section, and added a short introduction, plus an afterword by Dave Hickey.

Some of us have long opposed subscribing to or advertising in the New York Times, as even peace groups do. We read occasional articles without paying for them or accepting their worldview. We know that the impact of the Times lies primarily in how it influences television "news" reports.

But what about Times readers? The biggest impact that the paper has on them may not be in the words it chooses and omits, but rather in the images that the words frame. The photographs that Shields has selected and published in a large format, one on each page, are powerful and fantastic, straight out of a thrilling and mythical epic. One could no doubt insert them into the new Star Wars movie without too many people noticing.

The photos are also serene: a sunset on a beach lined with palm trees -- actually the Euphrates river; a soldier's face just visible amid a field of poppies.

We see soldiers policing a swimming pool -- perhaps a sight that will someday arrive in the Homeland, as other sights first seen in images from foreign wars already have. We see collective military exercises and training, as at a desert summer camp, full of camaraderie in crises. There's adventure, sports, and games. A soldier looks pleased by his trick as he holds a dummy head with a helmet on the end of a stick in front of a window to get it shot at.

War seems both a fun summer camp and a serious, solemn, and honorable tradition, as we see photos of elderly veterans, militaristic children, and U.S. flags back Home. Part of the seriousness is the caring and philanthropic work exhibited by photos of soldiers comforting the children they may have just orphaned. We see sacred U.S. troops protecting the people whose land they have been bombing and throwing into turmoil. We see our heroes' love for their visiting Commander, George W. Bush.

Sometimes war can be awkward or difficult. There's a bit of regrettable suffering. Occasionally it is tragically intense. But for the most part a rather boring and undignified death about which no one really cares comes to foreigners (outside the United States there are foreigners everywhere) who are left in the gutter as people walk away.

The war itself, centrally, is a technological wonder bravely brought out of the goodness of our superior hearts to a backward region in which the locals have allowed their very homes to turn to rubble. An empty settlement is illustrated by a photo of a chair in a street. There are water bottles upright on the ground. It looks as though a board meeting just ended.

Still, for all war's drawbacks, people are mostly happy. They give birth and get married. Troops return home from camp after a good job done. Handsome Marines innocently mingle with civilians. Spouses embrace their camouflaged demigods returned from the struggle. A little American boy, held by his smiling mother, grins gleefully at the grave of his Daddy who died (happily, one must imagine) in Afghanistan.

At least in this selection of powerful images, we do not see people born with gruesome birth defects caused by the poisons of U.S. weapons. We do not see people married at weddings struck by U.S. missiles. We do not see U.S. corpses lying in the gutter. We do not see nonviolent protests of the U.S. occupations. We do not see the torture and death camps. We do not see the trauma of those who live under the bombs. We do not see the terror when the doors are kicked in, the way we would if soldiers -- like police -- were asked to wear body cameras. We do not see the "MADE IN THE USA" label on the weapons on both sides of a war. We do not see the opportunities for peace that have been studiously avoided. We do not see the U.S. troops participating in their number one cause of death: suicide.

A few of those things may show up now and then in the New York Times, more likely on a page other than the front one. Some of those things you may not want to see with your breakfast cereal. But there can be no question that Shields has captured a portrait of a day in the life of a war propagandist, and that the photographers, editors, and designers involved have done as much to cause the past 14 years of mass dying, suffering, and horror in the Middle East as has any single New York Times reporter or text editor.

 

Regulating trade and restricting communications: The TPP is an Attack on the Internet

By Alfredo Lopez


The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, initialed by the delegations of the 12 participating countries in early October, is one of the most talked-about mysteries of our time. The moment the treaty was announced, there was a tidal wave of commentary and criticism: most of it based on previous versions, speculation and a few leaks. Because it won't be published for months (even years perhaps), nobody really knew what the document actually said.

Living With Racism in the USA

I thought Deepa Iyer's new book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future, would be about positive and jarring cultural contributions from immigrants, how their literature, music, myths, cooking, clothing, and cultural practices are merging with and influencing wider U.S. culture. I think that would be a good book. Maybe someone's written it.

This, too, is a good book, and I recommend it. But it is mostly about the all-too-familiar story of post-911 prejudice, racism, violence, and police profiling and abuse, with a particular focus on South Asians. As an opponent of murder in any form, my first response to this topic is usually: Take the guns away! Hatred doesn't kill people -- hatred in people with guns kills people! But of course I'd love to take the hatred away as well and get the gun deaths down to accidents, suicides, and non-hate crimes.

I admit some uncertainty as to how we can identify a gun murder as free of hate. Here's how Iyer describes hate crimes:

"Hate violence affects everyone in America. A hate crime affects not only the person being targeted but the entire community to which that person belongs. Acts of hate violence can disrupt and affect even those who do not belong [to] the community being directly targeted, as we witnessed in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where non-Sikhs also experienced fear and anxiety in the wake of the massacre."

Of course, that sounds almost identical to the effects of a non-hate school shooting. A value to be found in distinguishing crimes motivated by, for example, hatred of Muslims, lies in the consequent ability to report on and know how widespread that phenomenon is. Does badmouthing Muslims encourage shooting them? Does shooting them encourage discriminating against them? We cannot study and address these matters if we don't identify them. And of course, fearing being shot for living in a country whose government has been purchased by the NRA, is not exactly the same as fearing being shot for being a Muslim and living in a country whose government has been purchased by the NRA. Hatred of part of your identity can make you want to hide that identity and/or resent the suggestion that you should do so and/or internalize the idea of inferiority, etc.

On the other hand, hate crimes laws don't just produce data. Neither do they do anything to reduce racism or other bigotry or to address underlying insecurities and grievances. What they do, as Iyer points out, is increase long sentences in the U.S. mass incarceration system.

Much of the work that Iyer describes being undertaken by community groups in support of abused minorities and crime victims involves attempting to tweak the flood of sewage spewing forth from the corporate media. She urges reporters not to talk about non-Muslim people having been mistaken for Muslims when they've been attacked. Her reason is that this could be taken to imply that it's all right to attack Muslims. That sounds crazy, but of course she is right that that could happen. Why, then, does locking people up for additional years or decades because they killed while racist not risk implying that it's OK to kill while not racist? It seems no more crazy.

The permanent U.S. war on the Middle East has fed the streams of both private and police hate crimes, and that war has trained many to believe that, in fact, it is OK to kill only while believing in racism and bigotry. Members of the military cannot avoid thinking that, while killing was wrong all through their childhood, something has suddenly made it acceptable when they are ordered to engage in it. For many the dehumanizing tactic that allows them to obey their orders is racism. Such racism at home, Iyer argues, enables the United States to keep going to war.

And what about the endless FBI frame-ups, the profiling, the deportations, and all the racist abuse by "law enforcement" -- why aren't these hate crimes? Don't they set examples and influence the broader culture? If someone in Germany proposes immigration policies resembling those of the United States they are immediately denounced for racism and hatred.

Iyer's book is full of heart-wrenching stories of raging racist hatred and violence, and the suffering it creates. She also proposes some good ideas rarely heard about in the corporate media, including reparations for the victims of post-911 state bigotry, on the model of reparations for the victims of the Japanese-American internment camps.

What really breaks my heart in reading so many accounts of the sort of nastiness that has just helped lead that young man whose school clock project was labeled a bomb to leave the United States for someplace less hostile, is the focus of the corrective work on trying to influence the corporate media. We all know how awful the corporate media is, how little it is turned into a force for good, and what minor partial tweaks are proclaimed as victories by activists.

We need a communications system that ceases to condone hatred or violence, that includes all voices in its communications, and that condemns cruelty -- whether public or private -- without exception.

Flipped out: Last Mexican of Venice

The latest from ThisCantBeHappening!:


Flipped out:

Last Mexican of Venice

 By Rip Rense 

 

Kunduz hospital attack was no mistake: US Dispatched a Murderous AC-130 Airborne Gunship to Attack a Hospital

By Dave Lindorff

 

Evidence continues to mount that the US committed a monstrous war crime in attacking and destroying a fully operational hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on the night of Oct. 3, killing at least 22 people including at least 12 members of the volunteer medical staff of Medicine Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), the French based international aid organization that operated the hospital.

CNN Tools Its Tools for Tues

 

 


How CNN Shapes Political Debate

 

 

Editor Note: CNN was happy to add a right-wing questioner for the Republican debate but won’t add a progressive for the Democratic debate, another sign of how the “mainstream media” shapes what’s acceptable in political discussion, a lesson that ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern has learned from personal experience.

By Ray McGovern

CNN, the sponsor of Tuesday’s debate among Democratic presidential candidates, has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid being sullied with the stigma of “liberal bias.” The four CNN journalists handpicked to do the questioning have carefully protected themselves from such a charge.

Congress-backed Interstate Oil Commission Called 911 When I Came To Ask About Climate

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On October 1, I arrived at the Oklahoma City headquarters of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC)  a congressionally-chartered collective of oil and gas producing states  hoping for an interview.

The L.A. Times goes to Cuba: OMG! The Food’s So Proletarian, and Pets are Hard to Find

By Rip Rense

 

The L.A. Times sent one of its managing editors to Cuba a few months ago, to report on the status of the society, culture, etc. Good that they sent a big gun, instead of just a run-of-the-mill reporter. Here are two of the stunning findings from this report. Brace yourself!

 

Split between Europe and the U.S. just got wider!: EU Court Advocate General Deals Severe Blow to NSA Surveillance

By Alfredo Lopez

 

A legal case, virtually unreported in the U.S., could very well unhinge a major component of this country's surveillance system. In any case, it certainly challenges it.

The Empire Files - 9/11's Victims

Stop a war before it starts

By Tom H. Hastings

Everyone knows that diplomacy is the weakest way to deal with insurgencies and civil wars, tough sanctions are next, and if you really want to end a civil war, sorry, you need the military.

Well, everyone thinks that.

OK, not everyone.

Turns out, that order of effectiveness is precisely backward. Three political scientists conducted a historical metastudy of all the movements for self-determination that looked like or actually became civil wars between 1960-2005 that resulted in resolutions by the United Nations Security Council.

The outcomes were clear. Using the UN troops had almost no effect on stopping civil war. Sanctions were better, but diplomatic initiatives succeeded far more often than either of the other approaches.

Is this always true? Of course not, but if you want to go with your best bet to prevent wars, trot out the Ban Ki-Moonies and his coterie of helpers. We in the US generally ignore or chuckle at a Kofi Annan, or a Boutrus Boutrus-Ghali. Ineffectual wimps! Send in the Marines.

Another myth bites the dust.

Think about the cost/benefit matrix. What if we would have sent then-US Secretary of State James Baker or perhaps then-UN Secretary General Javier Pèrez de Cuèllar to deal with Saddam Hussein in August of 1990 instead of instantly mobilizing to go to war? That was a made-for-diplomacy moment that could have avoided 383 US dead, 467 US wounded, $102 billion in US expenses and the lowest estimates are about 20,000 Iraqis killed, half of them civilians. Instead, George Bush the Elder first suckerpunched Saddam by the April Glaspie bumble, giving Saddam a US green light to invade Kuwait and then instantly declaiming “This will not stand,” beginning the buildup and then attacking. All very likely completely avoidable.

This is one of the least costly US wars, in blood and treasure. What if diplomacy could have prevented even one war? Isn’t that worth a very serious effort indeed? Are human lives and the massive energy/money/resource costs worth some serious effort by diplomats, by mediators, by professional interlocutors? In my field of Conflict Transformation we always believe that, and the research is increasingly proving our methods are vastly superior (unless you are a war profiteer, an elite class of people who help shape the media message that we don’t have a clue, that talk is weak, and that only bombing and invading works).

Am I dissenting from US war policy? Yes, I’d say so, and that makes me a traitor and a lawful target for a drone attack, according to a West Point law professor. Should I warn my housemates? Wait—he only says legal scholars who dissent are legitimate targets. I’m a peace and nonviolence scholar, so my dissent isn’t yet qualified as targetable, apparently, or perhaps he simply assumes that activist scholars like me have been lawful targets all along.

I should probably inquire to see if I can get a little help from the UN on this one. My chances would be improved, at least according to the science.

Dr. Tom H. Hastings is core faculty in the Conflict Resolution Department at Portland State University and is Founding Director of PeaceVoice.

Accommodating abuse: Critics of BlackLivesMatter# Practice Defiant Denial

By Linn Washington, Jr.

 

Over 1,500 miles separate Harris County, Texas and Harrison Township, New Jersey yet public officials in those two jurisdictions seemingly share a disdain for persons who protest against police abuse.

 

Our quadrennial reality TV show: Sorting Through the Bullshit in America

By John Grant


“One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. ... The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.”

TV Commercials Urging U.S. Drone Operators to 'Refuse to Fly' Pulled from Air

Cable Provider Has Strong Links to Military Industry, Including Snowden Employer and Drone Contractor Booz Allen Hamilton

CLOVIS, NM – An international cable provider with links to the war industry is refusing to air television commercials produced by U.S. military veterans that are critical of the U.S. drone program, according to vets involved in the production of the spots.

While the controversial commercials – which urge U.S. military personnel to "Refuse to Fly" military drones – have run elsewhere in the U.S. without incident, Suddenlink Cable refused to air them. They were pulled after just a few days of being on the air.

Suddenlink is linked to a financial backer, The Carlyle Group, a major international arms investor which owns drone contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, Edward Snowden's former employer, according to KnowDrones.com, sponsor of the anti-drone commercials.

Booz Allen Hamilton is now contracting with the U.S. Air Force to do drone targeting analysis, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Suddenlink, the nation's seventh largest cable provider with 1.4 million customers in 17 states, pulled the spots within days of when they began airing in early July in Clovis, NM, seven miles from Cannon AFB. The base is home to the 3rd and 33rd Special Operations Squadrons that are reported to control MQ-9 Reaper drones in the skies over Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen and possibly elsewhere.

Suddenlink, despite repeated requests, refused to give any reason for cancelling the anti-drone commercials. 

The anti-drone commercials have run on FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC, ESPN and other networks on Comcast, Cox and Time Warner throughout the country since early 2015, including near drone operation centers near Las Vegas, Sacramento, New York and Florida. The spots can be seen here.

Nick Mottern, coordinator of KnowDrones.com, said Suddenlink's decision to censor the ads may be because Suddenlink is controlled by Altice, owned by Patrick Drahi, described by the newspaper Haaretz as a "Franco-Israeli telecoms billionaire." Drahi is connected to the war industry through his association with the Carlyle and Cinven private equity firms; both are invested in the arms industry, and both are invested in Altice, which bought 70 percent of Suddenlink in May, 2015 for $9.1 billion.

"Suddenlink's decision to kill our ads raises the extremely disturbing possibility of censorship at the behest of Mr. Drahi, Carlyle, Booz Allen and the U.S. military. Through the images of children killed in drone attacks the American people can see the illegality and immorality of the U.S. policy of systematically killing people without due process. Suddenlink's decision to censor the spots shows how powerful the commercials are, and it reveals connections that give power to people who profit from war to literally remove the truth from the public airwaves so that Americans only see the sanitized version of how their tax dollars are killing and mutilating people around the world," said Mottern.

The “Refuse to Fly” message in the ad is reinforced by a letter from about 50 veterans to drone operators urging “drone pilots, sensor operators and support teams to refuse to play any role in drone surveillance/assassination missions.”

Via worldcantwait.org.

Assange and the Value of WikiLeaks: Subverting Illusions

By Norman Solomon

Three years after Ecuador’s government granted political asylum to Julian Assange in its small ground-floor London embassy, the founder of WikiLeaks is still there -- beyond the reach of the government whose vice president, Joe Biden, has labeled him “a digital terrorist." The Obama administration wants Assange in a U.S. prison, so that the only mouse he might ever see would be scurrying across the floor of a solitary-confinement cell.

Above and beyond Assange’s personal freedom, what’s at stake includes the impunity of the United States and its allies to relegate transparency to a mythical concept, with democracy more rhetoric than reality. From the Vietnam War era to today -- from aerial bombing and torture to ecological disasters and financial scams moving billions of dollars into private pockets -- the high-up secrecy hiding key realities from the public has done vast damage. No wonder economic and political elites despise WikiLeaks for its disclosures.

During the last five years, since the release of the infamous “Collateral Murder” video, the world has changed in major ways for democratic possibilities, with WikiLeaks as a catalyst. It’s sadly appropriate that Assange is so deplored and reviled by so many in the upper reaches of governments, huge corporations and mass media. For such powerful entities, truly informative leaks to the public are plagues that should be eradicated as much as possible.

Corporate Media Crap Coverage of Sanders Is Norm

There are now articles about the predictable fluff BS horserace personality lifestyle crap coverage by the corporate media of the Bernie Sanders for president campaign (and articles about the predictable non-coverage of the Jill Stein for president campaign).

I wish it would all go away, as I think having no election would be preferable to holding such a broken one, and I'd limit even an open, free, credible, functioning, publicly-funded, fairly reported election to something under 6 months in duration.

But the Sanders coverage is actually far better, not worse, than I would have predicted. And its awfulness is par for the course, as is perhaps pointed out by this exchange I had recently with a reporter from Politico, who addressed me as Congressman Kucinich's former campaign manager, even though I never was that:  

"Hi David,
"My name is --------------- and I’m a reporter at Politico. I'm working on a story about the presidential candidates and how they can stay fit and stay on their diets on the campaign trail. I know that Rep. Kucinich was a vegan when he ran for office and I was hoping you could share your experiences on what it was like on the trail for him. As the Iowa fair heats up candidates will be offered lots of fried food and I just wanted to know how candidates are able to stay on diets, and keep fit. I would really appreciate your insight on this. Please feel free to call my cell phone ----------------. My deadline is tomorrow at noon EST."

I wrote back:

"Supporters were more than happy to prepare and provide vegan food, and I think I understand why they were. If Congressman Kucinich had been elected president in 2005, there's a decent chance that this past decade of wars and environmental destruction and advancing plutocracy and increasing violence and hatred would have moved us, instead, in a far better direction, a direction unimaginable to media consumers who -- the day after Kucinich won the most applause in a debate -- were typically told little more than that he was also there and, of course, what he fucking had for dinner. Do you have a serious question? I would be more than happy to answer one.
David"

The reporter replied:

"The story is about how candidates balance using food on campaign stops to portray a certain image while maintains lifestyle and health restrictions. I was looking for someone who had experience managing it, if you're not interested in an interview, no problem, thanks for your time."

I replied again:

"I was press secretary, not campaign manager, and yet I can assure you that Congressman Kucinich -- in what you may find an interesting twist -- didn't use food to create an image of any sort ever. He used food to fuel his health and his energy, and to ethically relate to a world being ravaged by industrial carnivorism. You can imagine that I'm not interested in an interview if it helps you feel better about the fluff you've been assigned to produce, but please understand my sincere interest in any meaningful, non-'lifestyle' discussion of the U.S. presidency, its candidates, and what we so grandiosely mischaracterize as our democratic elections."

The most draconian information-gathering law yet: The Senate Wants to Make Internet Providers Spies

By Alfredo Lopez


How much noise does the other shoe make when it drops? If the shoe is a law that would complete the development of a police surveillance state in the United States, it's almost silent.

Lila Garrett’s CONNECT THE DOTS. This Monday:

Monday morning  at 7-8AM  tune in (KPFK 90.7 fm) or log on: http://archive.kpfk.org/index.php?shokey=ctd

Guests include:
I share my open letter to Congressman Ted Lieu of Los Angeles about his decision to accept a junket to Israel for freshman Congress people at this critical time.  (You can also read it in the LA Progressive) 

MEDEA BENJAMIN, co-founder of Code Pink & author of DRONE WARFARE on the importance of approving the Iran deal, the alarming increase in our use of drones, protests that work,  and more.

DAVID SWANSON, Director of Rootsaction.org,  author of WHEN THE WORLD OUTLAWED WAR,  DAYBREAK ,   THE MILITARY COMPLEX AT 50, WAR IS A LIE  &  more, discuses Israel’s part in trying to torpedo the Iran deal,  some Congress people’s collusion, risks if we don’t pass it, how to get it approved.

Make deal not war!: Obama’s, and Washington’s, Absurd Choice of a Nuclear Deal or War on Iran

By Dave Lindorff


I don’t know which is worse: President Obama asserting, in defense of the nuclear deal he and his Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated with Iran, that “The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon,” or the fact that most Americans, and most American pundits, seem to accept that limited choice of options as a given.

New Mural in D.C.: Shooting the "War Thug" Presidents in the Balls

Commemorating U.S. Violence from Hiroshima to Iraq 
 
By Sam Husseini




new political mural has gone up in Washington, D.C. 
 
Well, sort of new. 

The mural has been there for a few years, but it's been transformed just recently. Some might say, made more whole, reborn. 

It's a mural on the side of a restaurant formerly known as the Calvert Cafe. It features U.S. presidents from Eisenhower to Obama with Mama Ayesha, who founded the restaurant that is now named for her: Mama Ayesha's, just near the Duke Ellington Bridge in Adams Morgan. It was originally labored over by Karlisima Rodas. 

The recent transformation involves someone having apparently paintballed all the presidents, shooting them in the balls with red paint. Or trying to. Who ever did this seems to have been richer in inspiration than in sniper skills, which may on balance be a good thing. It's a bit messy, but the intent is fairly clear: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton I, Bush II and Obama -- all shot in the balls. Scrawled on the side is "The War Thugs." 

This is an apparent reference to Obama's comments in April calling protesters against police killings who resort to property destruction "thugs."
 
As USA Today reported: "President Obama doesn't regret using the term 'thug' in describing the violent rioters in Baltimore this week, spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday.

"'Whether it's arson or, you know, the looting of a liquor store ... those were thuggish acts,' Earnest said.

"In discussing the riots Tuesday, Obama assailed the 'criminals and thugs who tore up the place,' and described them as a distraction from the real issues of police brutality."

An examination of U.S. foreign policy puts the "thugishness" of someone looting a liquor store to shame. From using nuclear weapons, to bombing Vietnam and invading Iraq to deploying killer drones in county after country, the thugishness of these presidents is hard to compete with. 

One could imagine the augmented muralist going a bit further, perhaps giving us a lingering blot where Truman's crotch would be were he in the picture. That would be all too appropriate given that Truman gave rise to our "National Security State" and nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki exactly 70 years ago this week. 

The date of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima -- August 6 -- is also the date of the imposition of the sanctions being imposed on Iraq in 1990, exactly 25 years ago, that would ultimately take the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, many of them children. The 1991 U.S. bombing of Iraq and subsequent sanctions set the stage for the killing fields we now see -- or rather, don't see and manage to ignore in Iraq and beyond. Yet, the administration of Bush I is regarded by some so-called critics of Bush II as enlightened. 

From Hiroshima to Iraq, all these presidents have used violence. Massive violence. An augmented mural could include mushroom clouds in the background, and perhaps jet fighters, bombers and killer drones flying overhead. 

Perhaps the greatest violence they've all used is to threaten the world with nuclear weapons. It's not as though the U.S. only used atomic weapons against Japan at the end of World War II. 

As Daniel Ellsberg has noted, the U.S. uses nuclear weapons constantly, like a thief robbing people by waving a gun around. You don't need to pull the trigger to "use" the gun. 

So, take a look at "From Wounded Knee to Syria: a Century of US Military Interventions" by Zoltan Grossman. Among the U.S. aggression most have forgotten is Eisenhower administration issued a nuclear threat against Iraq in 1958 against invading Kuwait. Or that Johnson invaded the Dominican Republic in 1965; how many remember that? Or that the Carter administration began the Rapid Deployment Force, paving the way for future U.S. Mideast wars and began the backing of the Mujahadeen to undermine the Soviets in Afghanistan. 

The paintballing -- a sort of art work thar is literally paint as paint -- recalls the Edward Sorel piece that adorns Robert Scheer's book "Thinking Tuna Fish, Talking Death" -- which features "world leaders" dancing the can-can with missiles as genitalia. 

There's typically a taboo against graffiti artists "tagging" over each other's work and this would seem to violate it, but there's a case to be made that this more competes the piece than defaces it. Some people, including Karlisima, now seem upset by the addition of the paintballs, but murals are not typically done to glorify the high and mighty, and do so for the Great Leaders in traditions that shouldn't be emulated. The labor of putting together the original mural is not destroyed, it's not painted over, but used to make a perhaps unexpected point. Further, the original mural it seems was not so much done to convey a vision the artist as much as commissioned by the DC Arts Commission and various other governmental bureaucratic entities. The mural that used to adorn that wall was of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where Mama Ayesha was born. But it was replaced and the collective wisdom had it that the environs of Washington, D.C. were lacking in sufficiently honoring our war presidents, pretending all is smilingly well as they are brutal. 
 
The new mural now features Mama Ayesha in her beautiful Palestinian dress bring the war makers together, their vulnerability, what they likely had thought of as a source of their dominating power, made evident. And they're smiling, accepting, perhaps gaining in empathy. 
 
As it is, there continue to be sprawling U.S. military bases the world over -- and it's not as if things are getting better by any objective measure -- the U.S. just reopened its military base in the Philippines to little notice. All these presidents have continued the U.S.'s backing of Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians as Israel has effectively destroyed a people over their collective tenure. 
 
The paintball artist perhaps admirably exercised restraint from engaging in figurative head shots. After all, virtually every president has killed, not least of all the current inhabitant of the White House, who has commented he's "really good at killing people."
 
The U.S. is killing people using drones in Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Obama is often depicted as something approaching a pacifist by some for not having bombed Iran already. Never mind that he escalated the war in Afghanistan, has now stepped up U.S. bombings of Iraq and Syria, bombed Libya along with NATO, and so on and so on. 
 
But our society, media and art largely ignore all this. They focus on celebrity silliness or, worse yet, treat presidents like revered celebrities when their hands are covered in blood that is all too real.

U.S. Movies and T.V. Shows Have U.S. Army Ratings

The U.S. Army and Air Force public relations offices have responded to a Freedom of Information Act request by releasing huge lists of movies and television shows that they have assessed and, at least in many cases, sought to influence. Here's the Army's PDF. Here's the Air Force's PDF.

The shows and films, foreign and U.S. made, aimed at foreign and U.S. audiences, including documentaries and dramas and talk shows and "reality" TV, cross every genre from those obviously related to war to those with little discernable connection to it.

Films show up in theaters without any notice that they have been influenced by the Army or Air Force or other branch of the military. And they carry ratings like G, PG, PG-13, or R. But the Army's until-now-secret assessments of films also give them ratings. Every rating is positive and cryptic. They include:

  • Supports Building Resiliency,
  • Supports Restoring Balance,
  • Supports Maintaining our Combat Edge,
  • Supports Adapting Our Institutions,
  • Supports Modernizing Our Force.

Some films have multiple ratings. Truth in advertising, I think, would include these ratings on previews and advertisements for films. I'd like to know what the Army thinks of a film. It would make my decision to avoid it much easier. Go ahead and scroll through the Army document linked above, and chances are you'll find out what a movie you're currently interested in or recently saw is rated by the folks who brought you Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and top ratings worldwide for the U.S. as the nation considered the greatest threat to peace on earth (Gallup, December 2013).

Here's a comment from Zaid Jilani at Salon: "The sheer scale of the Army and the Air Force's involvement in TV shows, particularly reality TV shows, is the most remarkable thing about these files. 'American Idol,' 'The X-Factor,' 'Masterchef,' 'Cupcake Wars,' numerous Oprah Winfrey shows, 'Ice Road Truckers,' 'Battlefield Priests,' 'America’s Got Talent,' 'Hawaii Five-O,' lots of BBC, History Channel and National Geographic documentaries, 'War Dogs,' 'Big Kitchens' — the list is almost endless. Alongside these shows are blockbuster movies like Godzilla, Transformers, Aloha and Superman: Man of Steel."

That list is a sampling, nothing more. The full list goes on and on and on. It includes many films about wars or U.S. base construction. There's an Extreme Makeover Home Edition at Fort Hood. There's The Price Is Right's Military Appreciation Episode. There's a C-Span show called "The Price of Peace" -- C-Span is of course often thought of as a neutral fly on the wall. There are, as mentioned above, lots of BBC documentaries -- the BBC is of course often thought of as British.

The documents linked above consist mostly of assessments with relatively little explicit discussion of military influence. But further research has produced that. The Mirror reports on the censoring of an Iron Man movie because the military is -- not kidding -- actually trying to create Iron Man type suits of armor/weaponry: "Directors are being forced to re-write scripts by the United States Department of Defense if the content is deemed inappropriate -- and the big screen hits affected include Iron Man, Terminator Salvation, Transformers, King Kong and Superman: Man of Steel. . . . Last year, President Barack Obama appeared to be joking when he said the U.S. military was working on its own Iron Man suit for troops. But the first prototypes of a super-strong exoskeleton being developed for chiefs by universities and technology players were delivered last June."

Shouldn't viewers of fantasy cartoonish movies know that the Army has been involved and what it rates those films in terms of their recruitment value?

"To keep Pentagon chiefs happy," reports the Mirror, "some Hollywood producers have also turned villains into heroes, cut central characters, changed politically sensitive settings -- or added military rescue scenes to movies. Having altered scripts to accommodate Pentagon requests, many have in exchange gained inexpensive access to military locations, vehicles and gear they need to make their films."

Guess who pays for that?

In fact many of the listings in the documents above originated as requests from film makers to the military. Here's an example:

"Comedy Central – OCPA-LA received a request from Comedy Central to have Jeff Ross, the Roastmaster General, spend 3 to 4 days on an Army post where he will embed himself amongst the Soldiers. This project will be a hybrid of a documentary and a stand up special/comedy roast. Ross, who has gone on several USO tours, wants to participate in various tactical drills and exercises, as well as interview soldiers and officers of all different ranks to get a fuller understanding of what a life in the military is really like, and how extraordinary those who choose to serve truly are. Then on his last day at the base, armed with the personal knowledge he has acquired, Jeff will put on a roast/standup comedy concert for all the people on the base that he has gotten to know during his tenure there. We are working with OCPA to see if this is something that can be supported and, if so, to find the best fit."

These questions as to whether something can be supported are frequent, but in skimming the documents I notice no negative ratings like

  • Supports Resistance to Mass-Murder
  • Supports Peace, Diplomacy, or Intelligent Foreign Relations
  • Supports Disarmament and Wise Use of Peace Dividend

Apparently all news is good news. Even cancellations get good ratings:

"'BAMA BELLES' REALITY TV SHOW (U), The Bama Belles, a reality show based out of Dothan, AL is being cancelled. According to cast member and producer Amie Pollard, TLC will not continue with a second season of "Bama Belles" and is still deciding whether to air the third episode. One of the actors on the show was SGT 80th Training Command (USAR). Assessment: Cancellation of the show is in the best interest of the US Army. Supports Building Resiliency."

Propaganda aimed at foreign audiences is included right alongside that aimed at potential recruits and voters in the United States:

"(FOUO) STATE DEPARTMENT DOCUMENTARY, AFGHANISTAN (FOUO) (SAPA-CRD), OCPA-LA contacted by production company contracted by U.S. State Dept. Filmmaker requesting to film short scene on FOB in Afghanistan and involving use of five soldiers. The short scene will 'involve a female interrupter [sic] working for US forces and her family struggles.' The soldiers will be mostly background and will only have a few lines. Filmmaker requesting to film the scene in the last two weeks of JAN. ISAF/RC-E has expressed willingness to support. OCPA-LA is coordinating with OSD(PA) for approval. ASSESSMENT: Viewership UNK; video product aimed at Afghan national audiences. Supports Adapting Our Institutions."

Perhaps most disturbing are the advertisements for future war-making. There is, for example, a National Geographic series on "futuristic weapons." There's also this video game that seeks to depict a U.S. soldier in the year 2075:

"(FOUO) ACTIVISION/BLIZZARD VIDEO GAME (FOUO) (OCPA-LA), OCPA-LA was contacted by Activision/Blizzard, the largest video game publisher in the world. They are in the initial stages of a new project designed to create a realistic representation of a Soldier in 2075. They are interested in discussing the U.S. Army of the future; equipment, units, tactics, etc. Have scheduled an introductory meeting this week to discuss. While their interests will require an outside paid consultant, our interest is to correctly establish and frame the Army brand within the game while still in development. Update: and met with company president and game developers. Expressed concern that scenario being considered involves future war with China. Game developers looking at other possible conflicts to design the game around, however, developers are seeking a military power with substantial capabilities. ASSESSMENT: Anticipate game release will be very high-profile and comparable to recent ‘Call of Duty’ and ‘Medal of Honor’ releases. Will likely sell in the range of 20-30 million copies. Supports Adapting our Institutions and Maintaining Our Combat Edge."

The Joint Chiefs of Staff last month published the nonfiction "National Military Strategy of the United States of America -- 2015," which also struggled to identify a frightening enemy. It named four nations as the justification for massive U.S. military spending, while admitting that none of the four wanted war with the United States. So, after U.S. government consultation with Sony and its depiction of the fictional murder of the leader of North Korea, it's nice to see some hesitation about depicting a 2075 US-China war. But what exactly is a "correct" depiction of the U.S. Army in 2075? Who has credibly suggested that Western "civilization" can survive war and nationalism that long? And where is Hollywood's investment in depicting an alternative future with greater likelihood of actually being sustainable?

The circus is in town: The United States of Absurdity, Circa 2015

By John Grant

 

"Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one fine morning."

How We Teach Violence to Children

By David Soleil

As thoughtful, caring parents, we would never want to teach our kids that violence is the answer to any or every problem.  We want our children to learn to get along with others, share, be kind, say "excuse me," and try their best at an empathetic, "I'm sorry."

I thought I was attuned to the violence that surrounds us in American culture.  However, a trip to our local department store with my kids yesterday was shocking.  We stepped into the toy aisles.  Here is a quick rundown of the toys and action figures, in order...

  • Batman
  • Power Rangers
  • Star Wars
  • Elite Force - modern Army/military toys
  • Professional Wrestling

Next aisle:

  • More Power Rangers
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Spider-Man
  • Super Hero Smashers
  • Marvel Comics Characters - Hulk, Avengers, Captain America, etc.
  • Transformers

End cap:

  • Horror Series - Michael Meyers action figure from Halloween movies and Eric Draven from the Crow
  • Game of Thrones
  • Magic
  • HALO

Next Aisle:

  • Super Hero Adventures - these are tiny cute versions of Spider-Man, Batman, Wonder Woman and Hulk for younger kids.

Notice a pattern here?  Every toy, without exception, uses violence and weapons to cause pain and/or death as their solution to problems.  Then, with the Horror Series, we are supposed to play Serial Killer? Seriously?

What message does this send our children?  Violence is heroic.  Violence is the solution to all problems.  Violence is a super power.  

We are aghast and outraged when we see ISIS beheading a person on the nightly news, yet our children play out the same gruesome scenarios with the toys we get them for their birthday, the movies we take them to see, the comic books we buy for them, the shows they watch on TV, and the video games we buy for them.  

What is a solution for this?  Do I want a Selma action figure series at Target?  Perhaps a Gandhi bobble-head?  (Yes, that one exists...)  

While that would be nice, the solution that I seek is to empower parents to take a stand for your values.  Take a stand for peace-making.  Take a stand for selfless service to others, out of compassion and empathy.  Your children are looking to you to define how to interact with the world.  Talk with them about your values, especially at Target, and especially in the toy aisle.  How do you solve problems?  Connect it to your faith or your belief system.  What does it mean to you to be a Christian?  A Muslim?  A Unitarian Universalist?  A Humanitarian?  Who are the super heroes in your life and why?        

Suddenly, those plastic "super heroes" and weapons seem pretty silly and your family's connections, values and relationships have grown much deeper.  Stand strong.  Put peace into their hands.  Leave the violence on the shelf.  

David Soleil, syndicated by PeaceVoice,  is the former Chair of the Leadership Education group for the International Leadership Association, a founder and staff member at the K-12 Sudbury School of Atlanta.

Jon Stewart Blew Last Chance to Ask Obama a Question

Jon Stewart interviewed President Obama for the last time and told jokes instead of asking questions.

If Stewart retires, where will we find someone willing to let Obama spew nonsense at such length unchallenged?

I discussed Obama's interview on RT on Wednesday, and someone asked me to post the Youtube, but RT has to do that, not me. So here's the gist of what I think.

Stewart said to Obama: you've tried bombing and overthrowing leaders and arming rebels and ... what's that new thing ... oh yeah, diplomacy.

Everybody laughed.

Obama talked up the Iran deal.

Stewart should have asked Obama a question, such as, "If you prefer diplomacy in this case, why not in many other cases where you seem to prefer war?" He could have followed up by asking about each war.

Speaking Events

2016

 

March 24, Boone, NC.

 

March 25, Asheville, NC
Battery Park Apartments, 1 Battle Square, rooftop room, noon - 2 p.m.
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War Is A Lie: Second Edition
Published April 5, 2016
Tour begins here:

April 11, Washington, DC, 6:30-8:00 p.m. at Busboys and Poets at 5th and K Streets.
Sign up on FB.

 

April 12, Baltimore, MD, 7:30 p.m. at Red Emma's.
Sign up on FB.

 

April 14, Bellingham, WA, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship.
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April 15, Seattle, WA
Town Hall Seattle
1119 Eighth Ave (8th and Seneca) 
Seattle, WA 98101
7:30pm
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April 16 Portland, OR

 

April 24, Oneonta, NY at Unitarian Universalist Society of Oneonta.
5:30 discussion with students.
7:00 talk and Q&A with everyone.
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May 28, San Francisco, CA
11 a.m. to 1 p.m., David Swanson interviewed by Daniel Ellsberg, at San Francisco Main Public Library, 100 Larkin Street.
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May 28, Marin County, CA
4 to 6 p.m., David Swanson in conversation with Norman Solomon, at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera, CA
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May 29, Oakland, CA
3 to 4 p.m., David Swanson interviewed by Cindy Sheehan, at Diesel: A Bookstore, 5433 College Avenue at Kales (near Manila), Oakland, CA
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May 29, Berkeley, CA
7:30 to 9 p.m., David Swanson and Cindy Sheehan at Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists, sponsored by the Social Justice Committee and Cynthia Papermaster, 1606 Bonita Ave. (at Cedar), Berkeley, CA
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May 30, Fresno, CA
2 to 4 p.m., David Swanson and Cindy Sheehan at a Peace Fresno event

 


June 11 St. Paul, MN, 6 p.m. at Macalester Plymouth Church Social Hall 1658 Lincoln, St. Paul, MN.
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June 12 Minneapolis, MN, 9 and 11 a.m. at St. Joan's 4533 3rd Ave So, Minneapolis, MN, plus peace pole dedication at 2 p.m.
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Other Events Here.

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