Category Archives: NEWS

Private prisons – the best investment in America!

If you’re looking to make a buck but gambling isn’t your cup of tea, a billion-dollar business opportunity awaits you still. The largest for-profit private prison operators in America have a sales pitch, and boy should you hear it.

http://finance.yahoo.com/echarts?s=CXW+Interactive#symbol=cxw;range=2y;compare=;indicator=volume;charttype=area;crosshair=on;ohlcvalues=0;logscale=off;source=undefined;

Investor Relations

CORPORATE PROFILE
Corrections Corporation of America is the nation’s largest owner and operator of privatized correctional and detention facilities and one of the largest prison operators in the United States, behind only the federal government and three states. CCA currently owns and operates more than 60 facilities including 44 company-owned facilities, with a design capacity of more than 85,000 beds in 19 states … More >>

The Corrections Corporation of America is the largest private prison company in the US and has only grown in recent years. With over 60 facilities across the United States, the corporation has thousands of detained prisoners within its walls from coast-to-coast. Why should you care, though? Because an investment in the inhumane caging of convicted criminals means more money for you!
The CCA has made available a virtual tour of its Metro Davidson County Detention Facility for potential investors, and it got the editors at Business Insider curious as to what kind of opportunity a little Corrections Corp. stock could serve. After unearthing a slideshow that serves as a sales pitch, the CCA exposes an eye-opening — and indeed worrying — look into not just how the prison industrial complex continues to thrive off of arresting Americans, but at how the prison system in America at large, private or otherwise, is perhaps not as pretty as you even would have imagined.
More and more states are selling off their facilities to private prison companies like CCA, claims the company, and in turn investors are profiting handsomely. Why are the states selling out, though? The CCA suggests that it’s because government just can’t figure out how to manage facilities on their own. As federal prisons are sold off to for-profit companies, the CCA says that the government’s own facilities are in grave condition. In all, argues the CCA, the federal prison system is at around 140 percent of capacity, meaning that not only is the state seeing its inmates subjected to degrading conditions, but investing in public-turned-profit prisons helps see that such facilities are more properly maintained while also practically guaranteeing a sizeable pool of inmates always keeping the building brimming, and thus the investors’ bank accounts.
Does that mean investing in private prisons will help the CCA afford more buy-outs and make conditions better for detainees? Hardly. The CCA is currently in the midst of a sales pitch with 48 state governments in hopes of adding those institutes to their list of facilities, but under a contract exposed by RT last month, those prisons must be able to guarantee at least 90 percent occupancy during the tenure of a contract with the CCA for them to consider the purchase.
While private prisons account for around one-tenth of the jails in America, the CCA has seen the number of facilities under their watch grow in recent years, seeing a 12.4 percent increase in inmate populations in the last four years. As RT reported earlier this year, that wasn’t a feat easy to obtain. As it so happens, the CCA saw $133 million in income between 2006 and 2008, all the while lobbying Congress to the tune of nearly $3 million. As profits have gone up, so have prison populations, though.
According to the CCA, those numbers are only expected to climb higher.
In one slide used in their sales pitch, the CCA says that they operate “in an industry with positive investment characteristics.” For those novices in the field of prison investment, the CCA breaks that down rather thoroughly. Not only does the CCA reveal that they have limited competition, but investing in a prison is one of the few “recession resistant” gambles you can make. So resistant, in fact, is that the CCA says they thrive off of bad economic times. One talking point made in the presentation is that there is a “potential of accelerated growth in inmate populations following the recession.”
The CCA adds that while “state inmate populations are typically negatively impacted during recessions, as customers control population growth through early release, however, inmate population growth historically has accelerated post recession.”

But come on, CCA! How can someone be so sure that investing in the imprisonment of a fellow citizen is a worthwhile bet? Well, they respond, “prison populations should grow as US populations grows,” with around 18.4 million more Americans expected to be added to the overcrowded facilities by 2016. In recent years the federal prison system has seen an influx of prisoners, in part, argues the CCA, to the growing number of incarceration for immigration-related offenses. As a result, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency houses around 12,000 detainees in over 150 jails, which the CCA claims, “many of which do not meet new detention standards.”
With the CCA seeing record profits, should Americans expect the privatization of their detention system to mean better conditions for the immigrants and harmless convicts that make up a good chunk of the prison population? Probably not. By acting now, however, putting some money behind the CCA could prove to be a portfolio addition that any investor will be happy to have down the road.
And if the CCA is wrong? Well that just means more hard economic times, more recession and — ideally — even more over-populated prisons down the line!

American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)

By NEIL A. LEWIS | Updated: May 5, 2009

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac, is perhaps the most prominent of the groups that lobby the United States government on behalf of Israel. For decades, its effectiveness has been the envy of other lobbies as well as a model to emulate. Its initial method was to focus on Congress, but in recent years, especially during the administration of George W. Bush, it turned its attention as much, if not more, to the executive branch. The Bush administration had many senior officials who believed, as does Aipac, that support of Israel should be the linchpin of the government’s Middle East policy.

Aipac has more than 100,000 members, and its influence, especially in Congress, comes in part from its ability to raise money in a wide range of congressional districts for specific contests. Aipac is not a foreign lobby — its members and officials are largely American Jews — and because it does not get money from Israel or have a contractual relationship, it is not required to register as a lobby for Israel.

Aipac has, for decades, assumed an important but informal role in the formation of policy with regard to Israel; its officials have sometimes served as a backchannel conduit between Israel and the United States government. That aspect of the organization has come under increasing scrutiny since the arrest in 2005 of two of the group’s analysts on charges of espionage.

The highly unusual indictment of the former officials, Steven J. Rosen andKeith Weissman, accused them of receiving classified information about terrorism and Middle East strategy from a Defense Department analyst, Lawrence A. Franklin, and passing it on to a journalist and an Israeli diplomat. Mr. Franklin pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12½ years in prison although his sentence could be reduced based on his cooperation in the case.

The Obama Justice Department moved on May 1, 2009, to drop all charges against Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman. Judge T.S. Ellis 3d of the federal court in Alexandria, Va., rejected several government efforts to conceal classified information if the case went to trial. Moreover, he ruled that the government could only prevail if it met a high standard; he said prosecutors would have to demonstrate that the two men knew that their distribution of the information would harm national security.

Just days after the charges were dropped, the committee Wielded its annual convention as an intentional show of its political strength.

More than half the members of the House and Senate attended the May 4 dinner, which featured the group’s “roll call” in which the lawmakers all rise. It is a conscious — and effective — effort to demonstrate the group’s influence on Capitol Hill.

The roster of scheduled guests for the three-day event included Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Senator John Kerry, Newt Gingrich and Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. The group also heard from the new Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu (via satellite), and the new opposition leader, Tzipi Livni, and the president, Shimon Peres (in person).

Iran dismisses reports of imminent Israeli attack

Masood Haider | Back Page | From the Newspaper
Iranian Ambassador to the UN told: “Iran is so strong,” and “the consequences would be devastating for (Israel) and maybe for whoever helped them.”— Photo by Reuters

NEW YORK: US President Barack Obama has imposed more economic sanctions on Iran, including freezing Iranian assets owned by its Central Bank in US, amid fears that the Obama Administration may be preparing for an attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

However, Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad Khazee dismissed such reports, saying, “I don’t think that is going to happen.”

Mr Khazee told National Public Radio in an interview: “Iran is so strong,” and “the consequences would be devastating for (Israel) and maybe for whoever helped them.”

“There are wise enough people around the world to tell them not to do such a crazy thing.”

The US and other nations have been tightening sanctions on Iran and have been warning that it needs to be more transparent about its nuclear ambitions. Iran says it is not pursuing development of nuclear weapons.

Another media report here said the world leaders were genuinely concerned that an Israeli military attack on the Islamic Republic could be imminent — “an action that many fear might trigger a wider war, terrorism and global economic havoc”.

High-level foreign dignitaries, including the UN secretary general and the head of the American military, have stopped in Israel in recent weeks, urging leaders to give the diplomatic process more time to work.

Israel seems unmoved, and US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has reportedly concluded that an Israeli attack on Iran is likely in the coming months.

Shortly after the Europeans enacted their embargo, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi told reporters, “We will not abandon our just nuclear course, even if we cannot sell one drop of oil.”

A report said on Wednesday that in a move to bypass the sanctions, India had reportedly agreed to pay for Iranian oil with gold, with China expected to follow suit. Instead of isolating Iran, it appears that the sanctions are pushing the state closer to her top trading partners.

To make its embargo more effective against India’s and China’s dodge, will Washington next move to simply blockade all oil shipments out of Iran? And what are the likely consequences of these actions?

In an interview with China’s NTDTV.com, Chinese General Zhang Zhaozhong was quoted as saying that “China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third world war.” Not very surprising. In the Iran-Iraq war, Iran purchased Chinese weapons.

The Obama Administration has also accused Chinese firms of lending a hand to developing Iran’s purported nuclear weapons programme.

A senior Russian foreign ministry official lashed out at Israel for “inventing” allegations about Iran’s peaceful nuclear programme and warned that such fabrications could entail “catastrophic consequences”. On Wednesday, Mikhail Ulyanov, the head of Security and Disarmament Department at Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, denounced Tel Aviv’s hawkish rhetoric on Iran over its nuclear programme as “inventions” that “are increasing the tension and could encourage moves towards a military solution with catastrophic consequences”.

He also described the speculations over Iran’s nuclear programme as “noise” and reiterated that such allegations “have political and propaganda objectives, which are far from being inoffensive”.

Newt repeats ‘second Holocaust’ warning!

By ALEXANDER BURNS |

1/27/12 11:40 AM EST

Newt Gingrich is standing by his warning that an Iranian nuclear weapon could cause a “second Holocaust.”

At a press conference here in Miami, a reporter noted to Gingrich that he was on the cover of casino mogul and Gingrich super PAC backer Sheldon Adelson’s Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom. The headline declared that President Barack Obama’s policies could lead to another genocide against the Jews.

Asked if he would disavow that kind of rhetoric, Gingrich shrugged: “It’s probably my rhetoric.”

“I have said allowing Iran to get nuclear weapons … runs the direct risk of a second Holocaust. That is a fact,” Gingrich said.

However Jewish voters in Florida respond to his rhetoric, Gingrich’s most important audience for this kind of question is almost certainly Adelson, who has directed $10 million to the pro-Gingrich group Winning Our Future.

Gingrich is scheduled to address a rally of the Republican Jewish Coalition — another organization Adelson supports — elsewhere in Florida this afternoon.

Anonymous downs government, music industry sites in largest attack ever

Published: 20 January, 2012, 01:48
Edited: 20 January, 2012, 05:13

BREAKING NEWS

BREAKING NEWS

TRENDS:SOPA

TAGS: LawInternetInformation Technology,USA

 

Hacktivists with the collective Anonymous are waging an attack on the website for the White House after successfully breaking the sites for the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America.

In response to today’s federal raid on the file sharing service Megaupload, hackers with the online collective Anonymous have broken the websites for the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA, Motion Picture Association of America and Warner Music Group.

“It was in retaliation for Megaupload, as was the concurrent attack on Justice.org,” Anonymous operative Barrett Brown tells RT on Thursday afternoon.

Only hours before the DoJ and Universal sites went down, news broke that Megaupload, a massive file sharing site with a reported 50 million daily users, was taken down by federal agents. Four people linked to Megaupload were arrested in New Zealand and an international crackdown led agents to serving at least 20 search warrants across the globe.

The latest of sites to fall is FBI.gov, which finally broke at around 7:40 pm EST Thursday evening.

Less than an hour after the DoJ and Universal sites came down, the website for the RIAA, or Recording Industry Association of America, went offline as well. Shortly before 6 p.m EST, the government’s Copyright.gov site went down as well. Thirty minutes later came the site for BMI, or Broadcast Music, Inc, the licensing organization that represents some of the biggest names in music.

Also on Thursday, MPAA.org returned an error as Anonymous hacktivists managed to bring down the website for the Motion Picture Association of America. The group, headed by former senator Chris Dodd, is an adamant supporter of both PIPA and SOPA legislation.

Universal Music Group, or UMG, is the largest record company in the United States and under its umbrella are the labels Interscope-Geffen-A&M, the Island Def Jam Motown Music Group and Mercury Records.

Brown adds that “more is coming” and Anonymous-aligned hacktivists are pursuing a joint effort with others to “damage campaign raising abilities of remaining Democrats who support SOPA.”

Although many members of Congress have just this week changed their stance on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, the raid on Megaupload Thursday proved that the feds don’t need SOPA or its sister legislation, PIPA, in order to pose a blow to the Web.

Brown adds that operatives involved in the project will use an “experimental campaign” and search engine optimization techniques “whereby to forever saddle some of these congressmen with their record on this issue.”

As Powers Maneuver, Israel Says No Decision Yet to Attack Iran

JERUSALEM — Defense Minister Ehud Barak of Israel said on Wednesday that any decision on attacking Iran because of its nuclear program was “very far off,” apparently seeking to lower the tone of increasingly nervous discourse as powers maneuver in advance of European moves to intensify sanctions against Tehran.
Related

 

Iran Tightens Its Security for Scientists After Killing (January 18, 2012)

“Iran will fight to the death to protect its history and culture. Any war in Iran will make the Iraq war look like a romp in the park.”
James, St. Paul, MN.
At the same time, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia renewed his country’s aversion to sanctions and military threats against Tehran, while Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran said his country was ready to resume negotiations with the outside powers — Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States — trying to broker a settlement.

Mr. Salehi said during a visit to Turkey on Wednesday that negotiations were under way about the venue and date, Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency reported, and that the talks “will most probably be held in Istanbul.”

The previous negotiations — also in Istanbul — broke off a year ago when Iran presented its own set of preconditions, including a lifting of sanctions, that the West considered unacceptable.

Mr. Salehi made similar remarks about a resumption of the talks during a visit to Tehran two weeks ago by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Turkey, and some European officials have interpreted his remarks as an effort to buy time just days before European foreign ministers are to meet next week to discuss possible measures to curb Iran’s critical oil exports.

Speaking at an annual news conference in Moscow, Mr. Lavrov took issue with Western policy on Iran, saying a military strike would be a “disaster.”

He said sanctions now being proposed against Tehran had been couched in terms of nuclear nonproliferation but were “seriously intended to have a smothering effect on the Iranian economy and the Iranian population, probably in the hopes of provoking discontent.”

Mr. Barak was speaking in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio at time of high tension following the assassination on Jan. 11 of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy director of Iran’s Natanz uranium enrichment site — an act blamed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday as the work of “the evil hands of arrogance and Zionist agents.” On Tuesday, Mr. Ahmadinejad ordered stricter security to protect Iranian scientists from what some experts have portrayed as a covert war against Iran’s nuclear program.

After the assassination, Israel’s leaders maintained a customary, cryptic silence while the White House condemned it and vigorously denied any responsibility. At least five Iranian scientists with nuclear connections have been killed since 2007.

Tehran says its uranium enrichment efforts are for peaceful civilian purposes, but that assertion jars increasingly with Western insistence, supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency, that Iranian scientists have been working toward building nuclear weapons.

Twisting the spiral of regional tension, Israel has been pressing for more aggressive and immediate American-led sanctions against Iran while the Iranians have threatened to shut off the Strait of Hormuz, the maritime conduit for a fifth of the world’s oil.

Mr. Barak’s remarks also came ahead of an imminent visit to Israel by the American chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey. Israeli media commentators have suggested that General Dempsey was coming in part to warn Israel against going it alone in striking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Mr. Barak denied that suggestion, saying that military chiefs “are concerned with formulating different military options and bringing their views to the political leadership, and don’t deal with delivering diplomatic messages.”

Still, efforts seem to be under way on both sides to reduce regional anxieties.

Israel and the United States agreed this week to postpone major joint missile-defense exercises that had been scheduled for the spring. Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, cited “diplomatic and regional reasons, the tensions and instability,” as factors in the delay.

In the interview with Army Radio on Wednesday Mr. Barak reiterated the Israeli assessment that Iran has not started building nuclear weapons.

“The Iranians have not ended the oversight exercised by the International Atomic Energy Agency,” he said, adding, “They have not done that because they know that that would constitute proof of the military nature of their nuclear program and that would provoke stronger international sanctions or other types of action against their country.”

The official Islamic Republic News Agency confirmed on Tuesday that a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency would visit Iran for three days starting Jan. 29.

Israel has kept open the possibility of military action against Iran, saying that a credible threat is necessary to back up the sanctions effort.

1/ 2 NEXT PAGE »
Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem, Ellen Barry from Moscow and Alan Cowell from London.

Another great link: http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/science/topics/atomic_weapons/index.html

The Mossad Vs. Ahmadinejad?

While most Israelis see covert war as the preferred method for stopping Iranian nukes, some question its effectiveness.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Joshua Mitnick Israel Correspondent

Tel Aviv — “Everyone knows that we’re behind this and we should be proud!”
The comment appeared on the Facebook page of the Israeli Defense Forces’ chief spokesperson following the assassination last week of an Iranian nuclear scientist. Despite the usual silence from Israeli officials, the quip reflected the widely held consensus that Israel’s Mossad was responsible for the hit.
Amid accusations abroad that the killing represents state-sponsored terrorism and the realization that such actions won’t necessarily stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the covert war is still seen the preferred method among many Israelis for fighting Tehran.
“Covert action definitely has an impact; the question is, how much,” said Ephraim Inbar, the director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. “I am sure it slows [Iran] down. There were forecasts of them finishing much sooner. So far we’ve done rather well.”
The speculation comes amid heightened concern that Iran could reach the point of obtaining a nuclear weapon in the next year. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told an Israeli parliamentary committee that Western sanctions on Iran would not be sufficient to stop its nuclear quest. On Tuesday, an Israeli general told reporters that a nuclear-armed Iran could deter Israel against Hamas and Hezbollah.
The tension has escalated concern that Israel might decide to launch a preemptive strike against Iranian nuclear targets. But such an attack would not take the form of the one-and-out attacks on Iraqi and Syrian nuclear installations, say experts.
Because Iran’s nuclear program is highly dispersed at various sites around the country, an effective attack could likely last more than two weeks, said Uri Dromi, a former government spokesperson and air force pilot. Even then, it is not at all certain that Israel has the capacity to deal a fatal blow to the Iranian nuclear program, Dromi said.
In lieu of a high-risk attack on Iran, undercover sabotage is seen by many Israelis as the next best means of staving off the nuclear threat.
“If Israel indeed [killed the Iranian scientist], this is part of a clandestine war, fought in a pinpoint way with minimal losses to deny Iran a nuclear weapon,” said Yossi Alpher, a former Mossad official and a former head of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. “From the Israeli standpoint, what is the alternative … all-out war? The fact is that Iran is the only country in the world that openly calls for Israel’s destruction, and is at the same time hard at work creating weapons of mass destruction.”
To be sure, a minority of experts disputed the effectiveness of the assassination campaign.
“There’s only one benefit — it might frighten scientists in the nuclear project, and they might take more counter measures,” said Ephraim Kam, a political science professor at Tel Aviv University. “I’m not sure there’s much other benefit. How many can you kill? I’m not sure it’s a very efficient way to stop the nuclear project.”
Meir Javedanfar, Tel Aviv-based Iran analyst, said that assassination of nuclear staff would not prompt Iran from altering its plans. However, he argued that the bite of crippling economic sanctions could produce an improvement because it threatens the rule of the Islamic regime.
Avner Cohen, an Israeli nuclear expert at the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, wrote in Haaretz that the Israeli public doesn’t question the campaign because to do so would be seen as traitorous. He speculated that the covert campaign would harden the resolve of the Iranians to proceed with their efforts, however.
“It’s very possible that the damage of such assassinations are much larger than the utility,” he said.
Inbar was one of the few Israeli analysts to openly speculate that Israel probably had a hand in the assassination. He said the killing is reminiscent of Israeli efforts in decades past to sabotage weapons programs of enemy states, such as Egypt’s missile development program in the 1960s and the Iraqi nuclear project in the ‘70s.
More recently Israel is believed to have been behind the assassination of top Hamas and Hezbollah chiefs.
Inbar said that the current covert war, which is thought to include bombings of military installations and cyber-sabotage, was spearheaded by the recently resigned chief of the Mossad, Meir Dagan.
“We don’t have a clear address for the responsibility for the covert actions in Iran, but I don’t think you need to be too imaginative to realize that there are only a few security services that have such a capability.”
A total of four Iranian scientists have been assassinated in two years, and a fifth escaped a botched attempt. Over the same period, computers managing the enrichment efforts have been paralyzed by two software viruses. In recent months, three explosions have sown destruction at Iranian military sites believed to be linked to the nuclear program.
Iran vowed to take revenge for the assassinations. On Friday, Thai authorities arrested two Lebanese men who were allegedly part of a Hezbollah plot to attack Israeli tourists in Bangkok, prompting travel warnings from both the U.S. and Israel.
On Monday, an Israeli parliamentary committee reviewed attack preparedness at Israeli and Jewish sites around the globe. Reflecting the government’s policy of ambiguity surrounding covert attacks, Committee Chairman Danny Danon declined to acknowledge a link between heightened level of alert and the Tehran assassination.
Still, such a campaign is rooted in Israel’s aversion to inaction in the face of threats, and the willingness to take bold risks to overcome them. Acting preemptively to seize the advantage is a motif that stretches back through most of Israel’s military and political history.
The impulse to be proactive is also rooted in a psyche shaped by the trauma of helplessness during the Holocaust, said analysts.
“If there’s something that Israelis don’t like, it’s the feeling of being helpless,” said Dromi. Facing grave threats, he said, “You don’t just sit there.”

Iran’s nuclear scientists are not being assassinated. They are being murdered!

Killing our enemies abroad is just state-sponsored terror – whatever euphemism western leaders like to use!

On the morning of 11 January Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, the deputy head of Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, was in his car on his way to work when he was blown up by a magnetic bomb attached to his car door. He was 32 and married with a young son. He wasn’t armed, or anywhere near a battlefield.

Since 2010, three other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in similar circumstances, including Darioush Rezaeinejad, a 35-year-old electronics expert shot dead outside his daughter’s nursery in Tehran last July. But instead of outrage or condemnation, we have been treated to expressions of undisguised glee.

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear programme in Iran turn up dead,” bragged the Republican nomination candidate Rick Santorum in October. “I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly.” On the day of Roshan’s death, Israel’s military spokesman, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, announced on Facebook: “I don’t know who settled the score with the Iranian scientist, but I certainly am not shedding a tear” – a sentiment echoed by the historian Michael Burleigh in the Daily Telegraph: “I shall not shed any tears whenever one of these scientists encounters the unforgiving men on motorbikes.”

These “men on motorbikes” have been described as “assassins”. But assassination is just a more polite word for murder. Indeed, our politicians and their securocrats cloak the premeditated, lawless killing of scientists in Tehran, of civilians in Waziristan, of politicians in Gaza, in an array of euphemisms: not just assassinations but terminations, targeted killings, drone strikes.

Their purpose is to inure us to such state-sponsored violence against foreigners. In his acclaimed book On Killing, the retired US army officer Dave Grossman examines mechanisms that enable us not just to ignore but even cheer such killings: cultural distance (“such as racial and ethnic differences that permit the killer to dehumanise the victim”); moral distance (“the kind of intense belief in moral superiority”); and mechanical distance (“the sterile, Nintendo-game unreality of killing through a TV screen, a thermal sight, a sniper sight or some other kind of mechanical buffer that permits the killer to deny the humanity of his victim”).

Thus western liberals who fall over one another to condemn the death penalty for murderers – who have, incidentally, had the benefit of lawyers, trials and appeals – as state-sponsored murder fall quiet as their states kill, with impunity, nuclear scientists, terror suspects and alleged militants in faraway lands. Yet a “targeted killing”, human-rights lawyer and anti-drone activist Clive Stafford Smith tells me, “is just the death penalty without due process”.

Cognitive dissonance abounds. To torture a terror suspect, for example, is always morally wrong; to kill him, video game style, with a missile fired from a remote-controlled drone, is morally justified. Crippled by fear and insecurity, we have sleepwalked into a situation where governments have arrogated to themselves the right to murder their enemies abroad.

Nor are we only talking about foreigners here. Take Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamist preacher, al-Qaida supporter – and US citizen. On 30 September 2011, a CIA drone killed Awlaki and another US citizen, Samir Khan. Two weeks later, another CIA-led drone attack killed Awlaki’s 21-year-old son, Abdul-Rahman. Neither father nor son were ever indicted, let alone tried or convicted, for committing a crime. Both US citizens were assassinated by the US government in violation of the Fifth Amendment (“No person shall be deprived of life without due process of law”).

An investigation by Reuters last October noted how, under the Obama administration, US citizens accused of involvement in terrorism can now be “placed on a kill or capture list by a secretive panel of senior government officials, which then informs the president of its decisions … There is no public record of the operations or decisions of the panel … Neither is there any law establishing its existence or setting out the rules by which it is supposed to operate.”

Should “secret panels” and “kill lists” be tolerated in a liberal democracy, governed by the rule of law? Did the founders of the United States intend for its president to be judge, jury and executioner? Whatever happened to checks and balances? Or due process?

Imagine the response of our politicians and pundits to a campaign of assassinations against western scientists conducted by, say, Iran or North Korea. When it comes to state-sponsored killings, the double standard is brazen. “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them,” George Orwell observed, “and there is almost no kind of outrage … which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side”.

But how many more of our values will we shred in the name of security? Once we have allowed our governments to order the killing of fellow citizens, fellow human beings, in secret, without oversight or accountability, what other powers will we dare deny them?

This isn’t complicated; there are no shades of grey here. Do we disapprove of car bombings and drive-by shootings, or not? Do we consistently condemn state-sponsored, extrajudicial killings as acts of pure terror, no matter where in the world, or on whose orders, they occur? Or do we shrug our shoulders, turn a blind eye and continue our descent into lawless barbarism?

U.S. wants to ‘close down the Central Bank of Iran’ over nuclear concerns

WASHINGTON — The latest round of American sanctions are aimed at shutting down Iran’s central bank, a senior U.S. official said Thursday, spelling out that intention directly for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We do need to close down the Central Bank of Iran (CBI),” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity, while adding that the United States is moving quickly to implement the sanctions, signed into law last month.

The sanctions, broadly aimed at forcing Tehran to shift course on its nuclear program, targeted Iran’s crucial oil sector and required foreign firms to make a choice between doing business with Iran or the United States.

 

Foreign central banks that deal with the Iranian central bank on oil transactions could also face similar restrictions under the new law, which has sparked fears of damage to U.S. ties with nations like Russia and China.

“If a correspondent bank of a U.S. bank wants to do business with us and they’re doing business with CBI or other designated Iranian banks… then they’re going to get in trouble with us,” the US official said.

The measures were contained in a mammoth $662-billion defence bill, which President Barak Obama signed on December 31 at a time of rising tension with Tehran, which has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz — through which more than a third of the world’s tanker-borne oil passes.

The United States has warned it will “not tolerate” such an interruption.

There are fears that increased sanctions on Iran’s central bank could force the global price of oil to suddenly soar, and actually give Tehran a financial windfall on its existing oil sales.

Rising oil prices could also crimp the fragile economic recovery in the United States and inflict pain on American voters in gas stations — at a time when Obama is running for reelection next year.

AFP

Oil executive threatens Obama over Keystone XL

Published: 06 January, 2012, 02:48

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / AFP

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images / AFP

TAGS: ObamaPoliticsLawUSANorth America

 

The largest energy firm in America is attacking President Obama, insisting that the White House’s refusal to cooperate with the Keystone XL pipeline will cause the commander-in-chief to suffer in the 2012 election.

The proposed pipeline would stretch roughly 1,700 miles into America out of the Canadian oil sands to the north and across a massive span of the US. Although backers insist that the effort would bring thousands of jobs and add to America’s reserve of natural resources, activists opposed to the plan have been largely agitated over the detrimental toll the pipeline would cause for the country’s environment.

Facing increased opposition, including but not limited to a series of sit-ins and protests outside his own front door, President Obama delayed offering a decision on a permit that would have let the pipeline start immediately. Instead, said the president, it won’t be until 2013 when the White House will officially give Keystone the thumbs up or thumbs down on the project.

The American Petroleum Institute, the largest oil and gas lobbying group in the country, says that could be a problem for the president.

“This issue is very simple and straightforward, it’s about jobs and national security,” API President Jack Gerard told reporters in a speech this week.

“Anything less than approval or acquiescence in allowing the pipeline to go forward would be inconsistent with the vast majority of Americans,” he added, and insisted that the failure to comply with the API and allegedly the American public would be a bad decision for the Obama administration.

“After waiting more than three years for this pipeline while the country faces prolonged unemployment, the American people are fed up with the president’s inaction on a project that can quickly create jobs,” Fred Upton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee, added in a statement of his own.

On the contrary, a recent Pew poll found that 71 percent of Americans think “This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment.” Barely a quarter of those polled by Pew said they favored expanding exploration and production of fossil fuels.

The impact the API could have on Washington is nothing worth shrugging at. In 2011 alone, the group lobbied to the tune of nearly $6 million on Capitol Hill. At the same time, however, the API has made it abundantly clear that an Obama White House in 2013 is something they aren’t all that keen on. At the dawn of the election cycle, the API sponsored the New Hampshire Energy Freedom Family Festival in New Hampshire, an event attended by around 350 people that attacked the EPA and taxes on the oil industry.

Speaking at the event in support of their goals? GOP contender and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Last February, Martin Durbin, API’s executive vice president for government affairs, told Bloomberg News that the group was looking to throw their support behind someone come 2012 — and that would be an award welcomed only to a candidate deserving of their profits made by pilfering the Earth for oil

“At the end of the day, our mission is trying to influence the policy debate,” said Durbin.

The API has previously paid for ads that attack policy issues they feel are against what the oil industry stands for, although the Obama administration, much to the API’s chagrin, continues to consider ending tax breaks for energy companies included in API.