May 31, 2016

Coalition of Seven State Attorneys General Has Been Formed to Silence Climate Change Critics

Now is 1984! “The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.” - George Orwell

The amazing thing about elitist scams are how under the guise of social justice they make the elite richer and more powerful. Socialism historically is predicated on a group of elitists building a society that reduces all of its citizens to a common standard of living. The resulting society does not value the individual, their rights or their achievements. Currently the global and U.S. elite are pushing their climate change/green agenda with the threat of a global catastrophe. With this as their launching pad they have set in motion hundreds of laws and regulations, both domestically and through the U.N. designed to drive the world toward some form of “global governance” all while making themselves richer and more powerful in the process. -

Al Gore, Democratic State Attorneys Generals Out to Silence Climate Change Dissenters

May 30, 2016

NEWSMAX - In what has to be among the sharpest salvos fired in modern times against free speech and freedom of expression, a coalition of seven state attorneys general has been formed to silence climate change critics.
One of those attorneys general filed a subpoena in April to obtain a decade of research and records from a pro-freedom market think tank that questions the findings of global warming advocates.

Last week, the case against the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) took a new direction when Attorney General Claude Walker of the U.S. Virgin Islands suddenly announced he was withdrawing the subpoena action he filed in the District of Columbia.

But no one at CEI thinks that the assault on them and their arguments against man-made global warming is over — not by a long shot.

Noting that the original subpoena against his group that was filed in the Virgin Islands remains, CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman told reporters that Walker and his fellow attorneys general "apparently think they can continue their unconstitutional intimidation campaign against anyone that challenges their view of climate change."

This latest exchange between CEI and its "legal eagle" antagonists is the culmination of actions that began in April with the launching of the new "Attorneys General United for Clean Power."

"We stand ready to defend the next president's climate change agenda, and vow to fight any efforts to roll-back the meaningful progress we've made over the past eight years," said New York' Attorney General Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

As if to underscore that they mean business when it comes to climate change, Schneiderman and the new attorneys' general group were flanked by another Democrat who has perhaps done more than anyone else to make the issue part of the national political dialogue: Al Gore.

The former vice president and Oscar-winning producer of the pro-climate change film "An Inconvenient Truth," is the country's leading advocate for green projects to mitigate carbon emissions.

Part of the agenda of Gore, Schneiderman, Walker and company was the subpoena against the 20-year-old CEI, which is one of the most respected conservative think tanks in Washington and premier voices for the view that there is no persuasive evidence that the earth faces any severe threat to it.

"And part of the agenda of those who hold the opposite view is to use so-called law enforcement to shut down debate on the issue," CEI's Kazman told Newsmax.

Climate Alarmist’s Predictions Don’t Match Real-world Data

Another Climate Alarmist’s Predictions Don’t Match Real-world Data

May 31, 2016

TOWN HALL - Whenever there is a new record set, whether rain, hurricane, drought, etc., those in the climate change alarmist camp seem to be quick to point to global warming as the cause and make more dire predictions regarding the future—even when there are other documented reasons and even when hard data (not models) disputes the claim. Such is the case with Lake Mead. On May 20, the federal Bureau of Reclamation announced that the nation’s largest reservoir reached an all-time low. The current level slipped below the previous record set in June 2015.

Despite reports of the mismanagement of the important water resource, USA Today responded to the news by proclaiming: “Due to a long drought and climate change, Lake Mead’s water levels continue to fall.”

Brad Udall, a senior water and climate research scientist at Colorado State University, and brother to former Colorado Senator Mark Udall and cousin to New Mexico Senator Tom Udall, declared: “This problem is not going away and it is likely to get worse, perhaps far worse, as climate change unfolds.” According to the Desert Sun, he added: “Unprecedented high temperatures in the basin are causing the flow of the river to decline.”

Udall previously stated:
“Climate change is water change. The two go hand in hand. Heat drives the water cycle. …You have to invoke temperatures to explain the current drought.”
While Udall’s statements are dramatic and coincide with the climate crisis narrative his better-known family members espouse, they do not, according New Mexico hydrologist Mike Wallace, reflect actual temperature and stream flow records in the Colorado River Basin. (I highlighted Wallace’s work on ocean acidification in December 2014.)

Both Wallace and Udall claim to be experts in the hydrology and climatology of the western U.S. However, Wallace told me: “I’m the only hydrologist who is publishing moisture and temperature forecasts in reaches of the Upper Colorado River, years in advance, with consistently high accuracy.”

Wallace, who counts the city of Santa Fe as one of his forecasting business clients, pioneered the discovery that moisture patterns in his area of study—which overlaps Udall’s—are deeply anchored to ocean indexes and sunspot numbers. He boldly asserts:
“There is no correlation of CO2 emissions history to the moisture time series that I have evaluated. Also, for the same stations that I review there is little or no correlation of temperature to streamflow. Rather, ocean drivers can account for changes in temperature and moisture in this region, and those drivers appear to be driven themselves by solar cycles.”
While Udall believes temperatures are rising and causing reduced streamflow into Lake Mead, Wallace disputes the premise. Wallace says he has three years of successful forecast exercises to back up his claim that, in his study areas, “temperatures are hardly trending in any direction and, in any case, those temperatures are not correlating to streamflow.”

Wallace’s study regions include many of the tributaries of the Colorado River such as the San Juan River and the Green River—both of which are sourced in the Rocky Mountains. He says:
“There haven’t been any unusually low streamflow rates or unusually high temperatures in my area of focus. In fact, flows are going up, not down, compared to two and three years ago and some temperatures are actually trending down over the same recent time frame.”
Using his proprietary method (patent pending) with more than 200 accurate forecasts, and applying to areas near the nexus of the Upper Rio Grande and the Upper Colorado Rivers, Wallace is projecting 3-4 years of generally increased water flows, followed by 3-4 years of generally decreasing moisture (drought). He posits that his innovations help municipalities, flood control authorities, irrigation districts, and resource management agencies better plan for future moisture and temperature conditions.

Wallace has written and presented several papers on his discoveries. But he continues to experience resistance from major peer-reviewed journals to publish any of his findings. The troubles likely lie in his demonstrations that emissions are uncorrelated to climate in his study regions. In any case, scientific papers are often considered as precursors to actual applications, and Wallace already has a working, proven application. He is receiving steady and growing recognition from the hydroclimate community. In April, he was an invited presenter to the 30th Annual Rio Grande Basin Snowmelt Runoff Forecast Meeting, sponsored by the USDA SNOTEL network and attended by top regional hydroclimate scientists from agencies including the National Weather Service (NWS), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

If Wallace is correct, and he has a successful climate forecast record to back up his projections, Udall can’t also be right. Wallace believes most of Udall’s climate assertions, such as the claim that regional temperatures explain everything about the drought, are too simplistic. He also expresses concern regarding Udall’s use of the term “drought.”
“To accept those Lake Mead statements as factual,” Wallace said, “anything short of an epic flooding event, must be an epic drought event.”
The natural processes that Wallace has distilled down to a working forecast system, don’t, in any way, appear to fit the crisis narrative that Udall and many climate “authorities” perpetuate. You should ask if we really need more funding, bigger departments, and greater public anxiety to fix something that, at least, in the western U.S., appears to wholly be explained by natural cycles.

The Largest Emitters of Carbon Dioxide: Volcanic Eruptions, Oceans, Decomposition of Plants and Animals, and Forest and Wild Fires

In a Geological Society of America abstract by Dr. Easterbrook, data showed we were in a global warming cycle from 1977 to 1998, at which time we entered into a new global cooling period that should last for the next three decades. The Pacific Ocean has a warm temperature mode and a cool temperature mode, and in the past century has switched back and forth between these two modes every 25-30 years. This is known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO. In 1977 the Pacific abruptly shifted from its cool mode (where it had been since about 1945) into its warm mode, and this initiated global warming from 1977 to 1998. The PDO typically lasts 25-30 years and assures North America of cool, wetter climates during its cool phases and warmer, drier climates during its warm phases. The establishment of the cool PDO in 1998, together with similar cooling of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), virtually assures several decades of global cooling and the end of the past 30-year warm phase.  

PDO typically lasts 25-30 years:

1. 1945 - 1977: PDO cool phase (27 years)
2. 1977 - 1998: PDO warm phase (21 years)
3. 1998 - 2028: PDO cool phase (30 years)

May 30, 2016

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp, Which Insures Private Pensions, Wasn’t Really Intended to Be Used

What is a pension? A pension plan is a method in which an employee transfers part of his or her current income stream toward retirement income. In other words it is wages currently earned, held in trust and invested by the company to be distributed at a later date.

The federal insurance fund protecting millions of pensions is running out of cash

May 30, 2016

Washington Post - One of the nation’s largest multi-employer pension funds said that it is out of ideas for ways to save itself from an impending failure.

After the Treasury Department rejected its Hail Mary proposal, which would have substantially cut benefits for some retirees, the Central States Pension Fund has little choice but to turn to a federal insurance program that is supposed to offer a lifeline to troubled pension funds.

But there’s one major problem — that program is expected to run out of money, too.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which insures private pensions, is dealing with long-standing financial woes with the fund that protects multi-employer pension plans. The program, which some experts say wasn’t really intended to be used, was set up more than four decades ago to serve as a backstop for private-sector pension plans. But it has been relied on more than expected by large plans on unsteady financial footing.

The fund’s deterioration could pose a threat to the 10 million people in multi-employer plans who could soon be left without a safety net for their pensions. Although most of those workers and retirees are in plans that are financially healthy, about 1.5 million people — including the Central States members — are in plans that are projected to run out of cash over the next 20 years.

In the past few weeks, lawmakers, Central States officials and consumer advocates have called for a legislative solution that would shore up fragile pensions and the struggling insurance fund.
“We need a more comprehensive solution,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who introduced a bill last year that would provide the insurance program with government assistance. “Millions and millions of Americans are affected by this.”
Previous efforts to bolster the insurance program have failed, or so far fallen short. For instance, a 2014 law that made it possible for multi-employer pension plans to cut benefits for retirees was meant to alleviate the burden on the PBGC. But now that the Treasury Department has rejected the Central States proposal, which was the first test under the law, the insurance agency is back where it started.

With roughly $2 billion in assets, the fund for multi-employer plans does not have enough money to pay benefits for the plans that are expected to become insolvent over the next decade.

The Central States fund alone, which pays about $2.8 billion in benefits each year and is the largest multi-employer plan in financial trouble, would overwhelm the multi-employer insurance program if it went under.
“At this time, only government funding, either directly to our Pension Fund or through the PBGC, will prevent Central States participants from losing their benefits entirely,” wrote Thomas Nyhan, the executive director of the fund, in a letter on why he thinks the fund cannot come up with another rescue plan.
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., which insures private pensions, was created as part of the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to provide another level of security for the millions of Americans counting on pensions in retirement. The agency has separate programs for single-employer plans, through which one company is paying completely for the costs of financing a pension, and multi-employer plans, which allow businesses to share the costs of providing pension benefits to their workers. The insurance fund for single-employer plans is financially stable, but the fund for multi-employer plans is woefully underfunded.

That’s because when the multi-employer plan insurance fund was created, it was expected that the fund would not be needed much, said Josh Gotbaum, former director of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution.

The thinking was that multi-employer plans would be able to turn to the other companies in the pension fund if one employer fell short in contributions or went out of business, he said. Because of that, multi-employer plans pay smaller premiums than single-employer plans and receive smaller payments from the PBGC when their funds run out of cash.

But over the past several years, multi-employer plans have faced financial challenges similar to those of the Central States fund, he said. Two severe market downturns over roughly 10 years left the plan without enough money to pay expected benefits. At the same time, many companies went out of business, leaving the plan with a smaller number of employers available to pitch in and cover that shortfall.
“What they didn’t think of was, suppose if most of the companies go away and only a few employers are left holding the bag?” Gotbaum said.
With that shortfall in mind, many of the workers and retirees covered by the Central States plan are rallying behind a bill introduced by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Kaptur that would repeal the 2014 law that made it legal to cut pension benefits and instead lead to government assistance for the PBGC. Over the past two weeks, senators including Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wrote to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asking him to address the pension crisis before the Senate breaks for the summer.

May 29, 2016

Dr. Alan Sabrosky, Zionism Unmasked: The Dark Face Of Jewish Nationalism

The Ugly Truth Podcast March 15, 2010

One of the brightest minds on the planet, Dr. Alan Sabrosky, comes on board along with co-host Phil Tourney to discuss Dr. Sabrosky's most recent article "The Dark Face Of Jewish Nationalism".

“Zionism Unmasked: The Dark Face Of Jewish Nationalism

By Dr. Alan Sabrosky
11 March, 2010

Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu once remarked to a Likud gathering that “Israel is not like other countries.” Oddly enough for him, that time he was telling the truth, and nowhere is that more evident than with Jewish nationalism, whether or not one pins the “Zionist” label on it.

Nationalism in most countries and cultures can have both positive and negative aspects, unifying a people and sometimes leading them against their neighbors. Extremism can emerge, and often has, at least in part in almost every nationalist/independence movement I can recall (e.g., the French nationalist movement had The Terror, Kenya’s had the Mau Mau, etc.).

But whereas extremism in other nationalist movements is an aberration, extremism in Jewish nationalism is the norm, pitting Zionist Jews (secular or observant) against the goyim (everyone else), who are either possible predator or certain prey, if not both sequentially. This does not mean that all Jews or all Israelis feel and act this way, by any means. But it does mean that Israel today is what it cannot avoid being, and what it would be under any electable government (a point I’ll develop in another article).

The differences between Jewish nationalism (Zionism) and that of other countries and cultures here I think are fourfold:

1. Zionism is a real witches’ brew of xenophobia, racism, ultra-nationalism, and militarism that places it way outside of a “mere” nationalist context — for example, when I was in Ireland (both parts) I saw no indication whatsoever that the PIRAs or anyone else pressing for a united Ireland had a shred of design on shoving Protestants into camps or out of the country, although there may well have been a handful who thought that way — and goes far beyond the misery for others professed by the Nazis;

2. Zionism undermines civic loyalty among its adherents in other countries in a way that other nationalist movements (and even ultra-nationalist movements like Nazism) did not — e.g., a large majority of American Jews, including those who are not openly dual citizens, espouse a form of political bigamy called “dual loyalty” (to Israel & the US) that is every bit as dishonest as marital bigamy, attempts to finesse the precedence they give to Israel over the US (lots of Rahm Emanuels out there who served in the IDF but NOT in the US armed forces), and has absolutely no parallel in the sense of national or cultural identity espoused by any other definable ethnic or racial group in America — even the Nazi Bund in the US disappeared once Germany and the US went to war, with almost all of its members volunteering for the US armed forces;

3. The “enemy” of normal nationalist movements is the occupying power and perhaps its allies, and once independence is achieved, normal relations with the occupying power are truly the norm, but for Zionism almost everyone out there is an actual or potential enemy, differing only in proximity and placement on its very long list of enemies (which is now America’s target list); and

4. Almost all nationalist movements (including the irredentist and secessionist variants) intend to create an independent state from a population in place or to reunite a separated people (like the Sudeten Germans in the 1930s) — it is very rare for it to include the wholesale displacement of another indigenous population, which is far more common of successful colonialist movements as in the US — and perhaps a reason why most Americans wouldn’t care too much about what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians even if they DID know about it, is because that is no different than what Europeans in North America did to the Indians/Native Americans here in a longer & more low-tech fashion.

The implications of this for Middle East peace prospects, and for other countries in thrall to their domestic Jewish lobbies or not, are chilling. The Book of Deuteronomy come to life in a state with a nuclear arsenal would be enough to give pause to anyone not bought or bribed into submission — which these days encompasses the US Government, given Israel’s affinity for throwing crap into the face of the Obama administration and Obama’s visible affinity for accepting it with a smile, Bibi Netanyahu’s own “Uncle Tom” come to Washington.

May 28, 2016

CDC Whistleblower William Thompson to Extend MMR Vaccine Fraud

(GlobeNewswire)– According to multiple reliable sources, CDC whistleblower Dr. William Thompson, a senior scientist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), will soon publish a reworking of data from a controversial study first published in 2004. If true, this is of major concern. For over a decade, officials have cited this disputable study to claim no connection between the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR) vaccine and autism and to deny compensation to parents of MMR vaccine-injured children.

Dr. Thompson has admitted in taped phone conversations and in a statement through his lawyer, that he and other authors of the study, which include senior officials at CDC, manipulated the data and violated study protocol to conceal their findings linking the MMR vaccine to autism.  In what can only be described as scientific fraud, Dr. Thompson is now poised to publish “a rework” of the data in a blatant attempt to exonerate the MMR vaccine.

This rework comes on the heels of the just-released documentary Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, which exposes the CDC’s fraud, deceit, and obstruction of justice regarding the MMR vaccine. Vaxxed has received global media attention and is waking up Americans coast to coast to the criminal activity at the CDC. It is suspicious that Thompson and the CDC have now decided, 20 months since Thompson first blew the whistle of fraud and malfeasance at CDC, to take action by publishing a rework of the data.

While the CDC claims no knowledge of a connection between MMR and autism, Dr. Thompson’s own statement to Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) when he released thousands of documents to Posey is explicit,  
“We hypothesized that if we found statistically significant effects at either the 18-month or 36-month threshold, we would conclude that vaccinating children early with the MMR vaccine could lead to autism-like characteristics or features.

In fact, the CDC’s data did show statistically significant effects at the 36-month threshold, proof that the CDC knew their study found a causal connection between the MMR vaccine and autism.  CDC responded to this finding by manipulating the data to make this finding disappear.

The agency and Dr. Thompson are engaging in “data raking,” utilizing scientific data designed for one purpose to achieve another end. These steps demonstrate a complete lack of scientific integrity at CDC, a federal agency charged with protecting the public health.

According to Congressman Posey, after concealing the MMR vaccine-autism link in their study, the authors met in a conference room at CDC to destroy the documents.

The data and analysis from 2004 are corrupted and therefore it is not a wise or responsible use of taxpayer-funded time or taxpayer dollars to reanalyze that which has already been illegally manipulated. In addition, as a self-proclaimed party to scientific fraud, Dr. Thompson cannot be trusted with any data or analysis, especially while in the employ of the CDC.

Statement of Concern by the Undersigned

All these actions serve as further evidence that the CDC cannot be trusted. When the CDC insists the MMR vaccine does not cause autism or they have no research demonstrating that vaccines are linked to or cause autism, they are guilty of criminal behavior and complicit in the injury of innocent children the world over.

It is clear the CDC cannot be trusted and has committed overt scientific fraud. We, the undersigned, call on the US Congress and the Department of Justice to hold CDC officials and study authors Dr. Frank DeStefano, Dr. Coleen Boyle, Dr. William Thompson, Dr. Tanya Karapurkar Bhasin, and Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp accountable for their criminal actions.

We also call on Congress to remove any oversight of vaccines from the Department of Health and Human Services. We call on Congress to immediately repeal the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which gives immunity to vaccine manufacturers thus removing the necessary incentive to ensure the safety of vaccines.  Finally and most importantly, we call on state legislatures to immediately repeal all vaccine mandates nationwide as it is each person’s inalienable right to determine what is put into their body or that of their child’s.

May 25, 2016

Satellites Have Recorded No Statistically-significant Global Warming Over Nearly the Past Two Decades

CO2 'Pollution' Is Greening the Planet

May 9, 2016

Larry Bell, Newsmax - If there’s anything that climate crisis theology clerics hate more than fossil fuels, it’s got to be any glad tidings about CO2. Like, for example, results of a global satellite study published last month in the journal Nature. It reported that thanks to that “pollutant,” the planet is producing lots more veggies even the most strident non-carnivorous ideologically-superior planetary salvationists should truly celebrate.

How much more?

Well, according to the 32 researchers from nine countries, it amounted to “a persistent and widespread increase” of greening over 25 to 50 percent of the “global vegetated area” over the past 35 years. Less than 4 percent of the globe showed a reduction. Of the 85 percent of Earth’s ice-free lands, the areas covered in green average about 32 percent of that amount.

The additional leaves laid out in a carpet would cover the continental U.S. twice over.

If you have been holding your breath wondering why this is occurring, go ahead relax . . . take some blameless credit.

Based upon simulated ecosystem models, the researchers credited 70 percent of this green bounty to CO2 fertilization benefits. They attributed another 9 percent to nitrogen fertilizers and 4 percent to shifts in land management, neither of which explain observed added forest growth.

A 2013 study of temperate and boreal forests in the Northern Hemisphere (also published in the journal Nature), reported a substantial increase in water-use efficiency over the past two decades which was much larger than predicted by biosphere models. This was attributed to increased ecosystem-level photosynthesis, net carbon uptake and decreasing evapotranspiration (water loss).

And here’s the part some authors of the most recent report obviously had to struggle with. They attributed the third greatest beneficial influence — 8 percent — to “climate change”. 

This admission must have been particularly painful for co-author Philippe Ciais from the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Sciences in France, who has also served as an author for reliably alarmist UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.

True to form, Ciais said: 
“The fallacy of the contrarian argument is two-fold. First, the many negative aspects of climate change are not acknowledged.

"Second, studies have shown that plants acclimatize to rising CO2 concentration and the fertilization effect diminishes over time.”
Well actually, no. He’s wrong on both accounts.

Regarding the first “fallacy,” as Judith Curry, former chair of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology has pointed out:
“It is inappropriate to dismiss the arguments of the so-called contrarians, since their disagreement with the consensus reflects conflicts of values and preference for the empirical [i.e., what has been observed] versus the hypothetical [i.e. what is projected from climate models].”
As for claims that CO2 fertilization benefits are temporary, leading CO2 plant growth authority Craig Idso, who chairs the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, finds no empirical evidence exists to support a model-based claim that future carbon uptake by plants will diminish due to rising temperatures.

In fact, just the opposite has been observed in the real world.

Over the past 50 years, global carbon uptake by plants has doubled. CO2 boosts water use efficiency.

Increased CO2 fertilization enables plant leaves to extract more carbon from the air — lose less water — or both — during photosynthesis, a process that converts sunlight and soil nutrients into sugars which fuel life.

Many plants also tolerate heat better when CO2 levels are higher, a condition evidenced by satellite imagery of deserts and savannas where greenery expansion is more apparent than in wet locations.

Lead author Zaichun Zhu from Peking University told BBC News,
“The greening reported in this study has the ability to fundamentally change the cycling of water and carbon in the climate system.”
In many regions of the world, a warmer planet will lead to more precipitation and longer growing seasons. This results in far fewer deaths from starvation and winter hypothermia.

And yes, although just not happening very recently, climate change is very real.

Despite “record high” atmospheric CO2 levels, other than 1998 and 2015, ocean El Nino temperature spikes, satellites have recorded no statistically-significant global warming over nearly the past two decades.

Nevertheless, this “pause” is occurring within a nearly two-century-long natural warming trend which began before the Industrial Revolution introduced fossil-fueled smokestacks and SUVs.

Those same fossil fuels displaced use of firewood, preserving more forests to exchange CO2 for oxygen we and Bambi depend upon while also returning plant fertilizer to grow more food in the bargain.

Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment at Rockefeller University puts the real story into perspective:  
“Global greening is the most important ecological trend on Earth today. The biosphere on land is getting bigger, year by year, by two billion tons or even more.”
That sort of “pollution” deserves a grateful world of gratitude.

May 24, 2016

Civil Asset Forfeiture: Stealing Other People's Stuff is a Crime When Someone Else Does It, But It's "Community Safety" When Police Do It

This tweet accidentally revealed an uncomfortable truth about law enforcement

Civil forfeiture, as it is allowed today, is theft, plain and simple. Civil forfeiture has been dramatically abused by authorities nation wide and must be stopped.

Civil asset forfeiture — police confiscating the stuff of someone accused of a crime, on the theory that it might have been used in the crime or bought with money from it — is one of those widespread practices that get more controversial the more people pay attention to it.

Law enforcement uses guns and law to steal private property without charges or Due Process. It's a practice courts are ending.

A couple of states have passed laws dramatically restricting police's ability to confiscate property before the owner is actually convicted of a crime. In Congress, a bill has been introduced that would make sure people whose property is confiscated by federal law enforcement agents get a hearing to contest the seizure.

So it's not surprising that law enforcement agencies are on the defensive about it. After all, a significant revenue stream of theirs is under attack.

Stealing other people's stuff is a crime when someone else does it, but it's "community safety" when police do it.
"If you do it, it's illegal; if law enforcement does it, it's public safety."

Iran Votes to File a Complaint with the International Court of Justice Against the U.S. Over a Supreme Court Ruling That Approved Confiscation of Iranian Assets

Iran seeks money from U.S. over 1953 coup that empowered American-backed shah

May 17, 2016

USA TODAY - The Iranian parliament wants the U.S. to compensate the country for damages from a series of events dating to the 1953 coup that increased the power of the pro-American shah.

The parliament on Tuesday passed a bill requiring its government to demand compensation from the United States for "spiritual and material" damages.

Also Tuesday, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council voted to file a complaint with the International Court of Justice against the U.S. over last month's Supreme Court ruling that approved confiscation of Iranian assets.

The cases reflect Iran's frustration with the pace of integration into the global trade and banking community since some international sanctions were lifted in January. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, last month accused the United States of creating "Iranophobia" to slow economic progress.

The compensation bill does not determine a monetary amount for the damages, the Islamic Republic News Agency reports. The CIA has acknowledged directing the 1953 coup, which drove out Iran's democratically elected prime minister during a bitter dispute over control of oil. Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi remained in power until the Islamic Revolution in 1979, months before the start of the iconic hostage crisis at the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

The parliament is also seeking compensation for, among other things, 17,000 victims of assassination, the "martyrdom" of 223,600 soldiers in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and more recently for damages for "blocking, confiscating or seizing of assets belonging to Iranian government, organizations or public and state-owned organizations and officials of Iran."

A series of international boycotts have battered the Iranian economy. Last year, Iran reached an agreement with the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and Germany to limit its nuclear program to peaceful activities in return for lifting crippling international sanctions.

The deal did not end U.S. sanctions on other Iranian activities, however, such as its support for terrorism, developing ballistic missiles and human rights violations. And last month the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that families of victims of a 1983 terrorists strike in Lebanon linked to Iran can collect reparations from $2 billion in Iranian assets frozen in U.S. banks.

That ruling is the basis for Iran's complaint to the International Court of Justice. Iranian Justice Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi said bringing a complaint against the U.S. at The Hague was just one way Iran will pursue the case. He said unexplained "overt and covert political" efforts also would be pursued, Iran's Tasnim news agency reported.

40% of U.S. Arms Exports Go to Middle East; China Ups Its Share of Global Arms Exports by Over 60% Compared to the 2006-2010 Period

Here's who buys the most weapons from the U.S.

May 24, 2016

CNN - With the end of the U.S. arms embargo, Vietnam will join a long list of international recipients of American armaments.

The U.S. is responsible for nearly 33% of worldwide exports -- by far the top arms exporter on the planet -- but which countries does the U.S. sell the most weapons to?

Saudi Arabia was the top recipient of American-made arms from 2011-2015, followed closely by the United Arab Emirates, according to research compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), which has been analyzing international arms transfers since 1968.

The rest of the top 10 included Turkey, South Korea, Australia, Taiwan, India, Singapore, Iraq, and Egypt.

Experts believe the Middle East will remain a top destination for weapons for some time -- it currently accounts for about 40% of U.S. arms exports -- especially given the rise of ISIS.
"The dynamic of the [falling] oil prices has been overwhelmed by the deep insecurity these countries are currently feeling and the insecure future they feel they face," Andrew Hunter of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told CNN.
Hunter, the director of the defense-industrial initiatives group, said that the countries in the region were "prioritizing defense" over other spending.

The American exports include everything from small arms to fighter jet aircraft and tanks, to Patriot Missile batteries.

Several Asian countries are also represented high up on the arms sales list, reflecting ongoing tensions with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs and China's stepped up military activity in the South China Sea.

The tightening of U.S.-Vietnam relations comes as Vietnam has protested China's actions in its nearby waters, including an incident where China stationed an oil rig in disputed waters off of Vietnam's coast in 2014, an event that sparked anti-China riots in Vietnam.

The day after the US. announced it would lift its arms embargo against Vietnam, Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday that Vietnam needs the military equipment it will get in order to defend itself.

While most of the top importers use their own money to buy arms from the U.S., the U.S. also provides some countries with grants and loans -- separate from the arms sales -- to purchase defense equipment from American manufacturers, as part of a program called Foreign Military Financing.

The State Department's 2017 budget request includes approximately $5.7 billion for Foreign Military Financing.

In the proposed budget, the top five recipients of American foreign military financing will be Israel ($3.1 billion), Egypt ($1.3 billion), Jordan ($350 million), Pakistan ($265 million), and Iraq ($150 million).

While Israel is supposed to spend this money on U.S. arms, some of that country's most expensive purchases, like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, have yet to be delivered and are therefore not reflected in SIPRI's statistics.

While the Middle East tops the list, funding for African armies in 2017 will more than double from last year, likely a consequence of increased terrorist activity in places like Mali, Somalia, and Nigeria.

Hunter said that U.S. defense companies were explicit in their desire to boost international exports in the wake of recent defense budget cuts.
At a media day event in March, the CEO of U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin, Marillyn Hewson, said, "One area where we expect the majority of our growth potential to come from in the years ahead is our international customers."
Other major arms exporters after the U.S. include Russia, China, France, and Germany.

May 22, 2016

Chinese and Russian Warplanes Intercept U.S. Military Aircraft and Patrol Near America’s West Coast

Threat from Russian and Chinese warplanes mounts

May 22, 2016

USA TODAY — Chinese and Russian warplanes have been increasingly aggressive intercepting U.S. military aircraft and patrolling near America’s West Coast, prompting the Air Force’s top combat officer to label their provocations one of his top worries.

Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, who leads Air Combat Command, said in an interview with USA TODAY that meeting the challenge from the Russian and Chinese to flights in international airspace is essential but dangerous.
“Our concern is a resurgent Russia and a very, very aggressive China,” Carlisle said.
Both countries are intent on expanding their spheres of influence — Russia in eastern Europe and the Pacific with China focusing much of its effort over the disputed South China Sea.
“Their intent is to get us not to be there,” Carlisle said. “So that the influence in those international spaces is controlled only by them. My belief is that we cannot allow that to happen. We have to continue to operate legally in international airspace and international waterways. We have to continue to call them out when they are being aggressive and unsafe.”
The stakes are high. Aggressive intercepts of U.S. patrol planes run the risk of mid-air collisions that would escalate tensions among nuclear powers.
“Any accident that occurs while the U.S. military is playing cat and mouse with Russian or Chinese forces could escalate into a real fight,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant and military analyst at the Lexington Institute. “If it does, American victory is not assured, because U.S. forces are operating thousands of miles from home and the other side is near its main bases. Small confrontations can turn into big wars, and Russian military doctrine embraces the use of nuclear weapons to win local conflicts."
An increasing number have occurred in recent months, Carlisle said, with fighters from Russia and China buzzing perilously close to American military aircraft.
The Pentagon has denounced the hazardous intercepts for more than a year, although condemnation hasn’t halted the practice. On May 17, two Chinese fighter jets flew dangerously close to a U.S. Navy patrol plane over the South China Sea. China has been on a campaign to assert its sovereignty over the busy waterways, building artificial islands on reefs in the sea and establishing military bases. In late April, a Russian fighter pilot performed a “barrel roll” over the top of an Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane, Carlisle said, above the Black Sea.

There has also been an uptick in long-range bomber activity from the Russians in Eastern Europe and extending to flights off the U.S. West Coast, Carlisle said.
“We have seen an increase,” Carlisle said. “All the way down to the California coast. The number and frequency has increased.”
For China, the goal appears to be establishing control of the international airspace over the South China Sea. There are conflicting territorial claims among countries in the region with China upping the ante by establishing a military bases on artificial islands around the Paracel and Spratley Islands chains.

Carlisle expects that the Chinese will institute an Air Defense Identification Zone over a large portion of the South China Sea. Zones like these extend beyond a country’s borders in its national security interests. Aircraft entering such a zone are required them to identify and locate themselves. The United States has established them after consulting with neighboring countries.

The Chinese unilaterally set up an identification zone in the East China Sea in 2013. Carlisle expects a similar action soon in the South China Sea.
“Their expansion into the Paracels and the Spratleys is so they can declare it and then have the capability to enforce it, where they can do intercepts,” Carlisle said. “They are doing it outside of what could be consider the norms.”
Maintaining communication with the Russian and Chinese military is key to avoiding mishaps, Carlisle said. Training pilots to deal with intercepts will continue.
“As they become more aggressive, you run the risk of miscalculation,” he said. “You don’t know where that’s going to lead, or end.”

May 16, 2016

National Vietnam Veterans Foundation is a Sham Run by a VA Employee

'Worst' charity for veterans run by VA employee

May 16, 2016

CNN - At first glance, the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation is a roaring success. According to its tax filings, the charity has received more than $29 million in donations from generous Americans from 2010 to 2014 for what it calls on its website "aiding, supporting and benefiting America's veterans and their families."

But look a little closer on those same filings and you can see that nearly all of those donations have been cycled back to telemarketers, leaving less than 2 percent for actual veterans and veterans' charitable causes.
That's why Charity Navigator, one of the nation's largest and most influential charity watchdog organizations, has given the charity a "zero" out of four stars for those same four years.
"It's a zero-star organization and you can't go lower than that," says Michael Thatcher, Charity Navigator's CEO. "They don't have an independent board of directors, they actually don't even have a comprehensive board of directors -- only three members on the board at this point in time and some of them are family. So one can say, is this representative of an independent board? It's not."
The charity's most recently filed tax return, for 2014, lists a catalogue of expenses paid for by donations: including $133,000 for travel, $21,000 for unnamed "awards", $70,000 for a category described as "other expenses" and even a little more than $8,000 for parking.

Charity president works at VA

The CEO and founder of the National Vietnam Veterans Foundation, himself a veteran, is J. Thomas Burch, who is also a federal employee working as an attorney for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Burch is deputy director in the VA's Office of General Counsel, where he pulled down $127,000 in salary in 2014. That's the same year he drew a salary of $65,000 as head of his "zero-star" charity.

A VA spokesman told CNN Burch's position at the veteran's charity is not a conflict of interest "per se". But the spokesman added the VA is now "reviewing" the situation and that the agency's Office of Inspector General is handling that review.

When contacted by CNN, Burch asked that we not contact him at his job at the Department of Veterans Affairs, but he refused to answer phone calls placed to his home. CNN tried to confront Burch as he drove home from work in a black Rolls Royce, but upon seeing a CNN camera crew, Burch gunned the Rolls Royce down his suburban Washington, D.C. street and disappeared.

May 10, 2016

Israeli Military Rule in Occupied West Bank Leads to Arrest of Palestinian Girl for Facebook Post

Israel jails Palestinian beautician over Facebook post

Family "shocked and furious" after Facebook post leads to 45-day imprisonment for Majd Atwan.

May 10, 2016

Al Jazeera - As uniformed men burst through her front gate last month, Nidal Atwan first thought they had come to her Bethlehem-area home (occupied West Bank) to arrest her 16-year-old son, Mohammed.
"It was two o'clock in the morning. If you saw the number of military jeeps, you'd think Osama bin Laden was in the neighbourhood," recalled Nidal's husband, Yousef.

To their surprise, soldiers pulled Nidal aside and asked after the whereabouts of her 22-year-old daughter, Majd, a makeup artist with a passion for bold hair colours and crystal-enhanced manicures.

In disbelief, Nidal asked the commander to show her the warrant, which stated that Majd was wanted on incitement charges over posts made on social media.
"I was shocked and furious," Nidal told Al Jazeera. "It struck me immediately, once they said they wanted Majd, that it was probably over Facebook," Yousef added.
On Monday, an Israeli military court sentenced Majd to 45 days in prison and a fine of 3,000 shekels ($800) for praising a recent bus bombing in Jerusalem.

Before Majd's arrest, Yousef and Nidal said they were aware of - but not alarmed by - their daughter's online presence. They expressed surprise that her post led to a series of interrogations at Jerusalem's Russian Compound, a police facility whose name evokes fear among many Palestinians.

Did she write stuff online? Yeah, like all other Palestinians. I really don't understand why they chose to arrest her.
"My daughter is not politically active; rather, her involvements are in beauty," Yousef said. "Did she write stuff online? Yeah, like all other Palestinians. I really don't understand why they chose to arrest her."
Since her arrest, Majd has been shepherded to and from court on six occasions as her case has moved through the system. The process has been hard on her, her parents told Al Jazeera, as Majd suffers from a number of health issues, including anaemia.

Majd's lawyer, Tareq Barghouti, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli military had monitored his client for two months before arriving at her house to make the arrest. One year ago, such charges would have been unheard of, he said, but "it has become a common thing these days, and there has been a wave of arrests on these Facebook posts".

Majd is one of nearly 150 Palestinians detained by Israeli forces over Facebook-related "incitement" since a wave of violence erupted in the region last October, according to prisoners' rights group Addameer. The numbers are a sharp increase from the 13 cases they documented in 2014.

Of those jailed in the past year, most were held in administrative detention without charge for three months. The maximum sentence for incitement is 10 years.

May 6, 2016

Cops Rarely Punished for Lying Under Oath

Cops rarely punished when judges find testimony false, questionable

Chicago Tribune
May 6, 2016

Late last year, Judge William Hooks heard the kind of case that occurs at Cook County's main courthouse every day and that, in most instances, ends with a guilty verdict and the defendant headed off to prison. This time, though, the case came to a different conclusion.

At the center was a veteran Chicago police narcotics officer who testified that he and his partner had abandoned an undercover drug surveillance to stop a minivan for failing to signal for a right turn — and discovered about 2 1/2 pounds of cocaine in the vehicle.

Lawyers for the two men arrested in the case said the story did not ring true and asked the judge to throw out the charges before trial. There was no way, they said, that officers from a specialized narcotics unit would break away from their surveillance for a traffic stop.

Hooks agreed.

In language that was unusually blunt even for Hooks, the veteran jurist railed against what some other judges and lawyers who work in Cook County's criminal justice system say occurs far too often: police officers shading the truth in subtle ways or outright lying from the witness stand. The result, they said, is that sometimes the innocent go to prison, the guilty go free and the criminal justice system is tarnished.

Indeed, a Chicago Tribune investigation documented that troubling phenomenon, with more than a dozen examples over the past few years in which police officers, according to judges, gave false or questionable testimony — but experienced few, if any, repercussions.

It happened in court hearings that involved a $50,000 brick of cocaine and a $30 bag of heroin. It happened in gun cases in Cook County court and money-laundering hearings in federal court. It happened with big issues, such as whether the officers had witnessed a crime as it occurred, and with smaller details, such as the direction they were driving on patrol. And it happened with defendants who had a string of convictions and those who had no previous arrests.

Officers come to court well aware they have a built-in advantage because so many cases come down to their word against that of a defendant. As a result, they can testify with little fear of prosecution or discipline. The Chicago Police Department and the Cook County state's attorney's office almost never hold officers accountable in spite of claims they have a zero-tolerance policy for officers who do not tell the truth.

The issue so erodes trust in the criminal justice system that the U.S. Department of Justice, as part of its civil rights investigation into the Police Department, has asked the Cook County public defender's office to refer cases with evidence that officers testified falsely, the Tribune has learned.

Determining whether an officer lied on the witness stand or was simply mistaken can be difficult; a judge's ruling does not necessarily mean an officer intentionally testified falsely. Nonetheless, top police officials and prosecutors make little effort to get to the bottom of what some lawyers have come to call "testilying."

The exception: cases in which video undermines the testimony of the police officer. In those rare cases, prosecutors have acted.

May 2, 2016

Detroit Public School Teachers Call-in Sick: It's for the Children's Sake!

"How does a district allow a debt to reach 750 million? Clearly alot of incompetence at the top. This is counterintuitive though in the fact that the stated number one goal of teachers is to educate our children. They deserve their pay and I'm sure there will be emergency funding in the state and government level to insure that teachers are paid their basic salary. They shouldn't use children as a bargaining tool. You are being paid until June 30th. Do your job until then." - Larry at Yahoo News

Sick-out by teachers shuts nearly all Detroit public schools

May 2, 2016

AP — Nearly all of Detroit's public schools were closed Monday and more than 45,000 students missed classes after about half the district's teachers called out sick to protest the possibility that some of them won't get paid over the summer if the struggling district runs out of cash.

The latest in a series of sick-outs shuttered 94 of 97 schools for the day as 1,562 teachers heeded their union's call to stay home. The move by the Detroit Federation of Teachers came after Detroit Public Schools' transition manager said the district would have no money to continue paying teachers this summer without further funding from the state.

The state had approved $47.8 million in emergency money in March to keep the 46,000-student school system operating, but that amount only pays the district's bills through June 30. Detroit Schools also would be unable to fund summer school or special education programs after June 30. The state Legislature is considering a $720 million restructuring plan that would pay off the district's enormous debt.

It wasn't immediately clear how many of the district's approximately 3,000 educators chose to have their bi-weekly pay spread out over 26 weeks. Some say they live paycheck to paycheck and need the money to get through July and August, before the next school year starts.
"We have already put the work in," said Kimberly Morrison, 54, a reading and recovery specialist and 20-year district employee. "If I don't get my pay, then somebody else — who I owe — won't get their pay."
Kindergarten teacher Famata Legemah, 54, says it's difficult for her to save enough during the school year to make do over the summer because "there's not a whole lot left over."

Morrison and Legemah were among a few hundred teachers who picketed Monday morning outside the district's administrative offices.
"There's a basic agreement in America: When you put in a day's work, you'll receive a day's pay," Detroit Federation of Teachers Interim President Ivy Bailey said in a statement. "DPS is breaking that deal. Teachers want to be in the classroom giving children a chance to learn and reach their potential.

"Unfortunately, by refusing to guarantee that we will be paid for our work, DPS is effectively locking our members out of the classrooms."
Teacher strikes are illegal under Michigan law. Sick-outs earlier this year caused tens of thousands of students to miss class.

Dejuan Parkman, who has four children in the district, joined the protest. Parkman, 42, was able to get his mother to watch the kids Monday, but said he might have to take time off from his catering business if more sick-outs are held.
"It's real scary," he said. "What are we going to do if the teachers shut down the schools? I'm not mad at the teachers. You can't pay the teachers their money? That's not right. They have to pay their utilities, pay their mortgages and car notes."
Steven Rhodes, the district's state-appointed transition manager and a former bankruptcy judge, also said the teachers "have to be paid for the work that they do," but without more help from the state that might not be possible. He said he understood the frustration and would like to do something about it.
"No one can guarantee what the Legislature will do," Rhodes said. "The alternative is so unimaginable."
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder said Monday that he hopes to see action this month and "clearly before the middle of June" by lawmakers.
"We need to get something done here," Snyder told reporters in Flint. "A legislative solution is the best solution compared to the alternatives of ending up in court in some fashion."
Monday's sick-out was not constructive, especially with the Legislature considering the restructuring plan, he added.
"That just probably raises more questions and challenges to legislators," Snyder said.

New Law Gives Treasury Department Authority to Approve Cuts Proposed by a Multi-employer Private Pension Funds

273,000 union workers and retirees brace for pension cuts

May 2, 2016

CNN - The struggling Central States Pension Fund is in such bad shape that it's seeking government approval to cut benefits -- and the ruling is expected to come this week.

It would be the first time the government green-lights pension cuts under a new law giving the Treasury Department authority to approve, or reject, cuts proposed by a multi-employer, private fund as a way to head off insolvency.

Previously, failing pension funds could reduce future benefits for current workers, but they couldn't touch those already being paid to current retirees -- until now.

The Central States Pension Fund covers workers and retirees from more than 1,500 companies across a range of industries, but most of its retirees were truck drivers.

A lot of the fund's companies went bankrupt after the trucking industry was deregulated in the 1980s. That's part of the reason the fund is in trouble now. It's currently paying out $3 for every $1 it takes in, and is expected to run out of money in 10 years.

About 115,000 retirees face pension cuts under the proposed plan, many of which could be severe.
Bill Hendershot, 74, is bracing for a 60% cut to his $3,500 monthly pension check. He's already applied for part-time work, and scaled back his cell phone and cable plans. Bill and his wife rely mostly on his pension and their Social Security checks. They stand to lose $2,104 a month, or about one-third of their income, if the plan is approved.

Bill and Evonne Hendershot stand to lose $2,104 a month if the pension cuts are approved.

"I myself don't have a lot of hope. I don't think the government officials care about Teamsters' pensions, especially in an election year," Hendershot said.
While some in Congress -- including Bernie Sanders -- introduced legislation last year to change the law and prevent pension cuts, no proposal has made it out of committee.

The Treasury Department appointed attorney Ken Feinberg, who's known for overseeing the 9/11 victim compensation fund, to review the plan. He has until May 7 to make a decision. If he approves the plan, it will be put to a vote for the plan's workers and retirees. But no matter how they vote, Feinberg has the final say.

That's because the Central States Pension fund is one of the biggest in the country and if it fails, it could also wipe out the government's pension insurance fund, the Pension Benefits Guarantee Corporation.

May 1, 2016

Scalia's Death Instantly Made the 2nd Amendment the Biggest Issue of the 2016 Presidential Election

Chelsea Clinton promises her mom’s Supreme Court will gut the 2nd Amendment

April 22, 2016

Robert Laurie, Canada Free Press - Back in February, I argued that the death of Antonin Scalia instantly made the 2nd Amendment the biggest issue of the 2016 presidential election.  Since then, Republicans have been busy bickering about transgender bathrooms and who they hate more: Trump or Cruz. While they indulge in that incredible waste of time, the left is cruising toward a future where the Constitution is decimated by a statist Supreme Court pick.

Obama has already nominated Merrick Garland to fill Scalia’s position on the bench. He’s about as anti-2A as they come, and if he’s confirmed, you can be 100% certain that he’ll overturn 2008’s District of Columbia v Heller decision. That would eliminate the concept of gun ownership as an individual right, basically gutting the 2nd Amendment.

He may or may not make it through the nominating process, but rest assured.  If he doesn’t, Hillary can’t wait to appoint someone else who will eliminate your rights. As Chelsea Clinton is all too happy to admit; her mom has plans for Heller…

In other words, “With Scalia dead, we can finally destroy your 2nd Amendment protections the way we’ve always wanted to, and we’re pretty excited about that.”

Remember, these are the people who constantly promise you can keep your plan, you can keep your doctor, and that no one wants to destroy your ability to “hunt and protect your family.”

As we head toward November, never forget that Hillary views the Constitution as nothing more than an insignificant obstacle. At heart, she’s an authoritarian gun-grabber who, if it furthers her agenda and pleases her donors, will gleefully shred every single one of your rights.

Put an End to the Privatization of Public Resources and Declare Public Sector Labor Unions Illegal

Rauner turns to privatization push during second year in office

April 30, 2016

Chicago Tribune - Stymied at the statehouse by ruling Democrats, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is spending year two trying to shift government functions to the private sector.

Since January, he's formed a private not-for-profit corporation to handle the state's business recruitment efforts; announced a plan to allow private companies to build and manage new toll lanes along a congested stretch of the Stevenson Expressway; and called for private donors to step in to help the financially struggling state museums and fairgrounds.

And the first-term chief executive continues to insist the state should be allowed to expand its ability to outsource work to private contractors, one of the key stumbling blocks that has stalled negotiations on a new contract for unionized state workers.

The privatization push comes as state government remains stuck in a historic budget impasse centered on a fight between Rauner and Democratic leaders over his business-friendly, union-weakening legislative agenda. It's a way for Rauner to show he's working to fix the state's financial mess even as the stalemate drives Illinois deeper into debt. Tapping private-sector resources can relieve costly burdens on taxpayers and help government be more efficient, Rauner says.

UN Establishes Database of All Companies Implicated in Israel’s Illegal Settlements in Palestine

New UN database of companies complicit in Israel's occupation

April 30, 2016
The Hill - Last month, in a landmark decision, the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to establish a database of all companies implicated in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including the city of East Jerusalem.

Finally, after years of toothless UN condemnations of settlements – which are a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to justice and peace in the region - there will be an official UN list that names and exposes businesses that have for decades enabled and profited from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other human rights abuses.

Establishment of such a UN database is long overdue. Already in the 1970s and 1980s, the UN Security Council called on all states to not recognize or provide assistance, economic or otherwise, to Israel’s illegal annexation and settlement policy. In 1982 the General Assembly called for sanctions against Israel for the same reason.

This decision by the Human Rights Council, nearly 50 years after Israel began its settlement enterprise, is certainly too little, too late. There are currently approximately 650,000 Israeli settlers living illegally in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, confining Palestinians to less than 40% of their land. However, it is still an important victory for Palestinians and the human rights community at large, who are struggling against US and European government policies that protect Israel from censure in the Security Council and undermine efforts to hold Israeli officials accountable.

Legally speaking, all UN-listed companies are to immediately stop their dealings with Israeli settlements and member states are to ensure that they do so. Additionally, investors and contractors, whether governments, local authorities or private entities, have repeatedly been urged by UN experts to avoid engagement with such companies until they end their illegal business dealings in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Companies that will be listed in this UN database are not only those based or operating inside Israeli settlements, but basically all companies doing business with the state of Israel or private Israeli actors operating in occupied Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem. This is because, in the framework of the UN, “Israeli settlements” is shorthand for the wide range of Israeli activities that contribute to the annexation and exploitation of Palestinian land and natural resources, demographic change through population transfer, and denial of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people, all of which contravene international law. Companies will be listed if they provide equipment, supplies, services or other support to any of these Israeli activities.

Israel’s relentlessly expanding settlement enterprise has had an enormous detrimental impact on the lives of millions of Palestinians. We have had our land stolen, our homes and crops destroyed, and our towns and villages cut off from one another and the outside world, turned into easily-controlled Bantustans divided by Israeli settlements, military bases, walls, and Israeli-only roads. In effect, Israel has created an apartheid colonial regime where Palestinians under occupation have no rights while Israeli settlers living nearby enjoy all the right and privileges of Israeli citizenship. Action against the settlements is imperative for this reason.
The Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) together with the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights will be tasked with compiling the database of companies involved with the occupation, with a first list to be presented in June 2016. Having abstained from the decision, European states and the EU are unlikely to provide active support to the work on the database. Thankfully, professional databases of a large number of companies implicated in Israel’s occupation and settlement activity have already been compiled by NGOs offering ethical investing screens, such as Who Profits and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).

The U.S. opposed the list, though it is not currently on the Human Rights Council. During his two terms in office, President Obama has repeatedly made clear his belief that settlements are a major impediment to peace and the two-state solution, while at the same time continuing America’s virtually unconditional support for Israel and its settler-beholden extreme right-wing government. Now in his final year, President Obama should finally put his words into action and take concrete steps to stop settlement expansion.

The most important step towards halting and reversing Israel’s destructive and illegal settlement enterprise that the US has done so much to enable, would be for President Obama to suspend military aid to Israel rather than negotiating an increase as he is reportedly doing, at least until Israel abides by international law and longstanding US policy by ending illegal settlement activity on occupied Palestinian land. This would be in accordance with calls from human rights organizations such as Amnesty International for an arms embargo against Israel until it begins respecting international humanitarian law.

And if he really wants to send a message to Israel regarding how seriously the U.S. takes its shortsighted and dangerous settlement policy, he should certainly support other concrete measures, such as the UN’s efforts to stop companies from facilitating and profiting from Israel’s settlement enterprise and other violations of international law.