Thursday, October 24, 2013

Tsarnaev Banned from Group Prayers Under SAMs


On October 2, 2013, Boston marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team submitted a request that the Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) be removed from their client. These measures severely restrict his communication. His lawyers, William Fick, Miriam Conrad and Judy Clarke, argue in court papers that the measures create “obstacles” that have a “dramatic chilling effect on the defense team’s ability to prepare a thorough and vigorous defense.”
“His lawyers also said Tsarnaev has done nothing during his incarceration to warrant such restrictions or to suggest he is dangerous, nor is there evidence the attack was “directed by others still at large or that Mr. Tsarnaev ever had operational authority to direct the activities of others” to whom he may want to communicate,” reports CNN.
The SAMs were put into place on August 27, at the request of notoriously dirty player US prosecutor Carmen Oritz four months after he was put in prison awaiting trial. Under the SAMs, Tsarnaev is detained in a single cell and may not communicate with other inmates. He may not engage in group prayer with other inmates, and his access to newspapers and other publications is restricted.
The reason stated by US prosecutors for these additional restrictions is that the 20 year old, who was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, received over 1000 letters of support while in prison. The government alleges that Tsarnaev committed the bombing because he wanted to engage in jihad, and therefore any communication with the outside world could result in him encouraging others to commit acts of violence.
Defense lawyers say the SAMs limit Tsarnaev’s interactions with individuals assisting defense counsel and restrict the communications and other activities of the defense team. Under these new restrictions, he was not allowed to look at photos of his family that his lawyer had brought him. Defense counsel first learned of the SAMs on Friday, August 30, 2013, after members of the defense team were denied entrance to FMC Devens for a previously-scheduled and approved visit with Tsarnaev.
Tsarnaev’s defense argues that SAMs are unlawful and unwarranted. “The government has provided scant factual support for its conclusory assertion that SAMs are required now, more than four months into Mr. Tsarnaev’s already highly restrictive pretrial confinement, in order to protect others from ‘death or serious bodily injury.’ The government has not alleged that Mr. Tsarnaev has done or said anything since his arrest to commit violence, incite violence, or engage in communications that pose a security threat. Moreover, the SAMs violate the First, Fifth, and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The Court therefore should declare that the SAMs are unlawful and order that they be vacated.”
The Attorney General may issue an order for SAMs based upon a finding of “reasonable suspicion” that an “inmate may use communications with attorneys or their agents to further or facilitate acts of terrorism.” Holder okayed the restrictions based on “Tsarnaev’s participation in planning and executing the Boston Marathon bombings; his ensuing acts of violence and flight to avoid apprehension; his extensive obstruction of justice; and his explicit and continuing desire to incite others to engage in violent jihad.”
It is indeed worrying that the Attorney General is assuming guilt before trial, as well as claiming to know the intentions of the suspect, which have not been stated in any public forum. There is really no evidence that the suspect had any jihad-focused mindset prior to the bombing. This claim is based on unsubstantiated and unrecorded statements made by the FBI based on hospital bed interrogations without any lawyer present. Prosecutors claim that “Tsarnaev has openly said he was inspired by al Qaeda, and he hopes his actions inspired others.”
Defense lawyers said that Tsarnaev had not responded to any of the mail that he received and should not be punished for receiving mail he had no control over.
“The government also fails to mention that none of this unsolicited mail could be characterized as ‘jihadist’ in nature. Rather, it consisted almost entirely of letters and cards from individuals who believe he is innocent and people urging him to repent and convert to Christianity.”
Tsarnaev’s defense lawyers argued that there is no evidence their client has inspired violence or that he would try to inspire further violence. They said the restrictions unduly put him in near isolation, affecting his mental health, and interfere with their ability to properly prepare a legal defense, reports Milton Valencia in the Boston Globe.
Under US Department of Justice guidelines, US Attorney General Eric Holder will ultimately decide whether to seek the death penalty against Tsarnaev. Prosecutors had planned to make a recommendation to Holder by Oct. 31, and they gave Tsarnaev’s lawyers until Oct. 24 to make a presentation on “mitigating factors,” arguments why Tsarnaev should not be subject to the death penalty. Last month, Tsarnaev’s lawyers asked O’Toole to postpone the deadline. They also filed a separate request asking the judge to order prosecutors to turn over the information.
US District Court Judge George O’Toole complied with the US attorney request by rejecting Tsarnaev’s lawyers’ request to postpone deadlines set by prosecutors, saying that he has no authority to grant such a request. So basically, the death penalty is being argued even before the prosecution has turned in its evidence.
On October 16, Senator Chuck Grassley called for detailed answers to questions regarding FBI involvement in the Boston case. It appears the FBI had been operating without consulting with local police, and that the murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier took place while the campus was swarming with FBI agents.
Blogger B. Blake comments: “With the Collier murder charge against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev appearing weaker by the day, point blank refusals to comment are becoming increasingly frowned upon. The evidence purporting to demonstrate Tsarnaev’s complicity in the crime is extremely flawed with many now asking why he was ever charged with the crime in the first place.”

Monday, October 21, 2013

Redistributing Wealth on a Local Level: Possible


ff_logoWhy does food get wasted in America? We live in a rich country. To a large extent, our nation is built upon the backs of the poor. It is popular to complain about the unfair distribution of goods and services and even to assign blame to a malicious conspiracy. Conspiracies might exist, on the level of the international banking cartels, but the truth is, there is actually a lot of freedom in this country to recycle and redistribute wealth in the form of goods and raw materials. Restaurants, produce warehouses, and bakeries throw away food because it is easier than recycling. Someone has to pick up the food at a time and in a manner that is convenient to the donors. Someone has to have the time and the means to pick up the food – and the desire.
The Good Samaritan Law, which exists in all continental US states, offers protection against law suits brought by anyone who becomes ill after eating donated food. There are also some tax benefits to donating surpluses. So, if food, lumber, paint and other basic human needs are rotting in a dumpster, it is mainly due to benign neglect. There is no one stopping people in the community from rescuing the goods.
“A store may order more produce than it ends up needing, trucks may be too full to ship all of the ordered produce, or shipments can be delayed or arrive too early due to weather, market fluctuations, and equipment malfunctions. Often, entire pallets of usable food will be refused by markets because some items have slight cosmetic imperfections. The problem with surplus produce is that unlike canned goods, which could be resold or redistributed later, produce will spoil if it sits too long,” reads the website of Fair Foods, a non-profit organization based in Boston, Massachusetts.
Rescuing food and redistributing it to the people requires intensive work and planning. Trucks and strong men are need to pick up the fresh food that is being discarded and to bring it to some location for sorting and cleaning. The food must then be transported into poor communities – especially to locations where people do not have cars or who have other mobility limitations, such as the elderly. Repairs will be needed for the trucks, and of course there is the cost of gasoline. Even free food is never free, but Fair Foods has found a way to distribute huge amounts of fresh food in low income neighborhoods with limited supermarket access for about 10 cents a pound. They truck food in from all over New England and sell 20 pound bags of assorted produce, which will feed a family for a week, for $2 a bag. Their primary pick up location is the Chelsea Market on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, where huge container loads of produce sit in boxes piled up on the docks and warehouses.
Fair Foods has distributed hundreds of millions of pounds of food over the past 20 years, but the food that they have distributed is only a fraction of the food that is available. The organization currently relies on one medium sized truck like that used for movers, which is very old and requires frequent tinkering, in order to pick up the food in bulk; and a pickup truck to take the produce to various locations around Boston. There are a handful of core volunteers who work around the clock and share a home with Nancy Jamison, the founder of Fair Foods. The huge house itself is suffering from benign neglect – the roof leaks and the entire place is in need of a fresh coat of paint. Jamison, 63, though a carpenter by trade, is suffering from health problems and cannot keep up with the home repairs in addition to feeding the poor, so she feeds the poor.
Hundreds of other volunteers pitch in when they can. But if Americans want the poor to be fed, including themselves, more strong hands are needed. The government solution of bureaucracy is not a solution: Food Pantry executives receive 6-digit incomes and only distribute a fraction of the amount of fresh food that Fair Food volunteers distribute at the various drop off locations.
Daniel Fitzpatrick told the Dorchester Reporter, “Everyone looks forward to it. If they don’t show up, people starve.” 10,000 families in Boston rely on the produce.
Fair Foods began in the mid-1980s when Dorchester’s Nancy Jamison, 58, loaded up the back of her pick-up with discarded carrots and parked it in front of her home. As her neighbors walked home from their jobs, they scooped up the carrots. “They were gone in an hour and a half,” she said. Food redistribution is “something that I believe all Americans should do with all the assets and blessings that we have,” said Jamison.
Right now, most people are over-extended, underpaid and exhausted from working jobs to make enough money to buy food and pay bills for their family. Or else, they are unemployed and suffering the mental and emotional breakdown that goes along with having no income. When you are struggling night and day to keep yourself alive, volunteer work does not seem like an option. But when you are underemployed, giving a few hours of work in exchange for a bag of food starts looking really nice.
Rescuing food can address many of our basic problems: we are lonely, we are anxious, we are hungry, and we need more exercise. This author, after volunteering at Fair Foods, realized how deeply and blissfully she could sleep if she simply physically exhausted herself during the day. In order for discarded food to reach the masses, a reorganization of society needs to take place so that communities begin to take personal care of each other. For example, somebody needs to fix Nancy’s roof. People with children need to coordinate their time so they can take turns contributing to society. That means husbands and wives as well as friends and neighbors. Some major grants or donations are required to buy new trucks so that the available volunteers can be used to their capacity.
The good news is, there is so much hope. All we have to do is revolutionize our thinking. Instead of just earning wages in order to pay for groceries and babysitters and cable TV, we can work together to meet our needs and escape the lonely prison of the flat screen. Some people have muscle, some people have personal warmth, some people are super organized, and everyone has something to contribute.
There is no one stopping us. There is just nobody helping us. That in itself is not the worst thing because with help comes dependency and debt. We don’t need help. We just need to get to work.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Israel’s US Funding Rests on Nuclear Secrecy


The United States, United Kingdom, Russia, China, France and Germany (known as the  P5+1) have a meeting scheduled in Geneva on October 15 and 16 to hear new, concrete proposals from Iran designed to assure the peaceful nature of its nuclear program. In return, Iran would get some relief from economic sanctions, reports Walter Pincus in the Washington Post. He then wonders, “Behind closed doors, do the P5+1 acknowledge Israel has nuclear weapons?”
Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski in the New York Times similarly note: “While the world endlessly discusses Iran’s nuclear capabilities and the likelihood that it will succeed in developing an atomic arsenal, hardly anyone in the United States ever mentions Israel’s nuclear weapons. Obama, like his predecessors, pretends that he doesn’t know anything about them.”
If this October 15 meeting would bring up the subject of Israel’s leaking nuclear reactor and Israel’s stockpile of atomic weapons, it will be a happy birthday for Mordechai Vanunu, who lives under permanent house arrest in Israel. He turns 59 on October 13.
Vanunu, a former Israeli nuclear technician, worked from 1977-1985 at the Negev Nuclear Research Center near Dimona, an Israeli facility that develops and manufactures nuclear weapons. Just before he was fired (for advocating Palestinian rights), Vanunu secretly took 57 photographs of the Dimona facility in 1985.
On October 5, 1986, the British newspaper The Sunday Times ran the story with photos on its front page under the headline: “Revealed: the secrets of Israel’s nuclear arsenal.” In this interview with Peter Hounam, Vanunu gave detailed descriptions of lithium-6 separation required for the production of tritium, an essential ingredient of fusion-boosted fission  bombs. Vanunu described the plutonium processing used, giving a production rate of about 30 kg per year, and stated that Israel used about 4 kg per weapon. From this information it was estimated that Israel had sufficient plutonium for about 150 nuclear weapons.
With the help of a female secret agent, the Mossad kidnapped Vanunu, who was subsequently imprisoned for 18 years in Israel, 11 years of which he spent in solitary confinement. But it was too late to stop the press. The world now already knew that Israel possesses nuclear weapons.
Upon his release in 2004, Vanunu immediately began speaking to the media despite being ordered by Shin Bet not to talk to any foreigners. He has been re-arrested several times since then. Vanunu continues to call for Israel’s nuclear disarmament, and for its dismantlement as a Jewish state.
In July 2004 he warned the London-based Arabic-language newspaper Al Hayat that the Dimona reactor endangers millions with its radioactive pollution. Vanunu advised the Jordanian government to prepare for possible leaks from the reactor, since the reactor operates mainly when “the wind blows toward Jordan.”
But by then, this was already old news. On February 6, 2000 the London Sunday Times had quoted Professor Uzi Even, formerly a senior scientist at the reactor, saying, “The Dimona reactor is old and dangerous; It should be closed.” Another scientist, who was not named, stated that the structure of the reactor has been damaged as the result of radiation and is now “vulnerable and dangerous.”
Furthermore, Dimona’s buried nuclear waste has resulted in skyrocketing cancer rates in Palestinian and Bedouin villages near Southern Hebron and Negev. The leaking reactor in Dimona has now been active without any foreign inspection for 50 years.
However, closing Dimona wouldn’t stop Israeli nukes, said Dr. Daniel Rohrlich, a research physicist at Tel Aviv University.
“In August, 1998, Israel joined an international initiative to cut off production of nuclear materials, i.e., plutonium and enriched uranium… But Israel only pretended to join… One day, a treaty to cut off production of fissionable materials will be ready for signing, and Israel will have to decide whether or not to go along. Signing a cutoff treaty would oblige Israel to demonstrate that it does not produce fissionable materials. If Israel is unwilling to open the Dimona reactor to international inspection, it has another option: to close and dismantle the reactor once and for all.
“It does not need the reactor. Israel already has enough fissionable material for hundreds of nuclear bombs. Over the decades, the reactor has produced hundreds of kilograms of plutonium. A cutoff would not affect this supply. Since the half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years, this plutonium would remain at Israel’s disposal for thousands of years,” said Rohrlich.
Walter Pincus reports in the Washington Post, “Back in the 1960s, Israel apparently hid the nuclear weapons program being carried on at its Negev Nuclear Research Center (NNRC) at Dimona. It deceived not only the international community but also its close U.S. ally. It repeatedly pledged “it would not be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into the area.”
In early 1966, at the time of a U.S. sale of F-4 fighter-bombers to Israel, the Johnson administration insisted that Israel reaffirm that pledge. “Foreign Minister Abba Eban told Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara that Israel did not intend to build nuclear weapons, ‘so we will not use your aircraft to carry weapons we haven’t got and hope we will never have,’” according to the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, Volume XVIII.
“America is locked into covering up Israeli nuclear bombs because of a 1969 agreement between President Richard M. Nixon and Israel’s prime minister, Golda Meir,” write Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski in the New York Times.
“If Washington wants negotiations over weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East to work — or even just to avoid making America appear ridiculous — Mr. Obama should begin by being candid. He cannot expect the countries participating in a conference to take America seriously if the White House continues to pretend that we don’t know whether Israel has nuclear weapons, or for that matter whether Egypt and Israel have chemical or biological ones.”
So why is Israel so hesitant to admit its capabilities, which have long been public?
By not acknowledging possession of nuclear weapons, Israel avoids a US legal prohibition on funding countries which proliferate weapons of mass destruction. Open possession of nuclear weapon capabilities would prevent Israel from receiving over $2 billion each year in military and other aid from United States’ taxpayers.

Extraordinary Rendition and Citizenship Stripping


Friends of Ibragim Todashev, a Chechen man murdered in his Orlando home by the FBI, told the Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that FBI agents asked them to spy on Orlando-area mosques, threatening arrest if they failed to comply. CAIR “has received several corroborating reports from friends of Todashev that FBI agents have threatened to wrongfully arrest them if they do not work with the agency to spy on local mosques, Muslim restaurants and hookah lounges.”
But a similar case involving a young Somalian man has flown under the public radar. It was only because of his month long hunger strike inside a Brooklyn, New York prison (MCC) that this author heard about the extraordinary rendition of Mahdi Hashi.
Falguni Sheth reports that Hashi, a British citizen of Somali descent “was continually pressured by M15 (the British equivalent of the CIA) to cooperate with them and spy on fellow Somalis.” His friend, Nur Mohamed, said a British intelligence officer told him, “If you do not work for us we will tell any foreign country you try to travel to that you are a suspected terrorist.”
When Hashi refused to become an informant, he became a target of government harassment. The reason for suspicion seems to be his interest in studying Arabic language abroad. When he was 16, he was arrested in Egypt and held for 11 days for a visa violation, even though his visa was not expired. During that time he was interrogated and pressured to confess something he knew nothing about.
“Egyptian authorities are saying that you have links to Al-Qaida and other terror networks, specifically the Chechen mujahedeen and also the mujahedeen in Caucasus.”
“I didn’t know what ‘Caucasus’ was,” Hashi told Cageprisoners. “They said that you’ve actually trained as well, you done training with them, extremist training.”
After being deported back to the UK, he decided to go to Syria to continue his studies. Upon his return, he was interrogated and fingerprinted at Heathrow airport and told he was on a Terrorism Database. Hashi was told that his ‘suspect’ status and travel restrictions would be lifted only if he agreed to co-operate with M15. Hashi complained to his Member of Parliament, Frank Dobson and the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the body which oversees M15, that he was being harassed by security officers because he had refused to work as a spy in his North London Muslim community.
Soon later, his grandmother became ill so he decided to fly back to Somalia for a visit. He was stopped at Gatwick airport and a man from M15 warned him not to get on the plane, saying, “Whatever happens to you outside the UK is not our responsibility.” Hashmi got on the plane anyway.
When he landed, he was immediately arrested by police in Djibouti who told him, “We don’t know why you’re here but we’ve been told to keep you here. It’s coming from the government and its coming from your government.” He was deported back to the UK.
Finally, in 2012, Hashi returned to Somalia where he married and had a child.
Shortly thereafter, British Home Secretary Theresa May sent him a letter in the mail which stripped him of his UK citizenship. “The reason for this decision is that the Security Service assess that you have been involved in Islamicist (sic) extremism and present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom due to your extremist activities,” wrote May, even though Hashi had never been accused of any crime.
A few weeks later, he disappeared from Mogadishu. “Worried, his family appealed to the British government, who informed them that their hands were tied, because—alas—he was no longer a citizen,” reports Falguni Sheth in Salon. Hashi had been kidnapped and secretly rendered to The US drone base at Camp Lemmonier in Djibouti. His family learned of his whereabouts from someone who had recently been released from the prison in Djibouti that Mahdi had been detained alongside him.
“Hashi was detained, abused, and interrogated in Djibouti for several months before being handed over for more interrogations to the Americans. After several months, he suddenly appeared in handcuffs in a Brooklyn Federal Court right before Christmas of 2012, along with 2 Swedish men of Somali descent,” reports Sheth. He is being held in solitary confinement under special administrative measures (SAMs), which restrict his communication with attorneys.
Saghir Hussain, the attorney for Hashi’s family, said they learned of his hunger strike through a phone call with Hashi, which was interrupted “after about 60 seconds or so.”
CBS news reported that a letter, written by US Attorney Loretta Lynch, has suddenly appeared in Hashmi’s file, alleging without providing any evidence, that Hashi and two other Somalis, Ali Yasin Ahmed and Mohammed Yusuf “had substantial knowledge that al-Qaida was building a chemical weapons factory, and that they had substantial countersurveillance expertise.”
Tom Foot writes in the Camden New Journal, “According to the FBI, Mr Hashi was ‘deployed in combat operations to support al-Shabaab action in Somalia.’” Further details of the case against him have not been made available to the defense team. Mr Hashi has not been told of what he is accused. Campaigners fear that his rights will be denied to him in what they describe as a “secret court” set-up. They are calling for him to face charges in Britain and for his citizenship to be restored.
Geoffrey Robertson, QC, a prominent human rights barrister told the Daily Mail, UK: “The increase in orders under this Government of depriving British people of their citizenship on non-conducive grounds is a matter of concern because it is always very difficult to challenge fairly. It means people are being deprived of their rights as a British citizen on the say-so of security officials who can’t be challenged in court.”
Several other Britons have had their citizenship stripped as soon as they left the country. Bilal al-Berjawi and Mohamed Sakr of London were stripped of their UK citizenship and were then killed by two US drone strikes in Somalia.
Meanwhile, a Nigerian man Lawal Babafemi, 33, has also been targeted by the same US Attorney Loretta Lynch in Brooklyn. Babafemi, who pled Not Guilty on September 27, 2013, was detained in Nigeria in 2011 and then transferred to the US, for working on the online magazine “Inspire,” whose publisher, Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a US drone strike in Yemen. 

Hashi is taking liquids but no food. So far he is not being force-fed.