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Photo by: joanneleon. July, 2013.

Photo by: joanneleon. July, 2013.


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Good news.  One has to wonder if the pressure as a result of other events is pushing this forward.  Perhaps the harsh responses from other countries calling out the hypocrisy of the U.S. after we scold them for human rights or civil liberties offenses might cause swifter action from our own government. For example, Jay Carney, speaking for the president, called on the Egyptian military to release anyone who is being detained without charges (e.g. Morsi and members of Muslim Brotherhood).  This must certainly have created backlash pressure on the Obama administration to give these Gitmo detainees a hearing.  And the detainees themselves created the agitation needed with their hunger strikes.  

Guantanamo’s Indefinite Prisoners Will Finally Have Cases Reviewed Just as Senate Committee Set to Hold Hearing On Closing Prison

Attorneys representing Guantanamo prisoners were notified by a government official late Friday night that the men who the Obama administration has determined can neither be prosecuted nor released will finally have their cases reviewed to determine whether they should still be indefinitely detained.

In an email I obtained, retired Navy Rear Admiral Norton C. Joerg, who last year was appointed by former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to the position of director, periodic review secretariat, said, “a new Periodic Review Board (PRB) process will review the continued detention of certain detainees to assess whether continued law of war detention is necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”
Eighty-six of the 166 prisoners at Guantanamo have already been cleared for release. In May, President Obama announced a series of steps his administration intended to undertake to release the men, including lifting a moratorium on the transfer of Yemeni prisoners. The reviews of about 71 other individual cases are another step toward reducing the population of the prison.

The announcement appears to be timed to coincide with a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing scheduled to take place Wednesday: “Closing Guantanamo: The National Security, Fiscal, and Human Rights Implications,” the first significant hearing on Guantanamo since 2009.

Islamist-Kurdish fighting spreads in rebel-held Syria

(Reuters) - The local commander of a Syrian rebel group affiliated to al Qaeda was freed on Sunday after being held by Kurdish forces in a power struggle between rival organizations fighting President Bashar al-Assad, activists said.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamist rebels had exchanged 300 Kurdish residents they had kidnapped for the local head of their group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). Other activist groups challenged this account, saying Islamist fighters had freed Abu Musaab by force, with no Kurdish hostages released.

Sporadic fighting over the past five days in towns near the frontier with Turkey has pitted Islamists trying to cement their control of rebel zones against Kurds trying to assert their autonomy in mostly Kurdish areas.

The trouble highlights how the two-year insurgency against 43 years of Assad family rule is spinning off into strife within his opponents' ranks, running the risk of creating regionalized conflicts that could also destabilize neighboring countries.

The factional fighting could also help Assad's forces, who have launched an offensive to retake territory.

I really like some of the things the Guardian is doing with the front page of their site.  I've always liked their "Comment is Free" section.  I'm not expert on the newspaper business, but I think it is their equivalent of the NYT opinion section but Comment is Free seems substantially larger than the opinion section of other newspapers and they seem to allow many more voices than the NYT and other big publications.  Like the NYT, they have their regular writers.  Glenn Greenwald and Anna Marie Cox ("Wonkett") write there.  But I always see a lot of other names from different countries too.  And the thing they are doing now, which I think is a new thing unless I just didn't notice it before, is that they are bringing some of the opinion columns forward to the front page, with a photo of the writer and a quote from the column, as a way of featuring that column in a small but prominent place on their front page.  They are doing some other creative things with their front page too, aggregating stories into blocks/sections, and moving those blocks around based on what is hot at the moment.  "NSA Files" is one of those blocks, but so is sports, for example.  When something is hot on NSA Files, that block moves up to the top and they don't just show one story, they feature a story with a photo, headline and short abstract, and then they also give you the headlines/links for several other recent articles.  Today they feature two stories and collections of headlines.

Also, the Guardian is going global.  I read that they are no longer going to be a British newspaper.  My fiance often tells me about the Guardian and how it was back in the 50s/60s in England. It was the Manchester Guardian.  It's come a long way.  First they created the US version of the Guardian ( vs. and now they are going to be a global publication (  Anyway, I'm very interested in the things they are doing with their home page because it's one of my primary sources of news and has become that over the past 10+ years when I first started reading them as I was searching pretty desperately for better news (in some cases searching for any news at all on some topics as the US media took a dive in coverage and credibility) after 9/11 and during the lead up to the Iraq war.  And of course I'm always looking for good ideas now for home pages for news sites, to apply to our new site.  

Anyway (!) I digress.  This is a good column by Kayla Williams, an Iraq war veteran.  I don't like to get into a lot of personal details but over my long illness, we've lost nearly everything, and the child support I receive is not a lot and it's not reliable, and we don't even qualify for food stamps.  So that gives you an idea of how destitute you have to be to even get them. The fact that they are constantly on the chopping block is despicable. Just despicable.  My kids do qualify for the school lunch program though, and I wonder if we'll get hit on that.  We have found a number of ways to cut down on our food bill with local no-brand food stores and a produce store that sells just about everything for incredibly low prices, and Costco where we can buy food for less and in quantity.  But that school lunch program has been helpful and I know that it must be even more helpful, in a very significant way, for single moms who work many hours and are trying to raise kids.  The food isn't great, but it's something, and buying food for lunches and packing them every day is one less thing she has to do in the almost impossible job of raising kids when you are poor.  Cutting these food assistance programs is disgraceful.  Beyond disgraceful. The people who receive this assistance are not freeloaders.  We need to push back against the assholes who try to portray it this way and against the people in our party who would compromise and let this happen.

Food stamps helped me serve my country. Don't cut them now
My single mom struggled to put food on the table sometimes, so government assistance was part of what made me a soldier

But the news never lets me forget that many of my fellow citizens despise the poor – and if the rest of us don't speak up, kids today may be denied the opportunities that let me succeed.

Like many on public assistance, my family was made up of a working single mom struggling to make it and provide for her child. She was a small business owner, an artist who ran a series of galleries. There were good years, when we did pretty well. And then the economy sagged, and there were lean years – years of food stamps and bland government cheese, Christmas presents from charities, peering around the corner to watch my mother sobbing into piles of bills, wondering if the landlord would get fed up with how often we were behind on the rent and kick us out.
Then, I joined the army. Like most of my peers, I had many motivations for enlisting: I was seeking money to continue my education, but I also craved the discipline, a challenge, the chance to travel and acquire new skills.

And I was driven by a desire to give back to the country that had given so much to me. My fellow citizens had helped me succeed, made sure I never went to bed hungry, provided a safety net when my family needed it. I could repay that debt as a soldier.

Anybody watching the new season of The Newsroom?  I'm seeing a lot of push back against Sorkin by journalists and now Occupy has voiced some objections.  It's really hard to excerpt so go over and read it, and see the side by side video comparisons and a long excerpt from some commentary from last week too.
Occupy Wall Street Responds to Depiction on The Newsroom

So what does the actual OWS members think about their Sorkin makeover?

Well, first off, they think the actress was cast to resemble OWS protester and former Wall Streeter Alexis Goldstein.

We’re not sure exactly what the production staff had in mind when they cast this particular actor, but we think she looks quite a lot like Alexis Goldstein, just without the glasses. And while Alexis certainly isn’t our leader, she is great at explaining why the Wall Street banks deserve our anger.

For anyone still confused about real life versus Sorkin-land, OWS suggests you check out their Declaration of Occupation.

I really hope that Pres. Obama is not actually considering this guy to head Homeland Security.
Ray Kelly's Dalliance With The Islamophobic Fringes

Stop-and-frisk and the Intelligence Unit certainly deserve the lion's share of attention: both are far-reaching programs that cast a wary eye on huge numbers of New Yorkers, in the former case implicitly on the basis of race and in the latter explicitly because of religion. But there's an incident from the past few years that showed a deeper side of Kelly's brushes with the Isalmophobic fringes: his participation in and department's poor and repeatedly misleading involvement with the film "The Third Jihad." Kelly appeared in an exclusive interview for the film, which was shown widely during police trainings—both facts his department falsely denied and which he has never forthrightly dealt with.

"The Third Jihad" was produced by a shadowy non-profit called the Clarion Fund, which now calls itself the Clarion Project. Founded in the mid-2000s, Clarion's best known for producing films that portray Islam in a negative light and implicitly advocate for hawkish policies like going to war with Iran. (Clarion also runs a website.) Spearheaded by an Israeli-Canadian and closely linked with an Israeli-based Orthodox evangelist group called  Aish Hatorah—which the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg described as "Jewish extremists"—Clarion's advisers include a who's who of America's most prominent Islamophobes, including Frank Gaffney and Daniel Pipes, as well as lesser-known anti-Muslim activists like Harold Rhode. (It's "Iranium" documentary was written and directed by an ideological Israeli settler in the West Bank.)

Are “Professional” Politicians the Problem?

I think a discussion about whether we should elect our public officials and lawmakers is important because:

1) It’s mind boggling to consider how many people (hundreds of millions? billions?) have been hoodwinked into thinking that because they might occasionally have some (extremely limited) political influence, they have some kind of political power

2) It’s heartbreaking when the first order of business of a people who wrest political power at a terrific cost is to give it away in the hope that this time they will choose the right oligarchs

3) It would make it possible to understand “the end of history” as the emergence of oligarchy as the dominant form of government in the world (great if you’re an oligarch, not so great for the rest of us)

4) It might mitigate the suffering caused by seeing the same often cretinous or senile career politicians year after year

5) The creeping feeling that by bothering less and less with the pretense of democracy, our ruling class feels almost secure enough to drop it altogether and take off the gloves.

The Athenians cured the disease of oligarchy by randomly choosing their public officials and submitting legislation to popular vote. There were other checks and balances, but those were the main features. I think that until we adopt some combination of those two processes, our political situation is unlikely to improve, even if the ills of oligarchy take a long time to manifest themselves. Quite a few people have actually given a lot of thought to how we might adopt aspects of the Athenian system; a web search on sortition and demarchy will yield a lot material.

This comes from a Congressman in Michigan.

Here's our friend @20committee fighting the Cold War so you don't have to:


Seems like a good time to remind Germans that the 9/11 "planes operation" was planned mostly not in the Middle East, but in ... Hamburg

— John Schindler (@20committee) July 22, 2013

When those pictures of Petraeus and Broadwell in his private plane came out, I thought that plane looked pretty glamorous for a military plane. Apparently, it's not just the planes...  and if you complain about it, the 1% will say stop your griping, you're just jealous!

Report questions costs of villas and mansions for top military brass
A Pentagon report questions the high costs of villas and mansions for top generals and admirals.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. — Marine Gen. John F. Kelly works in a fortress-like headquarters near the Miami airport. Starting this fall, he will live in Casa Sur, an elegant home with a pool and gardens on one of the area's swankiest streets.

The five-bedroom residence, across the street from the famed Biltmore Golf Course, is provided rent-free to Kelly as head of U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military operations in the Caribbean Latin America.

The cost to taxpayers? $160,000 a year, plus $402,000 for renovations and security improvements now underway.

Casa Sur is one of hundreds of high-end homes, villas and mansions where senior generals and admirals are billeted, according to a Pentagon report prepared for Congress last month but not publicly released.

This isn't funny at all, but some of the comments on this Gawker article from Aussies, Brits and Americans are hilarious.
U.S. Drops Bombs on Great Barrier Reef

Whoopsies. A Navy exercise went terribly wrong last week when American fighter jets dropped four unarmed bombs onto Australia's Great Barrier Reef.



We need a new Church Committee that is fully empowered to investigate the abuses of the NSA and make public its findings, and that is charged with recommending new laws to ensure the U.S. government does not violate our constitutional rights.

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