CAN'T POST IMAGES ON MYDD

 

The British architects Alison and Peter Smithson coined the term "brutalism"in 1953, from the French béton brut, or "raw concrete", a phrase used by Le Corbusier to describe the poured board-marked concrete with which he constructed many of his post-World War II buildings. The term gained wide currency when the British architectural critic Reyner Banham used it in the title of his 1966 book, The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic?

The headquarters of the FBI at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue is probably the most impressive example of brutalist architecture in Washington DC, and every aspect of it expresses the brute force of government in the Twenty-first Century, except for a vast expanse of netting which completely swaddles the top two floors.

"Why is all that netting up there?" I asked a cop on guard at the exit of the parking ramp, and he said...

"To keep the building from falling on your head."

"And who would I ask if I wanted a serious answer to that question?"

"That is a serious answer," said the cop. "The building is crumbling, and chunks of concrete were falling on the sidewalk."

"Thank you, officer, and I'm sorry for doubting you," I replied, and maybe I could have eventually figured it out for myself, but now I have a source.

.............................................................................................

 

Of course this post would be a lot more interesting if it included my photo of FBI headquarters, but you can't post images on MYDD.

Why?

And of course nobody bothers to answer. 

New reports document discriminatory government treatment of Muslims in America

From our Restore Fairness blog-

Guest blogger: Amna Akbar, Senior Research Scholar & Advocacy Fellow at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law, and co-author of both reports mentioned below.

Cross-posted from Rights Working Group.

There are visible and less visible ways the government has targeted Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians since September 11, 2001. With the death of Osama bin Laden, however, mainstream pundits, commentators, and lawmakers have attempted to push us to forget the damage and the grief this “war on terror” has brought to our communities—and to immigrant communities and communities of color more broadly.

The “war on terror” has provided a rationale and an argument for an augmentation of state power.  As in prior historical moments, the brunt of increased state power has fallen on vulnerable communities.

But it is important to remember and account for the ways in which our families and communities have been marked and have suffered.  To grieve for the ways in which we have had to change.

This past month, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) has released two reports documenting, remembering, and memorializing.  Both reports raise serious human rights concerns.

Under the Radar: Muslims Deported, Detained, and Denied on Unsubstantiated Terrorism Allegations– which we released with the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF)– draws on interviews with attorneys and community-based groups, court documents, and media accounts to identify five key under-documented patterns of how the U.S. government has discriminatorily abused the immigration legal system against Muslim immigrants.  The patterns we document include the U.S. government’s use of unsubstantiated terrorism-related allegations without bringing official charges in cases involving ordinary immigration violations.  These practices prejudice the immigration judge and place the Muslim immigrant in a precarious situation where he is unable to defend himself against the allegations.  As a result, he is often pressured to self-deport.

Another pattern we document is the U.S. government’s use of flimsy immigration charges.  For example, the government often uses false statement charges for failure to disclose tenuous ties to Muslim charitable organizations in a way that seems to target Muslim immigrants for religious and political activities and affiliations.

The overall effect of these practices is that religious, cultural, and political affiliations and lawful activities of Muslims are being construed as dangerous terrorism-related factors to justify detention, deportation, and denial of immigration benefits.  The government seems to be targeting Muslim immigrants not for any particular acts, but on the basis of unsubstantiated innuendo drawing largely on their religious and ethnic identities, political views, employment histories, and ties to their home countries.

The patterns outlined in Under the Radar seem to be guided by racial and religious stereotypes, in a way that constitutes discrimination in violation of U.S. obligations under international human rights law.  The patterns also suggest the United States is failing to uphold its international human rights obligations to guarantee the rights to due process; liberty and security of person; freedom of religion; freedom of expression and opinion; and the right to privacy and family.   CHRGJ and AALDEF call on the government to put an immediate stop to the discriminatory targeting of Muslims through the immigration system, to provide greater transparency and accountability for immigration policies and enforcement.

Targeted and Entrapped: Manufacturing the ‘Homegrown Threat’ critically examines three high-profile domestic terrorism prosecutions and raises serious questions about the role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD) in constructing the specter of “homegrown” terrorism through the deployment of paid informants to encourage terrorist plots in Muslim communities.  Focusing on the government’s cases against the Newburgh Four, the Fort Dix Five, and Shahawar Matin Siraj, the report relies on court documents, media accounts, and interviews with family members of the defendants to critically assess the government’s practices.  The report also, lays bare the devastating toll these practices have had on the families involved.

In the cases we examined, the government sent paid informants into Muslim communities, without any basis for suspicion of criminal activity.  The government’s informants introduced, cultivated, and then aggressively pushed ideas about violent jihad, encouraging the defendants to believe that it was their duty to take action against the United States.  The informants also selected or encouraged the proposed locations that the defendants would later be accused of targeting, and provided the defendants with—or encouraged the defendants to acquire—material evidence, such as weaponry or violent videos, which would later be used to convict them.  The defendants in these cases have all been convicted and currently face prison sentences ranging from 25 years to life.

The families caught up in these abusive government practices have been torn apart. As a result of these prosecutions, they have lost their loved ones to prison, but they have also been branded as families of terrorists. They have lost jobs, family, and friends. Though many of them are organizing for change, the devastating impacts cannot be overestimated.

A number of cases around the country, raising similar concerns, suggest that these practices are illustrative of larger patterns of law enforcement activities targeting Muslim communities.  The report considers key trends in counterterrorism law enforcement policies that have facilitated these practices, including the government’s promulgation of so-called radicalization theories that justify the abusive targeting of entire communities based on the unsubstantiated notion that Muslims in the U.S. are “radicalizing.”  The prosecutions that result from these practices are central to the government’s claim that the country faces a “homegrown threat” of terrorism, and have bolstered calls for the continued use of informants in Muslim communities.

These practices are violative of U.S. obligations to guarantee, without discrimination, the rights to: a fair trial, religion, expression, and opinion; and effective remedy. The report calls on the government to stop discriminating against Muslims in counterterrorism investigations; to hold hearings on the impacts that current law enforcement practices are having on Muslim communities; and to revise the guidelines that currently govern FBI and NYPD activities and allow for such abusive practices to go unchecked.

Both reports raise serious concerns about the ways in which the U.S. government is marking Muslims and Muslim communities as particularly dangerous.  These practices have taken profound tolls on our communities.  The need to remember, and to remain vigilant, remains.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org.

 

Weekly Pulse: Don’t Snort Bath Salts, Kids

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

According to Robin Marty of Care2.org, today’s young whippersnappers are snorting bath salts and plant food to get their kicks. I knew I was getting old when I had to check the media to find out about the latest youth drug menace.

But, before you go and blow your allowance at the Body Shop or the garden center, keep in mind that “bath salt” and “plant food” are just euphemisms that web-based head shops use to sell these amphetamine-like drugs , according to a 2010 report by the UK Council on the Misuse of Drugs. The active ingredients of this legal high are mephedrone and methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MDPV).

Despite what the media would have you believe, these designer drugs are not ingredients in common household products. You cannot get high on actual bath salts or plant food. Sorry. Gardeners, if you bought exotic imported “plant food” online, and it arrived in an impossibly tiny packet, don’t feed it to your plants.

Anti-choice black op linked to James O’Keefe

At least a dozen Planned Parenthood clinics across the country have recently been visited by a mysterious, self-proclaimed “sex trafficker” who was apparently part of a ruse to entrap clinic employees. Planned Parenthood reported these visits to the FBI.

In each case, the man reportedly asked to speak privately with a clinic worker, whereupon he asked for health advice regarding the underage, undocumented girls he was supposedly trying to traffic.

Jodi Jacobson reports at RH Reality Check:

[Prominent anti-choice blogger] Jill Stanek and other anti-choice operatives, including Lila Rose of Live Action Films are effectively claiming responsibility for sending  pseudo “sex traffickers” into [Planned Parenthood] clinics, and also warn of “explosive evidence,” of which they of course present…..none. They appear to have no credible response to exposure of their efforts to perpetrate a hoax on Planned Parenthood.

As Jacobson points out, sex trafficking is a very real problem. And a sex trafficking hoax diverts time and resources that the authorities who could be hunting down real traffickers. She adds:

Victims of sex trafficking, after all, also need sexual health services because they are effectively being raped regularly and are more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections and experience unintended pregnancies. Does this help them get treatment?

Lila Rose of Live Action Films is a former associate of right wing hoaxster James O’Keefe, who orchestrated a sting operation against the social justice group ACORN. O’Keefe was sentenced last year to three years’ probation for scamming his way into the offices of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in January, 2010.

Sex, lies, and the classroom

To mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the National Radio Project presents a discussion of sex ed in American schools, federal funding for sex ed, and advocacy by interest groups and parents. Guests include Phyllida Burlingame of the ACLU and Gabriela Valle of California Latinas for Reproductive Justice.

Hot coffee!

Remember the woman who sued McDonald’s after she spilled a hot cup of coffee in her lap? Corporate interests made Stella Liebeck into a national joke, even though she won her suit. Hot Coffee is a new documentary that tells the story behind the one-liners. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviews Ms. Liebeck’s daughter and son-in-law.

McDonald’s corporate manuals dictated that coffee be served at 187 degrees, in flimsy styrofoam cups. A home coffee maker usually keeps the brew between 142 to 162 degrees, and most people pour their Joe into something sturdier than a styrofoam cup. If you spill that coffee on yourself, you have 25 seconds to get it off before you suffer a 3rd degree burn. Whereas if you spill 187-degree coffee on yourself, you’ve got between 2 and 7 seconds.

Companies are expected to produce products that are safe for their intended use. McDonald’s was serving coffee to go, through drive-through windows, with cream and sugar in the bag. By implication, it should be safe to add cream and sugar to hot coffee in a car. In the pre-cup-holder era, millions of Americans were probably steadying their coffees between their legs to add cream and sugar every day. A responsible restaurant would not dispense superheated liquids in flimsy to-go cups. Indeed, McDonalds’ own records showed that 700 people had been scalded this way.

In 1992, the plaintiff was a passenger in a parked car, attempting to add cream and sugar to her coffee while steadying the cup between her knees. When she opened the lid, the cup collapsed inward, dousing her with scalding coffee. The 79-year-old woman sustained 3rd degree burns over 16% of her body. She needed skin grafts to repair the damage. Initially she only sued to recoup part of the cost of the skin grafts. But the judge who heard the case was so outraged by McDonald’s disregard for customer safety that he urged the jury to award punitive damages.

Another theme of Hot Coffee is how medical malpractice caps are forcing taxpayers to cover the medical costs of people who are injured by negligent health care providers.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Former Gitmo Prisoner's Trial Continues, as Child Soldier's is Postponed

As the trial of a former Guantanamo detainee proceeded peacefully in a New York courtroom today, U.S. military prosecutors in Cuba werereportedly scrambling to get Omar Khadr, the alleged child soldier on trial for war crimes at Gitmo, to plead guilty to murder. Plea negotiations are reportedly ongoing and his trial, set to resume Monday, has been postponed for a week.

In New York, the government is finally presenting its evidence against Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first former Gitmo prisoner to be transferred to the U.S. for trial.

On Thursday morning, an FBI agent testified about the exhaustive investigation done at the crime scene after the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania -- just the sort of complex investigation that FBI agents are trained to do. Having arrived in Tanzania within 24 hours of the bombing, FBI agents secured the crime scene and analyzed and preserved 661 pieces of evidence. Some of that led to the discovery of pieces of the white Nissan truck that had been turned into a bomb, and to its string of former owners.

Unfortunately for the government, though, a broker for the sale of the truck on Thursday afternoon proceeded to contradict everything he'd told the FBI 12 years ago.

Some of the problems in the Ghailani trial are predictable, given that the government imprisoned Ghailani for six years without trial after capturing him in Pakistan in 2004. Because he was interrogated using "enhanced interrogation techniques" and possibly torture in a CIA black site, none of the evidence obtained there is reliable or admissible. And because the government still didn't put him on trial for four years after transferring him to Guantanamo, witnesses may now have a hard time remembering what they told the FBI when it investigated the bombings more than a decade ago. The investigation led to the conviction of four other men in 2001. All are serving life in prison.

What will happen in Ghailani's case remains unclear. As I pointed out earlier, the defense isn't contesting many of the facts the government is now presenting. Yesterday, for example, we heard a whole day of testimony from victims of the bombing -- horrifying stories of being buried under the rubble and finding severed limbs of colleagues and loved ones. Ghailani's lawyers aren't disputing that any of that happened, and conducted hardly any witness cross-examination.

But when it comes to proving that the diminutive Ghailani (friends called him Foupi, meaning "the little one" in Swahili), actually intended to participate in the bombing plot, that's where the government may have a harder time. Though we've already heard testimony that Ghailani, who was around 22 at the time, was at least with one of the people who purchased the truck, the government has yet to present any direct evidence that Ghailani knew what it was being used for. The prosecution's case will likely depend on arguing that Ghailani should have known, based on the circumstances. Given that the trial is expected to last for up to four months, the government will have plenty of opportunity to present its evidence.

Meanwhile, back at Guantanamo Bay, Omar Khadr, the "child soldier" on trial for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier, is reportedly considering pleading guilty and serving one more year at Gitmo, then returning to Canada to serve more time there. Whether he'll agree to plead guilty to crimes that don't really exist remains to be seen. (As I've explained before, none of the crimes he's charged with are actually war crimes that belong in a military commission.)

In addition to the legal flaws in the government's case, there's the problem that the military appears to have no forensic evidence demonstrating that Khadr actually committed the crimes he's accused of. That's in part because, unlike the FBI, military investigators don't carefully gather and preserve evidence at a crime scene, making a subsequent prosecution much more difficult. For all these reasons -- in addition to Khadr's likely anger and bewilderment at having been imprisoned by the U.S. for a third of his life without trial -- the 24-year-old Canadian may now have less incentive to cooperate.

Even if Khadr does plead guilty, the legitimacy of that conviction, and of the entire military commissions process, will remain in doubt.

 

 

Former Gitmo Prisoner's Trial Continues, as Child Soldier's is Postponed

As the trial of a former Guantanamo detainee proceeded peacefully in a New York courtroom today, U.S. military prosecutors in Cuba werereportedly scrambling to get Omar Khadr, the alleged child soldier on trial for war crimes at Gitmo, to plead guilty to murder. Plea negotiations are reportedly ongoing and his trial, set to resume Monday, has been postponed for a week.

In New York, the government is finally presenting its evidence against Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first former Gitmo prisoner to be transferred to the U.S. for trial.

On Thursday morning, an FBI agent testified about the exhaustive investigation done at the crime scene after the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania -- just the sort of complex investigation that FBI agents are trained to do. Having arrived in Tanzania within 24 hours of the bombing, FBI agents secured the crime scene and analyzed and preserved 661 pieces of evidence. Some of that led to the discovery of pieces of the white Nissan truck that had been turned into a bomb, and to its string of former owners.

Unfortunately for the government, though, a broker for the sale of the truck on Thursday afternoon proceeded to contradict everything he'd told the FBI 12 years ago.

Some of the problems in the Ghailani trial are predictable, given that the government imprisoned Ghailani for six years without trial after capturing him in Pakistan in 2004. Because he was interrogated using "enhanced interrogation techniques" and possibly torture in a CIA black site, none of the evidence obtained there is reliable or admissible. And because the government still didn't put him on trial for four years after transferring him to Guantanamo, witnesses may now have a hard time remembering what they told the FBI when it investigated the bombings more than a decade ago. The investigation led to the conviction of four other men in 2001. All are serving life in prison.

What will happen in Ghailani's case remains unclear. As I pointed out earlier, the defense isn't contesting many of the facts the government is now presenting. Yesterday, for example, we heard a whole day of testimony from victims of the bombing -- horrifying stories of being buried under the rubble and finding severed limbs of colleagues and loved ones. Ghailani's lawyers aren't disputing that any of that happened, and conducted hardly any witness cross-examination.

But when it comes to proving that the diminutive Ghailani (friends called him Foupi, meaning "the little one" in Swahili), actually intended to participate in the bombing plot, that's where the government may have a harder time. Though we've already heard testimony that Ghailani, who was around 22 at the time, was at least with one of the people who purchased the truck, the government has yet to present any direct evidence that Ghailani knew what it was being used for. The prosecution's case will likely depend on arguing that Ghailani should have known, based on the circumstances. Given that the trial is expected to last for up to four months, the government will have plenty of opportunity to present its evidence.

Meanwhile, back at Guantanamo Bay, Omar Khadr, the "child soldier" on trial for allegedly throwing a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier, is reportedly considering pleading guilty and serving one more year at Gitmo, then returning to Canada to serve more time there. Whether he'll agree to plead guilty to crimes that don't really exist remains to be seen. (As I've explained before, none of the crimes he's charged with are actually war crimes that belong in a military commission.)

In addition to the legal flaws in the government's case, there's the problem that the military appears to have no forensic evidence demonstrating that Khadr actually committed the crimes he's accused of. That's in part because, unlike the FBI, military investigators don't carefully gather and preserve evidence at a crime scene, making a subsequent prosecution much more difficult. For all these reasons -- in addition to Khadr's likely anger and bewilderment at having been imprisoned by the U.S. for a third of his life without trial -- the 24-year-old Canadian may now have less incentive to cooperate.

Even if Khadr does plead guilty, the legitimacy of that conviction, and of the entire military commissions process, will remain in doubt.

 

 

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