Moral Low Ground

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Texas to Require Burial or Cremation of Aborted Fetuses

Anti-abortion activists protest at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 1, 2013. (Photo: Ann Harkness/Flickr Creative Commons)

Anti-abortion activists protest at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on July 1, 2013. (Photo: Ann Harkness/Flickr Creative Commons)

Texas health officials will require health care providers to bury or cremate the remains of aborted fetuses under new rules fiercely opposed by reproductive rights advocates and the larger medical community.

The Texas Tribune reports the new rules will go into effect on December 19 and will prohibit hospitals, abortion clinics and other health care facilities from disposing of fetal remains in sanitary landfills. Instead, such remains must be interred or incinerated, regardless of gestational development. Officials said the new rules do not apply to miscarriages or abortions that occur at home.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) pushed hard for the new rules and even cited his support for the measure in a summer fundraising drive.

“I believe it is imperative to establish higher standards that reflect our respect for the sanctity of life,” Abbott said in a July fundraising email. “This is why Texas will require clinics and hospitals to bury or cremate human and fetal remains.” Abbott boasted that Texas is working to “turn the tides” against abortion in Texas and protect the “rights of the unborn.”

Executive Health Commissioner Charles Smith lauded the governor’s “commitment to protect unborn lives” and called the rules “in the best interests of the public health of Texas.”

Women’s and reproductive rights advocates and many medical and health professionals condemned the measure.

“This is another in a long line of medically unnecessary, with no scientific merit, restrictions put on physicians and facilities that provide abortion care,” Blake Rocap, legislative counsel for reproductive rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, told the San Antonio Express-News. “It’s a completely political overlay of a cultural practice that not everyone adheres to onto what should be scientifically appropriate licensing rules.”

Stephanie Toti, senior counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, released a statement accusing Texas politicians of “inserting their personal beliefs into the health care decisions of Texas women.”

Texas, which has some of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the nation and where the US Supreme Court recently struck down parts of a law that could have severely reduced the number of abortion clinics in the state, is the second state to attempt to enact fetal burial rules. Earlier this year, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who will serve as vice president in Donald Trump’s administration, signed a bill including such a provision. However, a federal judge blocked implementation of the law in a June ruling.

Fidel Castro Was a ‘Brutal Dictator?’ Here Are 7 of the World’s Worst Tyrants — All Backed by the US

In close US ally Saudi Arabia, people are executed, usually by public beheading, for insulting or renouncing Islam, marital infidelity, being gay or even practicing "witchcraft." (Photo: Twitter/@sahaer_ksa)

In close US ally Saudi Arabia, people are executed, usually by public beheading, for insulting or renouncing Islam, marital infidelity, being gay or even practicing “witchcraft.” (Photo: Twitter/@sahaer_ksa)

The death of longtime Cuban revolutionary dictator Fidel Castro, who outlasted and often outsmarted 10 US presidents, some of whom were actively trying to kill him, has sparked a mixed outpouring of emotions around the globe. For millions of Cubans and people around the world, mostly of the poor and dark-skinned variety, Castro was a champion of socialist resistance and revolution who used his larger-than-life image and influence to bring liberation and social development to long-repressed peoples suffering under the yoke of racist colonialism. For millions of Cubans who fled the brutality of his rule —  and for millions more Americans subjected to decades of official and corporate mainstream media demonization —  Castro was a wicked tyrant who suffocated his people’s aspirations for freedom for half a century.

There were tears in Havana. There was dancing in the streets of Miami. There were touching tributes from world leaders. There were prayers and condolences for the Cuban people from President Barack Obama, who courageously forged ahead with a recent rapprochement between Washington and Havana after decades of official US animosity, embargo and outright state terrorism.

And from President-elect Donald Trump, there was jubilant, stinging condemnation:

“The world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades,” a Trump statement read. “Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.”

True, much of that — although nobody has been executed in Cuba in more than 13 years (a period in which 620 people were put to death in the United States) and of the two countries, the United States is the only one in which convicted criminals are currently awaiting execution by firing squad. There are arguably more political prisoners jailed by the United States today than by Cuba. And for what it’s worth, when pollsters ask people around the globe which country is the greatest danger to world peace, Cuba never shows up in the results. The United States usually ranks as the biggest threat. Cuba is known, outside US borders anyway, as a generous if somewhat rigidly ideological nation whose star shines brightest when it is stepping up to serve the urgent, often unmet needs of others throughout the global South. Like its giant northern nemesis, Cuba is a nation that punches well above its weight — with the notable distinction that those punches have for decades been entirely of the peaceful variety.

In our country, in which socialism is still inexplicably a dirty word, there’s little room for nuance. And so today we saw Republican lawmakers like Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, an unapologetic supporter of US-based anti-Castro militants who have committed some of the worst terrorist atrocities in modern history, cheering news of Castro’s death, with exhortations from other leading Republicans to remember the “cruelty” inflicted by the brutal dictator.

A few words about brutal dictators, since Trump went there:  If Trump truly cares about freeing people from oppression, ending “unimaginable suffering” and restoring “fundamental human rights,” he should speak out against the brutal dictatorships supported by the United States. Freedom House, the US Government-funded NGO that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom and human rights, publishes an annual Freedom In The World index. In this year’s ranking, Cuba ties with China for 16th-least free nation on Earth. Of the 15 most repressed countries, seven enjoy critical or significant levels of US support:

Bahrain:  This Sunni Muslim Gulf monarchy has been ruled by the al-Khalifa dynasty since the time of the American Revolution. When Shia Muslims began demanding greater freedom during the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, the ruling regime responded by killing dozens of peaceful protesters and arresting, torturing and murdering anyone suspected of opposing it. State security services raided schools, torturing and threatening to rape girls as young as 12. Doctors and other medical personnel who treated wounded protesters were arrested and tortured as well. Female doctors were tortured with electric shocks, beaten with nail-studded boards and threatened with rape. Some were forced to eat feces. All were tortured to elicit false confessions. The Obama administration responded with tepid criticism and tens of millions of dollars in new arms sales to the sadistically murderous regime — which also happens to host the US Navy Fifth Fleet and serve as a bulwark against nearby Iran.

Equatorial Guinea: The US State Department human rights report on this tiny — but oil rich (and fantastically corrupt) — West African nation lists “torture of detainees by security forces, life-threatening conditions in prisons, and arbitrary arrests” as grave concerns. Teodoro Obiang, the deplorable dictator who seized power by ousting his own uncle in a 1979 military coup, periodically holds sham elections which he typically “wins” with 95 percent or more of the vote. Dissent, where there is any, is severely quashed. Yet US dependence on foreign oil led a leading American diplomat to praiseObiang’s “mellowing, benign leadership’’ while advocating “to abandon a moral narrative’’ when dealing with Equatorial Guinea. Obiang was literally embraced by the Obamas at a swank Manhattan reception.

Ethiopia: International human rights groups have condemned extrajudicial executions, widespread torture, violent repression of peaceful protest and severe restrictions on free expression, assembly and association in the East African nation of 94 million people. State security forces have viciously crushed a nonviolent uprising by the marginalized Oromo people, the single largest ethnic group both in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, killing over a hundred peaceful protesters over just one weekend in August alone. The repressive nature of the ruling Hailemariam Desalegn regime — which “won” 100 percent of the nation’s parliamentary seats in a 2015 election that was neither free nor fair — did not stop President Obama from visiting Ethiopia and praising its “democratically elected government” for being a valuable ally in the fight against Islamist terrorism.

Saudi Arabia: Why do successive US administrations continue to count a fundamentalist Islamist monarchy whose members fund the same terrorists the United States has been fighting this entire century as one of its closest Middle Eastern allies? Fifteen of the 19 9/11 hijackers, as well as longtime al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, were Saudis, who hail from a kingdom where arbitrary arrest and torture are commonplace, especially for members of religious minorities or those who advocate any sort of reform. Women cannot drive cars, nor can they travel or even visit a doctor without male permission. Rape victims are publicly punished. Renouncing or insulting Islam, cheating on your spouse, being gay, selling sex and practicing witchcraft are punishable by death, usually by public beheading. Despite the very clear connections between Saudi Arabia and 9/11, President Obama recently vetoed legislation approved by Congress that would have allowed families of September 11th victims to sue the Saudi regime, and the Obama has offered the fundamentalist dictatorship more than $115 billion in US weapons and training, the biggest such offer in the history of US-Saudi relations. American arms are killing thousands of innocent civilians as the Saudi air force indiscriminately bombs Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen. Yet the United States remains the kingdom’s most steadfast ally and benefactor. Why? The United States imports more oil from Saudi Arabia than from any other country save Canada, and despite its own history of supporting Islamist extremism, Washington continues to count the kingdom as a valuable ally in its war against terrorism.

South Sudan: The United Nations estimates at least 50,000 people have been killed and another 2.2 million displaced since a civil war erupted largely along ethnic lines in 2013 and pushed millions to the brink of famine. While both sides in the conflict have committed atrocities, a 2015 African Union investigation revealed mass graves and evidence of heinous atrocities committed by US-backed South Sudanese troops, including summary executions, brutal gang rape of women and girls of all ages, torture and forced cannibalism. A March 2016 UN report on the conflict contained “harrowing accounts of civilians suspected of supporting the opposition, including children and the disabled, killed by being burned alive, suffocated in containers, shot, hanged from trees or cut to pieces.” The United States backed predominantly Christian South Sudan’s independence from Sudan, which is almost entirely Muslim, in 2011, providing billions of dollars in economic and military assistance to the government of President Salva Kiir despite widespread reports of human rights violations, including the use of child soldiers. After rampaging South Sudanese troops attacked, robbed and gang-raped American and Western aid workers earlier this year, the Obama administration remained silent about the atrocity until it was revealed in the international media more than a month later.

Turkmenistan: President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov rules with absolute authority over one of the world’s most repressed nations, where members of religious and ethnic minorities face particularly severe oppression. Arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and torture, sometimes deadly, have been reported. There is no freedom of expression, press, worship or association. Male homosexual sex is punishable by imprisonment. Despite all this, successive US administrations have cozied up to the regime in pursuit of lucrative oil and natural gas pipeline deals and access to routes to supply troops in Afghanistan.

Uzbekistan: Although Islam Karimov, who ruled with an iron fist since Soviet times and who was prone to medieval tortures like boiling his opponents alive, recently died, there are few signs that life will improve for people living under his repressive regime — or that the United States will alter its stance of friendship and cooperation with the dictatorship. The US has long covered for Uzbekistan’s crimes; after state security forces massacred hundreds of innocent civilians demonstrating for greater freedom in Andijan in 2005, US officials helped block an international investigation of the slaughter. The Obama administration restored military aid to the murderous regime in 2012, with a now-infamous photo of Hillary Clinton shaking hands with Karimov alarming human rights advocates around the world. In addition to its tremendous fossil fuel reserves, Uzbekistan has won US favor by assisting the American-led war in Afghanistan.

These are just the regimes ranked worse than Cuba by Freedom House. China (tied with Cuba) is the United States’ second-largest trading partner despite its horrific human rights record and occupation of Tibet, ranked the least-free place on the planet by Freedom House. Washington funds or tolerates serious human rights violations by allies and others around the world, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, Mexico, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Morocco, Somalia, Nigeria, Israel/Palestine, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and elsewhere. Meanwhile, the United States has been criticized by the United Nations and leading international human rights groups for its own many human rights failures and shortcomings, and the US has been, by far, the world’s leading killer of innocent foreign civilians over the past half century.

It is highly disingenuous at best for Donald Trump or any American to call Fidel Castro a “brutal dictator” without acknowledging the lengthy US record of supporting even worse tyrants — from the fascist Franco in Spain to Pol Pot in Cambodia to Saddam Hussein and the genocidal military rulers of Indonesia and Central America — throughout modern history and right up to the present day. But Americans have always suffered from a seeming inability to hold their own side to the same rules that, if broken by others, often result in crippling sanctions or even military attacks, invasions and occupations that for sheer death, destruction and devastation dwarf Castro’s crimes like the sun overshadows our Earth.

While You Enjoy Your Thanksgiving Feast, Native Americans Are Being Violently Repressed

Sophia Wilansky, 21, faces possible amputation of her arm after reportedly being hit with a police concussion grenade during a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Hundreds of #NoDAPL water protectors have been injured, some of them seriously. (Photo: Facebook)

Sophia Wilansky, 21, faces possible amputation of her arm after reportedly being hit with a police concussion grenade during a protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. Hundreds of #NoDAPL water protectors have been injured, some of them seriously. (Photo: Facebook)

While millions of Americans gather with family and friends in warmly-heated homes to give thanks for their blessings and share feasts of plenty, Native Americans and their allies are suffering brutal, even life-threatening, violence at the hands of police on the bleak, sub-freezing plains of North Dakota.

Members of the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribes, along with allies from across America and around the world, are resisting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on sacred Native land. DAPL threatens the Missouri River, which is not only sacred to indigenous people but is the source of drinking water for millions of Americans, and will contribute to the acceleration of climate change. It also violates Native American treaty rights.

Calling themselves “water protectors,” the #NoDAPL protesters have courageously faced off against National Guard troops as well as state and local law enforcement and private security forces employed by the pipeline’s owner, the Donald Trump-linkedEnergy Transfer Partners (ETP). ETP guards sparked widespread outrage after images emerged of them unleashing attack dogs on peaceful Native American protesters in September. Video showed blood dripping from the nose and mouth of one of the dogs while water protectors screamed in agony and terror.

It gets worse than that. On Sunday, more than 300 water protectors were injured as police fired rubber-coated steel bullets, chemical agents including tear gas and pepper spray and powerful water cannons at them in sub-freezing temperatures. Dozens of people were hospitalized, some of them suffering from head and limb injuries, eye trauma, internal bleeding, seizures and hypothermia. Sophia Wilansky, a 21-year-old activist from New York, was left in critical condition and had to be airlifted for emergency surgeries in Minneapolis after a police officer allegedly threw a stun grenade at her. The blast from the “less-than-lethal” projectile blew her arm wide open, dislodging and exposing bone, shredding flesh and mangling arteries and connective tissue. Wilansky may lose her arm to amputation.

“Basically, it’s an act of war,” a Yankton Sioux leader said of the brutal repression at Standing Rock. That’s nothing new in Indian Country — the day the dogs were sicced on the water protectors just happened to be the 150th anniversary of the Whitestone massacre, which occurred just miles from Standing Rock and in which hundreds of Sioux, including many women and children, were slaughtered in what one participant called “a perfect massacre.”

It’s not just Standing Rock. Across America, Native Americans are fighting the encroachment on their lands, resources and sacred heritage by rapacious corporations and the governments they control. They’re also still fighting for voting equality, as regressive forces attempt to employ similar voter suppression tactics that have been so successful at disenfranchising blacks. Speaking of blacks, while many Americans are rightfully outraged by police shootings of unarmed African Americans, Native Americans are actually the ethnic group most likely to be killed by police, a manifestation of the white racism and apathy toward the endemic poverty, substance abuse and general hopelessness  that still pervades too much of Indian Country today.

The perverse patriotism of Thanksgiving mythology omits horrific details — that the English had already been enslaving area natives for years, that the handful of surviving Wampanoag Indians who sought the protection of English settlers during that fateful winter of 1621 had been all but wiped out by a smallpox epidemic likely started or stoked by the heinous practice of distributing smallpox-infected blankets to indigenous populations, or that the pious Pilgrims (who were nonetheless prone to “drunkenness, uncleanliness and rampant sodomy,” according to their governor, William Bradford) thanked their white “god” for smiting the savages with smallpox. American school children don’t learn any of this, nor are they taught how, just months after that first — and only — integrated Thanksgiving, Myles Standish led a massacre of Massachusett Indians at Wessagusset, the vanquished warrior Wituwamat’s head displayed on a pike at Plymouth.

After the “taming” of Massachusetts, Connecticut was next. Pequot men, women and children were slaughtered with reckless abandon — this time many were burned alive — as the invaders gave thanks to their “god” for his favor. Again, William Bradford:

Those that escaped the fire were slain with the sword; some hewed to pieces, others run through with their rapiers, so that they were quickly dispatched and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fire… horrible was the stink and scent thereof, but the victory seemed a sweet sacrifice, and they gave the prayers thereof to God, who had wrought so wonderfully for them, thus to enclose their enemies in their hands, and give them so speedy a victory over so proud and insulting an enemy.

“This day forth shall be a day of celebration and thanksgiving for subduing the Pequots,” John Winthrop, Bradford’s successor, proudly proclaimed in the wake of what would become known as the Mystic massacre.

Mystic massacre

Mystic massacre

Many white Americans today point to past genocidal violence (although they rarely use the “G-word”) against Native Americans to illustrate just how different, and better, things are today. They point to Indian casinos and government “handouts” as proof that justice has been served and that Indians should “get over it.” But from Plymouth Rock to Standing Rock, violent repression of indigenous peoples has never ended, as the images from North Dakota affirm. The United States has yet to properly apologize or compensate for a genocide that killed tens of millions of people and reduced once-flourishing cultures spanning the entire continent to a relative handful of survivors strewn sparsely throughout the land, largely confined to the howling wastelands of the reservation. It’s extremely difficult to “get over it” when the descendants of the perpetrators of one of the great mass killings in human history are loth to admit that “it” even happened.

So as you prepare to give thanks for all your blessings and tuck into that turkey and pumpkin pie (neither of which was served at that first Thanksgiving), please take a moment to at least acknowledge that the cornucopia of plenty we invader-descended Americans take for granted today is largely the result of the genocidal conquest of the original Americans, and that the victims of that genocide are still being subjected to horrific violence by white invaders even as you’re reading this.

‘Hail Trump!’: Nazi Salutes, Antisemitism at Alt-Right National Policy Institute Conference

Audience members give the Nazi salute during a speech by National Policy Institute director Richard Spencer at the group's annual conference in Washington, DC (Photo: The Atlantic screen grab)

Audience members give the Nazi salute during a speech by National Policy Institute director Richard Spencer at the group’s annual conference in Washington, DC (Photo: The Atlantic screen grab)

A video leaked from the annual conference of a leading white nationalist organization shows alt-right leader Richard B. Spencer delivering a shockingly Hitleresque speech, replete with Nazi propaganda spoken in German, as audience members raised their arms in the Nazi salute as they celebrated Donald Trump’s victory.

“Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory,” exclaims Spencer, director of the National Policy Institute, a Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC)- designated hate group, in the video.

“To be white is to be a striver, a crusader, an explorer and a conquerer,” asserts Spencer. “We build, we produce, we go upward, and we recognize the central lie of American race relations —  We don’t exploit other groups. We don’t gain anything from their presence. They need us, and not the other way around.”

The audience applauded vigorously in approval, with some members giving Nazi salutes.

“For us, it is conquer or die,” said Spencer. “America was until this past generation a white country, designed for ourselves and our posterity. It is our creation. It is our inheritance. And it belongs to us!”

NPI describes itself as “an independent organization dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of people of European descent in the United States, and around the world.” Spencer, who popularized the term alt-right to describe the movement to preserve white identity and end multiculturalism, has said his dream is “a new society, an ethno-state that would be a gathering point for all Europeans.” He has also called for the “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of non-whites.

This year’s NPI conference was ecstatic over the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States. Trump’s racist and bigoted statements resonate strongly with white nationalists — he has called Mexicans criminals and “rapists,” called for a total ban on Muslim immigration and travel to the US and has questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in the United States, among many other controversial statements.

Trump has also failed to disavow endorsements by leading racist figures including former KKK leader David Duke. Instead, he has appointed leading alt-right figure and Breitbart.com chief Steve Bannon, who has been accused of racism, anti-Semitism and transphobia — and who, like Trump, has been praised or endorsed by racist and white nationalist groups including the Ku Klux Klan — as his chief White House strategist. He has also angered and alarmed civil rights advocates — and thrilled racists — by naming Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who was once deemed too racist to serve as a federal judge, as America’s next attorney general, and Mike Flynn, a former general known for his extreme anti-Muslim views, as his national security adviser.

Responding to the video leaked from the NPI conference, Trump’s transition team issued a statement claiming the president-elect condemns racism. “Trump has continued to denounce racism of any kind and he [was] elected because he will be a leader for every American,” Bryan Lanza, a spokesman for the Trump-Pence Transition team, said. “To think otherwise is a complete misrepresentation of the movement that united Americans from all backgrounds.”

However, Trump faced growing criticism for his failure to personally condemn white nationalism and hateful comments including those made by Spencer over the weekend. Critics also argue that tapping figures like Sessions, Bannon and Flynn for top administration posts demonstrates that Trump is not serious about opposing racism and bigotry.

The US Holocaust Museum said it was “alarmed” by the “hateful” speech at the NPI conference. “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words,” the museum said in a statement. It continued:

Richard Spencer, the leader of the National Policy Institute — a white nationalist think tank — that sponsored the conference, made several direct and indirect references to Jews and other minorities, often alluding to Nazism. He spoke in German to quote Nazi propaganda and refer to the mainstream media. He implied that the media was protecting Jewish interests and said, ‘One wonders if these people are people at all?’ He said that America belongs to white people. His statement that white people face a choice of ‘conquer or die’ closely echoes Adolf Hitler’s view of Jews and that history is a racial struggle for survival.

“The Museum calls on all American citizens, our religious and civic leaders, and the leadership of all branches of the government to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech,” the statement said.

Leading civil rights groups called on Trump to denounce the alt-right’s racism. “We would like him to stand up and denounce these folks,” Heidi Beirich, who tracks hate crimes for SPLC, told the New York Times. “It’s inexplicable. The longer it goes on, the more you have to wonder if it’s not intentional.”

Spencer reportedly countered that the Nazi salutes at the conference were “clearly done in a spirit of irony and exuberance.”

Since Trump’s election, advocacy groups including SPLC have counted more than 700 incidents of hateful harassment or attacks across the country, ranging from shouting of slurs and graffiti to physical attacks. Many of the perpetrators of these incidents have invoked Trump’s name or impending presidency while in the act.

Guantánamo Judges Order Medical Staff to Testify in Cases of Detainees Sodomized During CIA Torture

gitmo

The military judges in the death penalty cases against two alleged terrorists involved in the September 11, 2001 attacks have ordered medical staff at a secret Guantánamo Bay (GITMO) sub-prison to testify on matters including how much pain one of the detainees suffered following surgery to reconstruct his rectum after it was allegedly shredded while he was in Central Intelligence Agency custody.

The Miami Herald reports Judge James L. Pohl ordered the testimonies from staff at GITMO’s Camp 7 prison, the first of which should occur the week of December 5 in the mass murder case against alleged 9/11 accomplice and financier Mustafa al-Hawsawi. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks on New York and Washington, DC. The 48-year-old Saudi national, who was captured with alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in Pakistan in 2003, underwent surgery last month to repair a rectal prolapse suffered more than a decade ago in CIA custody and which had forced him to manually reinsert parts of his anal cavity in order to defecate.

Al-Hawsawi’s attorney, Navy Reserve Commander Walter Ruiz, sought a delay in the case, as he claimed his client is still suffering “excruciating” pain as a result of both the torture he endured and the surgery to repair the serious damage it caused.

“Mr. al-Hawsawi was brutally sodomized, his rectum shredded and his very insides dislodged,” argued Ruiz. “This corrective surgery is the long-overdue legal and moral obligation of our government, and that obligation extends to affording an appropriate amount of time to Mr. al-Hawsawi to fully recover.”

Ruiz said in a court filing that al-Hawsawi lost 13 percent of his body weight after surgery, was suffering severe pain, constipation, vomiting, nausea, dizziness, sleeplessness and general weakness. “The prosecution’s medical cronies hide behind their anonymity and speak without any accountability through their prosecutorial mouth pieces,” the attorney wrote.

According to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture of detainees during the 15-year war against terrorism, al-Hawsawi was subjected to rectal exams with “excessive force” and suffered from a “medical emergency” prior to his transfer to GITMO. The report also casts serious doubts about al-Hawsawi’s guilt, with the CIA’s chief interrogator noting that “he does not appear to the [redacted] to be a person that is a financial mastermind.”

The Senate torture report further states that many innocent individuals were wrongfully detained due to mistaken identity and faulty intelligence, that these and other detainees were subjected to horrific and even deadly torture and abuse, and that the brutality and scope of the program were hidden from the Justice Department and even high-ranking members of the George W. Bush administration, including the president himself.

Among the most damning information released in the report were revelations of extreme — and in at least one case, deadly — torture perpetrated by CIA operatives. Detainees were interrogated for days on end, kept awake for up to 180 hours, forced to stand on broken legs and feet, had objects forced up their rectums and were exposed to lethally extreme cold.

In the other death penalty case, Judge Vance Spath ordered Camp 7’s senior medical officer and the prison commander or his stand-in to testify the week of December 12 on whether Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the October 12, 2000 al-Qaeda suicide attack on the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen, should be allowed to spend nights at the war court compound during hearings. Seventeen American sailors died in the attack. Rick Kammen, al-Nashiri’s attorney, claimed traveling between prison and court would traumatize his client, who he says suffers from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Judge Spath ordered the defendant to undergo an MRI brain scan, but the military has yet to deliver a magnetic resonance imaging machine to GITMO.

Al-Nashiri and his lawyers claim the 51-year-old Saudi was physically, sexually and mentally tortured in US custody. Declassified reports reveal he was subjected to the interrupted drowning torture known as “waterboarding” and terrorized with a power drill and with threats against his mother. He was also subjected to rectal hydration, an extremely invasive and often painful sodomy used to feed hunger-striking detainees. Critics have called the procedure tantamount to rape.

The impartiality of Judge Pohl has been questioned after it was revealed earlier this year that he “effectively conspired” with military prosecutors to destroy evidence in the KSM case. Numerous high-ranking GITMO officials have resigned over what they claim is a corrupt military commissions system established to prosecute detainees at the prison. Former GITMO lead prosecutor Col. Morris Davis called trials there “rigged from the start.” Marine Corps Gen. Michael Lehnert, the first GITMO commander, has called for the prison’s closure, arguing that its continued existence helps America’s enemies and “validates every negative perception of the United States.”

“In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong,” Lehnert wrote in 2013. “We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantánamo, both in terms of detention and torture.”

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Bush-era Secretary of State Colin Powell, has claimed that Bush, his vice president Dick Cheney — who admitted in 2014 that innocent men were caught up in the CIA torture program — and Donald Rumsfeld, who was defense secretary, all knew the “vast majority” of GITMO detainees were innocent or no danger but held them anyway for political reasons.

GITMO proponents argue that detainees there are not subject to protections against torture under domestic and international law and that the focus should be on the horrific crimes of al-Qaeda committed on September 11, 2001. The GITMO military commissions are about the “summary execution” of nearly 3,000 people on 9/11, not about how prisoners are treated, said military prosecutor Clayton Trivett Jr., who was involved in the prosecution of some of the most high-profile Guantánamo detainees, including KSM.

Although he issued an executive order to close GITMO on his first full day in office and offered a plan to relocate its detainees to a stateside prison facility, President Barack Obama has been thwarted by popular demands to keep detainees out of the United States and by repeated congressional action to prevent him from closing the prison. Of the 780 men and boys who have been imprisoned at GITMO, 711 have been transferred and 60 remain. Nine detainees have died while in custody. President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to fill the prison with “bad dudes” and to “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

Harry Reid Blasts Trump for Fueling Flames of Hatred, Promoting White Nationalist Bannon to White House

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) (Photo: Senate Democrats/Flickr Creative Commons)

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) (Photo: Senate Democrats/Flickr Creative Commons)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to blast Donald Trump for some of his more controversial words and actions, including his appointment of white nationalist Steve Bannon to a top White House position.

Reid, who is retiring, noted that Trump, “a man who lost the election by two million votes [but who] is now the president-elect,” has inspired hatred and stoked fear across the country. “His election has sparked a wave of hate crimes across America,” said Reid, who cited Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and FBI statistics showing a 67 percent surge in anti-Muslim hate crimes last year and at least 315 incidents of “hateful harassment and intimidation” since last week’s election.

In the face of such hatred, Reid said all Americans share a responsibility to confront bigotry and intolerance:

“We have the responsibility to be the voice of millions of Americans [who are] afraid they’re not welcome anymore in Donald Trump’s America. We have a responsibility to prevent Trump’s bullying and aggressive behavior from becoming normalized in the eyes of America, especially the millions of young people wondering, for example, if sexual assault is now a laughing matter. We have a responsibility to say it’s not normal for the Ku Klux Klan to celebrate the election of a president, who they view as their champion, with a victory parade.”

Reid mentioned some of the hundreds of reported post-election hate crimes, including “anti-Muslim, anti-Hispanic, anti-African American, anti-LGBT, anti-Semitic and anti-Asian” attacks, harassment and intimidation. ”There is a critical question for us as a country,” said Reid. “How do we respond to the election of Donald Trump?”

“How do we teach our children that bragging about sexual assault is abhorrent by rushing into the arms of a man who dismissed it as ‘locker room talk?’” asked Reid, who added that “if we fail to hold Trump accountable, we all bear a major responsibility for normalizing his behavior.”

“Healing the wounds [Trump] inflicted is going to take more than words,” Reid continued. “Talk is cheap and tweets are cheaper. Healing wounds is going to take action. But so far, rather than healing these wounds, Trump’s actions have deepened them.”

Reid then slammed Trump’s appointment of Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon, who he called a “champion of white supremacy,” as chief White House strategist. Racist and white nationalist leaders have applauded Trump’s promotion of his campaign manager, with former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke calling it “excellent.” 

Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has become a forum where racists, sexists, Jew- and Muslim-haters, xenophobes, homophobes and others openly express their bigoted views. Headlines from his tenure there include:

  • “Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy.”
  • “Would You Rater Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?”
  • “Hoist It High and Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage”
  • ”World Health Organization Report: Trannies 49x Higher HIV Rate”

Bannon has also been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism. His ex-wife Mary Louise Picard, who he was once criminally charged with choking, swore under oath in court that Bannon said “he doesn’t like the way [Jews] raise their kids to be ‘whiny brats’ and that he didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”

“It’s not a message of healing,” Reid said of Bannon’s White House appointment. “If Trump is serious about seeking unity the first thing he should do is rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon.”

Reid concluded by calling on Trump to take action to demonstrate that “racism, bigotry and bullying have no place in the White House or in America.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX) immediately followed and condemned Reid’s “tirade” against Trump and his team. “We had an election. The American people voted,” said Cornyn. “To come here after the American people have… made that choice and continue to disparage their choice… really just smacks of, well we used to call people like that sore losers, but frankly what he does is contribute to the coarsening of our discourse and debate.”

This article was also published on Daily Kos.

US-Led Air Strike Kills 20 Syrian Civilians Near Raqqa

A US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle with the 335th Fighter Squadron on a training mission. (Photo: DVIDSHUB/Flickr Creative Commons)

A US Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle with the 335th Fighter Squadron on a training mission. (Photo: DVIDSHUB/Flickr Creative Commons)

A US or US-led coalition air strike killed 20 civilians near the Islamic State de facto capital city of Raqqa, Syria earlier this week.

BBC cites the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which said the dead included six women and a child. The monitor group said 32 other people were wounded in the strike, which occurred in the village of al-Heisha, 25 miles (40 km) north of Raqqa. The village, which is controlled by Islamic State, has been the target of a US-backed coalition of Kurdish and Arab forces fighting to recapture the area.

US Col. John Dorian confirmed the attack. “After an initial assessment of strike logs against the date and location of the alleged civilian casualties, the coalition confirms it did conduct strikes in the area described in the allegation,” Dorian said, adding that “more specific information is needed to conclusively determine responsibility” for any civilian casualties.

Deutsche Welle reports civilians fleeing al-Heisha said Islamic State fighters were transporting heavy weaponry when Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) troops attacked the village. “[Islamic State] fighters brought heavy weapons to our village and stayed among us so that if there were strikes they would hit us,” local Saada al-Aboud, 45, told DW. “They won’t let us leave. We had to escape by running out into the fields, with our children and old people. What else could we do? We left everything behind.”

According to SOHR, 680 civilians, including 169 children, have been killed by US-led coalition air strikes since the alliance began bombing Islamic State targets in Syria in September 2014. The US rejects this figure, claiming its forces have killed 64 civilians in Syria and Iraq during the anti-Islamic State campaign. Last month, a US strike on a home near Mosul, Iraq — where US-backed Iraqi forces are fighting to recapture the city of nearly two million inhabitants from Islamic State — killed eight members of one family, including a pregnant woman and three children.

Russian forces fighting to defend longtime Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s regime from Islamic State and other insurgents have killed an estimated 2,000 civilians. A United Nations envoy says more than 400,000 people have died during the course of a five-year Syrian civil war.

Over the past half century, US military forces have killed more foreign civilians than any other armed force on Earth. According to a 2015 study, more than 1.3 million people have died in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan alone during the course of the 15-year US-led war against Islamist terrorism.

Make America Hate Again: Bigot Attacks Sweep Nation After Trump Victory

Chris Ball, a gay Canadian film producer, was brutally attacked in Santa Monica, California on election night. (Photo: Facebook)

Chris Ball, a gay Canadian film producer, was brutally attacked in Santa Monica, California on election night. (Photo: Facebook)

The votes in Donald Trump’s stunning Election Day upset hadn’t even all been counted before reports started pouring in from across America of racist, homophobic, Islamophobic and other hate attacks, intimidation and terrorism against people of color and other minorities.

Trump, the billionaire businessman who launched his successful campaign for the White House by calling Mexicans criminals and rapists, and who vowed to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, has inspired hate crimes since the beginning of his presidential bid. But Trump’s unexpected victory has emboldened bigots of all stripes now that, as leading white supremacist and ethnic cleansing advocate Richard B. Spencer rejoiced, “we’re the establishment now.”

It was a wake-up call that couldn’t come too soon, but it didn’t come soon enough for some. Americans didn’t even have time to wake up from the nightmare of November 8 before the reports of Trump-inspired hate started making headlines.

  • On election night, Chris Ball, a gay Canadian film producer visiting Santa Monica, California, was brutally assaulted by a group of men, one of whom boasted that “we’ve got a new president now, you fucking faggots.” Ball’s attackers smashed a bottle over his head; he was hospitalized and left with five stitches in his head.
  • Several reports of Muslim women being assaulted because they were wearing hijabs have made headlines around the nation, including in New Mexico and California. Many Muslim women say they are afraid to wear hijabs in public. One student who claimed she was violently attacked at University of Louisiana at Lafayette later admitted she fabricated her story.
  • Latino students at Royal Oak Middle School in suburban Detroit were reduced to tears as many of their classmates aggressively chanted “build the wall” in unison during lunch in the school cafeteria.

  • Nancy Dung Nguyen of Philadelphia, who works at BPSOS, a nonprofit organization serving the Vietnamese American community, was one of manypeople of color across the nation to report pro-Trump or anti-immigrant graffiti or vandalism after the election.
  • A Nazi swastika and the words “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN” were spray-painted on a baseball dugout in Wellsville, in western New York; while not far away in Buffalo, a black doll was found hanging from a noose in an elevator at Canisius College.
This softball dugout in Wellsville, New York was vandalized with racist graffiti. (Brian Quinn/Wellsville Daily Reporter)

This softball dugout in Wellsville, New York was vandalized with racist graffiti. (Brian Quinn/Wellsville Daily Reporter)

  • CBS North Carolina reporter Derrick Lewis tweeted a photo of graffiti reading “BLACK LIVES DON’T MATTER AND NEITHER DOES YOUR VOTE” on a wall in Durham.

Trump supporters are busy today trolling the protesters who peacefully rallied and marched in cities across America last night to reject the results of Tuesday’s election. “This didn’t happen when Obama won,” they’ve been parroting, belying their disdain for the First Amendment. Actually, it was much uglier than that, and it’s even uglier this time as the bigots are emboldened by a president-elect who has repeatedly encouraged his supporters to violently attack those who oppose him. Sadly, I suspect this isn’t the last time I’ll be reporting on Trump-inspired hate crimes.

Welcome to the new normal. Welcome to morning in Donald Trump’s America.

About Last Night: From the First Black President to a President Endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan

Klansmen, neo-Nazis, white nationalists and racists of all stripes are rejoicing in the wake of Donald Trump's historic presidential victory. (Photo: Paul Weaver/Flickr Creative Commons)

Klansmen, neo-Nazis, white nationalists and racists of all stripes are rejoicing in the wake of Donald Trump’s historic presidential victory. (Photo: Paul Weaver/Flickr Creative Commons)

Martin Luther King once said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This, like so much of what King said, is true, but sometimes it bends the other way too.

And so we find ourselves on the brink of a transition from America’s first black president to its first president endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan in modern times. Why wouldn’t the haters embrace Trump? He launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans criminals and rapists, and he subsequently mocked or threatened women, Muslims, blacks, immigrants, Asians, disabled people and others. With each new racist, misogynist, homophobic, Islamophobic, or xenophobic attack there were those who were sure that Trump had gone too far. Many measured the days until his campaign imploded. Now Team Trump is measuring the drapes for the White House.

Klansmen, neo-Nazis and white nationalists of all stripes are rejoicing today and boasting about their significant contributory role in Trump’s historic victory. Make no mistake, what happened last night was a rejection of the cumulative social progress won during the Obama era. What’s coming won’t be pretty. When Trump talks about restoring “law and order,” we all should sit up and take notice. Some of us more than others. Muslims are positively horrified at the prospect of a Trump presidency, with some Muslim women already saying they’re hesitant to wear hijabs in public for fear of falling victim to the surging wave of Islamophobic hate crime that has risen along with Trump’s popularity. It may soon, too, be open season on Latino immigrants, as Trump has vowed to deploy a deportation force to remove many millions of men, women and children from their homes, violently if need be, beyond his big, beautiful wall back to the deadly violence and destitution of their homelands. Movements for positive social change should be wary as well — witness possible Trump attorney general Rudy Giuliani tarring Black Lives Matter as “racist,” “anti-American” and accusing #BLM of “putting a target on the back of police officers.” Many black Americans, especially young males, feel like they’re the ones with the targets on their backs now.

The election was also a referendum on the changing role of women in American society. Apparently Americans prefer a serial sexual predator and accused rapist who has not only confessed to, but openly boasted about grabbing women “by the pussy” over an eminently qualified elder stateswoman who has overcome a lifetime of seemingly insurmountable obstacles with grit, grace, intelligence and élan, only to find her hopes and ambitions — and those of tens of millions of Americans and people around the world — dashed and shattered upon that highest of glass ceilings.

Trump’s election is largely the answer to the question of how much change can straight, white American men can handle, and last night we found out. We looked into the mirror and saw the true face of our nation. Some may call this the last dying gasps of an aging old guard losing its battle with the inevitability of social and demographic change. Well, it looks like there’s still lots of life left in that “basket of deplorables.” The dinosaurs aren’t extinct yet. A nation built on a foundation of slavery and genocide does not reform so easily. But take heart; history is progressive, and we’ve been in more dire straights before and emerged a more just society. The great gains of the past half century will not be easily or quickly dismantled. You can thank progressives for that. But we now face the fight of our lives as those who would take us back to much darker days prepare to take the reigns of power.

So what do we do now? We stand up. We fight back. We’ve seen this before, even if we’ve never quite seen anything like Donald Trump before. Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation of black slaves during the victorious Civil War and the subsequent Reconstruction era under Ulysses S. Grant, which saw an unprecedented level of black political participation, gave rise to the Ku Klux Klan and racist repression of blacks that often rivaled enslavement for sheer injustice. The great gains of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s, culminating with the Civil and Voting Rights acts under Lyndon B. Johnson, led to pushback in the form of the election of the original “law and order” president, Richard Nixon, and the drug war and mass incarceration that followed. History is action and reaction and we are very much entering a reactionary phase right now.

Our future, and the future of those who follow us, depends upon our resistance to the forces of injustice. Bigotry, hatred and fear may have Trumped love yesterday, but love is greater and stronger than fear. We must love each other. We must fight, united and peacefully, for each other. And may our spirits be buoyed by the certain knowledge that like other dark chapters throughout our American adventure, this one too shall one day be consigned to the pages of history books future students will read with incredulous shock and the righteous disgust of a gentler tomorrow. Until then, stay strong, and good luck to us all.

This article was also published on Daily Kos.

San Antonio Cop Matthew Luckhurst Fired for Allegedly Giving Homeless Man Feces Sandwich

Matthew Luckhurst (Photo: SAPD)

Matthew Luckhurst (Photo: SAPD)

A five-year veteran of the San Antonio Police Department has been terminated after allegedly attempting to feed a fecal sandwich to a homeless man earlier this year.

The San Antonio Express-News reports the alleged incident occurred in May, when SAPD officer Matthew Luckhurst boasted to another officer that “he had picked up some feces, placed it in a slice of bread, and put it in a Styrofoam container next to the unknown homeless male,” according to a police press release, which added that “the officer reported that he told Luckhurst to go back and throw it away. The officer said he saw Luckhurst go back and he assumed that Luckhurst discarded the container.”

The incident was subsequently reported to Internal Affairs in July. Officials have been unable to locate the homeless man. In a prepared statement, SAPD Chief William McManus said:

This was a vile and disgusting act that violates our guiding principles of ‘treating all with integrity, compassion, fairness and respect.’ The fact that his fellow officers were so disgusted with his actions that they reported him to Internal Affairs demonstrates that this type of behavior will never be tolerated. The action of this one former officer in no way reflects the actions of all the other good men and women who respectfully serve this community.

“Firing this officer was the right thing to do,” San Antonio Mayor Ivy Taylor told the Express-News. “His actions were a betrayal of every value we have in our community, and he is not representative of our great police force.”

Luckhurts’ attorney, Ben Sifuentes Jr., told the Express-News that his client was joking and that the alleged incident “didn’t happen.” Sifuentes also told KSAT that McManus has a history of wrongfully suspending officers. “There have been several arbitrations that I’ve had where what he alleges in the suspension turned out to be false. So let’s not assume that what he says is true,” he said. “Number two, there’s no eyewitness. No video camera showing what he alleges in fact happened. I think when it comes to arbitration, we’re going to prevail. We’re going to show this didn’t happen the way the chief alleged.”

San Antonio, the second-largest city in Texas and seventh-largest in the United States, has been slammed by homeless advocates for what many critics call its criminalization of poverty. SAPD issued 12,000 citations to unhoused residents between January 2013 and October 2014, with many violators charged with offenses that discourage poor people from being in public spaces. Desperately poor people have been issued tickets ranging from $200-$500 for violations including soliciting donations, sitting or lying on sidewalks and camping in public. Those who are caught asking for money three or more times can be fined $2,000 and jailed for six months.

Chief McManus has even attempted to criminalize giving money to panhandlers. “A few people may need a buck to go buy a burger, but the vast majority of people are using that money to buy alcohol, drugs and cigarettes,” he told the San Antonio Current in 2014.

From Republican Congressman Don Young of Alaska proposing the use of wolves to control the homeless population to Silicon Valley tech billionaires sponsoring a ballot initiative to criminalize tent camping in San Francisco, criminalization and dehumanization of unhoused Americans has been increasing at the same time as the economic inequality that is a major factor in causing homelessness.

“Really what they’re doing is they’re trying to demonize the population,” Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the San Francisco-based Coalition on Homelessness, told KTVU. “They’re trying make everyone more and more scared of homeless people.”

Earlier this year, the US Department of Justice Civil Rights Division sent a letter to the nation’s courts warning of the consequences of criminalizing poverty. The DOJ letter urged courts to stop using fees and fines to raise revenue, and to stop jailing those who are too poor to pay.

“The harm caused by unlawful practices in these jurisdictions can be profound,” the letter states. “Individuals can confront escalating debt; face repeated, unnecessary incarceration for nonpayment despite posing no danger to the community; lose their jobs; and become trapped in cycles of poverty that can be nearly impossible to escape.”

This article was also published on Daily Kos.

Douche Du Jour
  • ‘Hail Trump!’: Nazi Salutes, Antisemitism at Alt-Right National Policy Institute Conference
  • San Antonio Cop Matthew Luckhurst Fired for Allegedly Giving Homeless Man Feces Sandwich
  • GOP Congressman Robert Pittenger Says Charlotte Protesters ‘Hate White People Because They’re Successful’
  • Israel Nominates Col. Eyal Karim, Who Endorsed Rape of Non-Jews to ‘Boost Troop Morale,’ for Chief Military Rabbi
  • The Hateful 8: Anti-Gay Christian Leaders Praise Orlando Massacre
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