position:attorney general

  • GBC - Gibraltar News - GBC TV and Radio Gibraltar
    https://www.gbc.gi/news/gib-authorities-and-royal-marines-board-and-detain-supertanker-en-route-syria

    Gibraltar Port and Law Enforcement agencies, assisted by a detachmentof Royal Marines, boarded and detained a super tanker carrying crude oil to Syria in the early hours of Thursday morning.

    This followed information giving the Gibraltar Government reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel, the Grace 1, was acting in breach of European Union sanctions against Syria.

    The operation took place overnight as the giant vessel sailed into Gibraltar waters.

    The Government says it has reason to believe that the Grace 1 was carrying its shipment of crude oil to the Banyas Refinery in Syria.The refinery is the property of an entity subject to European Union sanctions against Syria.

    #piraterie #gibraltar reste un atout géopolitique

    en arabe : https://www.raialyoum.com/index.php/%d8%b3%d9%84%d8%b7%d8%a7%d8%aa-%d8%ac%d8%a8%d9%84-%d8%b7%d8%a7%d8%b1%d9%8
    où il est précisé que le navire est sous pavillon de Panama et que le pétrole serait iranien.

    • https://www.lorientlejour.com/article/1177558/lambassadeur-britannique-en-iran-convoque-apres-la-saisie-dun-petroli

      Dans un communiqué, le gouvernement de Gibraltar, territoire britannique situé à la pointe sud de l’Espagne, dit avoir de bonnes raisons de croire que les cuves du Grace 1 contiennent du pétrole destiné à la raffinerie syrienne de Banyas. Le gouvernement syrien est la cible de sanctions de l’Union européenne depuis mai 2011, date du début de la répression sanglante des manifestations pour la démocratie par le régime de Bachar el-Assad.

      D’après l’outil de données cartographiques Refinitiv Eikon mapping, le Grace 1 a chargé du brut iranien le 17 avril dernier, ce qui constituerait une violation des sanctions américaines sur les exportations de pétrole iranien rétablies l’an dernier après la décision de Donald Trump de retirer les Etats-Unis de l’accord de 2015 sur le nucléaire iranien.

    • https://lloydslist.maritimeintelligence.informa.com/LL1128207/Gibraltar-tanker-seizure-triggers-IranUK-diplomatic-row

      (...)

      The incident triggered debate over the lawfulness of the tanker seizure and detention which will be tested in Gibraltar’s Supreme Court in coming days.

      Local maritime and admiralty lawyers have been instructed for the Captain of the Port, financial secretary and the attorney general, Lloyd’s List understands, ahead of what is expected to be protracted legal debate.

      The acting foreign minister of Spain — which claims the waters as its own and does not recognise British sovereignty — said Britain acted at the behest of the US and the country was assessing the detention’s legal implications.

      The US has not shown the same vigilance for Iran-China crude flows, which have been taking place without action. Iranian- and Chinese-owned or controlled ships have been loading cargoes since the May 1 ending of waivers allowing some countries limited imports. About five cargoes have been discharged in Syria.

      Lloyd’s List understands that the owner of the very large crude carrier is Russian Titan Shipping, a subsidiary of Dubai-based oil and energy shipping company TNC Gulf, which has clear Iranian links.

      While Grace 1 has a complex ownership chain that is not unusual for many internationally trading vessels, its executives listed on LinkedIn have Iranian university and technical qualifications, or list their names in Farsi, the Iranian language.

      The ship’s current class and insurance is unknown according to databases. Lloyd’s Register withdrew class in January, 2019, as did former P&I insurers Swedish Club, at the same time as the vessel arrived to spend a month at the Bandar-e Taheri single buoy mooring area in Iranian waters, according to Lloyd’s List Intelligence data.

      The ship’s opaque ownership and operating chain is complicated further by company websites linked to the tanker not operating. The European Commission-operated Equasis website lists the shipmanager as Singapore-based Iships Management. However, the website is under construction and its telephone number is not in service. Websites for Russian Titan Shipping and TNC Gulf are also not working. LinkedIn lists Captain Asadpour as the executive managing director, saying he has also been president of the Georgia-based Russian Shipping Lines for 11 years.

  • Flint Water Prosecutors Drop Criminal Charges, With Plans to Keep Investigating - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/13/us/flint-water-crisis-charges-dropped.html

    Cette affaire de la pollution de l’eau à Flint est vraiment un cas d’école... jusqu’au bout ! La santé publique mérite l’intervention des citoyens, partout dans le monde.

    CHICAGO — Prosecutors stunned the city of Flint, Mich., on Thursday by dropping all pending charges against officials accused of ruining the community’s drinking water and ignoring signs of a crisis, casting doubt on what some residents had seen as a small but tangible step toward justice.

    Fifteen state and local officials, including emergency managers who ran the city and a member of the governor’s cabinet, had been accused by state prosecutors of crimes as serious as involuntary manslaughter. Seven had already taken plea deals. Eight more, including most of the highest-ranking officials, were awaiting trial.

    On Thursday, more than three years after the first charges were filed, the Michigan attorney general’s office, which earlier this year passed from Republican to Democratic hands, abruptly dropped the eight remaining cases. Prosecutors left open the possibility of recharging some of those same people, and perhaps others, too.

    But in Flint, a city where faith in government was already low and where many residents still refuse to drink the tap water, the news was seen by some as a sign that they had been wronged once again.

    Ronald F. Wright, a criminal law professor at Wake Forest University, said it was not uncommon for newly elected prosecutors to drop cases brought by their predecessors. But it was far more unusual, he said, for them to suggest that they might file new charges.

    “You inherit the file, you start looking through it, and the deeper you get in the file, the more you realize there are possible weak spots in your case,” Mr. Wright said. “I view this as a natural process of a new chief prosecutor becoming familiar with the details of the case.”

    Ms. Nessel, the new attorney general, defended her prosecutors’ decision to drop the charges, but she also sought to reassure Flint residents. “I want to remind the people of Flint that justice delayed is not always justice denied,” she said.

    That message was a tough sell for some in Flint, where residents said they had waited for years for justice and been disappointed with the results. Monica Galloway, a member of the Flint City Council, called the decision a setback on Thursday and said she hoped new charges would be filed.

    “I think anyone that lives in the city of Flint that is affected by this wants justice,” Ms. Galloway said. “And justice can only be done if this is not just redone, but done properly.”

    #Santé_publique #Flint #Environnement #Pollution #Néolibéralisme

  • How New York could respond to the taxi medallion lending crisis | CSNY
    https://www.cityandstateny.com/articles/policy/infrastructure/how-new-york-could-respond-to-taxi-medallion-lending-crisis.html

    Experts and lawmakers weigh in on easing the pain of burdened medallion owners and preventing predatory lending in the future.
    By ANNIE MCDONOUGH
    MAY 22, 2019

    After a two-part New York Times investigation into predatory lending practices for taxi medallions delineated how industry leaders and government agencies participated in, encouraged or ignored risky lending, calls for action sprang forth – sometimes from the very same officials or agencies that had been asleep at the switch.

    Various deceptive or exploitative lending practices contributed to the rise and precipitous fall of taxi medallions in New York City. Medallions worth $200,000 in 2002 rose to more than $1 million in 2014, before crashing to less than $200,000. The bubble was inflated by loans made without down payments, requirements that loans had to be paid back in three years or extended with inflated interest rates, and interest-only loans that required borrowers to forfeit legal rights and give up much of their income. Borrowers – typically low-income, immigrant drivers – were left in the lurch when the bubble burst, an event that the taxi industry has long blamed primarily on the rise of app-based ride hail services like Uber and Lyft. While the rise of app-based ride hail did contribute to the now-ailing taxi industry, the revelations in the Times show government officials – including the Taxi and Limousine Commission which acted as a “cheerleader” for medallion sales – ignored the warning signs.

    Since Sunday, when the first Times story was published, New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced an inquiry into the business and lending practices that “may have created” the crisis, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a joint probe by the TLC, Department of Finance and Department of Consumer Affairs into the brokers who helped arrange the loans, Sen. Chuck Schumer called for an investigation into the credit unions involved in the lending, and members of the New York City Council and state Legislature, and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, have called for hearings and legislation to resolve the issue.

    The various proposals raised thus far are unlikely to fully address the damage caused to many medallion owners, some experts say. The Times investigation found that since 2016, more than 950 taxi drivers have filed for bankruptcy, with thousands more still suffering under the crippling loans. This is combined with a string of taxi and other professional drivers who have committed suicide in the past year and a half.

    Some of the solutions offered have focused on preventing the kind of reckless lending practices exhibited for taxi medallions. Stringer called on state lawmakers to close a loophole that allows lenders to classify their loans as business deals – as opposed to consumer loans, which have more protections for borrowers. A bill introduced last week by state Sen. Jessica Ramos would also establish a program to assist medallion owners who are unable to obtain financing, refinancing or restructuring of an existing loan through a loan loss reserve. State Sen. James Sanders and Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, who chair the state Legislature’s committees on banks, declined to comment.

    But classifying loans for medallions as consumer loans might not be appropriate, said Bruce Schaller, a transportation expert and former deputy commissioner at the New York City Department of Transportation. “I think the difficult question with the individual drivers is that they are in business, they are planning to make money off of their increase in medallion prices. Should they have the same protections as someone who is taking out a mortgage on a house, who is presumed to be very vulnerable?” he asked. “That may well be the case, but (drivers) are also in a business in a way that the prospective homeowner isn’t.”

    The TLC told the Times that it is the responsibility of bank examiners to control lending practices, while the state Department of Financial Services said that it supervised some of the banks involved, but often deferred to federal inspectors. “The TLC is gravely concerned that unsound lending practices have hurt taxi drivers and has raised these concerns publicly,” Acting Commissioner Bill Heinzen said in an emailed statement. “Banks and credit unions are regulated by federal agencies that have substantial oversight powers that the TLC does not have. The TLC has taken steps within our regulatory power to help owners and drivers by easing regulatory burdens and working with City Council to limit the number of for-hire vehicles on the road. We have pushed banks to restructure loan balances and payment amounts to reflect actual trip revenue.”

    Seth Stein, a spokesman for de Blasio, also mentioned interest in preventing risky lending practices. “We are deeply concerned about predatory lending in the medallion business,” Stein wrote in an email. “While TLC has no direct regulatory oversight over lenders – that is squarely under the purview of federal regulators – we continue to look for every means of helping owners and drivers make ends meet. We’ve discontinued medallion sales, secured a cap on app-based for-hire-vehicles, and we strongly urge federal regulators to do more as well.”

    But remedies at the federal level may not be realistic, according to David King, a professor of urban planning at Arizona State University, with a speciality in transportation and land use planning. “There doesn’t seem to be any appetite for what would be reasonable lending standards. Reasonable standards that would include verifiable collateral or values that were based on something other than made-up dollar amounts,” King said, adding that he doesn’t see those changes being made under the current administration. “The housing bubble of 11 years ago, I think that was a sufficiently national concern that has inspired some movement from Washington. Whereas I think something like an asset bubble in New York, just like an asset bubble in one region, isn’t going to be enough to spur federal legislation.”

    Schaller said that while lending regulation fixes could be beneficial for preventing this kind of crisis in other industries, there’s action that can be taken now by the city to alleviate some pain. “The real question is, if the city now decides that they were part of the fraud, then they should refund the money,” he said. “It’s one thing to close a loophole, it’s another thing to decide that you need to make restitution.”

    City Councilman Mark Levine, who has been working on legislation along those lines for nearly a year, agreed that the city needs to take responsibility. “There has been a lot of attention to the whole industry of lenders and brokers who push these loans on the drivers in ways that were not transparent and really deceived them, and may very well constitute some sort of legal fraud,” he said. “But the city itself also bears responsibility for this, because we were selling medallions with the goal of bringing in revenue to the city and we were promoting them and pumping them up in ways that I think masks the true risks that drivers were taking on. And, most egregiously, we had a round of sales in 2014 when it was abundantly clear that we were headed for a price drop, because by that point app-based competitors had emerged and there were other challenges.”

    Levine’s vision for immediately helping those drivers still suffering under unsustainable loans would involve the city acquiring the loans from lenders who either cannot or will not be flexible with borrowers, and then forgiving the debts. Though the bill hasn’t been introduced yet, the idea is to partially finance the buy-back by placing a surcharge on app-based ride-hail companies like Uber and Lyft. Levine’s office is still working on confirming that the City Council would have the authority to levy that kind of surcharge. If it doesn’t, they would encourage that action be taken in Albany.

    But, as the Times’ investigation into the issue has revealed, much of the damage to drivers and medallion owners has already been done – including to the hundreds of medallion owners who have declared bankruptcy. “If someone paid $800,000 for a medallion loan and paid part of that off, and has had their house repossessed, now Mark Levine is saying, ‘well, we’ll just refund whatever’s left dangling out there,’” Schaller said. “If I were on the losing end of that bargain, I’d say I want my $800,000 back.”

    The idea of a buy-back, Levine admitted, is not a perfect solution, but it’s one he said can help the thousands of medallion owners stuck right now. “It would not address that kind of horrible, horrible hardship,” he said, referring to those owners who have forfeited assets and sustained other losses.

    If there’s any upside to the stories relayed in the Times about medallion owners financially devastated by bad loans and the failing taxi industry, it may be that it’s a call to action – even if it’s coming too late for some. “It’s had a dramatic impact on the interest in the Council about finding solutions,” Levine said of the heavy punch packed by the Times’ investigation. “It gives new impetus to this effort, which is good, because it’s complicated, and it’s going to require a political push to make it happen. The revelations in this article made that more likely.”

    Annie McDonough is a tech and policy reporter at City & State.

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • How We Investigated the New York Taxi Medallion Bubble - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/22/reader-center/taxi-medallion-investigation.html

    It took a year, 450 interviews and a database built from scratch to answer a simple question: Why had anyone ever agreed to pay $1 million for the right to drive a yellow cab?

    By Brian M. Rosenthal
    May 22, 2019

    Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

    The story started, like a lot of stories seem to, with President Trump’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen.

    On April 9, 2018, the F.B.I. raided Mr. Cohen’s office, thrusting him into the national spotlight. The next day, the top editors at The New York Times asked five reporters to start working on a profile. I was one of them.

    The other reporters researched Mr. Cohen’s family, his legal career, his real estate interests and, of course, his work for the president. I took on the last piece of his business empire: his ownership of 30 New York taxi medallions, the coveted permits needed to own a yellow cab.

    After a few weeks of reporting, the team learned enough to publish our story on Mr. Cohen. And I discovered enough to know what I wanted to investigate next.

    At that time, the taxi industry was becoming a big story. Mr. Cohen had owned his medallions as an investment, counting on them rising in value because of the city’s decision to issue only about 13,000 permits. But thousands of the medallions were owned by drivers themselves, and two driver-owners had just died by suicide. Public officials were talking about how the price of a medallion had plummeted from over $1 million to under $150,000. Most were blaming ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft.

    I had a different question: Why had anybody ever paid $1 million for the right to the grueling job of being a cabby?

    When I pursue an investigation, I identify the single most important question that I am trying to answer, and orient all of my reporting around it. (For example, why did it cost more to build subway track in New York than anywhere else in the world? Or why did Texas have the lowest special education rate in the country?) In this case, I ended up interviewing about 450 people, and I asked almost all the same question: Why did the price reach $1 million? It became my North Star.

    I heard plenty of theories, but I began to get somewhere only when I had an epiphany: No driver-owner had ever really paid close to $1 million for a medallion. On paper, thousands of low-income immigrants had. But while they had poured their life savings into their purchase, virtually all had signed loans for most of the cost — and never really had a chance to repay.

    I needed to examine as many loans as possible, to see if they were as unusual and reckless — and predatory — as some of my sources said they were. But how?

    I got a lead from an unexpected source: the lenders themselves.

    After prices had started crashing, the lenders in the industry had tried to squeeze money out of borrowers. Many of them had filed lawsuits against borrowers — lawsuits which had to include copies of the loans.

    I ultimately reviewed 500 of these loans, and I saw disturbing patterns: Almost none of them included a large down payment. Almost all of them required the borrower to repay everything within three years, which was impossible. There were a lot of interest-only loans, and a wide variety of fees, including charges for paying loans off too early. Many of the loans required borrowers to sign away their legal rights.

    Armed with the loan documents, I started calling dozens of current and former industry bankers, brokers, lawyers and investors. Some pointed me to disclosures that lenders had filed with the government, which were enormously helpful. Others shared internal records, which were even better.

    New York City did not have reliable digital data on medallion sales, so I used paper records to build a database of all the 10,888 sales between 1995 and 2018. The city taxi commission had never analyzed the financial records submitted by medallion buyers, so I did. Nobody knew how many medallion owners had gone bankrupt because of the crisis, so I convinced my boss to pay a technology company, Epiq, to create a program that sped through court records and spat out a tentative list — and then two news assistants helped me verify every result.

    As I dug into the data and the documents, I sought out driver-owners. I wanted to understand what they had been through. To find them, I went to Kennedy International Airport.

    The fare from taking someone from the airport into Manhattan can make a cabby’s day, and so drivers wait in line for hours. And over several visits during a couple of months, I waited with them, striking up conversations outside a food stand run by a Greek family and next to pay phones that had stopped working years ago. After talking briefly, I asked if I could visit their homes and meet their friends.

    In all, I met 200 taxi drivers, including several I interviewed through translators because they did not speak English fluently. (Some of those men still had signed loans of up to $1 million.) One by one, they told me how they had come to New York seeking the American dream, worked hard and gotten trapped in loans they did not understand, which often made them give up almost all of their monthly income. Several said that after the medallion bubble burst, wiping out their savings and their futures, they had contemplated suicide. One said he had already attempted it.

    The day after we began publishing our findings, city officials announced they were exploring ways to help these driver-owners, and the mayor and state attorney general said they were going to investigate the people who channeled them into the loans.

    In the end, the three front-page stories that we published this week about the taxi industry barely mentioned Mr. Cohen at all.

    But they did something much more important: They told the stories of Mohammed Hoque, of Jean Demosthenes and of Wael Ghobrayal.

    Brian M. Rosenthal is an investigative reporter on the Metro Desk. Previously, he covered state government for the Houston Chronicle and for The Seattle Times. @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Inquiries Into Reckless Loans to Taxi Drivers Ordered by State Attorney General and Mayor - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/20/nyregion/nyc-taxi-medallion-loans-attorney-general.html

    May 20, 2019 - The investigations come after The New York Times found that thousands of drivers were crushed under debt they could not repay.

    The New York attorney general’s office said Monday it had opened an inquiry into more than a decade of lending practices that left thousands of immigrant taxi drivers in crushing debt, while Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered a separate investigation into the brokers who helped arrange the loans.

    The efforts marked the government’s first steps toward addressing a crisis that has engulfed the city’s yellow cab industry. They came a day after The New York Times published a two-part investigation revealing that a handful of taxi industry leaders artificially inflated the price of a medallion — the coveted permit that allows a driver to own and operate a cab — and made hundreds of millions of dollars by issuing reckless loans to low-income buyers.

    The investigation also found that regulators at every level of government ignored warning signs, and the city fed the frenzy by selling medallions and promoting them in ads as being “better than the stock market.”

    The price of a medallion rose to more than $1 million before crashing in late 2014, which left borrowers with debt they had little hope of repaying. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, and thousands more are struggling to stay afloat.

    The findings also drew a quick response from other elected officials. The chairman of the Assembly’s banking committee, Kenneth Zebrowski, a Democrat, said his committee would hold a hearing on the issue; the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, said he was drafting legislation; and several other officials in New York and Albany called for the government to pressure lenders to soften loan terms.

    The biggest threat to the industry leaders appeared to be the inquiry by the attorney general, Letitia James, which will aim to determine if the lenders engaged in any illegal activity.

    “Our office is beginning an inquiry into the disturbing reports regarding the lending and business practices that may have created the taxi medallion crisis,” an office spokeswoman said in a statement. “These allegations are serious and must be thoroughly scrutinized.”

    Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said through a spokesman that he supported the inquiry. “If any of these businesses or lenders did something wrong, they deserve to be held fully accountable,” the spokesman said in a statement.

    Lenders did not respond to requests for comment. Previously, they denied wrongdoing, saying regulators had approved all of their practices and some borrowers had made poor decisions and assumed too much debt. Lenders blamed the crisis on the city for allowing ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to enter without regulation, which they said led medallion values to plummet.

    Mr. de Blasio said the city’s investigation will focus on the brokers who arranged the loans for drivers and sometimes lent money themselves.

    “The 45-day review will identify and penalize brokers who have taken advantage of buyers and misled city authorities,” the mayor said in a statement. “The review will set down strict new rules that prevent broker practices that hurt hard-working drivers.”

    Four of the city’s biggest taxi brokers did not respond to requests for comment.

    Bhairavi Desai, founder of the Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents drivers and independent owners, said the city should not get to investigate the business practices because it was complicit in many of them.

    The government has already closed or merged all of the nonprofit credit unions that were involved in the industry, saying they participated in “unsafe and unsound banking practices.” At least one credit union leader, Alan Kaufman, the former chief executive of Melrose Credit Union, a major medallion lender, is facing civil charges.

    The other lenders in the industry include Medallion Financial, a specialty finance company; some major banks, including Capital One and Signature Bank; and several loosely regulated taxi fleet owners and brokers who entered the lending business.

    At City Hall, officials said Monday they were focused on how to help the roughly 4,000 drivers who bought medallions during the bubble, as well as thousands of longtime owners who were encouraged to refinance their loans to take out more money during that period.

    One city councilman, Mark Levine, said he was drafting a bill that would allow the city to buy medallion loans from lenders and then forgive much of the debt owed by the borrowers. He said lenders likely would agree because they are eager to exit the business. But he added that his bill would force lenders to sell at discounted prices.

    “The city made hundreds of millions by pumping up sales of wildly overpriced medallions — as late as 2014 when it was clear that these assets were poised to decline,” said Mr. Levine, a Democrat. “We have an obligation now to find some way to offer relief to the driver-owners whose lives have been ruined.”

    Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, proposed a similar solution in a letter to the mayor. He said the city should convene the lenders and pressure them to partially forgive loans.

    “These lenders too often dealt in bad faith with a group of hard-working, unsuspecting workers who deserved much better and have yet to receive any measure of justice,” wrote Mr. Stringer, who added that the state should close a loophole that allowed the lenders to classify their loans as business deals, which have looser regulations.

    Last November, amid a spate of suicides by taxi drivers, including three medallion owners with overwhelming debt, the Council created a task force to study the taxi industry.

    On Monday, a spokesman for the speaker, Mr. Johnson, said that members of the task force would be appointed very soon. He also criticized the Taxi and Limousine Commission, the city agency that sold the medallions.

    “We will explore every tool we have to ensure that moving forward, the T.L.C. protects medallion owners and drivers from predatory actors including lenders, medallion brokers, and fleet managers,” Mr. Johnson said in a statement.

    Another councilman, Ritchie Torres, who heads the Council’s oversight committee, disclosed Monday for the first time that he had been trying to launch his own probe since last year, but had been stymied by the taxi commission. “The T.L.C. hasn’t just been asleep at the wheel, they have been actively stonewalling,” he said.

    A T.L.C. spokesman declined to comment.

    In Albany, several lawmakers also said they were researching potential bills.

    One of them, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou of Manhattan, a member of the committee on banks, said she hoped to pass legislation before the end of the year. She said the state agencies involved in the crisis, including the Department of Financial Services, should be examined.

    “My world has been shaken right now, to be honest,” Ms. Niou said.

    Brian M. Rosenthal is an investigative reporter on the Metro Desk. Previously, he covered state government for the Houston Chronicle and for The Seattle Times. @brianmrosenthal

    #USA #New_York #Taxi #Betrug #Ausbeutung

  • Nation’s first opioid trial could set precedent for massive pharma payouts - POLITICO
    https://www.politico.com/story/2019/05/28/opioid-trial-pharma-payouts-1344953

    The Oklahoma trial, which will be broadcast online, is expected to last for much of the summer, putting a national spotlight on the opioid crisis, which is still killing 130 people in the United States every day. The testimony will focus on how much manufacturers of highly addictive painkillers are to blame for getting patients hooked on opioids through misleading medical claims and aggressive marketing practices.

    The trial involving Johnson & Johnson will be closely watched by the hundreds of parties participating in the larger multi-district litigation overseen by U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster, who has been pushing for a massive settlement before the first of those cases go to trial in the fall.

    “It’s going to be one of the first times that there will be evidence presented in an open forum about how we got to where we are,” said Joe Rice, co-lead counsel in the federal litigation targeting drugmakers and distributors in Ohio. “That’s a big question that a lot of people in the health community want to know. … Why and how did we get here?”

    On Sunday, Oklahoma also announced an $85 million settlement with Teva. That left Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals as the sole remaining defendant, barring a last-minute settlement.

    Purdue and its owners, the Sackler family, settled with Oklahoma for $270 million in March, which some state lawmakers and public health experts condemned as too meager. The biggest chunk of that settlement, $200 million, will be used to establish a new addiction treatment center at the University of Oklahoma. Another $60 million will be paid to attorneys involved in the case, and just $12 million will filter down to cities and towns struggling to deal with the addiction epidemic.

    Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter stressed that the settlement was the best option because of the threat that Purdue would declare bankruptcy and the state might end up with nothing. But that means Oklahoma’s attorneys will have to make the potentially trickier case that other, less notorious players in the opioid pipeline created a “public nuisance” in the state by pushing misleading medical claims.

    #Opioides #Oklahoma #Sackler

  • First-ever private border wall built in #New_Mexico

    A private group announced Monday that it has constructed a half-mile wall along a section of the U.S.-Mexico border in New Mexico, in what it said was a first in the border debate.

    The 18-foot steel bollard wall is similar to the designs used by the Border Patrol, sealing off a part of the border that had been a striking gap in existing fencing, according to We Build the Wall, the group behind the new section.

    The section was also built faster and, organizers say, likely more cheaply than the government has been able to manage in recent years.

    Kris Kobach, a former secretary of state in Kansas and an informal immigration adviser to President Trump, says the New Mexico project has the president’s blessing, and says local Border Patrol agents are eager to have the assistance.

    “We’re closing a gap that’s been a big headache for them,” said Mr. Kobach, who is general counsel for We Build the Wall.


    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/may/27/first-ever-private-border-wall-built-new-mexico
    #privatisation #murs #barrières_frontalières #USA #Mexique #frontières #business #complexe_militaro-industriel
    ping @albertocampiphoto @daphne

    • The #GoFundMe Border Wall Is the Quintessential Trump-Era Grift

      In 2012, historian Rick Perlstein wrote a piece of essential reading for understanding modern conservatism, titled “The Long Con” and published by the Baffler. It ties the right’s penchant for absurd and obvious grifts to the conservative mind’s particular vulnerability to fear and lies:

      The strategic alliance of snake-oil vendors and conservative true believers points up evidence of another successful long march, of tactics designed to corral fleeceable multitudes all in one place—and the formation of a cast of mind that makes it hard for either them or us to discern where the ideological con ended and the money con began.

      Lying, Perlstein said, is “what makes you sound the way a conservative is supposed to sound.” The lies—about abortion factories, ACORN, immigrants, etc.—fund the grifts, and the grifts prey on the psychology that makes the lies so successful.

      Perlstein’s piece is all I could think of when I saw last night’s CNN story about the border wall GoFundMe, which seemingly has actually produced Wall. According to CNN, the group We Build the Wall says it has produced a half-mile of border wall in New Mexico. CNN was invited to watch the construction, where Kris Kobach, who is general counsel for the group, spoke “over the clanking and beeping of construction equipment.”

      #Steve_Bannon, who is naturally involved with the group, told CNN that the wall connects existing fencing and had “tough terrain” that means it was left “off the government list.” The half-mile stretch of wall cost an “estimated $6 million to $8 million to build,” CNN reported.

      CNN also quoted #Jeff_Allen, who owns the property on which the fence was built, as saying: “I have fought illegals on this property for six years. I love my country and this is a step in protecting my country.” According to MSN, Allen partnered with United Constitutional Patriots to build the wall with We Build the Wall’s funding. UCP is the same militia that was seen on video detaining immigrants and misrepresenting themselves as Border Patrol; the Phoenix New Times reported on the “apparent ties” between the UCP and We Build the Wall earlier this month.

      This story is bursting at the seams with an all-star lineup of right-wing scammers. The GoFundMe itself, of course, has been rocked by scandal: After the effort raised $20 million, just $980 million short of the billion-dollar goal, GoFundMe said in January that the funds would be returned, since creator Brian Kolfage had originally pledged that “If for ANY reason we don’t reach our goal we will refund your donation.” But Kolfage quickly figured out how to keep the gravy train going, urging those who had donated to allow their donations to be redirected to a non-profit. Ultimately, $14 million of that $20 million figure was indeed rerouted by the idiots who donated it.

      That non-profit became #We_Build_The_Wall, and like all good conservative con jobs, it has the celebs of the fever swamp attached to it. Not only #Kris_Kobach, a tenacious liar who failed at proving voter fraud is a widespread problem—but also slightly washed-up figures like Bannon, Sheriff David Clarke, Curt Schilling, and Tom Tancredo. All the stars are here!

      How much sleazier could it get? Try this: the main contractor working at the site of New Wall, according to CNN, is Tommy Fisher. The Washington Post reported last week that Trump had “personally and repeatedly urged the head of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers” to give the contract for the border wall to the company owned by Fisher, a “GOP donor and frequent guest on Fox News,” despite the fact that the Corps of Engineers previously said Fisher’s proposals didn’t meet their requirements.

      Of course, like all good schemes, the need for more money never ceases: On the Facebook page for the group, the announcement that Wall had been completed was accompanied with a plea for fans to “DONATE NOW to fund more walls! We have many more projects lined up!”

      So, what we have is: A tax-exempt non-profit raised $20 million by claiming it would be able to make the federal government build Wall by just giving it the money for it and then, when that didn’t happen, getting most of its donors to reroute that money; then it built a half-mile of wall on private land for as much as $8 million, which went to a firm of a Fox News star whom President Trump adores.

      Perlstein wrote in the aforementioned piece that it’s hard to “specify a break point where the money game ends and the ideological one begins,” since “the con selling 23-cent miracle cures for heart disease inches inexorably into the one selling miniscule marginal tax rates as the miracle cure for the nation itself.” The con job was sold through fear: “Conjuring up the most garishly insatiable monsters precisely in order to banish them from underneath the bed, they aim to put the target to sleep.”

      The Trump era is the inartful, gaudy, brazen peak of this phenomenon. This time, instead of selling fake stem cell cures using the language of Invading Liberals, the grifters are just straight-up selling—for real American dollars—the promise of building a big wall to keep the monsters out.

      https://splinternews.com/the-gofundme-border-wall-is-the-quintessential-trump-er-1835062340

    • Company touted by Trump to build the wall has history of fines, violations

      President Donald Trump appears to have set his sights on a North Dakota construction firm with a checkered legal record to build portions of his signature border wall.
      The family-owned company, #Fisher_Sand_&_Gravel, claims it can build the wall cheaper and faster than competitors. It was among a handful of construction firms chosen to build prototypes of the President’s border wall in 2017 and is currently constructing portions of barrier on private land along the border in New Mexico using private donations.
      It also, however, has a history of red flags including more than $1 million in fines for environmental and tax violations. A decade ago, a former co-owner of the company pleaded guilty to tax fraud, and was sentenced to prison. The company also admitted to defrauding the federal government by impeding the IRS. The former executive, who’s a brother of the current company owner, is no longer associated with it.
      More than two years into his presidency, Trump is still fighting to build and pay for his border wall, a key campaign issue. After failing to get his requests for wall funding passed by a Republican-held Congress during his first two years in office, Trump has met resistance this year from a Democratic-controlled House. His attempt to circumvent Congress through a national emergency declaration has been challenged in the courts.
      On May 24, a federal district judge blocked the administration from using Defense Department funds to construct parts of the wall. The Trump administration has since appealed the block to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals and in the interim, asked the district court to allow building to continue pending appeal. The district court denied the administration’s request.
      Despite the uncertainty, construction firms have been competing to win multimillion-dollar contracts to build portions of wall, including Fisher Sand & Gravel.

      Asked by CNN to comment on the company’s history of environmental violations and legal issues, the company said in a statement: “The questions you are asking have nothing to do with the excellent product and work that Fisher is proposing with regard to protecting America’s southern border. The issues and situations in your email were resolved years ago. None of those matters are outstanding today.”
      Catching the President’s attention
      The company was founded in North Dakota in 1952 and operates in several states across the US. It’s enjoyed public support from North Dakota Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer, who as a congressman invited the company’s CEO, Tommy Fisher, to Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018. Cramer has received campaign contributions from Fisher and his wife. A photo of the event shared by Fisher in a company newsletter shows Tommy Fisher shaking Trump’s hand.
      The Washington Post first reported the President’s interest in Fisher. According to the Post, the President has “aggressively” pushed for the Army Corps of Engineers to award a wall contract to Fisher.
      The President “immediately brought up Fisher” during a May 23 meeting in the Oval Office to discuss details of the border wall with various government officials, including that he wants it to be painted black and include French-style doors, according to the Post and confirmed by CNN.
      “The Army Corps of Engineers says about 450 miles of wall will be completed by the end of next year, and the only thing President Trump is pushing, is for the wall to be finished quickly so the American people have the safety and security they deserve,” said Hogan Gidley, White House deputy press secretary.
      A US government official familiar with the meeting tells CNN that the President has repeatedly mentioned the company in discussions he’s had about the wall with the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite.
      Fisher has recently made efforts to raise its public profile, both by upping its lobbying efforts and through repeated appearances on conservative media by its CEO, Tommy Fisher.

      In the past two years, for example, the company’s congressional lobbying expenditures jumped significantly — from $5,000 in 2017 to $75,000 in 2018, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-profit that tracks lobbying expenditures.

      When asked about Fisher Sand & Gravel’s lobbying, Don Larson, one of Fisher’s registered lobbyists, said: “I am working to help decision makers in Washington become familiar with the company and its outstanding capabilities.”
      Media Blitz
      As part of a media blitz on outlets including Fox News, SiriusXM Patriot and Breitbart News, Tommy Fisher has discussed his support for the border wall and pitched his company as the one to build it. In a March 5 appearance on Fox & Friends, Fisher said that his company could build 234 miles of border wall for $4.3 billion, compared to the $5.7 billion that the Trump administration has requested from Congress.
      Fisher claimed that his firm can work five-to-10 times faster than competitors as a result of its construction process.
      The President has also touted Fisher on Fox News. In an April interview in which he was asked about Fisher by Sean Hannity, Trump said the company was “recommended strongly by a great new senator, as you know, Kevin Cramer. And they’re real. But they have been bidding and so far they haven’t been meeting the bids. I thought they would.”
      Despite the President’s interest, the company has thus far been unsuccessful in obtaining a contract to build the border wall, beyond that of a prototype.

      Earlier this year, Fisher put its name in the running for border wall contracts worth nearly $1 billion. When it lost the bid to Barnard Construction Co. and SLSCO Ltd., Fisher protested the awards over claims that the process was biased. In response, the Army Corps canceled the award. But after a review of the process, the Army Corps combined the projects and granted it to a subsidiary of Barnard Construction, according to an agency spokesperson.
      It’s unclear whether the project will proceed, given the recent decision by a federal judge to block the use of Defense Department funds to build parts of the border wall and the administration’s appeal.
      Fisher, which has a pending lawsuit in the US Court of Federal Claims over the solicitation process, is listed by the Defense Department as being among firms eligible to compete for future border contracts.

      It has moved forward with a private group, We Build the Wall, that is building sections of barrier on private land in New Mexico using private money raised as part of a GoFundMe campaign. Kris Kobach, the former Kansas Secretary of State who is now general counsel for the group, said a half-mile stretch is nearly complete, at an estimated cost of $6 million to $8 million.

      In a statement, a Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said Fisher Industries has told them that the company has begun construction on private property along the border “in the approximate area of a USBP border barrier requirement that was not prioritized under current funding.”
      The spokesperson added: “It is not uncommon for vendors” to demonstrate their capabilities using “their own resources,” but the agency goes on to “encourage all interested vendors” to compete for border contracts “through established mechanisms to ensure any construction is carried out under relevant federal authorities and meets USBP operational requirements for border barrier.”
      In responses provided to CNN through Scott Sleight, an attorney working on behalf of the company, Fisher maintained that it’s “committed to working with all appropriate federal government officials and agencies to provide its expertise and experience to help secure America’s southern border.”
      The company says it has “developed a patent-pending bollard fence hanging system that [it] believes allows border fencing to be constructed faster than any contractor using common construction methods.” It also added: “Fisher has been concerned about the procurement procedures and evaluations done by the USACE to date, and hopes these issues can be remedied.”
      Relationship with Sen. Cramer
      A month after attending the 2018 State of the Union address with Cramer, Fisher and his wife, Candice each contributed the $5,400 maximum donation to Cramer’s campaign for the US Senate, Federal Election Commission records show.
      Fisher also donated to several Arizona Republicans in the 2018 election cycle, including giving the $5,400-maximum donation to Martha McSally’s campaign, records show.
      A recent video produced by Fisher Sand & Gravel demonstrating its ability to construct the wall includes a clip of Cramer at the controls of a track-hoe lifting sections of barrier wall into place, saying “this is just like XBOX, baby.” Cramer was joined at the demonstration by a handful of other Republican lawmakers from across the country.

      Cramer has been publicly critical of how the Army Corps has handled its border wall construction work, arguing that it has moved too slowly and expressing frustration over how it has dealt with Fisher. In an interview with a North Dakota TV station, Cramer said that he believes the corps “made a miscalculation in who they chose over Fisher” and that the company had been “skunked so to speak.” Cramer added that Fisher “remains a pre-qualified, high level, competitor.”

      In an interview with CNN, Cramer said that the company has come up in conversations he has had with administration officials, including the President and the head of the Army Corps, but while the senator said that he would “love if they got every inch of the project,” he added that he has “never advocated specifically for them.”
      "Every time someone comes to meet with me, whether it’s (Acting Defense Secretary) Shanahan, General Semonite, even with Donald Trump, they bring up Fisher Industries because they assume that’s my thing," Cramer said.
      “One of the things I’ve never done is said it should be Fisher,” Cramer said. “Now, I love Fisher. I’d love if they got every inch of the project. They’re my constituents, I don’t apologize for that. But my interest really is more in the bureaucratic process.”
      According to an administration official familiar with the situation, Cramer sent information about Fisher to the President’s son-in-law and White House adviser Jared Kushner, who then passed it along to the Army Corps of Engineers for their consideration. The source tells CNN that Kushner was not familiar with the company prior to getting information about them from Cramer.
      Cramer said he does recall passing along information about the company to Kushner, but that he did not know what Kushner did with the information.
      On May 24, Cramer told a North Dakota radio station that the President has asked him to examine the process of how federal border wall projects are awarded.
      “We’re going to do an entire audit,” Cramer said. “I’ve asked for the entire bid process, and all of the bid numbers.” Cramer told CNN the President said he wanted the wall built for the “lowest, best price, and it’s also quality, and that’s what any builder should want.”
      Asked about aspects of the company’s checkered legal record, Cramer said “that level of scrutiny is important, but I would hope the same scrutiny would be put on the Corps of Engineers.”
      Environmental violations
      Though its corporate headquarters are in North Dakota, Fisher has a sizable footprint in Arizona, where it operates an asphalt company as well as a drilling and blasting company. It’s there that the company has compiled an extensive track record of environmental violations.
      From 2007 to 2017, Fisher Sand & Gravel compiled more than 1,300 air-quality violations in Maricopa County, culminating in the third highest settlement ever received by the Maricopa County Air Quality Department, according to Bob Huhn, a department spokesperson. That’s a record number of violations for any air-quality settlement in the county, Huhn said. The settlement totaled more than $1 million, though the department received slightly less than that following negotiations, Huhn said.
      Most of the violations came from an asphalt plant that the company was running in south Phoenix that has since closed. While the plant was still running, the City of Phoenix filed 469 criminal charges against the company from August to October of 2009, according to a city spokesperson.
      According to a 2010 article in the Arizona Republic, Fisher reached an agreement with Phoenix officials to close the plant in 2010. As part of the deal, fines were reduced from $1.1 million to an estimated $243,000 and all criminal charges were reduced to civil charges.
      Mary Rose Wilcox was a member of the Maricopa Board of Supervisors at the time the city and county were fighting Fisher over the asphalt plant, which was located in her district. “They tried to persuade us they were good guys since they were a family-owned company. But they were spreading noxious fumes into a residential area,” Wilcox said. “We tried to work with them, but their violations were just so blatant.”
      Michael Pops, a community activist who lived in the area around the plant, remembers fighting with Fisher for six years before the plant finally shut down. “The impact they had on this community was devastating,” Pops said, adding many low-income residents living near the asphalt plant were sickened from the fumes the plant emitted.
      The company has also racked up more than 120 violations with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality from 2004 until as recently as last summer, according to the department.
      In 2011, Fisher agreed to a Consent Judgement with ADEQ over numerous air quality violations the company had committed. As part of that settlement, Fisher agreed to pay $125,000 in civil penalties, and that it would remain in compliance with state air quality standards. Within two years Fisher was found to be in violation of that agreement and was forced to pay an additional $500,000 in fines, according to the state’s attorney general’s office.
      Legal trouble
      Internally, the company has also confronted issues.
      In 2011, Fisher Sand & Gravel agreed to pay $150,000 to settle a sexual discrimination and retaliation suit filed by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The lawsuit charged that the company violated federal anti-discrimination laws when it “subjected two women workers to egregious verbal sexual harassment by a supervisor and then fired one of them after she repeatedly asked the supervisor to stop harassing her and complained to a job superintendent.”
      The settlement required Fisher to provide anti-discrimination training to its employees in New Mexico and review its policies on sexual harassment.
      Micheal Fisher, a former co-owner of Fisher and Tommy’s brother, was sentenced to prison in 2009 for tax fraud, according to the Justice Department. Fisher pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding the [Internal Revenue Service], four counts of aiding in the filing of false federal tax returns for FSG and four counts of filing false individual tax returns,” according to a Justice Department release.
      The company also admitted responsibility for defrauding the US by impeding the IRS, according to the DOJ. Citing a long standing policy of not commenting on the contracting process, the Army Corps declined to comment on whether Fisher’s history factored into its decision not to award Fisher a contract.

      https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/31/politics/fisher-sand-and-gravel-legal-history-border-wall/index.html

    • Private US-Mexico border wall ordered open by gov’t, fights back and is now closed again

      The privately funded portion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall is now fully secure and closed again after one of its gates had been ordered to remain open until disputes about waterway access could be resolved.

      “Our border wall & gate are secure again and we still have not had a single breach. I want to thank the IBWC for acting swiftly and we look forward to working with you on our future projects,” triple amputee Air Force veteran Brian Kolfage posted to Twitter on Tuesday night.

      Kolfage created We Build The Wall Inc., a nonprofit that is now backed by former Trump Administration Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. The group crowd-funded more than $22 million in order to privately build a border wall and then sell it to the U.S. government for $1.

      A portion of that wall has been constructed in Texas for between $6 and $8 million. The 1-mile-long wall is located on private property near El Paso, Texas, and Sunland Park, New Mexico.

      However, the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) had ordered a 33-foot gate within the private border wall to remain open – not locked and closed – over a waterway access issue, according to BuzzFeed News. The IBCW addresses waterway issues between the U.S. and Mexico.

      “This is normally done well in advance of a construction project,” IBWC spokesperson Lori Kuczmanski said. “They think they can build now and ask questions later, and that’s not how it works.”

      BuzzFeed reported that the IBWC said the gate “had blocked officials from accessing a levee and dam, and cut off public access to a historic monument known as Monument One, the first in a series of obelisks that mark the U.S.–Mexico border from El Paso to Tijuana.”

      By Tuesday night, the IBWC said the gate would remain locked at night and issued a statement.

      “The U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) will lock the privately-owned gate on federal property at night effective immediately due to security concerns,” it said.

      The statement continues:

      The USIBWC is continuing to work with We Build the Wall regarding its permit request. Until this decision, the private gate was in a locked open position. We Build the Wall, a private organization, built a gate on federal land in Sunland Park, N.M., near El Paso, Texas, without authority, and then locked the gate closed on June 6, 2019. The private gate blocks a levee road owned by the U.S. Government. After repeated requests to unlock and open the private gate, the United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC), accompanied by two uniformed law enforcement officers from the Dona Ana County Sheriff’s Office, removed the private lock, opened the gate, and locked the gate open pending further discussions with We Build the Wall. The gate was also opened so that USIBWC employees can conduct maintenance and operations at American Dam.

      The USIBWC did not authorize the construction of the private gate on federal property as announced on We Build the Wall’s Twitter page. The USIBWC is not charged with securing other fences or gates as reported by We Build the Wall. The international border fences are not on USIBWC property. The USIBWC did not open any other gates in the El Paso area as erroneously reported. Other gates and the border fence are controlled by other federal agencies.

      When the proper documentation is received for the permit, USIBWC will continue to process the permit application.

      Before the statement had been released, Kolfage posted to Twitter.
      https://a

      mericanmilitarynews.com/2019/06/private-us-mexico-border-wall-ordered-open-by-intl-group-later-closed-locked-after-security-concerns/

  • The Met Will Turn Down Sackler Money Amid Fury Over the Opioid Crisis - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/15/arts/design/met-museum-sackler-opioids.html

    The Metropolitan Museum of Art said on Wednesday that it would stop accepting gifts from members of the Sackler family linked to the maker of OxyContin, severing ties between one of the world’s most prestigious museums and one of its most prolific philanthropic dynasties.

    The decision was months in the making, and followed steps by other museums, including the Tate Modern in London and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, to distance themselves from the family behind Purdue Pharma. On Wednesday, the American Museum of Natural History said that it, too, had ceased taking Sackler donations.

    The moves reflect the growing outrage over the role the Sacklers may have played in the opioid crisis, as well as an energized activist movement that is starting to force museums to reckon with where some of their money comes from.

    “The museum takes a position of gratitude and respect to those who support us, but on occasion, we feel it’s necessary to step away from gifts that are not in the public interest, or in our institution’s interest,” said Daniel H. Weiss, the president of the Met. “That is what we’re doing here.”

    “There really aren’t that many people who are giving to art and giving to museums, in fact it’s a very small club,” said Tom Eccles, the executive director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College. “So we have to be a little careful what we wish for here.”

    There is also the difficult question of where to draw a line. What sort of behavior is inexcusable?

    “We are not a partisan organization, we are not a political organization, so we don’t have a litmus test for whom we take gifts from based on policies or politics,” said Mr. Weiss of the Met. “If there are people who want to support us, for the most part we are delighted.”

    “We would only not accept gifts from people if it in some way challenges or is counter to the core mission of the institution, in exceptional cases,” he added. “The OxyContin crisis in this country is a legitimate and full-blown crisis.”

    Three brothers, Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, bought a small company called Purdue Frederick in 1952 and transformed it into the pharmaceutical giant it is today. In 1996, Purdue Pharma put the opioid painkiller OxyContin on the market, fundamentally altering the company’s fortunes.

    The family’s role in the marketing of OxyContin, and in the opioid crisis, has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Documents submitted this year as part of litigation by the attorney general of Massachusetts allege that members of the Sackler family directed the company’s efforts to mislead the public about the dangers of the highly addictive drug. The company has denied the allegations and said it “neither created nor caused the opioid epidemic.”

    Nan Goldin, a photographer who overcame an OxyContin addiction, has led demonstrations at institutions that receive Sackler money; in March 2018, she and her supporters dumped empty pill bottles in the Sackler Wing’s reflecting pool.

    “We commend the Met for making the ethical, moral decision to refuse future funding from the Sacklers,” a group started by Ms. Goldin, Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, or PAIN, said in a statement. “Fourteen months after staging our first protest there, we’re gratified to know that our voices have been heard.”

    The group also called for the removal of the Sackler name from buildings the family has bankrolled. Mr. Weiss said that the museum would not take the more drastic step of taking the family’s name off the wing, saying that it was not in a position to make permanent changes while litigation against the family was pending and information was still coming to light.

    The Met also said that its board had voted to codify how the museum accepts named gifts, formalizing a longstanding practice of circulating those proposals through a chain of departments. The decision on the Sacklers, Mr. Weiss said, was made by the Met leadership in consultation with the board.

    #Opioides #Sackler #Musées

  • #CBP terminates controversial $297 million #Accenture contract amid continued staffing struggles

    #Customs_and_Border_Protection on Thursday ended its controversial $297 million hiring contract with Accenture, according to two senior DHS officials and an Accenture representative.
    As of December, when CBP terminated part of its contract, the company had only completed processing 58 applicants and only 22 had made it onto the payroll about a year after the company was hired.
    At the time, the 3,500 applicants that remained in the Accenture hiring pipeline were transferred to CBP’s own hiring center to complete the process.

    CBP cut ties with Accenture on processing applicants a few months ago, it retained some services, including marketing, advertising and applicant support.
    This week, the entire contract was terminated for “convenience,” government speak for agreeing to part ways without placing blame on Accenture.
    While government hiring is “slow and onerous, it’s also part of being in the government” and that’s “something we have to accept and deal with as we go forward,” said one of the officials.
    For its efforts, CBP paid Accenture around $19 million in start-up costs, and around $2 million for 58 people who got job offers, according to the officials.
    Over the last couple of months, CBP explored how to modify the contract, but ultimately decided to completely stop work and return any remaining funds to taxpayers.
    But it’s unclear how much money, if any, that will be.

    In addition, to the funds already paid to Accenture, CBP has around $39 million left to “settle and close the books” with the company, an amount which has yet to be determined.
    In November 2017, CBP awarded Accenture the contract to help meet the hiring demands of an executive order on border security that President Donald Trump signed during his first week in office. The administration directed CBP to hire an additional 7,500 agents and officers on top of its current hiring goals.
    “We were in a situation where we needed to try something new” and “break the cycle of going backwards,” said a DHS official about why the agency started the contract.

    Meanwhile, hiring remains difficult for the agency amid a surge of migrants at the southern border that is stretching CBP resources thin.
    It “continues to be a very challenging environment,” said one official about hiring efforts this year.

    In fact, one of the reasons that CBP didn’t need Accenture to process applicants, is because the agency didn’t receive as many applications as it initially planned for.
    The agency has been focused on beating attrition and has been able to recently “beat it by a modest amount,” said the official. “Ultimately we would like to beat it by a heck of a lot, but we’re not there yet.”

    https://edition.cnn.com/2019/04/05/politics/cbp-terminate-hiring-contract-accenture/index.html
    #frontières #contrôles_frontaliers #USA #Ests-Unis #complexe_militaro-industriel #business

    • Border Profiteers

      On a recent sunny spring afternoon in Texas, a couple hundred Border Patrol agents, Homeland Security officials, and salespeople from a wide array of defense and security contractors gathered at the Bandera Gun Club about an hour northwest of San Antonio to eat barbecue and shoot each other’s guns. The techies wore flip-flops; the veterans wore combat boots. Everyone had a good time. They were letting loose, having spent the last forty-eight hours cooped up in suits and ties back at San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez convention center, mingling and schmoozing, hawking their wares, and listening to immigration officials rail about how those serving in enforcement agencies are not, under any circumstances, Nazis.

      These profiteers and bureaucrats of the immigration-industrial complex were fresh from the 2019 #Border_Security_Expo —essentially a trade show for state violence, where law enforcement officers and weapons manufacturers gather, per the Expo’s marketing materials, to “identify and address new and emerging border challenges and opportunities through technology, partnership, and innovation.” The previous two days of panels, speeches, and presentations had been informative, a major in the Argentine Special Forces told me at the gun range, but boring. He was glad to be outside, where handguns popped and automatic rifles spat around us. I emptied a pistol into a target while a man in a Three Percenter militia baseball hat told me that I was a “natural-born killer.” A drone buzzed overhead until, in a demonstration of a company’s new anti-drone technology, a device that looked like a rocket launcher and fired a sort of exploding net took it down. “This is music to me,” the Argentine major said.

      Perhaps it’s not surprising the Border Security Expo attendees were so eager to blow off steam. This year’s event found many of them in a defensive posture, given the waves of bad press they’d endured since President Trump’s inauguration, and especially since the disastrous implementation of his family separation policy, officially announced by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April of 2018, before being rescinded by Trump two-and-a-half months later. Throughout the Expo, in public events and in background roundtable conversations with reporters, officials from the various component parts of the Department of Homeland Security rolled out a series of carefully rehearsed talking points: Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) need more money, personnel, and technology; taking migrants to hospitals distracts CBP officers from their real mission; and the 1997 Flores court settlement, which prohibits immigration enforcement agencies from detaining migrant families with children for more than twenty days, is undermining the very sovereignty of the United States. “We want a secure border, we want an immigration system that has integrity,” Ronald Vitiello, then–acting head of ICE, said in a keynote address to the hundreds of people gathered in San Antonio. “We have a generous immigration system in this country, but it has to have integrity in order for us to continue to be so generous.”

      More of a technocrat than his thuggish predecessor Thomas Homan, Vitiello also spoke at length about using the “dark web” to take down smugglers and the importance of having the most up-to-date data-management technology. But he spoke most adamantly about needing “a fix” for the Flores settlement. “If you prosecute crimes and you give people consequences, you get less of it,” he said. “With Flores, there’s no consequence, and everybody knows that,” a senior ICE official echoed to reporters during a background conversation immediately following Vitiello’s keynote remarks. “That’s why you’re seeing so many family units. We cannot apply a consequence to a family unit, because we have to release them.”

      Meanwhile, around 550 miles to the west, in El Paso, hundreds of migrants, including children and families, were being held by CBP under a bridge, reportedly forced to sleep on the ground, with inadequate medical attention. “They treated us like we are animals,” one Honduran man told Texas Monthly. “I felt what they were trying to do was to hurt us psychologically, so we would understand that this is a lesson we were being taught, that we shouldn’t have crossed.” Less than a week after the holding pen beneath the bridge closed, Vitiello’s nomination to run ICE would be pulled amid a spate of firings across DHS; President Trump wanted to go “in a tougher direction.”

      Family Values

      On the second day of the Border Security Expo, in a speech over catered lunch, Scott Luck, deputy chief of Customs and Border Protection and a career Border Patrol agent, lamented that the influx of children and families at the border meant that resources were being diverted from traditional enforcement practices. “Every day, about 150 agents spend their shifts at hospitals and medical facilities with illegal aliens receiving treatment,” he said. “The annual salary cost for agents on hospital watch is more than $11.5 million. Budget analysts estimate that 13 percent of our operational budget—the budget that we use to buy equipment, to buy vehicles for our men and women—is now used for transportation, medical expenses, diapers, food, and other necessities to care for illegal aliens in Border Patrol custody.”

      As far as Luck was concerned, every dollar spent on food and diapers is one not spent on drones and weapons, and every hour an agent spends guarding a migrant in a hospital is an hour they don’t spend on the border. “It’s not what they signed up for. The mission they signed up for is to protect the United States border, to protect the communities in which they live and serve,” he told reporters after his speech. “The influx, the volume, the clutter that this creates is frustrating.” Vitiello applied an Orwellian inversion: “We’re not helping them as fast as we want to,” he said of migrant families apprehended at the border.

      Even when discussing the intimate needs of detained migrant families, the language border officials used to describe their remit throughout the Expo was explicitly militaristic: achieving “operational control,” Luck said, requires “impedance and denial” and “situational awareness.” He referred to technology as a “vital force multiplier.” He at least stopped short of endorsing the president’s framing that what is happening on the border constitutes an invasion, instead describing it as a “deluge.”

      According to the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank, the U.S. immigrant population has continued to grow—although at a slower rate than it did before the 2007 recession, and undocumented people appear to make up a smaller proportion of the overall population. Regardless, in fiscal year 2018, both ICE and CBP stepped up their enforcement activities, arresting, apprehending, and deporting people at significantly higher rates than the previous year. More than three times as many family members were apprehended at the border last year than in 2017, the Pew Research Center reports, and in the first six months of FY 2019 alone there were 189,584 apprehensions of “family units”: more than half of all apprehensions at the border during that time, and more than the full-year total of apprehended families for any other year on record. While the overall numbers have not yet begun to approach those of the 1980s and 1990s, when apprehensions regularly exceeded one million per year, the demographics of who is arriving at the United States southern border are changing: fewer single men from Mexico and more children and families from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador—in other words, an ever-wider range of desperate victims of drug gangs and American policies that have long supported corrupt regimes.

      This change has presented people like Luck with problems they insist are merely logistical: aging Border Patrol stations, he told us at the Expo, “are not luxurious in any way, and they were never intended to handle families and children.” The solution, according to Vitiello, is “continued capital investment” in those facilities, as well as the cars and trucks necessary to patrol the border region and transport those apprehended from CBP custody to ICE detention centers, the IT necessary to sift through vast amounts of data accumulated through untold surveillance methods, and all of “the systems by which we do our work.”

      Neither Vitiello nor Luck would consider whether those systems—wherein thousands of children, ostensibly under the federal government’s care, have been sexually abused and five, from December through May of this year, have died—ought to be questioned. Both laughed off calls from migrant justice organizers, activists, and politicians to abolish ICE. “The concept of the Department of Homeland Security—and ICE as an agency within it—was designed for us to learn the lessons from 9/11,” Vitiello said. “Those needs still exist in this society. We’re gonna do our part.” DHS officials have even considered holding migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to the New York Times, where a new $23 million “contingency mass migration complex” is being built. The complex, which is to be completed by the end of the year, will have a capacity of thirteen thousand.

      Violence is the Point

      The existence of ICE may be a consequence of 9/11, but the first sections of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border—originally to contain livestock—went up in 1909 through 1911. In 1945, in response to a shift in border crossings from Texas to California, the U.S. Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service recycled fencing wire and posts from internment camps in Crystal City, Texas, where more than a hundred thousand Japanese Americans had been imprisoned during World War II. “Although the INS could not erect a continuous line of fence along the border, they hoped that strategic placement of the fence would ‘compel persons seeking to enter the United States illegally to attempt to go around the ends of the fence,’” historian Kelly Lytle Hernández, quoting from government documents, writes in Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol. “What lay at the end of the fences and canals were desert lands and mountains extremely dangerous to cross without guidance or sufficient water. The fences, therefore, discouraged illegal immigration by exposing undocumented border crossers to the dangers of daytime dehydration and nighttime hypothermia.”

      Apprehension and deportation tactics continued to escalate in the years following World War II—including Operation Wetback, the infamous (and heavily propagandized) mass-deportation campaign of 1954—but the modern, militarized border era was greatly boosted by Bill Clinton. It was during Clinton’s first administration that Border Patrol released its “Strategic Plan: 1994 and Beyond,” which introduced the idea of “prevention through deterrence,” a theory of border policing that built on the logic of the original wall and hinges upon increasing the “cost” of migration “to the point that many will consider it futile to continue to attempt illegal entry.” With the Strategic Plan, the agency was requesting more money, officers, and equipment in order to “enhance national security and safeguard our immigration heritage.”

      The plan also noted that “a strong interior enforcement posture works well for border control,” and in 1996, amid a flurry of legislation targeting people of color and the poor, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which empowered the federal government to deport more people more quickly and made it nearly impossible for undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status. “Before 1996, internal enforcement activities had not played a very significant role in immigration enforcement,” the sociologists Douglas Massey and Karen A. Pren wrote in 2012. “Afterward these activities rose to levels not seen since the deportation campaigns of the Great Depression.” With the passage of the Patriot Act in 2001 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2002, immigration was further securitized and criminalized, paving the way for an explosion in border policing technology that has further aligned the state with the defense and security industry. And at least one of Border Patrol’s “key assumptions,” explicitly stated in the 1994 strategy document, has borne out: “Violence will increase as effects of strategy are felt.”

      What this phrasing obscures, however, is that violence is the border strategy. In practice, what “prevention through deterrence” has meant is forcing migrants to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in the desert, putting already vulnerable people at even greater risk. Closing urban points of entry, for example, or making asylum-seekers wait indefinitely in Mexico while their claims are processed, pushes migrants into remote areas where there is a higher likelihood they will suffer injury and death, as in the case of seven-year-old Jakil Caal Maquin, who died of dehydration and shock after being taken into CBP custody in December. (A spokesperson for CBP, in an email response, deflected questions about whether the agency considers children dying in its custody a deterrent.) Maquin is one of many thousands who have died attempting to cross into the United States: the most conservative estimate comes from CBP itself, which has recovered the remains of 7,505 people from its southwest border sectors between 1998 and 2018. This figure accounts for neither those who die on the Mexican side of the border, nor those whose bodies remain lost to the desert.

      Draconian immigration policing causes migrants to resort to smugglers and traffickers, creating the conditions for their exploitation by cartels and other violent actors and increasing the likelihood that they will be kidnapped, coerced, or extorted. As a result, some migrants have sought the safety of collective action in the form of the “caravan” or “exodus,” which has then led the U.S. media and immigration enforcement agencies to justify further militarization of the border. Indeed, in his keynote address at the Expo, Luck described “the emerging prevalence of large groups of one hundred people or more” as “troubling and especially dangerous.” Later, a sales representative for the gun manufacturer Glock very confidently explained to me that this was because agents of al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, were embedded with the caravans.

      Branding the Border

      Unsurprisingly, caravans came up frequently at the Border Security Expo. (An ICE spokesperson would later decline to explain what specific threat they pose to national security, instead citing general statistics about the terrorist watchlist, “special interest aliens,” and “suspicious travel patterns.”) During his own keynote speech, Vitiello described how ICE, and specifically its subcomponent Homeland Security Investigations, had deployed surveillance and intelligence-gathering techniques to monitor the progress of caravans toward the border. “When these caravans have come, we’ve had trained, vetted individuals on the ground in those countries reporting in real time what they were seeing: who the organizers were, how they were being funded,” he said, before going on an astonishing tangent:

      That’s the kind of capability that also does amazing things to protecting brands, property rights, economic security. Think about it. If you start a company, introduce a product that’s innovative, there are people in the world who can take that, deconstruct it, and create their own version of it and sell it as yours. All the sweat that went into whatever that product was, to build your brand, they’ll take it away and slap it on some substandard product. It’s not good for consumers, it’s not good for public safety, and it’s certainly an economic drain on the country. That’s part of the mission.

      That the then–acting director of ICE, the germ-cell of fascism in the bourgeois American state, would admit that an important part of his agency’s mission is the protection of private property is a testament to the Trump administration’s commitment to saying the quiet part out loud.

      In fact, brands and private industry had pride of place at the Border Security Expo. A memorial ceremony for men and women of Border Patrol who have been killed in the line of duty was sponsored by Sava Solutions, an IT firm that has been awarded at least $482 million in federal contracts since 2008. Sava, whose president spent twenty-four years with the DEA and whose director of business development spent twenty with the FBI, was just one of the scores of firms in attendance at the Expo, each hoping to persuade the bureaucrats in charge of acquiring new gear for border security agencies that their drones, their facial recognition technology, their “smart” fences were the best of the bunch. Corporate sponsors included familiar names like Verizon and Motorola, and other less well-known ones, like Elbit Systems of America, a subsidiary of Israel’s largest private defense contractor, as well as a handful of IT firms with aggressive slogans like “Ever Vigilant” (CACI), “Securing the Future” (ManTech), and “Securing Your Tomorrow” (Unisys).

      The presence of these firms—and indeed the very existence of the Expo—underscores an important truth that anyone attempting to understand immigration politics must reckon with: border security is big business. The “homeland security and emergency management market,” driven by “increasing terrorist threats and biohazard attacks and occurrence of unpredictable natural disasters,” is projected to grow to more than $742 billion by 2023 from $557 billion in 2018, one financial analysis has found. In the coming decades, as more people are displaced by climate catastrophe and economic crises—estimates vary between 150 million and 1 billion by 2050—the industry dedicated to policing the vulnerable stands to profit enormously. By 2013, the United States was already spending more on federal immigration enforcement than all other federal law enforcement agencies combined, including the FBI and DEA; ICE’s budget has doubled since its inception in 2003, while CBP’s has nearly tripled. Between 1993 and 2018, the number of Border Patrol agents grew from 4,139 to 19,555. And year after year, Democrats and Republicans alike have been happy to fuel an ever more high-tech deportation machine. “Congress has given us a lot of money in technology,” Luck told reporters after his keynote speech. “They’ve given us over what we’ve asked for in technology!”

      “As all of this rhetoric around security has increased, so has the impetus to give them more weapons and more tools and more gadgets,” Jacinta Gonzalez, a senior campaign organizer with Mijente, a national network of migrant justice activists, told me. “That’s also where the profiteering comes in.” She continued: “Industries understand what’s good for business and adapt themselves to what they see is happening. If they see an administration coming into power that is pro-militarization, anti-immigrant, pro-police, anti-communities of color, then that’s going to shape where they put their money.”

      By way of example, Gonzalez pointed to Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who spent $1.25 million supporting Trump’s 2016 election campaign and followed that up last year by donating $1 million to the Club for Growth—a far-right libertarian organization founded by Heritage Foundation fellow and one-time Federal Reserve Board prospect Stephen Moore—as well as about $350,000 to the Republican National Committee and other GOP groups. ICE has awarded Palantir, the $20 billion surveillance firm founded by Thiel, several contracts worth tens of millions of dollars to manage its data streams—a partnership the agency considers “mission critical,” according to documents reviewed by The Intercept. Palantir, in turn, runs on Amazon Web Services, the cloud computing service provided by the world’s most valuable public company, which is itself a key contractor in managing the Department of Homeland Security’s $6.8 billion IT portfolio.

      Meanwhile, former DHS secretary John Kelly, who was Trump’s chief of staff when the administration enacted its “zero-tolerance” border policy, has joined the board of Caliburn International—parent organization of the only for-profit company operating shelters for migrant children. “Border enforcement and immigration policy,” Caliburn reported in an SEC filing last year, “is driving significant growth.” As Harsha Walia writes in Undoing Border Imperialism, “the state and capitalism are again in mutual alliance.”

      Triumph of the Techno-Nativists

      At one point during the Expo, between speeches, I stopped by a booth for Network Integrity Systems, a security firm that had set up a demonstration of its Sentinel™ Perimeter Intrusion Detection System. A sales representative stuck out his hand and introduced himself, eager to explain how his employer’s fiber optic motion sensors could be used at the border, or—he paused to correct himself—“any kind of perimeter.” He invited me to step inside the space that his coworkers had built, starting to say “cage” but then correcting himself, again, to say “small enclosure.” (It was literally a cage.) If I could get out, climbing over the fencing, without triggering the alarm, I would win a $500 Amazon gift card. I did not succeed.

      Overwhelmingly, the vendors in attendance at the Expo were there to promote this kind of technology: not concrete and steel, but motion sensors, high-powered cameras, and drones. Customs and Border Patrol’s chief operating officer John Sanders—whose biography on the CBP website describes him as a “seasoned entrepreneur and innovator” who has “served on the Board of Directors for several leading providers of contraband detection, geospatial intelligence, and data analytics solutions”—concluded his address by bestowing on CBP the highest compliment he could muster: declaring the agency comparable “to any start-up.” Rhetoric like Sanders’s, ubiquitous at the Expo, renders the border both bureaucratic and boring: a problem to be solved with some algorithmic mixture of brutality and Big Data. The future of border security, as shaped by the material interests that benefit from border securitization, is not a wall of the sort imagined by President Trump, but a “smart” wall.

      High-ranking Democrats—leaders in the second party of capital—and Republicans from the border region have championed this compromise. During the 2018-2019 government shutdown, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson told reporters that Democrats would appropriate $5.7 billion for “border security,” so long as that did not include a wall of Trump’s description. “Walls are primitive. What we need to do is have border security,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said in January. He later expanded to CNN: “I’ve said that we ought to have a smart wall. I defined that as a wall using drones to make it too high to get over, using x-ray equipment to make it too wide to get around, and using scanners to go deep enough not to be able to tunnel under it. To me, that would be a smart thing to do.”

      Even the social democratic vision of Senator Bernie Sanders stops short at the border. “If you open the borders, my God, there’s a lot of poverty in this world, and you’re going to have people from all over the world,” he told Iowa voters in early April, “and I don’t think that’s something that we can do at this point.” Over a week later, during a Fox News town hall with Pennsylvania voters, he recommitted: “We need border security. Of course we do. Who argues with that? That goes without saying.”

      To the extent that Trump’s rhetoric, his administration’s immigration policies, and the enforcement agencies’ practices have made the “border crisis” more visible than ever before, they’ve done so on terms that most Democrats and liberals fundamentally agree with: immigration must be controlled and policed; the border must be enforced. One need look no further than the high priest of sensible centrism, Thomas Friedman, whose major complaint about Trump’s immigration politics is that he is “wasting” the crisis—an allusion to Rahm Emanuel’s now-clichéd remark that “you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” (Frequently stripped of context, it is worth remembering that Emanuel made this comment in the throes of the 2008 financial meltdown, at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council, shortly following President Obama’s election.) “Regarding the border, the right place for Democrats to be is for a high wall with a big gate,” Friedman wrote in November of 2018. A few months later, a tour led by Border Patrol agents of the San Ysidro port of entry in San Diego left Friedman “more certain than ever that we have a real immigration crisis and that the solution is a high wall with a big gate—but a smart gate.”

      As reasonable as this might sound to anxious New York Times readers looking for what passes as humanitarian thinking in James Bennet’s opinion pages, the horror of Friedman’s logic eventually reveals itself when he considers who might pass through the big, smart gate in the high, high wall: “those who deserve asylum” and “a steady flow of legal, high-energy, and high-I.Q. immigrants.” Friedman’s tortured hypothetical shows us who he considers to be acceptable subjects of deportation and deprivation: the poor, the lazy, and the stupid. This is corporate-sponsored, state-sanctioned eugenics: the nativism of technocrats.

      The vision of a hermetically sealed border being sold, in different ways, by Trump and his allies, by Democrats, and by the Border Security Expo is in reality a selectively permeable one that strictly regulates the movement of migrant labor while allowing for the unimpeded flow of capital. Immigrants in the United States, regardless of their legal status, are caught between two factions of the capitalist class, each of which seek their immiseration: the citrus farmers, construction firms, and meat packing plants that benefit from an underclass of unorganized and impoverished workers, and the defense and security firms that keep them in a state of constant criminality and deportability.

      You could even argue that nobody in a position of power really wants a literal wall. Even before taking office, Trump himself knew he could only go so far. “We’re going to do a wall,” he said on the campaign trail in 2015. However: “We’re going to have a big, fat beautiful door on the wall.” In January 2019, speaking to the American Farm Bureau Association, Trump acknowledged the necessity of a mechanism allowing seasonal farmworkers from Mexico to cross the border, actually promising to loosen regulations on employers who rely on temporary migrant labor. “It’s going to be easier for them to get in than what they have to go through now,” he said, “I know a lot about the farming world.”

      At bottom, there is little material difference between this and what Friedman imagines to be the smarter, more humane approach. While establishment liberals would no doubt prefer that immigration enforcement be undertaken quietly, quickly, and efficiently, they have no categorical objection to the idea that noncitizens should enjoy fewer rights than citizens or be subject to different standards of due process (standards that are already applied in deeply inequitable fashion).

      As the smorgasbord of technologies and services so garishly on display at the Border Security Expo attests, maintaining the contradiction between citizens and noncitizens (or between the imperial core and the colonized periphery) requires an ever-expanding security apparatus, which itself becomes a source of ever-expanding profit. The border, shaped by centuries of bourgeois interests and the genocidal machinations of the settler-colonial nation-state, constantly generates fresh crises on which the immigration-industrial complex feeds. In other words, there is not a crisis at the border; the border is the crisis.

      CBP has recently allowed Anduril, a start-up founded by one of Peter Thiel’s mentees, Palmer Luckey, to begin testing its artificial intelligence-powered surveillance towers and drones in Texas and California. Sam Ecker, an Anduril engineer, expounded on the benefits of such technology at the Expo. “A tower doesn’t get tired. It doesn’t care about being in the middle of the desert or a river around the clock,” he told me. “We just let the computers do what they do best.”

      https://thebaffler.com/outbursts/border-profiteers-oconnor

  • Purdue’s Sackler family fights ’inflammatory’ Massachusetts opioid case | Reuters
    https://www.reuters.com/article/usa-opioids-litigation/purdues-sackler-family-fights-inflammatory-massachusetts-opioid-case-idUSL1

    La nouvelle bataille juridique des Sackler : expliquer qu’ils étaient juste les crétins utiles de Purdue Pharma votant les budgets.

    BOSTON, April 2 (Reuters) - Members of the Sackler family behind OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP have asked a judge to toss a lawsuit by Massachusetts’ attorney general claiming they helped fuel the U.S. opioid epidemic, arguing it contains “misleading and inflammatory allegations.”

    The wealthy family in a motion on Monday argued that Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who brought the suit, had mischaracterized internal records to create the “false impression” they personally directed privately-held Purdue’s marketing of painkillers.

    Her lawsuit, filed in June in Suffolk County Superior Court and revised earlier this year to include new allegations, was the first by a state to try to hold Sackler family members personally responsible for contributing to the opioid epidemic.

    The case is among roughly 2,000 lawsuits filed by state and local governments seeking to hold Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies responsible for the U.S. opioid crisis.

    Opioids were involved in a record 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017 in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Healey’s complaint cites records to argue that family members, including Purdue’s former President Richard Sackler, personally directed deceptive opioid marketing while making $4.2 billion from Purdue from 2008 to 2016.

    They did so even after Purdue and three executives in 2007 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties, the lawsuit said.

    Advertisement

    But in their motion, the Sacklers said nothing in the complaint supports allegations they personally took part in efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the benefits and addictive risks of opioids.

    They said their role was limited to that of typical corporate board members who participated in “routine” votes to ratify the management’s staffing and budget proposals.

    “Not a single document shows an individual director engaging in any unlawful conduct regarding the sale of prescription opioids or ordering anyone else to do so,” the Sacklers’ lawyers wrote.

    Healey’s office had no comment.

    At least 35 states have cases pending against Purdue. A handful have also named Sackler family members as defendants, including Richard Sackler, Theresa Sackler and Mortimer D.A. Sackler.

    Last week, Purdue reached its first settlement in the recent wave of lawsuits, agreeing with the Sacklers to a $270 million deal with Oklahoma’s attorney general. The Sacklers were not named as defendants in Oklahoma’s lawsuit.

    Purdue had been exploring filing for bankruptcy before the accord’s announcement, Reuters reported in early March. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston Editing by Noeleen Walder and Tom Brown)

    #Opioides #Sackler #Cynisme

  • ’Macron’s arrogance is exceeded only by his stupidity’ - Telegraph readers on the week’s top stories By Telegraph Readers - 8 March 2019 - www.telegraph.co.uk/
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2019/03/08/macrons-arrogance-exceeded-stupidity-telegraph-readers-weeks

    In a week that saw the UK hit yet another Brexit deadlock, French President Emmanuel Macron added fuel to the fire by launching his own bitter attack on negotiation proceedings.

    Telegraph readers shared their thoughts on President Macron’s vision for the EU’s future which was published in newspapers across Europe Credit: CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP

    Attorney General Geoffrey Cox returned home from Brussels empty-handed this week when his attempts to secure backstop concessions proved fruitless. Is defeat now looming for Theresa May in Tuesday’s forthcoming meaningful vote ?

    The current Brexit deadlock is not, however, the only headache facing the British government. An increase in knife crime related . . . . . . . .
    La suite de l’article sur inscription ou payante

    #emmanuel_macron #arrogance #stupidité #ue #union_européenne

  • Israeli Arab slate, far-left candidate banned from election hours after Kahanist leader allowed to run
    Jonathan Lis and Jack Khoury Mar 07, 2019 7:07 AM
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/elections/.premium-far-left-lawmaker-banned-from-israeli-election-for-supporting-terr

    Arab political sources say the move is evidence of racism and the delegitimization of Arab society in Israel, accusing Netanyahu’s Likud party of anti-Arab incitement

    The Central Election Committee disqualified the Arab joint slate Balad-United Arab List and Ofer Cassif, a member of politicial alliance Hadash-Ta’al, from running in the election on Wednesday, opposing the opinion of Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit.

    Michael Ben Ari and Itamar Ben-Gvir from the Kahanist, far-right Otzma Yehudit party had petitioned against both lists. The committee approved Ben Air to run in the election earlier Wednesday.

    The decisions will be referred to the Supreme Court on Sunday for approval. A ban against a party slate may be appealed in the Supreme Court, which holds a special “election appeals” process, while a ban on an individual candidate automatically requires approval by the Supreme Court if it is to take effect.

    Arab political sources described the disqualification of the Balad-United Arab List slate as evidence of racism and the delegitimization of Arab society in Israel and accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party of anti-Arab incitement.

    MK David Bitan petitioned on behalf of Likud against Balad-United Arab List, and Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman petitioned against Cassif. Petitioners claimed both lists and Cassif supported terror and ruled out Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish and Democratic state. Mendelblit said he opposed all the petitions.

    Ben-Gvir presented the committee with findings he claimed should disqualify the Hadash-Ta’al slate. He mentioned a call from Ta’al chairman Ahmed Tibi to annul the Declaration of Independence, and quoted a Facebook post by Ayman Odeh, the head of Hadash.

    In the post, written following a meeting with Fatah member Marwan Barghouti at an Israeli prison, Odeh compared Barghouti to Nelson Mandela. “The meeting was moving, as well as speaking to a leader who shares my political stances.” Ben-Gvir noted Odeh defined Ahed Tamimi as an “excellent girl,” and said she showed “legitimate resistance.” Tamimi, a Palestinian teenage girl, served time in prison for slapping an Israeli soldier in 2018.

    Cassif was accused of equating Israel and the Israel Defense Forces with the Nazi regime, and it was noted that he called to fight “Judeo-Nazism,” expressed support for changing the anthem, and called Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked “Neo-Nazi scum.” He did not attend the session, but was called after committee chairman Justice Hanan Melcer insisted on his presence.

    “I come from an academic background, and my area of expertise is among other things the subject of Fascism, Nazis and nationalism in general,” said Cassif, explaining his comments. “When I speak to a friend or write a post as a private person, I use metaphors. When I used the aforementioned terms – they were metaphors.”

    In an interview last month, Cassif said Israel conducts a “creeping genocide” against the Palestinian people.

    The top candidate on the slate, Mansour Abbas, said he had expected that most of the representatives of the Zionist parties on the election committee would support the move to disqualify the slate, but added: “We are a democratic Arab list that is seeking to represent Arab society with dignity and responsibility.”

    Commenting on Benny Gantz, the leader of Kahol Lavan, which is ahead of Likud in recent polls, Abbas said: “There’s no difference between Benjamin Netanyahu and Benjamin Gantz.”

    Mtanes Shehadeh, who is No. 2 on the Balad-United Arab list slate said the decision to disqualify his slate was expected because he said the Central Election Committee has a right-wing majority and “is also controlled by a fascist, right-wing ideology.”

    His Balad faction, Shehadeh said, “presents a challenge to democracy in Israel” and challenges what he called “the right-wing regime that is controlling the country.”

    Sources from the Balad-United Arab list slate said there is in an urgent need to strip the Central Election Committee of the authority to disqualify candidates and parties from running in elections. The considerations that go into the decision are purely political, the sources said.

    Balad chairman Jamal Zahalka said the decision to disqualify the slate sends a “hostile message to the Arab public” in the country. “We will petition the High Court of Justice against the decision and in any event, we will not change our position, even if we are disqualified.”

    Earlier Wednesday, the Central Elections Committee approved Ben Ari, the chairman of the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, to run for the Knesset.

    Meretz, Stav Shaffir (Labor) and the Reform Movement, who filed the petition to the Central Elections Committee to ban Ben Ari from running for Knesset, all said they would file a petition with the High Court of Justice against the committee’s decision.

    Prior to deliberations, Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit submitted his opinion to the comittee, stating he was in favor of disqualifying Ben Ari from running for Knesset on the grounds of incitement to racism.

    In November 2017, for instance, at an annual memorial for Rabbi Meir Kahane, Ben Ari gave a speech in which he said of Israeli Arabs, “Let’s give them another 100,000 dunams [of land] and affirmative action, maybe they’ll love us. In the end, yes, they’ll love us when we’re slaughtered.”

    In May 2018, Ben Ari gave another speech in which he said, “The Arabs of Haifa aren’t different in any way from the Arabs of Gaza. How are they different? In that they’re here, enemies from within. They’re waging war against us here, within the state. And this is called – it has a name – it’s called a fifth column. We need to call the dog by its name. They’re our enemies. They want to destroy us. Of course there are loyal Arabs, but you can count them – one percent or less than one percent.”

    #Hadash

    • Outlaw Israel’s Arabs
      They are already regarded as illegitimate citizens. Why not just say so and anchor it in law?
      Gideon Levy | Mar 10, 2019 3:15 AM
      https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-outlaw-israel-s-arabs-1.7003010

      The time has come to put an end to the stammering and going around in circles: Outlaw the Arabs, all of them. Make them all illegal dwellers in their land and have the Border Police hunt them down like animals, as they know how to do. They are already regarded as illegitimate citizens. It’s time to say so and to anchor it in law.

      Discerning the differences among them is artificial: What’s the difference between the United Arab List–Balad ticket and between the Hadash–Ta’al ticket (acronyms for the Arab political parties)? Why is only the first one on this list being disqualified? And what is the difference between the Palestinians who are Israeli citizens and those living under occupation?

      Why does one group have rights while the others don’t? The time has come to rectify the situation: Ta’al should be treated like Balad; citizens of the state should be treated like those under occupation. Anything less is like paying lip service to the guardians of political correctness, to a supposed semblance of fairness, to a deceptive image of democracy. Outlawing all the Arabs is the way to ensure you have a Jewish state. Who’s against that?

      Whoever thinks what I’ve written is wrong or an exaggeration isn’t reading reality. Disqualifying the Arabs is the issue that has the broadest consensus of the current election campaign. “I’ll put it simply,” Yair Lapid, the democrat, said. “We won’t form a blocking majority with the Arabs. Period.”

      Now I, will humbly put it simply, too: This is a revolting display of racism. Period. More than the torture of the residents of Gaza and the West Bank under the guise of security concerns, in this we see a broader Israeli racism in all its glory: Pure, unadulterated and acceptable racism. It’s not Balad, but the Arabs who are being disqualified. It’s not Ofer Kassif but the left that’s being disqualified. It’s a step-by-step slide down the slope and we can no longer shut our eyes to it.

      If this discourse delegitimizing our Arab citizens isn’t driving Israeli democrats mad – then there is no democracy. We don’t need any studies or institutes: A regime that disqualifies voters and elected officials because of their blood and nationality is not a democracy.

      You don’t need to cite the occupation to expose the lie of democracy – now it’s also apparent at home, within. From Benny Gantz to Bezalel Smotrich – all of them are Ben-Zion Gopsteins. The laws against racism and all the rest are only lip service. The Israeli Knesset has 107 lawmakers; thirteen of them, most of them among the best there are, are outside the game, they have less say than the ushers.

      Now we must try to imagine what they’re going through. They hear everyone trying to distance themselves from them, as though they’re a contagious disease, and they’re silent. They hear nobody seeking to get near them as though their bodies stink, and they avoid comment. The Knesset is like a bus that has segregated its Jewish and Arab passengers, an arena of political apartheid, not yet officially so, which declares from the outset that the Arabs are disqualified.

      Why even bother participating in this game that’s already been decided? The response should have been to boycott the elections. If you don’t want us, we don’t want you. The fig leaf is torn and has long been full of holes. But this is exactly what Israel wants: A country only for Jews. Therefore Arab citizens must not play this game and must head in their masses to the polling stations, just like the prime minister said, to poke Israeli racism painfully in the eye.

      For avowed racists, it’s all very clear. They say what they think: The Jews are a supreme race, the recipients of a divine promise, they have rights to this land, the Arabs are, at best, fleeting guests.

      The problem is with the racists in masquerade like Gantz and Lapid. I have a question for them: Why are Hadash and Ta’al not eligible to be part of a bloc? Why can’t you rely on their votes and why shouldn’t their representatives belong to the government? Would Ayman Odeh be any worse a culture minister than Miri Regev? Would Ahmad Tibi be any less skillful a health minister than Yaakov Litzman? The truth is this: The center-left is as racist as the right.

      Let’s hope no Gantz-Lapid government can be formed, just because of the Arab votes that it fails to have. That would be the sweetest revenge for racism.

    • La Cour suprême israélienne invalide la candidature d’un leader d’extrême droite
      La justice a interdit la candidature du chef d’Otzma Yehudit. Elle a approuvé la liste arabe, les présences d’un candidat juif d’extrême gauche et de Ben Gvir d’Otzma Yehudit
      Par Times of Israel Staff 18 mars 2019,
      https://fr.timesofisrael.com/la-cour-supreme-israelienne-invalide-la-candidature-dun-leader-dex

      (...) Les juges ont en revanche fait savoir que Itamar Ben Gvir, qui appartient également à la formation d’extrême-droite, est autorisé à se présenter.

      Ils ont aussi donné le feu vert à une participation au scrutin du 9 avril à Ofer Kassif ainsi qu’aux factions de Balad-Raam. Kassif est le seul candidat juif à figurer que la liste Hadash-Taal et il avait été disqualifié par la commission centrale électorale en raison de déclarations controversées faites dans le passé, notamment une dans laquelle il avait qualifié la ministre de la Justice Ayelet Shaked de « racaille néo-nazie ». (...)

      #Ofer_Kassif

  • Exclusive: OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Exploring Bankruptcy - Sources | Investing News | US News
    https://money.usnews.com/investing/news/articles/2019-03-04/exclusive-oxycontin-maker-purdue-pharma-exploring-bankruptcy-sources

    By Mike Spector, Jessica DiNapoli and Nate Raymond

    (Reuters) - OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP is exploring filing for bankruptcy to address potentially significant liabilities from roughly 2,000 lawsuits alleging the drugmaker contributed to the deadly opioid crisis sweeping the United States, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.

    The potential move shows how Purdue and its wealthy owners, the Sackler family, are under pressure to respond to mounting litigation accusing the company of misleading doctors and patients about risks associated with prolonged use of its prescription opioids.

    Purdue denies the allegations, arguing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved labels for its opioids carried warnings about the risk of abuse and misuse associated with the pain treatments.

    Filing for Chapter 11 protection would halt the lawsuits and allow Purdue to negotiate legal claims with plaintiffs under the supervision of a U.S. bankruptcy judge, the sources said.

    Shares of Endo International Plc and Insys Therapeutics Inc, two companies that like Purdue have been named in lawsuits related to the U.S. opioid epidemic, closed down 17 percent and more than 2 percent, respectively, on Monday.

    More than 1,600 lawsuits accusing Purdue and other opioid manufacturers of using deceptive practices to push addictive drugs that led to fatal overdoses are consolidated in an Ohio federal court. Purdue has held discussions to resolve the litigation with plaintiffs’ lawyers, who have often compared the cases to widespread lawsuits against the tobacco industry that resulted in a $246 billion settlement in 1998.

    “We will oppose any attempt to avoid our claims, and will continue to vigorously and aggressively pursue our claims against Purdue and the Sackler family,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said. Connecticut has a case against Purdue and the Sacklers.

    BANKRUPTCY FILING NOT CERTAIN

    A Purdue bankruptcy filing is not certain, the sources said. The Stamford, Connecticut-based company has not made any final decisions and could instead continue fighting the lawsuits, they said.

    “As a privately-held company, it has been Purdue Pharma’s longstanding policy not to comment on our financial or legal strategy,” Purdue said in a statement.

    “We are, however, committed to ensuring that our business remains strong and sustainable. We have ample liquidity and remain committed to meeting our obligations to the patients who benefit from our medicines, our suppliers and other business partners.”

    Purdue faces a May trial in a case brought by Oklahoma’s attorney general that, like others, accuses the company of contributing to a wave of fatal overdoses by flooding the market with highly addictive opioids while falsely claiming the drugs were safe.

    Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump also said he would like to sue drug companies over the nation’s opioid crisis.

    Opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, a sixfold increase from 1999, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Purdue hired law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP for restructuring advice, Reuters reported in August, fueling concerns among litigants, including Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, that the company might seek bankruptcy protection before the trial.

    Companies facing widespread lawsuits sometimes seek bankruptcy protection to address liabilities in one court even when their financial condition is not dire. California utility PG&E Corp filed for bankruptcy earlier this year after deadly wildfires raised the prospect of large legal bills even though its stock remained worth billions of dollars.

    DECEPTIVE MARKETING

    Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in June became the first attorney general to sue not just Purdue but Sackler family members. Records in her case, which Purdue has asked a judge to dismiss, accused Sackler family members of directing deceptive marketing of opioids for years while enriching themselves to the tune of $4.2 billion.

    Some other states have since also sued the Sacklers. The Sacklers are currently discussing creating a nonprofit backed by family financial contributions to combat addiction and drug abuse, a person familiar with their deliberations said.

    The drugmaker downplayed the possibility of a bankruptcy filing in a Feb. 22 court filing in the Oklahoma case. “Purdue is still here - ready, willing and eager to prove in this Court that the State’s claims are baseless,” the company said in court papers.

    Sales of OxyContin and other opioids have fallen amid public concern about their addictive nature, and as restrictions on opioid prescribing have been enacted. OxyContin generated $1.74 billion in sales in 2017, down from $2.6 billion five years earlier, according to the most recent data compiled by Symphony Health Solutions.

    Purdue Chief Executive Officer Craig Landau has cut hundreds of jobs, stopped marketing opioids to physicians and moved the company toward developing medications for sleep disorders and cancer since taking the helm in 2017.

    In July, Purdue appointed a new board chairman, Steve Miller, a restructuring veteran who previously held leadership positions at troubled companies including auto-parts giant Delphi and the once-teetering insurer American International Group Inc.

    Mortimer D.A. Sackler no longer sits on Purdue’s board, according to a filing the company made with the Connecticut secretary of state late Monday.

    The Oklahoma case and other lawsuits seek damages from Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies accused of fueling the opioid crisis. In addition to lawsuits consolidated in an Ohio federal court, more than 300 cases are pending in state courts, and dozens of state attorneys general have sued manufacturers, including Purdue.

    Settlement discussions have not yet resulted in a deal.

    Purdue and three executives in 2007 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties, according to court records.

    (Reporting by Mike Spector and Jessica DiNapoli in New York and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

    Copyright 2019 Thomson Reuters.

    #Opioides #Sackler #Bankruptcy

  • Israeli right up in arms over news anchor who said occupation turns soldiers into ’animals’ - Haaretz.com

    Oshrat Kotler was responding to a report on the five Israeli soldiers who were recently indicted for beating Palestinian detainees in revenge for the death of their comrades
    Itay Stern
    Feb 17, 2019

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israeli-right-blasts-anchor-who-said-occupation-turns-soldiers-int

    Israeli right-wing politicians harshly criticized Channel 13 TV anchorwoman Oshrat Kotler for saying soldiers become “human animals” during their army service in the West Bank during a broadcast on Saturday night.

    Kotler was responding to a report on five Israeli soldiers who were recently indicted for beating Palestinian detainees in revenge for the death of two soldiers from their battalion.

    “They send children to the army, to the territories, and get them back human animals. That’s the result of the occupation,” she said.

    >> Israeli army officer indicted for allowing soldiers to beat detained Palestinians ■ Palestinian father and son abused by Israeli soldiers: ’They beat us up, then started dancing’

    The statement sparked the ire of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who tweeted: “Proud of IDF soldiers and love them very much. Oshrat Kotler’s words should be roundly condemned.”

    Netanyahu addressed the remarks again at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting, saying “Yesterday I thought I did not hear correctly when I turned on the television. I heard an infuriating statement against IDF soldiers by a senior journalist, a news anchor. I would like to say that this statement is inappropriate and must be condemned - in a firm and comprehensive manner.”

    “I am proud of IDF soldiers. They are protecting us and we are carrying out the supreme humanitarian and moral mission of defending our people and protecting our country against those who want to slaughter us. The journalist’s words deserve all condemnation,” he said.
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    Education Minister Naftali Bennett wrote: “Oshrat, you’re confused. IDF soldiers give their lives so you can sleep peacefully. Human animals are the terrorists who murder children in their beds, a young girl on a walk or a whole family driving on the road. IDF soldiers are our strength. Our children. Apologize.”

    Bennett’s new party, Hayamin Hehadash, tweeted it would file an official request to the attorney general that he prosecute Kotler for defamation, “following her affronting comments which slander IDF soldiers.”

    Kotler, who realized during the broadcast that her statement sparked a storm, said later in the show: “I would like to stress: my children, and their friends, they’re all combat soldiers in the territories. My criticism was directed only at those soldiers led by our control over the Palestinians to hurt innocent people. Those who really listened and didn’t run to rail against me on the web understood that I’m in fact in favor of leniency toward the indicted soldiers, because we sent them into this impossible situation.”

    Meretz chairwoman MK Tamar Zandberg came to Kotler’s defense, writing: “How miserable and predictable is the attack on Kotler’s just statements. We don’t want a reality of occupation and violence? It must be changed. Closing our eyes and then scolding the messenger, that’s no solution.”

    Peace Now also voiced its support for Kotler, tweeting: “It’s permissible and desirable to look in the mirror sometimes and honestly admit the mistakes of the occupation. So when the right wing falsifies and incites and when MKs rush to join the crowd, Oshrat Kotler’s courageous words should be given a platform.”

    Channel 13 news issued a response saying “Oshrat Kotler is a journalist with strong opinions and she expresses them from time to time, like other journalists on our staff who hold other opinions. Oshrat expressed her personal opinion only.”

    The parents of the indicted soldiers called the statement “unfortunate and ugly," saying there is “no place in Israeli discourse and certainly not by a new anchorwoman who is meant to represent the facts and not her distorted worldview. Our boys went into the army with a feeling of mission and Zionism. They chose a hard road, they wanted to be combat soldiers in the IDF, they wanted no special conditions; they carry out a complex mission in one of the most difficult sectors. These are the best of the sons of the State of Israel, who although only a month ago they lost two comrades in arms, held their heads high, walked tall and carried out any mission they were assigned, without fault.”

    They further criticized Kotler for not enquiring into the identity of the soldiers, “what they went through when they enlisted, what huge difficulties they experienced.”

  • Opinion | My Father Faces the Death Penalty. This Is Justice in Saudi Arabia. - The New York Times

    The kingdom’s judiciary is being pushed far from any semblance of the rule of law and due process.

    By Abdullah Alaoudh

    Mr. Alaoudh is a legal scholar at Georgetown University.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/13/opinion/saudi-arabia-judiciary.html

    Despite the claims of Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his enablers, Saudi Arabia is not rolling back the hard-line religious establishment. Instead, the kingdom is curtailing the voices of moderation that have historically combated extremism. Numerous Saudi activists, scholars and thinkers who have sought reform and opposed the forces of extremism and patriarchy have been arrested. Many of them face the death penalty.

    Salman Alodah, my father, is a 61-year-old scholar of Islamic law in Saudi Arabia, a reformist who argued for greater respect for human rights within Shariah, the legal code of Islam based on the Quran. His voice was heard widely, partly owing to his popularity as a public figure with 14 million followers on Twitter.
    The author’s father, Salman Alodah, has been held in solitary confinement since 2017.CreditFamily photograph
    Image
    The author’s father, Salman Alodah, has been held in solitary confinement since 2017.CreditFamily photograph

    On Sept. 10, 2017, my father, who was disturbed by regional tensions after Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt imposed a blockade on Qatar, spoke obliquely about the conflict and expressed his desire for reconciliation. “May Allah mend their hearts for the best of their peoples,” he tweeted.

    A few hours after his tweet, a team from the Saudi security services came to our house in Riyadh, searched the house, confiscated some laptops and took my father away.

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    The Saudi government was apparently angered and considered his tweet a criminal violation. His interrogators told my father that his assuming a neutral position on the Saudi-Qatar crisis and failing to stand with the Saudi government was a crime.

    He is being held in solitary confinement in Dhahban prison in Jidda. He was chained and handcuffed for months inside his cell, deprived of sleep and medical help and repeatedly interrogated throughout the day and night. His deteriorating health — high blood pressure and cholesterol that he developed in prison — was ignored until he had to be hospitalized. Until the trial, about a year after his arrest, he was denied access to lawyers.

    On Sept. 4, a specialized criminal court in Riyadh convened off-camera to consider the numerous charges against my father: stirring public discord and inciting people against the ruler, calling for change in government and supporting Arab revolutions by focusing on arbitrary detention and freedom of speech, possessing banned books and describing the Saudi government as a tyranny. The kingdom’s attorney general sought the death penalty for him.

    Saudi Arabia has exploited the general indifference of the West toward its internal politics and presented the crackdown against reformist figures like my father as a move against the conservative religious establishment. The reality is far from their claims.

    My father is loved by the Saudi people because his authority and legitimacy as an independent Muslim scholar set him apart from the state-appointed scholars. Using Islamic principles to support his arguments, he championed civil liberties, participatory politics, the separation of powers and judicial independence.

  • OxyContin Maker Explored Expansion Into “Attractive”… — ProPublica
    https://www.propublica.org/article/oxycontin-purdue-pharma-massachusetts-lawsuit-anti-addiction-market

    Secret portions of a lawsuit allege that Purdue Pharma, controlled by the Sackler family, considered capitalizing on the addiction treatment boom — while going to extreme lengths to boost sales of its controversial opioid.

    In internal correspondence beginning in 2014, Purdue Pharma executives discussed how the sale of opioids and the treatment of opioid addiction are “naturally linked” and that the company should expand across “the pain and addiction spectrum,” according to redacted sections of the lawsuit by the Massachusetts attorney general. A member of the billionaire Sackler family, which founded and controls the privately held company, joined in those discussions and urged staff in an email to give “immediate attention” to this business opportunity, the complaint alleges.

    The sections of the complaint already made public contend that the Sacklers pushed for higher doses of OxyContin, guided efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the drug’s addictive capacity, and blamed misuse on patients.

    Citing extensive emails and internal company documents, the redacted sections allege that Purdue and the Sackler family went to extreme lengths to boost OxyContin sales and burnish the drug’s reputation in the face of increased regulation and growing public awareness of its addictive nature. Concerns about doctors improperly prescribing the drug, and patients becoming addicted, were swept aside in an aggressive effort to drive OxyContin sales ever higher, the complaint alleges.

    Among the allegations: Purdue paid two executives convicted of fraudulently marketing OxyContin millions of dollars to assure their loyalty, concealed information about doctors suspected of inappropriately prescribing the opioid, and was advised by global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. on strategies to boost the drug’s sales and burnish its image, including how to “counter the emotional messages” of mothers whose children overdosed. Since 2007, the Sackler family has received more than $4 billion in payouts from Purdue, according to a redacted paragraph in the complaint.

    The redacted paragraphs leave little doubt about the dominant role of the Sackler family in Purdue’s management. The five Purdue directors who are not Sacklers always voted with the family, according to the complaint. The family-controlled board approves everything from the number of sales staff to be hired to details of their bonus incentives, which have been tied to sales volume, the complaint says. In May 2017, when longtime employee Craig Landau was seeking to become Purdue’s chief executive, he wrote that the board acted as “de-facto CEO.” He was named CEO a few weeks later.

    After its 1996 launch, OxyContin rapidly became a top seller. But reports of patients abusing the drug soon followed. OxyContin contained more pain relief medication than older drugs, and crushing and snorting it was a simple way to get high fast. In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to federal charges of understating the risk of addiction and agreed to pay $600 million in fines and penalties. Still, the company argued publicly that OxyContin has “done far more good than harm,” and it sought to place responsibility for the bad acts on “certain of its supervisors and employees.”

    Privately, the complaint suggests, the Sacklers were concerned about alienating two executives, then-CEO Michael Friedman and then-legal counsel Howard Udell. Friedman and Udell each pleaded guilty in 2007 in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Virginia, to a misdemeanor charge of misbranding OxyContin, as did a former executive. The board signed off on the three executives’ decisions to plead guilty. No member of the Sackler family pleaded guilty.

    Purdue paid $5 million to Udell in November 2008, and up to $1 million in November 2009, the complaint states. In February 2008, the company paid $3 million to Friedman. The complaint doesn’t mention any payments to the former executive.

    “The Sacklers spent millions to keep the loyalty of people who knew the truth,” the complaint alleges.

    Udell died in 2013. A person answering a phone number listed to Friedman declined comment.

    When sales results disappointed, Sackler family members didn’t hesitate to intervene. In late 2010, Purdue told the family that sales of the highest dose and most profitable opioids were lower than expected, according to the complaint. That meant an expected quarter-end payout to the family of $320 million was at risk of being reduced to $260 million and would have to be made in two installments in December instead of one in November.

    That news prompted a sharp email question from Mortimer D.A. Sackler, whose late father, also named Mortimer, was a Purdue co-founder. “Why are you BOTH reducing the amount of the distribution and delaying it and splitting it in two?” he asked. “Just a few weeks ago you agreed to distribute the full 320 [million dollars] in November.” The complaint doesn’t say how much was ultimately paid.

    In September 2014, Purdue embarked on a secret project to join an industry that was booming thanks in part to OxyContin abuse: addiction treatment medication. Code-named Project Tango, it involved Purdue executives and staff as well as Dr. Kathe Sackler, a daughter of the company co-founder Mortimer Sackler and a defendant in the Massachusetts lawsuit. She participated in phone calls and told staff that the project required their “immediate attention,” according to the complaint.

    Internally, Purdue touted the growth of an industry that its aggressive marketing had done so much to foster.

    “It is an attractive market,” the team working on the project wrote in a presentation. “Large unmet need for vulnerable, underserved and stigmatized patient population suffering from substance abuse, dependence and addiction.”

    While OxyContin sales were declining, the internal team at Purdue touted the fact that the addiction treatment marketplace was expanding.

    “Opioid addiction (other than heroin) has grown by ~20%” annually from 2000 to 2010, the company noted. Although Richard Sackler had blamed OxyContin abuse in an email on “reckless criminals,” the Purdue staff exploring the new business opportunity described in far more sympathetic terms the patients whom it now planned to treat.

    “This can happen to any-one – from a 50 year old woman with chronic lower back pain to a 18 year old boy with a sports injury, from the very wealthy to the very poor,” it said.

    Company documents recommended becoming an “end-to-end pain provider.” Initially, Purdue intended to sell one such medication, Suboxone, which is commonly retailed as a film that melts in the mouth. When Kathe Sackler asked staff members to look into reports that children might be swallowing the film, they reassured her. They responded, according to the complaint, that youngsters were overdosing on pills, but not the films, “which is a positive for Tango.”

    In 2015, Purdue turned its attention to another potential product, the overdose reversing agent known as Narcan, calling it a “strategic fit.” Purdue executives discussed how its sales force could promote Narcan to the same doctors who prescribed the most opioids. Purdue said in the statement Wednesday that it decided against acquiring the rights to sell Suboxone and Narcan.

    While those initiatives appear to have stalled or ended, Richard Sackler received a patent last year for a drug to treat addiction, according to the complaint. The patent application states that opioids are addictive and refers to people who suffer from substance use disorders as “junkies.”

    #Opioides #Sackler

  • Judge to rule next week on disclosing claims about Purdue Pharma - STAT
    https://www.statnews.com/2019/01/25/judge-to-rule-on-disclosing-allegations-against-purdue

    BOSTON — A Massachusetts judge said Friday she would rule by early next week on a request from media organizations, including STAT and the Boston Globe, to make public redacted portions of a lawsuit brought by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin and other opioid painkillers.

    The Connecticut company’s aggressive and misleading marketing of OxyContin has been blamed by addiction experts for helping spawn the opioid addiction crisis. Outside the Boston courthouse Friday, families of people who became addicted to opioids after taking Purdue’s medications rallied, with some calling for criminal charges against the company.

    “Every day that goes by where this document is substantially under seal is a day that the public does not have access to newsworthy and important information,” Jeffrey Pyle, a lawyer representing the media organizations, argued before Judge Janet Sanders in Suffolk County Superior Court.

    Attorney General Maura Healey accused Purdue of misleading doctors and patients about the addiction and overdose risks of its medications in a lawsuit originally filed in June, which also named current and former Purdue executives and members of the Sackler family, which controls the privately held Purdue, as defendants.

    An updated, 300-plus-page complaint from Healey’s office filed last week contained newly public portions that showed Purdue executives and the Sacklers demanding greater sales of their medications despite the risks and pressuring salespeople to push physicians to prescribe higher doses of their drugs for longer periods of time to more patients.

    #Opioides #Procès

  • Pan Am Flight 103 : Robert Mueller’s 30-Year Search for Justice | WIRED
    https://www.wired.com/story/robert-muellers-search-for-justice-for-pan-am-103

    Cet article décrit le rôle de Robert Mueller dans l’enquête historique qui a permis de dissimuler ou de justifier la plupart des batailles de la guerre non déclarée des États Unis contre l’OLP et les pays arabes qui soutenaient la lutte pour un état palestinien.

    Aux États-Unis, en Allemagne et en France le grand public ignore les actes de guerre commis par les États Unis dans cette guerre. Vu dans ce contexte on ne peut que classer le récit de cet article dans la catégorie idéologie et propagande même si les intentions et faits qu’on y apprend sont bien documentés et plausibles.

    Cette perspective transforme le contenu de cet article d’une variation sur un thème connu dans un reportage sur l’état d’âme des dirigeants étatsuniens moins fanatiques que l’équipe du président actuel.

    THIRTY YEARS AGO last Friday, on the darkest day of the year, 31,000 feet above one of the most remote parts of Europe, America suffered its first major terror attack.

    TEN YEARS AGO last Friday, then FBI director Robert Mueller bundled himself in his tan trench coat against the cold December air in Washington, his scarf wrapped tightly around his neck. Sitting on a small stage at Arlington National Cemetery, he scanned the faces arrayed before him—the victims he’d come to know over years, relatives and friends of husbands and wives who would never grow old, college students who would never graduate, business travelers and flight attendants who would never come home.

    Burned into Mueller’s memory were the small items those victims had left behind, items that he’d seen on the shelves of a small wooden warehouse outside Lockerbie, Scotland, a visit he would never forget: A teenager’s single white sneaker, an unworn Syracuse University sweatshirt, the wrapped Christmas gifts that would never be opened, a lonely teddy bear.

    A decade before the attacks of 9/11—attacks that came during Mueller’s second week as FBI director, and that awoke the rest of America to the threats of terrorism—the bombing of Pan Am 103 had impressed upon Mueller a new global threat.

    It had taught him the complexity of responding to international terror attacks, how unprepared the government was to respond to the needs of victims’ families, and how on the global stage justice would always be intertwined with geopolitics. In the intervening years, he had never lost sight of the Lockerbie bombing—known to the FBI by the codename Scotbom—and he had watched the orphaned children from the bombing grow up over the years.

    Nearby in the cemetery stood a memorial cairn made of pink sandstone—a single brick representing each of the victims, the stone mined from a Scottish quarry that the doomed flight passed over just seconds before the bomb ripped its baggage hold apart. The crowd that day had gathered near the cairn in the cold to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing.

    For a man with an affinity for speaking in prose, not poetry, a man whose staff was accustomed to orders given in crisp sentences as if they were Marines on the battlefield or under cross-examination from a prosecutor in a courtroom, Mueller’s remarks that day soared in a way unlike almost any other speech he’d deliver.

    “There are those who say that time heals all wounds. But you know that not to be true. At its best, time may dull the deepest wounds; it cannot make them disappear,” Mueller told the assembled mourners. “Yet out of the darkness of this day comes a ray of light. The light of unity, of friendship, and of comfort from those who once were strangers and who are now bonded together by a terrible moment in time. The light of shared memories that bring smiles instead of sadness. And the light of hope for better days to come.”

    He talked of Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and of inspiration drawn from Lockerbie’s town crest, with its simple motto, “Forward.” He spoke of what was then a two-decade-long quest for justice, of how on windswept Scottish mores and frigid lochs a generation of FBI agents, investigators, and prosecutors had redoubled their dedication to fighting terrorism.

    Mueller closed with a promise: “Today, as we stand here together on this, the darkest of days, we renew that bond. We remember the light these individuals brought to each of you here today. We renew our efforts to bring justice down on those who seek to harm us. We renew our efforts to keep our people safe, and to rid the world of terrorism. We will continue to move forward. But we will never forget.”

    Hand bells tolled for each of the victims as their names were read aloud, 270 names, 270 sets of bells.

    The investigation, though, was not yet closed. Mueller, although he didn’t know it then, wasn’t done with Pan Am 103. Just months after that speech, the case would test his innate sense of justice and morality in a way that few other cases in his career ever have.

    ROBERT S. MUELLER III had returned from a combat tour in Vietnam in the late 1960s and eventually headed to law school at the University of Virginia, part of a path that he hoped would lead him to being an FBI agent. Unable after graduation to get a job in government, he entered private practice in San Francisco, where he found he loved being a lawyer—just not a defense attorney.

    Then—as his wife Ann, a teacher, recounted to me years ago—one morning at their small home, while the two of them made the bed, Mueller complained, “Don’t I deserve to be doing something that makes me happy?” He finally landed a job as an assistant US attorney in San Francisco and stood, for the first time, in court and announced, “Good morning your Honor, I am Robert Mueller appearing on behalf of the United States of America.” It is a moment that young prosecutors often practice beforehand, and for Mueller those words carried enormous weight. He had found the thing that made him happy.

    His family remembers that time in San Francisco as some of their happiest years; the Muellers’ two daughters were young, they loved the Bay Area—and have returned there on annual vacations almost every year since relocating to the East Coast—and Mueller found himself at home as a prosecutor.

    On Friday nights, their routine was that Ann and the two girls would pick Mueller up at Harrington’s Bar & Grill, the city’s oldest Irish pub, not far from the Ferry Building in the Financial District, where he hung out each week with a group of prosecutors, defense attorneys, cops, and agents. (One Christmas, his daughter Cynthia gave him a model of the bar made out of Popsicle sticks.) He balanced that family time against weekends and trainings with the Marines Corps Reserves, where he served for more than a decade, until 1980, eventually rising to be a captain.

    Over the next 15 years, he rose through the ranks of the San Francisco US attorney’s office—an office he would return to lead during the Clinton administration—and then decamped to Massachusetts to work for US attorney William Weld in the 1980s. There, too, he shined and eventually became acting US attorney when Weld departed at the end of the Reagan administration. “You cannot get the words straight arrow out of your head,” Weld told me, speaking of Mueller a decade ago. “The agencies loved him because he knew his stuff. He didn’t try to be elegant or fancy, he just put the cards on the table.”

    In 1989, an old high school classmate, Robert Ross, who was chief of staff to then attorney general Richard Thornburgh, asked Mueller to come down to Washington to help advise Thornburgh. The offer intrigued Mueller. Ann protested the move—their younger daughter Melissa wanted to finish high school in Massachusetts. Ann told her husband, “We can’t possibly do this.” He replied, his eyes twinkling, “You’re right, it’s a terrible time. Well, why don’t we just go down and look at a few houses?” As she told me, “When he wants to do something, he just revisits it again and again.”

    For his first two years at so-called Main Justice in Washington, working under President George H.W. Bush, the family commuted back and forth from Boston to Washington, alternating weekends in each city, to allow Melissa to finish school.

    Washington gave Mueller his first exposure to national politics and cases with geopolitical implications; in September 1990, President Bush nominated him to be assistant attorney general, overseeing the Justice Department’s entire criminal division, which at that time handled all the nation’s terrorism cases as well. Mueller would oversee the prosecution of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, mob boss John Gotti, and the controversial investigation into a vast money laundering scheme run through the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, known as the Bank of Crooks and Criminals

    None of his cases in Washington, though, would affect him as much as the bombing of Pan Am 103.

    THE TIME ON the clocks in Lockerbie, Scotland, read 7:04 pm, on December 21, 1988, when the first emergency call came into the local fire brigade, reporting what sounded like a massive boiler explosion. It was technically early evening, but it had been dark for hours already; that far north, on the shortest day of the year, daylight barely stretched to eight hours.

    Soon it became clear something much worse than a boiler explosion had unfolded: Fiery debris pounded the landscape, plunging from the sky and killing 11 Lockerbie residents. As Mike Carnahan told a local TV reporter, “The whole sky was lit up with flames. It was actually raining, liquid fire. You could see several houses on the skyline with the roofs totally off and all you could see was flaming timbers.”

    At 8:45 pm, a farmer found in his field the cockpit of Pan Am 103, a Boeing 747 known as Clipper Maid of the Seas, lying on its side, 15 of its crew dead inside, just some of the 259 passengers and crew killed when a bomb had exploded inside the plane’s cargo hold. The scheduled London to New York flight never even made it out of the UK.

    It had taken just three seconds for the plane to disintegrate in the air, though the wreckage took three long minutes to fall the five miles from the sky to the earth; court testimony later would examine how passengers had still been alive as they fell. Nearly 200 of the passengers were American, including 35 students from Syracuse University returning home from a semester abroad. The attack horrified America, which until then had seen terror touch its shores only occasionally as a hijacking went awry; while the US had weathered the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, attacks almost never targeted civilians.

    The Pan Am 103 bombing seemed squarely aimed at the US, hitting one of its most iconic brands. Pan Am then represented America’s global reach in a way few companies did; the world’s most powerful airline shuttled 19 million passengers a year to more than 160 countries and had ferried the Beatles to their US tour and James Bond around the globe on his cinematic missions. In a moment of hubris a generation before Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, the airline had even opened a “waiting list” for the first tourists to travel to outer space. Its New York headquarters, the Pan Am building, was the world’s largest commercial building and its terminal at JFK Airport the biggest in the world.

    The investigation into the bombing of Pan Am 103 began immediately, as police and investigators streamed north from London by the hundreds; chief constable John Boyd, the head of the local police, arrived at the Lockerbie police station by 8:15 pm, and within an hour the first victim had been brought in: A farmer arrived in town with the body of a baby girl who had fallen from the sky. He’d carefully placed her in the front seat of his pickup truck.

    An FBI agent posted in London had raced north too, with the US ambassador, aboard a special US Air Force flight, and at 2 am, when Boyd convened his first senior leadership meeting, he announced, “The FBI is here, and they are fully operational.” By that point, FBI explosives experts were already en route to Scotland aboard an FAA plane; agents would install special secure communications equipment in Lockerbie and remain on site for months.

    Although it quickly became clear that a bomb had targeted Pan Am 103—wreckage showed signs of an explosion and tested positive for PETN and RDX, two key ingredients of the explosive Semtex—the investigation proceeded with frustrating slowness. Pan Am’s records were incomplete, and it took days to even determine the full list of passengers. At the same time, it was the largest crime scene ever investigated—a fact that remains true today.

    Investigators walked 845 square miles, an area 12 times the size of Washington, DC, and searched so thoroughly that they recovered more than 70 packages of airline crackers and ultimately could reconstruct about 85 percent of the fuselage. (Today, the wreckage remains in an English scrapyard.) Constable Boyd, at his first press conference, told the media, “This is a mammoth inquiry.”

    On Christmas Eve, a searcher found a piece of a luggage pallet with signs of obvious scorching, which would indicate the bomb had been in the luggage compartment below the passenger cabin. The evidence was rushed to a special British military lab—one originally created to investigate the Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament and kill King James I in 1605.

    When the explosive tests came back a day later, the British government called the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for combating terrorism, L. Paul Bremer III (who would go on to be President George W. Bush’s viceroy in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion of Iraq), and officially delivered the news that everyone had anticipated: Pan Am 103 had been downed by a bomb.

    Meanwhile, FBI agents fanned out across the country. In New York, special agent Neil Herman—who would later lead the FBI’s counterterrorism office in New York in the run up to 9/11—was tasked with interviewing some of the victims’ families; many of the Syracuse students on board had been from the New York region. One of the mothers he interviewed hadn’t heard from the government in the 10 days since the attack. “It really struck me how ill-equipped we were to deal with this,” Herman told me, years later. “Multiply her by 270 victims and families.” The bombing underscored that the FBI and the US government had a lot to learn in responding and aiding victims in a terror attack.

    INVESTIGATORS MOVED TOWARD piecing together how a bomb could have been placed on board; years before the 9/11 attack, they discounted the idea of a suicide bomber aboard—there had never been a suicide attack on civil aviation at that point—and so focused on one of two theories: The possibility of a “mule,” an innocent passenger duped into carrying a bomb aboard, or an “inside man,” a trusted airport or airline employee who had smuggled the fatal cargo aboard. The initial suspect list stretched to 1,200 names.

    Yet even reconstructing what was on board took an eternity: Evidence pointed to a Japanese manufactured Toshiba cassette recorder as the likely delivery device for the bomb, and then, by the end of January, investigators located pieces of the suitcase that had held the bomb. After determining that it was a Samsonite bag, police and the FBI flew to the company’s headquarters in the United States and narrowed the search further: The bag, they found, was a System 4 Silhouette 4000 model, color “antique-copper,” a case and color made for only three years, 1985 to 1988, and sold only in the Middle East. There were a total of 3,500 such suitcases in circulation.

    By late spring, investigators had identified 14 pieces of luggage inside the target cargo container, known as AVE4041; each bore tell-tale signs of the explosion. Through careful retracing of how luggage moved through the London airport, investigators determined that the bags on the container’s bottom row came from passengers transferring in London. The bags on the second and third row of AVE4041 had been the last bags loaded onto the leg of the flight that began in Frankfurt, before the plane took off for London. None of the baggage had been X-rayed or matched with passengers on board.

    The British lab traced clothing fragments from the wreckage that bore signs of the explosion and thus likely originated in the bomb-carrying suitcase. It was an odd mix: Two herring-bone skirts, men’s pajamas, tartan trousers, and so on. The most promising fragment was a blue infant’s onesie that, after fiber analysis, was conclusively determined to have been inside the explosive case, and had a label saying “Malta Trading Company.” In March, two detectives took off for Malta, where the manufacturer told them that 500 such articles of clothing had been made and most sent to Ireland, while the rest went locally to Maltese outlets and others to continental Europe.

    As they dug deeper, they focused on bag B8849, which appeared to have come off Air Malta Flight 180—Malta to Frankfurt—on December 21, even though there was no record of one of that flight’s 47 passengers transferring to Pan Am 103.

    Investigators located the store in Malta where the suspect clothing had been sold; the British inspector later recorded in his statement, “[Store owner] Anthony Gauci interjected and stated that he could recall selling a pair of the checked trousers, size 34, and three pairs of the pajamas to a male person.” The investigators snapped to attention—after nine months did they finally have a suspect in their sights? “[Gauci] informed me that the man had also purchased the following items: one imitation Harris Tweed jacket; one woolen cardigan; one black umbrella; one blue colored ‘Baby Gro’ with a motif described by the witness as a ‘sheep’s face’ on the front; and one pair of gents’ brown herring-bone material trousers, size 36.”

    Game, set, match. Gauci had perfectly described the clothing fragments found by RARDE technicians to contain traces of explosive. The purchase, Gauci went on to explain, stood out in his mind because the customer—whom Gauci tellingly identified as speaking the “Libyan language”—had entered the store on November 23, 1988, and gathered items without seeming to care about the size, gender, or color of any of it.

    As the investigation painstakingly proceeded into 1989 and 1990, Robert Mueller arrived at Main Justice; the final objects of the Lockerbie search wouldn’t be found until the spring of 1990, just months before Mueller took over as assistant attorney general of the criminal division in September.

    The Justice Department that year was undergoing a series of leadership changes; the deputy attorney general, William Barr, became acting attorney general midyear as Richard Thornburgh stepped down to run for Senate back in his native Pennsylvania. President Bush then nominated Barr to take over as attorney general officially. (Earlier this month Barr was nominated by President Trump to become attorney general once again.)

    The bombing soon became one of the top cases on Mueller’s desk. He met regularly with Richard Marquise, the FBI special agent heading Scotbom. For Mueller, the case became personal; he met with victims’ families and toured the Lockerbie crash site and the investigation’s headquarters. He traveled repeatedly to the United Kingdom for meetings and walked the fields of Lockerbie himself. “The Scots just did a phenomenal job with the crime scene,” he told me, years ago.

    Mueller pushed the investigators forward constantly, getting involved in the investigation at a level that a high-ranking Justice Department official almost never does. Marquise turned to him in one meeting, after yet another set of directions, and sighed, “Geez, if I didn’t know better, I’d think you want to be FBI director.”

    The investigation gradually, carefully, zeroed in on Libya. Agents traced a circuit board used in the bomb to a similar device seized in Africa a couple of years earlier used by Libyan intelligence. An FBI-created database of Maltese immigration records even showed that a man using the same alias as one of those Libyan intelligence officers had departed from Malta on October 19, 1988—just two months before the bombing.

    The circuit board also helped makes sense of an important aspect of the bombing: It controlled a timer, meaning that the bomb was not set off by a barometric trigger that registers altitude. This, in turn, explained why the explosive baggage had lain peacefully in the jet’s hold as it took off and landed repeatedly.

    Tiny letters on the suspect timer said “MEBO.” What was MEBO? In the days before Google, searching for something called “Mebo” required going country to country, company to company. There were no shortcuts. The FBI, MI5, and CIA were, after months of work, able to trace MEBO back to a Swiss company, Meister et Bollier, adding a fifth country to the ever-expanding investigative circle.

    From Meister et Bollier, they learned that the company had provided 20 prototype timers to the Libyan government and the company helped ID their contact as a Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, who looked like the sketch of the Maltese clothing shopper. Then, when the FBI looked at its database of Maltese immigration records, they found that Al Megrahi had been present in Malta the day the clothing was purchased.

    Marquise sat down with Robert Mueller and the rest of the prosecutorial team and laid out the latest evidence. Mueller’s orders were clear—he wanted specific suspects and he wanted to bring charges. As he said, “Proceed toward indictment.” Let’s get this case moving.

    IN NOVEMBER 1990, Marquise was placed in charge of all aspects of the investigation and assigned on special duty to the Washington Field Office and moved to a new Scotbom task force. The field offce was located far from the Hoover building, in a run-down neighborhood known by the thoroughly unromantic moniker of Buzzard Point.

    The Scotbom task force had been allotted three tiny windowless rooms with dark wood paneling, which were soon covered floor-to-ceiling with 747 diagrams, crime scene photographs, maps, and other clues. By the door of the office, the team kept two photographs to remind themselves of the stakes: One, a tiny baby shoe recovered from the fields of Lockerbie; the other, a picture of the American flag on the tail of Pan Am 103. This was the first major attack on the US and its civilians. Whoever was responsible couldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

    With representatives from a half-dozen countries—the US, Britain, Scotland, Sweden, Germany, France, and Malta—now sitting around the table, putting together a case that met everyone’s evidentiary standards was difficult. “We talked through everything, and everything was always done to the higher standard,” Marquise says. In the US, for instance, the legal standard for a photo array was six photos; in Scotland, though, it was 12. So every photo array in the investigation had 12 photos to ensure that the IDs could be used in a British court.

    The trail of evidence so far was pretty clear, and it all pointed toward Libya. Yet there was still much work to do prior to an indictment. A solid hunch was one thing. Having evidence that would stand up in court and under cross-examination was something else entirely.

    As the case neared an indictment, the international investigators and prosecutors found themselves focusing at their gatherings on the fine print of their respective legal code and engaging in deep, philosophical-seeming debates: “What does murder mean in your statute? Huh? I know what murder means: I kill you. Well, then you start going through the details and the standards are just a little different. It may entail five factors in one country, three in another. Was Megrahi guilty of murder? Depends on the country.”

    At every meeting, the international team danced around the question of where a prosecution would ultimately take place. “Jurisdiction was an eggshell problem,” Marquise says. “It was always there, but no one wanted to talk about it. It was always the elephant in the room.”

    Mueller tried to deflect the debate for as long as possible, arguing there was more investigation to do first. Eventually, though, he argued forcefully that the case should be tried in the US. “I recognize that Scotland has significant equities which support trial of the case in your country,” he said in one meeting. “However, the primary target of this act of terrorism was the United States. The majority of the victims were Americans, and the Pan American aircraft was targeted precisely because it was of United States registry.”

    After one meeting, where the Scots and Americans debated jurisdiction for more than two hours, the group migrated over to the Peasant, a restaurant near the Justice Department, where, in an attempt to foster good spirits, it paid for the visiting Scots. Mueller and the other American officials each had to pay for their own meals.

    Mueller was getting ready to move forward; the federal grand jury would begin work in early September. Prosecutors and other investigators were already preparing background, readying evidence, and piecing together information like the names and nationalities of all the Lockerbie victims so that they could be included in the forthcoming indictment.

    There had never been any doubt in the US that the Pan Am 103 bombing would be handled as a criminal matter, but the case was still closely monitored by the White House and the National Security Council.

    The Reagan administration had been surprised in February 1988 by the indictment on drug charges of its close ally Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, and a rule of thumb had been developed: Give the White House a heads up anytime you’re going to indict a foreign agent. “If you tag Libya with Pan Am 103, that’s fair to say it’s going to disrupt our relationship with Libya,” Mueller deadpans. So Mueller would head up to the Cabinet Room at the White House, charts and pictures in hand, to explain to President Bush and his team what Justice had in mind.

    To Mueller, the investigation underscored why such complex investigations needed a law enforcement eye. A few months after the attack, he sat through a CIA briefing pointing toward Syria as the culprit behind the attack. “That’s always struck with me as a lesson in the difference between intelligence and evidence. I always try to remember that,” he told me, back when he was FBI director. “It’s a very good object lesson about hasty action based on intelligence. What if we had gone and attacked Syria based on that initial intelligence? Then, after the attack, it came out that Libya had been behind it? What could we have done?”

    Marquise was the last witness for the federal grand jury on Friday, November 8, 1991. Only in the days leading up to that testimony had prosecutors zeroed in on Megrahi and another Libyan officer, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah; as late as the week of the testimony, they had hoped to pursue additional indictments, yet the evidence wasn’t there to get to a conviction.

    Mueller traveled to London to meet with the Peter Fraser, the lord advocate—Scotland’s top prosecutor—and they agreed to announce indictments simultaneously on November 15, 1991. Who got their hands on the suspects first, well, that was a question for later. The joint indictment, Mueller believed, would benefit both countries. “It adds credibility to both our investigations,” he says.

    That coordinated joint, multi-nation statement and indictment would become a model that the US would deploy more regularly in the years to come, as the US and other western nations have tried to coordinate cyber investigations and indictments against hackers from countries like North Korea, Russia, and Iran.

    To make the stunning announcement against Libya, Mueller joined FBI director William Sessions, DC US attorney Jay Stephens, and attorney general William Barr.

    “We charge that two Libyan officials, acting as operatives of the Libyan intelligence agency, along with other co-conspirators, planted and detonated the bomb that destroyed Pan Am 103,” Barr said. “I have just telephoned some of the families of those murdered on Pan Am 103 to inform them and the organizations of the survivors that this indictment has been returned. Their loss has been ever present in our minds.”

    At the same time, in Scotland, investigators there were announcing the same indictments.

    At the press conference, Barr listed a long set of names to thank—the first one he singled out was Mueller’s. Then, he continued, “This investigation is by no means over. It continues unabated. We will not rest until all those responsible are brought to justice. We have no higher priority.”

    From there, the case would drag on for years. ABC News interviewed the two suspects in Libya later that month; both denied any responsibility for the bombing. Marquise was reassigned within six months; the other investigators moved along too.

    Mueller himself left the administration when Bill Clinton became president, spending an unhappy year in private practice before rejoining the Justice Department to work as a junior homicide prosecutor in DC under then US attorney Eric Holder; Mueller, who had led the nation’s entire criminal division was now working side by side with prosecutors just a few years out of law school, the equivalent of a three-star military general retiring and reenlisting as a second lieutenant. Clinton eventually named Mueller the US attorney in San Francisco, the office where he’d worked as a young attorney in the 1970s.

    THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY of the bombing came and went without any justice. Then, in April 1999, prolonged international negotiations led to Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi turning over the two suspects; the international economic sanctions imposed on Libya in the wake of the bombing were taking a toll on his country, and the leader wanted to put the incident behind him.

    The final negotiated agreement said that the two men would be tried by a Scottish court, under Scottish law, in The Hague in the Netherlands. Distinct from the international court there, the three-judge Scottish court would ensure that the men faced justice under the laws of the country where their accused crime had been committed.

    Allowing the Scots to move forward meant some concessions by the US. The big one was taking the death penalty, prohibited in Scotland, off the table. Mueller badly wanted the death penalty. Mueller, like many prosecutors and law enforcement officials, is a strong proponent of capital punishment, but he believes it should be reserved for only egregious crimes. “It has to be especially heinous, and you have to be 100 percent sure he’s guilty,” he says. This case met that criteria. “There’s never closure. If there can’t be closure, there should be justice—both for the victims as well as the society at large,” he says.

    An old US military facility, Kamp Van Zeist, was converted to an elaborate jail and courtroom in The Hague, and the Dutch formally surrendered the two Libyans to Scottish police. The trial began in May 2000. For nine months, the court heard testimony from around the world. In what many observers saw as a political verdict, Al Megrahi was found guilty and Fhimah was found not guilty.

    With barely 24 hours notice, Marquise and victim family members raced from the United States to be in the courtroom to hear the verdict. The morning of the verdict in 2001, Mueller was just days into his tenure as acting deputy US attorney general—filling in for the start of the George W. Bush administration in the department’s No. 2 role as attorney general John Ashcroft got himself situated.

    That day, Mueller awoke early and joined with victims’ families and other officials in Washington, who watched the verdict announcement via a satellite hookup. To him, it was a chance for some closure—but the investigation would go on. As he told the media, “The United States remains vigilant in its pursuit to bring to justice any other individuals who may have been involved in the conspiracy to bring down Pan Am Flight 103.”

    The Scotbom case would leave a deep imprint on Mueller; one of his first actions as FBI director was to recruit Kathryn Turman, who had served as the liaison to the Pan Am 103 victim families during the trial, to head the FBI’s Victim Services Division, helping to elevate the role and responsibility of the FBI in dealing with crime victims.

    JUST MONTHS AFTER that 20th anniversary ceremony with Mueller at Arlington National Cemetery, in the summer of 2009, Scotland released a terminally ill Megrahi from prison after a lengthy appeals process, and sent him back to Libya. The decision was made, the Scottish minister of justice reported, on “compassionate grounds.” Few involved on the US side believed the terrorist deserved compassion. Megrahi was greeted as a hero on the tarmac in Libya—rose petals, cheering crowds. The US consensus remained that he should rot in prison.

    The idea that Megrahi could walk out of prison on “compassionate” ground made a mockery of everything that Mueller had dedicated his life to fighting and doing. Amid a series of tepid official condemnations—President Obama labeled it “highly objectionable”—Mueller fired off a letter to Scottish minister Kenny MacAskill that stood out for its raw pain, anger, and deep sorrow.

    “Over the years I have been a prosecutor, and recently as the Director of the FBI, I have made it a practice not to comment on the actions of other prosecutors, since only the prosecutor handling the case has all the facts and the law before him in reaching the appropriate decision,” Mueller began. “Your decision to release Megrahi causes me to abandon that practice in this case. I do so because I am familiar with the facts, and the law, having been the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the investigation and indictment of Megrahi in 1991. And I do so because I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of ‘compassion.’”

    That nine months after the 20th anniversary of the bombing, the only person behind bars for the bombing would walk back onto Libyan soil a free man and be greeted with rose petals left Mueller seething.

    “Your action in releasing Megrahi is as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world,” Mueller wrote. “You could not have spent much time with the families, certainly not as much time as others involved in the investigation and prosecution. You could not have visited the small wooden warehouse where the personal items of those who perished were gathered for identification—the single sneaker belonging to a teenager; the Syracuse sweatshirt never again to be worn by a college student returning home for the holidays; the toys in a suitcase of a businessman looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife and children.”

    For Mueller, walking the fields of Lockerbie had been walking on hallowed ground. The Scottish decision pained him especially deeply, because of the mission and dedication he and his Scottish counterparts had shared 20 years before. “If all civilized nations join together to apply the rules of law to international terrorists, certainly we will be successful in ridding the world of the scourge of terrorism,” he had written in a perhaps too hopeful private note to the Scottish Lord Advocate in 1990.

    Some 20 years later, in an era when counterterrorism would be a massive, multibillion dollar industry and a buzzword for politicians everywhere, Mueller—betrayed—concluded his letter with a decidedly un-Mueller-like plea, shouted plaintively and hopelessly across the Atlantic: “Where, I ask, is the justice?”

    #USA #Libye #impérialisme #terrorisme #histoire #CIA #idéologie #propagande

  • Battle brews between French and ultra-Orthodox over Jerusalem archaeology site

    Ultra-Orthodox demands to pray at the Tomb of the Kings – the grandest burial compound in Jerusalem – have kindled fears among the French of an Israeli land grab under their flag in East Jerusalem

    Nir Hasson SendSend me email alerts
    Dec 21, 2018

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-france-orthodox-jews-archaeologists-battle-over-e-j-lem-s-tomb-of-

    In recent weeks, a small group of ultra-Orthodox Jews has been gathering alongside a locked iron gate on Nablus Road in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. They pray and protest alongside the shuttered gate, periodically squabbling with the Palestinian guard, demanding to be allowed inside to pray. The guard refuses, and refers them to the body that owns and administers the site – the French Consulate of Jerusalem.
    These protests are yet another round in a long-standing historic struggle over control of one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Jerusalem, which has been closed to the public for years. On the one side stands the government of France and on the other, Haredi and right-wing Israeli factions. Israel’s Antiquities Authority is in favor of opening the site to the public, but does share the French concerns that the site might befall the same fate of many other archaeological sites in the city, which were transformed from mere archaeology and tourism sites into holy sites and then appropriated from the public’s domain.
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    The Tomb of the Kings, situated between the Jerusalem District Court and the American Colony Hotel, is considered the grandest burial compound in Jerusalem. The site includes a sophisticated burial cave that has a mechanism for sealing the entrance by means of a stone that rotates on a hinge. It includes a mammoth courtyard carved into the bedrock, a staircase carved into the bedrock that is the second largest in Jerusalem – the only one larger is on the Temple Mount – stone-inscribed ornamentation, an ancient mikveh (Jewish ritual bath) and cisterns.
    The site has been dated to the Second Temple period, and there are various traditions and theories regarding who is actually buried there. According to one tradition, it was the place of burial of Kalba Savua, the father-in-law of Rabbi Akiva, or of Nicodemus ben Guryon – two of the wealthier residents of Jerusalem at the start of the 1st millennium CE.
    The historian Josephus Flavius wrote that this was the burial place of Queen Helena of Adiabene, who converted to Judaism around the year 30 C.E., and some of the site’s investigators say it is reasonable to believe that this is indeed her tomb. An ornamented sarcophagus found here was inscribed with the legend, “Tzadan Malkata,” which is believed to refer to Queen (Malka) Helena. This reinforces the notion that buried on this site were other members of her royal family. The site gained fame in the late 19th century, and among its visitors were the German Kaiser Wilhelm II and Theodore Herzl.

    The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman

    The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman

    The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman
    The Tomb of the Kings is interwoven into the history of archaeology in Israel. The excavation conducted by Félicien de Saulcy in 1863 is considered the first modern archaeological dig in the country. It is also the first excavation to receive a digging permit from the Turkish sultan.
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    Pressure worked

    The Tomb of Kings archaeological site in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman
    But along with modern archaeology, the protest against it was also born here. “This was the first official archaeological excavation, and also the first time in which the Jews of Jerusalem rose up against the excavation of ancestral graves,” writes a scholar who has studied the site, Dr. Dotan Goren.
    In the wake of the Orthodox Jews’ public protests in the city and pressure from the Jews on the sultan, those excavations were suspended. To the dismay of the city’s Jews, de Saulcy managed to load the queen’s sarcophagus onto a ship anchored in Jaffa port, and it is to this day displayed at the Louvre Museum. Several years ago, it appeared as part of a temporary exhibition in the Israel Museum.
    The basis for the current demand by religious and Haredi circles that the Jews ought to be granted rights over the site has to do with events that occurred following the excavation. In 1878, a woman named Berta Amalia Bertrand, a French Jew who was related to the Pereire brothers, a famous Jewish banking family, purchased the burial compound from its Arab owners. At the time of the purchase, Bertrand dedicated the site in the presence of the chief rabbi of Paris, declaring that it “will become the land in perpetuity of the Jewish community, to be preserved from desecration and abomination, and will never again be damaged by foreigners..”

    The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman
    Eight years later, however, one of Bertrand’s heirs granted the site as a gift to the government of France. At the time of the conferral of the gift, an agreement was signed between the French government and the family, under which France committed to meet several conditions. One was to erect a sign in Hebrew, French and Arabic saying that these are the Tombs of the Kings of Judah. The large sign, made of copper, can still be found set into the wall of the building.
    A few testimonies describe how the site served for prayer and pilgrimage, although it is altogether clear that it was secondary in importance to the neighboring holy site, the cave of Shimon Hatzadik. But in any event, following the battles of 1948, the site was left behind the enemy lines, within the territory of the Jordanian kingdom. “This site was forgotten or made to be forgotten, and there was no one to tell about it,” says Goren.

    An inscription at the Tomb of Kings in Jerusalem, December, 2018. Emil Salman
    Following 1967’s Six-Day War, the site continued to be administered by the French consulate in Jerusalem. Most of the time, it was open to visitors, for a token entry fee. Ten years ago the consulate held a concert there, together with the Palestinian cultural organization Yabous, which advocates a boycott of Israel.
    Apparently that is what has sparked a renewed interest in the site. In 2014, the rabbinical court for “hekdesh” (sacred property) affairs appointed Yitzhak Mamo and Yaakov Saltzman as emissaries of the court in the matter of the Tomb of the Kings sacred property. Mamo is a well-known right-wing activist in East Jerusalem who for years has been engaged in the evacuation of Palestinian families and the resettlement of Jews in Sheikh Jarrah. In 2015, the two men filed a suit in the rabbinical court against the government of France, with a plea to gain possession of the site.
    The lawsuit sparked outrage in Paris and in the French consulate in Jerusalem, as well as in the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A letter sent to the court by David Goldfarb of the ministry’s legal department stated that according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, to which Israel is a signatory, consulate employees are not subject to the rulings of a rabbinical court. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also wishes to inform the honorable court that in response to bringing the lawsuit in this case, our office has received a sharply worded letter from the government of France,” Goldfarb wrote.
    The Israeli attorney general also sided with the French, and in a legal opinion submitted to the court, he argued that it was not at all clear that the site can be considered a hekdesh, since the hekdesh was created by the chief rabbi of Paris and not by the Sharia court in Jerusalem, which had been entrusted with the authority to rule on sacred property issues in the city during the period of Ottoman rule. In the wake of these developments, the religious court in Jerusalem rejected the suit.

    FILE Photo: The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem. American Colony

    FILE Photo: The Tomb of Kings site in Jerusalem. American Colony
    The French subsequently announced the closure of the site for renovations. In recent years, there has been practically no opportunity to visit the site. According to parties involved in the matter, the French consulate has invested about 900,000 euros (about $790,000) in a renovation that included construction of a steel apparatus to reinforce the central structure in the event of earthquake, construction of a new stairway, and preservation work.
    In September 2018, the consulate informed the Israeli Foreign Ministry that the work had been completed and that it was now possible to reopen the site. However, the French imposed two conditions: one, that Israel officially recognize French ownership of the site, and two, that they be assured no new lawsuits would be brought against them. Foreign Ministry officials have reported that discussions on the matter are now underway. In the meantime, the place remains closed and the protests have begun again.
    This time around, it was a group of Haredim led by Rabbi Zalman Grossman of Jerusalem that began to arrive on site twice a week and protest its closure by means of prayers and demonstrations. The protest has gained the support of the rabbi of the Western Wall and the holy sites, Shmuel Rabinovich, and of the chief rabbi of Jerusalem, Shlomo Amar, as well as the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
    The demonstrations and the demands to be able to pray on the site have kindled fears among the French that if the site is reopened, it will take on a religious nature and essentially become an Israeli land grab under the French flag in East Jerusalem. As far as France is concerned, this would engender serious political complications with the Palestinians.
    The concerns of the French in this matter are shared by the Antiquities Authority’s Jerusalem district archaeologist, Dr. Yuval Baruch. “There is a trend of archaeological sites taking on a status of holiness, and the problem is if and when that happens, archaeology always loses out,” says Baruch.
    He is concerned about other sites, mainly in the Old City, archaeological-tourism sites that have in the past few years been converted into religious sites, where visitors not coming for ritual purposes do not always feel welcome.
    The phenomenon, incidentally, is not exclusive to Orthodox Jews. This has happened, for instance, in a large section of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park-Davidson Center, south of the Western Wall, which has been turned into the “Ezrat Israel,” a prayer section earmarked for the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism. It is happening on the Hulda steps that ascend to the Temple Mount from the south, which have become a popular prayer site among evangelical Christians. The evangelicals have also adopted the Siloam Pool in Silwan. The plaza just outside Tanner’s Gate, not far from the Western Wall, has become the province of bar mitzvah organizers, and the archaeological site at Nebi Samuel in northern Jerusalem has become a site for prayer and pilgrimage.
    “When all is said and done, there is freedom of religion and the authorities have no ability to control it, but there has to be some regulation,” says Baruch. d”As excavations in Jerusalem continue to proliferate, the more assured it is that there will be continued attempts by religious bodies, and this can be Orthodox, Conservative or Reform rabbis, or evangelicals, it matters not who, to try and take them over. The appeal of sites whose character is becoming more emphatically religious will change. I appeal to the rabbinical establishment and to the leadership of the Christian communities to show more responsibility and greater recognition of the importance of the archaeological values, as well.”
    The official response from the office of the rabbi of the Western Wall in regard to the Tomb of the Kings: “In truth, the site is a holy place for Jews. To that end, the rabbi is acting with all due sensitivity in order that the site also provide free access for Jewish prayer and that its character and its holiness be preserved.”

    Nir Hasson
    Haaretz Correspondent

  • Twelve Israelis suspected of running child sex trafficking network in Colombia
    Dec 10, 2018 11:59 AM
    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/twelve-israelis-suspected-of-running-child-sex-trafficking-network-in-colom

    Law enforcement authorities in Colombia suspect 12 Israelis of running a sex-trafficking network alongside two Colombians. The office of Colombia’s attorney general said eight of the suspects have been arrested, including six Israelis.

    The alleged sex trafficking ring provided Israeli travelers with “tourism packages” that included prostitutes, some of whom were minors, who received between 200,000 pesos ($63) to 400,000 pesos ($126) in return for sexual services.

    5/5 #ATENCIÓN 8 presuntos responsables de explotación y esclavitud sexual en #Colombia fueron capturados: 6 israelíes, entre ellos uno de los señalados cabecillas, Mor Zohar; y 2 colombianos, entre ellos un policía que presuntamente entregó información privilegiada de operativos pic.twitter.com/TpUzudDDU6
    — Fiscalía Colombia (@FiscaliaCol) December 9, 2018

    Among the charges against the members of the trafficking ring are murder, conspiracy, human trafficking, trafficking in minors, drug manufacturing, providing prostitution services and money laundering. The leader of the ring in an Israeli named Mor Zohar, media in Colombia reported, while one of those arrested is a Colombian police officer.

    The attorney general’s office said 150 billion pesos ($47.3 million) of property has been seized during the investigation, including hotels, hostels and other tourism related businesses.

    #escroquerie #Israel

  • British academic accused of spying jailed for life in UAE | World news | The Guardian

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/21/british-academic-matthew-hedges-accused-of-spying-jailed-for-life-in-ua

    Les terrains de thèse les plus risqués au monde : les Etats du Golfe.

    A British academic who has been accused of spying for the UK government in the United Arab Emirates after travelling to Dubai to conduct research has been sentenced to life in jail.

    Matthew Hedges, 31, has been in a UAE prison for more than six months. The Durham University student who went to the country to research his PhD thesis, was handed the sentence at an Abu Dhabi court in a hearing that lasted less than five minutes, and with no lawyer present.

    Hedges was detained in May at Dubai airport as he was leaving the country following a research trip, and was held in solitary confinement for five months.

    The UAE attorney general, Hamad al-Shamsi, said Hedges was accused of “spying for a foreign country, jeopardising the military, political and economic security of the state”.

    Hedges has denied the charges, and maintains that he was in the country to research the impact of the Arab spring on the UAE’s foreign policy.

  • Brazilian media report that police are entering university classrooms to interrogate professors

    In advance of this Sunday’s second-round presidential election between far-right politician Jair #Bolsonaro and center-left candidate Fernando Haddad, Brazilian media are reporting that Brazilian police have been staging raids, at times without warrants, in universities across the country this week. In these raids, police have been questioning professors and confiscating materials belonging to students and professors.

    The raids are part a supposed attempt to stop illegal electoral advertising. Brazilian election law prohibits electoral publicity in public spaces. However, many of the confiscated materials do not mention candidates. Among such confiscated materials are a flag for the Universidade Federal Fluminense reading “UFF School of Law - Anti-Fascist” and flyers titled “Manifest in Defense of Democracy and Public Universities.”

    For those worrying about Brazilian democracy, these raids are some of the most troubling signs yet of the problems the country faces. They indicate the extremes of Brazilian political polarization: Anti-fascist and pro-democracy speech is now interpreted as illegal advertising in favor of one candidate (Fernando Haddad) and against another (Jair Bolsonaro). In the long run, the politicization of these two terms will hurt support for the idea of democracy, and bolster support for the idea of fascism.

    In the short run, the raids have even more troublesome implications. Warrantless police raids in university classrooms to monitor professor speech have worrisome echoes of Brazil’s 1964-1985 military regime — particularly when the speech the raids are seeking to stop is not actually illegal.

    Perhaps the most concerning point of all is that these raids are happening before Bolsonaro takes office. They have often been initiated by complaints from Bolsonaro supporters. All of this suggests that if Bolsonaro wins the election — as is widely expected — and seeks to suppress the speech of his opponents, whom he has called “red [i.e., Communist] criminals,” he may have plenty of willing helpers.

    https://www.vox.com/mischiefs-of-faction/2018/10/26/18029696/brazilian-police-interrogate-professors
    #université #extrême_droite #Brésil #police #it_has_begun
    Je crois que je vais commencer à utiliser un nouveau tag, qui est aussi le nom d’un réseau : #scholars_at_risk

    • Brésil : à peine élu, Jair Bolsonaro commence la chasse aux opposants de gauche

      Les universités dans le viseur

      Enfin, toujours pour lutter contre l’opposition à gauche, Jair Bolsonaro entend faire pression sur les professeurs d’université qui parleraient de politique pendant leurs cours.

      Le président élu a récemment scandalisé une partie du monde éducatif en accusant des professeurs, cités avec leurs noms et prénoms, de défendre les régimes de Cuba et de Corée du Nord devant leurs élèves, dans une vidéo diffusée sur Internet.

      Et pour y remédier, il compte installer des pancartes devant les salles de cours pour appeler les étudiants à dénoncer leurs professeurs par le biais d’une « hotline » téléphonique dédiée à la question.

      https://www.bfmtv.com/international/bresil-a-peine-elu-jair-bolsonaro-commence-la-chasse-aux-opposants-de-gauche-

    • Au Brésil, vague de répression dans les universités à la veille du second tour

      Quelques jours avant le second tour de l’élection présidentielle brésilienne, qui voit s’affronter le candidat d’extrême droite Jair Bolsonaro et le candidat du Parti des travailleurs (PT) Fernando Haddad, les campus universitaires du pays ont fait face à une vague inédite de répression de la liberté d’expression. Jeudi 25 octobre, la police a investi 27 universités, à la demande des tribunaux électoraux, dont les juges sont chargés de faire respecter les règles de communication et de propagande électorales des partis en lice. Les forces de police étaient à la recherche de supposé matériel de propagande électorale illégale. En fait, ces opérations ont visé des banderoles antifascistes, de soutien à la démocratie, un manifeste en soutien à l’université publique, des débats et des cours sur la dictature, la démocratie et les « fakes news » – ces mensonges ayant été largement diffusés pendant la campagne, en particulier par l’extrême-droite… [1]

      À Rio, une juge a ainsi fait enlever une banderole du fronton du bâtiment de la faculté de droit de l’université fédérale Fluminense (UFF), sur laquelle était inscrit, autour du symbole antifasciste du double drapeau rouge et noir, « Droit UFF antifasciste ». À l’université de l’État de Rio, les agents électoraux ont retiré une banderole en hommage à Marielle Franco, l’élue municipale du parti de gauche PSOL assassinée en pleine rue en mars dernier.

      220 000 messages de haine en quatre jours contre une journaliste

      Dans une université du Pará, quatre policiers militaires sont entrés sur le campus pour interroger un professeur sur « son idéologie ». L’enseignant avait abordé la question des fake news dans un cours sur les médias numériques. Une étudiante s’en est sentie offensée, alléguant une « doctrine marxiste », et l’a dit à son père, policier militaire. Une enquête du journal la Folha de São Paulo a pourtant révélé mi-octobre que des entreprises qui soutiennent le candidat d’extrême droite avaient acheté les services d’entreprises de communication pour faire envoyer en masse des fausses nouvelles anti-Parti des travailleurs directement sur les numéros whatsapp – une plateforme de messagerie en ligne – des Brésiliens. L’auteure de l’enquête, la journaliste Patricia Campos Melo, et le quotidien de São Paulo, ont ensuite reçu 220 000 messages de haine en quatre jours ! [2] Le journal a demandé à la police fédérale de lancer une enquête.

      Mais ce sont des conférences et des débats sur la dictature militaire et le fascisme qui ont pour l’instant été interdits. C’est le cas d’un débat public intitulé « Contre la fascisme, pour la démocratie », qui devait avoir lieu à l’université fédérale de Rio Grande do Sul (la région de Porto Alegre). Devaient y participer l’ex-candidat du parti de gauche PSOL au premier tour de la présidentielle, Guilherme Boulos, un ancien ministre issu du Parti des travailleurs, des députés fédéraux du PT et du PSOL. « J’ai donné des cours et des conférences dans des universités en France, en Angleterre, au Portugal, en Espagne, en Allemagne, en Argentine, et ici, même pendant la dictature. Aujourd’hui, je suis censuré dans l’État, le Rio Grande do Sul, que j’ai moi-même gouverné. Le fascisme grandit », a réagi l’un des députés, Tarso Genro, sur twitter.

      Une banderole « moins d’armes, plus de livres » jugée illégale

      Dans le Paraíba, les agents du tribunal électoral se sont introduits dans l’université pour retirer une banderole où était simplement inscrit « moins d’armes, plus de livres ». « Cette opération de la justice électorale dans les universités du pays pour saisir du matériel en défense de la démocratie et contre le fascisme est absurde. Cela rappelle les temps sombres de la censure et de l’invasion des facultés », a écrit Guilherme Boulos, le leader du PSOL, sur twitter, ajoutant : « Le parti de la justice a formé une coalition avec le PSL », le parti de Bolsonaro. « De telles interventions à l’intérieur de campus au cours d’une campagne électorale sont inédites. Une partie de l’appareil d’État se prépare au changement de régime », a aussi alerté l’historienne française, spécialiste du Brésil, Maud Chirio, sur sa page Facebook.

      Dimanche dernier, dans une allocution filmée diffusée pour ses supporters rassemblés à São Paulo, Jair Bolsonaro a proféré des menaces claires à l’égard de ses opposants. « Ou vous partez en exil ou vous partez en prison », a-il dit, ajoutant « nous allons balayer ces bandits rouges du Brésil », et annonçant un « nettoyage jamais vu dans l’histoire de ce pays ». Il a précisé qu’il allait classer le Mouvements des paysans sans Terre (MST) et le Mouvement des travailleurs sans toit (MTST) comme des organisations terroristes, et menacé Fernando Haddad de l’envoyer « pourrir en prison aux côtés de Lula ».


      https://www.bastamag.net/Au-Bresil-vague-de-repression-dans-les-universites-a-la-veille-du-second-t

    • We deplore this attack on freedom of expression in Brazil’s universities

      107 international academics react to social media reports that more than 20 universities in Brazil have been invaded by military police in recent days, with teaching materials confiscated on ideological grounds

      Reports have emerged on social media that more than 20 universities in Brazil have been subjected in recent days to: invasions by military police; the confiscation of teaching materials on ideological grounds; and the suppression of freedom of speech and expression, especially in relation to anti-fascist history and activism.

      As academics, researchers, graduates, students and workers at universities in the UK, Europe and further afield, we deplore this attack on freedom of expression in Brazil’s universities, which comes as a direct result of the campaign and election of far-right President Bolsonaro.

      Academic autonomy is a linchpin not only of independent and objective research, but of a functioning democracy, which should be subject to scrutiny and informed, evidence-based investigation and critique.

      We call on co-workers, colleagues and students to decry this attack on Brazil’s universities in the name of Bolsonaro’s wider militaristic, anti-progressive agenda. We will not stand by as this reactionary populist attacks the pillars of Brazil’s democracy and education system. We will campaign vigorously in whatever capacity we can with activists, educators and lawmakers in Brazil to ensure that its institutions can operate without the interference of this new – and hopefully short-lived – government.
      Dr William McEvoy, University of Sussex, UK (correspondent)
      Dr Will Abberley, University of Sussex
      Nannette Aldred, University of Sussex
      Patricia Alessandrini, Stanford University, USA
      Dr Michael Alexander, University of Glasgow
      Steven Allen, Birkbeck, University of London
      Dr Katherine Angel, Birkbeck, University of London
      Pedro Argenti, University of Antwerp, Belgium
      Nick Awde, International Editor, The Stage newspaper, London
      Professor Ian Balfour, York University, Toronto, Canada
      Lennart Balkenhol, University of Melbourne, Australia
      Nehaal Bajwa, University of Sussex
      Dr Louis Bayman, University of Southampton
      Mark Bergfeld, former NUS NEC (2010-2012)
      Professor Tim Bergfelder, University of Southampton
      Dr Patricia Pires Boulhosa, University of Cambridge
      Dr Maud Bracke, University of Glasgow
      Max Brookman-Byrne, University of Lincoln
      Dr Conrad Brunström, Maynooth University, Ireland
      Dr Christopher Burlinson, Jesus College, Cambridge
      Professor Martin Butler, University of Sussex
      Professor Gavin Butt, University of Sussex
      Cüneyt Çakirlar, Nottingham Trent University
      Guilherme Carréra, University of Westminster
      Geoffrey Chew, Royal Holloway, University of London
      Dr Maite Conde, University of Cambridge
      Dr Luke Cooper, Anglia Ruskin University, UK, and Institute of Human Sciences, Vienna, Austria
      Dr Sue Currell, University of Sussex
      Professor Dimitris Dalakoglou, Vrije University, Amsterdam, Netherlands
      William Dalziel, University of Sussex
      Dr April de Angelis, Royal Holloway, University of London
      Dr Olga Demetriou, Durham University
      Dr Stephanie Dennison, University of Leeds
      Dr Steffi Doebler, University of Liverpool
      Dr Sai Englert, SOAS University of London
      James Erskine, University of Sussex and Birkbeck, University of London
      Professor Martin Paul Eve, Birkbeck, University of London
      John Fallas, University of Leeds
      Dr Lynne Fanthome, Staffordshire University
      Dr Hannah Field, University of Sussex
      Dr Adrian Garvey, Birkbeck, University of London
      Dr Laura Gill, University of Sussex
      Dr Priyamvada Gopal, University of Cambridge
      Bhavini Goyate, University of Sussex
      Dr Craig Haslop, University of Liverpool
      Professor Björn Heile, University of Glasgow
      Dr Phil Hutchinson, Manchester Metropolitan University
      Professor Martin Iddon, University of Leeds
      Dr Eleftheria Ioannidou, University of Groningen, Netherlands
      Dr Chris Kempshall, University of Sussex
      Andrew Key, University of California, Berkeley, USA
      Professor Laleh Khalili, SOAS University of London
      Dr Theodore Koulouris, University of Brighton
      Professor Maria Lauret, University of Sussex
      Professor Vicky Lebeau, University of Sussex
      Professor James Livesey, University of Dundee, Scotland
      Professor Luke Martell, University of Sussex
      Dr N Gabriel Martin, Lebanese American University, Lebanon
      Wolfgang Marx, University College, Dublin, Ireland
      Andy Medhurst, University of Sussex
      Professor Philippe Meers, University of Antwerp, Belgium
      Dr Shamira A Meghani, University of Cambridge
      Niccolo Milanese, CESPRA EHESS, Paris, France and PUC Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
      Dr Ian Moody, CESEM – Universidade Nova, Lisbon
      Professor Lucia Naqib, University of Reading
      Dr Catherine Packham, University of Sussex
      Professor Dimitris Papanikolaou, University of Oxford
      Mary Parnwell, University of Sussex
      Professor Deborah Philips, University of Brighton
      Dr Chloe Porter, University of Sussex
      Dr Jason Price, University of Sussex
      Dr Duška Radosavljević, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London
      Francesca Reader, University of Sussex and University of Brighton
      Naida Redgrave, University of East London
      Professor Nicholas Ridout, Queen Mary, University of London
      Professor Lucy Robinson, University of Sussex
      Dr Kirsty Rolfe, University of Sussex
      Dr Joseph Ronan, University of Brighton
      Dr Michael Rowland, University of Sussex
      Dr Zachary Rowlinson, University of Sussex
      Professor Nicholas Royle, University of Sussex
      Dr Eleanor Rycroft, University of Bristol
      Dr Jason Scott-Warren, University of Cambridge
      Dr Deborah Shaw, University of Portsmouth
      Dr Lisa Shaw, University of Liverpool
      Kat Sinclair, University of Sussex
      Sandrine Singleton-Perrin, University of Essex
      Despina Sinou, University of Paris 13 – Sorbonne Paris Cité, France
      Dave Smith, University of Hertfordshire
      John Snijders, Durham University
      Dr Samuel Solomon, University of Sussex
      Dr Arabella Stanger, University of Sussex
      Professor Rob Stone, University of Birmingham
      Bernard Sufrin, Emeritus Fellow, Dept of Computer Science, University of Oxford
      Dr Natasha Tanna, University of Cambridge
      Professor Lyn Thomas, University of Sussex
      Simon Thorpe, University of Warwick
      Dr Gavan Titley, Maynooth University, Ireland
      Dr Pamela Thurschwell, University of Sussex
      Dr Dominic Walker, University of Sussex
      Dr Ed Waller, University of Surrey and University of Portsmouth
      Dr Kiron Ward, University of Sussex
      Helen Wheatley, University of Warwick
      Ian Willcock, University of Herfordshire
      Professor Gregory Woods, Nottingham Trent University
      Dr Tom F Wright, University of Sussex
      Dr Heba Youssef, University of Brighton

      https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/01/we-deplore-this-attack-on-freedom-of-expression-in-brazils-universities
      #liberté_d'expression

    • Brazil Court Strikes Down Restrictions on University Speech

      Brazil´s Supreme Court issued an important decision striking down restrictions on political speech on university campuses in a unanimous ruling yesterday. Meanwhile, president-elect Jair Bolsonaro´s allies in Congress are pressing ahead with efforts to restrict what students and educators can discuss in the classroom.

      The court ruling overturned decisions by electoral court judges who recently ordered universities across the country to clamp down on what they considered illegal political campaigning. The orders were spurred by complaints from anonymous callers and, in a few cases, by members of conservative groups.

      For example, at Grande Dourados Federal University, court officials suspended a public event against fascism, according to the student group that organized it. At Campina Grande Federal University, police allegedly seized copies of a pamphlet titled “Manifesto in defense of democracy and public universities” and hard drives, said a professors´ association.

      At Rio de Janeiro State University, police ordered the removal of a banner honoring Marielle Franco, a black lesbian human rights defender and councilwoman murdered in March, despite not having a judicial order.

      The attorney general, Raquel Dodge, asked the Supreme Court to rule the electoral court judges´ decisions unconstitutional, and Supreme Court justice Cármen Lúcia Rocha issued an injunction stopping them. The full court upheld that decision on October 31.

      “The only force that must enter universities is the force of ideas,” said Rocha.

      “The excessive and illegitimate use of force by state agents … echoes somber days in Brazilian history,” said Justice Rosa Weber, referring to Brazil´s 1964 – 1985 military dictatorship.

      The ruling comes as Bolsonaro, who remains in Congress until he assumes the presidency on January 1, and his allies push a bill that would prohibit teachers from promoting their own opinions in the classroom or using the terms “gender” or “sexual orientation,” and would order that sex and religious education be framed around “family values.”

      A state representative-elect from Bolsonaro´s party has even called on students to film and report teachers who make “political-partisan or ideological statements.” Bolsonaro made a similar call in 2016. State prosecutors have filed a civil action against the representative-elect, alleging she instituted “an illegal service for the political and ideological control of teaching activities.”

      In his long career in Congress, Bolsonaro has endorsed abusive practices that undermine the rule of law, defended the dictatorship, and has been a vocal proponent of bigotry.

      More than ever, Brazil needs its judiciary to defend human rights within and outside the classroom.


      https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/11/01/brazil-court-strikes-down-restrictions-university-speech
      #cour_suprême #justice

    • Présidentielle au Brésil : relents de dictature militaire

      Présidentielle au Brésil : Bolsonaro et le « risque d’un retour à l’ordre autoritaire en Amérique latine »

      Porté par plus de deux cents universitaires, responsables politiques et citoyens d’Europe et du Canada, ce manifeste s’inscrit dans un mouvement mondial de soutien à la démocratie face à la violence déchaînée par la candidature de Jair Bolsonaro au Brésil. Il est ouvert aux démocrates de toutes les sensibilités politiques. Face au risque imminent d’un retour à l’ordre autoritaire en Amérique latine, la solidarité internationale est impérative.

      Nous, citoyens, intellectuels, militants, personnalités politiques vivant, travaillant et étudiant en Europe et au Canada, exprimons notre vive inquiétude face à la menace imminente de l’élection de Jair Bolsonaro à la présidence du Brésil le 28 octobre 2018.

      Le souvenir de la dictature militaire

      La victoire de l’extrême droite radicale au Brésil risque de renforcer le mouvement international qui a porté au pouvoir des politiciens réactionnaires et antidémocratiques dans de nombreux pays ces dernières années.

      Bolsonaro défend ouvertement le souvenir de la dictature militaire qui a imposé sa loi au Brésil entre 1964 et 1985, ses pratiques de torture et ses tortionnaires. Il méprise le combat pour les droits humains. Il exprime une hostilité agressive envers les femmes, les Afro-descendants, les membres de la communauté LGBT +, les peuples autochtones et les pauvres. Son programme vise à détruire les avancées politiques, économiques, sociales, environnementales et culturelles des quatre dernières décennies, ainsi que l’action menée par les mouvements sociaux et le camp progressiste pour consolider et étendre la démocratie au Brésil.

      L’élection de Bolsonaro menace les fragiles institutions démocratiques pour la construction desquelles les Brésilien·ne·s ont pris tant de risques. Son arrivée au pouvoir serait aussi un frein majeur à toute politique internationale ambitieuse en matière de défense de l’environnement et de préservation de la paix.

      Premiers signataires : Martine Aubry , maire de Lille, ancienne ministre (PS) ; Luc Boltanski , sociologue, directeur d’études, EHESS ; Peter Burke , historien, professeur émérite à l’université de Cambridge ; Roger Chartier , historien, directeur d’études EHESS/Collège de France ; Mireille Clapot , députée de la Drôme, vice-présidente de la commission des affaires étrangères (LRM) ; Laurence Cohen , sénatrice du Val-de-Marne (PCF) ; Didier Fassin , professeur de sciences sociales, Institute for advanced study, Princeton ; Carlo Ginzburg , professeur émérite à UCLA et à l’Ecole normale supérieure de Pise ; Eva Joly , députée européenne (groupe Verts-ALE) ; Pierre Louault , sénateur d’Indre-et-Loire (UDI) ; Paul Magnette, bourgmestre de Charleroi, ex-ministre président de la Wallonie, ex-président du Parti socialiste belge ; Thomas Piketty , directeur d’études à l’EHESS.

      http://jennifer-detemmerman.fr/index.php/2018/10/23/presidentielle-au-bresil-relents-de-dictature-militaire

    • Une pétition qui a été lancé avant l’élection...
      Defend Democracy in Brazil. Say No to Jair Bolsonaro

      Defend Democracy in Brazil,

      Say No to Jair Bolsonaro

      We, citizens, intellectuals, activists, politicians, people living, working, and studying in Europe and Canada, wish to express our growing alarm at the imminent threat of Jair Bolsonaro’s election to the presidency on October 28, 2018. The potential victory of a far-right radical in Brazil would reinforce a dangerous international trend of extremely reactionary and anti-democratic politicians gaining state power in recent years.

      Bolsonaro explicitly defends the Brazilian military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964-85 and praises torture and torturers. He condemns human rights efforts. He has expressed aggressive and vile hostility toward women, people of African descent, the LGBT+ community, indigenous people, and the poor. His proposed policies would effectively undo all of the political, social, economic, labor, environmental, and cultural gains of the last four decades, efforts by social movements and progressive politicians to consolidate and expand democracy in Brazil. A Bolsonaro presidency also threatens to undermine the still fragile democratic politics that people throughout Brazil have risked so much to build.

      His election would seriously hamper any ambitious international effort for environmental protection, against climate change and for the preservation of peace.

      Adapted version of the text « Defend Democracy in Brazil, Say No to Jair Bolsonaro! »

      https://www.change.org/p/association-pour-la-recherche-sur-le-br%C3%A9sil-en-europe-pour-la-d%C3%A9fe

  • This is a good time to remember that manufacturing false hierarchies based on race and gender in order to enforce a brutal class system is a very long story. Our modern capitalist economy was born thanks to two very large subsidies: stolen Indigenous land and stolen African people. Both required the creation of intellectual theories that ranked the relative value of human lives and labor, placing white men at the top. These church and state-sanctioned theories of white (and Christian) supremacy are what allowed Indigenous civilizations to be actively “unseen” by European explorers - visually perceived and yet not acknowledged to have preexisting rights to the land - and entire richly populated continents to be legally classified as unoccupied ad therefore fair game on an absurd “finders keepers” basis.

    It was these same systems of human ranking that were deployed to justify the mass kidnapping, shackling, and torturing of other human beings in order to force them to work that stolen land - which led the late theorist Cedric Robinson to describe the market economy that gave birth to the United States and not simply as capitalism but as “racial capitalism.” The cotton and sugar picked by enslaved Africans was the fuel that kick-started the Industrial Revolution. The ability to discount darker people and darker nations in order to justify stealing their land and labor was foundational, and none of it would have been possible without those theories of racial supremacy that gave the whole morally bankrupt system a patina of legal respectability. In other words, economics was never separable from “identity politics,” certainly not in colonial nations like the United States - so why would it suddenly be today?

    As the civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander wrote in her book The New Jim Crow, the politics of racial hierarchy have been the ever-present accomplices to the market system as it evolved through the centuries. Elites in the United States have used race as a wedge, she writes, “to decimate a multiracial alliance of poor people” - first in the face of the slave rebellions supported by white workers, then with Jim Crow laws, and later during the so-called war on drugs. Every time these multiethnic coalitions have become powerful enough to threaten corporate power, white workers have been convinced that their real enemies are darker-skinned people stealing “their” jobs or threatening their neighborhoods. And there has been no more effective way to convince white voters to support the defunding of schools, bus systems, and welfare than by telling them (however wrongly) that most of the beneficiaries of those services are darker-skinned people, many of them “illegal,” out to scam the system. In Europe, fearmongering about how migrants are stealing jobs, exploiting social services, and eroding the culture has played a similarly enabling role.

    Ronald Reagan kicked this into high gear in the United States with the myth that food stamps were being collected by fur-wearing, Cadillac-driving “welfare queens” and used to subsidize a culture of crime. And Trump was no small player in this hysteria. In 1989, after five Black and Latino teenagers were accused of raping a white woman in Central Park, he bought full-page ads in several New York daily papers calling for the return of the death penalty. The Central Park Five were later exonerated by DNA evidence, and their sentences were vacated. Trump refused to apologize or retract his claims. No wonder, then, that his Justice Department, under the direction of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is arguing that social services and infrastructure in cities such as New York and Chicago are “crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime” - conveniently moving the subject away from years of neoliberal neglect toward the supposed need to crack down on crime, and to bar these cities from declaring themselves “sanctuaries” for immigrants.

    Excerpted from No Is Not Enough by Naomi Klein

  • Secret Israeli Report Reveals Armed Drone Killed Four Boys Playing on Gaza Beach in 2014
    Robert Mackey | August 11 2018, 10:09 a.m.
    https://theintercept.com/2018/08/11/israel-palestine-drone-strike-operation-protective-edge

    A confidential report by Israeli military police investigators seen by The Intercept explains how a tragic series of mistakes by air force, naval, and intelligence officers led to an airstrike in which four Palestinian boys playing on a beach in Gaza in 2014 were killed by missiles launched from an armed drone.

    Testimony from the officers involved in the attack, which has been concealed from the public until now, confirms for the first time that the children — four cousins ages 10 and 11 — were pursued and killed by drone operators who somehow mistook them, in broad daylight, for Hamas militants. (...)

    https://seenthis.net/messages/276558

    • 10 questions on secret Israeli report over 2014 killing of four children on Gaza beach
      Haaretz.Com
      https://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/.premium-10-questions-on-secret-report-over-killing-of-four-kids-on-gaza-be
      Mordechai Kremnitzer | Aug. 13, 2018 | 10:03 PM | 3

      The secret investigation report on the killing of four Palestinian children on the Gaza beach in 2014, part of which was published on the website The Intercept and whose essentials were reported in Monday’s Haaretz, raises a lot of questions. The confidential Israeli military police report reveals that the attack on July 16, 2014, during Operation Protective Edge, was carried out by a drone and stemmed from an intelligence failure.

      No one disputes that Ismail Bakr, 9, Ahad and Zakaria Bakr, both 10, and Mohammed Bakr, 11, were not involved in hostile actions against Israel. Therefore, there was no justification for firing at them twice with a drone and certainly not to kill them. The report also shows that those involved in the decisions and actions that led to the boys’ killing thought that the four were Hamas operatives and were not aware that they were children.

      Despite signs pointing to negligence, at the very least, the previous military advocate-general, Maj. Gen. (res.) Danny Efroni, closed the case without taking any legal or disciplinary steps against those involved. This decision stood even after Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, petitioned the attorney general, who has yet to respond.

      The central question is whether the error that was the basis for the Israel Defense Force’s actions was reasonable or not. Based on the answer to this question, one can determine whether the military advocate-general’s decision was justified or mistaken and negligent. We cannot pass judgment on Efroni’s decision without access to the investigation file and its full conclusions. However, questions arise that require a response.

      1. Was the investigation effective and thorough? For example, shouldn’t testimony have been taken from the journalists who saw the incident from the beach? An external perspective could have been critical in assessing the nature of the compound in which the children were seen, and the issue of the firing itself.

      2. The army acted on the assumption that the jetty on which the children were seen had previously served Hamas’ naval commandos. The day before the firing incident, the compound had been bombed by the IDF. Didn’t the bombing require a reevaluation about the nature of the place and the identity of anyone found there? After the structure was bombed, there were no secondary explosions heard, casting doubt on the initial conclusion that it had been used as a weapons depot. According to witnesses, after the bombing a new situation existed. There were no guards stationed at the entrance to the compound, it’s possible that the gate that surrounded it had been destroyed, and it was clear to Hamas that the site was an IDF target. All this indicates that a reevaluation would have pointed to a reasonable possibility that those the IDF had identified on the day the drone fired weren’t Hamas operatives but civilians (not necessarily children). If this possibility wasn’t raised, wasn’t that a negligent blunder? According to the testimonies, the question if the compound was open only to Hamas operatives or whether civilians also had access was raised with intelligence in real time. It isn’t clear what happened to that question. If this possibility was not discounted, it would have been correct to examine the responsibility of the soldiers involved in the killing.

      3. After the first shooting, the drone operators who fired asked for clarification as to the borders of the compound. But around half a minute afterward, before the question was answered, there was a second round of fire that killed three of the boys. Shouldn’t the operators have waited for an answer?

      4. All those involved declared that they could not identify the figures seen in the compound as children. The conclusion of the investigation was that it was impossible to discern that these were children, although the incident occurred in broad daylight. Two days earlier, however, the IDF Spokesperson’s Office had praised the ability of drone operators to identify potential targets under surveillance as children and thus avoid attacking them at the last moment. This is puzzling. If it’s not possible to distinguish the age of those being shot at, that is, it’s possible to shoot at children without being aware of it, were those involved in the shooting being overly reliant on the means at their disposal? Would it not have been appropriate to use additional means of observation? Was the possibility that the figures were civilians, or even children, not enough of a reason to refrain from firing? Under international law, in cases of doubt one is required to assume that the people are civilians. It should be noted that the soldiers did not claim that the figures had been identified as carrying weapons or as posing a significant threat to our forces.

      5. How is it possible to reconcile the testimony of the air force officer who coordinated the attacks, who said this is a highly unusual case in which the intelligence information was completely different from the facts on the ground, and the legal conclusion that there was no fault in the actions of those involved? If the intelligence presented was inaccurate, isn’t there a flaw in the structure of the division of responsibility between different parties such that it is impossible to hold anyone personally responsible? Do the accepted standards of skill, responsibility and caution not apply to Military Intelligence? Has chalking things up to an “intelligence mistake” become a way to whitewash prohibited and unjustified killings?

      6. Have all the operational and intelligence lessons, as well as the cognitive and moral ones, been learned so as to prevent similar incidents in the future?

      7. Doesn’t this incident offer support for the concerns raised regarding the use of drones, which can dull human sensitivity?

      8. Did the legal decision-makers use the reversal test – what would we say if it had been our children and the enemy had been the one to make the decisions and carry out those actions?

      9. Were the minimal humane steps taken, like an apology and compensation, steps that even an army that was not the most moral in the world would take?

      10. Does not the thesis that anyone suspected of being a Hamas operative is a legitimate target, even when he is not carrying a weapon and does not pose a risk to our forces, border on extrajudicial execution, which is prohibited by international law? Does it not create an unreasonable risk to the lives of civilians who must be protected, a risk that was actualized in the case of these four children?

  • Israeli Druze commander quits army over nation-state law in open letter to Netanyahu

    In a Facebook post, Capt. Amir Jmall calls on leaders of his community to work toward putting an end to the compulsory conscription of Israeli Druze

    Yaniv Kubovich
    Jul 30, 2018 5:36 PM

    https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israeli-druze-quits-idf-over-nation-state-law-in-letter-to-netanya

    In the letter, Jmall also called on leaders of his community to work toward putting an end to the compulsory conscription of Israel’s Druze. The Facebook post has since been removed.
    “This morning, when I woke up to drive to the [army] base, I asked myself, why? Why do I have to serve the State of Israel, a state that my two brothers, my father and I have served with dedication, a sense of mission and a love of the homeland, and, in the end, what do we get? To be second-class citizens,” Jmall wrote.
    >> ’When we’re in uniform they treat us well’: Israel’s Druze no longer feel like blood brothers
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    "Continue serving the country? I do not want to continue and I am sure that hundreds more people will stop serving and will be discharged from the army following your decision, Netanyahu, that of you and your government,” he continued.
    "After many thoughts ran through my head, I decided to let go and to discontinue serving the country, a country that has a government that takes and does not give back.”
    In conclusion, Jmall wrote: “I ask everyone who is against the nation-state law to share and share my proposal to community leaders to stop the conscription law for members of the Druze community.”
    The Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, also known as the nation-state law, approved by the Knesset on July 19, affirmed that only Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel. It also downgraded Arabic to a language with “special status,” among several other controversial measures that affect the Israeli Druze.
    The nation-state law is designed to alter the application of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty in court rulings, and permits judges to give priority to Israel’s Jewish character in their rulings.

    Last week, Druze lawmakers were the first to file a High Court of Justice petition against the legislation. A hundred Druze Israel Defense Forces reserve officers added their voices to that effort on Wednesday, prompting Education Minister Naftali Bennett to speak out in support of “our blood brothers” on Twitter.
    Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon echoed similar sentiments on Thursday, telling Israeli Army Radio, “The enactment of the nation-state law was done hastily,” and adding: “We were wrong and we need to fix it.”
    On Saturday, Israeli Arab lawmaker Zouheir Bahloul (Zionist Union) announced his intention to resign from the Knesset in protest of the law. "The law oppresses me and oppresses the population that sent me to the Knesset,’’ he said.

    • Haaretz, 1er août
      Nation-state Law Backlash: Druze Leaders Say Netanyahu’s Offer May Set ’Historical Precedent’

      https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-nation-state-law-backlash-netanyahu-offers-druze-new-legislation-1

      Representatives of the Druze community said Thursday night that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal to pass a law to strengthen the status of the Druze and Circassian communities is “a window of opportunity to set a historical precedent for the advancement of the Druze community and its status in the State of Israel.”
      Representatives, headed by Sheikh Muwafak Tarif, will continue talks with Netanyahu’s team, which has been appointed to make an agreement on both sides.
      Netanyahu’s proposed law follows the protest sparked by the nation-state law. The plan outlines a Basic Law and a regular law that will recognize the contribution of minorities who defend the country by “enshrining eligibility for the benefits of minority members of all religions and communities who serve in the security forces, for the purpose of closing gaps and promoting social equality.”
      Benjamin Netanyahu and the Druze representatives, August 1, 2018.
      Benjamin Netanyahu and the Druze representatives, August 1, 2018.
      >> Israeli Druze in Golan welcome end of Syrian war but fear future in Jewish nation-state
      Another demonstration against the nation-state law is slated for Saturday evening in Tel Aviv.
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      According to the plan submitted by the prime minister’s representatives, “the law will recognize the contribution of the Druze community to the security of the state, and will include support for community institutions (religion, education and culture), will strengthen Druze residential settlements, and establish new towns if needed. It will also preserve and cultivate Druze heritage.”
      Tourism Minister Yariv Levin (Likud) congratulated “the agreement we have reached with the Druze leadership. Recognizing the rights of those who serve in the security forces is an achievement.” Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) said in response: “The Prime Minister ranks Israel’s citizens, and he divides and rules the minorities from whom he has stolen equality in his Basic Law. He got scared after the fact. Netanyahu’s government has torn apart the Declaration of Independence and the values of equality on which the state was founded. Now they’re making laws in honor of the Druze community, as if equality is a prize and not a right that all of us have.”
      The proposal drew mixed reactions from the Druze community, MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu), one of the two Druze MKs who petitioned the Supreme Court against the nation-state law, congratulated the plan. MK Saleh Saad (Zionist Union) said he will continue with the petition and said: “I am sad that my friends have succumbed to pressures and withdrew from the petition.”
      The negotiating team of the Druze community, which includes their spiritual leader, Sheikh Muwafak Tarif, former security officials and civil servants, has had strong disagreements over the proposal. One of the team members told Haaretz that the representatives who have security backgrounds tend to accept the spirit of the plan, while others – including local council heads – oppose it.
      The source added that some of the representatives accused the prime minister of trying to implement a policy of “divide and conquer.” They said that they would settle only for annulling the nation-state law or adding to it the value of equality. The source added that the Prime Minister’s Office is concerned about the protest rally scheduled for Saturday night, and therefore is exerting heavy pressure on the representatives of the community to accept the plan and cancel the rally.

      >> ’When we’re in uniform they treat us well’: Israel’s Druze no longer feel like blood brothers
      The plan was drafted by a team formed by the prime minister on the issue of the Druze, headed by the acting Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Bureau, Yoav Horowitz, and including Sheikh Tarif, ministers Ayoub Kara and Yariv Levin, MK Hamad Amar (Yisrael Beiteinu), former MK Shakib Shenan, heads of the Druze local authorities and the forum of reservist senior officers.
      The prime minister’s office called the plan “historic” in a press release, saying it “represents a revolution in the legal status of minority group members who serve in the security forces, and members of the Druze community in particular.” Sheikh Tarif welcomed the work of the team and thanked the prime minister for his quick and serious activity. The plan will be presented to the Druze community’s dignitaries.
      The plan offers to enshrine a Basic Law - Israeli constitutional equivalent - for the status of the Druze and Circassian communities, “paying respect to the contribution of the Druze community to the State of Israel in building the land, strengthening security and shaping the face of Israeli society as an egalitarian and diverse society.”
      The plan also suggests enshrining in law that members of minority groups, from all religions and ethnic groups will be eligible for benefits if they serve in the security forces. The law will also recognize their contribution if they serve.
      >> Analysis: Druze nation-state crisis: Israeli army chief forced to put out fire Netanyahu started
      Several Druze officers have left the Israeli military in recent days over the nation-state law.
      The Basic Law on Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People, also known as the nation-state law, approved by the Knesset on July 19, affirmed that only Jews have the right to self-determination in Israel. It also downgraded Arabic to a language with “special status,” among several other controversial measures that affect the Israeli Druze.
      The nation-state law is designed to alter the application of the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty in court rulings, and permits judges to give priority to Israel’s Jewish character in their rulings.
      Earlier this month, Druze lawmakers were the first to file a High Court of Justice petition against the legislation. A hundred Druze Israel Defense Forces reserve officers added their voices to that effort on Wednesday, prompting Education Minister Naftali Bennett to speak out in support of “our blood brothers” on Twitter.
      Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon echoed similar sentiments, telling Israeli Army Radio, “The enactment of the nation-state law was done hastily,” and adding: “We were wrong and we need to fix it.”
      The acting Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister’s Bureau announced the formation of a ministerial committee to deal with the issue of the Druze community, to be headed by the prime minister, which will work to promote the plan and to supervise its implementation - among other things.
      Details of the plan will be formulated and worded within 45 days, in the context of a joint team of the cabinet and representatives of the community, all subject to the instructions of the law and the approval of the attorney general. Legislative activities will begin immediately with the convening of the coming winter session of the Knesset and will be concluded within 45 days from the start of the session.
      Jonathan Lis

    • Rare manifestation de la communauté druze contre une loi controversée définissant Israël
      https://www.lemonde.fr/proche-orient/article/2018/08/05/rare-manifestation-de-la-communaute-druze-contre-une-loi-controversee-defini

      Une foule immense de Druzes israéliens et leurs sympathisants a manifesté samedi à Tel-Aviv contre une nouvelle loi controversée qui, disent-ils, fait d’eux des citoyens de seconde classe. Selon les médias israéliens, quelque 50 000 personnes ont pris part à la manifestation.
      […]
      Arborant des drapeaux druzes et israéliens, les protestataires ont défilé dans le centre de Tel-Aviv an scandant « égalité ». « Malgré notre loyauté illimitée à l’Etat, celui-ci ne nous considère pas comme des citoyens égaux », a affirmé le chef spirituel de la communauté druze, cheikh Mouafak Tarif dans un discours.