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The US Government's Indictment of Julian Assange Poses Grave Threats to Press Freedoms

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The indictment of Julian Assange unsealed today by the Trump Justice Department poses grave threats to press freedoms, not only in the US but around the world. The charging document and accompanying extradition request from the US Government, used by the UK police to arrest Assange once Ecuador officially withdrew its asylum protection, seeks to criminalize numerous activities at the core of investigative journalism.
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NYT’s Exposé on the Lies About Burning Aid Trucks in Venezuela Shows How US Government and Media Spread Pro-War Propaganda

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Every major US war of the last several decades has begun the same way: the US government fabricates an inflammatory, emotionally provocative lie which large US media outlets uncritically treat as truth while refusing at air questioning or dissent, thus inflaming primal anger against the country the US wants to attack. That’s how we got the Vietnam War (North Vietnam attacks US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin); the Gulf War (Saddam ripped babies from incubators); and, of course, the war in Iraq (Saddam had WMDs and formed an alliance with Al Qaeda).

This was exactly the tactic used on February 23, when the narrative shifted radically in favor of those US officials who want regime change operations in Venezuela. That’s because images were broadcast all over the world of trucks carrying humanitarian aid burning in Colombia on the Venezuela border. US officials who have been agitating for a regime change war in Venezuela – Marco Rubio, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, the head of USAid Mark Green – used Twitter to spread classic Fake News: they vehemently stated that the trucks were set on fire, on purpose, by President Nicolas Maduro’s forces.

As it always does – as it always has done from its inception when Wolf Blitzer embedded with US troops – CNN led the way in not just spreading these government lies but independently purporting to vouch for their truth. On February 24, CNN told the world what we all now know is an absolute lie:  that “a CNN team saw incendiary devices from police on the Venezuelan side of the border ignite the trucks,” though it generously added that “the network’s journalists are unsure if the trucks were burned on purpose.”
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A Texas Elementary School Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath, Now Mandatory in Many States — So She Lost Her Job

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A children's speech pathologist who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told she can no longer work with the public school district after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech.

The child language specialist, Bahia Amawi, is a U.S. citizen who received a master’s degree in speech pathology in 1999 and, since then, has specialized in evaluations for young children with language difficulties (see video below). Amawi was born in Austria and has lived in the U.S. for the last 30 years, fluently speaks three languages (English, German, and Arabic), and has four U.S.-born American children of her own.

Amawi began working in 2009 on a contract basis with the Pflugerville Independent School District, which includes Austin, to provide assessments and support for school children from the county’s growing Arabic-speaking immigrant community. The children with whom she has worked span the ages of 3 to 11. Ever since her work for the school district began in 2009, her contract was renewed each year with no controversy or problem.

But this year, all of that changed. On August 13, the school district once again offered to extend her contract for another year by sending her essentially the same contract and set of certifications she has received and signed at the end of each year since 2009.
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Facebook Says It Is Deleting Accounts at the Direction of the US and Israeli Governments

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In September of last year, we noted that Facebook representatives were meeting with the Israeli government to determine which Facebook accounts of Palestinians should be deleted on the ground that they constituted “incitement.” The meetings — called for and presided over by one of the most extremist and authoritarian Israeli officials, pro-settlement Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked — came after Israel threatened Facebook that its failure to voluntarily comply with Israeli deletion orders would result in the enactment of laws requiring Facebook to do so, upon pain of being severely fined or even blocked in the country.

The predictable results of those meetings are now clear and well-documented. Ever since, Facebook has been on a censorship rampage against Palestinian activists who protest the decades-long, illegal Israeli occupation, all directed and determined by Israeli officials. Indeed, Israeli officials have been publicly boasting about how obedient Facebook is when it comes to Israeli censorship orders:
Shortly after news broke earlier this month of the agreement between the Israeli government and Facebook, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Tel Aviv had submitted 158 requests to the social media giant over the previous four months asking it to remove content it deemed 'incitement.' She said Facebook had granted 95 percent of the requests.
She’s right. The submission to Israeli dictates is hard to overstate: As the New York Times put it in December of last year, “Israeli security agencies monitor Facebook and send the company posts they consider incitement. Facebook has responded by removing most of them.”
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Trump’s War on Terror Has Quickly Become as Barbaric and Savage as He Promised

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From the start of his presidency, Donald Trump’s “war on terror” has entailed the seemingly indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people in the name of killing terrorists. In other words, Trump has escalated the 16-year-old core premise of America’s foreign policy — that it has the right to bomb any country in the world where people it regards as terrorists are found — and in doing so, has fulfilled the warped campaign pledges he repeatedly expressed.

The most recent atrocity was the killing of as many as 200 Iraqi civilians from US airstrikes this week in Mosul. That was preceded a few days earlier by the killing of dozens of Syrian civilians in Raqqa province when the U.S. targeted a school where people had taken refuge, which itself was preceded a week earlier by the US destruction of a mosque near Aleppo that also killed dozens. And one of Trump’s first military actions was what can only be described as a massacre carried out by Navy SEALs, in which 30 Yemenis were killed; among the children killed was an 8-year-old American girl (whose 16-year-old American brother was killed by a drone under Obama).

In sum: Although precise numbers are difficult to obtain, there seems little question that the number of civilians being killed by the US in Iraq and Syria — already quite high under Obama — has increased precipitously during the first two months of the Trump administration. Data compiled by the site Airwars tells the story: The number of civilians killed in Syria and Iraq began increasing in October under Obama but has now skyrocketed in March under Trump.
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Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen. Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister.

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Nawar al-Awlaki, killed by US, Jan. 29th.

In 2010, President Obama directed the CIA to assassinate an American citizen in Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, despite the fact that he had never been charged with (let alone convicted of) any crime, and the agency successfully carried out that order a year later with a September, 2011 drone strike. While that assassination created widespread debate – the once-again-beloved ACLU sued Obama to restrain him from the assassination on the ground of due process and then, when that suit was dismissed, sued Obama again after the killing was carried out – another drone-killing carried out shortly thereafter was perhaps even more significant yet generated relatively little attention.

Two weeks after the killing of Awlaki, a separate CIA drone strike in Yemenkilled his 16-year-old American-born son, Abdulrahman, along with the boy’s 17-year-old cousin and several other innocent Yemenis. The US eventually claimed that the boy was not their target but merely “collateral damage.” Abdulrahman’s grief-stricken grandfather, Nasser al-Awlaki, urged the Washington Post “to visit a Facebook memorial page for Abdulrahman,” which explained: “Look at his pictures, his friends, and his hobbies His Facebook page shows a typical kid.”

Few events pulled the mask off Obama officials like this one. It highlighted how the Obama administration was ravaging Yemen, one of the world’s poorest countries: just weeks after he won the Nobel Prize, Obama used cluster bombs that killed 35 Yemeni women and children. Even Obama-supporting liberal comedians mocked the Obama DOJ’s arguments for why it had the right to execute Americans with no charges: “Due Process Just Means There’s A Process That You Do,” snarked Stephen Colbert. And a firestorm erupted when former Obama Press Secretary Robert Gibbs offered a sociopathic justification for killing the Colorado-born teenager, apparently blaming him for his own killing by saying he should have “had a more responsible father.”
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Russia Hysteria Infects WashPost Again: False Story About Hacking US Electric Grid

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The Washington Post on Friday reported a genuinely alarming event: Russian hackers have penetrated the US power system through an electrical grid in Vermont. The Post headline conveyed the seriousness of the threat:
Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say
The first sentence of the article directly linked this cyber-attack to alleged Russian hacking of the email accounts of the DNC and John Podesta – what is now routinely referred to as “Russian hacking of our election” –  by referencing the code name revealed on Wednesday by the Obama administration when it announced sanctions on Russian officials: “A code associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration has been detected within the system of a Vermont utility, according to U.S. officials.”

The Post article contained grave statements from Vermont officials of the type politicians love to issue after a terrorist attack to show they are tough and in control.
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As Israel Prospers, Obama Set to Give Billions More in Aid While Netanyahu Demands Even More

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For all the chatter about animosity between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Washington Post reports that “a senior Israeli official will arrive in Washington next week for a final round of negotiations involving the largest military aid package the United States has ever given any country and that will last more than a decade after President Obama leaves office.” The US already transfers $3.1 billion in taxpayer money every year to Israel — more than any other country by far — but the new agreement Obama is set to sign “significantly raises” that amount, and guarantees it for 10 years.

In response to this massive windfall, Netanyahu is angry that he is not getting even more. For some time, “Netanyahu was holding out for as much as $5 billion a year.” Also, Israel has been opposed to efforts to direct more of that aid to US military contractors rather than Israeli ones (so this “aid” package is as much a transfer of US taxpayer money to weapons manufacturers in both countries as it is to Israel itself). Moreover, “Israelis are also said to be displeased with a US position that whatever amount of money they agree on will be final and that Israel will not go to Congress requesting more money.”
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After Vote to Remove Brazil’s President, Key Opposition Figure Holds Meetings in Washington

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Brazil’s lower house of Congress on Sunday voted to impeach the country’s President, Dilma Rousseff, sending the removal process to the Senate. In an act of unintended though rich symbolism, the House member who pushed impeachment over the 342-vote threshold was Dep. Bruno Araújo, himself implicated by a document indicating he may have received illegal funds from the construction giant at the heart of the nation’s corruption scandal. Even more significantly, Araújo belongs to the center-right party PSDB, whose nominees have lost four straight national elections to Rousseff’s moderate-left PT party, with the last ballot-box defeat being delivered just 18 months ago, when 54 million Brazilians voted to re-elect Dilma as president.

Those two facts about Araújo underscore the unprecedentedly surreal nature of yesterday’s proceedings in Brasília, capital of the world’s fifth largest country. Politicians and parties which have spent two decades trying, and failing, to defeat PT in democratic elections triumphantly marched forward to effectively overturn the 2014 vote by removing Dilma on grounds that, as today’s New York Times report makes clear, are, at best, dubious in the extreme. Even The Economist, which has long despised the PT and its anti-poverty programs and which wants Dilma to resign, has argued that “in the absence of proof of criminality, impeachment is unwarranted” and it “looks like a pretext for ousting an unpopular president.”
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