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President José Mujica Versus the United Nations

Uruguay President Hillary

Uruguay's President José Mujica is standing up to United Nations bureaucrats at the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) who are chastising Uruguay for advancing legislation that will allow the legal growth, sale, and purchase of marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. Mujica plans to defend his nation's marijuana law reform in a speech before the UN General Assembly in September. For a preview, read here excerpts from Mujica's Thursday radio address to Uruguayans after the marijuana reform law passed in Uruguay's lower house of congress.

In 2011, the INCB similarly chastised Bolivia for withdrawing from the 1961 United Nations Single Convention of Narcotic Drugs so Bolivia could rejoin the convention with a reservation protecting the traditional use of coca leaves in the nation. Later, Bolivian President Evo Morales defended before a UN anti-drug meeting in May 2012 his nation's choice to respect what he called "a millennia-old tradition in Bolivia."
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Why Won’t They Tell Us the Truth About NSA Spying?

In 2001, the Patriot Act opened the door to US government monitoring of Americans without a warrant. It was unconstitutional, but most in Congress over my strong objection were so determined to do something after the attacks of 9/11 that they did not seem to give it too much thought. Civil liberties groups were concerned, and some of us in Congress warned about giving up our liberties even in the post-9/11 panic. But at the time most Americans did not seem too worried about the intrusion.


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NSA Spying: Fiction versus Fact

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers and many other defenders of the NSA spying program warned critics that the mass collection of our electronic communications had already stopped “dozens” of terrorist plots against the United States. In June, NSA director General Keith Alexander claimed that the just-disclosed bulk collection of Americans’ phone and other electronic records had “foiled 50 terror plots.” These claims were designed to silence opponents by implying they would be partly responsible should another attack occur if they were successful in shutting down the programs.
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McCain Declares War on Russia

Mccain War

Fresh off of his flip-flop on aid to Egypt and his threats to vote for the left (neocon) interventionists in the Democratic Party should anyone remotely non-interventionist succeed in gaining the Republican nomination to be the next president, Senator John McCain is determined to light a new fire under the long dead ashes of the Cold War. However, he no doubt chokes on the smoke of irony as he fumbles with his matches.

What has set McCain’s neoconservative nerve on edge is the finalization yesterday of NSA leaker Edward Snowden’s request for temporary asylum in Russia. According to McCain and his fellow neocons, when Washington demands extradition the rest of the world must immediately comply, regardless of the circumstances.

However, as William Blum points out yesterday in Counterpunch:

[A]ccording to the Russian Interior Ministry, 'Law agencies asked the US on many occasions to extradite wanted criminals through Interpol channels, but those requests were neither met nor even responded to.' Amongst the individuals requested are militant Islamic insurgents from Chechnya, given asylum in the United States.

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Rouhani’s Inauguration and the West’s Strategic Suicide

Rouhani

As Hassan Rouhani approaches his inauguration this weekend, there is self-referential optimism in Western policy circles about what his accession might portend.  A substantial quorum in these circles sees Rouhani as perhaps someone with whom the West—to recall Margaret Thatcher’s 1984 assessment of rising Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev—“can do business.”

The traits these observers cite to justify their optimism—Rouhani’s deep knowledge of the nuclear file, his history of seeking creative diplomatic solutions, an easier rhetorical style for Westerners than outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, fluency in English—are real.

But the focus on them suggests that Western elites still look for Tehran to accommodate the West’s nuclear demands—above all, by compromising Iran’s right, as a sovereign state and signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to enrich uranium indigenously under safeguards.  This motivates them to interpret Rouhani’s election as evidence of Iranians’ growing weariness with sanctions and, by extension, with their government’s policies that prompt escalating international pressure on Iran’s economy.
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Time to Abolish the DHS?

Homeland
photo: Steve Rhodes

To the glee of her critics, Janet Napolitano, the longest-serving secretary at the Department of Homeland Security in its decade-long existence, has announced her resignation. No longer will Republicans have old Janet to kick around. As for the civil libertarians and frustrated national security state watchers, she was a reliable foot solider and bureaucrat and her departure is welcome for as much as it will make a difference, which is likely not much.

That’s because speculation of her replacement has centered around such milquetoast figures as retired Coast Guard Chief Thad Allen and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, both of whom would no doubt would toe the line as faithfully as Napolitano and her ineffectual predecessors, Michael Chertoff and Tom Ridge. 

Then there is the incredibly jarring prospect of New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly becoming the new head of DHS. While the force’s infamous stop-and-frisk and Muslim community surveillance programs are currently tied up in contentious civil rights litigation, he has also overseen an expansion of the NYPD which is now acting like an auxiliary of both the CIA and the military here and abroad. If there were a poster child for post-9/11 overreach, it would be the NYPD, and its flinty-eyed top cop the perfect embodiment of imperious state authority.
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The American Surveillance State Is Here. Can It Be Evaded?

You Are Under Surveillance
photo: TheeErin
“If, as it seems, we are in the process of becoming a totalitarian society in which the state apparatus is all-powerful, the ethics most important for the survival of the true, free, human individual would be: cheat, lie, evade, fake it, be elsewhere, forge documents, build improved electronic gadgets in your garage that’ll outwit the gadgets used by the authorities.” – Philip K. Dick, author of Minority Report
On any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. As I point out in my new book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, this doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.
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Japan Must Face Up To China

China Protest
photo: guccio@文房具社

World War II has never really ended for Japan. Sixty-eight years after the battleship US “Missouri” sailed into Tokyo Bay to receive the surrender of the Japanese Empire, Japan still behaves like a meek, defeated nation rather than one of the world’s great powers – and great peoples.

Economically, Japan is a giant, albeit a staggering one. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party just secured full control of both houses of Japan’s parliament. Abe’s “three-arrow” reform program has injected new life in Japan’s formerly stagnant $5 trillion economy industry and driven down the over-valued yen.

But military, Japan remains a midget. Its so-called Self-Defense Forces were designed to stop a Soviet amphibious invasion of the northern islands. Japan’s US-written pacifist constitution prohibits all offensive military operations or exports of arms and military equipment.
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A House Divided Over NSA Spying on Americans

Last week’s House debate on the Defense Appropriations bill for 2014 produced a bit more drama than usual. After hearing that House leadership would do away with the traditional “open rule” allowing for debate on any funding limitation amendment, it was surprising to see that Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-MI) amendment was allowed on the Floor. In the wake of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the extent of US government spying on American citizens, Amash’s amendment sought to remove funding in the bill for some of the NSA programs.


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Kafka’s America: Secret Courts, Secret Laws, and Total Surveillance

Kafka Sidewalk
photo: Tom Hilton
“Logic may indeed be unshakeable, but it cannot withstand a man who is determined to live. Where was the judge he had never seen? Where was the High Court he had never reached? He raised his hands and spread out all his fingers. But the hands of one of the men closed round his throat, just as the other drove the knife deep into his heart and turned it twice.” – Franz Kafka, The Trial
In a bizarre and ludicrous attempt at “transparency,” the Obama administration has announced that it asked a secret court to approve a secret order to allow the government to keep spying on millions of Americans, and the secret court has granted its request.

Late on Friday, July 19, 2013, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC)—a secret court which operates out of an undisclosed federal building in Washington, DC—quietly renewed an order from the National Security Agency to have Verizon Communications hand over hundreds of millions of Americans’ telephone records to government officials. In so doing, the government has doubled down on the numerous spying programs currently aimed at the American people, some of which were exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, who temporarily pulled back the veil on the government’s gigantic spying apparatus.
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