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Fear is a Political Instrument, but Knowledge is Power

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Your doorbell rings in the dark of night, so you quietly approach the peephole to size up your visitor. The porch light doesn’t illuminate the person well enough to see him clearly, but he’s definitely wearing a mask. You move your eyes lower to get a better look at the tall figure. He’s standing, waiting, on the other side of the threshold. He’s holding a machete.

On any other night, this scenario might send adrenaline coursing through your veins, fueling an almost palpable fear. But tonight is different. It’s Halloween. And rather than feeling scared, you casually open the door to discover that the dimly lit figure is the teenager from down the street dressed as the killer from a slasher flick.

We don’t fear a scary-looking stranger on our doorstep on October 31 because we know it’s very likely to be a friendly neighbor seeking sugar. This information, born of experience, empowers us to act rationally. It's possible, of course, that the machete-wielding figure really is a murderer going door to door — but the odds are against it, especially on this night of the year.

Imagine if you didn't know how to assess that risk. Imagine locking your doors, turning off all the lights, and cowering in the dark, waiting for all the trick-or-treaters to go away.
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Ron Paul on the Next US Defense Secretary

As the US media reported that President Obama was expected to nominate Ashton Carter to be the next Secretary of Defense, RPI Chairman Ron Paul was not optimistic. There is no reason to believe that Carter, a long-time Pentagon employee and former deputy secretary, would do anything to straighten out failing US foreign policy, he said in an interview. With more pressure on the administration from pro-war hawks in Congress and elsewhere in the administration, the wars will likely continue to escalate under the new defense secretary. The administration has already warned us that the war would not be short-lived, he added.
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No to War, Hot or Cold, With Russia

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US-Russia relations have deteriorated severely in the past decade and they are about to get worse, if the House passes H. Res. 758.

NATO encirclement, the US-backed coup in Ukraine, an attempt to use an agreement with the European Union to bring NATO into Ukraine at the Russian border, a US nuclear first-strike policy, are all policies which attempt to substitute force for diplomacy.

Russia’s response to the terror unleashed by western-backed neo-nazis in Crimea and Odessa came after the local population appealed to Russia to protect them from the violence. Russia then agreed to Crimea joining the Russian Federation, a reaffirmation of an historic relationship.

The Western press begins its narrative on the Crimea situation with the annexation, but completely ignores the provocations by the West and other causal factors which resulted in the annexation. This distortion of reality is artificially creating an hysteria about Russian aggressiveness, another distortion which could pose an exceptionally dangerous situation for the world, if acted upon by other nations. The US Congress is responding to the distortions, not to the reality.
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Why Not Pardon Drug War Victims in Addition to Turkeys?

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Prior to Thanksgiving, President Obama continued the presidential tradition of pardoning two turkeys. Too bad he didn’t use the occasion to also pardon every single victim of the US government’s decades-long failed and destructive war on drugs.

I’m referring, of course, to all the people who have been convicted of violating federal laws against the possession or distribution of drugs, especially those people currently serving time in some federal penitentiary. Those people have no more business being in jail than people who have used, possessed, or distributed beer, liquor, wine, tobacco, fatty foods, or any other substance.

In an era in which Americans in various states are thumbing their noses at the federal government by legalizing marijuana and in which more people than ever before are challenging the very existence of drug laws, the fundamental question must be asked: What business is it of government to punish people for engaging in non-violent conduct?

The plain and simple answer to that question is: The government has no business punishing people for such conduct, whether it entails adultery, covetousness, pornography, possession of booze, marijuana, tobacco, or any other substance, or any other non-violent conduct.

That’s simply not the role of government in a free society. The legitimate role of government is to punish people who engage in violent behavior, such as murder, rape, theft, and burglary.
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MH17: Barring Malaysia From Investigation Reeks of Cover-up

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It was a Malaysian jet, carrying Malaysian passengers, flown by Malaysian pilots, yet after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine in July 2014, Malaysia has been systematically blocked from participating in the investigation, leaving an overwhelmingly pro-NATO bloc in charge of the evidence, investigation and outcome as well as the manner in which the investigation will be carried out.

Despite the integral role Malaysia has played during several pivotal moments in the aftermath of the disaster, it appears that the closer to the truth the investigation should be getting, the further Malaysia itself is being pushed from both the evidence and any influence it has on the likely conclusions of the investigation.

With the downed aircraft in question being Malaysian, Malaysia as a partner in the investigation would seem a given. Its exclusion from the investigation appears to be an indication that the investigation’s objectivity has been compromised and that the conclusions it draws will likely be politically motivated.
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Who Wants to be Defense Secretary?

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It seems nobody wants to be Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration. The president’s first two Defense Secretaries, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, both complained bitterly this month about their time in the administration. The president’s National Security Council staff micro-managed the Pentagon, they said at a forum last week. Former Secretary Gates revealed that while he was running the Defense Department, the White House established a line of communication to the Joint Special Operations Command to discuss matters of strategy and tactics, cutting the Defense Secretary out of the loop. His successor at the Pentagon, Leon Panetta, made similar complaints.
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Nuclear Chicken in the Mideast

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To no surprise, nuclear talks between Iran and major world powers have become stalemated.

Iran will not sink “to its knees” to win a nuclear deal with the great powers, said its leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after the failure of six months of talks in Vienna.

However, the talks will continue until at least next March. Pity the poor negotiators: besides being excruciatingly boring, dealing with the tough, savvy Iranians is like pulling teeth. The only nationality I ever saw get the better of Iranians in negotiations were Armenians.

The United States has been waging economic and political warfare on the Islamic Republic since 1979. Only Cuba has been pounded longer. Both have suffered hugely.

Of late, Iranian nuclear scientists and technicians have been murdered in broad daylight. Nuclear installations have been sabotaged. The Stuxnet virus allegedly unleashed by the US and Israel against Iran’s centrifuges risked a catastrophic explosion or the release of nuclear contamination. In neighboring, Iraq, some 300 of its former nuclear technicians and scientists have been mysteriously murdered during the US occupation.

Iran’s economy has been very seriously damaged by the US-led boycott and commercial restrictions. Iranians are suffering mounting inflation, shortages of goods, and a collapsing currency. Iranians are fed up being the target of western sanctions.
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Darren Wilson and the Reality of 'Blue Privilege'

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“Any time I’m involved in an officer-involved shooting, be it a fatal one or non-fatal, it is always during my initial investigation listed as an assault on law enforcement,” explained the St. Louis County Police Detective who inaugurated the investigation of the Michael Brown shooting. “Officer Wilson … was the victim of the assault we were investigating.”

Once it had been established that the living, armed individual was the “victim” and the dead, bullet-ridden body had belonged to the “assailant,” continued the detective in his September 3 grand jury testimony, “One of the sergeants with Ferguson [gave] me a brief walk-through to start my investigation so I [could] have a logical starting point from where I would start my video, photographs, and looking for evidence.”

That unnamed sergeant, most likely, was the supervisor who had told Darren Wilson to leave the scene after the shooter told him that Brown had tried to take his gun.

From its inception, the shooting of Michael Brown was not investigated as a potential criminal homicide, and the inquiry was an exercise in validating the killer’s story, rather than testing it against the available evidence. The assumption was that killing was part of his job description – or, as Wilson has subsequently told George Stephanopoulos, “I did what I was paid to do.”

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Syrian Christians: 'Help Us to Stay - Stop Arming Terrorists'

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Outgoing artillery shook St Elias church as the priest reached the end of the Lord's Prayer.

The small congregation kept their eyes on the pulpit, kneeling when required and trying to ignore the regular thuds that rattled the stained glass windows above them.

Home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, the hard to reach Syrian agricultural town of Izraa has stood the comings and goings of many empires over the centuries.

But as the country's civil war creeps closer, it is threatening to force the town's Christians into permanent exile: never to return, they fear.

"I have been coming to this church since I was born," said Afaf Azam, 52. "But now the situation is very bad. Everyone is afraid. Jihadists control villages around us."
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We Are the Enemy: Is This the Lesson of Ferguson?

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Should police officer Darren Wilson be held accountable for the shooting death of unarmed citizen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, on August 9, 2014?

That the police officer was white and his victim black should make no difference. In a perfect world, it would not matter. In an imperfect world such as ours, however, racism is an effective propaganda tool used by the government and the media to distract us from the real issues.

As a result, the national dialogue about the dangers of militarized, weaponized police officers being trained to act like soldiers on the battlefield, shooting first and asking questions later, has shifted into a largely unspoken debate over race wars, class perceptions and longstanding, deep-seated notions of who deserves our unquestioning loyalty and who does not.

Putting aside our prejudices, however, let’s not overlook the importance of Ferguson and this grand jury verdict. Tasked with determining whether Wilson should stand trial for Brown’s shooting, the grand jury ruled that the police officer will not face charges for the fatal shooting.
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