by Seema Sadanandan
The Newtown massacre generated reflexive calls for posting police in classrooms, a policy that has long been in place in inner city schools, with devastating effect. “In the matrix of policies and police ushering black and brown students out of classrooms and into courtrooms, the School-to-Prison Pipeline takes shape.”
by Raymond Nat Turner
Obama can find his anti-terror tools at the 99 cents store.
Walmart has cut store staffing so severely that in some cases workers have no time to stock shelves, and the few remaining checkers face customers who’ve been waiting in line for 30 minutes.
That’s just the newest symptom of Walmart’s profit-at-any-cost policies, which create miserable conditions along the company’s whole supply chain, said Walmart workers who compared notes Thursday in New York.
The Obama administration’s assassination of two U.S. citizens in 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old Denver-born son Abdulrahman, is a central part of Jeremy Scahill’s new book, "Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield." The book is based on years of reporting on U.S. secret operations in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. While the Obama administration has defended the killing of Anwar, it has never publicly explained why Abdulrahman was targeted in a separate drone strike two weeks later. Scahill reveals CIA Director John Brennan, Obama’s former senior adviser on counterterrorism and homeland security, suspected that the teenager had been killed "intentionally." "The idea that you can simply have one branch of government unilaterally and in secret declare that an American citizen should be executed or assassinated without having to present any evidence whatsoever, to me, is a — we should view that with great sobriety about the implications for our country," says Scahill, national security correspondent for The Nation magazine. Today the U.S. Senate is preparing to hold its first-ever hearing on the Obama administration’s drone and targeted killing program. However, the Obama administration is refusing to send a witness to answer questions about the program’s legality. "Dirty Wars" is also the name of a new award-winning documentary by Scahill and Rick Rowley, which will open in theaters in June. We air the film’s new trailer. Click here to watch Part 2 of this interview.
Chicago Teachers Prepare Electoral Challenge to Mayor Emanuel
Massive school closings have made Chicago “ground zero” in the battle to preserve public education, said Michael Brunson, of the Chicago Teachers Union. Fifty-four schools have been targeted for closure, this year, most of them in Black and brown neighborhoods. “People don’t want to move into a community if they don’t have a school they can send their children to,” said Brunson. “It’s part of a downward spiral that disinvests from our communities and causes them to crumble.” The teachers union plans to register 100,000 new voters to challenge mayoral control of the schools.
NYC Parents Boycott High Stakes Testing
With their parents’ permission, students at 33 New York City schools will opt out of scheduled standardized tests. “We feel that there is too much riding on these exams that have so much to do with the dismantling of the public school system,” said Cynthia Copeland, a parent and member of Time Out From Testing. “It’s this constant teaching to the test; there’s no real learning going on.”
Newark Protests Against Social Security Cuts
The People’s Organization for Progress held demonstrations, in Newark, New Jersey, to protest President Obama’s proposed cuts to Social Security and other entitlement programs. Chairman Larry Hamm noted that POP endorsed Obama “in both elections after much discussion and debate.” But, “now we turn around and have to fight the very guy we voted for.” Obama, said Hamm, is “the first Democratic president to actually propose cuts to Social Security.”
Obama is “Face of Capitalist Empire”
“From the start, Obama has been leading the charge to betray Social Security and the foundation of the Democratic Party’s policy platform, which is the New Deal,” said Kevin Alexander Gray, the Columbia, South Carolina writer and activist. “Obama is the face of the capitalist empire; that’s what he believes in,” said Gray. “What troubles me about Black Obama supporters is, they just seem to ignore it. It’s all about misguided racial pride.”
EEOC Dismisses Black Complaints, Blames Sequestration
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims that sequestration-mandated spending cuts will add to the agency’s backlog of employment discrimination cases. But Ricardo Jones, the former chief investigator for the EEOC’s southern New York region, says the Commission is already dismissing the vast majority of Black complaints, and “hasn’t paid overtime to any investigator or mediator at the EEOC for the past 15 years. According to Jones, the Commission “only finds reasonable cause 3.1% of the time. That’s worse than the Bush administration.”http://blackagendaradio.podbean.com/mf/play/j4zrg2/BAR042213.mp3
The guy in the cheap brown windbreaker walking up the dirty tenement steps to my New York office looked like a bus driver.
Nicolas Maduro, elected President of Venezuela last Sunday, did indeed drive a bus, then led the drivers' union, then drove Chávez' laws through the National Assembly as Venezuela's National Assembly chief.
And this week, the US State Department is refusing to accept the result, suggesting Maduro hijacked the vote count. But did he?Maduro came to me that day in 2004 on a quiet mission, sent by President Hugo Chávez to give me information I needed for my investigation for Rolling Stone – and to get information from me that might save Chávez' life.
The central topic was the "Invisible Ring". Venezuelan intelligence had secretly taped US Embassy contractors in Caracas talking in spook-speak: "That which took shape here is a disguised kind of intelligence... which is annexed to the third security ring, which is the invisible ring."
("Invisible Ring"? Someone at the State Department has read too many Alan Furst novels.)
On the grainy film, they worried that "Mr Corey" (a code name we easily cracked) would blow his cover and begin barking, "I am from the CIA! I am from the CIA!"
"Mr Corey" was certainly not from the CIA, an agency holding on to one last fig-leaf of discretion. This crew was far more dangerous, from a spy-for-hire corporation, Wackenhut Inc. I'd been tracking Wackenhut for years, ever since their spies – more Austin Powers than James Bond – were arrested while on a black-bag job for British Petroleum. They'd attempted to illegally tape a US Congressman by running a toy truck with a microphone through the ceiling vents over the lawmaker's head.
But even clowns, when heavily armed, can be deadly. In 2002, Chávez was kidnapped with the blessing of the US Ambassador right out of the presidential palace and flown by helicopter over the Caribbean where, Chávez later told me, the President assumed he'd be invited for a swim from 2,000 feet. Instead, just 48 hours later, Chávez was back at his desk.
But Washington wouldn't quit the coup business. New documents revealed several interlocked methods ("rings") for overthrowing Venezuela's elected government.
First, US operatives would monkey with voter registrations – and if that didn't steal the election from Chávez' party, the next step was to provoke riots against Chávez' elections "theft". The riots would lead to deaths – the deaths would be the excuse for the US to back another coup d'etat to "restore order" and "democracy" in Venezuela – and restore Venezuela's oil to Exxon. (Chávez had seized majority control of the oil fields and Exxon was furious.)
Maduro had already figured the US operatives wanted to use, "The collection of [voters'] signatures... to [occur] amidst a climate of violence and uncertainty, national and international uncertainty...To cause deaths the day of the collection of signatures."
Would this be to justify another coup?
Maduro said, "Yes: The justification to tell the world Chávez is a murderer, Chávez is a dictator, Chávez is a terrorist and the OAS [Organisation of American States] should intervene and Chávez should be ousted."
This week, the warlords of the rings are back in Caracas as, per the original script, the US State Department is backing opposition claims that Maduro's win is in question. And per the old playbook, the losers are taking to the streets, seven voters are dead (mostly Chávistas, but not all) and Caracas waits for the coup's next boot to drop.
Is a manoeuvre to remove Maduro far-fetched? George W Bush promoted the botched kidnapping of 2002. But it was the progressive Barack Obama who, in 2009, newly elected President, blessed the overthrow of the elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya.
Still, it's fair to ask if Maduro and the Chávistas stole last week's presidential election?
Answer: They didn't have to. Even the Wall Street Journal accepts that, "for a majority of Venezuelans, Mr Chávez was a messiah," and Maduro, the successor Chávez chose from his deathbed, had too big a lead to lose.
Still, the election was nearly stolen – by the US-backed anti-Chávistas.
How? That's what Chávez wanted Maduro to find out from me: how could US operatives jerk with Venezuela's voter rolls? It wasn't a mere policy question: Maduro knew Chávez wouldn't be allowed to survive through another coup.
My answer: They could steal the vote the same way Bush did it in Florida – in fact, using the very same contractor. Take a look at these documents... from the pile I reviewed with Maduro:
According to this once-secret FBI memo, ChoicePoint Corp – under a no-bid contract – had shoplifted Venezuela's voter rolls, as well as the voter rolls of Argentina, Brazil, Nicaragua, Mexico and Honduras, all of whom were on the verge of electing presidents from the political left.
I did ask myself how our national security apparatchiks could say that filching these voter rolls made our nation more secure? What were they for?
I had little doubt. In November 2000, working for the Observer and BBC Newsnight, I discovered that a subsidiary of ChoicePoint had, for Governor Jeb Bush of Florida, obtained his state's voter rolls and "purged" more than 56,000 voters, the vast majority black and poor, illegally denying them their vote. And that was how Jeb's brother, George W, won the US presidency by just 537 ballots.
And now ChoicePoint had the data to allow Homeland Security to do a Florida on Venezuela – and Honduras and the others. (In 2006, the candidate of the left, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, won the election but lost the Mexican presidency through gross ballot-box finagling.)
Chávez himself read my findings on potential elections theft – to his nation on his TV show – and then he moved swiftly, establishing an election system that Jimmy Carter, who has headed vote observer teams in 92 nations, called, "an election process that is the best in the world".
Here's how it works: every Venezuelan voter gets TWO ballots. One is electronic, the second is a paper print-out of the touch-screen ballot, which the voter reviews, authorises, then places in a locked ballot-box. An astounding 54 percent of the boxes are chosen at random to open and check against the computer tally. It's as close to a bulletproof count as you can get.
Still, the guy who lost bitched and – his bluff called – was allowed to pick all the precincts he wanted – 12,000 – to add to the audit.
And that's why the US State Department then has to turn to the threat of bullets and "Third Ring" mayhem in the streets – to undermine the legitimacy of the new Maduro government and signal the US willingness to support a new coup.
It won't succeed this time, either. Populist socialist governments have now replaced the juntas and stooges that once gave the US control of the Organisation of American States. And Venezuelans themselves won't let it happen.
What impressed me about Maduro and his boss Chávez was their reaction to the Third Ring and the attempted Florida-tion of their election. Instead of ordering mass arrests, Chávez' and Maduro's response was to strengthen democracy with a no-tricks voting system.
I should note that ChoicePoint, once exposed, apologised to Mexico's government, agreed to destroy its ill-gotten voter rolls and, soon thereafter, sold itself to a credit-rating company. Wackenhut fired its goof-ball spooks and sold itself off in pieces. Both deny knowingly breaking laws of any nation. And in Bush's US State Department, all hell broke loose, as UN Ambassador John Negroponte, sources verified, fumed over what he deemed a renegade neo-con escapade endangering remaining US oil interests. (In fact, Chevron ended up paying what I call a "coup tax".)
The vote was still close, mainly because Maduro – a sincere, competent administrator – is no singing-dancing-camera-perfect Sinatra of politics like Chávez was.
Secretary of State Kerry's challenge to Maduro's 270,000-vote victory margin struck me as particularly poignant. Because in 2004, besides Chávez, I gave another presidential candidate evidence of the Bush gang's ballot banditry: Senator John Kerry. Kerry lost to Bush by a slim 119,000 ballots in Ohio, blatantly stolen, but Kerry refused to call for a recount. It took him two years to publicly acknowledge our findings – when he introduced, with Senator Ted Kennedy, legislation to fix America's corrupted voting system, then let the proposed law die of neglect.
Chávez knew, and Kerry will never learn, that democracy requires more than a complete count – it requires complete courage.
Articles and Reports on Hugo Chavez by Greg Palast
- The Guardian UK
Don't believe everything you read in the papers about Venezuela
- The Guardian UK
Opec chief warned Chavez about coup
- BBC Newsnight Report (VIDEO):
The Coup Against Hugo Chavez
- BBC News
Chavez rules out return to cheap oil
- BBC Newsnight Report (VIDEO):
Chavez's Venezuela - Bush over a Barrel
- The Progressive
George Bush Should Get Down on his Knees and Kiss Hugo Chavez' Behind
- Vice Magazine
The Koch Brothers, Hugo Chavez and the XL Pipeline
* * * * * * * *
Investigative reporter Greg Palast covered Venezuela for BBC Television Newsnight and Harper’s Magazine.
Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Armed Madhouse and the highly acclaimed Vultures' Picnic, named Book of the Year 2012 on BBC Newsnight Review.
Teachers at Ivy Academia in Los Angeles are the latest to join a wave of union organizing victories at charter schools. Nationally, 625 charter schools are organized.
In a Democracy Now! exclusive on Earth Day, climate change activist Tim DeChristopher joins us for his first interview since being released from federal custody after serving 21 months in detention. DeChristopher was convicted of interfering with a 2008 public auction when he disrupted the Bush administration’s last-minute move to sell off oil and gas exploitation rights in Utah. He posed as a bidder and won drilling lease rights to 22,000 acres of land in an attempt to save the property from oil and gas extraction. The auction itself was later overturned and declared illegal, a fact that DeChristopher’s defense attorneys were prevented from telling the jury. His case is the subject of the documentary, "Bidder 70," which will screen all over the country today to mark his release and Earth Day. The founder of the climate justice group Peaceful Uprising, Tim DeChristopher joins us to discuss his ordeal, his newfound freedom, and his plans to continue his activism in the climate justice movement.
Father Michael Lapsley is a former South African anti-apartheid activist who has turned his personal tragedy into a clarion call for peace and forgiveness. In 1990, three months after the release of Nelson Mandela, the ruling de Klerk government sent Father Lapsley a parcel containing two religious magazines. Inside one of them was a highly sophisticated bomb. When Lapsley opened the magazine, the explosion blew off both of his hands, destroyed one eye and burned him severely. Father Lapsley went on to work at the Trauma Centre for Victims of Violence and Torture in Cape Town, South Africa, which assisted the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Father Lapsley joins us to discuss his journey and his thoughts on how Boston can begin to heal from last week’s bombings. "The journey of healing is to move from being a victim to a survivor to a victor, to take back agency," he says. "I realized that if I was filled with hatred and bitterness and desire for revenge, they would have failed to kill the body, but they would have killed the soul."
Authorities have used a public safety exception to delay reading Boston Marathon suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights to remain silent and to have an attorney present, a move that has sparked controversy. The Obama administration has been criticized in the past for rolling back Miranda rights after unilaterally expanding the public safety exception in 2010. A group of Republican lawmakers have also called for Tsarnaev to be held as an enemy combatant, but the Obama administration has signaled its intention to try him in civilian court. Constitutional lawyer and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald joins us to discuss the legal issues surrounding the case. "It’s sort of odd that the debate is Lindsey Graham’s extremist theory [to hold Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant] or rushing to give President Obama credit for what ought to be just reflexive, which is, if you arrest a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil of a crime, before you imprison him, you actually charge him with a crime and give him the right to a lawyer," Greenwald says. "The fact those are the two sort of extremes being debated, I think, is illustrative of where we’ve come."
By Greg Palast
The Hidden Truth - Watch the Film
We are pleased to announce weekly postings in Spanish of labor news and analysis from the U.S. We’ll summarize several stories from the past week’s Labor Notes website. Please pass them on to your Spanish-speaking friends. Click to see the English version, too.
Teachers quickly settled contracts before Michigan’s right-to-work law took effect, locking in dues deduction. But most deals gave up a lot.
In 1982, investigative journalist Allan Nairn interviewed a Guatemalan general named "Tito" on camera during the height of the indigenous massacres. It turns out the man was actually Otto Pérez Molina, the current Guatemalan president. We air the original interview footage and speak to Nairn about the U.S. role backing the Guatemalan dictatorship. Last week, Nairn flew to Guatemala where he had been scheduled to testify in the trial of former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt, the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. Ríos Montt was charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. His 17-month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s decades-long campaign against Maya indigenous people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. The trial took a surprising turn last week when Guatemala President Gen. Otto Pérez Molina was directly accused of ordering executions. A former military mechanic named Hugo Reyes told the court that Pérez Molina, then serving as an army major and using the name Tito Arias, ordered soldiers to burn and pillage a Maya Ixil area in the 1980s. Click here to hear our live update of the trial from Nairn in Guatemala City. [includes rush transcript]
A historic trial against former U.S.-backed Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity came to an abrupt end Thursday when an appeals court suspended the trial before a criminal court was scheduled to reach a verdict. Ríos Montt on was charged in connection with the slaughter of more than 1,700 people in Guatemala’s Ixil region after he seized power in 1982. His 17-month rule is seen as one of the bloodiest chapters in Guatemala’s decades-long campaign against Maya indigenous people, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands. Thursday’s decision is seen as a major blow to indigenous victims. Investigative journalist Allan Nairn reported last night Guatemalan army associates had threatened the lives of case judges and prosecutors and that the case had been annulled after intervention by Guatemala’s president, General Otto Pérez Molina. Ríos Montt was the first head of state in the Americas to stand trial for genocide. Nairn flew to Guatemala last week after he was called to testify in Ríos Montt’s trial. He was listed by the court as a "qualified witness" and was tentatively scheduled to testify on Monday. But at the last minute, Nairn was kept off the stand "in order," he was told, "to avoid a confrontation" with the president, General Pérez Molina, and for fear that if he took the stand, military elements might respond with violence. In the 1980s, Nairn extensively documented broad army responsibility for the massacres and was prepared to present evidence that personally implicated Pérez Molina, who was field commander during the very Mayan Ixil region massacres for which the ex-dictator, Ríos Montt, had been charged with genocide. [includes rush transcript]
Hong Kong dockworkers walk off the job and describe nitty-gritty working conditions at the world’s third-busiest port.
A new film directed by Robert Greenwald looks at four whistleblowers who had their lives practically destroyed after they went to the press with evidence of government wrongdoing. They are Michael DeKort, Thomas Drake, Franz Gayl and Thomas Tamm. Whistleblowers have come under unprecedented attack by the Obama administration. Evoking the Espionage Act of 1917, the administration has pressed criminal charges against no fewer than six government employees, more than all previous presidential administrations combined. In the film, Greenwald also interviews government oversight experts and investigative journalists who warn about the chilling effect prosecutions may have on potential whistleblowers and the journalists who help them. Click to watch Part 2 of the interview. [includes rush transcript]