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Law and Disorder November 23, 2015

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A Good American

Weeks before the September 11 attacks, newly-arrived NSA director General Michael Hayden nixed a highly-effective computer surveillance program called ThinThread. Hayden instead elected to award a $280 million contract to the private Science Applications International Corporation to develop Trailblazer, a program that ultimately cost billions of dollars and that was deemed by anonymous NSA sources as a “wasteful failure” before it was finally abandoned.

A new film by Austrian director Freidrich Moser, “A Good American,” tells the story of the mathematician many consider the best code-breaker the US ever had and how he and a small team within the NSA created ThinThread. It could pick up any electronic signal on Earth, filter for terrorist activity, and render results in real-time, avoiding data overload which has been an life-threatening impediment to national intelligence agencies. ThinThread protected American’s privacy by using an anonymizer so that identities were only revealed after obtaining a court warrant. In a secret test-run in early 2002 of the ThinThread against the pre-9/11-NSA database, the program quickly detected the terrorists’ plans.

Guest – Freidrich Moser, Friedrich holds a university degree (MA) in history and german studies from the University of Salzburg Austria. Friedrich started his professional career as a TV journalist and editor in Bolzano-Bozen Italy. In 2001 he founded blue+green communication. He has made over 20 documentaries most of them as producer director DoP. In 2008 he attended successfully the Documentary Campus, the European Masterschool for non-fiction filmmaking.


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Academic Freedom Case Victory Bittersweet: University of Illinois To Pay $875,000 Settlement To Professor Steven Salaita

University of Illinois trustees have voted to agree to a $875,000 financial settlement with Steven Salaita. Last year, his job offer for a tenured position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was withdrawn after he posted tweets harshly critical of the 2014 Israeli assault on Gaza. Under the terms of the settlement, Salaita will not get his job back but will receive $600,000. The rest of the money will go to his legal team. “This settlement is a vindication for me, but more importantly, it is a victory for academic freedom and the First Amendment,” Salaita said in a statement. “The petitions, demonstrations, and investigations, as well as the legal case, have reinvigorated American higher education as a place of critical thinking and rigorous debate, and I am deeply grateful to all who have spoken out.” .

Guest – Maria LaHood – Deputy Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights with expertise in constitutional rights and international human rights. She works to defend the constitutional rights of Palestinian human rights advocates in the United States in cases such as Davis v. Cox, defending Olympia Food Co-op board members for boycotting Israeli goods; Salaita v. Kennedy,representing Steven Salaita, who was terminated from a tenured position for tweets critical of Israel; and CCR v. DOD, seeking U.S. government records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding Israel’s 2010 attack on the flotilla to Gaza. She works closely with Palestine Legal to support students and others whose speech is being suppressed for their Palestine advocacy around the country. She also works on the Right to Heal initiative with Iraqi civil society and Iraq Veterans seeking accountability for the lasting health effects of the Iraq war.

Guest – Anan Swaminathan– joined Loevy & Loevy in 2010. Anand has worked on a broad range of constitutional and civil rights cases, and has worked extensively on False Claims Act litigation, where he has represented whistleblowers alleging defense/military and other government contractor fraud, bid-rigging, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, construction/contractor (MBE/DBE) fraud, and tax fraud. Anand has also represented whistleblowers in financial fraud cases under the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, and in complex fraud cases under other federal and state statutes.


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CIW Farmworkers Protest Wendy’s Board Chairman Nelson Peltz

We caught up with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers protest in front of the Wendy’s fast food restaurant in midtown Manhattan and spoke with Gerardo Reyes Chávez. Gerardo has worked in the fields since age 11, first as a peasant farmer in Zacatecas, Mexico, and then in the fields of Florida picking oranges, tomatoes, and watermelons. He joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, a Florida-based human rights organization, shortly after his arrival in the United States in 2000, when his fellow farm worker roommates, who had previously escaped a violent slavery operation hidden in the swamp south of Immokalee, Florida, invited him to come to the CIW’s Wednesday evening community meetings.

We also spoke with a Rabbi Raphael Kohntraster with T’ruah, a major Jewish ally of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, inspiring Jewish communities around the country to join and support the human rights of farmworkers and call on grocery stores and restaurant chains to sign onto the Fair Food Program.

(photo credit: Jake Ratner)



Law and Disorder November 9, 2015

41s1YjDN5-L Sen. John F. Kennedy, (left), and Allen W. Dulles, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, walks towards newsmen on the lawn of the Democratic presidential candidates in Hyannis Port, MA., home on July 23, 1960. The two men held a news conference after Senator Kennedy was briefed by Dulles on international affairs. (AP Photo/WCC)

The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government

As director of the CIA, from 1952 until Kennedy fired him, Allen Dulles has been said to exemplify unbridled authority at the height of the Cold War. Under his leadership the CIA became a lawless force domestically and internationally that engaged, with impunity, in covert acts such as the assassination of foreign leaders including Patrice Lumubo in the Congo and Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala and the over throw of a number of foreign governments.

As an attorney for the law firm Sullivan and Cromwell in the 1930s, Dulles protected and promoted Nazi-controlled cartels. He wielded his influence in the Office of Strategic Services during World War II and then in the CIA to shield former Nazis from prosecution for war crimes in the ’40s and ’50s. David Talbot writes in book The Devil’s Chessboard, ” over the final months of the JFK presidency, a clear consensus took shape within the American “deep state” Kennedy was a national security threat. For the good of the country he must be removed and Dulles was the only man with the stature, connections and decisive will to make something of this enormity happen. so he could enlist them to fight communists. In addition to assisting with the assassination of Congo leader Patrice Lumumba, he organized the Bay of Pigs invasion and tried repeatedly to murder Fidel Castro.

Guest – David Talbot, the author of the New York Times bestseller Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years and the acclaimed national bestseller Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love. He is the founder and former editor in chief of Salon, and was a senior editor at Mother Jones and the features editor at the San Francisco Examiner. He has written for The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Time, The Guardian, and other major publications. Talbot lives in San Francisco, California.


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Palestinian Uprising And The Growing BDS Movement

This past October more than 49 Palestinians were shot dead by Israeli occupation forces while 500 others were injured by live ammunition and thousands more injured. As a mass popular rebellion, often attracting tens of thousands of Palestinians, asserts its right to self-determination and freedom, Israel has escalated a brutal response, especially in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee, a diverse coalition of Palestinian unions and organizations which leads the global BDS movement, recently called for a wave of BDS solidarity with Palestinian popular resistance and to pressure governments, institutions and businesses to end support for Israel’s violations of international law. Tens of thousands of people across 100 cities took to the streets to show Israel that it will be held to account for its crimes against the Palestinians. Despite this, mainstream media coverage remains for the most part biased, echoing Israel’s propaganda.

Guest – Rebecca Vilkomerson, the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. JVP is a national grassroots organization rooted in Jewish tradition, human rights, and international law that works for a just peace, self-determination and full equality for all people of Palestine and Israel.




Law and Disorder August 17, 2015

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Professor Steven Salaita Case Moves Forward In Federal Court: First Amendment and Due Process Violations Upheld

There was a major federal court victory in Illinois on the Professor Steven Salaita case last week. Federal judge Harry Daniel Leinenweber ruled that the university had failed in its attempt to get Salaita thrown out of court. He upheld Salaita’s allegations that his First Amendment rights were violated. He upheld Salaita’s allegations that his due process rights were violated. He upheld his allegations that he had a contract and he said this case has to proceed to discovery and I’m not going to throw it out at this point.  The judge took a very strong position with respect to both the contract and freedom of speech. It looks like the University of Illinois is on a losing path. The day after the decision came down, Chancellor Wise who was one of people responsible for firing Professor Steven Salaita, resigned from her job.

Guest – Maria LaHood, Deputy Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights with expertise in constitutional rights and international human rights. She works to defend the constitutional rights of Palestinian human rights advocates in the United States in cases such as Davis v. Cox, defending Olympia Food Co-op board members for boycotting Israeli goods; Salaita v. Kennedy,representing Steven Salaita, who was terminated from a tenured position for tweets critical of Israel; and CCR v. DOD, seeking U.S. government records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) regarding Israel’s 2010 attack on the flotilla to Gaza. She works closely with Palestine Legal to support students and others whose speech is being suppressed for their Palestine advocacy around the country.


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Lawyers You’ll Like: Professor Holly Maguigan

In our Lawyers You’ll Like series we’re joined by Professor Holly Maguigan, Professor of Clinical Law at the New York University School of Law, where she teaches Comparative Criminal Justice Clinic: Focus on Domestic Violence and Evidence. Professor Maguigan is an expert on the criminal trials of battered women. Her research and teaching is interdisciplinary. Professor Maguigan is a member of the Family Violence Prevention Fund’s National Advisory Committee on Cultural Considerations in Domestic Violence cases. She serves on the boards of directors of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women and the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice. She is a past co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers, the largest membership organization of law professors in the U.S.

Professor Holly Maguigan:

  • I was doing medieval history and I was at Berkeley. It was 1967 and Oakland stopped the draft.
  • I got very interested in the anti-war politics.
  • I hated lawyers. I really hated lawyers. They were boring. They talked about themselves all the time. They only had stories about their cases and how great they were and they would never post bail when people got arrested.
  • The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia is where I stayed for 17 years.
  • First I started out as a public defender. I loved being a public defender, it was the beginning and end of everything I hoped it would be.
  • That’s where I met David Rudovsky and David Kairys. They were then defenders while I was a student.
  • After they went out on their own, they kept inviting me to join them. I kept putting it off because I loved being a defender so much.
  • In Philadelphia there was much more actual litigation, not just motion litigation there’s a lot of that here in New York City but actual trials.
  • You had a sense, there was an analysis that people were doing life on the installment plan and you needed to do what you could to kick them loose any particular time.
  • It was a community in its own odd way and I found it difficult to leave it.
  • I was doing major felonies within a couple of years.
  • David Kairys was very focused on constitutional litigation and government misconduct. He did the Camden 28 which was a big draft resistance case.
  • My interest was more into criminal defense.
  • Grand juries (all over the country) convened to investigate the alleged transportation of Patty Hearst by the SLA from California where she had been captured.
  • He was a killer. (Frank Rizzo) There was no question. More people died in police actions before or since.
  • I don’t mean to suggest that all the police started out as homocidal. This was a situation which from the top down came the message if you’re a good cop then you’re going to take people out however you think you need to.
  • I knew about race and class bias in the court room as much as a white woman who was middle class could know.
  • I was just blown away by what happens when you add hatred of women to hatred of black people and hatred of poor people.
  • Judges would go by me in the hall and say Maguigan, ahem, you didn’t give me anything this Christmas, not even one lousy bottle, you’re not getting any assignments.
  • Judges would do things, like open the drawer in their chambers, and there would be wads of bills, and they’d let you know.
  • I developed a specialty on women who kill men.
  • In the early eighties a group in Philadelphia called Women Against Abuse began working and they did advocacy for battered women accused of crime and meant a huge difference.
  • The battered women cases I was working on were quite consuming because people then didn’t know very much in how to try these cases.
  • The judges expected you to plead insanity or guilty. Reasonable doubt was a consideration at sentencing not at trial.
  • There were cases that did require teams. There was no question.
  • I wanted to be in court. I wanted to be in the presence of that conflict between the authorities and regular people.
  • I went to NYU where I taught in the criminal defense clinic for many years.
  • To see students react to the great stories their clients have is just amazing.
  • SALT (Society of American Law Teachers) is about who gets into law school, what they learn and who teaches them. It’s about access to justice. It’s about relating to law school as a place where you train people to do social justice.  SALT’s focus is on students and teaching.
  • Holly Maguigan to be honored by Society of American Law Teachers.

Guest – Professor Holly Maguigan teaches a criminal defense clinic and one in comparative criminal justice as well as a seminar in global public service lawyering and a course in evidence. She is an expert on the criminal trials of battered women. Her research and teaching are interdisciplinary. Of particular importance in her litigation and scholarship are the obstacles to fair trials experienced by people accused of crimes who are not part of the dominant culture. Professor Maguigan is a member of the Family Violence Prevention Fund’s National Advisory Committee on Cultural Considerations in Domestic Violence cases. She serves on the boards of directors of the National Clearinghouse for the Defense of Battered Women and the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice. She is a past co-president of the Society of American Law Teachers, the largest membership organization of law professors in the U.S.



Law and Disorder July 13, 2015



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Steven Salaita Hired by American University of Beirut

In what we can view as a major victory for supporters of Palestinian human rights fired Professor Steven Salaita has been hired at the American University in Beirut in the American Studies Department. The American Association of University Professors calls Steven Salaita’s firing one of the significant violations of academic freedom in this decade. Nationwide over 5000 academics pledged to boycott the university resulting in the cancellation of dozens of scheduled talks and conferences at the University of Illinois. The University of Illinois’ action was part of a broader campus crackdown on Palestinian human rights activism that threatens both the foundational role of the university as a place of critical thinking and debate and the ability to advocate for Palestinian rights.

Guest – Professor Steven Salaita,  former associate professor of English at Virginia Tech. He is the author of six books and writes frequently about Arab Americans, Palestine, Indigenous Peoples, and decolonization. His current book project is entitled Images of Arabs and Muslims in the Age of Obama.Steven grew up in Bluefield, Virginia, to a mother from Nicaragua (by way of Palestine) and a father from Madaba, Jordan.  Books by Salaita,   his upcoming book is titled Uncivil Rights and The Limits Of Academic Freedom by Haymarket Press.


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Greece Economic Crisis 2015 Update

Earlier this year we spoke with regular columnist for the National Herald Dan Georgakas about the historic election as the people of Greece voted in the anti-austerity party of Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipiras winning a 149 seats of the 300 seat Parliament. Today, the economic and political state in Greece is in a tremendous state of flux.  Will Greece leave the EU and the Eurozone? Will its debt be written down and restructured?

Guest – Dan Georgakas, regular columnist for the National Herald, the leading Greek American weekly newspapero co-author of Detroit: I Do Mind Dying and coeditor of Solidarity Forever: An Oral History of the IWW.  He was a frequent contributor to now defunct Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora and the Journal of Modern Hellenism. Dan has taught at NYU, CUNY, Van Arsdale Labor College, Columbia University and University of Oklahoma.



Law and Disorder June 29, 2015



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UN Human Rights Report Finds Israel Committed War Crimes and Unprecedented Devastation in 2014 Gaza War

Recently the United Nations issued a report on Israel’s attack on Gaza in the summer of 2014. The results were devastating again for Israel. The report also covered illegal Israeli settlements as well as house demolitions. Another section dealt with rockets that came from Gaza and went into Israel. What can we expect the result of this report to be? Will it be like the other ones, simply good reading or bad reading and shelved again? Will the UN act to do something with it? Will it go to the International Criminal Court? Again, we don’t know.

Guest – Diana Buttu,  a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and a former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Best known for her work as a legal adviser and a participant in peace negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian organizations, she has since been associated with Stanford University, Harvard University, and the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU).


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ICE Detention Center Standards Improve, Being Released is Now More Difficult

When women and children from Central America seek asylum and are captured at the US border, some are arrested and sent to a detention center in Artesia, New Mexico. Run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, there are no legal services providers in the state funded to represent persons in detention. The Obama administration has made clear that immigrants’ cases must be processed as quickly as possible, and that most should be deported, increasing the likelihood that detainees are deprived the chance to exercise their rights.

To help ensure that women in detention get legal help in navigating a complex and difficult-to-understand process, a small group of volunteer attorneys organized by the American Immigration Lawyers Association works at the center 12 hours a day.  The court process in Artesia has been described as a “s#%*show” where judges refuse to let lawyers speak during hearings, detainees clearly worthy of asylum are denied, and no one will articulate the legal basis for judges and asylum officers’ decisions. Most women in detention do not understand that they can ask for time to locate an attorney or that they cannot be deported without having an opportunity to present their case.

Guest – Attorney Laura Lichter, former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. (“AILA”), the premier bar association of immigration lawyers and law professors in the U.S. She has been an elected member of AILA’s national leadership for over a decade and has served as the association’s top liaison to the key immigration enforcement bureaus of the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which is responsible for immigration investigations, prosecution, detention and removal operations, and the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR), which oversees the nation’s immigration court system. Ms. Lichter is AILA’s liaison to the American Bar Association’s Commission on Immigration and serves on the Federal Bar Association’s Immigration Law Section Advisory Board. Ms. Lichter recently served on the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) Task Force on ICE’s Secure Communities program, reporting to findings on the ICE enforcement initiative to DHS Secretary Napolitano. Based in Denver, she is the former Chair of AILA’s Colorado Chapter. Ms. Lichter’s practice focuses on the representation of foreign nationals in removal proceedings, contested family and naturalization applications, administrative appeals, and related federal district and appellate court litigation.



Law and Disorder June 15, 2015


  • Michael Ratner Update: Iraqi Woman Sues Bush Administration for Illegal Iraq War
  • Remembering Ronnie Gilbert from The Weavers


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The Campaign To Free Oscar Lopez Riviera

There’s been a long struggle by Puerto Ricans here in the United States for the independence of their native land Puerto Rico. Oscar Lopez Riviera was one of these people. He was framed up on the political charge of seditious conspiracy and has been in prison since the 1980s. All his co-defendants in the original trial have now been freed but he remains locked up and there is a campaign going on in the United States right now to free Oscar Lopez Riviera.

Guest – Attorney Jan Susler joined People’s Law Office in 1982 after working for six years as a Clinical Law Professor at the legal clinic at Southern Illinois University’s School of Law, Prison Legal Aid. At the People’s Law Office she continued her litigation and advocacy work on prisoners’ rights issues and also took on representing people wrongfully imprisoned, falsely arrested, strip searched, or subjected to excessive force by police officers.

Her long history of work on behalf of political prisoners and prisoners’ rights includes litigation, advocacy and educational work around federal and state control unit prisons in the U.S. Her work with the Puerto Rican Independence Movement and with progressive movements challenging U.S. foreign and domestic policies has been a constant throughout her 36 years as a lawyer. She was an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Northeastern Illinois University, and taught constitutional law at the University of Puerto Rico.  For over three decades she has represented Puerto Rican political prisoners, and she served as lead counsel in the efforts culminating in the 1999 presidential commutation of their sentences. She continues to represent those who remain imprisoned.

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Genocide In The Middle East, The Ottoman Empire, Iraq and Sudan

Here on Law and Disorder we’ve discussed genocide. Genocide of course, we’ve most recently discussed with our co-host whose family was effected by the Armenian genocide, we’ve discussed that genocide. We’ve also discussed the question of whether what has happened to Palestinians the Middle East also constitutes as genocide.

Guest – Hannibal Travis teaches and conducts research in the fields of cyberlaw, intellectual property, antitrust, international and comparative law, and human rights. He joined FIU after several years practicing intellectual property and Internet law at O’Melveny & Myers in San Francisco, California, and at Debevoise & Plimpton in New York. He has also served as Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Villanova University, and a Visiting Fellow at Oxford. He graduated summa cum laude in philosophy from Washington University, where he was named to Phi Beta Kappa. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as a member of the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology and the Harvard Human Rights Journal, and as a teaching assistant in Harvard College. After law school, Professor Travis clerked for the United States District Court in Los Angeles, California. Professor Travis has published articles on copyright, trademark, and antitrust law in the Berkeley Technology Law Journal, Hofstra Law Review, the Journal of the Copyright Society of the USA, Notre Dame Law Review, Pepperdine Law Review, University of Miami Law Review, Vanderbilt Journal of Entertainment and Technology Law, Virginia Journal of Law and Technology, and Yale Journal of Law and Technology.



Law and Disorder May 4, 2015


  • Heidi Boghosian:The Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal Places Ad In New York Times – “Mumia Abu-Jamal Is Dying In Prison From Medical Neglect”



Listen Yankee: Why Cuba Matters

As relations between the United States and Cuba are radically changing, Tom Hayden’s new book Listen Yankee! Why Cuba Matters is especially timely. It offers thoughtful analysis and insights into the efforts of intellectuals, social justice activists and politicians that helped bring about normalization efforts.

Listen Yankee is both a historical account and personal memoir of Hayden as a revolutionary student leader and SDS founder whose own early work to spur poetical change mirrored the transformation going on in Cuba. His book is based in part on conversations with Ricardo Alarcon, one of the leaders of the revolution,. UN representative and a former guest of Law and Disorder.

Guest – Tom Hayden was a leader in the student, antiwar, and civil rights protests in the 1960s. He took up the environmental cause in the 1970s, leading campaigns to shut down nuclear power plants and serving as California’s first solar energy official. He was elected to the California legislature in 1982, serving for eighteen years. He continues to write as an editor for The Nation, and has taught at many campuses from Harvard’s Institute of Politics to UCLA’s labor studies


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Baltimore and the Human Right to Resistance: Rejecting the framework of the Oppressor

Events continue to unfold within Baltimore, Maryland in response to the police murder of Freddie Gray. Today we examine how stereotypes are perpetuated of the rebels in the streets. The mainstream press, pundits and elected officials black and white call them thugs.

Guest – Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer, geo-political analyst and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Baraka serves as the Public Intervenor for Human Rights as a member of the Green Shadow Cabinet and coordinates the International Affairs Committee of the Black Left Unity Network. An Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C., Baraka’s is also a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” and Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA.



Law and Disorder April 13, 2015


  • Michael Ratner: Edward Snowden Bust On Brooklyn War Memorial Replaced By Hologram


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Mumia Abu-Jamal Health Crisis Update

Journalist and political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal continues to be in serious medical condition at SCI Mahanoy in Frackville, Pennsylvania. He has lost over 50 pounds and his body is covered with a hard, painful layer of jet-black skin that is both bloody and itchy. Last week his blood sugar registered in the mid 200s and continues to fluctuate, with doctors injecting a double shot of insulin right before he was brought out in a wheelchair to see visitors. As of that visit he had not been seen by a diabetes specialist, and there is concern that the insulin injections may result in an overdose or cause organ damage.

Mumia is so weak that when he tried to go to the infirmary’s bathroom, he could not sustain himself on his feet. He slid down to the floor and waited there, helplessly and unable to call for assistance, for 45 minutes until he was found by a doctor and another prisoner.

Support and demands for medical attention and an improved diet continue to pour in from around the globe. Two teachers delivered letters that their students had written to Mumia; one batch from a third grade class taught by Ms. Marylin Zuniga in Orange, New Jersey; the other from a group of high school students in the Philadelphia Student Union, which fights for school reform and is led by Mr. Hiram Rivera.

ACTION: Please call Secretary of Pennsylvania Corrections John E. Wetzel – 717-728-4109. Demand is that Mumia be allowed to see a team of specialist chosen by his family and supporters to assess and evaluate his condition.

Article: A Slow Death for Mumia Abu-Jamal and Thousands of Prisoners in America by Johanna Fernandez and Heidi Boghosian

Guest – Johanna Fernandez, assistant professor of history at Baruch College and an active member of the Campaign to Bring Mumia Home. She received a PhD in History from Columbia University and a BA in Literature and American Civilization from Brown University. Professor Fernández teaches 20th Century U.S. History, the history of social movements, the political economy of American cities, and African-American history.


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Palestinian Refugees in Syria

In a situation the United Nations has described as “beyond inhumane,” last week an estimated 300 ISIS extremists converged on Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus after three days of fighting. Humanitarian aid has failed to reach starving residents there, even as ISIS members, many of whom appear to be Syrian, portrayed the attack as a liberation of the camp’s residents. In fact the residents –3,500 of whom are children—have been under siege and starvation tactics for two years.

Syrian forces control all entrances to the north and east of Yarmouk and have largely resisted pleas by UNRWA for parcels of food and water to be allowed in. Jaysh al-Islam, one of the main Islamist opposition groups fighting against Isis in the camp, reported to the Guardian that 80 ISIS militants had been killed in a period of two days and some of its positions had been seized. Yarmouk, the largest Palestinian camp in Syria, has been a frequent battle zone, pitting regime forces against mainstream and Islamist rebels. Approximately 16,000 residents remain in the settlement, a decrease from 200,000 prior to the war.

Most inhabitants fled to Lebanon where they now live in overcrowded refugee camps. Many are refugees for the second time, having fled what is now Israel in 1967 or 1948. Some have attempted to flee on migrant boats to Europe and Egypt.

Guest – Salim Salamah, the head of the Palestinian League for Human Rights-Syria, and a former Yarmouk resident who fled in October 2012. He’s exiled in Sweden since February 2013 – spokesperson of the Palestinian League for Human Rights/Syria, a grassroots refugee and youth-led human rights collective.



Law and Disorder March 16, 2015


  • Michael Ratner Updates On Julian Assange Case: You Can’t Just Keep A Case Going In Custody Essentially In The Embassy
  • Julian Assange’s Case Could Go To European Court of Human Rights – Assange Is Being Arbitrarily Detained And Investigation Not Proceeding
  • Eight Million Documents On Wikileaks In Highly Searchable Format
  • Google Turns Over Wikileak Attorney Client Emails to U.S. Government.
  • Federal Judge Denies EPIC’s FOIA Request On Government Surveillance Of Wikileaks Reporters – Denied Under Continuing Investigation Exemption


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Lords of Secrecy:The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare

Nearly half a century ago a majority of Americans were concerned whether their country would go to war. It was a time when national debates and public discussions engaged America’s political consciousness. That’s not the case so much these days says our guest author and attorney Scott Horton. His recently published book Lords of Secrecy:The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare examines how secrecy within the United States government has corrupted fundamental systems of democracy. Scott Horton also surveys the legal authority that the current national security elite have based decisions to torture, wage war and subcontract private soldiers. When operating in secret, mistakes, excesses and crimes committed in the process are often kept quiet.

Attorney Scott Horton:

  • Dick Cheney one of the longest serving secretaries of defense, because he had a peculiar atitude about secrecy. He manipulated the news secrecy all the time to give cover to claims and statements he made that turned out not to be true. These claims very frequently matters of the highest consequence.
  • The entire case to go to war in Iraq which was in fact led by Dick Cheney rested on claims that they had weapons of mass destruction and that they had aligned themselves and were operating with Al-Qaeda that’s how we got the connection to 911. Those claims were very aggressively put forward by Dick Cheney. They turned out to be completely false. He parried any attempts to challenge them by saying all the intelligence we have on that is . . . secret, so I can’t share it with you.
  • Of course, in good time we learned there wasn’t any intelligence or information that supported these claims.
  • The lords of secrecy consist of the higher echelon officers of the national intelligence and security bureaucracy and they’re the people who have under American law, the power to create secrets using the classification authority.
  • I make the case that they use that power very aggressively, very effectively to make themselves the ultimate decision makers on key national security issues and to remove those matters from the democratic, political process.
  • It’s on the lords of secrecy who really influence the final decision when its made by the executive.
  • The lords of secrecy, the people who wield the classification power also are part of a revolving door in Washington. They’re in government service, they leave that, they go to work as directors and senior officers of major contractors.
  • Those contractors hold a half trillion dollars in contract business every year paid for by tax payers and they also make enormous campaign donations.
  • Washington D.C. has emerged as the wealthiest standard metropolitan statistical area in the United States and that’s on the strength of the position of contractors and their ability to suck our treasury dry.
  • What the American people don’t know about, they don’t form opinions about. They don’t conjutate about, they don’t become engaged with. That shows how secrecy and this other stuff are a very potent narcotic against democracy effectively, causing democracy to fade away while the national security elites are at the driver’s wheel making all the key decisions.
  • I think it allows us to make war without going through the constitutional process.
  • It’s really vague on how this go-to-war decision is supposed to be made. There’s the appropriation authority of Congress, there’s the Commander in Chief power of the executive, there’s the power to declare war, and exactly how those rights and powers play out in any given situation really isn’t clear.
  • The bottom line is the US waging war overseas without the people of the United States having taken a decision to do so.
  • My book has gotten much stronger attention in Europe than it has in the United States.
  • A big part of the problem we have is the way national security and particularly intelligence community matters are reported in the United States.
  • One thing I looked at the coverage of the drone war in Pakistan and I found very clearly Americans are actually the most poorly informed community globally on this issue.
  • The media can’t really act without the whistleblower. It really comes down to the whistleblower being the last and best hope.
  • The problem is national security whistleblowers don’t get a fair trial. They wind up being abused, mistreated.
  • Let the Justice Department explain why they decided that Petraeus a slap on the fingers, nothing too serious, while they want to throw the book at Snowden.
  • Let them give the rationale for the distinction between these cases. They’ve never done that.

Guest – Scott Horton, human rights lawyer and contributing editor to Harper’s Magazine. Scott’s column – No Comment. He graduated Texas Law School in Austin with a JD and was a partner in a large New York law firm, Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler. His new book Lords of Secrecy The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Foreign Policy.


Venezuela-Elections_ A woman walks past graffiti in Caracas

US Sanctions Against Maduro Government Officials

In its continuation of a decades long overthrow of the Venezuelan government, the United States issued new sanctions against Venezuelan government officials who the United States claims are involved in violating human rights guarantees. President Barack Obama issued an order declaring a national emergency with respect to Venezuela. The order lists certain key Venezuelan officials and said that any financial transactions with those officials are barred. This is typical of what the United States does to officials of government it doesn’t like, whether it was Nicaragua in the ’80s or Cuba since 1959 or 1960. These sanctions must also be seen the light of short-lived 2002 military coup in Venezuela in which the United States was deeply involved. Today we want to talk about the broader context of these actions and why the U.S. is continually trying to destabilize Venezuela.

Mark Weisbrot:

  • It is pretty crazy that they have to declare Venezuela as an extraordinary threat.
  • You don’t see any of the reporters asking the Whitehouse . . . what are you talking about?
  • If you look at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States for example, that is the alternative to the OAS, that was created a few years ago in response to US unpleasant actions in the hemisphere.
  • Between 2000-2010 the Columbian military over 5700 innocent civilians, murdered them, and the United States just gave them more military aid.
  • I was there during the protest a year ago, and of course it was very different from what I saw . . I was actually kinda shocked. I walked all over and took the metro all over Caracas and the only demonstration you saw were little uprisings in the richest neighborhoods.
  • The people most affected the shortages, the ones that go and have to wait in line, can’t afford to buy anything in the black market.
  • The poor and the working people, they haven’t protest because they mostly support the government.
  • That’s a little bit of a disconnect from what you see in the press.
  • This idea that the protests are related to the shortages doesn’t hold up when you see who’s actually protesting. These people have servants who do their shopping, wait in the lines.
  • Upper middle class, they have servants, they have storage space.
  • These sanctions are probably illegal under International Law.
  • Again, there are things that are questionable, things that I wouldn’t try to defend but to create this picture, a very exaggerated picture that’s created here in the media because the U.S. wants to overthrow the government there I think is very unfortunate.
  • Venezuela has been a target by the United States for a regime change for at least 13 years.
  • A lot of people know if the opposition gets power, its just going to get worse for them.
  • Venezuela is not facing a real balance of payment crisis, where they can’t pay for their import. They just have a dysfunctional exchange rate system and they have a fair amount of sabotage too.

Guest – Mark Weisbrot co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. to give us an update. He writes a weekly column for The Guardian Unlimited (U.K.), and a regular column on economic and policy issues that is distributed to over 550 newspapers by the Tribune Content Agency.



Law and Disorder March 2, 2015


  • Michael Ratner: Jury Awards $218.5 Million in Terrorism Case Against Palestinian Groups


outofbounds (1) iwantyoursoul

The Campaign For A Commercial Free Childhood

The National Football League, Mattel’s Girl Scout Barbie Doll, and even McDonald’s all have something in common. They’ve engaged in highly sophisticated corporate marketing aimed at enticing young children into becoming life-long consumers and brand loyalists. They’re the subjects of the efforts of The Campaign For A Commercial Free Childhood to cease clever marketing that sends the message that purchasing will make children happy. The campaign has a proven track record of educating families and the public about how industry partnerships with schools, nonprofits and trusted institutions such as the Girl Scouts expose young people to inappropriate content with potentially negative consequences.

Josh Golin:

  • Very unfortunately, the Girl Scouts which has been traditionally a wonderful organization providing role models for girls launched a partnership last year with Barbie.
  • This partnership includes a website where girls can play a Barbie game about choosing careers but really all they’re doing is looking at different Barbie outfits and seeing other Barbie dolls that they can buy in the store.
  • There’s even a Barbie patch that Girl Scouts can earn.
  • We thought that this was such a harmful campaign to young girls that the Girls Scouts have traditionally been a refuge from the commercialism that is aimed at kids everywhere and clearly Barbie represents a problematic body type and focus on appearance and fashion and is in some ways the antithesis of what the Girl Scouts have traditionally represented.
  • They get 2 million dollars from Mattel from this partnership.
  • The message to young girls that you have to look like a fashion doll when you’re going out on a hike is unbelievable.
  • On the envelope that the report card came in was ad from McDonald’s saying bring your report card to McDonald’s if you had good grades or had good attendance or even good behavior and you get a free happy meal.
  • We do a lot of work on the area of advertising in schools. It’s really an unfortunate trend. There’s been an increase in it since 2008 when we had the economic downturn and schools are understandably looking for revenue any way they can get it.
  • There has been this increase in marketing to kids in schools and we think that’s particularly harmful to children. Anything advertised in the school comes with the school’s endorsement.
  • One of the things that’s most concerning about what the NFL does is they market Fantasy Football extensively to kids. They even have a curriculum in school to teach kids about Fantasy Football where they could then go online to the kid NFL website and compete for cash prizes.

Guest – Josh Golin, is Associate Director of CCFC and organizes CCFC’s advocacy campaigns and develops its communications strategy. His writings about the commercialization of childhood have appeared in a wide range of publications.


nantina stencil with atma

Greece Debt Crisis Postponed, Creditors Back Reform Plans

Earlier this year, we reported on the historic election voting in the Greek anti-austerity party of Syriza, led by Alexis Tsipiras. Syriza’s platform is to take back power within the Greek government, to effectuate a program that will call for cancellation of debt, nationalization of the banks, and expropriating closed factories. Greece is a member of the Eurozone, the nations that have joined with a common currency in 1999. Now, after barely a month in office, the Syriza Party led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipiras has been forced to make compromises on major issues such as labor reforms and agreeing not to undo privatization plans, to name a few. The crisis began when the European Central Bank said it would reject Greek sovereign bonds as collateral which made Greek banks dependent on Emergency Liquidity Assistance. Last week, Syriza entered negotiations with the EU and ECB and secured a four month extension of its financial rescue.

Nantina Vgontzas:

  • Let’s start with December 2009 when the Greek government declared in had sovereign debt of 109 percent, which is something they’ve been covering up the past few years.
  • Goldman Sachs was also involved with helping them to cover up those figures.
  • We should look at the political economy of the Eurozone constructed in the early 2000s. At the same time in Germany you had wage depression, meaning Germans were getting lower wages so that German exports would become more competitive and the European periphery was used as a dumping post. So they were getting more lending from German banks and that’s how you started getting more debts in Greece.
  • The European Union, The European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund which has played its hand since the 70s in imposing discipline on the countries throughout the developing world and Greece was the first so called advanced country that was starting to enter into this regimen of so called structural reforms that were attached to these bailouts that Greece was recieving to deal with the debt issue.
  • Attached to these structural reforms was the termination of collective bargaining agreements, the reduction of minimum wage . . . so you have massive social degradation and at the same time the debt continues to rise.
  • So the debt went from 109 percent of the GDP to 175 percent of the GDP.
  • So Greece is basically getting loans so it can pay interest on interest starting in the early 2020s and Syriza rightfully identified this as an extended pretend strategy.
  • They were the opposition government between 2012 and the end of 2014 and in 2015 they got 35 percent of the vote which wasn’t enough to form a government on its own which is why it had to form a coalition government.
  • Everybody knows that Greece can’t pay off its debt til the early 2020s.
  • I’ve written a piece in the Jacobin saying that I don’t think Eurozone would take any chances on letting Greece leave the Eurozone because of how helpful it has been to German capital. They’re not willing to take the long term risk, they’re not will to take the short term risk of speculative attacks that would occur on the Eurozone.
  • A Greek exit could have produced a domino effect, perhaps Portugal would have left, Italy, you start having big economies like Spain leaving. That kind of domino effect would be unsustainable for the Eurozone to exist.
  • There are ways of dealing with this (Greece leaving the Eurozone) You would have to impose capital controls, you would have to nationalize the banks, which is something that the Syriza leadership said that they wouldn’t do prior to elections. They’re going to have to revisit that strategy. Then you would have to figure out how you would ration food, fuel, pharmaceuticals in order to deal with immediate problems. Then you would have to talk about long term policies that would promote growth.
  • They (Syriza) cannot move to a technocratic approach because then they would lose thier fundamental element as a left party.
  • Half of the police corp (in Greece) support the Golden Dawn. This is something that Syriza has to neutralize while they’re in power.
  • They need to be neutralized by promoting a strategy that’s actually going to reverse austerity.
  • Jacobin Magazine -Nantina Vgontzas /Financial Times – Wolfgang Munchou

Guest – Nantina Vgontzas, a Greek-American PhD student in sociology at NYU focusing on political economy and social movements. She is a member of the UAW Graduate Student Organizing Committee and is involved in the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union reform movement.


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