About that Iranian nuclear threat

AP has a big, exclusive story based on a graph of a simulation leaked by they’re-not-saying-who from they’re-not-saying-where. This is Proof the Iranians are working on a big bad nuke.

Glenn Greenwald seems to be getting exasperated at the silliness of such setups:

even if one assumes that this graph is something other than a fraud, the very idea that computer simulations constitute “evidence” that Iran is working toward a nuclear weapon is self-evidently inane.

Well, yes, there is that.

But there’s one even bigger piece of evidence suggesting that the Iranians aren’t doing much, and for some reason that’s not being mentioned. They have a border with a huge and powerful country. Russia has zero reason to want powerful Islamic fundamentalists right on its southern border who might encourage friction in other Central Asian majority-Islamic countries.

If the Iranians were really that close to useful nukes, you can bet your Sunday bonnet the Russians would be making noise about it and/or doing something about it.

Crossposted from Acid Test


US Citizens Arrested, Interrogated, and Stranded Overseas

Gulet Mohamed surrounded by family on return to U.S.

From The New York Times, January 5, 2011:

An American teenager detained in Kuwait two weeks ago and placed on an American no-fly list claims that he was severely beaten by his Kuwaiti captors during a weeklong interrogation about possible contacts with terrorism suspects in Yemen.

The teenager, Gulet Mohamed, a Somali-American who turned 19 during his captivity, said in a telephone interview on Wednesday from a Kuwaiti detention cell that he was beaten with sticks, forced to stand for hours, threatened with electric shocks and warned that his mother would be imprisoned if he did not give truthful answers about his travels in Yemen and Somalia in 2009.

American officials have offered few details about the case, except to confirm that Mr. Mohamed is on a no-fly list and, for now at least, cannot return to the United States. Mr. Mohamed, from Alexandria, Va., remains in a Kuwaiti detention center even after Kuwait’s government, according to his brother, determined that he should be released.

During the interview with the NYT, Mohammed said, “I am a good Muslim, I despise terrorism.”

During the 90-minute telephone interview, Mr. Mohamed was agitated as he recounted his captivity, tripping over his words and breaking into tears. He said he left the United States in March 2009 to “see the world and learn my religion,” and had planned to return to the United States for college.

He said he had traveled to Yemen to study Arabic, but stayed less than a month because his mother worried about his safety. He said that he spent five months later that year living with an aunt and uncle in northern Somalia, before moving to Kuwait in August 2009 to live with an uncle and continue his Arabic studies.

Mohammed’s ordeal began when he went to the airport in Kuwait to renew his travel visa. He was held for five hours and then handcuffed, blindfolded and taken to a prison where he was interrogated and beaten on his feet and face with sticks when he didn’t give the “right answers.”

“Are you a terrorist?” they asked, according to his account.

“No,” he replied.

“Do you know Anwar?” his interrogators asked, referring to Mr. Awlaki.

“I’ve never met him,” Mr. Mohamed recalled saying.

“You are from Virginia, you have to know him,” they responded, according to Mr. Mohamed. From 2001 to 2002, Mr. Awlaki was the imam of a prominent mosque in northern Virginia.

Mohammed told the NYT in January that even after being released, he couldn’t sleep or eat and was constantly fearful. He said he has “always been pro-American” and obviously could not understand why he was targeted. After the article in the NYT, Mohammed was finally permitted to return home later in January. He told the Washington Post that his ordeal had “made me stronger.”

Mohammed is only one of many American citizens of Middle Eastern or African descent who have found themselves stranded overseas, unable to return home because their names have been put on a no-fly list while they were out of the country. Many of these people have been arrested and interrogated by foreign governments, apparently at the request of the F.B.I. From the Post article (1/21/2011):

Civil liberties groups charge that his case is the latest episode in which the U.S. government has temporarily exiled U.S. citizens or legal residents so they can be questioned about possible terrorist links without legal counsel.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the U.S. government on behalf of 17 citizens or legal residents who were not allowed to board flights to, from or within the United States, presumably because, like Mohamed, they were on the government’s no-fly list. Of those stranded overseas, all were eventually told they could return, often after they agreed to speak to the FBI. None was arrested upon their return.

The ACLU suit, filed in Portland, Ore., alleges that Americans placed on the no-fly list are denied due process because there is no effective way to challenge their inclusion. The government does not acknowledge that any particular individual is on the no-fly list or its other watch lists. Nor will it reveal the exact criteria it uses to place people on its list.

This week Mother Jones published a series of reports on their investigations of FBI operations that sound like COINTELPRO updated.

COINTELPRO was an FBI covert operation that targeted domestic left-wing and anti-war groups from 1956 to 1971, in the name of “national security.” Frankly, the covert operations have probably continued even though they are technically illegal. But lately we’ve seen an uptick in FBI operations targeting groups within the U.S. Until I came across a couple of blog posts last week about American muslims being targeted overseas, I had no idea the FBI had branched out to foreign covert operations.

At Mother Jones, Nick Baumann writes:

In the past, the FBI has denied that it asks foreign governments to apprehend Americans. But, a Mother Jones investigation has found, the bureau has a long-standing and until now undisclosed program for facilitating such detentions. Coordinated by elite agents who serve in terrorism hot spots around the world, the practice enables the interrogation of American suspects outside the US justice system. “Their citizenship doesn’t seem to matter to the government,” says Daphne Eviatar, a lawyer with Human Rights First. “It raises a question of whether there’s a whole class of people out there who’ve been denied the right to return home for the purpose of interrogation in foreign custody.”

I highly recommend reading the whole article. Baumann describes other cases similar to Mohammed’s and reveals information he obtained from government officials and representatives of human rights groups.

Here is another example from a 2010 Huffpo article:

Yahya Wehelie

A Virginia man said he has been stuck in limbo in Egypt for the last six weeks, living in a cheap hotel and surviving on fast food after his name was placed on a U.S. no-fly list because of a trip to Yemen.

Yahya Wehelie, a 26-year-old Muslim who was born in Fairfax, Virginia to Somali parents, said Wednesday he spent 18 months studying in Yemen and left in early May. The U.S. has been scrutinizing citizens who study in Yemen more closely since the man who tried to blow up a U.S.-bound airliner on Christmas was linked to an al-Qaida offshoot in Yemen.

Wehelie was returning to the U.S. with his brother Yusuf via Egypt on May 5 when Egyptian authorities stopped him from boarding his flight to New York. They told him the FBI wanted to speak with him.

He said he was then told by FBI agents in Egypt that his name was on a no-fly list because of people he met in Yemen and he could not board a U.S. airline or enter American airspace. His passport was canceled and a new one issued only for travel to the United States, which expires on Sept. 12. He does not have Somali citizenship.

Wehelie said his brother Yusuf was allowed to return home, but only after he was detained for three days by Egyptian police on suspicion of carrying weapon. He said his brother was shackled to a jail wall and interrogated by a man who claimed to work for the CIA. He was then dumped in the street outside the prison when he feigned illness.

In June, 2010, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) posted a list of American Muslims who had been kept from returning to the U.S. after trips abroad.

In July, 2010, CAIR posted a warning on its website informing Muslim-Americans that they could end up in “forced exile” if they traveled to another country.

CAIR this week issued an advisory to American Muslims — whether citizens, permanent residents or visa holders — warning of the risk of “forced exile” when traveling overseas or attempting to return to the United States. Muslim travelers are urged to know their legal rights if they are placed on the so-called “no-fly list.”

In the past few months, CAIR has received a number of reports of American Muslims stranded overseas when they are placed on the government’s no-fly list. Those barred from returning to the United States report being denied proper legal representation, being subjected to FBI pressure tactics to give up the constitutionally-guaranteed right to remain silent, having their passports confiscated without due process, and being pressured to become informants for the FBI. These individuals have not been told why they were placed on the no-fly list or how to remove their names from the list.

FBI agents have reportedly told a number of individuals that they face being stranded outside the United States longer, or forever, unless they give up their rights to legal representation or to refuse interrogations and polygraph tests. But even those who submitted to interrogations without an attorney or to the “lie detector” tests remain stranded.

This situation is outrageous, and President Obama should be directly confronted about his support of this un-American, authoritarian policy (White House approval is required for many of these FBI activities). Perhaps a relatively high profile article like the one in Mother Jones will influence some mainstream reporters to do that. In the meantime, please spread the word in any way you can.


Saturday: People before Profit vs. Pseudo-Pragmatism

My favorite moment from the night of the SOTU address: Hillary, Sonia, and Elana

Good morning, news junkies! It’s been a helluva week in current events. Grab a cuppa whatever gets you up and warm this morning and let’s dig in.

Restate of the Union

For the source on that, see VL’s latest webcomic: “Restate of the Union“? Once again, Vast Left hits it out of the park. And, Glen Ford at BAR hits it back out there again (emphasis in bold is mine): “The Obama/GOP ConsensusWith whole communities in a state of economic dislocation, Obama burns the rescue boats and poisons the water, all the while promising that the necessary budgetary savings will not be achieved ‘on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens’ – as if Wall Street’s bankers will shield the helpless with their well-bonused bodies… No dollar signs to give meaning to the president’s mystical and misleading rhetoric on jobs, which will somehow be made to appear through a uniquely American process of ‘innovation’ and ‘self-invention’ inaccessible to lesser peoples. This aspect of exceptionalism will out-’green’ China and overtake South Korean Internet speeds, without costing the Treasury an extra dime. ‘Thousands’ of jobs will result, to take the place of the hundreds of thousands that will be lost in the public sector, alone, as government implodes at all levels.

Also: Bostonboomer came up with an excellent list of words that were missing from the president’s address (see last section of this post for my list), and over at the CSM Global News Blog, Stephen Kurczy has a roundup of “World reactions to Obama’s 2011 State of the Union address.”

Power to the People: Tunisia, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, and the Palestine Papers

The REAL story this week is the one going on in the Middle East. I collected more links and excerpts than I could fit here, so I’ve put up a separate Saturday reads just for the Middle East at my place. Please click on the link above or the image to the left to get the scoop! To the left, description by Mona Eltahawy: “..a photo of a man and a woman standing in Mahalla, posted on the citizen journalists’ Web site Rassd News Network, instantly conveys why Egyptians have taken to the streets. The woman holds a loaf of bread and a Tunisian flag. The man next to her holds a loaf of bread and a sign that reads ‘Yesterday Tunisia. Today Egypt. Jan. 25 the day we began to take our rights back.’

Modern-Day Slavery Continues Right Before Our Eyes

In South Florida, via the Miami Herald: “Modern-day slaves’ story repeats daily in plain sightThe case of dozens of Filipino workers held captive spotlights a widespread human- trafficking problem.” And, from Nikki Junker at RH Reality Check: “Moldova, A Hot Bed for Human TraffickingSo when I think of Human Trafficking, I think of the places where poverty is most rampant and in the European Union, the poorest country is little Moldova whose people are bought and sold as commodities to be used by the richer nations of the world.

Sept. 2010: Hillary at the UN attending the "Every Woman, Every Child" event.

This Saturday in Women’s and Children’s Health

For the extended version, please click here or on the image to the left. Topics covered: Breakthroughs, Cancer Research, January: Cervical Health Awareness, February 4: Official Wear Red Day, Abortion Rights Awareness Month?, Obstetric Fistula, Chemicals and the Rise in Childhood Cancers, Demography trends in India, Stupakistan: An Interactive Map, Anti-Abortion Myths, Catholic hospitals, Abortion showdown in Texas, Stem Cell Research, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.

Race to the Truth

I wrote this back in November, but after hearing Obama’s SOTU remarks on education, I thought I would revisit it. It’s chock full of links–I basically recorded everything of interest I could dig up on the charter school debate. If you want to read the entire piece, click on the link/image or bookmark for later. Otherwise, here are the three must-read links you ought to familiarize yourself with if nothing else:

1. Ravitch’s “The Myth of Charter Schools” 2. CREDO 3. Harvard study

Bringing it altogether: Populism vs. the Pseudo-Pragmatism of Barack Obama

The president’s speech on Tuesday failed to put people first and then added insult to injury by championing the false pragmatism of “[spending] cuts to things I care deeply about, like community action programs.” Talk about “suckered into stupid” !

Remember O’s “Dumb” war comment? “I don’t oppose all wars…what I am opposed to is a dumb war.” Well, I’m not against all budgetary cuts. I’m just against the stuck-on-stupid ones that would further erode underfunded social safety nets that I care deeply about–especially at precisely the moment where the margins of society need those social safety nets the most. By all means, cut back spending on unnecessary things. I don’t know about you, but war+untruth and military aid toward a sham peace process all sound pretty darn unnecessary to me.

The president paid lipservice to “ordinary people” before he closed, but here are some more words missing from Obama’s speech: Egypt, the Palestine Papers, Citizens United ruling, Modern day slavery, Mental health, Childhood cancer, Hexavalent chromium, NASA privatization/layoffs (though Obama sure Sputnik’d us in a way that is a most unfortunate turn of that phrase), Atheist (yet for no discernible reason, he tacked Christian, Jewish, Hindu, and Muslim in front of his two-second mention of the DADT repeal), Texas School Board of Education and textbooks, CREDO study on charter schools, Peterson/Lastra-Anadón (their study gave Race to the Top winners poor marks), Smith-Lipinski, Paycheck Fairness Act (not the same thing as the Lilly Ledbetter Act), Income inequality, Rise in Multi-generational American households due to unemployment and foreclosure, Food stamps, Stem cell research, Dickey-Wicker, Public option/Medicare for All, Elizabeth Edwards.

I miss Elizabeth’s voice (from an August 2007 interview): “It’s the continuing inequity. We still have a middle class that lives on a razor blade. So sometimes when you say poverty, you neglect a large portion of the population about whom he’s deeply concerned. It’s the two-income trap. It’s more likely in America that your parents will file for bankruptcy than divorce. We think of divorce as so prevalent, but we all know that happens because somebody moves out of the house. But when bankruptcy happens, they stay there, they close up, and you don’t feel what’s going on. But what that means is we have all these families under stress, constantly. And then we have the people who are trying to get out of dire distress. You hear that thirty-seven million people in this country live in poverty, and fifteen million people—fifteen million— live in deep poverty, which is $7,800 for a family of three.

Now, that’s a State-of-the-Union-as-inherited-from-Bush-and-the-GOP speech!

I miss so many voices on the domestic policy front. Like Bobby Kennedy: “It is not realistic or hardheaded to solve problems and take action unguided by ultimate moral aims and values, although we all know some who claim that it is so. In my judgment, it is thoughtless folly. For it ignores the realities of human faith and of passion and of belief — forces ultimately more powerful than all of the calculations of our economists or of our generals.”

We are witnessing the power of those forces in the Middle East. Not in a glossy Shepard Fairey poster, but out in the streets. Genuine conviction. Genuine passion. The hope of a people demanding policies that put the interests of the public trust ahead of the pseudo-pragmatic. As Hillary said in her 2009 Human Rights speech at Georgetown: “Of course, people must be free from the oppression of tyranny, from torture, from discrimination, from the fear of leaders who will imprison or ‘disappear’ them. But they also must be free from the oppression of want – want of food, want of health, want of education, and want of equality in law and in fact.

There is nothing more pragmatic or more “innovative” than a domestic and foreign policy agenda driven by a human rights agenda to free people from the oppression not just of tyranny but also of want. It is the only agenda that pays lasting progress forward.

We need a freeze on the idiocracy that suggests otherwise.

So, what stories are you following today? And, what’s on *your* list of words missing from the SOTU? Have at it in the comments!

[originally posted at Let Them Listen; crossposted at Taylor Marsh and Liberal Rapture]