Barry Sheppard

Edward Snowden remained in the transit area of the Moscow airport as of June 26, as Washington stepped up its threats against China and Russia for not turning the NSA whistleblower over to the US. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that China’s decision to allow Snowden to leave Hong Kong would “without question” affect US-China relations and “have consequences”. See also: Ecuador offers US 'human rights' aid, cancels trade deal
The exposure of the huge surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) of all phone calls in the United States, as well as the vast data mining of all electronic communications through computer servers and search engines worldwide, is one of the most important whistle-blowing events of our times. Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the surveillence Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, says these exposures by Edward Snowden, who worked for a private contractor used by the NSA, said Snowden’s exposures were even more important than the Vietnam War revelations.
The court-martial of US Private Bradley Manning opened on June 3, and is expected to last 12 weeks. The courageous US soldier leaked a large trove of classified material documenting US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, diplomatic cables exposing Washington’s machinations in the Middle East and elsewhere, and other material. At a previous hearing, Manning admitted he was the source of these leaks. As a result, he opened himself to a potential sentence of up to 20 years in military prison.
Lynne Stewart, a movement attorney who was jailed for the “crime” of being the defense lawyer for alleged terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, is dying in prison of stage-four cancer. Her family and supporters, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are asking that she be granted compassionate release so she can live out her final days outside prison walls. The warden of Stewart's prison has approved her compassionate release, however the Department of Prisons has so far refused to grant it.
The Obama administration asserts that presidents of the United States have the power to wage endless war anywhere in the world without permission or hindrance from Congress. This claim is reiterates the position of the Bush administration, which was most strongly pushed by Bush’s vice-president Dick Cheney. It is another example of the seamless transition from Bush to Obama in foreign affairs.
A new scandal has erupted involving the use of the “war on terror” to crack down on the democratic rights of US citizens. The US justice department has acknowledged secretly seizing all the work, home and cell phone records of almost 100 reporters and editors at the Associated Press (AP).
In the aftermath of the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the Obama administration is broadening its definition of “terrorism” to include fighters for Black rights in the US. Washington has already used the term so indiscriminately against enemies internationally that it has become virtually meaningless. For example, every act of resistance to US occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan is labeled “terrorism”. By that definition, George Washington and the other American revolutionists were “terrorists” for resisting British rule.
Facing a huge hunger strike by desperate prisoners at the US military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, President Obama has acknowledged that the prison should be shut down. He said the same thing more than four years ago when he was running for his first term, but did nothing after he was elected. In recent years, the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo has receded in public consciousness in the US. The hunger strike, which began in February, has begun to change that.
The horrific bombing of runners and onlookers at the Boston Marathon in Massachusetts was a criminal act, which nothing can justify. The murderous attack must be condemned. Children, adults and elderly were murdered and terribly injured. Limbs were torn off in the blasts. There were more amputations in the hospital. Of the over 280 injured, many were riddled with shrapnel. The victims were from many nationalities, since the historic race attracts people from all over the world.
The continued rightward shift of capitalist politics in the United States was underscored with the official release of President Barack Obama’s proposed budget. In it, Obama proposes to cut the already inadequate pension program for the elderly known as Social Security and the medical insurance program for the elderly, Medicare. These and other programs for the elderly and poorer sections of the working class are under attack. Both major parties claim that spending on social welfare must be cut in the current economic depression.
United States President Barack Obama’s trip to Israel and stopover in the West Bank was designed to emphasise Washington’s approval of the status quo, and to reassure Israelis of his firm support for their policies. His vague statements in favour of a Palestinian state were cynical in the face of ongoing Israeli actions on the ground, and his own silence on any proposals to achieve a Palestinian state.
Since Richard Nixon proclaimed the “War on Drugs” four decades ago, drug use around the world has skyrocketed. From 1998 to 2008 alone, global opiate use rose 34.5%, cocaine 28% and marijuana 8.5%. People in the US are the world’s largest users of cocaine, Colombian heroin, Mexican heroin and marijuana. When Nixon launched the “war”, his initial budget was US$100 million for the first year. This has ballooned year after year, until it was $15.6 billion for 2011. Given this, here are many commentators who proclaim that the “war on drugs” has failed.
The stock market has surged past its former high recorded in October 2007, before the financial crash and Great Recession. “With the Dow Jones Industrial average [at] a record high,” writes a columnist in a front page article in the New York Times, “the split between American workers and the companies that employ them is widening and could worsen in the next few months as federal budget cuts take hold”. “That gulf helps explain why stock markets are thriving even as the economy is barely growing and unemployment remains stubbornly high.
In a five-to-four split decision, the Supreme Court ruled that, in effect, no citizen may challenge the constitutionality of any of the executive orders, or laws passed by Congress, that violate democratic rights under the pretext of the “war on terrorism.” The decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, Global Rights, Global Fund for Women, Human rights Watch, PEN American Center, Service Employees International Union, journalists Naomi Klein and Chris Hedges, and several defense attorneys.
At first it appeared to be another too common American story. A worker with a grievance goes on a deadly shooting spree, targeting his bosses and coworkers. It quickly turned out that the killer was a former officer of the Los Angeles Police Department, who vowed to shoot as many of his former officers as he can, as well as their family members. The LAPD says the killer is Christopher Dorner, who shot and killed a young woman who was the daughter of a former police captain, as well as her fiance. He then ambushed a police car, killing one officer and wounding another.
President Barack Obama's nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA underscores the administration's drive to assert absolute executive power in the “war on terrorism” without any outside constraints or possibility of review. Brennan was a public defender of the use of torture and "special rendition" under the Bush administration.

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