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Archive for April 9th, 2012

It’s not often the word “whore” plays into a U.S. Senate debate, but it happened on Thursday night as five Democratic candidates squared off in the first televised debate of the campaign season.

Lee Whitnum, an author from Greenwich who claims some of her ideas will anger voters, went after U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy for his stance on support for Israel.

I am dealing with whore here, who sells his soul to AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), who will say anything for the job,” she said, in regards to Murphy […]

Whitnum is a vocal critic of U.S. aid to Israel, and has advocated prosecuting Jewish-Americans who settle in Israel and, in her words, “maim or kill in the Promised Land.”

She also attacked Tong, calling him “ignorant” and a “zealot” for coming to Murphy’s defense in support for Israel.

Watch it here!

Lee Whitnum for US Senate

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Notorious arms smuggler Viktor Bout, known as the “Merchant of Death” has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for conspiracy to commit terrorism. Our guest, former United Nations arms trafficking investigator Kathi Lynn Austin, says the case allowed American companies to avoid exposure of their collusion with with the U.S. government and private companies linked to Dick Cheney during the Iraq war, even after United Nations sanctions against him in 2004. Authorities say Viktor Bout was involved in trafficking arms to dictators and stoking conflicts in Africa, South America and the Middle East. He has also been accused of furnishing weapons to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and achieved particular notoriety for selling arms in Rwanda in 1998, just four years after the Rwandan genocide […]

…we know President Bush in 2004 signed an executive order making it illegal for any U.S. entity to do business with Viktor Bout. We had a number of private security firms. We had Brown & Root, we had Halliburton, that were linked to former Vice President Cheney, who were involved at the time with Viktor Bout. Even as we investigators confronted the U.S. government about these illicit activities, these private security firms continued to use Viktor Bout in violation of U.S law, in violation of U.N. sanctions, even American agencies. On one hand, you had the Department of Justice issuing a list of all companies and entities that the U.S. government and U.S. private firms were prohibited from doing business with. Viktor Bout’s companies were on that list. So you had the Department of Justice, on one hand, and yet you had the Department of Defense that continued to see—to seek out Viktor Bout’s services […]

two confidential sources that the U.S. government used. One was a former Guatemalan military officer. Another was a former Colombian military officer. They had both been—had poor human rights records for the way—the brutality in the way that they had gone after guerrillas in their own countries. But even after that, they had become cocaine traffickers. Both of them came forward to the U.S. government, said, “Look, we’ll start working for you, if you ensure us some form of amnesty and bring our families to the United States.” So, here we were using former cocaine traffickers in order to bring Viktor Bout to justice.

Source

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By Luigino Bracci Roa

Is it revolutionary that my CDs, my books, my songs, or my movies use obsolete copyright laws, those that are used by large entertainment transnationals to fine and arrest people who like my work?

In other countries, the copyright war is intensifying; large entertainment companies order the shutting down of websites, people’s arrest, and the implementation of controversial laws that support their interests, such as the SOPA and PIPA in the US, Sinde-Wert in Spain,  Doring in Mexico, Lleras in Colombia, and the ACTA agreement in 31 countries.

While some musicians agree that someone should be arrested for downloading their MP3, in more civilised countries like Venezuela, artists instead feel honoured when the people know about them, and download and share their songs.

New models are being experimented with that allow artists to earn a living from their music and their fans to obtain their songs without the majority of the money going to multinational economic groups.

Groups such as Dame Pa Matala are used to playing their music and selling their CDs, not in music shops, but rather at their own concerts, with amazing success. Many people have downloaded their MP3s from the Internet, but this doesn’t stop them selling hundreds of CDs at their concerts.

Other groups usually go to the barrios and populated areas to play live music, without stages or barriers or much paraphernalia, and spend some time with them directly. Last week, people in Caracas could see the Argentinean reggae, rock, and ska group Las Hormigas Negras (the black ants) playing in Sabana Grande boulevard in an improvised style, without a stage or anything else apart from two speakers and their instruments. And the people bought their CDs directly, without a music shop in between them to take a percentage of the money.

The group was visiting Caracas to play in a local shopping centre in Chacao [an upper class area] as part of a tour of Latin America, but that didn’t stop them playing spontaneously in one of Caracas’ main boulevards to an audience who might not know them in person.

El Pacto publishes its CDs on the internet with a Creative Commons license.

However one experience which most draws our attention is the one with proletarian and campesino  (rural worker) rock group El Pacto (EP), which has spent more than twenty years infecting Venezuelans with its music. Originally from Lara [state], the people know them for hits such as Chimborazo, La Caravana, Explosion San Jose, and Pueblo a la Calle (people to the street), among others. In their concerts stilt walkers and artists perform street theatre, interacting with their fans, giving them a unique experience.

The thing is that El Pacto made two controversial decisions:  They put their most recent CD, ‘Dancing with roosters’ on their webpage, www.elpacto.com.ve for everyone to download, and they gave it a Creative Commons license [translator’s note: the same license Venezuelanalysis.com uses], giving legal permission to people to download and share the CD with friends- exactly the opposite of what we see with commercial CDs, which come with legal warnings, even prohibiting that you lend the CD to your friends.

The use of Creative Commons “fascinates us, because we don’t agree with copyright,” Jose Gabriel Alvarez, main vocalist of the group, explained to us last Friday on the program Copiate esta Radio (Copy this radio) on the radio station Alba Ciudad 96.3 FM.

“It’s very hard to say that a work [of music, art, etc] is completely yours when you’ve been influenced by everything. The license recognised that the music belongs to El Pacto but you can share it, use it, and that doesn’t affect our authorship of the music at any time.”

“It’s important that we break away from this siege of patents and registries, which belong to consumerist and capitalist society,” he added. “Just the opposite: we want our music to be used by humanity, to be useful, to have a function, and in order for that to happen it’s essential that it has a certain freedom of movement too.”

Models for change

This involves a change in the way things are done in the music world. The entertainment industry uses mechanisms like the payola (bribes to operators and owners of radio stations) so that a song made by a company is played simultaneously on hundreds of radio stations and TV channels. Later, they sell their CDs to recover the “investment”. They usually pay large amounts of money, between 30,000 and 60,000 bolivars per month (US $6,976 – US $13,953), so that an artist is heard a lot. The adverse affect of this is that those musicians who can’t pay simply aren’t heard on the radio. In that way, local culture is displaced by music that the companies want to impose.

El Pacto and other alternative and traditional groups are instead making themselves known through direct contact with their fans and through state and community media, social networks, and the internet, so their songs and videos are circulated.

“For us, the most important thing isn’t to earn money with the recordings, but rather that the people know us, that the most amount of people possible can acquire [our music], and that this translates into live shows, which is what we really like to do,” said the leader of El Pacto.

“Thanks to god and this revolution, we were able to shake-up this dictatorship of the music companies,” he said.

For Alvarez, the topic of copyright goes beyond music and affects freedom of expression and the thoughts of the peoples directly.

“He who has eyes, look: those countries in the so called first world repress freedom of thought and expression, and we’re advancing towards greater freedom of thought, greater freedom of expression, greater artistic creativity and greater freedom to do these things”.

CDs verses Internet

The leader of El Pacto compared the physical distribution of the CD, which was published a month ago and 300 copies of it have been sold, to the number of Internet downloads. “In the same period of time almost 2000 copies of the CD have been downloaded. One of the things that surprised us was that the second country for the most downloads is France, and the third is Chile. It’s something that we would never have imagined”.

‘Dancing with roosters’ was printed by the National Disc Centre (Cendis), an entity of the culture ministry. It can also be bought in the South Bookshops [state owned book chain] for 30 Bs [US$ 7). With the [Bolivarian] government there weren’t any problems in using this distribution model through the Internet, but it’s unlikely that a private music company would have been in agreement with the proposal.

Octavio Rossel, a free software activist, was who recommended that El Pacto use Creative Commons. El Pacto’s website is also made with free software, and Alvarez announced that, over the next few days, they will upload all of the group’s discography, as well as videos and three songs recorded in a studio.

Worrying attitudes from the left

El Pacto played last Sunday in Maracaibo along with Manu Chao, brought to Venezuela by the government to do two free concerts.

Manu Chao is a group that is strongly identified with the left and that became known because they went to the barrios and humble places to play for the people, without worrying about intellectual property nor author’s rights.

However, their recent attitude has left some of their fans worried. In Venezuela, their managers resorted to copyright laws to prohibit state channels from transmitting the Maracaibo concert. They treated the press badly at both events- mostly state and alternative media- removing photographers and journalists with the argument that they “didn’t have the right to take photos”.

The Caracas concert on Friday was transmitted in its totality by the public state channel TVES, but Manu Chao’s managers got extremely angry because the contract supposedly only gave the channel permission to broadcast a small part of the event. In reprisal, the managers prohibited Vive TV- also public and state owned, from transmitting the Sunday Maracaibo concert.

Free culture

The U.S. lawyer Lawrence Lessig wrote, in 2004, the book  ‘Free culture: How big media uses technology and the law to lock down culture and control creativity’, which summarises how large transnationals have modified author’s rights and intellectual property laws in order to damage our own culture.

Lessig proposed a set of alternative licenses to traditional copyright, called ‘Creative Commons’, in which the authors, musicians, and cinematographers can… allow people to share their works. The artist can select certain conditions if he or she wants; the material can’t be modified, or that it can’t be used for profit.

Under government consultation

The National Centre of Information Technology (CNTI, an entity of the science and technology ministry) began a process of public consultation in February for the adaption of Creative Commons license to the Venezuelan legal framework. “People interested in participating in this process should register on the page of the International Organization ‘Creative Commons’  (http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Venezuela/Public_Discussion) and from there express their suggestions and opinions,” said John Pinango, leader of the CNTI project. The consultation process was open during March.

It’s important that artists and musicians study this proposal in order to make it as Venezuelan as possible. But also, grassroots support for artists who decide to confront traditional models imposed by music companies is important, in order to make direct distribution, the creative commons license, and concerts new forms of subsistence.

Revolutionary artists are against the criminalisation of those who download their MP3s, but they also need to earn a living from their music. So, if you like a musical group and you see that they are experimenting with new forms of distribution, support them! Buy their CDs, especially when you see that they make them themselves, and the money doesn’t go to a transnational. Get out to their concerts and performances. Support them when you see them live. Let’s not leave all the weight of supporting these artists to the government. If you want to help change the world and bring down the capitalist system, you should also do your part.

Translation by Tamara Pearson for Venezuelanalysis.com

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A crowd of several thousand Irish Republicans of various hues united collectively on Easter Saturday, 7th April, 2012, to commemorate Irish National Liberation Army volunteers Dominic and Mary McGlinchey in their home town of Bellaghy, county Derry,  Ireland. Dominic and his wife and comrade, Mary McGlinchey, were shot dead in the most cruel of circumstances by the enemies of the Socialist Republic which both volunteers selflessly dedicated their lives to.  The pro-imperialist media of the day must surely bear a significant responsibility for their murders, by shamelessly and constantly demonising the two Irish Republican Socialist activists in life and even in death.

A colour party from the Irish Republican Socialist Movement, carrying the furled flags of the four provinces, the national flag, the Starry Plough and the Red flag, led the commemoration to Bellaghy cemetery.

source.

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The world’s most hated corporation is at it again, this time in Vermont.

Despite overwhelming public support and support from a clear majority of Vermont’s Agriculture Committee, Vermont legislators are dragging their feet on a proposed GMO labeling bill. Why? Because Monsanto has threatened to sue the state if the bill passes.

The popular legislative bill requiring mandatory labels on genetically engineered food (H-722) is languishing in the Vermont House Agriculture Committee, with only four weeks left until the legislature adjourns for the year. Despite thousands of emails and calls from constituents who overwhelmingly support mandatory labeling, despite the fact that a majority (6 to 5) of Agriculture Committee members support passage of the measure, Vermont legislators are holding up the labeling bill and refusing to take a vote.

Instead, they’re calling for more public hearings on April 12, in the apparent hope that they can run out the clock until the legislative session ends in early May.

What happened to the formerly staunch legislative champions of Vermont’s “right to know” bill? They lost their nerve and abandoned their principles after Monsanto representative recently threatened a public official that the biotech giant would sue Vermont if they dared to pass the bill. Several legislators have rather unconvincingly argued that the Vermont public has a “low appetite” for any bills, even very popular bills like this one, that might end up in court. Others expressed concern about Vermont being the first state to pass a mandatory GMO labeling bill and then having to “go it alone” against Monsanto in court.

What it really comes down to this: Elected officials are abandoning the public interest and public will in the face of corporate intimidation.

Monsanto has used lawsuits or threats of lawsuits for 20 years to force unlabeled genetically engineered foods on the public, and to intimidate farmers into buying their genetically engineered seeds and hormones. When Vermont became the first state in the nation in 1994 to require mandatory labels on milk and dairy products derived from cows injected with the controversial genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone, Monsanto’s minions sued in Federal Court and won on a judge’s decision that dairy corporations have the first amendment “right” to remain silent on whether or not they are injecting their cows with rBGH – even though rBGH has been linked to severe health damage in cows and increased cancer risk for humans, and is banned in much of the industrialized world, including Europe and Canada.

Monsanto wields tremendous influence in Washington, DC and most state capitals. The company’s stranglehold over politicians and regulatory officials is what has prompted activists in California to bypass the legislature and collect 850,000 signatures to place a citizens’ Initiative on the ballot in November 2012. The 2012 California Right to Know Act will force mandatory labeling of GMOs and to ban the routine practice of labeling GMO-tainted food as “natural.”

continued here.

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A handmade firebomb has exploded outside a branch of the Greece’s Administrative Reform Ministry tasked with cutting 150,000 public sector jobs by 2015, police said.

The bomb, made of at least five gas canisters, exploded in the early hours of Monday morning, causing significant damage to the building’s ground floor and a car parked nearby, but there were no human casualties.

“There was no warning call and the risk of someone being injured was big, as the building is centrally located,” said an unnamed police official.

Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas recently announced a series of measures to slash thousands of government workers.

Small bomb attacks against government buildings and banks have surged in the debt-ridden country, after Athens began imposing harsh austerity measures as a pre-condition to two rounds of bailouts by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

Greece is battling an economic crisis that has sent unemployment soaring and salaries and pensions sinking. Hundreds of thousands of Greeks have lost their jobs over the past year. Despite austerity cuts and the bailout funds, the country has been in recession since 2009.

No responsibility has yet been claimed for the attack, but police suspects a new group called “February 12 Movement,” which last week took responsibility for a time-bomb found on an underground train on February 25.

source.

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Thousands of US soldiers are going into battle fueled by all sorts of prescription medications, be they amphetamines, antidepressants, sedatives or others. Largely unmonitored consumption of drugs can lead to aberrant behavior and mental disorders.

­Over 110,000 American service personnel took prescribed medications in 2011 to battle through everyday military routine.

The Times recently disclosed that nearly 8 per cent of active-duty American servicemen and women take sedatives and over 6 per cent are on antidepressants, a tremendous eightfold increase since 2005, when two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were in full swing.

Routine military service, combat stress, and sometimes lack of sleep force American troops to go to work medicated. It mirrors the general situation in American society that uses prescription drugs on a daily basis at levels unseen before.

In the Army, though, those who opt to modulate their lives with drugs are facing challenges of a non-civil nature that supposes an absolutely different level of responsibility. These men and women are well-armed, after all.

As a rule, troops are sent to deployment with 180-day medication supply. But soldiers can always trade favorite pills with their friends. The habit of ending a hard day with a handful of various tablets is apparently nothing extraordinary.

“We have never medicated our troops to the extent we are doing now…. And I don’t believe the current increase in suicides and homicides in the military is a coincidence,” said Bart Billings, a former military psychologist who hosts an annual conference on combat stress, informed The Los Angeles Times.

Painkillers of narcotic nature pose a threat of addiction to those injured who have to take them, too.

One could only guess whether the suicide rate surge in the US Army in the recent decade has any connections with army psychologists prescribing pills to personnel left, right and center. An appalling 80 per cent increase in suicides among US service personnel has been registered between 2004 and 2008.

On the other hand, when every 10th US serviceman deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there must be a calculated risk in prescribing these medications to keep soldiers in service.

But the main problem among deployed troops remains mental fatigue of those who have been deployed several times in a row. As many as 80 per cent of on-duty personnel have gone through three or more deployments. Worn-out personnel have problems with sleep and accurate assessment of ongoing events.

The recent notorious case of Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of murdering 17 civilians in a bloody rampage in Afghanistan, again raised the question of drug-related incidents in the US military.

After it was announced the defendant does not remember what he did, his attorneys requested a list of the medication the soldier was taking during his deployment in Afghanistan.

source.

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