Category: Activism


Genetically engineered crops banned in Jackson County, Oregon in landslide victory against GMOs

Oregon
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

(NaturalNews) A ban on the growing of all genetically engineered plants appears to be a landslide victory in Jackson County, Oregon. With 100 percent of the precincts reporting and a huge voter turnout of over 50 percent, nearly 66% of voters elected to ban all genetically engineered crops from being grown in the county.

The vote ran 39,489 to 20,432 in favor of the ban, and it sends a clear signal that the People of Jackson County, Oregon — a largely agricultural area of the country — absolutely do not want genetically engineered crops to be growing anywhere near them. (Click here to see county election results.)

This is on top of the recent victory in Vermont where lawmakers passed a mandatory GMO labeling law that requires foods to be honestly labeled with their GMO content. (The evil biotech industry and its Grocery Manufacturers of America front group plant to sue Vermont to keep consumers in the dark.)

“Destroy all genetically engineered plants”

This ordinance in Oregon requires everyone to “destroy” all genetically engineered plants except those grown under indoor laboratory conditions (i.e. those which are safely isolated from the wild). This will allow scientists to continue to study GMOs without risking the lives of everyone else in the process.

Click here to read the full text of the ordinance (PDF).

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Oregon counties ban cultivation of GMO crops

Published time: May 21, 2014 16:37
Edited time: May 22, 2014 11:18

Reuters/Ints Kalnins

Reuters/Ints Kalnins

Despite the flood of corporate money poured into two small Oregon counties, local residents voted on Tuesday to ban genetically engineered crops from being planted within their borders.

Although Jackson County itself is home to less than 120,000 registered voters, the measure to ban genetically modified crops (GMOs) made headlines around the nation when it was revealed that large biotech companies like Monsanto were pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the area in order to affect the vote’s outcome.

As RT reported previously, Monsanto and five other corporations spent at least $455,000 in an attempt to defeat the initiative, and opponents of the GMO ban had gained an eight-to-one spending advantage as of April. According to the Associated Press, nearly $1 million of the $1.3 million spent during the campaign was used by opponents.

When the results were tallied, however, 66 percent of Jackson County residents voted in favor of the ban.

“We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world and we won,” local farmer and anti-GMO advocate Elise Higley told the Oregonian.

“It’s a great day for the people of Oregon who care about sustainability and healthy ecosystems,” added the group GMO Free Oregon on its Facebook page.

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Cecily McMillan, who faces up to seven years in prison, was immediately handcuffed and ‘whisked away’

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Cecily McMillan arrives at court in New York at the start of her assault trial. (Photo: Andrew Gombert/EPA)

Cecily McMillan—the 25-year-old Occupy Wall Street organizer who was allegedly sexually assaulted and brutalized by a police officer at Zuccotti Park, is facing up to seven years in prison after—in what her supporters say is a cruel twist—she was convicted Monday afternoon of “felony assault” of the very police officer she says is her perpetrator.

“This threatens a chilling effect over protest movements going forward,” said Stan Williams, media coordinator for Justice for Cecily, in an interview with Common Dreams. “I am so sad and raw right now.”

After four weeks of trial and just three hours of jury deliberation, the verdict was issued Monday afternoon, and Judge Ronald Zweibel immediately remanded McMillan into custody pending sentencing, rejecting her lawyer’s requests for bail.

The courtroom, which was packed with McMillan’s supporters and approximately 50 police officers, erupted into cries of “Shame!” as McMillan was handcuffed. According to Williams, people who stood up were pushed down and told to be quiet, yet the crowd “continued to shout and yell.”

“You could see Cecily over the heads of police officers who lined the front of the courtroom,” he added. “She looked upset and in shock over the verdict. Then she was whisked away.”

Williams said the scene was “extremely triggering” given the brutality of the March 2012 incident around which the trial orbited. According to a statement from Justice for Cecily,

[O]n March 17, 2012, Cecily’s attendance at Zuccotti was a point of party, not protest. It was St. Patrick’s Day and as a McMillan, she vowed for this one occasion to put down the bullhorn and pick up the beer. Cecily swung by the park to pick up a friend on her way to a nearby pub. Minutes later, she was sexually assaulted while attempting to leave Zuccotti in compliance with police evacuation orders. Seized from behind, she was forcefully grabbed by the breast and ripped backwards. Cecily startled and her arm involuntarily flew backward into the temple of her attacker, who promptly flung her to the ground, where others repeatedly kicked and beat her into a string of seizures.

McMillan is described by her supporters as “a 25-year-old organizer” who “has been politically active for over a decade — most notably in the Democratic Socialists for America, the anti-Scott Walker mobilization, and Occupy Wall Street.”

She earlier rejected a deal from prosecutors, in which she would plea guilty to second-degree assault of a police officer in exchange for a recommendation from prosecutors for no prison time.

McMillan’s supporters have slammed Judge Zweibel for imposing a gag order on her lawyers and showing strong favor to the prosecution.

McMillan will soon be on her way to Rikers Island, said Williams.

According to The Guardian, “Hers is believed to be the last of more than 2,600 prosecutions brought against members of the movement, most of which were dismissed or dropped.”

McMillan’s supporters say McMillan will fight the verdict in an appeals court. According to Williams, there will be a rally Monday evening at Zuccotti Park, and there is a separate fund being collected for her commissary costs.

In a statement immediately following the verdict, Justice for Cecily declared:

We recognize that, as poorly as Cecily has been treated these past two years, she was lucky enough to have an amazing support system comprised of representation from the National Lawyer’s Guild and Mutant Legal, as well as significant financial help from supporters of Occupy Wall Street and a team of ten who tirelessly worked to bring her case to light and support her through this trying time. It’s harrowing to imagine how many unfortunate people encounter this system without the resources Cecily had, though we know countless innocent people are forced to plea to felonies and ruin their lives every day in this building.

Reactions and reports are being posted on Twitter:

Below is an exclusive Democracy Now! interview with McMillan.

 

 

Exclusive: OWS Activist Cecily McMillan Describes Seizure, Bodily Injuries in Arrest by NYPD

 

_____________________

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Supreme Court upholds prayer at government meetings

Supreme Court upholds prayer at government meetings

Credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

On November 6, 2013, the Court heard oral arguments in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway dealing with whether holding a prayer prior to the monthly public meetings in the New York town of Greece violates the Constitution by endorsing a single faith.

by Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

Posted on May 5, 2014 at 9:13 AM

Updated today at 9:13 AM

 

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the centuries-old tradition of offering prayers at the start of government meetings, even if those prayers are overwhelmingly Christian.

The 5-4 decision in favor of the any-prayer-goes policy in the town of Greece, N.Y., avoided two alternatives that the justices clearly found abhorrent: having government leaders parse prayers for sectarian content, or outlawing them altogether.

It was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, with the court’s conservatives agreeing and its liberals, led by Justice Elena Kagan, dissenting.

The long-awaited ruling following oral arguments in November was a victory for the the town, which was taken to court by two women who argued that a plethora of overtly Christian prayers at town board meetings violated their rights.

While the court had upheld the practice of legislative prayer, most recently in a 1983 case involving the Nebraska legislature, the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway presented the justices with a new twist: mostly Christian clergy delivering frequently sectarian prayers before an audience that often includes average citizens with business to conduct.

The court’s ruling said that the alternative — having the town board act as supervisors and censors of religious speech — would involve the government far more than Greece was doing by inviting any clergy to deliver the prayers.

“An insistence on nonsectarian or ecumenical prayer as a single, fixed standard is not consistent with the tradition of legislative prayer outlined in the court’s cases,” Kennedy said.

Kagan, joined by the court’s other three liberal justices, said the town’s prayers differed from those delivered to legislators about to undertake the people’s business. In Greece, she said, sectarian prayers were delivered to “ordinary citizens,” and their participation was encouraged.

“No one can fairly read the prayers from Greece’s town meetings as anything other than explicitly Christian — constantly and exclusively so,” Kagan said. “The prayers betray no understanding that the American community is today, as it long has been, a rich mosaic of religious faiths.”

The legal tussle began in 2007, following eight years of nothing but Christian prayers in the town of nearly 100,000 people outside Rochester. Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, a Jew and an atheist, took the board to federal court and won by contending that its prayers – often spiced with references to Jesus, Christ and the Holy Spirit — aligned the town with one religion.

Once the legal battle was joined, town officials canvassed widely for volunteer prayer-givers and added a Jewish layman, a Wiccan priestess and a member of the Baha’i faith to the mix. Stephens, meanwhile, awoke one morning to find her mailbox on top of her car, and part of a fire hydrant turned up in her swimming pool.

The two women contended that the prayers in Greece were unconstitutional because they pressured those in attendance to participate. They noted that unlike federal and state government sessions, town board meetings are frequented by residents who must appear for everything from business permits to zoning changes.

 

Read More Here

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SacBee.com

Donetsk referendum wording mentions neither Ukraine nor Russia

Sergei L. Loiko / MCT

A pro-Russia gunman sits at a barricade in front of the administration building in Konstyantynivka, in the Donetsk region of the Ukraine, Monday, April 28, 2014.

 

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 30, 2014 – 3:02 pm

Having lived through a month of pro-Russian separatists storming and seizing government buildings to raise the Russian flag, Donetsk residents will be asked May 11 to answer a single question in a hastily organized referendum.

That question, according to a government official who said he was present at a meeting Tuesday where the wording was agreed on: “Do you support the creation of the Donetsk People’s Republic?”

What would a “yes” vote actually mean? Officials admit they aren’t sure. In fact, one noted that more than a desire to join Russia, or be a separate nation, the vote is an attempt to persuade the central government in Kiev to listen to this populous, industrial region. Regional council member Nikolai Zagoruiko said that if the central government would agree to two long-standing demands, the vote might never have to happen.

“If they would agree to make Russian a second official language of Ukraine _ so that everyone can understand the state documents they must read and sign _ and agree to give Donetsk more local control over the taxes we collect to send to Kiev, so that we can make this a better place to live, we would probably be satisfied,” he said. “In fact, if they did those two things, I’m sure the referendum could be postponed, and eventually forgotten about.”

Analysts and experts on the region have repeatedly said that they think the idea of a referendum is more about having a bargaining chip with the Ukrainian government than a real desire to join Russia. The local legend is that regional business and political leaders helped create the separatist movement hoping it would lead to more local budget control.

“But after creating the monster, they lost control of the monster,” Volodymr Kipen, the head of the Donetsk Institute for Social Research and Policy Analysis, told McClatchy this week.

The notion of the region’s union with Russia _ a primary goal of pro-separatists _ won’t be mentioned on the yet-to-be printed ballots. The possibility of remaining a part of Ukraine after the vote _ a primary concern of pro-Ukrainians, who risk beatings during efforts to make their point _ also won’t be mentioned on the ballot.

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NYPD Twitter campaign backfires, thousands of negative tweets

NEW YORK Wed Apr 23, 2014 3:18pm EDT

 

A pedestrian walks past a line of New York Police Department (NYPD) cars parked at Times Square in New York, October 18, 2011. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

A pedestrian walks past a line of New York Police Department (NYPD) cars parked at Times Square in New York, October 18, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Hershorn

 

(Reuters) – A New York Police Department campaign to burnish its image via social media instead produced a flood of pictures of apparent police brutality and tweets critical of the force being shared at a rate of thousands an hour.

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Wednesday he would continue and expand the NYPD Twitter campaign a day after it backfired, triggering an outpouring of negative images including police violence at New York’s Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, an NYPD officer pointing a gun at a dog, and an officer asleep in a subway car.

“The reality of policing is that oftentimes our actions are lawful, but they look awful,” Bratton told a news briefing at New York City Hall.

“Most of those photos that I looked at are old news,” said Bratton, appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to take over from Ray Kelly, who served for 12 years under de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.

 

Read More Here

 

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NYPD commissioner welcomes attention from disastrous #myNYPD hashtag

FILE - In this May 1, 2012, file photo, a police lieutenant swings his baton at Occupy Wall Street activists in New York. This photo is among the many put on Twitter in response to a New York Police Department request for Twitter users to share pictures of themselves posing with police officers. The NYPD sent a tweet on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, saying it might feature the photographs on its Facebook page. The responses soon turned ugly when Occupy Wall Street tweeted a photograph of cops battling protesters with the caption

This file photo, from May 2012, shows a police lieutenant swinging his baton at Occupy Wall Street activists in New York. It was recirculated Tuesday in response to a police hashtag that went awry. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

The New York Police Department’s attempt at using social media to connect with constituents on Tuesday went…well, let’s say awry.

An initial tweet asked people to post photos of themselves with police officers along with the hashtag #myNYPD. Obviously this went poorly, because obviously it was going to go poorly, because these things can really only go poorly (we’ll get back to that in a moment). In response, people sent in lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of photos of New York police officers doing violent things to people. (Like the photo at the top of this post. It’s almost two years old, but thanks to the #myNYPD hashtag, it has been everywhere over the last 24 hours.)

William J. Bratton, the police commissioner, said he isn’t too bothered by the reaction:

“I kind of welcome the attention,” Bratton said Wednesday as the negative tweets kept coming nearly 24 hours after cops invited the cyber-submissions….

“Most of the pictures I looked at, they’re old news,” Bratton said, tossing previous NYPD administrations under the patrol car. “They’ve been out there for a long time.”

Read More Here

 

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Mom held in airport for hours after refusing to let TSA x-ray her breast-milk gets $75,000 in legal settlement

By Associated Press

A Southern California woman who was held at a Phoenix airport four years ago after refusing to have her breast milk X-rayed said Wednesday she has reached a tentative settlement with the Transportation Security Administration.

Stacey Armato, who filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, said TSA officials have tentatively offered her $75,000, along with promises to retrain agents and clarify its guidelines on screening breast milk.

The reassurances about revised training and rules were more important than the monetary compensation, she said.

Refused: Stacey Armato of Hermosa Beach, California, was held at a Phoenix airport in 2010 after refusing to have her breast milk for son Lorenzo, pictured, x-rayed

Refused: Stacey Armato of Hermosa Beach, California, was held at a Phoenix airport in 2010 after refusing to have her breast milk for son Lorenzo, pictured, x-rayed

‘We had been waiting for them to really kind of confirm that they would be retraining everybody and making these policy updates,” Armato said. “When we finally got confirmation of that, that was really reassuring.’

TSA spokesman Ross Feinstein declined to comment on a “pending matter.” He confirmed that current TSA regulations classify breast milk as liquid medication. As a result, parents are permitted to bring an amount larger than the 3 ounces normally allotted for liquids.

According to the agency’s website, officers now use a bottled liquid scanner system in most airports to screen medically necessary liquids for explosives or other threats. The system uses lasers, infrared or electromagnetic resonance, rather than X-rays.

That was not an option at the time for Armato, who said she was accustomed to having a visual inspection for breast milk when traveling.

Armato, of Hermosa Beach, said she asked for an alternate screening of her breast milk at a security checkpoint at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Feb. 1, 2010. She cited concerns about exposing the milk to radiation.

According to a 2013 complaint from Armato, agents denied her request and then detained her in a glass enclosure for 40 minutes.

 

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Black smoke billows from barricades outside the Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, set alight by pro-Russia gunmen as they were driven from the site by Ukrainian national forces trying to recover occupied towns and cities in the east of the country.

( Mika Velikovskiy / Associated Press / April 24, 2014 )

Black smoke billows from barricades outside the Ukrainian town of Slovyansk, set alight by pro-Russia gunmen as they were driven from the site by Ukrainian national forces trying to recover occupied towns and cities in the east of the country.

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Ukrainian forces report killings, ouster of separatist gunmen

 

Ukrainian forces launch an operation Thursday to drive pro-Russia insurgents out of occupied buildings in the country’s tumultuous east, prompting new threats from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian government troops killed at least two pro-Russia separatist gunmen in Slovyansk on Thursday and drove away others occupying key public buildings in the city of Mariupol in an operation the Kremlin condemned as the Kiev government attacking “its own people.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the actions in eastern Ukraine and the deployment of NATO forces in member states bordering Russia to the west had “forced” the Kremlin to order more military drills of its troops amassed on Ukraine’s border.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said that “up to five” separatists had been killed in Kiev’s “anti-terrorist operation” targeting armed checkpoints set up by the Russian-speaking militants in Slovyansk.

A spokeswoman for the militants, Stella Khorosheva, confirmed to the Associated Press that two had been killed in the provincial town 100 miles west of the Russia-Ukraine border. Slovyansk has become the main flashpoint in the weeks-old confrontation between pro-Russia gunmen demanding autonomy from Kiev for the territory they are holding and Ukrainian officials trying to hold the country together.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the Ukrainian interim leadership of “consequences” for its move against pro-Russia militants who have seized a dozen towns and cities in eastern Ukraine in demand of local votes on whether to secede from Ukraine and join Russia or revise the constitution to make their regions virtually independent. The separatists’ actions followed last month’s Russian  annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula after a swift occupation by Russian troops and a hastily called referendum on secession.

 

Read More and Watch Videos Here

 

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Amid Russia warning, Ukraine is in a security bind

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — Russia’s foreign minister warned Wednesday that attacks on Russian citizens or interests in Ukraine would bring a firm response and drew a comparison to the circumstances that opened the war with Georgia in 2008.

“Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, a day after Ukraine announced it was re-launching a campaign against pro-Kremlin insurgents occupying government facilities in the mostly Russian-speaking east.

“If we were attacked we could certainly respond,” Lavrov said, speaking on the Kremlin-funded satellite TV channel RT.

Lavrov’s warning came as the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a separate statement demanding that Ukraine pull its armed forces out of the crisis-ridden region.

“If our interests, our legitimate interests, the interests of Russians have been attacked directly, like they were in South Ossetia, I do not see any other way but to respond in full accordance with international law,” Lavrov said, referring to the 2008 war that led to the breaking away of the Georgian republic of South Ossetia.

In that conflict, Russia launched an invasion of Georgia after it unleashed an artillery attack on the capital of the separatist region, where Russian peacekeeping forces were stationed. However, unlike the conflict with Georgia, Russia has denied having troops or agents in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian warnings came as an accord reached last week in Geneva to defuse the Ukraine crisis continued to crumble, with pro-Russian insurgents in the east defying calls for all sides to disarm and to vacate the buildings they are occupying.

On Tuesday, Ukraine’s acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, ordered resumption of an “anti-terrorist operation” against the pro-Russia forces. However, the highly publicized move produced little action on the ground Wednesday.

Read More and Watch Video Here

 

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Collapse of the Industrial Civilization | Interview with Michael Ruppert

 

Published on Feb 28, 2013

Michael Ruppert let’s fly with both barrels as he speaks on Peak Oil, who the media are serving, and the truth behind Pat Tilman and Christopher Dorner. Ruppert’s candor is so strong that it is clear to see why he has been persecuted for his journalism, and he also shows why he is resilient enough to keep on speaking his truth.

GUEST BIO:
Michael Ruppert is an investigative journalist and author of two books, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil and Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World. In the 1970s, Ruppert was a narcotics officer for the LAPD. While there, he discovered evidence that the CIA was complicit in the illegal drug trade. He alerted his superiors with this information and soon found himself dismissed even though he had an honorable record. These events spurred Ruppert to begin a new career for himself as an investigative journalist. He was the publisher/editor of the From The Wilderness newsletter which, until its closure in 2006, examined government corruption and complicity in such areas as the CIA’s involvement in the war on drugs, the Pat Tillman scandal, the 2008 economic collapse and issues surrounding Peak Oil. Ruppert has lectured widely on these topics and was the subject of a documentary,Collapse, in 2009 which was based on one of his books. Currently, he hosts the radio show, The Lifeboat, on the Progressive Radio Network.

ADD’L LINKS:
http://www.fromthewilderness.com/
http://www.collapsenet.com/
http://www.thelip.tv

EPISODE BREAKDOWN:
00:01 Coming up on Media Mayhem.
00:50 Welcoming Michael Ruppert
01:44 Getting persecuted as a journalist over Pat Tilman.
04:35 Bringing down the Bush administration.
08:55 The Pat Tilman cover-up.
15:01 Getting push back from controversial stories.
23:14 Media red herrings and distractions from the Right and Left.
27:54 Collapse, peak oil and the Iraq War explained.
36:17 The cognitive dissonance swirling around Christopher Dorner.
45:04 Investigative journalism appears through the cracks.

 

Part 2

 

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Published on Mar 5, 2013

Collapse mastermind Michael Ruppert joins Media Mayhem to continue his conversation about the dirty secrets of the US government. This time he pulls out the big guns when discussing 9/11, the Bush administration, and why Dick Cheney was such an important (and nefarious) figure.
He also gives his thoughts on President Obama, and the overwhelming force that keeps the machine of US government ticking in the direction of criminality.

GUEST BIO:
Michael Ruppert is an investigative journalist and author of two books, Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil andConfronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Peak Oil World.In the 1970s, Ruppert was a narcotics officer for the LAPD. While there, he discovered evidence that the CIA was complicit in the illegal drug trade. He alerted his superiors with this information and soon found himself dismissed even though he had an honorable record. These events spurred Ruppert to begin a new career for himself as an investigative journalist. He was the publisher/editor of the From The Wilderness newsletter which, until its closure in 2006, examined government corruption and complicity in such areas as the CIA’s involvement in the war on drugs, the Pat Tillman scandal, the 2008 economic collapse and issues surrounding Peak Oil. Ruppert has lectured widely on these topics and was the subject of a documentary, Collapse, in 2009 which was based on one of his books. Currently, he hosts the radio show, The Lifeboat, on the Progressive Radio Network.

ADD’L LINKS:
http://www.fromthewilderness.com/
http://www.collapsenet.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MediaMayhem
https://twitter.com/ahopeweiner
http://thelip.tv/

EPISODE BREAKDOWN:
00:01 Coming Up on Media Mayhem
00:41 The Collapse network of outside media.
03:34 30 years of experience in skepticism.
05:24 Osama Bin Laden and the truth.
09:44 9/11 was orchestrated by Dick Cheney.
11:24 Evidence for his case.
16:33 How Cheney consolidated power so effectively.
20:56 The excuse for the Iraq War, and the connection to Pearl Harbor.
26:12 Halliburton and the C.I.A.
31:44 Working with the LAPD and C.I.A. and coming from a background related to security.
34:34 The C.I.A. drug shipment conspiracy.
36:35 Has the LAPD changed since Rodney King?
40:14 Obama and the machine.
43:52 The balance of power and the executive.

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Play Video|0:25

Pro-Russia Militant Rejects Ukraine Pact

The leader of a group of pro-Russia separatists, Denis Pushilin, said he would ignore the diplomatic pact between Russia and Ukraine to de-escalate the crisis.

Credit Sergei Grits/Associated Press

 

KIEV, Ukraine — An American-backed deal to settle the crisis in eastern Ukraine fell flat on Friday as pro-Russian militants vowed to stay in occupied government buildings, dashing hopes of a swift end to an insurgency that the authorities in Kiev portray as a Kremlin-orchestrated effort to put Ukraine’s industrial heartland under Russian control.

But the agreement, reached in Geneva on Thursday by diplomats from the European Union, Russia, Ukraine and the United States, appeared to arrest, at least temporarily, the momentum of separatist unrest in Ukraine’s Russian-speaking east. Armed pro-Russian militants, who have seized buildings in at least 10 towns and cities since Feb. 6, paused their efforts to purge all central government authority from the populous Donetsk region.

It was clear all along that for the pact to have a chance of success, the Kremlin would have to pressure the militants to leave the buildings they had seized. So far, it has shown no inclination to do so, blaming the Ukrainian government for the turmoil and denying that Russia has any ties to the rebels.

With militants vowing to ignore the agreement but halting what had been a daily expansion of territory under their control, officials in Kiev, the capital, voiced some hope that a settlement was still possible. They were skeptical, however, about Russia’s willingness to push the separatists to disarm and vacate occupied buildings.

“If Russia is responsible before not just Ukraine but the world community, it should prove it,” said Andrii Deshchytsia, the acting Ukrainian foreign minister, who took part in the Geneva talks.

Western officials said the United States planned to reassure Eastern European members of NATO by conducting company-size — about 150 soldiers — ground force exercises in Estonia and Poland. The exercises would last a couple of weeks and would most likely be followed by other troop rotations in the region.

In a sign of the chasm separating Russian and Ukrainian views, Russia’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday that made no mention of the pro-Russian militants driving the unrest. It said the call for militants to disarm “meant in the first place” the disarming of Ukrainian nationalist groups hostile to Russia, like Right Sector “and other pro-fascist groups which took part in the February coup in Kiev.”

The state-run Russian television channel, Rossiya, reporting from an occupied building in Horlivka in the Donetsk region, featured a masked gunman who pledged to “fight to the end for his convictions.” He displayed an armband emblazoned with a swastika-like symbol, which he said had been seized from supporters of the Ukrainian government.

Doubts about the Kremlin’s readiness to push pro-Russian militants to surrender their guns have been strengthened by its insistence that it has no hand in or control over the separatist unrest, which Washington and Kiev believe is the result of a covert Russian operation involving, in some places, the direct action of special forces.

“I don’t know Russia’s intentions,” Mr. Deshchytsia said, noting that during the negotiations, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, had repeatedly asserted “that Russia was not involved.” He said Mr. Lavrov had been “cooperative and aggressive at the same time.”

 Russia’s denials have stirred concerns that it went along with the agreement not to curb the turmoil in eastern Ukraine, but to blunt American and European calls for tougher sanctions that could severely damage Russia’s already sickly economy. Western sanctions have so far been limited to a travel ban and asset freeze on a few dozen individuals and a Russian bank.

Secretary of State John Kerry called Mr. Lavrov on Friday and urged Russia to ensure “full and immediate compliance” with the agreement, a senior State Department official said. Mr. Kerry, the official added, “made clear that the next few days would be a pivotal period for all sides to implement the statement’s provisions, particularly that all illegal armed groups must be disarmed and all illegally seized buildings must be returned to legitimate owners.”

Read More Here

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In Ukraine, Pro-Russia Radicals Reject Call To Leave Occupied Buildings

By RFE/RL
Pro-Russia radicals occupying official buildings in eastern Ukraine say they will only leave if the pro-Western government in Kyiv resigns.

Denis Pushilin, the self-declared leader of the radicals in Donetsk, told reporters on April 18 that he did not consider his men bound by a compromise agreement between Russia and Ukraine to disarm and vacate occupied buildings.

The agreement was reached at four-party talks on April 17 in Geneva also involving the United States and the European Union.

Pushilin said the government in Kyiv was illegitimate and also must vacate public buildings that he said it was occupying illegally.

Local media reports on April 18 said none of the government buildings seized across eastern Ukraine had yet been vacated.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament on April 18 that the government had drafted a law that would offer an amnesty to insurgents who would lay down their arms and leave the occupied buildings.

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“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice,” laureates write.

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Jimmy Carter with his grandson Hugo. Photo: Jeffrey Moore/The Elders

 

A group of 10 Nobel Peace Prize laureates including former President Jimmy Carter has sent a letter to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry urging them to reject the “linchpin for tar sands expansion” — the Keystone XL.

The open letter, which appears in a full-page ad in Wednesday’s Politico, is the third sent by a group of Nobel Peace Laureates to Obama urging him to reject TransCanada’s tar sands carrying pipeline, and the first one to which Carter has added his name. Carter is now the first ex-president to voice opposition to the pipeline.

This additional letter shows “the growing urgency we feel for the hundreds of millions of people globally whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and lost as a result of the changing climate and environmental damage caused by our dangerous addiction to oil,” the signatories, which also include landmine activist Jody Williams, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, write.

“You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change. As you deliberate the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, you are poised to make a decision that will signal either a dangerous commitment to the status quo, or bold leadership that will inspire millions counting on you to do the right thing for our shared climate,” the laureates write.

As for the argument some have made that if the pipeline is rejected the Alberta tar sands crude will just travel by rail, the laureates write that this is “a red herring” because “[i]ndustry experts agree that the Keystone XL project is the linchpin for tar sands expansion and the increased pollution that will follow, triggering more climate upheaval with impacts felt around the world.”

Photo: Steven Tuttle/cc/flickrSusan Casey-Lefkowitz, International Program Director at NRDC, one of the groups sponsoring the Politico ad, writes:

As leaders struggle with what the need to fight climate change means in terms of energy decisions at home, the voice of moral leaders such as these Nobel Peace laureates becomes more important than ever. And they are sending a clear message that political leadership is essential to stand up to entrenched fossil fuel interests and to take the kinds of decisions that will put us on the path of a cleaner energy future.

“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice,” the laureates’ letter states.

The State Department recommendation on the project is expected soon. While the State Department’s review is required because the northern leg of the pipeline crosses an international border, the final decision sits with President Obama, who has indicated his decision could come in the next few months.

Next week, Carter will join two fellow members of The Elders, Pakistani pro-democracy activist Hina Jilani and former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, in leading a discussion on climate leadership and activism Paris.

___________________

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Calgary Herald

Nobel laureates condemn Keystone as climate-change trigger

Nobel laureates condemn Keystone as climate-change trigger

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter sits down for a conversation with Mark Updegrove, director of the LBJ Presidential Library, on the first day of the Civil Rights Summit at the LBJ Presidential Library on April 8 in Austin, Texas. Carter is one of 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners who have issued a letter urging President Barrack Obama to reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would connect Alberta’s oilsands to refineries on Texas’s Gulf Coast.

Photograph by: Ralph Barrera-Pool/Getty Images/File , Postmedia News

WASHINGTON — Ten Nobel Peace Prize winners from as far afield as Yemen, South Africa and Argentina have signed a letter asking U.S. President Barack Obama to deny a permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would transport oilsands bitumen to Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

The laureates, who include former U.S. president Jimmy Carter and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, argue that denial of a permit would send a strong signal to the world that the U.S. is rejecting a fossil fuels future.

“Let this reflect the growing urgency we feel for the hundreds of millions of people globally whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and lost as a result of the changing climate and environmental damage caused by our dangerous addiction to oil,” the letter says.

Rejection of the pipeline would set “a powerful precedent” and “would signal a new course for the world’s largest economy,” the letter says.

“History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice.”

The letter underscores Obama’s dilemma: By allowing the assessment process to take so long, he has awakened both national and international interest in a project that normally would garner only passing concern.

 

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