GOP Voter Suppression: Comedian Louis Black says F#%! it!

October 30th, 2014 No comments


“At a photo shoot with ACLU’s Voting Rights Project Director Dale Ho, ACLU voting rights ambassador Lewis Black gets so f#%!in’ tired of politicians trying to deny people the right to vote.

The ACLU is fighting against bad voter suppression laws across the country.

The rules of voting are still in flux in many states, so to make sure you know your rights when you vote, go to ”

ACLU Videos: “Lewis Black Says F#%! Voter Suppression

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The Kurdish 3rd Way: Democracy is “Radical” in Northern Syria

October 30th, 2014 No comments

By Karlos Zurutuza (Inter Press Service)


Garbage collection is among the many duties of the Democratic Self-Management in force in the three mainly Kurdish enclaves of northern Syria. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

AMUDA, Syria, Oct 28 2014 (IPS) – There was never anything particularly remarkable about this northern town of 25,000. However, today it has become the lab for one the most pioneering political experiments ever conducted in the entire Middle East region.

Located 700 kilometres northeast of Damascus, Amuda hosts the headquarters of the so-called “Democratic Self-Management of Jazeera Canton”. Along with Afrin and the besieged Kobani, Jazeera is one of the three enclaves under Kurdish rule, although such a statement is not entirely accurate.

At the entrance of the government building, vice-president Elizabeth Gawrie greets IPS with a shlomo, “peace” in her native Syriac language.

“We decided to move here in January this year for security reasons because [Bashar Hafez al] Assad is still present in Qamishli – the provincial capital, 25 km east of Amuda,” notes the former mathematics teacher before tea is served.

The so-called “third way” attracted sectors among the other local communities such as Arabs and Syriacs, a collaboration that would eventually materialise into a Social Contract, a kind of ‘constitution’ that applies to the three enclaves in question – Jazeera, Afrin and Kobani

After the outbreak of civil war in Syria in March 2011, the Kurds in the north of the country opted for a neutrality that has forced them into clashes with both government and opposition forces.

This so-called “third way” attracted sectors among the other local communities such as Arabs and Syriacs, a collaboration that would eventually materialise into a Social Contract, a kind of ‘constitution’ that applies to the three enclaves in question – Jazeera, Afrin and Kobani

“Each canton has its own government with its own president, two vice-presidents and several ministries: Economy, Women, Trade, Human Rights … up to a total of 22,” explains Gawrie. Among the ministers in Jazeera, she adds, there are four Arabs, three Christians and a Chechen; Syria has hosted a significant Caucasian community since the late 19th century.

“We have lived together for centuries and there is no reason why this should be changed,” claims the canton´s vice-president, ensuring that the Democratic Self-Management is “a model of peaceful coexistence that would also work for the whole of Syria.”

While there was no religious persecution under the Assads – both father and son – those who defended a national identity other than the Arab identity, as in the case of the Syriacs and the Kurds, were harshly repressed. Gawrie says that many members of her coalition – the Syriac Union Party – have either disappeared or are still in prison.

Neither did Arab dissidents feel much more comfortable under the Assads. Hussein Taza Al Azam, an Arab from Qamishli, is the canton´s co-vice-president alongside Gawrie. From the meeting room where the 25 government officials conduct their meetings, he summarises the hardship political dissidents like him have faced in Syria over the last five decades.

“Since the arrival of the Baath Party to power in 1963, Syria has been a one-party state. There was no freedom of speech, human rights were systematically violated … It was a country fully under the control of the secret services,” explains Azam, who completed his doctorate in economics in Romania after spending several years in prison for his political dissent.

Wounds from the recent past have yet to heal but, for the time being, Article 3 of the Social Contract describes Jazeera as “ethnically and religiously diverse” while three official languages are recognised in the canton: ??Kurdish, Arabic and Syriac. “All communities have the right to teach and be taught in their native language,” according to Article 9.

But it is not just language rights that Azam is proud of. “The three regions under democratic self-management are an integral part of Syria,” he says, “but also a model for a decentralised system of government.”

The members of government in Jazeera are either independent or belong to eleven political parties. Since local communities took over the three enclaves in July 2012, local opposition sectors backed by Masoud Barzani, president of the neighbouring Kurdistan Region of Iraq, have accused the Democratic Union Party (PYD) – the leading party among Syrian Kurds – of playing a dominant role.

PYD co-president Salih Muslim bluntly denies such claims. “From the PYD we advocate for direct self-determination, also called ‘radical democracy’,” he says.

“Basically we aim to decentralise power so that the people are able to take and execute their own decisions. It is a more sophisticated version of the concept of democracy, and that is in full harmony with many several social movements across Europe,” the political leader told IPS.

Spanish journalist and Middle East expert Manuel Martorell describes the concept of democratic self-management as an “innovative experiment in the region” which reconciles a high degree of self-government with the existence of the states.

“It may not be the concept of independence as we understand it, but the crux of the matter here is that they´re actually governing themselves,” Martorell told IPS.

Akram Hesso, president of Jazeera canton, is one the independent members in the local government. So far, the on-going war has posed a major hurdle for the holding of elections so Hesso feels compelled to explain how he gained his seat eight months ago.

“We had several meetings until a committee of 98 members representing the different communities was set up. They were responsible for electing the 25 of us that make up the government today,” this lawyer in his late thirties told IPS.

On Oct. 15, the parliament in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region approved a motion calling on the Federal Kurdistan Government to recognise and improve links with the administrations in Afrin, Kobani and Jazeera.

And while Hesso labels the move as a “major step forward”, he does not forget what is allowing the Democratic Self-Management to take root.

“Not far away there is an open front where our people are dying to protect us,” notes the senior official, referring to Kobani, but also to the other open fronts in Jazeera and Afrin.

However, he adds, “it´s not just about defending territory; it´s also about sticking to an idea of living together.”

(Edited by Phil Harris)

Licensed from Inter Press Service

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BDS Success: Israeli Firm Sodastream Leaves Palestinian West Bank after Boycott

October 30th, 2014 No comments

By Juan Cole

AJ+ SodaStream Leaving West Bank After Boycotts

AJ+ :

“Facing an intensive boycott campaign, the controversial Israeli company that makes home soda machines is leaving the West Bank. Bye, Sodastream!”


Informed Comment wrote on this issue last January:

“The determination of the Likud Party to annex the Palestinian West Bank is damaging the interests of world Jewry. This harm is clearly visible in the controversy that has engulfed movie star Scarlett Johansson, who was a global ambassador for the Oxfam charity and who also agreed to become a spokesperson for the Israeli company Sodastream, which has a factory in the Occupied West Bank. She will star in a Superbowl commercial for the company.

Oxfam points out that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank is illegal, and it is opposed to trade with settler commercial enterprises based there. The Sodastream factory in set in a 40,000-strong Israeli squatter settlement designed to cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank and make a Palestinian state impossible. Israel squatters divert most of the West Bank’s water and other resources to themselves, leaving Palestinians impoverished.

In the end, Ms. Johansson had to choose between the two, and she gave up her association with Oxfam.

The Israeli Occupation institutions in the Palestinian West Bank are increasingly being boycotted, especially in Europe (Oxfam is based in Britain). Although it is clearly illegal for an Occupying Power to move its population into occupied territory (Geneva Convention of 1949), far right wing Israeli governments have flooded this Palestinian territory with hundreds of thousands of illegal squatters, who have usurped Palestinian property, confined Palestinians to Bantustans, and imposed onerous checkpoints on them. The Jewish supremacist squatter settlements are Jewish-only and no Palestinian can live in them. The militant squatters are often heavily armed and are increasingly attacking Palestinians and their mosques and other institutions, as well as waging economic warfare on them by cutting down their olive trees.

The European Union has decided to use its economic clout to push back against the clear Israeli determination to annex the whole West Bank while keeping its indigenous Palestinian population stateless and without the rights of citizenship.

The European Union has insisted that Israeli institutions and companies based in the Palestinian West Bank be excluded from any Israeli participation in a program of the European Union. (The EU treats Israel like a member, offering it many perquisites, opportunities for technology interchange, and access to EU markets; Brussels is saying, however, that none of that largesse can go to Israelis in the Occupied Weat Bank.)

About a third of Israel’s trade is with Europe (the US and China are its biggest trading partners, and Turkey comes after the EU). The EU imports $300 million a year from the settlements, but is clearly moving toward cutting that trade off…”

Read the whole thing

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Dozens Of Volunteers Have Come Back Safe From Ebola Hot Zone –

October 30th, 2014 No comments

ABC News
Dozens Of Volunteers Have Come Back Safe From Ebola Hot Zone
Close to 50 volunteers have come back safe and well from the Ebola hot zone in West Africa, aid agencies tell NBC News, even as states debate whether to force such workers into quarantine. A look at the numbers from groups such as Doctors Without …
Quarantined Ebola Nurse Goes Outside; Police WatchABC News
News Wrap: WHO reports Ebola deaths may be slowingPBS NewsHour

all 7,817 news articles »

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Antares Rocket Explosion Leaves Questions and Dead Mosquito Eggs – New York Times

October 30th, 2014 No comments

New York Times
Antares Rocket Explosion Leaves Questions and Dead Mosquito Eggs
New York Times
Spectators dispersed on Tuesday night after an unmanned rocket exploded after liftoff. Credit Steve Alexander/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images. Continue reading the main story. Continue reading the main story. Continue reading the main story Share …
Wallops Island takes stock of damage after rocket explosionBaltimore Sun
Russian deliver space station cargo after US flopKansas City Star
Rocket explosion won't seriously impact Space StationUSA TODAY
all 3,574 news articles »

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Lagarde Pushes U.S. Lawmakers to Pass IMF Reforms

October 30th, 2014 No comments
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Dems Rush to Save Suddenly Vulnerable Incumbents – ABC News

October 30th, 2014 No comments

ABC News
Dems Rush to Save Suddenly Vulnerable Incumbents
ABC News
Desperate Democrats are rushing to save suddenly vulnerable House incumbents, even in states where President Barack Obama cruised to double-digit victories, amid fresh signs of Republican momentum less than a week before the midterm elections.
Bet on a GOP Senate MajorityPolitico
Republicans eye big gains in HouseFox News
Senate Elections' HomestretchHuffington Post
Slate Magazine -USA TODAY -New York Times
all 1,777 news articles »

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Libya militias commit ‘mounting war crimes': Amnesty

October 30th, 2014 No comments

Smoke billows from buildings in Benghazi pounded by Libyan airforce, as they were reported storing ammunition belonging to Benghazi-based Islamist Ansar al-Sharia group, on October 22, 2014Pro-government and rebel militias vying for control of western Libya are committing war crimes including torturing detainees and targeting civilians, Amnesty International said Thursday. Libya is being rocked by fighting between militias in the west and in second city Benghazi, where troops are trying to dislodge Islamists who control most of what was the cradle of the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Moamer Kadhafi. Amnesty said militias in the west showed "an utter disregard" for civilian casualties and accused them of indiscriminately lobbing artillery fire into crowded civilian neighbourhoods, damaging homes and hospitals. "In today's Libya, the rule of the gun has taken hold," said Hadj Sahraoui, deputy director for Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa programme.

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October 29, 1914: Admiral Souchon Forces Turkey into the Great War

October 29th, 2014 No comments

Since last summer I have been noting each of the dates marking the centennial of events that brought the Ottoman Empire into the Great War on the side of Germany and Austria a century ago. Divisions in the Ottoman Cabinet, despite the signing of a secret alliance in August, kept the Turks from fully committing to war. The Ottoman War Minister, Enver Pasha, was enthusiastic enough, but others were dragging their feet. Germany was increasingly exasperated with its putative ally’s excuses. On this day a century ago, without Cabinet approval, including that of Minister of Marine Djemal Pasha, the Commander of the Turkish Navy simply started the war on his own.

Souchon and his staff in Fezzes

You may recall a key fact from our earlier discussions of the Goeben and Breslau (now the Yavuz Sultan Selim and Medilli), the ranking officer of the Turkish fleet was now Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, who despite donning the fez and raising the Ottoman flag, was very much still a serving officer of the Imperial German Navy.

During October, each of the German-crewed vessels (still called Goeben and Breslau by their crews) had made brief sorties into the blacj sea for gunnery practice or other excuses; these were officially protested by some in the Cabinet, who feared they were aimed at provoking Russia (which of course they were). But the Russians, not wanting a new front with Turkey, refused the bait.

By late October, the German Ambassador in Constantinople, Wangenheim, passed on instructions to “Turkish” Admiral Souchon to take decisive action. It’s not entirely clear if Enver knew what Souchon was about to do. He may have assumed it was another attempt to provoke the Russians to come out. It wasn’t. Souchon had decided to shell the Russian coast.

Yavuz, Medilli,  and other elements of the Turkish fleet steamed out of the Bosphorus on October 27. The next day, at sea, Souchon informed the other captains of their orders. The next day, October 29, Yavuz/Goeben, accompanied by the Mine Cruiser Nilofer and the destroyers (sometimes classed as torpedo boats) Tasoz and Samsun, would shell the major Russian naval base at Sevastopol in the Crimea. Medilli/Breslau, accompanied by the Mine Cruiser Berk would lay mines in the Kerch Strait (between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov) and then proceed to attack Novorossisk. The Turkish light cruiser Hamidiye would attack the port of Feodosia (Theodosia), and the destroyers/torpedo boats Muavenet-i-Milliye and Gairet-i-Wataniye would attack Odessa.

Muavenet. Gairet  was similar

The plan assumed surprise, but something went wrong. Muavenet and Gairet reached Odessa well before dawn, apparently around 3 am. It was still dark, but they saw a line of old tramp steamers exiting the harbor.They were showing lights, and the Turkish commander decided to use the opportunity to enter the harbor, though the Yavuz and others were still hours away from their targets.


They spotted the old Russian gunboat Donets and several other ships in the harbor and after shelling her Gayret torpedoed her and she sank. In an engagement of only 15 minutes or so they also attacked the gunboat Kubanets, which fled, They attacked a minesweeper which burned and reportedly sank, shelled several merchant vessels in the harbor, and shelled shore instantiations.

The Odessa attack, coming hours before other ships reached their targets, alerted the Russians, and around 4 am warnings were sent out to other locations. By the time Goeben/Yavuz reached the big naval base at Sevastopol, around 6:30 AM, the Russian shore batteries were on alert. He shelled the base for amount 20 minutes, firing 47 rounds (and hitting a naval hospital) but the Russian batteries were quite accurate and Yavuz/Goeben took three hits. None caused casualties but she chose to withdraw under cover of a smokescreen laid by her escorts.

Hamidie from the deck of Yavuz/Goeben

Meanwhile, at Feodosia, Hamidie had arrived to find little resistance, and gave the local population an opportunity to evacuate, before shelling the port facilities.

At Novorossisk, also after a warning, Berk began the shelling, being joined in late morning by Medilli/Breslau after she laid her mines in the Kerch Strait.

Said to Show Bombardment of Novorossisk by Medilli/Breslau

As Yavuz/Goeben was heading back to Constantinople she encountered an old Russian minelayer, the Prut, accompanied by three torpedo boats. They tried to defend her, but were driven away and one badly damaged by Yavuz’ guns. The crew of the Prut, which was filled with a cargo of mines, opted to scuttle her rather than risk being blown to bits if their cargo was hit.

The German and Turkish crews lost no men, and suffered only minor damage, mostly the three hits on Yavuz/Goeben. Russian casualties are unknown but mostly occurred at Odessa.

But Souchon had done something more. Without official authorization from the Cabinet, he had started the war with Russia.

Russia declared war on Turkey November 2, joined by Serbia the same day and Montenegro on November 3. Serbia and Montenegro had other problems on their hands but were doing their Pan-Slavic duty.  Britain and France followed suit on November 5, and we’ll be hearing more about them, especially Britain, than we will about Montenegro in coming weeks.. The Ottoman Empire was in the war.

Commemorative German postcard (painting?):

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U.N. Whistleblower Decries ‘Cover-Up of a Cover-Up’ Over Darfur Debacle

October 29th, 2014 No comments
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