Sandra Bland, Texas activists don’t forget her


This video from Texas, USA is called Sandra Bland Mass Action Waller County 08.09.15.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Sandra Bland activists maintain jail vigil despite dimming media spotlight

Activists make regular trips Waller County facility to celebrate Bland’s life and ‘ask the questions in person that her family and friends are asking’

Tom Dart in Hempstead, Texas

Thursday 3 September 2015 12.00 BST

The hourlong drive from Houston to the Waller County jail has become a regular commute for Hannah Bonner.

Since the death of Sandra Bland on 13 July, the United Methodist reverend has kept vigil outside the building almost every day, joined by others who are determined to honour Bland’s life and promote her legacy, long after the national gaze moved elsewhere and despite an ongoing investigation with few if any answers.

No one could deny that Bland’s death has prompted visible change at the jail. New barriers were erected in front of the building, eliminating the ability to sit or stand by the wall where protesters tended to gather because the overhanging roof made it the best place to find shade.

Bonner sometimes sat in a folding chair and strummed a guitar. Others brought posters, food and water. They used the jail’s restrooms. There were candles and statuettes of angels, and photographs of Bland. Bonner said people sought refuge from the summer sun and 100F temperatures under a tree in the parking lot. Last month, it was cut down.

Now, signs either side of the reflective-glass entry doors insist on “no loitering in the lobby”. The sheriff’s patience appeared to run out after 9 August – the one-year anniversary of the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri – when protesters entered [see video] and chanted for several minutes until officers forced them outside.

A day later, Bonner filmed the sheriff, Glenn Smith, telling her: “Why don’t you go back to the church of Satan that you run?” The next day she found temporary barricades had been erected by the wall along with signs saying “no one beyond this point”. Later in the month they were replaced with yellow and brown metal railings. She said the sheriff has taken pictures of her license plate.

A spokesman for the Waller County sheriff’s office did not respond to a request for comment. …

But most days are quiet now. On Tuesday, Bonner and Karisha Shaw, a Houston-based school worker, were there in the rain. “Our presence here is to keep the attention on Sandra Bland,” Bonner said. “We don’t really have answers to what happened to Sandra Bland and we might never know, but we do know she should never have been in this jail.”

Bonner said she has made the journey from Houston on all but four or five days since activists started showing up at the jail 50 days ago, emphasising that she is not a protester but part of a “peaceful prayer vigil here to honour Sandra Bland’s life and to ask the questions in person that her family and friends are asking”.

Bland was found dead on 13 July. The official account – that she hanged herself in cell 95 using a trash bag, three days after being arrested when a routine traffic stop turned into a confrontation with a state trooper – was hotly disputed. Her family and many on social media found it implausible

The 28-year-old’s death underlined strained relationships between African Americans and law enforcement, both in the context of the number of black people killed by police across the country and locally in this rural county with a history of racism.

Bland was moving from Chicago to start a job at the majority-black Prairie View A&M University, her alma mater. Flowers are still by the roadside at the spot where she was stopped on University Drive, near the campus.

Last week, the Prairie View city council voted to rename the road Sandra Bland Parkway for at least the next couple of years. A sign near the flowers in front of a balding patch of grass announces the “future home of the proposed Sandra Bland memorial park”. …

Bonner said: “Black Lives Matter is not about hating white people, it’s about loving black people, and if you feel [loving both races is] mutually exclusive, then that’s where the problem in our country lies.”

Legal processes are still pending and information about the fallout from Bland’s death is scarce. Brian Encinia, the trooper involved, was placed on administrative leave after video emerged of him threatening to “light up” Bland with a taser during the traffic stop.

A spokesperson for the Texas department of public safety (DPS) said that an investigation into his conduct is “ongoing”. The Waller County district attorney’s office, which said in July that it would present evidence on Encinia’s conduct to a grand jury for possible indictment, did not respond to a request for comment.

“We’re very, very disturbed at the fact that they [DPS] still have not terminated that man,” said Cannon Lambert, the Bland family’s attorney. “This situation is very public – transparency is huge. If there’s a reason why you’re keeping him on staff … then you should tell us.”

Last month, Texas lawmakers announced an investigation into jail safety standards and Bland’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against parties including the sheriff’s office, two jailers and Encinia. Lambert said the legal action means officials will have to provide them with information about the case, including details that will allow an independent autopsy to be completed.

Bland’s family has called for the US justice department to become involved, though that has not happened so far.

Pledging transparency, Smith, the sheriff, asked Paul Looney, a local attorney, to form a committee to conduct an independent investigation of the sheriff’s office. Looney said that the six-member panel had held several meetings, each person was working several hours a week to gather “impressions, observations and data” and that he is “completely” happy with the level of cooperation from the department.

“We’ve got access to every piece of paper they have, every prisoner, every deputy,” he said. “We’re not going to discuss anything [publicly] until we have a report ready.”

When will Bonner and others feel the time is right to stop coming? “We are looking for where that point is,” she said. “I told her sisters: ‘I’ll do this as long as you need me to’… What keeps me going is her videos, her goofy pictures with her family, her sense of what they’ve lost. I can think she’s freaking hilarious and amazing and I’ll never get to meet her.”

Dutch air force non-commissioned officer joins ISIS


This 9 May 2015 video is called ISIS MEMBER: TURKEY SUPPORTED US WITH WEAPONS.

Dutch NOS TV reports today that a Dutch air force sergeant has gone to Syria to join the terrorist ISIS movement.

The Dutch Minister of War … sorry, I am supposed to use the euphemism ‘Defence’, Ms Hennis-Plasschaert, reacted to this today (translated):

It hurts when it appears that someone joins evil, while his colleagues risk their lives for the freedom of other human beings.

Ms Hennis-Plasschaert is simplistic in counterposing here ‘evil’ ISIS to the armed forces of the Netherlands and their NATO and other allies, supposedly being all about ‘freedom’.

Without any doubt ISIS is evil.

However, how about war crimes by Dutch armed forces in Indonesia? And, more recently, in Afghanistan? And killing civilians when they helped George W Bush in his brutal occupation of Iraq?

In Dutch, and other, armed forces, the aim is to kill people. In ISIS, the aim is to kill people. Often (not always) different people; often (not always) for different reasons. Still, the transition for this air force sergeant who went to Syria is not one from absolute good to evil.

Talking about Syria. In 2013, if peace movements would not have protested, and British Prime Minister David Cameron’s war plans would not have been defeated in the House of Commons … then Britain, the USA, and other NATO countries, probably including the Netherlands, would have been at war in Syria, on the same side as al Qaeda and ISIS.

So, this air force sergeant is going one step further from what almost became official NATO policy in 2013.

He might have been inspired in this by his ex-commander in chief. In May 2014, on Dutch radio, General Peter van Uhm praised the jihadists in Syria. This blog wrote then:

General Peter van Uhm in 2008-2012 was commander-in-chief of the Dutch armed forces. Which then, as now, were involved in war in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Now, retired General Van Uhm has expressed sympathy for confused Dutch teenagers going to the bloody war in Syria. Boys who often end up there in fanatically religious sectarian paramilitary organisations, with big chances of getting disabled or killed. Or girls, who may end up as ‘religious military prostitutes‘, and have big chances of getting disabled or killed too.

According to distraught parents of misguided Dutch teenagers joining jihadis in Syria, the Dutch government is not helping those parents to stop that.

There are more reasons why Minister Hennis-Plasschaert is simplistic in totally counterposing ISIS to ‘pro-freedom’ Dutch armed forces and their allies. Many of the allies of the Dutch government in the present, officially anti-ISIS, war in the Middle East, are dictatorships. From the Saudi absolute monarchy, a staunch ally of NATO countries, came ISIS’ fanatical sectarian Wahhabi ideology, their cruel beheadings, lots of money, etc. From the Bahraini absolute monarchy, another staunch ally of NATO countries, came officers from its sectarian armed forces for ISIS, money for ISIS, etc. From the Qatari absolute monarchy came … etc.

From the Turkish Erdogan government, NATO allies of Minister Hennis-Plasschaert, came lots of support for ISIS.

Other NATO governments, like David Cameron‘s in Britain, secretly arm jihadis in Syria as well.

The only effective force fighting ISIS are Turkish and Syrian Kurds. However, like other NATO governments including David Cameron’s and the Australian government, the Dutch government which includes Ms Hennis-Plasschaert, has defamed these Kurdish opponents of ISIS as ‘terrorists’.

Australia’s prime minister has drawn fire from the Jewish community after he compared Islamic State with Hitler’s Germany, saying the jihadists are in some respects “worse than the Nazis”: here.

Militarised Ferguson police was wrong, United States Justice Department says


This video from the USA says about itself:

Radley Balko on the Militarization of America’s Police Force: VICE Meets

28 August 2014

On August 9th, 2014 a white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. The death of Brown fueled days of unrest in Ferguson. Protestors took to the streets and were met with heavily armed police officers in armored vehicles. It wasn’t long before Ferguson, a town of 21,000, resembled a war zone. This week’s VICE Meets is a conversation about the militarization of America’s police force, with journalist and author of Rise of the Warrior Cop, Radley Balko.

From Associated Press in the USA:

Police in Ferguson gave a lesson in how not to respond to protests, says report

Justice Department warns similar problems could occur elsewhere

Criticisms include infringement of free speech and military-style tactics

Thursday 3 September 2015 00.11 BST

The police response to unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer offers lessons in how not to handle mass demonstrations, according to a Justice Department report that warns such problems could happen in other places roiled by mistrust between law enforcement and the community.

The report fleshes out a draft version made public in June, creating a portrait of poor community-police relations, ineffective communication among the more than 50 law enforcement agencies that responded, police orders that infringed first amendment rights, and military-style tactics that antagonized demonstrators.

The final version, which is to be released on Thursday, was obtained in advance by the Associated Press.

The report focuses on the regional police response in the 17 days that followed the 9 August 2014 shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old, by a white police officer. In a detailed chronology, it tracks missteps that began almost immediately after the shooting when police wrongly assumed that crowds would quickly dissipate, withheld information from the public and were slow to grasp community angst over the hours-long presence of Brown’s body beneath white sheets in the street.

It details more flaws over the next two weeks, including the improper use of police dogs, armored vehicles and snipers to monitor the crowds; the decision by some officers to remove their nameplates; arbitrary orders to demonstrators to keep moving after five seconds; and poor communication among agencies about which policy to follow and who was in change.

Police officers interviewed for the report complained of inconsistent orders from commanders, with some saying “there was no plan in place for arresting people” or that they “were unclear who they could arrest”. Community members, meanwhile, described poor relationships with the police that long predated – and were made worse by – the shooting.

“Having effective relations and communications with the community, recognizing that endemic problems were at the base of the demonstrations, and understanding how the character of the mass gatherings was evolving and spreading beyond the initial officer-involved shooting would have all aided in incident management decisions,” the report states.

It also makes clear that the situation in Ferguson was not unique, particularly in a year of heightened tensions between police and minority communities nationwide.

The Justice Department cautioned in its report that while much of the world sees the St Louis suburb “as a community of division and violence”, the protests and unrest that occurred there could happen in other places “in which fostering positive police-community relationships and building trust are not a priority”.

Federal officials hope the report will be instructive to other police departments confronting mass demonstrations.

“In many ways, the demonstrations that followed the shooting death of Michael Brown were more than a moment of discord in one small community; they have become part of a national movement to reform our criminal justice system and represent a new civil rights movement,” Ronald Davis, director of the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services office, wrote in an introduction to the report. …

The Justice Department began its review of the regional police response in September 2014 following a request from the St Louis County police chief. Its report is separate from a Justice Department report from March that was critical of Ferguson police practices and the city’s profit-driven municipal court system. A grand jury and the Justice Department both declined to prosecute white officer Darren Wilson, who later resigned.

The report focuses in particular on the responses of police in Ferguson, St Louis city and county and the Missouri highway patrol.

‘Provocative’ Police Tactics Inflamed Ferguson Protests, Experts Find. An in-depth study concludes that “inappropriate” law enforcement responses escalated tension in St. Louis County: here.

Stop US drone attacks on Yemeni civilians


This video says about itself:

Drone attacks in Yemen mostly hit civilians

17 July 2013

US drones strikes in Yemen nearly tripled last year compared to the year before, from 18 to 53, according to the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been up to 154 strikes by US drones in Yemen since 2002, that has killed almost 800 people. But it is mostly civilians who are often injured or killed in these attacks. Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow reports from the village of Subul in Northern Yemen.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Thursday, 3 September 2015

STOP US DRONE STRIKES ON YEMEN

A YEMENI family whose relatives were killed in a US drone strike have appealed to a German court to ensure that a US base in the country is not used for further attacks, which might endanger their lives.

In May 2014, a court in Cologne heard evidence from Faisal bin Ali Jaber, an environmental engineer from Sana’a, following revelations that Ramstein air base is used by the US to facilitate American drone strikes in Yemen.

Mr Jaber is bringing the case against Germany – represented by international human rights organisation Reprieve and its local partner the European Centre for Human Rights (ECCHR) – for failing to stop the bases on its territory from being used for the attacks that have killed civilians.

Although the court ruled against Mr bin Ali Jaber in the May hearing, it gave him immediate permission to appeal the decision, while the judges agreed with his assertion that it is ‘plausible’ Ramstein air base is crucial in facilitating drone strikes in Yemen.

Today’s appeal, filed at the Higher Administrative Court in Münster, asks the German government to end the country’s complicity in the extrajudicial killings. Mr Jaber lost his brother-in-law Salim, a preacher, and his nephew Waleed, a local police officer, when a US strike hit the village of Khashamir on 29 August 2012.

Salim often spoke out against extremism, and had used a sermon just days before he was killed to urge those present to reject Al Qaeda. Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve, said: ‘It is now clear that US bases on German territory, such as Ramstein, provide a crucial hub for the launching of drone strikes in countries like Yemen – leading to scores of civilians being killed.

‘Faisal bin Ali Jaber and the countless other victims like him are right to call for an end to European countries’ complicity in these terrible attacks. The German courts have already signalled their serious concerns – now the government must be held accountable for allowing the use of German soil to carry out these killings.’

Andreas Schüller of the ECCHR said: ‘Drone strikes carried out outside of conflict zones are nothing but extrajudicial targeted killings – the implementation of death sentences without any trial. German authorities are under an obligation to protect individuals – including people living in Yemen – from suffering harm caused by breaches of international law involving Germany, but the exchange of diplomatic notes between the German and US government has to date proven to be wholly unsuitable. There needs to be a public debate on whether Germany is really doing enough to prevent violations of international law and the murder of innocent people.’

Background information on Faisal bin Ali Jaber’s case:

Faisal bin Ali Jaber is an engineer from Yemen. His brother-in-law Salem and nephew Waleed were killed by a US drone strike in 2012. Salem was an imam who was known for speaking out against al-Qaeda in his sermons, and Waleed was a local policeman.

Faisal’s relatives were given a bag containing $100,000 in US dollar bills as compensation, but the US has never admitted responsibility. ‘Our family are not your enemy. In fact, the people you killed had strongly and publicly opposed al-Qaeda. Salem was an imam.

‘The Friday before his death, he gave a guest sermon in the Khashamir mosque denouncing al-Qaeda’s hateful ideology. It was not the first of these sermons, but it was his last.’ Faisal went to Washington, DC, where he met with members of Congress and members of the National Security Council, and told his story to a number of journalists.

In July 2014, one of Faisal’s relatives was offered a bag containing $100,000 in US dollar bills at a meeting with the Yemeni National Security Bureau (NSB). The NSB official told a family representative that the money was from the US and that he had been asked to pass it along.

The payment came after the Yemeni government confirmed in writing that the US carried out the drone strike, and that the deaths of Faisal’s relatives were ‘a mistake’. The US has never publicly admitted that the strike that killed Waleed and Salem was a mistake.

The killings have never been investigated and the US has never apologised to Faisal and the rest of his family. ‘My family received money from the US government as an admission of their guilt for “mistakenly” killing our relatives in a drone strike. But this is not justice. There are many other families in Yemen who have lost innocent relatives in US drone strikes but do not receive hush money for speaking out,’ said Faisal bin Ali Jaber.

The Friday before he was killed, Salem had given a sermon at the mosque in the village of Khashamir, denouncing al-Qaeda’s ideology. A few days later, some strangers arrived in the village, demanding to speak with him. Salem eventually agreed to meet them, and took Waleed with him.

The two men went to meet the strangers near the local mosque, where they had parked their car. The whole group was then hit by a US drone missile, killing all of them. The strike took place on the second day of family wedding celebrations, which Salem and Waleed were attending.

Cori Crider, Reprieve’s Strategic Director and Faisal’s attorney, said: ‘President Obama is as reluctant as ever to admit the full extent of the US drone programme in Yemen – but money talks, even if the White House won’t.

‘Cash payments without full accountability won’t quell the outrage about civilian drone deaths, and continued US strikes will only bring further instability to Yemen. The victims’ families want and deserve an explanation, while the American people need to hear the truth about what is being done in their name.

‘In October 2014, we helped Faisal take legal action in the German Constitutional Court. We had discovered that German military bases were being used to facilitate drone strikes in Yemen – including the strike that killed Faisal’s relatives.

‘Our claim asked that the German administration stop the use of German territory for illegal actions by the US in Yemen. We argued that the German government is acting in breach of the country’s constitution by permitting the US to use its Ramstein airbase for illegal drone attacks abroad.

‘In May 2015, the court ruled against us, but the judge gave us immediate leave to appeal. This is a rare move, and means that our case could be heard again within months. This is the first time that the crucial role of Ramstein in facilitating the US drone programme has been challenged in court.

‘Without Germany – and other Western allies – the US could not fly the drones that kill innocent people. In June 2015, we heard that the German Federal Prosecutor’s office – Germany’s highest prosecuting office – has launched a “monitoring process”, which will investigate possible violations of international law involving Ramstein.

‘They have requested documents from government agencies, including the Ministry of Defence, that might indicate that they had an idea about what was happening in Ramstein. This is the first step of a much bigger journey towards making sure that people like Faisal and his family are able to live in peace, without the constant fear of drones hanging over them. We will continue to seek justice for Faisal and his family, and demand an end to US-led drone strikes.’

The United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are carrying out a secret drone missile assassination program in Syria, the Washington Post reported late Tuesday: here.

Corbyn ‘insane’ for not invading Iraq, Tony Blair says


Tony Blair, Jeremy Corbyn, and the Iraq war

From the British satirical site The Daily Mash:

Corbyn insane not to invade Iraq, says Blair

01-09-15

JEREMY Corbyn’s lack of a plan to invade Iraq would spell disaster for Labour, Tony Blair has claimed.

The former prime minister attacked Corbyn’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ politics, saying Labour would be unable to win future elections without a huge war instigated by right-wing Americans.

Blair said: “He clearly has no plans for an invasion of Iraq, which is an insult to British voters who so wisely put their faith in me, George W. Bush and Jesus.

“He needs to ditch this drivel about taxing the rich and set out his bombing plans. Right now, I don’t know who he wants to bomb, or if he even wants to bomb at all.”

He added: “In politics you’ve got to be realistic. That’s why the next Labour leader needs to re-invade Iraq using these special robot soldiers I’ve drawn and coloured in myself.

“They’re nuclear and have lasers.”