Human Rights

Israel's Spin Machine: It Keeps Spinning, and Spinning, and Spinning

Gaza flotilla (Reuters)As per usual, when push comes to shove, the right-wing Israeli government, along with the Israel Defense Forces spinmeisters, have gone back to the simple formula: when they do something illegal and barbaric, blame the victim, for the United States will obligingly agree and stand by that narrative. Like always, while the rest of the world protests in condemnation and speaks out against Israel's actions and crimes, the U.S. government stands by complicitly, continuing to shower Israel with over $3 billion per year in military aid into perpetuity.

Obama and Israel Shun the International Community

Gaza flotilla (Reuters)From video of Gaza flotilla (Reuters)President Obama came to power promising to end the foreign policy of the Bush era and institute a commitment to international cooperation and diplomacy, especially with the Muslim world. The controversy surrounding Israel's recent raid on a Turkish aid flotilla has made it difficult for the Obama administration to fulfill that promise. The administration does not want to alienate Turkey, a large Muslim nation with aspirations of joining the European Union, nor does Obama want to anger Israel, which has strong historical ties to America. Trying to pacify both nations, the Obama administration has taken an ambivalent and ambiguous position on how to resolve the conflict, which does not include a definitive statement on an international investigation into the causes and culpability of the confrontation. While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared last Tuesday that the United States "supports the Security Council's call for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation" and "an Israeli investigation that meets those criteria," the administration is merely "open" to the possibility of international participation.

The Right Wing's Next Target: The Greenlining Institute

Greenlining InstituteLast year, right-wing activists masqueraded as a pimp and a prostitute and used a phony storyline and a hidden camera to take down the community group ACORN. ACORN was eventually absolved and the unsavory tactics of the right exposed, but that hasn't stopped the right from moving on to a new target: the Berkeley, California-based Greenlining Institute. Like ACORN, the Greenlining Institute is a progressive organization that advocates for the poor and works for economic justice. It also supports implementation and enforcement of the Community Reinvestment Act, a federal law passed in 1977 to mitigate deteriorating conditions in low and moderate-income neighborhoods by addressing the practice of redlining -- denying credit or insurance to people based on their ethnic background or neighborhood. Groups like ACORN and the Greenlining Institute draw the wrath of wealthy corporate interests because they seek government regulation of lucrative but abusive or harmful business practices.

Here's Looking at You, Kids

Few cell phone users know that mobile phone companies like AT&T, Verizon and Sprint can track the locations of cell phones in real time, thanks to small global positioning sensors (GPS) placed inside phones. They can also analyze how a call is routed through towers, to pinpoint a phone's location to an area the size of a city block.

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Cindy McCain Poses for Pro-Gay Marriage Ad Campaign

Cindy McCain's photo for the NOH8 CampaignAfter California voters passed Proposition 8 -- the law that amended the state's constitution to ban same-sex marriage -- in November, 2008, celebrity photographer Adam Bouska and partner Jeff Parshley created the "NOH8 Campaign," a photo project and silent protest that began with Bouska taking photos of everyday Californians who supported marriage equality.

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"Love IS Worth Fighting For" -- Lt. Dan Choi

"Love is worth fighting for." That's how Lt. Dan Choi ended his remarks this weekend about his journey from West Point to Iraq to discharge under the continuing Pentagon policy of "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT). It really made me think about this deeply flawed policy I have opposed privately over the years. Because, as Lt. Choi distilled it so well, love is worth fighting for.

He is one of only eight people in his graduating class at West Point who majored in Arabic, and so his story also brought home to me the gap between the rhetoric about the "global war on terror" (GWOT) and the reality, in a particular way. Since I left the government over four years ago, I have been speaking out about misplaced priorities involving terrorism, civil liberties, and human rights.

Exposing How the Government Lied about National Security Letters and the Patriot Act

Last week, I was honored to be invited to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about the Patriot Act, a new endeavor for the Center for Media and Democracy, even though CMD has covered national security-related issues in its books and on SourceWatch.

One of the reasons I was so pleased to be able to join CMD is because in Washington, DC, I saw first-hand how propaganda and selective disclosures were used to influence and distort public opinion. In my testimony, I highlighted examples from the Patriot Act debate in 2005 where key information was hidden while the bill for reauthorization was being publicly debated, and did not come out until after the bill had passed. With parts of the Patriot Act up for renewal and reform this fall, I wanted to make sure the public record included the story of how the previous Bush administration misled the American people. I also wanted to share my views about why these extraordinary powers need to be fixed to better protect civil liberties and human rights.

CMD's Lisa Graves Testifies Before U.S. Senate on Patriot Act

Lisa Graves, the Executive Director of the Center for Media and Democracy, was the only public interest group advocate invited to testify in Washington on Wednesday, September 23, before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee in its hearing on the Patriot Act and national security surveillance issues.

The complete hearing, including her testimony, is viewable online. In her written testimony, Lisa dissected U.S. government propaganda and spin from the previous Patriot Act debate of 2004 and 2005, calling for policy improvements to better protect human rights and civil liberties.

She was interviewed by Amy Goodman on her Democracy Now! program on September 22, where she explained the issues at stake in the current debate over Patriot Act renewal advocated by the Obama Administration.

PR: War by Other Means

"The PR race is not that different from the arms race," writes John Feffer. "Russia, for instance, recently paid nearly $3 million to Ketchum for a six-month media blitz to promote the country's leaders and policies. Georgia has retained Public Strategies, Inc. at $50,000 a month.

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President Obama and Congress: If You Missed Wise County, Join Me in L.A.

The insurance industry, its business allies and its shills in Congress are doing their best once again to scare us away from real health care reform, just as they did 15 years ago. Using the same tactics and language they did then, insurers and their cronies are warning us that America will be sliding down a slippery slope toward socialism if the federal government creates a public insurance option to compete with the cartel of huge for-profit companies that now dominate the health insurance industry.

One of the false images they try to create in our minds is of long waits for needed care if our reformed health care system resembles in any way the systems of other developed countries in the world--systems that don't deny a single citizen access to affordable care, much less 50 million of them.

Here is a real image, and a very scary one, that I wish those overpaid insurance executives and members of Congress could have witnessed before dawn a few days ago: a thousand men, women and children standing for hours, in the dark, in a line that seemed to be endless, waiting patiently for a chance -- a chance because the need is so great many are turned away -- to get much-needed care from a volunteer doctor.

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