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Sun, 14 Feb 2016
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It's not just Trump: Islamophobia in the U.S. elections is pervasive

The perpetual election season is in full-swing, as we are now past Iowa and New Hampshire. With November seemingly around the corner, the GOP candidates have honed in on cultivating Islamophobia as a sound strategy for drumming up their base.

While the media focuses on the demagoguery of Donald Trump, the war-mongering of Ted Cruz and the sheer-unhinged nature of Ben Carson - the reality is that even "moderate" candidates, such as Marco Rubio are riding a wave of anti-Muslim sentiment, in order to seem tough on national security.

Global Islamophobia continues to reach its crescendo, with anti-refugee and thereby anti-Muslim sentiment spreading like wildfire across Europe. This rhetoric has also continued to grow in the U.S. - with record numbers of Islamophobic incidents reported in 2015 against mosques. For American Muslims, it is now almost 15 years post-9/11 - yet the question remains on whether the continual scapegoating and marginalization of this community within the political sphere will ever end.

Comment: And it isn't only Republican candidates who have the drive and motivation to persecute Muslims:
One of Clinton's leading donors, billionaire Haim Saban, has given Clinton's super PAC at least $2 million and recently suggested that Muslims should face "more scrutiny and that profiling of Muslims should be permissible. "The reality is that certain things that are unacceptable in times of peace — such as profiling, listening in on anyone and everybody who looks suspicious, or interviewing Muslims in a more intense way than interviewing Christian refugees — is all acceptable [during war]."

Following a recent trend, Hillary Clinton has also gone on to praise George W. Bush for his post-9/11 response to Islamophobia. Six days after the September 11 attacks George W. Bush spoke at the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., saying, among other things, that "Islam is peace." "America counts millions of Muslims amongst our citizens, and Muslims make an incredibly valuable contribution to our country...And they need to be treated with respect. In our anger and emotion, our fellow Americans must treat each other with respect." Yet the Bush administration that went on to torture and extrajudicially execute Muslims and deprive countless Muslims of their civil liberties.

Another arm of anti-Muslim bigotry is the drive for militarism, which both the Democrats and Republicans share, each using their own respective arguments in support of some variation of war-chasing. Hillary Clinton, lauded by progressives for her role as Secretary of State, pushed forescalating the war in Afghanistan, attempted to pressure Obama into maintaining U.S. troop presence in Iraq, voted for the Patriot Act in 2001 and again to reauthorize it in 2006, and pledged to further arm Israel while also threatening Iran.

The expansion of U.S. belligerence across much of the world has funneled billions into the arms and defense industry as well as aided local and national policy-makers in normalizing anti-Muslim enmity by way of surveillance programs, the banning of Shari'a law, and the recruitment of native "terror informants." The more entrenched the U.S. military becomes the easier it will be for Muslims, both local and abroad, to be otherized for sake of fighting terror. That the most basic of human rights are now being debated by candidates vying for an opportunity to become the next Commander in Chief has yet to genuinely register with either political camp, especially not those pardoning Clinton's hawkishness.

Anti-Muslim animus goes far beyond ornamented stenographers to power obsessing over the statements of Donald Trump. It is systematic, and often cloaked in the language of humanitarian hyper-militarism and even inclusion. Despite Hillary Clinton's sentimental rhetoric, her policies and political affiliations are concrete and show that she has never been a friend to Muslims, nor will her administration be one.


Biometric system to be implemented in US airports by 2018

© thefreethoughtproject.com
Orwellian, evil-ray, face-scanning robots.
A biometric exit system will begin to be implemented at airports across the United States by 2018, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said during a speech at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC. "For years Congress and others have urged us to develop a system of biometric exit," Johnson stated on Thursday. "I have directed CBP (Customs and Border Protection) to begin implementing the system, starting at airports, in 2018."

A system of biometric exit involves taking the fingerprints or other biometric data of those who leave the country. According to Johnson, CBP has begun testing technologies that can be deployed nationwide. The system, which was originally slated for a 2016 rollout, will be paid for by $1 billion in fee increases over a period of ten years.

Earlier this month, House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul said a biometric system is imperative to prevent visa abuse by terrorists.

The Department of Homeland Security reported to Congress in January that there are hundreds of thousands of individuals in the United States who entered the country legally, but overstayed their visa.

Comment: The reason given to the public for this extreme measure is bogus. Statistics 2015: less than 1% of travelers overstayed their visa departure dates and 99% were confirmed departures. The percentage of the 1% that could even conceivably be labeled terrorists amounts to nil. The NSA has its "fingerprints" all over this...and airports are just the kickoff. Welcome to LOCKDOWN, America. Are you ready to pay for $1B in fee increases for this privilege?

See also: Half million foreigners overstayed US visa in 2015


Nearly 4 dozen Georgia officers arrested in massive FBI drug sting

As part of an investigation and crackdown on extensive contraband smuggling, drug dealing, and other criminal activity within the Georgia Department of Corrections, 46 people — mostly current and former corrections officers — were arrested by the FBI on Thursday.

Indictments for those arrested have been handed down over the last three months. So far in the FBI's sting, around 130 people have been taken into custody by authorities, reported local ABC affiliate, WJCL.

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, John Horn, said the charges represent "staggering corruption within Georgia Department of Corrections institutions."

Comment: The cops don't want drugs out of the prisons, not when there's good money to be made.


UK welfare cuts responsible for record high number of home repossessions

© Leon Neal / AFP
More than 250 tenants were evicted from their homes for every day in 2015, according to figures released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

The figures, released on Thursday, revealed that 42,728 renting households in England and Wales were evicted by county court bailiffs in 2015, a two percent increase on the previous year and the highest number on record since the MoJ started collecting data on home repossessions in 2000.



Patriotism & the transformation of the Russian tradition

The author is a prominent Russian journalist, part-time conservative politician, who coined the term "Russian Spring" during the 2014 anti-putsch movements in the Crimea and Donbass.
The Russian President recently said patriotism is a Russian national ideal. But Russia is a country of paradoxes: pro-Western ideology has been a no less important but much more powerful ideology than patriotism. Westerners thought Russia didn't have the right to exist as an independent nation. Our only job was to self-destruct by dissolving into the West.

Several hundred years ago, patriotism was not an obvious idea in Russia. The political class was divided into radical Westernizers and cowardly ones. Radical Westernizers thought, and still think, that Russia should be occupied by a foreign country. Cowardly ones suggest that if Russia can't be destroyed quickly for historical reasons, they will do so by slowly erasing its identity.

The conflict between pro-Westerners and Patriots is not a conflict over liberty and progress, it's about whether a Russian identity is possible and appropriate.

A patriot is someone who is convinced of Russia's independent historical role. Amazingly, among both Russian intellectuals and bureaucrats they were a minority in the XIX and the XX centuries, forced to stick together in small, close-knit groups, using intrigue to at least partially limit the power of the pro-Western bureaucracy and bypass the influence of the almighty opinion factory.


Migrant-Phobia: 'Masked gang' of 7 men arrested near a French city for attacking Iraqi refugees

© Pascal Rossignol / Reuters
Seven masked men mostly from Calais have been arrested by French police on suspicion of attacking Iraqi Kurds with iron bars in a nearby refugee camp. The victims were reportedly waiting by the road to board trucks traveling to the UK.

The alleged perpetrators, aged between 22 and 44, are accused of attacking four migrants from the Grande-Synthe migrant camp with a mainly Kurdish population near the town of Dunkirk, in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie region.

According to French media reports, the refugees were waiting by the road, preparing to board vehicles bound for the UK.


Washingtion DC schools posted private data of 12,000 students on public website

© Dado Ruvic / Reuters
For several hours on Tuesday, around 12,000 students in the District of Columbia Public Schools system had their personal information publicly available online. This marks the third time the school district has experienced such a security breach.

It happened by accident, according to an internal memo from the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the Washington Post reported. An office worker uploaded the students' identification numbers, race, age, disabilities, and other sensitive data to a public Dropbox account managed by the DC Council.

"I am deeply disappointed by this situation," state superintendent Hanseul Kang wrote in a letter to colleagues, the Post reported. "Our families deserve to know that their students' personal information is being kept confidential and secure in the education system."

Black Magic

Mexicans worshiping skeletal 'Death Saint' a challenge for Pope

© Yuri Cortez/Agence France-Presse
Devotion to the Grim Reaper-like Santa Muerte (Holy Death) in Mexico is growing fast despite the Vatican's rejection of the figure as blasphemous.
Two weeks after baptizing her at a Catholic church, baby Adriana's parents put her in a white gown again for a second sacrament: This time, with Mexico's skeletal "Death Saint." As they held the sleepy three-month-old child, a priestess sprinkled holy water infused with rose petals on her in front of 300 people under a 22-meter (72-foot) statue of the Grim Reaper-like "Santa Muerte" in a Mexico City suburb.

When Pope Francis arrives in Mexico for a five-day visit on Friday, he will find a country where devotion to Santa Muerte is growing fast despite the Vatican's rejection of the figure as blasphemous.

Comment: Mexican culture has a much healthier relationship to death than its North American neighbors.

Dia de los Muertos, Celebrating the Day of the Dead


Federal investigation underway for Chipotle sabotage

© www.thefrisky.com
On Monday, February 8, 2016, Chipotle's two thousand restaurants closed their doors for the day to customers, in order to hold special employee meetings regarding last year's outbreak of E. coli, a bacteria often associated with food poisoning.

You may remember that last year Chipotle was the first restaurant chain to announce that it would phase out the use of genetically modified foods, also known as "G.M.O.'s". Shortly thereafter, and quite mysteriously, an E. coli outbreak was reported, across fourteen states, from Washington to Pennsylvania, and only in Chipotle restaurants. According the "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" (C.D.C.), the odds of an E. coli outbreak crossing a single state line is only three percent, as restaurants generally buy their produce and meat regionally for freshness. The likelihood of an E. coli outbreak crossing fourteen state lines, coast to coast, is probably a small fraction of one percent. Additionally, as many restaurant chains use produce and meat from the same sources, it is probably a fraction of a fraction of one percent that such a nationwide E. coli outbreak would only affect one restaurant and not any others.

After six months of thorough investigation by the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.), the C.D.C., fourteen state and local Health Departments, as well as scientists hired by Chipotle themselves, all have independently concluded that there is not a single traceable source of E. coli from any Chipotle restaurant, in any food ingredient, preparatory surface, or piece of equipment. Literally thousands of individual tests were conducted on the all the foods, on all the kitchen surfaces, and on all the appliances at the suspect Chipotles, and no trace whatsoever of E. coli was found in any restaurant or food ingredient. The C.D.C. being unable to trace the source of a restaurant's food poisoning, after thousands of tests and half a year of effort, has never happened before in the entire history of the organization.

As employees of Chipotle enjoy free meals after a shift, it is also noteworthy to report that Chipotle was the first restaurant chain to announce that it would phase out the use of genetically modified foods, also known as "G.M.O.'s". Shortly thereafter, and quite mysteriously, an E. coli outbreak was reported, across fourteen statesnot a single employee suffered an illness, although customers did. Furthermore, with the advent of precise D.N.A. testing, there were two, specifically different, strains of E. coli discovered, when there should have been just one, though they both "coincidentally" appeared simultaneously in different locations, one type for eleven of the states, and another type for the other three states, the latter being a very rare strain of E. coli, normally found only in food research labs. There was also an additional "coincidence", in that the C.D.C., known through their own interdepartmental memos and former employees as a submissive servant and propaganda arm of the G.M.O. food industry, "just happened" to have federal officers on a "random" visit to the very local Seattle Health Department lab, at the very time, where and when the Chipotle E. coli bacteria was first analyzed, so as to immediately report the incident nationally, even though this was quite the opposite of standard operating procedure, which was suddenly changed in Chipotle's case, as normally the release of information about an outbreak is withheld until an in-depth investigation.


Iranian newscaster speaks out about sexual harassment, emboldens others to break silence

© Sheena Shirani/Facebook
Shirani said there was nobody she could seek help from.
Allegations of sexual harassment at an Iranian TV station are emboldening Iranian women to break their silence and share their experiences of a problem traditionally not acknowledged inside the country.

Sheena Shirani, a news reader at Press TV, the state broadcaster's English language news channel, broke the taboo by speaking out about sexual harassment she says she endured from two of her managers over a prolonged period of time.

Her allegations went public in spectacular fashion when she posted online a recording of a phone conversation in which a man believed to be her boss, Hamid Reza Emadi, repeatedly asks her for sexual favours.

Following the incident Shirani quit her job and left the country and later published the audio file, which has been listened to more than 120,000 times on her Facebook page and an Iranian news site based outside the country. She also shared what appeared to be a screengrab from a text exchange in which Emadi asked her to take the audio down.

Comment: This same sexist and women-denigrating culture can, unfortunately, be seen throughout the world. And in this respect, Iran is certainly not unique - and some other countries most probably far worse:

Ex-Air Force lawyer: Victims of rape in the military face revenge, backlash from superiors for coming forward