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Private Wall Street Ratings Agency Downgrades Spain's Credit Rating

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We decide who stays poor and who becomes poorer
Standard & Poor's drops rating from A to BBB+ and warns that Spain's recession is likely to deepen by the end of the year

Spain's precarious economic situation has worsened after the ratings agency Standard & Poor's downgraded the country's debt and warned that its recession was likely to deepen by the end of the year.

S&P cut the rating on Spain's debt mountain by two notches, from A to BBB+. The downgrade is expected to push up the cost of borrowing immediately, as investors become increasingly worried over Madrid's inability to cut spending without sending its beleaguered economy into a deeper recession.

European leaders have feared that investors, who have watched the unfolding euro crisis over the last two years, would withdraw their support for Spain in response to the increased risk that it will be forced to accept a multi-billion-euro rescue package from Brussels.

Comment: The Spanish government is preparing for trouble:

Spain plans 'draconian' new social networking laws in street protest clampdown

Spain to Close Border for Summit of the European Central Bank


Handcuffs

Retired British man extradited to US, charged with supplying weapons to Iran

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© Beretta/Sims/Rex Features
Set up? Chris Tappin, the retired British businessman charged with trying to sell missile parts to Iran.
A retired British businessman who was extradited to the US in February on charges of dealing arms to Iran, has denied any connection with terrorism and claimed he was the victim of an FBI sting operation.

Chris Tappin, 65 who was released on bail after his family paid $50,000 (£31,026) of a $1m (£620,527) bond, said: "I'm not a terrorist. I've never had any connections with terrorism and I'm just appalled that things could come to this stage."

Speaking to the BBC after a Texas court freed him on the condition that he wear an electronic tag and agree to have his emails monitored, Tappin said: "I didn't know these batteries were for hawk missiles and ... I didn't know they were destined for Iran."

Radar

Troop Movements: 9,000 Marines to be relocated from Japan

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© REUTERS/Issei Kato
Hercules aircraft are parked on the tarmac at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan on Okinawa May 3, 2010.
The United States and Japan announced on Thursday a revised agreement on streamlining the U.S. military presence on Okinawa that will shift 9,000 Marines from the southern Japanese island to Guam and other Asia-Pacific sites.

The new plan, unveiled days before Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda meets President Barack Obama in Washington, helps the allies work around the central but still-unresolved dispute over moving the Futenma air base from a crowded part of Okinawa to a new site that has vexed relations for years.

"I am very pleased that, after many years, we have reached this important agreement and plan of action. I applaud the hard work and effort that went into crafting it," U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in a statement.

"Japan is not just a close ally, but also a close friend."

Under the agreement, 9,000 U.S. Marines will be relocated. Five thousand will go to Guam and the rest to other sites such as Hawaii and Australia, a joint U.S.-Japanese statement said.

The updated version of a long-delayed 2006 plan was needed to achieve "a U.S. force posture in the Asia-Pacific region that is more geographically distributed, operationally resilient and politically sustainable," the statement said.

Bad Guys

A Spanish Company Known As Scytl Will Be Reporting Election Results For Hundreds of U.S. Jurisdictions

vote US
© n/a
Do you know who is going to be counting the votes on Election Day 2012? Most Americans never even think about this. Most Americans just assume that their votes will count and that the government will ensure that the counting process is done honestly and fairly. But is this really the case?

Sadly, the vast majority of people never take the time to "look behind the curtain" to see how things really work. If they did, they might find themselves extremely upset about what they would find.

The integrity of our voting process is of the utmost importance. If we do not have the ballot box, then what avenues for changing our government do we have left? Unfortunately, the integrity of our elections has been called into question quite a few times in recent years, and now a Spanish company known as Scytl will be involved in reporting election results for hundreds of jurisdictions across the United States this upcoming election day. Will those election results be accurate?

It is absolutely amazing that a foreign company has been able to gain such control over the reporting of election results in the United States without it ever making a significant splash in the mainstream media.

You would think that there would be a law against this sort of thing, but apparently there is not.

Eye 2

Israel court throws out appeals of Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners

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1,350 prisoners have begun open-ended hunger strike
An Israeli military court on Monday rejected appeals by two Palestinian prisoners who have been refusing food for 55 days, their lawyer and a Palestinian prisoner rights NGO said.

"We just confirmed with Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla's families that both their appeals were rejected today," a spokeswoman for prisoner rights group Addameer said.

Diab, 27, and Halahla, 34, began refusing food on February 29 in protest at being held without charge under a procedure known as administrative detention, which means they can be held for renewable periods of up to six months.

They are being held in the hospital wing of Ramle prison near Tel Aviv, with their condition described as "rapidly deteriorating."

Their lawyer, Jamil al-Khatib, confirmed the military judge had rejected their appeals after holding a closed meeting with members of Israel's Shin Bet internal security service and the military advocate general.

USA

Torture Case of Padilla Comes Before the Supreme Court After Being Thrown Out By Lower Courts

Jose padilla

Jose Padilla - gang member - patsy
"It is hard to conceive of a more profound constitutional violation than the torture of a US citizen on US soil," wrote lawyers for Jose Padilla in a petition filed Monday with the US Supreme Court. A lawsuit brought by Padilla, who was illegally "disappeared," imprisoned and tortured by the US government for four years, was thrown out by lower courts on the grounds that the courts have no authority to subject the wartime actions of the executive branch to "judicial scrutiny."

Padilla's treatment constituted a test case for the incommunicado detention and torture of US citizens by the military without any judicial process. The Padilla case, as much as any other to date, illustrates the disintegration of democracy in the US and the erection of the legal scaffolding of a police state.

According to the precedent set by the Padilla case, federal authorities and the military may unilaterally abduct, imprison and torture a US citizen, in clear violation of the Bill of Rights, without anyone ever being held accountable. If this can be done to one individual, there is nothing in principle preventing the government from doing it to hundreds or thousands or millions of individuals.

Red Flag

Torture of US Citizens and the Complicity of Federal Judges

supreme court bldg
© AFP/Getty Images/File Win McNamee
The Supreme Court is asked to decide if government officials can be held accountable for torturing a US citizen

Two of the most under-discussed afflictions in American political life are inter-related: (1) the heinous, inhumane treatment of prisoners on American soil (often, though certainly not exclusively, Muslim political prisoners), and (2) the virtually complete abdication by subservient federal courts in the post-9/11 era of their duty to hold Executive Branch officials accountable for unconstitutional and otherwise illegal acts in the War on Terror context. Those two disgraceful American trends are vividly illustrated by juxtaposing two events, which I happened to be reminded of yesterday while looking for something else; first, from a January, 27, 2007, article in The Washington Post:
The prime minister of Canada apologized Friday to Maher Arar and agreed to give $9 million in compensation to the Canadian Arab, who was spirited by U.S. agents to Syria and tortured there after being falsely named as a terrorism suspect.

Arar, 36, a former computer engineer who was detained while changing planes at a New York airport in 2002 and imprisoned in a Syrian dungeon for 10 months, said after the announcement that he "feels proud as a Canadian". . . .

"We cannot go back and fix the injustice that occurred to Mr. Arar," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in issuing the formal apology in Ottawa. "However, we can make changes to lessen the likelihood that something like this will ever happen again." The head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police resigned over the affair, and the government has pledged to increase oversight of its intelligence agencies. . . .

The financial compensation settles a claim Arar made against the government for having provided exaggerated and false information to the United States that identified him as a terrorist suspect. Harper said the amount "is within this government's realistic assessment of what Mr. Arar would have won in a lawsuit." His attorneys also were awarded about $870,000 in legal fees.

"The evidence is clear that Mr. Arar has been treated unjustly. He should not be on a watch list," Harper said.
And then this Christian Science Monitor article from June 14, 2010:
A Canadian citizen has lost his bid to hold US officials accountable for their decision to label him an Al Qaeda suspect and deport him to Syria where he was held without charge for a year and allegedly tortured during US-directed interrogations.

The US Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up the case of Maher Arar, who was born in Syria but had lived in Canada since his teens. . . .

Arar filed a lawsuit in the US seeking to hold American officials accountable for their actions. . . . To date, the US government position on Arar has been to insist that Arar has no legal right to seek to hold American officials accountable for his ordeal.

In denying review of Arar's case, the high court lets stand a 7 to 4 ruling by the full Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. That court found that because of "special factors" involving national security, Arar's lawsuit should be dismissed.

Eye 1

Anonymous and OWS Join Forces Against Politicians Supporting NDAA

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© anonops.blogspot.com
America's most powerful protest groups are joining forces to warn elected officials that they will be held accountable for their actions. The campaign is called Our Polls and its being launched with help from both Anonymous and the Occupy movement.

The AnonOps Communications website revealed details early Monday this week regarding the hacktivist collective's latest campaign. Along with the nation-wide Occupy Wall Street movement, Anonymous says they are going after the politicians in America that supported legislation that both entities have largely advocated against.

"Elected officials serve one purpose - to represent their constituents, the people who voted them into office," reads a statement posted to the website. "Last year, many of our elected officials let us down by giving in to deep-pocketed lobbyists and passing laws meant to boost corporate profits at the expense of individual liberty."

The legislation in question include the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect IP Act. In an act of retaliation aimed at those that supported these bills, the groups have released a roster of politicians that have not only expressed favor for the laws, but that are also up for reelection this year.

"You are one person. You have one vote. Use that vote on November 6 to hold your elected official accountable for supporting bills such as NDAA, SOPA and PIPA," reads their statement.

Handcuffs

Republicans want to repeal NDAA, indefinite detention without charge or trial

guantanamo
© REUTERS/Michelle Shephard/Pool
With opponents on Capitol Hill unable to keep President Obama from signing the controversial National Defense Authorization Act, lawmakers in Washington State are proposing a bill that would block its dangerous provisions from themselves.

Five Republican lawmakers in the state of Washington have proposed a bill that would keep the provisions that permit the president from indefinitely detaining American citizens from applying to state residents. Despite widespread opposition, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or NDAA, into law on December 31, 2011. In authorizing the bill, President Obama added a signing statement insisting that he would not abide by the provisions that permit the unconstitutional actions guaranteed under the law. Even with this addendum, however, critics fear that this president - and any future ones - will use the bill to break down the civil liberties of Americans.

Coffee

Fat Cats in Washington: Congressmen's incomes triple as the rest of America gets poorer

Capitol Hill
© AFP Photo / Karen BLEIER
If you feel like Congress fat cats can't relate to their fellow Americans anymore, the truth behind the matter might just be that they can't.

While Americans have seen a recession ravage savings accounts, lawmakers on Capitol Hill have only gotten richer.

Between the US Senate and House of Representatives, the median net worth for a member of Congress is around $913,000, reports The New York Times. That man in the middle is Ed Pastor (Dem-AZ), and although he makes a pretty penny nowadays, his income today is gigantic when gauged with what he was worth when he first came to Washington. Twenty years earlier, Pastor pulled in enough to have only $100,000 saved up, a figure he has magnified nearly tenfold in the two decades since.

Comparing the mean in 2009 with the mean for lawmakers' assets in 1984, the figure has tripled.

Comment: And still millions of people will continue to vote for them, as if somehow, this time, the super-rich will have a change of heart and suddenly give a damn.