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Mystery deepens over the flotilla on the rocks

 A Palestinian boy holds up a sign during a rally in support of the flotilla at Gaza's port yesterday
© Reuters

A Palestinian boy holds up a sign during a rally in support of the flotilla at Gaza's port yesterday

The many mishaps that have befallen 10 ships heading for Gaza have triggered accusations of Israeli dirty tricks

Muggings, alleged sabotage and mysterious fishermen loitering in oily waters: it has all the elements of an average spy novel, but jittery pro-Palestinian activists are alleging that Israel has masterminded a series of mishaps that has left their Gaza-bound flotilla in disarray.

In the latest blow to the depleted 10-ship convoy, Greece has arrested the captain of one ship and barred the departure of the other seven ships at its ports, warning that to let them leave would be too dangerous.

If this is the end of the road for the flotilla, it would seem a victory for Israel. It is, after all, a very different ending to activists' efforts to breach Israel's siege of Gaza in May last year when Israeli troops stormed the flotilla, killed nine Turkish activists and drew international opprobrium.


India Parties Pledge Anti-Corruption Law

© Reuters
Corruption has become endemic in the Indian system
India's political parties have agreed that a "strong and effective" anti-corruption law should be ready before the next session of parliament, which begins in August.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made the announcement on Sunday after an all-party meeting to discuss the law.

Civil society and the government have been deadlocked over how powerful a new anti-graft ombudsman should be.

India has recently been hit by a string of high-profile corruption scandals.

Civil society members, led by activist Anna Hazare, have been pushing the government for a strong ombudsman that will have the power to investigate corruption charges against the prime minister, senior judges and MPs, among others.

The government has reportedly refused to include the prime minister and senior judiciary under the purview of the ombudsman.

But the government has said it is committed to draft a "strong and sound" Jan Lokpal Bill (Citizen's Ombudsman Bill) by the end of June.


What Are We Celebrating On The Fourth Of July?

© Ben Garrison
You see it everywhere - on signs in stores, in TV commercials, newspaper ads, and sales fliers: Happy Fourth of July.

Well, now, isn't that special? What's the big deal about saying, "Happy Fourth of July?" After all, every country in the world has a "fourth of July."

Ask school kids what the Fourth of July is all about, and virtually each and every one will answer something like, "Fireworks" or "Cookouts." Retailers see it as yet another excuse to hold a sale. For most, it's a day off from work. But how many people today understand what July 4th is really about?

The fact that the Fourth of July is a celebration of independence from government tyranny under British rule seems to have been pretty much forgotten, or is viewed as an unimportant afterthought.

What kind of government tyranny did the Colonists want freedom from? Well, for one thing, the kind that involves warrant-less searches of peoples' homes, where government agents could just walk right into your private home for no reason and conduct a search without even getting a court-issued warrant. That was a form of government terrorism waged against the people, and when America declared its independence from British rule it adopted a new rule at home that specifically forbade such tyrannical government actions. To deal with this particular abuse, the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution was created to protect citizens from illegal searches and seizures undertaken by a lawless, tyrannical government.

Star of David

Israel lobby group outlines dirty tricks against campus Palestine activists

© Jeff Haynes / Agence France Presse
What is the best way to smear Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists and get away with it?

That is the question David Bernstein, Executive Director of the pro-Israel propaganda group, The David Project, asks in a surprisingly frank article titled "How to 'Name-And-Shame' Without Looking Like a Jerk" posted on Israel Campus Beat, a website sponsored by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Bernstein writes:
One of the more controversial tactics in a growing effort to counter the delegitimization of Israel is to "name-and-shame" - to go after those who actively delegitimize Israel and seek to delegitimize them.

There are even those, such as British journalist Melanie Phillips, who argue that our entire strategy should be to relentlessly attack the other side and to cease "defending" Israel.

While name-and-shame tactics can be put to positive effect, they can also easily backfire and do more harm than good. We need to learn the art of being disagreeable in the most agreeable possible fashion.

Star of David

Propaganda Alert! Flotilla II Seeks Provocation, Poses Threat to Israel

Israel proof
© David Silverman/ Getty Images
Israel army releases photographic proof of Flotilla "Threat to Israel"
In a move intended to convince skeptics to finally accept Israel's claims that the Gaza Freedom Flotilla 2 poses a real danger, the Israeli military spokesperson's office has issued photographic evidence in a blog post titled "Flotilla II Seeks Provocation, Poses Threat to Israel."

Well, it turns out that the "threat" is none other than Pulitzer Prize-winning American author and poet Alice Walker whose fearsome and terrifying smile can be seen in the Israeli-issued image. But the danger to Israel does not end there. As the "IDF" Spokesperson explains:
Organizers of the 2011 Gaza flotilla have a provocation-seeking agenda: Deliberately provoke and humiliate Israeli soldiers. For example, organizers trained boat passengers on how to defiantly rebuff Israel Navy attempts to peacefully board the boats.
The "IDF" must be referring to the nonviolence training all passengers received, as well as the nonviolence pledge they all signed. Indeed, Israel does show every day that it finds nonviolence very humiliating.

Still, the military spokesperson's blog made me finally see the light: those poor Israeli soldiers at risk of "humiliation" from Alice Walker and 87 year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein among others. Of course no one can forget how Israel "peacefully" boarded the Mavi Marmara, part of last year's flotilla, in international waters with a force that involved large warships, a swarm of armed speed boats carrying dozens of heavily-armed commandos, and airborne troops dropped from helicopters.

Evil Rays

14 Propaganda Techniques Fox "News" Uses to Brainwash Americans

© Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Alan Turkus, ario_, Eddi van W.)
There is nothing more sacred to the maintenance of democracy than a free press. Access to comprehensive, accurate and quality information is essential to the manifestation of Socratic citizenship - the society characterized by a civically engaged, well-informed and socially invested populace. Thus, to the degree that access to quality information is willfully or unintentionally obstructed, democracy itself is degraded.

It is ironic that in the era of 24-hour cable news networks and "reality" programming, the news-to-fluff ratio and overall veracity of information has declined precipitously. Take the fact Americans now spend on average about 50 hours a week using various forms of media, while at the same time cultural literacy levels hover just above the gutter. Not only does mainstream media now tolerate gross misrepresentations of fact and history by public figures (highlighted most recently by Sarah Palin's ludicrous depiction of Paul Revere's ride), but many media actually legitimize these displays. Pause for a moment and ask yourself what it means that the world's largest, most profitable and most popular news channel passes off as fact every whim, impulse and outrageously incompetent analysis of its so-called reporters. How did we get here? Take the enormous amount of misinformation that is taken for truth by Fox audiences: the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that he was in on 9/11, the belief that climate change isn't real and/or man-made, the belief that Barack Obama is Muslim and wasn't born in the United States, the insistence that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists, the inexplicable perceptions that immigrants are both too lazy to work and are about to steal your job. All of these claims are demonstrably false, yet Fox News viewers will maintain their veracity with incredible zeal. Why? Is it simply that we have lost our respect for knowledge?

My curiosity about this question compelled me to sit down and document the most oft-used methods by which willful ignorance has been turned into dogma by Fox News and other propagandists disguised as media. The techniques I identify here also help to explain the simultaneously powerful identification the Fox media audience has with the network, as well as their ardent, reflexive defenses of it.


Cynthia McKinney: The War Against Libya

© Russia Today
Wanted for war crimes: Sarkozy, Cameron and Obama
A hearty group of protesters representing several community organizations showed up today to protest the vote of civil rights icon and Member of Congress from Atlanta, John Lewis, to continue funding for the bombing of Libya. The Congressman interrupted his schedule and heard the frustrations of his constituents who are outraged at the quiescence of Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Progressive Caucus in light of President Obama's policy to bomb Africa. As we were meeting with the Congressman, President Obama was addressing the country on national television defending his actions in Libya. The Congressman reiterated his antipathy to war by saying that "war is obsolete." The group asked the Congressman to be unequivocal in future votes and deny funding for President Obama's current wars.

Meanwhile, while we were meeting with Congressman Lewis, President Obama was speaking to the nation. Incredibly, the President demeaned national and Congressional concern for his war policy as "fuss" by saying, "A lot of this fuss is politics." I think those of us who want our country to work for peace should let this President know what "fuss" really looks like.

Below are my remarks at our event today and video will soon be on its way. Below that, see what the President calls "fuss." Our concern is a matter of life and death for the people of Libya who deserve to be able to exercise their rights without the shock and awe of NATO bombs and missiles.


Gaddafi's son: Libya is like McDonald's for NATO - fast war as fast food

With the war in Libya at the focal point of international relations, RT's gained access to Colonel Gaddafi's son in NATO-targeted Tripoli. Saif al-Islam thinks his country's wanted for its riches, but says the people won't let Libya fall under foreign control.

Eye 1

US Captain of Gaza Ship Held in "Shocking Conditions"

© Agence France-Presse
The captain of a US vessel intercepted after it tried to defy a ban and sail for Gaza from Greece was being held in "shocking conditions" Sunday and has not received consular assistance, a lawyer said.

Captain John Klusmer was arrested when the US boat Audacity of Hope -- the flagship in a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists -- attempted to leave Greek waters on Friday after Athens banned all Gaza-bound ships from setting sail.

Klusmer was charged with felony and ordered to appear in court on Tuesday. The US Boat to Gaza organisation said he was being held in jail in "shocking conditions" and as far as it was aware, had not yet received consular assistance.

Bad Guys

Karma is finally catching up on him? Jury convicts ex-US Gov. Blagojevich at retrial

© Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
In this June 9, 2011 file photo, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich pauses as he talks with reporters at the Federal Court building after the judge handed the case to the jury in his corruption trial in Chicago. Jurors deliberating in Blagojevich's corruption trial told a judge on Monday, June 27, 2011, that they have reached a verdict on 18 of the 20 counts against him, and attorneys in the case have agreed that the verdict should be read.
Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has been convicted of 17 of the 20 charges against him, including all 11 charges related to his attempt to sell or trade President Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat.

Jurors deadlocked on one charge of attempted extortion in an alleged shakedown involving funding for a school in the district of then-Congressman Rahm Emanuel.