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Tue, 23 May 2017
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The privilege of occupation: Israel sentences 13yo Palestinian to prison, financially crippling fine

Outside Sharon prison: full-grown pansies and cowards who are terrified of 12-year-old girls.
They're not even sure of the exact date of her arrest. They only remember that it was on a Wednesday nearly a month ago. (It was March 23.) They also had a hard time finding a photograph of S. Her mother rummaged around for a long time until she found a faded and wrinkled studio picture of the family, taken a few years ago. S. is in the front, sitting on a rocking horse, her hair pulled back in a ponytail. There's another shot of S. as a baby. That's all. Where's her room? It's here, the room we're sitting in: a living room with moldy walls that contains nothing apart from a few mattresses on the floor and two light-brown plastic chairs. At night, it's her room.

But now S. is not home. She is in Sharon Prison. A 13-year-old girl, in the seventh grade, she is an inmate in an Israeli jail. Last Thursday, S. was sentenced to four-and-a-half months in prison and a fine of 7,000 shekels ($1,860). If the fine is not paid - and for this family it's an absolutely unimaginable amount - S.'s mother, Amna Takatka, will be sent to jail for up to seven months: one month for every 1,000 unpaid shekels, for what her daughter did. That was the sentence handed down by military judge Lt. Col. Ami Navon.

Six weeks ago, we visited the family of another girl, D., a 12-year-old from Halhul, who in February was also sentenced to four-and-a-half months in prison. She too is in the seventh grade.

Comment: These children do not hate Israeli soldiers because they're Jewish; they hate them because they a military occupation force that routinely slaughters their family members, makes arbitrary arrests, and keeps Gaza and the West bank in ghetto-like conditions.


Super Lead Me: Michigan governor vows to drink (filtered) Flint water for 30 days

© Reuters
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
In response to a reporter's challenge and demands from citizens, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has vowed to drink filtered Flint water for at least 30 days in an attempt to "alleviate some of the skepticism" left by the city's lead contamination crisis.

The challenge was announced on Monday as Governor Snyder visited a Flint resident who lives with lead service lines that tested higher than the federal action level for lead, which is 15 parts per billion, unfiltered, reported the Detroit News.

The homeowner uses a filter, but was concerned about whether her water was safe to drink. Snyder left her home with three gallons of filtered water. Filters can handle lead levels under 150 parts per billion.

Comment: Just to make sure he's not cheating: Film it and conduct before and after blood tests and hair analyses.


Up to 3,500 gallons of radioactive waste leaked at Washington state storage site

© Wikipedia
Thousands of gallons of radioactive waste are estimated to have leaked at a Manhattan Project-era nuclear storage tank in Washington State over the weekend, triggering an alarm and causing one former worker to label it as "catastrophic."

The expanded leak was first detected after an alarm went off at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation on Sunday, and on Monday workers were preparing to pump the waste out of the troubled area, AP reported. They were also trying to determine why the leak became worse.

It's unclear exactly how much waste spilled out, but estimates place the amount at somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 gallons, according to the Tri-City Herald.

Comment: More on the troubled plant: With all the seismic activity along the ring of fire it seems that officials should be readying their evacuation orders. Nah! That'll never happen.


Blind man roughed up and arrested in a surprise confrontation with the police

© Shannon Stapleton / Reuters
Claude Ruffin had no idea why two men grabbed him until he reached out and felt a gun. That was the moment NYPD officers roughly arrested the blind, disabled veteran. Ruffin is now moving forward with a lawsuit.

Ruffin, 62, was minding his own business when he was arrested in the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence. Celebrating New Year's Eve inside the Long Island shelter, Ruffin was wearing his dark-colored glasses while sitting on his bed when two officers entered his room in 2014, the New York Daily News reported.

Unbeknownst to Ruffin, a Mississippi native who hasn't had eyesight since 2001, the veterans' shelter's security had called the police, thinking he had kicked a door. It was later determined that Ruffin had not kicked the door but bumped into it while walking without his cane.

Comment: Further reading:


Prison debate team triumphs again -- this time against West Point

© Lucas B. Frank/Bard Prison Initiative
Members of the debate team at the Bard Prison Initiative go up against the U. S. Military Academy at West Point Friday at Eastern New York Correctional Facility.
The Bard Prison Initiative debate team who famously defeated Harvard College students last October put another notch in their belt. This time, in poetic fashion, the prison inmates bested students at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Members of the Bard team, all inmates at a maximum security prison, are enrolled in a college program at the Eastern New York Correctional Facility. They go through a competitive screening process to get there, joining about 1,000 others who made the cut.

Their winning streak in debate demonstrates the cognitive potential that exists in the massive U.S. prison system. This is what motivates the Bard Prison Initiative, which is funded mostly through private donations. Graduates of their college program have an astonishingly low 2 percent rate of recidivism.

Stock Down

Deja vu all over again: Companies are defaulting on their debts just like in 2008

The Dow closed above 18,000 on Monday for the first time since July. Isn't that great news? I truly wish that it was. If the Dow actually reflected economic reality, I could stop writing about "economic collapse" and start blogging about cats or football. Unfortunately, the stock market and the economy are moving in two completely different directions right now. Even as stock prices soar, big corporations are defaulting on their debts at a level that we have not seen since the last financial crisis. In fact, this wave of debt defaults have become so dramatic that even USA Today is reporting on it...

Comment: What happens when corporations default on their debts? Rewards. When private individuals default? Harassment, shaming and debtor's prisons.


Student loans are a scam: Why the government needs to give blanket student debt amnesty right now

A couple weeks ago the Wall Street Journal confirmed our worst fears about the student loan program, that is, that it was going to blow up in the government's face just like all the other gigantic debt-bubbles that preceded it. For the sake of background, here's a brief excerpt from the article that will bring readers up-to-date:
"More than 40% of Americans who borrowed from the government's main student-loan program aren't making payments or are behind on more than $200 billion owed, raising worries that millions of them may never repay.

The new figures represent the fallout of a decadelong borrowing boom as record numbers of students enrolled in trade schools, universities and graduate schools.

While most have since left school and joined the workforce, 43% of the roughly 22 million Americans with federal student loans weren't making payments as of Jan. 1, according to a quarterly snapshot of the Education Department's $1.2 trillion student-loan portfolio." (More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren't Making Payments, Wall Street Journal)
While it all sounds very shocking, the real eye-popper was buried deep in the text where it was most likely to be ignored. Here it is:
"Carlo Salerno, an economist who studies higher education and has consulted for the private student-lending industry, noted that the government imposes virtually no credit checks on borrowers, requires no cosigners and doesn't screen people for their preparedness for college-level course work. "On what planet does a financing vehicle with those kinds of terms and those kinds of performance metrics make sense," he said." (WSJ)


Police state on steroids: Couple faces 3 months in jail for overdue library books

Like a dystopic nightmare, a couple from Michigan faces not only large fines, but jail time over failing to return two library books — one of which is a classic by Dr. Seuss — despite their attempts to resolve the matter.

Catherine Duren allowed her son to use her library card to check out the Hatful of Seuss collection for his daughter in 2014.

Catherine's husband, Melvin, also faces charges after keeping the thriller, The Rome Prophecy, for eight months — though he returned it in January after receiving a letter about the missing book.

Now, the couple faces up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine for late library books.

Comment: See also:


Survey says: Only 6% of Americans trust the media

© Peter Morgan/Reuters

Comment: Your average American is more interested in trust-worthy, objective reporting in the media, not just government mouthpieces and liars.

As accusations of bias fly during an election year, a new report shows that Americans have serious misgivings about the media, with only six percent saying they have "a great deal of confidence" in the press.

A survey of more than 2,000 adults released on Sunday showed that trust in the media has dipped to dramatically low levels. About 52 percent of respondents said they have "some confidence" in the press, while 41 percent said they have "hardly any confidence."

"Over the last two decades, research shows the public has grown increasingly skeptical of the news industry," the report from the American Press Institute reads. "The study reaffirms that consumers do value broad concepts of trust like fairness, balance, accuracy, and completeness. At least two-thirds of Americans cite each of these four general principles as very important to them."

According to the study, most people couldn't name a specific instance that damaged their confidence in the media, but about 40 percent could remember a case, generally involving a report that turned out to be inaccurate or was perceived as biased, which caused them to lose their trust.


Samantha Power's high-speed motorcade kills 7-year-old boy in Cameroon village

© AP/Andrew Harnick
Refugees gather to see U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power as she visits Minawao Refugee Camp in northern Cameroon, Monday, April 18, 2016.
Samantha Power's motorcade was moving at high speed, exceeding 60 mph, when the boy was run over. The boy died in hospital

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power's motorcade in Cameroon on Monday ran over a seven-year old boy killing him, AP reported.

Power had just arrived in Cameroon to visit the front lines in the war against Boko Haram and was driving through the northern city of Moloko, where Power was scheduled to meet refugees and other people displaced by years of violence across West Africa, AP added. The high-level diplomat later returned to the scene of the tragic incident and met with the boy's mother and father.

Associated Press said that Power's motorcade was driving at high speeds—exceeding 60 mph—in spite of villagers standing along the road to watch her pass by. But, after the accident, the ambassador's motorcade slowed down significantly. "The vehicle that hit the boy initially stopped, but was ordered by American security forces to continue traveling through the unsecured area.

An ambulance in the U.S. caravan immediately attended to him," AP said. The boy was rushed to a local hospital in critical condition. He died at the hospital.

AP said officials did not immediately identify the boy, and U.S officials wouldn't comment immediately on any plans for compensation to the boy's family.