Monday, January 30, 2023

COVID

PEWIE

 

From Saturday, that's Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "THE PEW stinks"

Other than that funny comic, I really just want to emphasize one thing.  At Newsweek, Kevin Bass writes:


As a medical student and researcher, I staunchly supported the efforts of the public health authorities when it came to COVID-19. I believed that the authorities responded to the largest public health crisis of our lives with compassion, diligence, and scientific expertise. I was with them when they called for lockdowns, vaccines, and boosters.

I was wrong. We in the scientific community were wrong. And it cost lives.

I can see now that the scientific community from the CDC to the WHO to the FDA and their representatives, repeatedly overstated the evidence and misled the public about its own views and policies, including on natural vs. artificial immunityschool closures and disease transmissionaerosol spreadmask mandates, and vaccine effectiveness and safety, especially among the young. All of these were scientific mistakes at the time, not in hindsight. Amazingly, some of these obfuscations continue to the present day.


But perhaps more important than any individual error was how inherently flawed the overall approach of the scientific community was, and continues to be. It was flawed in a way that undermined its efficacy and resulted in thousands if not millions of preventable deaths.

What we did not properly appreciate is that preferences determine how scientific expertise is used, and that our preferences might be—indeed, our preferences were—very different from many of the people that we serve. We created policy based on our preferences, then justified it using data. And then we portrayed those opposing our efforts as misguided, ignorant, selfish, and evil.

We made science a team sport, and in so doing, we made it no longer science. It became us versus them, and "they" responded the only way anyone might expect them to: by resisting.

We excluded important parts of the population from policy development and castigated critics, which meant that we deployed a monolithic response across an exceptionally diverse nation, forged a society more fractured than ever, and exacerbated longstanding heath and economic disparities.


Most important part:

When former President Trump pointed out the downsides of intervention, he was dismissed publicly as a buffoon. And when Dr. Antony Fauci opposed Trump and became the hero of the public health community, we gave him our support to do and say what he wanted, even when he was wrong.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Monday:


Monday, January 30, 2023.


History is the life that has been lived and information is not static, we learn new things about the past all the time.  Starting with news of discoveries in Iraq, Michele W. Berger (PENN TODAY) reports:

When Holly Pittman and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania and University of Pisa returned to Lagash in the fall of 2022 for a fourth season, they knew they’d find more than ceramic fragments and another kiln. With high-tech tools in hand, the team precisely located trenches to excavate a variety of features of a non-elite urban neighborhood from one of southwest Asia’s earliest cities.

What surprised the researchers most was the large “tavern” they uncovered, complete with benches, a type of clay refrigerator called a “zeer,” an oven, and the remains of storage vessels, many of which still contained food. “It’s a public eating space dating to somewhere around 2700 BCE,” says Pittman, a professor in Penn’s History of Art department, curator of the Penn Museum’s Near East Section, and the Lagash project director. “It’s partially open air, partially kitchen area.”

The find provides another glimpse into the lives of everyday people who dwelled some 5,000 years ago in this part of the world, an area Penn researchers have studied since the 1930s when the Penn Museum teamed up with Leonard Woolley and the British Museum to excavate the important archaeological site of Ur about 30 miles to the southwest. In 2019, the latest round of Lagash excavations began, and despite a short pandemic-necessitated pause, the project has real momentum, with four field seasons now complete.

To excavate most effectively, the researchers are employing cutting-edge methodologies, including drone photography and thermal imaging; magnetometry, which captures the magnetic intensity of buried features; and micro-stratigraphic sampling, a surgically precise type of excavation. To understand the city’s environmental context, they’ve also extracted sediment cores that reflect millennia of ecological development.

“At more than 450 hectares, Lagash was one of the largest sites in southern Iraq during the 3rd millennium,” Pittman says. “The site was of major political, economic, and religious importance. However, we also think that Lagash was a significant population center that had ready access to fertile land and people dedicated to intensive craft production. In that way the city might have been something like Trenton, as in ‘Trenton makes, the world takes,’ a capital city but also an important industrial one.”


The past expands our knowledge of the present -- unless you're an anti-LGBTQ+ lawmaker in Florida -- and helps us appreciate accomplishments of those who came before.  Of the latest discovery, Mihai Andrei (ZME SCIENCE) adds:

Some 5,000 years ago, the city of Lagash was one of the best places you could be in the world. Close to the junction between the Tigris and the Euphrates, it evolved and developed in an area we now consider a cradle of civilization. But many of its mysteries are now covered by the shroud of time. Holly Pittman from the University of Pennsylvania is one of the researchers working to uncover that shroud.

Lagash is one of the largest archaeological sites in the region, measuring roughly 3.5 kilometers north to south and 1.5 kilometers east to west. Previous surveys found that Lagash was a bit like Venice — it developed on four marsh islands, some of which were gated. Subsequent archaeological digs have resulted in the discovery of urban neighborhoods, tens of thousands of pottery sherds, and much more. 

[. . .]

But perhaps the most intriguing find was a large “tavern”. The building featured benches, an oven, and a type of clay refrigerator called a “zeer.” The zeer used an external clay layer lined with wet sand that contained an inner clay container within which the food or drinks were placed. The evaporation of the outer liquid draws heat from the inner pot and keeps the container cool while only requiring a source of water.

And ANCIENT ORIGINS notes:

According to a 2022 article in Ancient Origins , the city of Lagash, known today as Tell al-Hiba, was located in ancient Mesopotamia, and is believed to have been established between 4,900 and 4,600 years ago and abandoned 3,600 years ago. This makes it one of southwest Asia’s earliest cities.

It has now been more than 40 years since excavations started in Lagash, a city of marsh islands . The latest round of excavations began in 2019, and despite pandemic-induced interruptions, has completed four intense seasons. 


In other news, the PRESS TRUST of INDIA notes:

The dreaded terror outfit Islamic State of Iraq and Levant in South-East Asia (ISIL-SEA) has been designated as a global terrorist organisation by the United Nations Security Council.

The Security Council's 1267 Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and Al-Qaida Sanctions Committee added the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in South-East Asia to its list of designated entities last week, subjecting it to assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.

The outfit, also known as Islamic State East Asia Division and Dawlatul Islamiyah Waliyatul Mashriq, was, according to the UN website, formed in June 2016 “upon announcement by now-deceased Isnilon Hapilon” and is associated with Islamic State in Iraq and Levant, listed as Al-Qaida in Iraq.  Hapilon was the leader of Abu Sayyaf, a group affiliated with ISIL, and was killed in 2017.


I guess we could have led into that topic by saying, "Staying with ancient history . . ."  Seven years?  It took seven years for them to make that designation?  Amr Salem (IRAQI NEWS) notes that the UN has a new post in Iraq:

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, said that the Secretary-General of the United Nations decided to create a new position in Iraq, which is the advisor on climate change and security, the Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported.

The announcement of the new decision took place after the Iraqi President, Abdul Latif Rashid, received DiCarlo, in Baghdad, in the presence of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, according to a press statement issued by the Iraqi Presidency.

DiCarlo stressed that the United Nations is keen to help Iraq face the challenges of climate change, and emphasized the United Nations readiness to cooperate to reduce the risks of drought and water scarcity.













As climate change damages Iraq, Gaith Abdul-Ahad (GUARDIAN) reports:


Small gangs of buffaloes sat submerged in green and muddy waters. Their back ridges rose over the surface like a chain of black islets, spanning the Toos River, a tributary of the Tigris that flows into the Huwaiza marshes in southern Iraq.

With their melancholic eyes, they gazed with defiance at an approaching boat, refusing to budge. Only when the boatman shrieked “heyy, heyy, heyy” did one or two reluctantly raise their haunches. Towering over the boat, they moved a few steps away, giving the boatmen barely enough space to steer between a cluster of large, curved horns.

On the right bank of the river stood a cultural centre built in the traditional style of southern Iraq, with tall arches made of thick bundles of reed tied together. It catered to a large number of Iraqi tourists and a handful of foreigners who have flocked to visit the marshland region since it was named a Unesco world heritage site in 2016.

A couple of hundred metres past the cultural centre, however, the engine of the boat sputtered, and its bottom scrapped against the mud as the river dwindled into a shallow swamp, where small herons and grebes stood in water barely reaching halfway up their stick-like legs.

The foliage on the two banks also disappeared, revealing a devastating scene: what two years earlier was a great expanse of blue water, a lagoon teeming with wildlife, fish, and home to large herds of water buffaloes, had turned into a flat desert where a few thorny shrubs sprouted.

Under the scorching sun, the hot wind kicked tumbleweed across parched yellow earth, scarred with deep cracks and crumbling into thin dust under the feet. Rising above the ground were mounds of dead reed beds upon which the marsh dwellers had built their homes. A few relics of their former life lay scattered around: broken plastic buckets, some rusting metal pipe, and a kettle.


The Iraqi government is still refusing to seriously address climate change -- even as the impact is evident.  Instead, they spend their time with nonsense like taking offense at criticism.  For example, the Iraqi courts have always concerned themselves with the actions of others -- even when it meant violating the law.  They're now violating the Constitution.  RUDAW reports:


A court in Baghdad on Sunday issued a summons order for the second deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Shakhawan Abdullah, following a statement he made criticizing the decision from Iraq’s top court to not pay the Kurdistan Region’s financial entitlements.

The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against the payment of the Kurdistan Region’s financial entitlements by Baghdad, claiming it violates the 2021 Iraqi Budget Law.

The decision was criticized by top Kurdish officials, including Abdullah, who accused “a party within the Running the State coalition” of directing the Federal Court to issue the recent decision against the Kurdistan Region, ordering the court to deem the Region’s oil and gas law “unconstitutional” last year, and being responsible for the fluctuation of the Iraqi dinar’s exchange rate with foreign currencies in recent months.

“Rest assured that there will be an end to the overstepping by the Federal Court,” said Abdullah in his statement.

The Iraqi Federal Supreme Court on Sunday said that Abdullah was being summoned for his “infringement of the judiciary authority’s independence, and his interference in the work of the Federal Supreme Court, his transgression of it, and the violation of the sanctity of its decisions contrary to the constitution and the law.”


Oh, they don't like what a member of Parliament said about them.  Boo hoo.  They might try referring to the Iraqi Constitution, maybe start with Section 2, Article 36: "The state guarnees in a way that does not violate public order and morality: a) Freedom of expression, through all means. b) Freedom of press, printing advertising, media and publication.  c) Freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration.  This shall be regulated by law."  They could also check out Section Two of Article 38 as well.


 They're in violation.  


RUDAW also notes:


Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani on Sunday appointed Nima al-Yasiri as his advisor on constitutional affairs, in a step towards amending constitutional articles that hindered the formation of a new government in the country for over a year.

The newly appointed advisor will hold meetings with executive and legislative officials, in order to “chart the roadmap for making the required constitutional amendments,” according to a statement from Sudani’s office.

The statement from the premier added that the step is part of the new government’s ministerial program which was approved by the Iraqi parliament in October, in an effort to prevent the recurrence of political deadlocks, similar to the one that plagued the country following the 2021 parliamentary elections.


I don't understand.  Why go to all the trouble?  Why not just ignore the Constitution the way the Court does?  


Kat's "Kat's Korner: Carly Simon and Diana Ross send thei..." went up yesterday and Isaiah's THE WORLD TODAY JUST NUTS "THE PEW stinks" went up Saturday night. The following sites updated:





New content at THIRD:



The following sites updated:


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  • Saturday, January 28, 2023

    Calamari on Pasta in the Kitchen.

    Max is trying to learn to cook calamari for his girlfriend.   

    Ingredients:

    1 pound of calamari rings

    3 to 4 tablespoons of olive oil

    2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

    1 green onion, thinly sliced

    1 can of tomato sauce -- 28 ounce can

    1/4 cup of water

    1 cup of white wine

    1 pound of linguini

    salt and freshly ground pepper

    Directions:

    Heat olive oil in a large pan.  Add garlic and green onion and cook over medium-high heat for about five minutes.

    Add tomato sauce, 1/4 cup of water and white wine.

    Cook sauce over high heat for about five minutes, until it reduces and thickens.

    Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    Lower heat and simmer uncovered.

    Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta.

    Cook until tender and drain well.

    Add calamari to tomato sauce and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until just cooked through.  Taste for seasoning, then add drained past and toss well.





    I agree with this:


     Congress is being urged to scrutinize the manner in which the Supreme Court probed the leak of its own draft opinion overturning abortion rights, including whether the nine justices received “special treatment” from investigators. 
    The Supreme Court’s Office of the Marshal released a report last week indicating they had so far been unable to pinpoint who was behind the May 2022 leak to Politico of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization

    But concerns were raised that the marshal’s team did not require the justices to sign affidavits — as they had done with all other Supreme Court staff — swearing they had not been involved in the leak.




    “The Supreme Court’s report on the Dobbs leak raised more questions than it answered — namely, why were the justices not investigated with the same rigor and to the same lengths as every other employee of the Court?” Sarah Lipton-Lubet, president of the left-wing group Take Back the Court Action Fund, told BuzzFeed News in a statement.



    I'm not Jonathan Turley.  Meaning, first and foremost, I'm not a homophobe.  But it also means that I didn't wet my pants over the Dobbs decision being leaked.  He hit the roof.  We had to know, we had to know, a custom has been broken, it's the end of the world, the clerk must be punished!!!!

    It never entered his tiny head that one of the Justices could have leaked the document.  And the Justices should have been under the same investigation as the clerks.  It was foolish and it was unfair not to apply the same principle to all of them.  

    This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Friday:

    Friday, January 27, 2023.  Misdirection and fan fiction won't help the Sunnis in Iraq, the persecution of Julian Assange continues, and much more.


    On the topic of journalism, let's return to THE ARAB WEEKLY which we called out earlier this week over their desire to pretend Moqtada al-Sadr had made a comeback and how they were lying to themselves and others.  They do that because they won't deal with reality.  That's made more clear today in a column at TAW by Farouk Yousef:


    Iraq has failed to establish balanced relations with the rest of the world because its embrace of Iran has erected a high fence separating it from other countries. Equally, the dominance of Iranian militias over the decision-making process in Baghdad has dragged it onto Iran’s side in Tehran’s showdown with the international community.

    That is not all. Despite the existence of three branches of government in Iraq, legislative, executive and judicial, the country’s authorities are, beyond the media halo that somehow surrounds them, mere facades for the rule of political parties, which seem in agreement but are in reality gripped by internal feuds.

    No one in the executive branch, for example, can make a decision unless it serves the interests of a strong party against the interests of other parties,  which parties can in any case seek to harm the government by digging the dirt on its corruption.


    The insanity in those remarks just leaves me amazed.  Maybe he thinks it'll play to the west where governments hate Iran.  Iran is Iraq's neighbor, they share a border.  They've had problems throughout the years, they've had agreement throughout the years.  It's only in TAW's mind that they can't get along.  If they'd use their outlet better, Iraq could be a better place.  Barring anything emerging in the news cycle requiring more attention, we'll go into that tomorrow.  THE NATIONAL notes:


    Iraq's judiciary has sentenced 14 people to death over the 2014 Camp Speicher massacre.

    Baghdad's Central Criminal Court issued the verdict on Thursday under Iraq's antiterrorism law.

    More than 1,700 unarmed air force recruits, mainly Shiite, were killed in the massacre as ISIS swept across Iraq.

    The killings were one of the worst attacks by the terror group and become a symbol of its brutality.



    It seems like a good thing, doesn't it?  It's not.  The incident alone?  Sure praise that sentencing.  But grasp that many more crimes are going unpunished and grasp that THE ARAB WEEKLY could be using its platform to push the current government of Iraq to address some of those crimes but would rather write demented anti-Iran pieces instead.


    All of the above is from yesterday's snapshot.  I said we'd get to the topic in today's snapshot and we're starting with it.  THE ARAB WEEKLY is ruled by fear.  They've offered nonsesne constantly and they try to hide behind Moqtada al-Sadr, stroke his ego, beg him.  

    What they shoud be doing is their job.  That's an important job but they'd rather lie and scribble fantasies.  ISIS is being punished by the current government.  Are we supposed to applaud that?  It is what governments are supposed to do. 


    THE ARAB WEEKLY needs to be pressing for more than the bare minimum.


    They are a Sunni outlet.  If they want to protect Sunnis, they need to demand real action which means punishing those who target the Sunni people.



    The April 23, 2013 massacre of a sit-in in Hawija which resulted from  Nouri's federal forces storming in.  Alsumaria noted Kirkuk's Department of Health (Hawija is in Kirkuk)  announced 50 activists have died and 110 were injured in the assault.   AFP reported the death toll eventually (as some wounded died) rose to 53 dead.   UNICEF noted that the dead included 8 children (twelve more were injured).


    53 people dead -- including 8 children.  Killed for the 'crime' of a sit-in.  Troops surrounded that protesters. 

    For days, Members of Parliament had been asking to be let in to speak with the protesters but Nouri wouldn't allow that.

    He would send in thugs to kill these people.

    Most of the western press ignored what took place -- over 50 people killed by their own government -- a government the US installed and backed and supplied the weapons.  BRussells Tribunal carried a translation of one activist who was an eye-witness to what went down:



     

    I am Thamer Hussein Mousa from the village of Mansuriya in the district of Hawija. I am disabled. My left arm was amputated from the shoulder and my left leg amputated from the hip, my right leg is paralyzed due to a sciatic nerve injury, and I have lost sight in my left eye.
    I have five daughters and one son. My son’s name is Mohammed Thamer. I am no different to any other Iraqi citizen. I love what is good for my people and would like to see an end to the injustice in my country.

    When we heard about the peaceful protests in Al-Hawija, taking place at ‘dignity and honor square’, I began attending with my son to reclaim our usurped rights. We attended the protests every day, but last Friday the area of protest was besieged before my son and I could leave; just like all the other protestors there.

    Food and drink were forbidden to be brought into the area….

    On the day of the massacre (Tuesday 23 April 2013) we were caught by surprise when Al-Maliki forces started to raid the area. They began by spraying boiling water on the protestors, followed by heavy helicopter shelling. My little son stood beside me. We were both injured due to the shelling.

    My son, who stood next to my wheelchair, refused to leave me alone. He told me that he was afraid and that we needed to get out of the area. We tried to leave. My son pushed my wheelchair and all around us, people were falling to the ground.

    Shortly after that, two men dressed in military uniforms approached us. One of them spoke to us in Persian; therefore we didn’t understand what he said. His partner then translated. It was nothing but insults and curses. He then asked me “Handicapped, what do you want?” I did not reply. Finally I said to him, “Kill me, but please spare my son”. My son interrupted me and said, “No, kill me but spare my father”. Again I told him “Please, spare my son. His mother is waiting for him and I am just a tired, disabled man. Kill me, but please leave my son”. The man replied “No, I will kill your son first and then you. This will serve you as a lesson.” He then took my son and killed him right in front of my eyes. He fired bullets into his chest and then fired more rounds. I can’t recall anything after that. I lost consciousness and only woke up in the hospital, where I underwent surgery as my intestines were hanging out of my body as a result of the shot.

    After all of what has happened to me and my little son – my only son, the son who I was waiting for to grow up so he could help me – after all that, I was surprised to hear Ali Ghaidan (Lieutenant General, Commander of all Iraqi Army Ground Forces) saying on television, “We killed terrorists” and displaying a list of names, among them my name: Thamer Hussein Mousa.

    I ask you by the name of God, I appeal to everyone who has a shred of humanity. Is it reasonable to label me a terrorist while I am in this situation, with this arm, and with this paralyzed leg and a blind eye?

    I ask you by the name of God, is it reasonable to label me a terrorist? I appeal to all civil society and human rights organizations, the League of Arab States and the Conference of Islamic States to consider my situation; all alone with my five baby daughters, with no one to support us but God. I was waiting for my son to grow up and he was killed in this horrifying way.


    I hold Obama responsible for this act because he is the one who gave them these weapons. The weapons and aircrafts they used and fired upon us were American weapons. I also hold the United States of America responsible for this criminal act, above all, Obama.

     
     Will justice ever come?  Will the law ever come down on the terrorists that attacked Hawija?  So far it hasn't and it never will as long as THE ARAB WEEKLY thinks the way to protect the Sunni people is to write puff pieces on Moqtada al-Sadr in the hopes that it will cause him to rise up and take on the Iraqi government.  Do your damn job -- which isn't fan fiction.  Cover the attacks on Sunnis, cover how the pattern has been that no one gets punished for attacking Sunnis. Shine a strong light on specific incidents and how the killers have never been punished.


    This is part of the corruption.  It's not just theft of money by public officials.  It's a government that time and again targets the Sunnis.  It's a government that no matter who is in charge, those who target Sunnis get away with it.  


    If you don't have equality in the law, if you don't have equality in justice, you've got a corrupt government.  THE ARAB WEEKLY is wasting everyone's time with fan fiction on Moqtada.  They're a Sunni outlet who is afraid for the Sunni people.  I get it.  I'm worried for them too.  But fan fiction isn't helping them and won't.  The only thing that's going to help them is journalists doing their jobs. 


    To this day, the western outlets love to lie about how ISIS came to be.  ISIS was a response to the attacks on the Sunni people.  That's how they rose up.  And the Sunni people had an attitude -- not surprising at all -- the the fight between ISIS and the Iraqi government didn't involve them because neither of those groups was helping the Sunni people. 

    Things have not gotten better for the Sunnis.   And this is not a one day or a one month incident.  This has taken place over and over since the US-led invasion of Iraq almost 20 years ago (20 in March).




    + In a confidential memo unearthed by The Intercept, Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen praised unemployment as a “worker-discipline device.” This is the logic of neoliberalism in a nutshell.

    + In congressional testimony while he was director of Obama’s National Economic Council, Jeff Zients, Biden’s new chief of staff, defended cuts to Social Security, telling Congress that the Obama-Biden administration was “willing to make these compromises as part of a deal that calls for shared sacrifice.” Biden’s “grand compromise” (sell-out to Wall Street) to gut Social Security has been in the works for years. His entire career of cutting deals with the likes of Strom Thurmond, Bob Dole and Trent Lott has led to the coming moment….

    + In 1919, the average steelworker in a Gary, Indiana plant worked 68.7 hours a week–more than 11 hours a day 6 days a week. Yet even this amount of toil in the hellish conditions of the mills wasn’t enough to feed and house a family of five, according to the Wilson Administration’s own figures–and they were no friend of labor (organized or not). Now, a married couple can work an 80-hour week and still not earn a living wage for their family four.

    + Most workers making $50,000 a year contribute to Social Security based on 100% of their income. Meanwhile, a CEO who makes $20 million a year contributes to Social Security with less than 1% of their income.

    + Microsoft had to settle for Sting? Was Bono playing at Google’s pre-firing Davos soirée?

     

    +++

    + As the Biden administration harangued Germany into sending Leopard tanks to Ukraine, the New York Times ran a front-page piece asking whether Germany can be a “great military power again?” WW I total deaths: 15 to 24 million, WW II total deaths in Europe: 30 million. Who in their right minds would want Germany, or any other nation involved in those wars, to be a “great military power” again?

    + We rarely consider the after-effects of prolonged war, the misery and death that continue to plague ravaged countries long after the cruise missiles have stopped shattering buildings. Let’s return to Iraq for a moment. In a much overlooked (if not ignored) study (‘Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009’) of 4,800 individuals in the heavily bombed city of Fallujah published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, medical investigators documented a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancers in kids under the age of 14. The survey also detected a 10-fold increase in female breast cancer and large increases in both lymphoma and brain tumors in adults. Researchers found a 38-fold increase in leukemia. By comparison, survivors of the Hiroshima atomic blast experienced a 17-fold increase in leukemia.


    Last Friday, in DC, a tribunal was held to explore the continued persecution of Julian Assanage which is both a personal attack on Julian and a sweeping attack on The First Amendment.  





    Organized by Progressive International and co-chaired by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and Croatian philosopher and author Srećko Horvat, the Belmarsh Tribunal brought together a panel of whistleblowers, activists, lawyers and more in support of Assange, WikiLeaks and journalistic freedom.

    Held just two blocks from the White House, the Tribunal called on President Biden to end the prosecution of Julian Assange and to defend the rights of journalists and whistleblowers.

    Belmarsh, the prison near London where Assange has been held since 2019 is a high-security facility often referred to as the “British version of Guantanamo Bay.” Beginning with the so-called “war on terrorism” in 2001, Belmarsh has been used to house suspected terrorists. Today, many of its prisoners are people who have committed brutally violent crimes like murder and rape.

    Assange is being held there pending the completion of his extradition trial, in which the United States government under the Trump and Biden administrations seeks to bring him to trial in the U.S. He could face up to 175 years in prison under the Espionage Act for publishing proof of U.S. war crimes. It would be a death sentence for the 51-year-old whose physical and mental health has already deteriorated during his confinement.

    Solidarity was a key theme of the event. Human rights lawyer Steven Donziger opened his remarks by saying “Half the battle is this” as he motioned around the crowded room. “It’s the solidarity,” he continued, expressing his appreciation for those who came out to defend him in his struggle. “I cannot tell you how completely uplifting that was. Part of the challenge when truthtellers speak truth to these entrenched pools of power is how to turn the attacks into opportunities.”

    Donziger brought and won a lawsuit against oil company Chevron/Texaco on behalf of indigenous people in Ecuador for destruction of their lands through oil extraction in the Lago Agrio oil field. Chevron retaliated after a $9.5 billion award was levied against them, filing an outrageous RICO suit against Donziger, who was placed under house arrest for a total of 993 days (in addition to 45 days in prison) until he was finally freed in April of 2022.

    Solidarity was also extended to Daniel Hale, a whistleblower who exposed the deadly U.S. targeted killing and drone program. Attorney Jesselyn Radack spoke on his case and its connection to Assange’s. Hale is being held in a Communications Management Unit (CMU) at the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, A.K.A. “Gitmo North,” where his connection to the outside world is monitored and severely limited.

    “I have been shut out of my own clients’ unclassified hearings. The parts of the hearings that are public often include code words and substitutions that make the proceedings very difficult for the public to understand. In one case, the government attempted to prevent defense attorneys from using the word whistleblower, or the word newspaper.” Radack’s account suggests that should Assange be extradited to the United States, he will not be able to receive a fair and impartial trial.

    The prosecution of Assange is an example of naked political aggression and intimidation. It’s not only aimed at Assange himself and WikiLeaks, but puts whistleblowers, journalists and activists squarely within the crosshairs.





    When Biden was running for president in 2020, he declared on World Press Freedom Day, “We all stand in solidarity” with the 360 journalists imprisoned worldwide “for their work in journalism.” Biden quoted Thomas Jefferson’s 1786 statement, “Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

    Since Biden’s election, however, his administration has refused to dismiss the charges Donald Trump brought against Assange. Biden ignored the fact that the Obama-Biden administration, which prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all its predecessors combined, refused to indict Assange because of “the New York Times problem.” If they charged Assange, the Obama administration reasoned, they would have to charge The New York Times and other media outlets that also published classified military and diplomatic secrets.

    Horvat said, “Every country has secrecy laws. Some countries have very draconian secrecy laws. If those countries tried to extradite New York Times reporters and publishers to those countries for publishing their secrets we would cry foul and rightly so. Does this administration want to be the first to establish the global precedent that countries can demand the extradition of foreign reporters and publishers for violating their own laws?”

    On November 28, 2022, The New York Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, DER SPIEGEL and El País signed a joint open letter calling on the Biden administration to drop the Espionage Act charges against Assange. “Publishing is not a crime,” they wrote, noting that Assange is the first publisher to be charged under the Espionage Act for revealing government secrets.

    In 2010, the five signatories to the open letter collaborated with WikiLeaks to publish “Cable gate” — 251,000 confidential U.S. State Department cables that “disclosed corruption, diplomatic scandals and spy affairs on an international scale.” The documents, according to The New York Times, revealed “the unvarnished story of how the government makes its biggest decisions, the decisions that cost the country most heavily in lives and money.”

    Assange’s indictment also stems from WikiLeaks’s revelation of the Iraq War Logs — 400,000 field reports that chronicled 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians, and systematic rape, torture and murder after U.S. forces “handed over detainees to a notorious Iraqi torture squad.” And the indictment covered the Afghan War Diary — 91,000 reports of larger numbers of civilian casualties by coalition forces than the U.S. military had reported.

    The most notorious release by WikiLeaks was the 2007 “Collateral Murder” video, which showed a U.S. Army Apache attack helicopter target and kill 11 unarmed civilians, including two Reuters news staff and a man who came to rescue the wounded. Two children were injured. The video clip reveals evidence of three violations of the Geneva Conventions and the U.S. Army Field Manual.

    Amy Goodman, co-host of Democracy Now! and the Tribunal’s other co-chair, said that the events depicted in the Collateral Murder video “would never have happened” if the Iraq War Logs had been made public six months before. “An investigation would have been launched,” Goodman speculated. “That’s why freedom of the press, the free flow of information, saves lives.” She said that it is not just freedom of the press at stake in Assange’s prosecution, but also the public’s right of access to information. Ironically, Assange first screened the Collateral Murder video at the National Press Club more than a decade ago.










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