Autopsy shows St. Louis teenager Vonderrit Myers was gunned down by police while fleeing

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By Thomas Gaist
25 October 2014

The results of a private autopsy indicate that St. Louis teenager Vonderrit D. Myers, who was gunned down earlier this month by an off-duty cop, was running away when he was shot, then subsequently killed execution-style with a bullet to the head, attorneys for his family said Friday.

Myers was killed on October 8, two months after the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which sparked mass protests that were met by a militarized police crackdown.

Jerryl Christmas, an attorney for Myers’s family, said the findings contradicted claims by police that Myers had engaged in a shootout with the officer. “The evidence shows that the story we’ve been given by the Police Department does not match up. There’s no evidence that there was a gun battle going on,” Christmas said.

Jermaine Wooten, another attorney for Myers’s family, said that according to eyewitness testimony, Myers was “screaming on the ground…begging this officer to stop.”

“The officer then runs up the hill, approaches Vonderrit, and then we hear one single shot. Vonderrit is not screaming anymore,” the attorney concluded.

The officer, whose name has not been made public, remains on paid administrative leave.

The autopsy, conducted by renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht at the request of Myers’s family, showed that the 18-year-old, who family insists was unarmed, was shot six times in the back of his legs, once in the front of the leg, and once in the head.

“Six of the eight gunshot wounds were directed posteriorly. They struck Mister Myers on the rear part of his body,” Wecht said. The numerous hits to Myers’ legs strongly suggested that the teenager was running away when the shots were fired, he added.

In addition to the six shots to Myer’s back, the still-unnamed St Louis police officer fired a downward, execution-style shot to the head, which passed through the youth’s left cheek, and was lodged in his body, Wecht found. “The head wound would have rendered Vonderrit immediately unconscious,” Wecht said.

Myers’ wounds indicated that the shots to his legs traveled a “significant upward direction,” Wecht said, suggesting that they were fired at the youth’s back as he ran uphill away from the officer.

“With Vonderrit running up the hill away from the officer and the officer shooting then from a lower down position, that would fit in perfectly and explain how you have bullets that appear to move upward in the body,” Wecht noted.

Preliminary results from a separate autopsy conducted by St Louis Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Graham similarly found that Myers “was shot six to seven times in the lower extremities, with the fatal shot entering the right cheek.” Dr. Graham is currently preparing a final report.

The St Louis police department has repeatedly altered its account of events that day, eventually settling on a convoluted narrative in which Myers initially fled from the officer, then entered into a “physical confrontation” with the officer, and finally fled again up a hill before firing three shots at the officer.

Seeking to square this account with the latest autopsy results, a lawyer representing the officer involved claimed that Myers was shot as he fell forward onto the ground, while pointing his weapon at the officer 180 degrees behind him.

“He was propped up on his left elbow, and his legs were facing out at the policeman as he went down, but he was still holding the gun and pointing it at the policeman,” the lawyer said.

To substantiate their version of events, the police are pointing to a forensic report by the Missouri State Highway Patrol asserting the presence of gunpowder residue on Myers’ body and clothing. The same report acknowledges, however, that such residue could stem from any number of causes, such as being shot at close range.

“The presence of gunshot residue on a person’s hands could mean the individual discharged a firearm, was near a firearm when it was discharged or touched an object with gunshot residue on it. Individuals shot at close range can have gunshot residue deposited onto their hands,” the report states.

The St. Louis police department claims to have possession of the weapon allegedly used by Myers, but has not made it available for public scrutiny. No DNA matching samples taken from Myers’s body have been found on Myers’ alleged weapon, according to comments made by St Louis Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Graham reported in the St Louis American. “If he had been carrying the gun, it would have had his DNA,” Wooten said.

The shooting of Myers follows the August 20 police killing of 25-year-old Kajieme Powell, a mentally disturbed man who died in a barrage of a dozen shots from two police officers, including several while he was motionless on the ground. A cell phone video subsequently showed that police misled the public about important circumstances of the killing.

Despite working as a private security contractor for Hi-Tek Security Services, the officer who killed Myers was reportedly wearing official police gear and wielding a police-issued weapon.

A local store manager, who saw Myers just before the incident, described Myers as “relaxed, regular, no worries or nothing” as he walked out onto the street carrying a sandwich. Myers’ aunt and guardian similarly said that the young man had a sandwich in his hands minutes before he was shot, a claim substantiated by surveillance videos.

Defending the use of an entire clip of ammunition against Myers, a lawyer for the St Louis Police Officers’ Association stated that whenever an officer uses deadly force, “he uses deadly force until the threat is gone.”

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/25/myer-o25.html

The return of the nightmare in Mexico

…or, was it ever gone?

by Leonidas Oikonomakis on October 23, 2014

Post image for The return of the nightmare in Mexico (or, was it ever gone?)Political assassinations appear to be back on the agenda in Peña Nieto’s Mexico, as protesters demand information on the fate of 43 missing students.

Students being arrested by the police and then just disappearing from the face of the earth. Mass graves with dozens of unidentified bodies being discovered. The government reassuring that light will be shed and justice will be done. Mothers and students in the streets demanding the re-appearance of their sons, friends, and loved ones.

It sounds like a forgotten page torn from Latin America’s bloodiest period — that of the US-backed dictatorships that tortured, jailed, disappeared, and executed thousands of left-wing activists using methods taught at the infamous ‘School of the Americas’, created and sustained by the US military.

Or, even more, they remind us of a dark page from the bloodiest times of Mexican history, when the government (firmly in the hands of the PRI dictatorship) waged war against the country’s own youth in the 1960s and 1970s; a period that became known as la guerra sucia — the “dirty war”.

However, it is 2014, and it seems that the aforementioned practices are back on the agenda with the — direct, or indirect — assistance of the narcos this time. Welcome to Peña Nieto’s Mexico.

Mass graves

The case is well known by now, however unclear the information about it remains. On September 26, a number of students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School in Ayotzinapa, Iguala (in the state of Guerrero) were involved with a confrontation with the municipal and federal police. From the scarce information available, it seems that the students had gone to Iguala in order to “occupy” a number of buses — obtaining permission of their drivers, the students claim — to be used for their transportation to Mexico City for the commemoration of the October 2 Massacre of Tlatelolco, a practice not uncommon for the normalistas, as they are commonly known.

The lack of funds in their boarding school makes these and similar kinds of direct action — like the “hijacking” of trucks carrying milk and other food products — necessary. Once the students are back in their school, they normally return the buses or trucks to their respective owners. This time around, however, on the Iguala-Chilpancingo highway, the police blocked the buses and opened fire on them, killing six people (three students and three unfortunate citizens who happened to be in nearby cars and buses), while another 43 students simply… disappeared. The students were last seen being boarded on police trucks and were never to return again.

A few days later, a number of mass graves were discovered nearby, in which a number of bodies that had previously been tortured and most probably burned alive (by the narco-criminals, it seems) were also found.

It is still unclear whether the bodies found in the mass grave belong to the normalistas. The government has invited a group of Argentinian forensic experts to identify the bodies, and Mexico is holding its breath awaiting the results. However, the questions to be answered are stern: If the bodies belong to the normalistas, how did they end up in the narco‘s mass graves, especially since they were last seen arrested by the police? And if they don’t belong to the students, who do they belong to? And where would the 43 “disappeared” normalistas be, then?

Almost a month has passed, and the government has not provided any answers. Mexico keeps holding its breath.

Los normalistas

The Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal Boarding School of Ayotzinapa is not just like any other school. It carries a long history of struggles for social justice, and it happens to be the exact school were Lucio Cabañas — one of the greatest Mexican revolutionaries of the 20th century — had studied and had been a student leader, before starting his Party of the Poor (Partido de los Pobres) guerrilla army that shook Guerrero and Mexico in the late 1960s and early 1970s. (Read Carlos Montemayor’s Guerra en el Paraiso to find out more about this incredible story.)

The Rural Normal Schools are not like the rest of the Mexican schools either. They are located in poor rural areas and they provide education for — and sometimes also awaken the political consciousness of — Mexico’s excluded: the impoverished, mostly indigenous, kids of the Mexican countryside. Some of the normalistas later move on to become teachers in rural schools or even to enter the most prestigious universities of the country to do postgraduate studies.

In her book México Armado, Laura Castellanos writes that, during and even before the guerra sucia, the students of the normales rurales had been protagonists of several struggles for social justice, very often joining some of the more than thirty rural and urban guerillas that chose the revolutionary road to social change at a time when all other roads seemed closed.

Arturo Gámiz and some other members of his group, who in a highly symbolic move for Mexico’s revolutionary left carried out an attack on the military barracks of Madera on September 23, 1965, were normalistas as well, while many other normalistas joined various guerrilla groups later on. The Rural Normal Schools of the time paid a heavy price for their students’ activism: they became the target of the ever-more repressive Mexican state. As Siddharta Camargo writes:

The students and graduates of the Normales Rurales became the perfect victims; their identity as sons of ‘campesinos’, their poverty, their political militancy, and their intellectual capacity transformed them into “a danger” in the eyes of an obsolete and ever-more authoritarian and repressive political regime.

And it seems they are still being punished to this day. For the same reasons.

Alive they took them, alive we want them back!

On October 22, Mexico took to the streets to demand the return of the 43 missing normalistas, as well as answers about the identity of the bodies discovered in the mass graves, and how they ended up there. “We are not all here — 43 are missing” and “Alive they were taken, alive we want them back” were the main slogans that shook Mexico’s squares from North to South. Several universities went on a 48-hour strike and some of them — including the UNAM and the UAM — declared an indefinite strike until the government provides some answers regarding the fate of the 43 normalistas.

Several acts of solidarity were also carried out in front of Mexican embassies and consulates all over the world, while on Thursday the European Parliament is expected to vote on a resolution condemning the disappearance of the 43 students and demanding justice to be done.

Meanwhile, Mexico is still holding its breath. The rest of the world is, too. And they demand answers.

Because We Are All Ayotzinapa.

Leonidas Oikonomakis is a PhD researcher in Social Movement Studies at the European University Institute, a rapper with the Greek hip-hop formation Social Waste, and a contributing editor for ROAR Magazine.

http://roarmag.org/2014/10/missing-students-mexico-normalistas/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

Assange: Google Is Not What It Seems

When Google Met Wikileaks

In June 2011, Julian Assange received an unusual visitor: the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, arrived from America at Ellingham Hall, the country house in Norfolk, England where Assange was living under house arrest.

For several hours the besieged leader of the world’s most famous insurgent publishing organization and the billionaire head of the world’s largest information empire locked horns. The two men debated the political problems faced by society, and the technological solutions engendered by the global network—from the Arab Spring to Bitcoin.

They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with U.S. foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to Western companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet’s future that has only gathered force subsequently.

In this extract from When Google Met WikiLeaks Assange describes his encounter with Schmidt and how he came to conclude that it was far from an innocent exchange of views.

Eric Schmidt is an influential figure, even among the parade of powerful characters with whom I have had to cross paths since I founded WikiLeaks. In mid-May 2011 I was under house arrest in rural Norfolk, England, about three hours’ drive northeast of London. The crackdown against our work was in full swing and every wasted moment seemed like an eternity. It was hard to get my attention.

But when my colleague Joseph Farrell told me the executive chairman of Google wanted to make an appointment with me, I was listening.

In some ways the higher echelons of Google seemed more distant and obscure to me than the halls of Washington. We had been locking horns with senior U.S. officials for years by that point. The mystique had worn off. But the power centers growing up in Silicon Valley were still opaque and I was suddenly conscious of an opportunity to understand and influence what was becoming the most influential company on earth. Schmidt had taken over as CEO of Google in 2001 and built it into an empire.

I was intrigued that the mountain would come to Muhammad. But it was not until well after Schmidt and his companions had been and gone that I came to understand who had really visited me.

The stated reason for the visit was a book. Schmidt was penning a treatise with Jared Cohen, the director of Google Ideas, an outfit that describes itself as Google’s in-house “think/do tank.”

I knew little else about Cohen at the time. In fact, Cohen had moved to Google from the U.S. State Department in 2010. He had been a fast-talking “Generation Y” ideas man at State under two U.S. administrations, a courtier from the world of policy think tanks and institutes, poached in his early twenties.

He became a senior advisor for Secretaries of State Rice and Clinton. At State, on the Policy Planning Staff, Cohen was soon christened “Condi’s party-starter,” channeling buzzwords from Silicon Valley into U.S. policy circles and producing delightful rhetorical concoctions such as “Public Diplomacy 2.0.” On his Council on Foreign Relations adjunct staff page he listed his expertise as “terrorism; radicalization; impact of connection technologies on 21st century statecraft; Iran.”

It was Cohen who, while he was still at the Department of State, was said to have emailed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to delay scheduled maintenance in order to assist the aborted 2009 uprising in Iran. His documented love affair with Google began the same year when he befriended Eric Schmidt as they together surveyed the post-occupation wreckage of Baghdad. Just months later, Schmidt re-created Cohen’s natural habitat within Google itself by engineering a “think/do tank” based in New York and appointing Cohen as its head. Google Ideas was born.

Later that year two co-wrote a policy piece for the Council on Foreign Relations’ journal Foreign Affairs, praising the reformative potential of Silicon Valley technologies as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Describing what they called “coalitions of the connected,” Schmidt and Cohen claimed that:

Democratic states that have built coalitions of their militaries have the capacity to do the same with their connection technologies.…

They offer a new way to exercise the duty to protect citizens around the world [emphasis added].

Schmidt and Cohen said they wanted to interview me. I agreed. A date was set for June.

Jared Cohen

Executive Chairman of Google Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas Olivia Harris/Reuters

* * *

By the time June came around there was already a lot to talk about. That summer WikiLeaks was still grinding through the release of U.S. diplomatic cables, publishing thousands of them every week. When, seven months earlier, we had first started releasing the cables, Hillary Clinton had denounced the publication as “an attack on the international community” that would “tear at the fabric” of government.

It was into this ferment that Google projected itself that June, touching down at a London airport and making the long drive up into East Anglia to Norfolk and Beccles.

Schmidt arrived first, accompanied by his then partner, Lisa Shields. When he introduced her as a vice president of the Council on Foreign Relations—a U.S. foreign-policy think tank with close ties to the State Department—I thought little more of it. Shields herself was straight out of Camelot, having been spotted by John Kennedy Jr.’s side back in the early 1990s.

They sat with me and we exchanged pleasantries. They said they had forgotten their Dictaphone, so we used mine. We made an agreement that I would forward them the recording and in exchange they would forward me the transcript, to be corrected for accuracy and clarity. We began. Schmidt plunged in at the deep end, straightaway quizzing me on the organizational and technological underpinnings of WikiLeaks.

* * *

Some time later Jared Cohen arrived. With him was Scott Malcomson, introduced as the book’s editor. Three months after the meeting Malcomson would enter the State Department as the lead speechwriter and principal advisor to Susan Rice (then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, now national security advisor).

At this point, the delegation was one part Google, three parts U.S. foreign-policy establishment, but I was still none the wiser. Handshakes out of the way, we got down to business.

Schmidt was a good foil. A late-fiftysomething, squint-eyed behind owlish spectacles, managerially dressed—Schmidt’s dour appearance concealed a machinelike analyticity. His questions often skipped to the heart of the matter, betraying a powerful nonverbal structural intelligence.

It was the same intellect that had abstracted software-engineering principles to scale Google into a megacorp, ensuring that the corporate infrastructure always met the rate of growth. This was a person who understood how to build and maintain systems: systems of information and systems of people. My world was new to him, but it was also a world of unfolding human processes, scale and information flows.

For a man of systematic intelligence, Schmidt’s politics—such as I could hear from our discussion—were surprisingly conventional, even banal. He grasped structural relationships quickly, but struggled to verbalize many of them, often shoehorning geopolitical subtleties into Silicon Valley marketese or the ossified State Department micro-language of his companions. He was at his best when he was speaking (perhaps without realizing it) as an engineer, breaking down complexities into their orthogonal components.

I found Cohen a good listener, but a less interesting thinker, possessed of that relentless conviviality that routinely afflicts career generalists and Rhodes Scholars. As you would expect from his foreign-policy background, Cohen had a knowledge of international flash points and conflicts and moved rapidly between them, detailing different scenarios to test my assertions. But it sometimes felt as if he was riffing on orthodoxies in a way that was designed to impress his former colleagues in official Washington.

Malcomson, older, was more pensive, his input thoughtful and generous. Shields was quiet for much of the conversation, taking notes, humoring the bigger egos around the table while she got on with the real work.

As the interviewee, I was expected to do most of the talking. I sought to guide them into my worldview. To their credit, I consider the interview perhaps the best I have given. I was out of my comfort zone and I liked it.

We ate and then took a walk in the grounds, all the while on the record. I asked Eric Schmidt to leak U.S. government information requests to WikiLeaks, and he refused, suddenly nervous, citing the illegality of disclosing Patriot Act requests. And then, as the evening came on, it was done and they were gone, back to the unreal, remote halls of information empire, and I was left to get back to my work.

That was the end of it, or so I thought.

CONTINUED:   http://www.newsweek.com/assange-google-not-what-it-seems-279447?piano_d=1

Democratic Senate candidates sound right-wing themes in pre-election debates

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By Patrick Martin
24 October 2014

The November 4 election will decide whether the Democratic Party or the Republican Party has a majority in the Senate and in the House of Representatives, but it will not change the basic political direction of the United States, since both corporate-controlled parties are committed to programs of militarism, attacks on democratic rights, and slashing spending on domestic social programs.

The fundamental agreement between the Democrats and Republicans was on display last week in a series of debates between Senate candidates in five southern states: North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Kentucky. The five races are closely contested, with polls showing the outcome too close to call or with small leads for one party or the other.

Given the current 55-45 edge for the Democrats in the Senate, with the Republican Party needing a net gain of six seats to take control, the results in these five southern races could well decide the outcome. (Three seats being vacated by longtime Democratic senators, in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, are already projected to be won by the Republicans).

The five debates reviewed here included the following:

• GEORGIA, Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of longtime former senator Sam Nunn, vs. Republican millionaire CEO David Perdue.

• NORTH CAROLINA, Democratic Senator Kay Hagan vs. the Republican speaker of the state legislature Thom Tillis.

• LOUISIANA, Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu vs. Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy.

• ARKANSAS, Democratic Senator Mark Pryor vs. Republican Congressman Tom Cotton.

• KENTUCKY, Democratic state secretary of state Allison Lundergan Grimes vs. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, who would become Majority Leader if the Republicans take control November 4.

Videos and transcripts of the debates are available on C-Span. The transcripts have the following oddity: while giving a verbatim account of what each candidate said, they do not identify candidates themselves by name, only as “unidentified speaker.” Given the similarity in content, it is frequently difficult to tell when the Democrat or the Republican is speaking. The constant references to Obama (from the Republicans), and the non-mention of Obama (from the Democrats) are the clearest indication of which party’s candidate is speaking.

One of the most remarkable aspects of these debates was their sheer narrowness and parochialism. The Obama administration last month launched a major war in the Middle East, bombing targets in Syria in addition to those already under attack in Iraq. Yet in two of the five Senate debates, there was no discussion of the war: in Arkansas, foreign policy was discussed only from the standpoint of the need to keep open local military bases, while in Kentucky, the subject did not come up at all.

In Georgia and North Carolina, the Democratic candidates fervently supported US military intervention and attacked their Republican opponents from the right, for being more reluctant to back such action.

Michelle Nunn in Georgia is the daughter of a former senator who played a hawkish role in US military and foreign policy in the 1980s and 1990s. She called the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) an “incredibly dangerous threat,” and then went on to attack her opponent as insufficiently militaristic. “One year ago David Perdue said to do nothing about Syria, and I said we needed to intervene,” she argued. “It was not the popular thing to do then, but now it is.”

Senator Kay Hagan in North Carolina described herself as someone who would “fight for the military” in her role on the Armed Services Committee. She said of ISIS, “These individuals are terrorists. They have attacked Americans. Our mission should be to eradicate these terrorists.”

She went on to attack her opponent Tillis, saying, “What I have seen Speaker Tillis has done is he is waffling on these issues. I have been clear. I have been decisive. I think we need to hear from Speaker Tillis as far as what he would do.”

In response to criticism by Tillis of her performance on the Armed Services Committee, she placed herself in the vanguard of pro-intervention senators, saying, “Please note a year ago this past spring I actually asked about arming and training moderate Syrian rebels at the time. That was before we knew what ISIS was. I really think if we had taken that step we would not have seen the proliferation of these barbaric terrorists.”

In Louisiana, Senator Landrieu embraced the Obama administration’s policy in the Middle East, saying of ISIS, “We need to do everything we can to eliminate it. It’s a serious threat not only against the United States but the region, which is an important region of our interests. Secondly I do support the airstrikes against ISIS and believe that all presidents should have the authority to act when they believe America is in danger. Thirdly I would support the use of force. I think I would stop short at this point for boots on the ground.”

Republican Congressman Cassidy denounced the administration furiously but agreed with its policy in substance. “I support the plan because it’s the only plan out there,” he said. “I’m not sure it’s going to be adequate.” But he went on to suggest he would back the use of ground troops as part of a larger strategy.

On domestic policy, both Democrats and Republicans backed further cuts in public spending. Michelle Nunn said of the federal budget deficit, “We both agree this is a huge issue. We disagree in that I believe in a bipartisan effort. It has to be done in a collaboration. Cut spending, cut medical expenses.” She went on to say, “I believe the only way to craft good legislation is with Republican support.”

Asked for more specifics, she hailed the outgoing Republican senator she is running to succeed, Saxby Chambliss, in his effort to draft a bipartisan spending and tax bill with Democrat Mark Warner. “We need to cut spending and reform taxes to settle the deficit,” she concluded.

Kay Hagan likewise backed reactionary bipartisan measures including the immigration legislation proposed by Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, which would have established a 17-year process for immigrants to become citizens. She also backed Republican calls for a ban on travelers from the three countries in West Africa now devastated by Ebola.

Her plan for deficit reduction centered on a massive tax cut for giant US corporations that have parked $1 trillion in offshore accounts to avoid paying US corporate income taxes. The current tax rate is 35 percent, but Hagan boasted, “My bill would allow that money to come in at eight percent. They can bring that to five if they hire American workers.” In other words, corporate America would enjoy a windfall of $300 billion, courtesy of the US taxpayer.

In the Arkansas debate, Senator Pryor, the Democratic incumbent, portrayed himself as a veteran budget-cutter. “You all know me and you know I am serious about this. People in Washington know—I watch this closely and we have to get spending under control. That is why I voted to cut spending by $4 trillion in the last three years.”

As always in a US election, the Democrats portrayed the Republicans as committed to slashing Medicare and Social Security, while the Republicans piously proclaimed their dedication to these programs—only one, Cassidy in Louisiana, declaring his support for raising the age of eligibility for Medicare from 65 to 70 years.

For the most part, the actual differences between the Democrats and Republicans boiled down to the following, in state after state: the Democrats backed an increase in the minimum wage, declared climate change to be a reality, supported gay marriage, and opposed repeal of Obamacare. The Republicans took the opposite stand on each question.

While the climate change issue reveals the grip of Christian fundamentalists (and oil companies) on the Republican Party, the differences in ideology have no real practical implications. Democratic candidate Grimes in Kentucky pledged her loyalty to the coal industry and Senator Landrieu in Louisiana did the same for the oil and gas producers.

On Obamacare, the Republicans continue to point to its most reactionary features, such as cuts in Medicare funding, even while they themselves support even deeper cuts. The Arkansas debate was held just after Arkansas-based Walmart announced it was ending health care benefits for tens of thousands of part-time workers, dumping these workers into the exchanges set up under Obamacare.

The minimum wage increase is an empty promise that even if fulfilled would not lift millions of low-paid workers out of poverty. With a Republican-controlled House, there is no possibility of such an increase passing, so Democratic Senate candidates are happy to make the promise knowing they won’t have to do anything.

This issue has been highlighted is several states by the introduction of referendum measures which will be on the ballot November 4, whose major purpose is to persuade poor and working-class voters to go to the polls despite their deep aversion to both parties.

In only one of the five debates was a Republican placed at a disadvantage on the economic issue, and that by his own doing. In the Georgia debate, David Perdue was asked about outsourcing at several corporations he had headed, particularly the textile manufacturer Pillowtex and he proceeded to boast about his record. In the aftermath of the debate, his poll numbers began to plunge.

Because the policies of the Obama administration have so clearly favored the wealthy and Wall Street, however, it was impossible for the Democratic candidates to sustain the pretense that they defended the interests of working people. This was demonstrated in the Arkansas debate, where Senator Pryor, the Democratic incumbent, denounced his Republican opponent Cotton for his ties to billionaires like the Koch brothers.

At one point Pryor was asked how he defined middle class, and the senator, himself the son of former senator David Pryor, and thus an epitome of inherited privilege, said that $200,000 a year was a middle-class income. This is a state which ranks 49th out of the 50 states in nearly every socioeconomic indicator, with a median income of barely $40,000.

A lengthy wrangle over the economy then ensued, with Cotton concluding, “Over the last six years of the economy, if you make a living off of assets or investments like stocks or bonds, the top five percent of all income earners, you are doing OK. If you make a living by working, if labor is your means of putting food on your table, your incomes are down… That is because Mark Pryor is a rubberstamp for Barack Obama’s policies.”

Cotton is perhaps the most extreme right-winger running as a major-party Senate candidate this year, calling for the gutting of food stamps and other forms of government support to the poor. That this diehard reactionary can posture as a defender of those who “make a living by working” only testifies to the utter bankruptcy of the Democratic Party, and of the two-party system as a whole.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/24/elec-o24.html

Blackwater mercenaries convicted for role in 2007 Iraq massacre

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By Thomas Gaist
23 October 2014

A federal court jury convicted four former Blackwater Worldwide mercenaries on charges of murder and manslaughter Wednesday for their role in the 2007 massacre in Nisour Square in Baghdad, which left 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians dead and another 20 wounded.

Blackwater earned global notoriety for the massacre, which was one expression of a brutal US war and occupation that has left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead and laid waste to an entire society. The Nisour Square massacre stands alongside similar atrocities carried out by US forces in Haditha, Fallujah, the Abu Ghraib prison facility and elsewhere.

Former Blackwater sniper Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first degree murder. Evan Liberty, Paul Slough and Dustin Heard were all found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and using a machine gun to carry out a violent crime. The convictions carry minimum sentences of 30 years in prison for Liberty, Slough and Heard and a potential life sentence for Slatten.

The decision is subject to appeal, which could take a year or more, and the verdicts could be overturned in the process.

After 28 days of deliberation following an 11-week trial, the jury in a federal district court in Washington decisively rejected the defense team’s arguments that the mercenaries had fired on the crowd in self-defense. This story had already been thoroughly debunked by an Iraqi government study and independent investigations by reporters at the New York Times and Washington Post .

On September 16, 2007, the security contractors opened up with machine guns and grenade launchers into stopped traffic, before turning their sights on crowds of civilians seeking to flee the scene. The Blackwater forces suffered virtually no damage during the incident.

Civilian vehicles were riddled with dozens of bullets. One woman was shot as she held her dead son in her arms, with the vehicle she was in then incinerated. Blackwater helicopters also fired into cars from overhead.

Jurors were reportedly overwhelmed by the gruesome details supplied in testimony by witnesses. One juror was excused after informing the judge that testimony from a father about the death of his 9-year old son caused her to suffer from bouts of insomnia.

The massacre occurred amidst the massive wave of sectarian and ethnic bloodletting, fomented in 2007 by the US as part the “surge,” which forced hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to flee their homes in a matter of months, bringing to the total number of refugees produced by the US invasion to some 3.7 million.

The Obama administration, which prosecuted the case, has sought to spin the guilty verdict as an example of the US government’s supposed democratic values.

“This verdict is a resounding affirmation of the commitment of the American people to the rule of law, even in times of war,” US Attorney Ronald Machen said in an official statement. “Today’s verdict demonstrates the FBI’s dedication to investigating violations of US law no matter where they occur,” said top FBI official Andrew McCabe.

In reality, while the Blackwater mercenaries are guilty of horrendous crimes, these crimes flowed from the overarching crime: the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq by the US government with the aim of extending its control over the oil-rich country.

For this crime, the entire political and military establishment stands guilty, and none of the principal architects have been prosecuted. This includes the top officials in the Bush administration: former president George W. Bush, former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, former vice president Dick Cheney and many others. The preparation and launching of the war of aggression was aided and abetted by Democrats and Republicans in the Congress, along with the mass media, which propagated the lies used to justify the war.

While shielding Bush-era war criminals from prosecution, the Obama administration has continued and extended the global program of war and violence of the US military. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were followed by the war in Libya, the stoking of civil war in Syria, and a massive program of murder through drone warfare, with the populations of Yemen, Libya and Somalia subject to regular volleys of cruise missiles and laser guided-weapons.

Now the Obama administration has launched a new war in the Middle East, with troops returning to Iraq and preparations being put in place for a direct war in Syria. At the same time, the US military is increasingly turning its attention to larger threats to the interests of the American ruling class, including China and Russia.

The Blackwater verdict gives expression to growing popular revulsion against the neocolonial war policies of the government and the prominent role of fascistic mercenary forces. While the Justice Department brought the case, the verdict was undoubtedly received with a mixture of shock and apprehension by the Obama administration and the military.

Contrary to numerous reports in the corporate media portraying the convictions as a long-standing goal of US policy, in reality the military, political establishment and court system made strenuous efforts to protect the Blackwater agents from prosecution. The State Department granted the mercenaries partial immunity, and a federal judge dismissed the case against them in 2009 before it was later reinstated. The US also blocked efforts by Iraq to try the men in Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Blackwater, since renamed Xi and now Academi, remains a favored instrument of US foreign policy, with hundreds of its private gunmen serving as shock troops for the US-backed regime in Kiev in its terror war against the civilian population of east Ukraine. Supported by US intelligence, Blackwater operators have played a leadership role in the operations of neo-Nazi Right Sector militias and fascistic forces responsible for ongoing atrocities.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/10/23/blac-o23.html

Mugshots of female Nazi concentration camp guards

The ordinary faces of evil:
10.22.2014

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Frieda Walter: sentenced to three years imprisonment.

Though their actions were monstrous, they are not monsters. There are no horns, no sharp teeth, no demonic eyes, no number of the Beast. They are just ordinary women. Mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, widows, spinsters. Ordinary women, ordinary human beings.

In the photographs they look shameful, guilty, scared, brazen, stupid, cunning, disappointed, desperate, confused. These women were Nazi guards at the Belsen-Bergen concentration camp during the Second World War, and were all tried and found guilty of carrying out horrendous crimes against their fellow human beings—mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters, sons. Interesting how “evil” looks just like you and me.

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Hilde Liesewitz: sentenced to one year imprisonment.

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Gertrude Feist: sentenced to five years imprisonment.

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Gertrude Saurer: sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

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Anna Hempel: sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

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Herta Bothe accompanied a death march of woman from central Poland to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. She was sentenced to ten years imprisonment but was released early from prison on December 22nd, 1951.

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Hildegard Lohbauer: sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

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Ilse Forster: sentenced to ten years imprisonment.

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Helene Kopper: sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment.

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Herta Ehlert: sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment.

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Elizabeth Volkenrath: Head Wardess at Belsen-Bergen: sentenced to death. She was hanged on 13 December 1945.

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Juana Bormann: sentenced to death.

Via Vintage Everyday

http://dangerousminds.net/comments/the_ordinary_faces_of_evil_mugshots_of_female_nazi

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